The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 48: The Division of Canaan
< Prev T. of C.
... Next >
They were now to dwell at a distance from the sanctuary of
the Lord, and it was with an anxious heart that Joshua witnessed
their departure, knowing how strong would be the temptations,
in their isolated and wandering life, to fall into the customs of
the heathen tribes that dwelt upon their borders.
While the minds of Joshua and other leaders were still
oppressed with anxious forebodings, strange tidings reached them.
Beside the Jordan, near the place of Israel's miraculous passage
of the river, the two and a half tribes had erected a great altar,
similar to the altar of burnt offering at Shiloh. The law of God
prohibited, on pain of death, the establishment of another
worship than that at the sanctuary. If such was the object of this
altar, it would, if permitted to remain, lead the people away
from the true faith.
The representatives of the people assembled at Shiloh, and in
the heat of their excitement and indignation proposed to make
war at once upon the offenders. Through the influence of the
more cautious, however, it was decided to send first a delegation
to obtain from the two and a half tribes an explanation of their
conduct. Ten princes, one from each tribe, were chosen. At their
head was Phinehas, who had distinguished himself by his zeal in
the matter of Peor.
The two and a half tribes had been at fault in entering, without
explanation, upon an act open to such grave suspicions. The
ambassadors, taking it for granted that their brethren were
guilty, met them with sharp rebuke. They accused them of
rebelling against the Lord, and bade them remember how
judgments had been visited upon Israel for joining themselves to
Baalpeor. In behalf of all Israel, Phinehas stated to the children [p. 519] of Gad and Reuben that if they were unwilling to abide in that
land without an altar for sacrifice, they would be welcome to a
share in the possessions and privileges of their brethren on the
In reply the accused explained that their altar was not intended
for sacrifice, but simply as a witness that, although separated by
the river, they were of the same faith as their brethren in Canaan.
They had feared that in future years their children might be
excluded from the tabernacle, as having no part in Israel. Then
this altar, erected after the pattern of the altar of the Lord at
Shiloh, would be a witness that its builders were also worshipers
of the living God.
With great joy the ambassadors accepted this explanation,
and immediately carried back the tidings to those who sent them.
All thoughts of war were dismissed, and the people united in
rejoicing, and praise to God.
The children of Gad and Reuben now placed upon their altar
an inscription pointing out the purpose for which it was erected;
and they said, "It shall be a witness between us that Jehovah is
God." Thus they endeavored to prevent future misapprehension
and to remove what might be a cause of temptation.
How often serious difficulties arise from a simple
misunderstanding, even among those who are actuated by the worthiest
motives; and without the exercise of courtesy and forbearance,
what serious and even fatal results may follow. The ten tribes
remembered how, in Achan's case, God had rebuked the lack of
vigilance to discover the sins existing among them. Now they
resolved to act promptly and earnestly; but in seeking to shun
their first error, they had gone to the opposite extreme. Instead
of making courteous inquiry to learn the facts in the case, they
had met their brethren with censure and condemnation. Had the
men of Gad and Reuben retorted in the same spirit, war would
have been the result. While it is important on the one hand that
laxness in dealing with sin be avoided, it is equally important
on the other to shun harsh judgment and groundless suspicion.
While very sensitive to the least blame in regard to their own
course, many are too severe in dealing with those whom they
suppose to be in error. No one was ever reclaimed from a wrong
position by censure and reproach; but many are thus driven
further from the right path and led to harden their hearts against [p. 520] conviction. A spirit of kindness, a courteous, forbearing deportment
may save the erring and hide a multitude of sins.
The wisdom displayed by the Reubenites and their companions
is worthy of imitation. While honestly seeking to promote
the cause of true religion, they were misjudged and severely
censured; yet they manifested no resentment. They listened with
courtesy and patience to the charges of their brethren before
attempting to make their defense, and then fully explained their
motives and showed their innocence. Thus the difficulty which
had threatened such serious consequences was amicably settled.
Even under false accusation those who are in the right can
afford to be calm and considerate. God is acquainted with all
that is misunderstood and misinterpreted by men, and we can
safely leave our case in His hands. He will as surely vindicate
the cause of those who put their trust in Him as He searched out
the guilt of Achan. Those who are actuated by the spirit of Christ
will possess that charity which suffers long and is kind.
It is the will of God that union and brotherly love should
exist among His people. The prayer of Christ just before His
crucifixion was that His disciples might be one as He is one with
the Father, that the world might believe that God had sent Him.
This most touching and wonderful prayer reaches down the ages,
even to our day; for His words were, "Neither pray I for these
alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their
word." John 17:20. While we are not to sacrifice one principle
of truth, it should be our constant aim to reach this state of unity.
This is the evidence of our discipleship. Said Jesus, "By this shall
all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to
another." John 13:35. The apostle Peter exhorts the church, "Be
ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another; love as
brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or
railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are
thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing." 1 Peter 3:8, 9.
< Prev T. of C.
... Next >