Joshua 22:28
Therefore said we, that it shall be, when they should so say to us or to our generations in time to come, that we may say again, Behold the pattern of the altar of the LORD, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifices; but it is a witness between us and you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(28) The altar of the Lord, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifices.—The words suggest the reflection that there are many other “altars” so called in the present day, also an occasion of dispute; and it would tend greatly to peace and acquiescence in their existence if we could be assured that, like this altar, they are “not for sacrifice” but for a witness to that common worship of Christ as God which is an essential feature of Christianity.

Joshua 22:28. Behold the pattern of the altar — An exact representation and resemblance of it; but which they could not have imitated, if they had not been acquainted with it, and worshipped God there with their brethren. But it is a witness between us and you — That we both serve one God, and approve and make use of the same altar.22:21-29 The tribes took the reproofs of their brethren in good part. With solemnity and meekness they proceeded to give all the satisfaction in their power. Reverence of God is expressed in the form of their appeal. This brief confession of faith would remove their brethren's suspicion that they intended to worship other gods. Let us always speak of God with seriousness, and mention his name with a solemn pause. Those who make appeals to Heaven with a careless God knows, take his name in vain: it is very unlike this. They express great confidence of their own uprightness in the matter of their appeal. God knows it, for he is perfectly acquainted with the thoughts and intents of the heart. In every thing we do in religion, it highly concerns us to approve ourselves to God, remembering that he knows the heart. And if our sincerity be known to God, we should study likewise to let others know it by its fruits, especially those who, though they mistake us, show zeal for the glory of God. They disdained the design of which they were suspected to be guilty, and fully explained their true intent in building this altar. Those who have found the comfort and benefit of God's ordinances, cannot but desire to preserve them to their seed, and to use all possible care that their children may be looked upon as having a part in him. Christ is the great Altar that sanctifies every gift; the best evidence of our interest in him is the work of his Spirit in our hearts.The repeated invocation of God, and that by His three names - אל 'êl, אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym, יהוה yehovâh: compare Psalm 50:1 - marks the earnestness of the protestation. The conduct of the two tribes and a half has often been noted as exemplary. They had had a grave and capital crime most unexpectedly laid to their charge, of which they were entirely innocent. Yet there is no word of reproach or recrimination in their vindication of themselves. They are contented simply to repudiate the false accusation and to explain the real motives of conduct perhaps suggested to them by a precedent set by Moses Exodus 17:15.

Save us not this day - The words are a direct appeal to God, exactly equivalent in effect to our form "So help me God."

21. Then the children of Reuben … answered—repudiating, in the strongest terms, the alleged crime, and deponing that so far from entertaining the intention imputed to them, their only object was to perpetuate the memory of their alliance with Israel [Jos 22:24, 25], and their adherence to the worship of Israel's God [Jos 22:26, 27]. The pattern; an exact representation and resemblance.

A witness between us and you, that we both serve one God, and approve and make use of one and the same altar. Therefore said we,.... To prevent any such usage of our children, and that they might have a ready answer to give:

that it shall be, when they should so say unto us, or to our generations, in time to come; as above suggested, that they were a separate people from them, and had no interest in the Lord, nor right to his altar, nor concern in his worship:

that we may say again; in reply, that is, our posterity:

behold the pattern of the altar of the Lord, which our fathers made; which exactly agrees with the Mosaic altar, and which they could never have framed in so exact a manner if they had not seen it, and served at it; wherefore this was a plain proof of their being originally worshippers of the same God, partakers of the same altar, and were in the faith, fellowship, and communion of Israel. According to Gussetius (n), this was not the altar the Reubenites, &c. built, which the children of Israel would be bid to behold, but the Mosaic altar at the tabernacle or temple, which was the archetype and exemplar, according to which that of the Reubenites was formed; and therefore say not, come and behold, but behold the altar present before them, that of Moses, and acknowledge that to be a type and exemplar, which they had related, and so confess it to be a testimony of their mutual fellowship: and what they had made in imitation of it, which exactly answered to it, was

not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifices; of any sort, that was not the intention of erecting it:

but it is a witness between us and you; that we worship the same God, and are of the same faith and fellowship.

(n) Ebr. Comment. p. 135.

Therefore said we, that it shall be, when they should so say to us or to our {p} generations in time to come, that we may say again, Behold the pattern of the altar of the LORD, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifices; but it is a witness between us and you.

(p) They signify a wonderful care that they bore toward their posterity, that they might live in the true service of God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
28. Behold the pattern] Some have imagined that the altar set up had an actual resemblance to the altar of burnt-offering at the Tabernacle. But this could hardly be. There may have been some general resemblance in their structure, which was of earth heaped up and huge stones.

it is a witness between us and you] Comp. Joshua 4:6-7; and Genesis 31:48.Verse 28. - Behold the pattern. Rather, Look at this facsimile. The Hebrew is even stronger than our version. The existence of an exact reproduction of the altar in Shiloh, erected on Canaanitish ground by the two and a half tribes before their departure across Jordan, was an incontestible proof of their original connection with Israel. And the fact that they had erected it, not on their own territory, but on that of their brethren, was, though they do not use the argument, proof positive that it was not intended to be used in contravention of the precepts of the law. The nature of the facsimile is explained by Exodus 20:24, where the precise form of altar seems to have been presented as a contrast to the stone altars employed by the heathen. In utter amazement at the suspicion expressed by the delegates of the congregation, the two tribes and a half affirm with a solemn oath, that it never entered into their minds to build an altar as a place of sacrifice, to fall away from Jehovah. The combination of the three names of God-El, the strong one; Elohim, the Supreme Being to be feared; and Jehovah, the truly existing One, the covenant God (Joshua 22:22), - serves to strengthen the invocation of God, as in Psalm 50:1; and this is strengthened still further by the repetition of these three names. God knows, and let Israel also know, sc., what they intended, and what they have done. The אם which follows is the usual particle used in an oath. "Verily (it was) not in rebellion, nor in apostasy from Jehovah," sc., that this was done, or that we built the altar. "Mayst Thou not help us to-day," sc., if we did it in rebellion against God. An appeal addressed immediately to God in the heat of the statement, and introduced in the midst of the asseveration, which was meant to remove all doubt as to the truth of their declaration. The words which follow in Joshua 22:23, "that we have built," etc., continue the oath: "If we have done this, to build us an altar, to turn away from the Lord, or to offer thereon burnt-offering, meat-offering, or peace-offering, may Jehovah himself require it (דּרשׁ, as in Deuteronomy 18:19; cf. 1 Samuel 20:16). Another earnest parenthetical adjuration, as the substance of the oath, is continued in Joshua 22:24. "But truly (לא ואם, with an affirmative signification) from anxiety, for a reason (lit. on account of a thing) have we done this, thinking (לאמר, since we thought) in time to come your sons might say to our sons, What have ye to do with Jehovah, the God of Israel?" i.e., He does not concern you; He is our God. "Jehovah has made the Jordan a boundary between us and your sons; ye have no part in Jehovah. Thus your sons might make our sons cease to fear Jehovah," i.e., might make them desist from the worship of Jehovah (for the infinitive form ירא instead of the abbreviated form לרא used in 1 Samuel 18:29, there are analogies in יצק in Ezekiel 24:3, and לישׁון, Ecclesiastes 5:11, whereas יראה is the only form used in the Pentateuch). There was some reason for this anxiety. For, inasmuch as in all the promises and laws Canaan alone (the land on this side of the Jordan, Numbers 34:1-12) is always mentioned as the land which Jehovah would give to His people for their inheritance, it was quite a possible thing that at some future time the false conclusion might be drawn from this, that only the tribes who dwelt in Canaan proper were the true people of Jehovah.
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