Tag Archives: breach of faith

Joshua 22:10-34 – Apostasy and Unity (Lesson on Church)

Having been commissioned by Joshua to return home, the Eastern tribes depart for their land East of the Jordan.

  • Before they cross the Jordan, they build an altar of “imposing size” (vs. 10).


When they do, a couple of things occur:

  • (1) An accusation comes from the Western tribes.
  • (2) An explanation comes from the Eastern tribes.





It is hard not to notice what, admittedly, may have no significance at all.

  • The Western tribes are gathered in the hill country – presumably Shiloh (vs. 12).
  • The Eastern tribes are in the flood plains of the Jordan River valley.
  • How did the Western tribes know about the memorial?


The text says, “the people of Israel heard it said” (vs. 11).

  • It says again, “the people of Israel heard of it” (vs. 12).
  • We will see later that they only heard the “what” and not the “why”.
  • They sound like Southern Baptists.


The western tribes response to what they heard was to gather at Shiloh “to make war against them” (vs. 12).

  • Before they did so however, they sent a delegation to make their intentions known.


This is wise action and has a NT parallel.

  • Matthew 18:15–17 (ESV) — 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.


The delegation makes the following accusations concerning the altar:

  • It is a “breach of faith” (vs. 16)
  • It is a “turning away” (vs. 16)
  • It is “rebellion against the Lord” (vs. 16)
  • It is a to turn from “following the Lord” (vs. 18)


Breach of Faith:

What it means:

  • The TWOT says it refers to “the breaking or violation of religious law as a conscious act of treachery”.
  • Interestingly, it “does not describe the sins of unbelievers but of…covenant peoples, those who ‘break faith’ with their suzerain” – TWOT.
  • So it is covenant unfaithfulness.
  • The Eastern tribes were being accused of breaking covenant with God.


The phrase “breach of faith” is mentioned only 7 times in the OT (ESV).

  • The most striking examples are:
  • 1 Chron. 10:13 tells us that “Saul died for his breach of faith”.
  • 1 Chron. 9:1 tells us that “Judah was taken into exile in Babylon because of their breach of faith”.


What’s worse, if the “breach of faith” is true –

  • They did so after having just participated in receiving the grace of God in the form of the Conquest.
  • They did so after having just been blessed by Joshua.
  • Given this and the “breach of faith” it is no wonder the Western tribes wanted to attack.


To further make their point, the Western tribes cited the “sin at Peor” (vs. 17).

  • Numbers 25:3–5 (ESV) — 3 So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel. 4 And the Lord said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people and hang them in the sun before the Lord, that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel.” 5 And Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you kill those of his men who have yoked themselves to Baal of Peor.”
  • Numbers 31:16 (ESV) — 16 Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord.
  • Deuteronomy 4:3 (ESV) — 3 Your eyes have seen what the Lord did at Baal-peor, for the Lord your God destroyed from among you all the men who followed the Baal of Peor.


Evidently, the Baal worship at Peor was brought up because it demonstrated the seriousness of covenant unfaithfulness – of breaching the faith.

  • 1) It is clearly something that evokes God’s wrath.
  • 2) But is also illustrates a further problem.


A further problem:

The people of Israel knew that when a “breach of faith” occurred in the body of Israel, trouble came to all.

  • This corporate responsibility was clearly a huge concern for the Western tribes.


They brought it up 4 times.

  • (1) At Peor, “a plague came upon the congregation” (Deut. 13:16).


And at the Jordan –

  • (2) A “breach of faith” would incite God to be “angry with the whole congregation of Israel” (vs. 18).
  • (3) In fact, the actions of the Eastern tribes would also “make us rebels” (vs. 19).
  • (4) And as with Achan, where the  “wrath fell upon the congregation of Israel” (vs. 20), the same would happen because of the altar.


As we saw last week, sin was/is not personal.

  • The individual is in union with the body.
  • The sin of the individual or tribe corrupts the entire body.
  • “Because [we] are united to Christ, [we] are also united to the Father, to the Holy Spirit and to the other members of the body of Christ; [our] core identity is that of a Trinitarian-ecclesial self” – John Jefferson Davis.


This was not a witchhunt.

  • The Western tribes were right and justified with their concern.
  • They body is to be discerning and judgmental of is members.
  • As Paul says, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” (1 Cor. 5:12).


The Eastern tribes understood the seriousness of these accusations and responded.





They “answer to the heads of the families of Israel” (vs. 21).

  • The first thing they do is point all eyes to God.
  • The Mighty One, God, the Lord! The Mighty One, God the Lord!” (vs. 20).
  • The Hebrew is “El, Elohim, Yhwh! El, Elohim, Yhwh!”.


David Howard says of this string of proper nouns –

“The piling up of the terms for God here, and their repetition, is unique in the Old Testament, and it indicates the agitated state of mind of the Transjordan tribes and their eagerness to have their position vindicated. They affirmed as forcefully as possible their loyalty to this God” – David Howard.


They continue by stating that God “knows” they are innocent (vs. 22).

  • They confidently state that the body of Israel will also know they are innocent.


This is both because:

  • (1) God will serve “as their witness to vindicate them” – David Howard.
  • (2) Their own coming explanation.


And then, understanding both:

  • The severity of a “breach of faith
  • The connectedness of the body


BTW – Importantly, this shows they share theology with the Western tribes – they believe the same things!


They boldly proclaim that, if they are guilty:

  • do not spare us today” (vs. 22)
  • may the Lord himself take vengeance” (vs. 23)
  • They have signed on to the covenant and accepted its terms.


Then they give their explanation for building the memorial of “imposing size” (vs. 10).


The Explanation:

Because the Jordan River separated them and created a division between them… (vs. 25).

  • They feared that, over time, future generations would not consider them part of Yahweh’s people (vs. 24).
  • That they “have no portion in the Lord” (vs. 27)


So to avoid this problem they built the memorial.

  • It was to serve as a witness to all of Israel that they “do perform the service of the Lord” (vs. 27)
  • And for emphasis, they built it on the Western side of the Jordan.
  • The Western tribes would see it and remember.


So, the altar was not to be used for “burnt offering, nor for sacrifice” (vs. 26) as suspected.

  • Only the altar at the tabernacle could be used for such purposes.
  • The altar was only a “replica of the true altar” – David Howard.
  • As a replica, it was a reminder that the Eastern Tribes were participants in the “true altar”.
  • It was a symbol of the unity of all the tribes of Israel under Yahweh.


And in using “witness”, they were using covenant language – Woudstra.

  • They were confirming their participation in the covenants with Yahweh along with their brothers and sisters – Woudstra.
  • In their words, “it is a witness between us that the Lord is God” (vs. 34).


Full Circle:

Last week we saw how the Eastern tribes told Moses they wanted to stay put.

  • They had received their inheritance and didn’t want to cross the Jordan.
  • Now, having spent the last 5+ years in fellowship with, and fighting with the rest of the tribes, they have come full circle.
  • They now FEAR the very thing they wanted before – to be left alone to have what was theirs.
  • They came to value the fellowship of the body in communion with God.
  • So much so that they memorialized it with a stone memorial.





Both sides understood the “importance of doctrine and truth” – Francis Schaeffer.

  • This is what caused the conflict.
  • “The western tribes argued that unity cannot exist with apostasy (vv. 13–20), while the eastern tribes feared that fidelity cannot exist without unity (vv. 21–29)” – Dale Davis.
  • The elect have to be diligent on both fronts.
    • Apostasy
    • Unity


Both sides were also “acting in love” of Yahweh and the body of Israel – Francis Schaeffer.

  • The East by building the memorial to signify the unity of the body and their love of Yahweh.
  • The West by confronting perceived apostasy – covenant unfaithfulness – against the body and Yahweh.
    • And by sending the delegation to establish this fact before acting.


Both of their actions demonstrate, at least at this time, the lengths each would go to advocate unity and fight apostasy.

  • These seem like mutually exclusive goals, but they both point to and converge on God.
  • They actually go together.


Paul also had to confront issues of apostasy and unity in the church at Corinth.

  • In 1 Corinthians 5 he addressed sexual immorality and church discipline.
  • He had harsh words in confronting apostasy in the body.
  • 1 Corinthians 5:5 (ESV) — 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
  • Because “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (vs. 6)
  • This is a brutal thing for a church body to hear and do.


But in 2 Corinthians 7, one can see that in love he was hoping for restoration of unity and truth:

  • 2 Corinthians 7:8–10 (ESV) — 8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.


Given the fact that Christ died for the Church, rose for the Church and sent the Spirit for the Church…

  • We should be equally as diligent as the Eastern and Western tribes in –
  • (1) Fighting covenant unfaithfulness – Apostasy
  • (2) Striving for covenant unity – Union of the Body




Joshua 7:1-9 – Yahweh’s Conquest Favor Removed

Joshua 6 ends with a wonderfully optimistic tone.

  • Joshua 6:27 (ESV) — 27 So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.
  • No doubt this is a reflection on and implication of the unorthodox defeat of Jericho that preceded it.
  • How so?


Yahweh through the presence of the Ark and the Divine Warrior took the lead in victory.

  • Why?
  • One reason is because of Joshua’s own covenant faithfulness up to this point.
  • Joshua 1:7 (ESV) — 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.
  • As we discussed at that time, the conditional formula for a successful Conquest was simply –  Obedience = Success.


So things are looking good.

  • However, this all changes with a “but”.


Our Text:

Joshua 7:1 (ESV) — 1 But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.


This “but”, pivotal to the coming battle, is something that Joshua does not yet know.

  • Unbeknownst to Joshua, at some point between Jericho and 7:1, Yahweh removed His “Conquest Favor” from the nation of Israel.


How do we know this?

  • There are at least two reasons.


(1) The first reason is obvious and found in verse 4 and 5 – Israel loses the first battle of Ai.


(2) The second reason is found in verse 1.

  • The text makes clear that Achan acted in disobedience to God.
    • He broke the covenant with God.
  • One would think, then, that Achan would be an isolated problem for God to deal with.
  • However, look carefully at the text.
  • By God’s reckoning, “Israel broke faith”.
  • And God’s reaction to this is that – “the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel”.
    • Not just against Achan, but against Israel!


Anger of the Lord:

Being the object of the anger of the Lord is not something one wants to be.

  • In virtually every case where Israel was the object of this anger, two things were sure to come.
  • God’s wrath
  • God’s judgment


Some other Biblical examples make this clear.

  • Judges 2:14 (ESV) — 14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies.
  • Psalm 106:40–42 (ESV) — 40 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he abhorred his heritage; 41 he gave them into the hand of the nations, so that those who hated them ruled over them. 42 Their enemies oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their power.
  • Isaiah 5:25 (ESV) — 25 Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them, and the mountains quaked; and their corpses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.


We need to dig much deeper into why an individual’s sin would bring God’s judgment and wrath upon Israel.

  • And in my next lesson we will do so.
  • Now, I want to deal with the rest of our text.


Our Text:

Joshua 7:2–5 (ESV) — 2 Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” 4 So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, 5 and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.


This scene takes place in ignorance of Achan’s actions and Israel’s guilt.

  • Joshua and the spies do not yet know that Yahweh’s anger burns against Israel.
  • We learn later that what Achan did, he did in secret.
    • He hid the treasure.


Joshua’s ignorance of God’s anger raises a question about Joshua’s actions.

  • Do these verses show that Joshua went ahead of the Lord?
  • Surely, God would have wanted Joshua to not assault Ai given these circumstances?
    • Maybe…


Two of the most well known commentators on Joshua – Hess, Howard – answer this question in the affirmative.

  • They think Joshua went ahead of the Lord.
  • David Howard says that in this first battle of Ai, “God was not part of the equation at all”.
  • Richard Hess says that this text shows Israel “lacked faith” and put too much stock in its own power.
  • Essentially, they suggest that Joshua’s problem was lack of prayer and overconfidence.


They rule out that God might have withheld the info in verse 1 on purpose.

  • However, Woudstra, Dale Davis and James Boice have a different take.


Woudstra puts it like this:

  • “Possibly Joshua himself should have consulted the divine will more explicitly, but the account does not say” – Woudstra.
    • In other words, we don’t know if he did or not.

What the text does says is that, “Joshua’s first serious attempt to master the country which the Lord said had been give to Israel is doomed to fail…by God’s righteous anger, caused by the people’s concrete sin. God’s promise was based on covenant obedience, and this obedience had been withheld” – Woudstra.


Dale puts it as follows:

“While the peril of overconfidence and the neglect of prayer are very preachable, they cannot be preached with authority from this text. The text says that God’s people failed because they were under God’s wrath” – Dale Davis.


So, Israel was defeated at Ai not because of Joshua’s getting ahead of God or his flawed military strategy, but because of God’s anger and its concomitant judgment and wrath.

  • Because of sin God removed His “Conquest Favor” from Israel and they lost.


This fact forces us to take a hard look at a very important point.

  • The right focus of the text is the seriousness of man’s sin and the extent of God’s wrath that this sin incurs, not Joshua’s going ahead of God.
  • This is incredibly important to grasp.
  • Israel was unfaithful and God judged them.
  • And profoundly, His judgment was an act of covenant faithfulness on His part.
  • Why?


James Boice quotes Francis Schaeffer at length to make this point.

This simple yet profound process explains all the rest of the Old Testament. It explains the period of the judges, the period of kings, the captivities under Assyria and Babylon, the Jews’ return from Babylon and the Jews’ dispersion in a.d. 70 under Titus. It explains Romans 9–11, which speaks of the Jews turning away from God and yet at the future day coming back to God and once more, as a nation, being the people of God. First comes blessing, then sin enters, then comes judgment. If the people of God return to him after the judgment, the blessing begins again and flows on.


This process is as much a universal as any continuity we have studied so far. [Here comes the answer to our why question] It is the principle of God’s judgment of his people. It is unchanging throughout Scripture because God really is there. God is a holy God, God loves his people, and God deals with his people consistently.


Apologetic Insight:

The defeat at Ai and the revelation that God, in anger, foiled the efforts of his chosen leader and people are quite different from other ANE war literature.


John Walton puts it this way:

For Israel’s neighbors, “The intention of the preserved records is not to serve the reader, but to serve the king. The recorder is trying to provide answers to the question: “Why should you consider this king to be a good and successful king?” In most cases it cannot be determined whether concealment and/ or disinformation are part of the strategy, but negative information is uniformly lacking. We do receive negative assessments of some kings, but, as we might expect, they come from later dynasties seeking to enhance their own reputations. Royal inscriptions are therefore working from a predetermined outcome: that the gods favor the king. Therefore all events are presented in a way that will support that predetermined outcome” – John Walton.


Remember, Joshua 6 ended by saying “the Lord was with Joshua”.

  • Joshua 7 sure has a funny way of showing this.
  • What does this tell us about the OT as literature?


The Text:

Joshua 7:6–9 (ESV) — 6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?”


Joshua is still unaware of the sin of Achan.

  • And, btw, there is no hint here that he sees the defeat as symptomatic of his going ahead of God.
  • In fact, he demonstrates quite an opposite grasp of the situation.
  • He recognizes that God’s will was just done.
    • why have you…to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us?
    • In part, the answer is yes.
    • He just doesn’t know why, yet.


In fact, Joshua goes on to rightly extol the “great name” of the Lord.

  • He asks God, if it would not have been better for Israel to have stayed across the Jordan.
  • The fact that Israel was defeated and “turned their backs before the enemies” will embolden the Canaanites.
    • And “turned” here is a vivid expression of being shamed (Howard).
  • He fears that they will be overrun and that they will “cut off our name from the earth”.
    • An allusion to being “cut off” from covenant with God.
  • The end result being that God’s “great name” is offended.


There is debate about how this prayer reflects on Joshua.

  • Did he forget that God had already “given” them the Promised Land?
  • Did he forget that God asked him to “be strong and courageous”?
  • Was his concern really more for himself?


Dales Davis takes the optimistic approach.

“These are words of despair, not unbelief. Joshua complains to God in prayer; complaining to God is not the same as complaining about God (Israel’s wilderness practice)…If Israel perishes it will reflect on Yahweh’s reputation.” – Dale Davis.


Richard Hess agrees:

  • Joshua’s concern for God’s “great name” “transforms the complaint from a self-serving whine, such as occurred in Numbers, to a concern for the honour of God”.


And to get a flavor for just how significant the name of God is, Jesus also spoke highly of it.

  • John 17:6 (ESV) — 6I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
  • John 17:11–12 (ESV) — 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.


So what is the name that Joshua and Jesus were so in awe of?


Most commentators argue that Jesus is using “name” as a reference to God’s attributes.

  • “What Jesus reveals to them is God’s ‘name,’ which enshrines who God is in his character, his essential nature; because his name is glorious, God wants it to be made known” – Andreas Kostenberger.
  • “…Jesus revealed God’s ‘name,’ i.e., his nature, his character” – Beasley-Murray.
  • “The concept of God’s ‘name’ encompasses all that He is: His character, nature, and attributes” – John MacArthur.
  • “‘The name of God’ is a Semitic phrase for speaking about God’s attributes. To make the name known is to reveal the God who possesses those attributes” – James Boice.


And this leads us back to Achan’s sin.

  • The reason for the defeat that has put Joshua in this state of mourning and grief.
  • What are we to make of the fact that because of Achan’s sin all of Israel was guilty?
  • What are the implications of this principal?
  • I will cover this in my next lesson.