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17 March. Joshua chapters 22-24
Chapter 24 completes the allocation of land to the tribes, the distinction being that this is the “two and a half” tribes east of the Jordan, who because they were not actually in the Promised Land seem to have been regarded as not quite part of the family. Their action in setting up an altar by way of marking their common heritage with the other tribes was quickly misinterpreted by the others as idolatry, and they immediately wanted to go to war against them. Fortunately, Phineas (a priest rather than a tribal leader, since the offence was a religious one) who was sent to lead a delegation intended to issue an ultimatum, listened to and believed their account of the matter, and war was averted. Too often in human history such brinkmanship goes the wrong way and disaster follows. Whether within the family or in international relations, Churchill’s wise words deserve repeating: “it is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war”.
The last two chapters of the book are Joshua’s exhortations to the people before his death, similar to (but much shorter than) the record of Moses’ final speeches to his people in Deuteronomy. He speaks twice: first to the leaders, with an emphasis on passing on the Mosaic teachings and avoiding diluting the faith by intermarriage; and then to the rest of the people with an emphasis on not worshipping or even owning any idols. As elsewhere in the Bible, a stone was erected as a witness to their act of re-commitment.