I just noticed something about Joshua chapter 22. It contains one single name, a proper name, more times than any other chapter in the whole Bible. That fact alone may shed some light on how to interpret our Text, all 34 verses of Joshua 22.
And that name is Phinehas!
Phinehas, the High Priest of Israel.
The questionable (at best) act of the Tribes of Reuben and Gad (plus half of Manasseh) in building a makeshift (unauthorized) altar near the Jordan … must be investigated by the leaders of Israel.
So Joshua sent Phinehas, son of Eleazar, grandson of Aaron … to head the enquiring delegation. (“And Eleazar Aaron’s son took him one of the daughters of Putiel to wife; and she bare him PHINEHAS: these are the heads of the fathers of the Levites according to their families.” Exodus 6:25)
Yes, the name Phinehas occurs 4 times in Joshua 22.
The name is a blend of 2 Hebrew words, meaning “mouth of brass!”
Joshua 22:13 … “And the children of Israel (led by Joshua) sent unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half tribe of Manasseh, into the land of Gilead, PHINEHAS the son of Eleazar the priest, and with him ten princes ” … as I’ve said, to investigate the newly constructed “altar” situation.
This fact alone (his being the head of the committee) shows confidence in the man!
Then, after hearing those Tribes’ explanation for building that altar … verses 30-33 mention PHINEHAS and his delegation 3 more times! For example: “When PHINEHAS the priest, and the princes of the congregation and heads of the thousands of Israel which were with him, heard the words that the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the children of Manasseh spake, it pleased them.
These men, led by Phinehas, were satisfied (“pleased”) that no RANK HERESY had been committed. (And with that, I guess no matter how we might feel otherwise, we must be satisfied as well.)
And at least, civil war had been averted.
Nearly the end of the story.
But now, a little more about Phinehas.
One day when Israel was committing open and unashamed adultery with the heathen Midianites (because of Balaam’s unwise, wicked counsel) Phinehas took action!
“And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent (where they were sinning), and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.” Numbers 25:6-8 … Phinehas clearly hated sin! But, was he too harsh?
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy.” Numbers 25:10-11, God just gave the man an A+ it seems! Plus now (immediately) two more verses about Phinehas’ zeal for God … “Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.” Wow!
Phinehas also likely knew of the immediate judgment God had earlier sent on his two uncles (Nadab and Abihu) when they offered “strange fire” on the altar, Leviticus 10:1-7. Thus even more, he well may have had a “fear” of sin.
I have begun (rather inadvertently) a character study of this man, Phinehas, haven’t I?
He may even be the person (a hero indeed) the prophet Malachi had in mind here, preaching to the terribly sinful priests of his day … “And now, O ye priests (of Malachi’s time), this commandment is for you. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart. Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it. And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity. For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts.” Malachi 2:1-8, that heritage (the godly Levite in Malachi had in mind) well could have been Phinehas!
If I ever preach through the book of Joshua (its highlights) … I certainly want to include this chapter (and Phinehas) in the Series!
A healthy hatred of sin!
Yet apparently, a love (tolerance) for his brethren in the Lord!
— Dr. Mike Bagwell
I see here a Grandson being more religiously vigorous (diligent) than his Grandfather! Aaron allowed Israel to sin in the golden calf incident! Phinehas stopped Israel from sinning in the Midianite incident … and carefully investigated for sin in the 2 1/2 tribes (altar) incident!