Then the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh answered the leaders of the clans of Israel:
I. THE NATURE OF THE INIQUITY WHICH HE COMMITTED. He transgressed the plain command of God, and thus sinned against Him. He no doubt sinned also against his own soul, against his family, and against his people. But no notice is taken of this. What is dwelt upon is, that he sinned against the Lord. His iniquity was a transgression of the command and law and covenant of his God. It implied the basest ingratitude for the mercies he had received, as well as a secret disbelief of the Divine omniscience, power, holiness, righteousness, and truth. Was this sin peculiar to Achan? Are there not many others who are virtually guilty of the same thing? Are there not many who apply to their own use what has been dedicated to God? Are there not many who retain in their own possession gold and silver which they ought to consecrate to Him? Are there not many who rob Him of the time which He has set apart for His immediate worship and service? Are there not many who by no entreaty can be prevailed upon to glorify Him in their body, and in their spirit, which are His? What incited Achan to commit sacrilege, and thus to sin against God, was avarice — an inordinate desire of money, an eagerness of gain. And are there not many who, under the influence of the same sordid spirit, act like him, and thus sin against God and their own souls? "Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth."
The Reubenites and Gadites easily vindicate their conduct. They have had no intention of setting up a rival altar, for they do not mean to offer any sacrifices except in the place appointed by God. Their altar is to be simply a memorial. They have built it under a sort of apprehension that possibly, in times to come, their children might be led, in ungrateful forgetfulness of the past, to forsake the Lord and His service. The Reubenites and Gadites teach us a wholesome lesson. It is incumbent on us to strive, as they did, to keep alive the memory of the great things which God has done for us, that we may not fall under the reproach addressed by Christ to His disciples: "How is it that ye do not remember?" (Mark 8:18
). Christ knows how prone we are to forgetfulness. He has therefore given us two great aids to memory - Holy Scripture and the sacraments. Nothing can ever take the place of the Scriptures. These alone give us the full story of redemption. But it was needful that that story should be brought before us also in a symbolic form, which should appeal vividly to the heart. Baptism and the Lord's Supper supply this necessity for the Church. "As often as ye eat this bread and drink this wine, ye do show the Lord's death till he come," says the Master (1 Corinthians 11:26
). The bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ, broken for our sins. The cup which we bless is the communion of His blood, shed for our offences. Thus does the Lord's Supper recall to us the sacrifice of Calvary, as the altar of the Reubenites and Gadites brought to their remembrance the tabernacle sacrifices. But they had not, and we have not, to offer for ourselves upon this altar of remembrance, for there can be no other sacrifice than that offered once for all upon the cross. The Mass, by its pretension to be a real sacrifice, belies the true meaning of the Eucharist. The church which celebrates it commits exactly the error into which the tribes beyond Jordan would have fallen, if they had presumed to offer upon their altar sacrifices which could be legitimately presented only upon the one altar of the nation. Let us be on our guard against materialising the sacraments, and so offering to God a worship which must be abhorrent to Him, since it seeks acceptance in virtue of another than the one efficient and perfect sacrifice. - E. DE P.
Achan... perished not alone in his iniquity.
Where could I allege Scripture so wonderful to show the mystery of God's justice, lest we speak unadvisedly with our lips: "Why art Thou so wrath with the sheep of Thy pasture?" Strike once upon this rock of justice, and I dare promise a fountain will issue out from thence of fear and reverence not to provoke the Lord by sins and trespasses; for if He threaten, shall He seem as one that mocks? First, We must put the cause foremost, the cause of all the wrath that follows, and that both general: it is iniquity, and with an instance his iniquity. The subject, Achan, but not alone; the affliction, that he perished. Now let not any man make it a fallacy to deceive his own soul. Doth not the cause deserve severe arraignment? Then blaspheme not as the wicked do: "He seeketh an occasion to punish." Sin in its essence is confederate with death and punishment. Thus much for the cause in general. But what offence his iniquity did give, the sin of Achan will ask a peculiar and a larger trial. You are deceived if you think it was but larceny or greedy pilfering. But heinous was the fact of Achan, first in scandal, that an Israelite, preserved so long in the wilderness, one that fought the Lord's battles, and came always home with victory, that he should be the first that trespassed among the Canaanites, the heathen that would blaspheme the living God. Secondly, In disobedience: that Joshua, his noble general, made the head of all the tribes by God's appointment, and Moses' good liking, and Eleazar's unction, could not command to be obeyed. Thirdly, In faithless covetousness. That since manna did fall no more from heaven about their tents, the Lord did heed His people no longer, every man must catch what come to his hands, so Achan took the accursed, &c. Here is scandal to them that were without; within themselves contempt of the Lord and His servant Joshua, in his own heart an inordinate desire to grow rich and sumptuous. Now turn to the punishment of this man. Behold Achan, the son of Zerah, that man perished not alone in his iniquity. Achan that had outlived the corruption of his young years, and was grown in age able to go to warfare, to have many children, to know how to steal from God, and dissemble with Joshua, doth his hoary head go down with peace into the grave? Like the web of Penelope, all that hath been wrought in the year may be ravelled out in a night. Secondly, He that was spared among all the dangers of the wilderness is consumed in the city; he that could escape the pilgrimage of forty years is doomed to die in Canaan; he that was not devoured in the fire of Taberah is burnt in the valley of Achor. As Aristotle speaks of Homer's poetry, when he set up walls for Troy in one book, and plucked them down in another. They that walk in the night preserve the flame of their torch or candle from winds and casualties abroad, which notwithstanding they put out when they return to their home. So Achan that walked over the sea, when the bridge was under water, and lived among scorpions, and was not consumed in the sedition of Dathan, nor slain in the battles of Moab, yet the vessel is not cast away in the ocean sea, but in the haven, and his light is put out at home in the long-expected Canaan. Note this, thirdly, in Achan's person, mischief did light upon him, not in the hunger and thirst of the wilderness, not in his poverty, but having compiled much riches together, enough to purchase a good fee-simple in Canaan if the Lord had not given him his portion. Men think themselves nowadays past the law and penalties of death, when they have sinned so much that they are grown wealthy in iniquity; because, if need be, they can buy the favour of the judge. But this man, when he was furnished to live sumptuously, then he is cut off, that, as Solomon says, the remembrance of death may be bitter to that man, who thought it pleasant to live. This was St. Austin's rule when he was old and had learnt the world: "I fear no hurt from the world when it goes against me, and casts a froward look upon my fortunes, but my danger is near at hand, when it smiles and flatters me, as if all were happy." The sponges that swell with liquors are most likely to be pressed and emptied. Now recollect these three qualities of Achan, who was more likely to prosper than a soldier in the flower of his age, a joyful man at his journey's end in the land of his peace, a wealthy man in the plenty of his riches. Take it to thought, all you that have the world tied unto you with a threefold cord of health and peace and prosperity, which men dream as if it could not be broken; for it broke like tow among the sparks. I have many theorems to propound unto you, but all shall end in this doctrine, that excepting the first Adam, the root of our corrupt nature, and excepting the second Adam, who, being without spot or sin, gave Himself to the death of the Cross for the sins of all the world, these two excepted, every man dies for his own iniquity. First, I do presume that you will consent unto me that the heart of man is only evil continually, and that we may call it, as Theodorus did revile Tiberius, mud tempered with pollution. Then, it is confessed, that the wages of sin is death. Give me your credit but to one thing more. You are bound to answer to as painful and severe a death as God's vengeance shall inflict upon you. Observe these points, then. First, If the disobedience of one sinner is enough to consume many persons, Lord whither will a multitude of iniquity send one man headlong? Sufficient are our evil days wherein we have walked too much before after the vanity of our mind. Secondly, As the greatest unity of the triumphant Church above doth consist in the glory which they enjoy together in the sight of God, so our unity of the militant Church below is to suffer and die together. It is that which must combine the souls of Christians. Thirdly, Shall not this make me as careful to prevent every man's sins as mine own? Shall I not offer myself to be my brother's keeper? Like watch men that compass the city in the night, not only for the safety of their own house, but lest any mansion take fire about them. Thus is the brief sum of the second part of my text, man perished in iniquity. Secondly, That man Achan, a branch of the olive tree, even Israel which God had planted. But an evil branch is evil though the stock were a cedar of Libanus. Is it any glory for the dead branches to boast they were vine branches, and not heythorn, since they are cut off and cast away? Lastly, He fell down like the tower of Siloam, and brained all that were about him. I have but one short part to dispatch, his execution, that man perished, &c. To search much into Achan's punishment were not the way to be more learned, but more tormented. Briefly thus, Every man in the rank of a subject lives under the authority of three commanders —
1. Under the conscience of his own heart.
2. Under the laws of his king.
3. Under the commandments of God.And if we displease either God or the king, or our own conscience, vengeance meets us on every side. Conscience hath a worm in store, nay, a cockatrice to sting us; the magistrate bears a sword to divide us; but especially it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. In an evil conscience we die unto all joy and comfort; in our trespass against the laws of man we die unto men; in breaking the statutes of God we die unto heaven: surely he deserved not to die but one death that offended three. Some, perchance, will go a thought further, and pronounce a fearful sentence that this man was wiped for ever out of the book of the living. Nothing should make me mistrustful and doubt of his salvation but his too late repentance. Is this a time to leave off sin when we must leave off life and can sin no more? Do you then come to play the huxters for mercy, as if the market were cheapest at the latter end of the day?
THE PERPETRATION OF SIN. Iniquity is the common characteristic of all mankind: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." But there is before us a reference to one particular act of sin, which, while proceeding from the depraved heart possessed by the perpetrator in common with others, appears to us in prominent and isolated distinction of enormity.
1. The iniquity of Achan was heinous, on account of its intrinsic nature. It was an act of covetousness. He was beguiled by a greedy and unprincipled desire after the attainment and preservation of wealth.
2. The iniquity of Achan was perpetrated against the Divine command, distinctly expressed and amply known.
3. The iniquity of Achan was heinous on account of its attendant dissimulation and attempted concealment.
II. THE INFLICTION OF PUNISHMENT. The punishment of the transgressor himself: "That man perished in his iniquity." The terms of our text appear to justify the implication, that his iniquity was not repented of, and that therefore it was not cleansed or forgiven; he confessed, but he was not contrite; and the whole spirit of the narrative must be regarded as justifying the view which now is expressed. So that you perceive the death of his body was the sign of the ruin of his soul. And it is true with regard to every impenitent sinner, in every age of the world, who dies in iniquity, that thus he must "perish." "They shall utterly perish in their own corruption." They die "the second death."
2. Observe the punishment of the transgressor, in relation to the interests of others. "That man perished not alone in his iniquity." Men by their iniquity often associate themselves with the ruin of the souls of their fellow-men. It is probable that no person can long continue in a state of alienation from God without exerting (although he attempts it not) some baneful influence on the character and the interests of others; and there are, we have reason to fear, numerous instances in which men by bad example, or even by direct efforts for that purpose, make others "partakers of their evil deeds" and lead them down to hell. How horrible, how thrice horrible, to lead others into the prison I to lash around others the fetters! to administer to others the poison! to enwrap others in the flame! Deeds at which hell itself may wonder and fiend may point with amazement to his fellow fiend "That man 'perished not alone in his iniquity'; there is the seducer, and there are his victims — all victims now!" Lessons —
1. There ought to be anxious application for the pardon of our transgressions perpetrated in past times.
2. There ought to be the determined repudiation and avoidance of sin for the time to come.
3. There ought to be diligent endeavour to bring our fellow-men to salvation. Some are "not alone in their iniquity"; it must be our ambition not to be alone in our salvation.
II. THE WAY IN WHICH THE INIQUITY OF ACHAN WAS BROUGHT TO LIGHT.
1. The Lord hates and abhors sin. It is an enemy within the camp which is sure to betray us into the hands of those that are without, and ultimately make us their prey.
2. The Lord sees our sins, however secretly they may be committed.
3. God is able to bring our sins to light even now, and that He frequently does bring them, to our utter confusion. By such visitations in time the Lord warns us of what we are to expect in eternity.
III. THE CONFESSION WHICH ACHAN MADE OF HIS INIQUITY. Had Achan made this confession sooner, there would have been room to hope that he truly repented of his iniquity; but as he deferred his acknowledgment of his guilt till the lot actually pointed him out, there is reason to fear that it proceeded at last from no real change of heart; that, in fact, it was constrained and not voluntary.
1. How he was led to commit his iniquity. Mark here the way in which men are frequently led to sin against God. The temptation makes its insidious approach by means of the eyes, or one of the other senses; then there arises in the heart an evil desire for the thing seen; and desire, when it hath conceived, bringeth forth sin. It is necessary, therefore, that we should make a covenant with our eyes, that we should watch against temptation, that we should guard against the first approaches of iniquity, that we should stop every avenue by which sin can enter.
2. How full of fear and disquietude is the life of a sinner. Achan, having taken the accursed thing, hid it in the earth in the midst of his tent. Why? Because he was afraid some one would see it; and in this fear he must have lived day after day, until his iniquity was brought to light. Such always is sin, every sin, and especially the sin of theft or sacrilege. It deludes those who are under its dominion. It promises them much, but pays them little but wretchedness and misery. It fills them with fears and anxieties, and often causes them to flee when no man pursueth.
IV. THE PUNISHMENT WHICH FOLLOWED THE INIQUITY OF ACHAN.
1. As to Achan himself, condign punishment speedily overtook him: "He perished in his iniquity." He suffered death as the due reward of his crime. And such is the wages which every sinner is sure to receive unless he obtains deliverance through the death of Christ, who died that we might live.
2. Others also suffered for the iniquity of Achan: "That man perished not alone in his iniquity." Who, then, perished besides him? Many had perished before him, and perished too for his iniquity, namely, the thirty-and-six men who were smitten by the men of Ai. It is also probable that all his family were put to death with him for the same sin. Such were the dreadful consequences occasioned by the iniquity of this man. And is not sin, even in our own day, frequently followed by similar consequences? How often do we see children suffering for the sins of their parents and parents for the sins of their children? How often do we see thieves and murderers, adulterers, drunkards, and such like, involving their wives and families, and perhaps other relations also, in poverty and disgrace, in troubles and anxieties, in wretchedness and misery, if not in still more awful calamities? How often, also, has one order of society to bear the ill consequences arising from the misconduct of another?Lessons:
1. How wonderful is the patience of God towards the world we live in. In the conduct of Achan we may see, as in a glass, what is the conduct of hundreds and thousands who are now living on the earth. How astonishing, then, is the patience of God! How wonderful that He should still bear with us, that He should still give us space for repentance, that He should still be unwilling theft we should perish! Oh, let us not despise the riches of His goodness and forbearance and long-suffering!
2. The patience of God, however great and wonderful, will not last for ever.
()If indeed, says Dr. South, a man could be wicked and a villain to himself alone, the mischief would be so much the more tolerable. But the case, as he goes on to show, is much otherwise; the guilt of the crime lights upon one, but the example of it sways a multitude; especially if the criminal be of any note or eminence in the world. "For the fall of such an one by any temptation (be it never so plausible) is like that of a principal stone or stately pillar, tumbling from a lofty edifice into the deep mire of the street; it does not only plunge and sink into the black dirt itself, but also dashes or bespatters all that are about it or near it when it falls." Well may the note of exclamation follow: how strange, yet how inevitable, the tie which may link our uneventful life with the stormy passions of numbers far away! More wonderful than even the Atlantic cable is declared to be that unknown fibre, along which, from other men's sins, responsibility may thrill even to our departed souls: "a chain whose links are formed perhaps of idle words, of forgotten looks, of phrases of double meaning, of bad advice, of cynical sentiment hardly seriously meant; yet carried on through life after life, through soul after soul, till the little seed of evil sown by you has developed into some deed of guilt at which you shudder, but from participation in responsibility for which you cannot clear yourself." Every sin, we are in fine reminded, may waken its echo; every sin is reduplicated and reiterated in other souls and lives. A distinguished French preacher has a striking discourse on what he entitles the solidarity of evil; and lie, too, dilates upon the mysterious links which connect together persons and acts that appear to have nothing in common — suggesting melancholy examples of the contagion of guilt and its consequences, of the expansive power of corruption and its almost boundless results. Very forcibly Mr. Isaac Taylor warns us that in almost every event of life the remote consequences vastly outweigh the proximate in actual amount of importance; and he undertakes to show, on principles even of mathematical calculation, that each individual of the human family holds in his hand the centre lines of an interminable webwork, on which are sustained the fortunes of multitudes of his successors; the implicated consequences, if summed together, making up therefore a weight of human weal or woe that is reflected back with an incalculable momentum upon the lot of each. The practical conclusion is that every one is bound to remember that the personal sufferings or peculiar vicissitudes or toils through which he is called to pass are to be estimated and explained only in an immeasurably small proportion if his single welfare is regarded, while their "full price and value are not to be computed unless the drops of the morning dew could be numbered."
PeopleAchan, Eleazar, Gad, Gadites, Israelites, Joshua, Manasseh, Phinehas, Reuben, Reubenites, Zerah
PlacesBashan, Canaan, Gilead, Heshbon, Jordan River, Peor, Shiloh
TopicsClans, Families, Gad, Gadites, Half, Half-tribe, Heads, Manasseh, Manas'seh, Replied, Reuben, Reubenites, Sons, Spake, Speak, Spoke, Thousands, Tribe
Outline1. The two tribes and a half with a blessing are sent home,
10. They build the altar of testimony in their journey
11. The Israelites are offended thereat
21. They vindicate their conduct, and give them good satisfaction
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJoshua 22:1-34
7266 tribes of Israel
5910 motives, examples
6718 reconciliation, believers
LibraryJews and Gentiles in "The Land"
Coming down from Syria, it would have been difficult to fix the exact spot where, in the view of the Rabbis, "the land" itself began. The boundary lines, though mentioned in four different documents, are not marked in anything like geographical order, but as ritual questions connected with them came up for theological discussion. For, to the Rabbis the precise limits of Palestine were chiefly interesting so far as they affected the religious obligations or privileges of a district. And in this respect …
Alfred Edersheim—Sketches of Jewish Social Life
Third Sunday after Epiphany
Text: Romans 12, 16-21. 16 Be not wise in your own conceits. 17 Render to no man evil for evil. Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men. 19 Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath of God: for it is written, Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord. 20 But if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire …
Martin Luther—Epistle Sermons, Vol. II
Trials of the Christian
AFFLICTION--ITS NATURE AND BENEFITS. The school of the cross is the school of light; it discovers the world's vanity, baseness, and wickedness, and lets us see more of God's mind. Out of dark afflictions comes a spiritual light. In times of affliction, we commonly meet with the sweetest experiences of the love of God. The end of affliction is the discovery of sin; and of that, to bring us to a Saviour. Doth not God ofttimes even take occasion, by the hardest of things that come upon us, to visit …
John Bunyan—The Riches of Bunyan
And thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, too little to be among the thousands of Judah
"And thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, too little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall come forth unto Me (one) [Pg 480] to be Ruler in Israel; and His goings forth are the times of old, the days of eternity." The close connection of this verse with what immediately precedes (Caspari is wrong in considering iv. 9-14 as an episode) is evident, not only from the [Hebrew: v] copulative, and from the analogy of the near relation of the announcement of salvation to the prophecy of disaster …
Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg—Christology of the Old Testament
The book of Joshua is the natural complement of the Pentateuch. Moses is dead, but the people are on the verge of the promised land, and the story of early Israel would be incomplete, did it not record the conquest of that land and her establishment upon it. The divine purpose moves restlessly on, until it is accomplished; so "after the death of Moses, Jehovah spake to Joshua," i. 1. The book falls naturally into three divisions: (a) the conquest of Canaan (i.-xii.), (b) the settlement of the …
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament
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