In Joshua 23 Israel almost experiences a civil war between tribes living on different sides of the Jordan River. This event shows us two practices of Israel which please God. First, they do not tolerate idolatry. The tribes living on the east side of the river have grave concerns over the building of an altar to rival the altar to YHWH already built. These concerned tribes do not wish to repeat of the sins of Achan and others, so they are willing to address idolatry through grave measures if necessary. Secondly, Israel seeks peace. Thankfully, the eastern tribes do not sack the western tribes without first addressing their concern. In doing so, they find out that this altar is not built as a rival altar, but rather to represent a witness of the peace they intend to exist between the tribes. This new altar is simply a symbol that testifies to Israel’s unity. Both the intolerance of idolatry and the pursuit of peace honor and obey YHWH’s commands. Thus, Joshua could say that God has done everything promised due the obedience of Israel during this time (Joshua 23:14-16).
In the next book, Judges, we will see that Israel does begin to disobey and again threatens civil war, but with a much different outcome. When one considers our reading today, it should cause us to reflect on the simplicity of what God expects of us; one could boil down the Ten Commandments the way Jesus would later (Matthew 22:37-40). This is very similar to the two lessons we learn today: to avoid love for any God but the true God and always to pursue peace with our neighbor.