The Israelites, under Joshua’s leadership, had taken possession of the lands and God now had given them rest.
Joshua calls the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, who had stayed back to help settle their brothers, blesses them and permits them to return to their assigned land, on the other side of the Jordan. So they return to Gilead, the land of their possession. When they get to the region of Jordan, these returning tribes build an impressive altar, on the children of Israel’s side.
An altar is a structure upon which offerings and sacrifices are made for religious purposes.
When the children of Israel hear of this, the whole congregation gathers at Shiloh to go to war against them. They thought the altar at Jordon represented a rival place of sacrifice and worship, to compete with God’s tabernacle presently at Shiloh. The leaders of the tribes of Israel, led by Phinehas the priest, confront the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, asking them why they would rebel against the Lord by building an altar for themselves.
However, they are quick to reassure Phinehas and the leaders of the tribes of Israel that they did not build the altar to turn away from the Lord God. Rather they built the altar as a memorial between them (Joshua 22:24-29). Thus, the misunderstanding was resolved.
To rebel is to rise in opposition.
The allegation against the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh was that they had built an altar beside the altar of the Lord God at Shiloh, and the Bible says that was rebellion. Today we may not have physical altars and sacrifices like in the Old Testament. But we rebel when we do not prioritize and worship God above all else in our lives, not giving Him our first and our best. Anything that takes precedes over God and our worship of Him represents a rival god and reflects a rebellious heart.
What are the things, people, or relationships that we prioritize and build altars to, over and above our devotion to God, causing us to rebel against Him? Would ask the Lord to help you put Him first in your life, trusting in His faithfulness?