Summary: Principles to Handle Conflict Between Believers


“Joshua blessed the 2 ½ tribes and sent them home with the instruction. ‘Share with others the spoils of war.’ So the warriors started back to their homes, but before they crossed the Jordan, they built a very large altar to God. The other tribes gathered at Shiloh to go to war, thinking the altar was a place of worship and was in competition with the Ark of the Covenant at Shiloh” (Joshua 22:6-20, Amplified).

1. Good intentions are sometimes misunderstood. “We have not built this altar in rebellion against the Lord” (22:22).

2. Misunderstanding leads to battles and bloodshed. “The whole assembly gathered at Shiloh and prepared to go to war against their brothers” (22:12).

a. Those with a history of fighting are quick to fight again.

b. Those who fight get close to God. “Gathered at Shiloh” (22:12).

c. They were ready to battle based on rumor. “Israel heard they built an altar” (22:11).

3. The 2 ½ tribes thought they were serving God, the other tribes were defending God.

4. Aren’t a lot of religious fights based on what people think God wants them to do?

5. The 2 ½ tribes didn’t hide what they built because the great altar could be seen in all directions.

6. What the 9 ½ tribes thought was wrong.

a. The new altar was too close to Shiloh.

b. The new altar was a facsimile (the same) of the altar of sacrifice in the Tabernacle (22:28).

c. Their altar was bigger.

d. They thought the 2 ½ tribes were separating into a “new” worship of God.

e. They could no longer rely on the 2 ½ tribes to fight with them.

f. The 2 ½ were rebelling against God (22:16).

g. The 2 ½ would contaminate them (22:18).

“The 9 ½ tribes sent Phinehas, son of the high priest, to find out what was going on. Phinehas reported the rumors flying around his camp, (1) that they built an altar to rebel against God, (2) their rebellion would bring God’s judgment on the 9 ½ tribes, and (3) just as Achan’s sin hurt all Israel, so the sin of the 2 ½ tribes would hurt all Israel” (Joshua 22:13-20, Amplified).

7. The 9 ½ tribes accused them of 3 kinds of sin, (1) lust, (2) idolatry, and (3) rebellion.

8. Hotheads motivated at first. “Gathered . . . to go to war against them” (22:12).

“The 2 ½ tribes answered with a favorite Hebrew expression. ‘The LORD God of gods, the LORD God of gods knows our hearts. If we built this altar to sacrifice separately from Shiloh, let Him punish us.’ They explained that since they were separated by the Jordan River, in time their children would not know God, nor come to Shiloh. Therefore they built an altar to remind their children of God and His forgiveness of sins through the altar at Shiloh” (Joshua 22:22-28, Amplified).

9. The 2 ½ tribes were afraid of drifting away.

10. They said, “God forbid,” a favorite expression of Paul (Rom. 3:4, 6,31; 6:2, 15; 7:7, 13; 9:14; 11:1, 11; and 5 more verses.

“Phineas listened to the leaders of the 2 ½ tribes and was satisfied they were telling the truth. He reported, ‘God is among us because we did not go to war and we didn’t destroy them.’ The 9 ½ tribes were satisfied with the explanation and talked no more about war. They named the altar ‘witness’ as a testimony between them and the Lord” (Joshua 22:30-34, Amplified).

11. Phineas was the most zealous priest to defend God’s laws of separation. When Phineas was satisfied with the explanation, everyone was satisfied.


1. Think for yourself; don’t go to war based on someone else’s rumor.

2. Pray for God’s blessing upon the people you want to attack.

“I (Jesus) say unto you . . . love your enemies, do good to them who hate you. Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you . . . him that smites you on one cheek, offer also the other” (Luke 6:27-29).

a. Let God speak to you about your inner motives.

b. Let God speak to you about your “enemy.”

c. Let God speak to your “enemies.”

3. Try to understand their understanding before you try being understood, i.e., look at the issue through their eyes.

4. Remember the command of Scripture, “As much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18).

5. Don’t let emotions control your first response, pray for knowledge about the problem, seek wisdom how to respond.

6. Model peace and integrity.

7. Let cooler heads prevail (22:13-15).

8. Give yourself time to cool off.

9. Take witnesses with you when you meet your opponent.

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