Study Guide

Book of Joshua Altars and Monuments

Altars and Monuments

We have a confession to make… we love Legos. Love them. The box might say they're for ages 10-14, but we can't help ourselves. However uncool it may seem, we love looking at our reconstruction of Bag End sitting right next to our Batcave, which is adjacent to our Millennium Falcon. We consider these Legos not just masterpieces, but monuments to what we love. These colored blocks signify our past, a reconstruction of our childhood. Okay, maybe not just our childhood, but you get the idea. In the Book of Joshua, the Israelites build altars and monuments for a lot of the same reasons that we spend hours with our Legos: they want to remember who they are and where they've been.

After crossing the Jordan River in chapter 3, Joshua places stones in the river to signify their passing. He wants generations of Israelites to know what their ancestors did so that they may be celebrated for years to come.

While monuments are usually meant to remind us of our past, we should remember our past isn't always pleasant. In chapter 7 of Joshua, the Israelites build a monument at Anchor—meaning "trouble"—as a reminder of the mischief and grief that Achan caused the Israelites. Though it can be tempting to focus on the good stuff when we look back, a simple stone structure can remind us of the pain we left behind.

Monuments aren't just for memorializing the past, though. They can also commemorate a present moment. During chapter 22, the eastern tribes of Israel build an altar to God. The western tribes, fearing the east might start worshiping false idols, ready themselves for civil war. The east denies the west's fears, though, claiming the altar is a symbol of the unity of Israel. Even though the tribes of Israel are now dispersed throughout the Promised Land, the altar will hold that they are one people under God.

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