Chapter 5 Joshua’s Altar

Part 1 White Altars of Joshua

Thou shalt build the altar of the LORD thy God of whole stones: and thou shalt offer burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD thy God: Deuteronomy 27:6

The problems faced by governments throughout the ages have always been the same problems. The chosen solutions either alleviate the problem or they compound it. The same precepts that applied to God and man thousands of years ago apply today. The daily choice is ours. The solution is within our reach.

Moses chose to be a servant of the people rather than their ruler. Joshua was his servant. Joshua was told to build an altar when he crossed the Jordan. There were conditions placed upon Joshua’s altar of stones.

And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over Jordan unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaister them with plaister: Deuteronomy 27:2

The stones were to be plastered white. This whitewash was made by burning bones to make lime plaster. This is symbolic of being clothed in white linen or the white stones mentioned in Revelation 2:17. These white stones were representative of men of good character, tested by fire and pure of heart.

And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over, that thou mayest go in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, a land that floweth with milk and honey; as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee. Deuteronomy 27:3

They were also to have the law written upon them before they passed over the Jordan. Does anyone really imagine that the God of the universe cares whether you cover stones with plaster or write words on them? Or is there a message in these rituals?

God makes it clear throughout the Bible that he wishes to make a covenant with men by writing His laws upon their hearts and minds, not upon dead stone. These stones and altars were an external reminder of the precepts of God. In some ways, they better understood the practical necessities of the day than the learned seminarians and their professors do today.

The altars of sacrifice were instruments of sacrifice and part of a system of trust and liberty used by the government of Israel according to the character of or in the name of God the Father. The Hebrew word for “offer” is korban [Nbrq qorban]. Some scholars say that the word korban does not have the idea of gift at the center of its meaning. Their conclusion is based on the fact that korban is from the word qarab [brq], which is also translated “offer”, but means “come” ordraw near”. True giving in charity does draw us near to the character or name of God. More than anything else, charity includes, in its operation, both love and hope with the byproduct of faith, which is also a gift from God.

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity. 1 Corinthians 13:13

It is not the shape or dimension of the altar or the etching upon it, but the act of freely giving that consecrates the stones of man’s altars. God’s stone altars are made of living flesh, of men, who have His law written upon their hearts and upon their minds.

Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5

If you are to build an altar of living stone, it should be built in the fashion laid down from the beginning, precept upon precept. The stones should not be hewn by the regulations of men, but left free to give and be given to by faith, hope, and charity; choosing daily under the law of liberty to consume our bread or charitably cast it upon the waters of mankind. This is nurturing to the soul of men and allows God’s Spirit of love to move in us concurrently.

I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35

Joshua would not rule over the people and made it clear that he and his house would serve the Lord. This was leadership not a rulership or exercising authority. The altars constructed were not regulated by a top-down authority, but by the freewill choice of the people. These altars acted as the left hand of God’s government of liberty and freedom. The people chose to whom and how they were to make their offerings under the guidelines of the few hundred statutes of Moses.

The nation would remain strong and united as the people remained strong in the character of God, being remade daily in the image of God by their voluntary sacrifice. They were bound under this system of love and brotherhood, unlike the other nations who were bound together by compulsion, intimidation, control, power, and subjugating regulations of other men. As long as the people accepted their responsibilities and loved their neighbor as themselves, in faith, hope, and charity, according to the name of God, the nation remained indivisible and invincible.

If the people called for a central government and compelled their neighbor to contribute to their favorite project or charity, then they were going against the precepts of God and His kingdom and they would soon be serving the gods to whom they had applied.

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that [were] on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15

Moses, Joshua, and even Gideon kept repeating this common theme of God’s people, which is contrary to tyrants, despots, and social democracies. They would not covet their neighbors' goods nor rule over the people.

Judges 8:23 And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.

King over us

Before John Wycliffe was imprisoned by the government and his body burned at the stake by the orthodox Church, he had translated the Bible into English. He identified the books of “Samuel” and “Kings” as Kings 1 through 4. “Kings”, as opposed to “Judges”, is the period in history where Israel went under kings, rather than the once free nation of God where every man was prince in his own house and there was no king in Israel.

Moses had known the weakness of the people. They would eventually desire a central king. He prophetically warned the people what such rulers would be inclined to do and wisely established constitutional limitation1 for those chosen governing authority.

That king was to be from among thy brethren. They were not to set a stranger over them as an authority. “Brethren” had to do with the same Father which, of course, is God the Father. We know that those who are of the Father know the Father and do His will.

The king was not to multiply horses. God was not concerned with the king owning horses. He qualifies this statement by correlating the multiplying of horses to the returning to Egypt, which was absolutely forbidden.

But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way. Deuteronomy 17:16

The bar against returning to Egypt had nothing to do with its geographical location, but was about returning to that form of government, where a portion of the labor of a man could be extracted by the government. God had taken the people from Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

I [am] the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me Exodus 20:2-3

This idea of not returning to that house of bondage was also seen insofar as barring of the king from the accumulation of the gold and silver of the nation, as was the case in Egypt.

Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. Deuteronomy 17:17

Babylon, Egypt, eventually, Rome, and other countries throughout history have often regulated the ownership of gold and silver and its use as money. Often, these countries went to the use of some form of monetary exchange that was supported only by an artificial value imposed by the state, rather than an actual commodity money with present value. The removal of these honest weights and measures was a common and often last ditch effort to maintain some stability as their usurious economies began to collapse.

Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I [am] the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt. Leviticus 19:36 [Deuteronomy 25:13 ]

The bar against the multiplying of wives was another of many limitations placed on any king or ruler that the people might choose. In those days, when a ruler signed a treaty, it was common to consummate the contract by giving a daughter in marriage to the other ruler. David did this as well as many other kings.

Although multiple wives leads to trouble of its own, the real bar in relation to the king is the making of treaties. Because the people are bound under the king, then the king, by his agreements, can bind the whole nation. In a pure republic, where the leaders remain titular, they cannot bind the people. The whole body must sign because each one remains free.

And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this? Judges 2:2

God forbade the king from making leagues or treaties with other nations and their leaders. This was also stated for all the people in Exodus 23:32, “Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods.” The word “covenant” in this commandment and the word “league” are both brriyth and is translated “covenant, league, confederacy”. It means a covenant, alliance, pledge; between men; treaty, alliance, league (man to man). All these things meant that they were making men authorities over themselves instead of God the Father.

Moses directed the king to, not only remember all these basic rules, but write them down and read them over and over. He was also still bound by the Ten Commandments, which did not allow him to covet his neighbors goods, nor kill, commit adultery, nor bear false witness…

And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel. Deuteronomy 17:18-20

Moses knew what he was talking about and, though it took centuries, eventually, the people wanted a king. God made it clear through Samuel that the voice of the people showed that their hearts had, in fact, rejected God and his kingdom on earth, according to all the works which they have done since the day that he brought them out of Egypt, wherewith they have forsaken Him, and served other gods. God warned them of what kind of ruler this government leader would eventually be.

And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day. Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; 1 Samuel 8:11-19

Law and justice, as well as national security, had been in the hands of the people who assembled themselves in voluntary militias or armies based on a pattern of tens and fifties, hundreds, and thousands.2 These leaders were titular in their authority and held office by mutual respect and the consensus of those they served. Every captain was chosen by the ten men he served. This was a pure republic designed by God where the people were free from things public under the perfect law of liberty.

Saul was chosen because he was a great man who defended justice and fought for the rights of the people. But once he was given the power of a king he was tempted by that power. At one of the first signs of trouble, he compelled a tax on the people.

There was a measured loss of liberty when the people sinned against God and asked Samuel3 to establish a centralized government, which now, as Benefactor to the nation, imposed taxes or “sacrifice” and appointed officers over the people. Men rejected God’s kingdom; the voice of the people elected men to make laws, rule with exercising authority, collect the contributions like a tax rather than a freewill offering and generally rule over man and his neighbor.

Once, when there was a threat of invasion and Samuel had not arrived, Saul took matters into his own hands.

And Samuel said, What hast thou done?… I forced myself therefore [In Wycliffe’s translation we see this as, “I was compelled by need], and offered a burnt offering. 1 Samuel 13:11

The word “offered” here is from the Hebrew alah and can mean “withdraw… to be taken up, be brought up, be taken away… to be carried away”. It is also translated “increase, put” andraised”. The word “and” is not in the original text. What is being said is that Saul compelled the taking of a burnt offering. A burnt offering is just something you are not getting back, as we have already seen.

Because Saul was afraid the people would not come, he compelled a sacrifice, a tax. He coveted the goods of the people and demanded they contribute. This was a clear violation of the Ten Commandments. It was a noble cause, but still a sin.

Samuel’s response to Saul was to the point and direct. He called him a fool:

And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee. 1 Samuel 13:12-14

God had not just taken people out of Egypt and the house of bondage, but had taken them out of all kingdoms like that, so that no ruler could take from them any more or rule over or oppress them again. The people did not trust in God’s way, but desired to compel their neighbor to be bound under a single leader to assure their security. Samuel had them present themselves according to the assembled units of the congregation and the tribes.

And said unto the children of Israel, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all kingdoms, and of them that oppressed you: And ye have this day rejected your God, who himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said unto him, Nay, but set a king over us. Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes, and by your thousands. 1 Samuel 10:18-19

Former freewill contributions became compulsory and the nation was no longer sustained by love of neighbor, but by the demands of governing agents. This power corrupted the leaders even though it was to be limited according to the constitution laid out by Moses.4 This evil system, contrary to the nature of God, also spread to the temple where the priests soon began to demand a temple tax with the aid of the King’s right hand.

No one could fire the Porters except the King. Before the kings, the Porters, officers of the public treasury, were chosen by the people in the pattern of their congregations.

The first tithing was only to support the Levites and their families. Each of the ten families shared a portion of their prosperity with the family of their minister according to his service.5 That service was the work of the national government of God’s kingdom.

The Family was not just a Father and Mother and children, but consisted of the eldest living Father and all his children including his Married Sons. In Israel, no one was Sui Juris6 as long as his Father and Mother lived. The ultimate property right always returned to the Elder of the family until his passing. With the advent of Kings or central government, some of that patriarchal authority passed to the government.

Excise or income tax was a patrimonial right and the offerings that were to be dedicated to God were now hallowed to the patron of the nation. This was a process.

Saul lost his kingdom to David and David as well, as Solomon broke many of the laws laid down from the beginning. Solomon’s son took this corruption even farther.

When the people asked Samuel for a king, they sinned against God. When they asked Rehoboam to set them free and return them to the ways of God and His kingdom, he forsook the counsel of the old men and refused.

And spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father [also] chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. 1 Kings 12:14

The people were not to rebel against the king, but they did. The temple was to remain mobile, but it did not. The people were not to be taxed, but they were. The kings were not to return the people to Egypt, but they did.

These abuses divided the kingdom of God and most of the people. When they would not take any more, they left. They tried to simply rescind their contract with the king. It did not work in Egypt nor under Rehoboam. When the king would not agree:

... the people answered the king, saying, ‘What portion have we in David? neither [have we] inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents.’ 1 Kings 12:16, 2Ch 10:16

The people did not like being the tail of the king and left the house of David, which, without consent, forfeited the inheritance of the kingdom promised to Abraham and delivered by Moses. They did not return to the civil powers of Rehoboam but to their tents. They became the lost sheep. The Kingdom went farther into apostasy and abandoned the ways of God and his precept upon precept, but it was the kingdom.

1Deuteronomy 17:14-20

2Ex 18:25 And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.

31 Samuel 8, 1 Samuel 10:18-19, 1 Samuel 12:1-25

4Deuteronomy 17:16-20

5Nu 7:5 Take [it] of them, that they may be to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; and thou shalt give them unto the Levites, to every man according to his service.

6In possession of his rights. What was the sons was the Father’s.