Be Your Brother’s Keeper

Be Your Brother's Keeper in a frame on a desk beside a vase of daisies

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2 ESV

After several long years, the land of Canaan had been so sufficiently occupied that Joshua considered the obligation of the two and a half tribes that lived beyond the Jordan to be complete.

The tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh were now free to return to their homes and the families they had left behind (Joshua 22:1-4). I can only imagine how ecstatic the men must have been to finally be able to return home.

But before they got all the way home they had a horrible thought, what if years down the line the descendants of the other nine and a half tribes accused their descendants of being imposters?

The very thought motivated them to build an altar as a memorial that they served the same God as the other tribes of Israel.

This infuriated the nine and a half tribes because they thought it was a sign that the others had fallen into idolatry. They sent a delegation to find out what was going on. They were concerned about their brethren.

But they didn’t just send anyone. They sent a priest and all the heads of households. There’s something significant about this lineup that I want us to focus on for a moment. The priest had knowledge of the Law of God and was well-versed in instructing persons on what God expected.

The heads of households went as a show of power. It was a statement to the two and a half tribes that they had the authority to do whatever was necessary to ensure that the infarction was not ignored.

They took their responsibility to their brethren seriously and wanted the people of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh to do the same.

Be Your Brother's Keeper
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One of the things on Scripture that have always bothered me was Cain’s response when God questioned him about Abel’s location,

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” Genesis 4:9

Yes, Cain, the answer is always yes. You are your brother’s keeper. The nine and a half tribes didn’t want any destruction to come to their brethren, or themselves, because of the idolatry of the two and a half tribes. They understood that in a family, what one person does affects the others.

The nine and a half tribes took swift action to correct the course they felt their brethren had gone on. Take a few moments to read in Joshua 22:15-20 what was said to the two and a half tribes. You will notice a few things happening:

  1. The nine and a half tribes demand an explanation for what they believe is the idolatry of their brethren.
  2. They remind their brothers of the sin they had committed at Peor.
  3. They reminded the two and a half tribes of what would happen if they rebelled.
  4. They invited their brethren to join them on the other side of the Jordan so they can be closer to the Lord’s altar.
  5. They implored them not to sin against God with the reminder of how Achan’s sin had affected the entire population.
    The nine and a half tribes understood the importance of unity among the brethren.

It’s important for us to remember that we are to be our brother’s keeper. The Bible says a lot about how we are expected to treat each other. God expects us to show love, not as the world does, but as Jesus did when He died for humanity.

My friend, are you your brother’s keeper? Do you speak up when you see your brethren going astray? As children of God, we have a responsibility to each other. We are challenged to pray for each other (James 5:16), love each other (Romans 12:10), and be kind to one another (Ephesians 4:32).


Lord, help me to be my brother’s keeper. Help me to forgive them as You have forgiven me. Teach me how to be kind and treat my brethren with loving kindness. Help me to have the grace and courage to reach out where I see my brethren going astray so that I can remind them of what You expect from them. Help me to speak the truth in love, in Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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