OT History Part 1 – Joshua 7-8

But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.
Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth Aven to the east of Bethel, and told them, “Go up and spy out the region.” So the men went up and spied out Ai.
When they returned to Joshua, they said, “Not all the army will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary the whole army, for only a few people live there.” So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water.
Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?”
The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.
“Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There are devoted things among you, Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them.
“‘In the morning, present yourselves tribe by tribe. The tribe the Lord chooses shall come forward clan by clan; the clan the Lord chooses shall come forward family by family; and the family the Lord chooses shall come forward man by man. Whoever is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the Lord and has done an outrageous thing in Israel!’”
Early the next morning Joshua had Israel come forward by tribes, and Judah was chosen. The clans of Judah came forward, and the Zerahites were chosen. He had the clan of the Zerahites come forward by families, and Zimri was chosen. Joshua had his family come forward man by man, and Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was chosen.
Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and honor him. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.”
Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent, and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver underneath. They took the things from the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites and spread them out before the Lord.
Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold bar, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor. Joshua said, “Why have you brought this trouble on us? The Lord will bring trouble on you today.”
Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor ever since.

  • Joshua 7:1-26

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.”
So Joshua and the whole army moved out to attack Ai. He chose thirty thousand of his best fighting men and sent them out at night with these orders: “Listen carefully. You are to set an ambush behind the city. Don’t go very far from it. All of you be on the alert. I and all those with me will advance on the city, and when the men come out against us, as they did before, we will flee from them. They will pursue us until we have lured them away from the city, for they will say, ‘They are running away from us as they did before.’ So when we flee from them, you are to rise up from ambush and take the city. The Lord your God will give it into your hand. When you have taken the city, set it on fire. Do what the Lord has commanded. See to it; you have my orders.”
Then Joshua sent them off, and they went to the place of ambush and lay in wait between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai—but Joshua spent that night with the people.
Early the next morning Joshua mustered his army, and he and the leaders of Israel marched before them to Ai. The entire force that was with him marched up and approached the city and arrived in front of it. They set up camp north of Ai, with the valley between them and the city. Joshua had taken about five thousand men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. So the soldiers took up their positions—with the main camp to the north of the city and the ambush to the west of it. That night Joshua went into the valley.
When the king of Ai saw this, he and all the men of the city hurried out early in the morning to meet Israel in battle at a certain place overlooking the Arabah. But he did not know that an ambush had been set against him behind the city. Joshua and all Israel let themselves be driven back before them, and they fled toward the wilderness. All the men of Ai were called to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were lured away from the city. Not a man remained in Ai or Bethel who did not go after Israel. They left the city open and went in pursuit of Israel.
Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Hold out toward Ai the javelin that is in your hand, for into your hand I will deliver the city.” So Joshua held out toward the city the javelin that was in his hand. As soon as he did this, the men in the ambush rose quickly from their position and rushed forward. They entered the city and captured it and quickly set it on fire.
The men of Ai looked back and saw the smoke of the city rising up into the sky, but they had no chance to escape in any direction; the Israelites who had been fleeing toward the wilderness had turned back against their pursuers. For when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that smoke was going up from it, they turned around and attacked the men of Ai. Those in the ambush also came out of the city against them, so that they were caught in the middle, with Israelites on both sides. Israel cut them down, leaving them neither survivors nor fugitives. But they took the king of Ai alive and brought him to Joshua.
When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the wilderness where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. Twelve thousand men and women fell that day—all the people of Ai. For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin until he had destroyed all who lived in Ai. But Israel did carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the Lord had instructed Joshua.
So Joshua burned Ai and made it a permanent heap of ruins, a desolate place to this day. He impaled the body of the king of Ai on a pole and left it there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take the body from the pole and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. And they raised a large pile of rocks over it, which remains to this day.
Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the Israelites. He built it according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses—an altar of uncut stones, on which no iron tool had been used. On it they offered to the Lord burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings. There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua wrote on stones a copy of the law of Moses. All the Israelites, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the Lord, facing the Levitical priests who carried it. Both the foreigners living among them and the native-born were there. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had formerly commanded when he gave instructions to bless the people of Israel.
Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the foreigners who lived among them.

  • Joshua 8:1-35

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Joshua 7 ‘Introduction’: “Have you ever faced an obstacle that that seemed insurmountable? An opponent who mocks and belittles you? A task that is beyond your strength or an illness that won’t go away? That is your Jericho. The siege of Jericho symbolizes the world in its assault on the Christian and it symbolizes our Lord’s enabling victory over the world.
“Israel’s victory at Jericho is followed immediately by their defeat at Ai,  The irony of these two stories is that Jericho was a fortress while Ai is an insignificant little village, a wide spot in the road. Ai should be an easy victory for Joshua and his army—yet the villagers of Ai handily defeat the Israelites, sending Joshua’s army running. Why? Because sin was in the Israelite camp—sin that was Israel’s undoing. One of the Israelites, a man named Achan, had taken and hidden some of the spoils from the victory at Jericho, in violation of God’s command. Here we see an illustration of the biblical principle that one believer’s sin can cause harm and set back to the entire community of believers. Until the Israelites dealt with the sin of Achan, they could not defeat Ai.
“The story of Ai symbolizes the danger of seemingly ‘minor’ and ‘hidden’ sins. We think ‘insignificant’ sins like anger, resentment, lust, and evil thoughts won’t hurt anyone else. Those sins are hidden within us. Who will ever know? But those ‘hidden’ sins have a way of becoming a Christian’s Achilles’ heel—the very sin that brings a believer down in sorrow and disgrace. Sins of the flesh not only produce tragic defeat in our own lives, but can bring hurt to the people around us, just as the sin of Achan caused the death of three dozen Israelite soldiers.
“The book of Joshua tells the story of your life and mine. If you cannot find the perils of your life in the book of Joshua, you are not looking closely enough, because they’re all there.”

  • Ray C. Stedman, Adventuring through the Bible

Joshua 7:1 ‘The sinner’: “His name was Achan, or Achar, which means ‘trouble’; and he was from the tribe of Judah (V. 16). (See 1 Chron. 2:7; note in Josh. 7:26 that ‘Achor’ also means ‘trouble.’) He is known in Bible history as the man who troubled Israel (Josh. 7:25). Because of Achan’s disobedience, Israel was defeated at Ai, and the enemy killed thirty—six Jewish soldiers. It was Israel’s first and only military defeat in Canaan, a defeat that is forever associated with Achan’s name.
“Never underestimate the amount of damage one person can do outside the Will of God. Abraham’s disobedience in Egypt almost cost him his wife (Gen. 12:10-20); David’s disobedience in taking an unauthorized census led to the death of seventy thousand people (2 Sam. 24); and Jonah’s refusal to obey God almost sank a ship (Jonah 1). The church today must look diligently ‘lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble’ (Heb. 12:15 NKJV). That’s why Paul admonished the Corinthian believers to discipline the disobedient man in their fellowship, because his sin was defiling the whole church (1 Cor. 5).”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 7:2-5 ‘A Defeated Army’: “Like every good commander, Joshua surveyed the situation before he planned his strategy (Num. 21:32; Prov. 20:18; 24:6). His mistake wasn’t in sending out the spies but in assuming that the Lord was pleased with His people and would give them victory over Ai. He and his officers were walking by sight and not by faith. Spiritual leaders must constantly seek the Lord’s face and determine what His will is for each new challenge. Had Joshua called a prayer meeting, the Lord would have informed him that there was sin in the camp, and Joshua could have dealt with it. This would have saved the lives of thirty-six soldiers and spared Israel a humiliating defeat.
“It’s impossible for us to enter into Joshua’s mind and fully understand his thinking. No doubt the impressive victory at Jericho had given Joshua and his army a great deal of self—confidence, and self-confidence can lead to presumption. Since Ai was a smaller city than Jericho, victory seemed inevitable from the human point of view. But instead of seeking the mind of the Lord, Joshua accepted the counsel of his spies, and this led to defeat. He would later repeat this mistake in his dealings with the Gibeonites (Josh. 9).”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 7:6-9 ‘The consequences of one man’s sin’: “In contrast with the promised pleasures and benefits, sin really produces grief (7:6-9). Tearing one’s clothing is a formal sign of grief. The leaders correctly bring their sorrow to God. They complain to God about the unexpected turn of events. Instead of victory as in the capture of Jericho, the people have experienced defeat. Not only that, God’s great name will suffer if his people are destroyed.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Joshua 7:15, 24-25 ‘Achan’s family’: “Achan’s family faced execution with him. They were regarded as coconspirators in what he did. They helped cover up his guilt and withheld information from others. Similarly, family members died in Korah’s rebellion (Num. 16:25-34), Haman’s fall (Esth. 9:13, 14), and after Daniel’s escape (Dan. 6:24).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Joshua 7:16-18 ‘The investigation’: “ ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?’ asked the prophet (Jer. 17:9), and he answered the question in the next verse: ‘I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.’
“Nobody can hide from God. ‘Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him?’ (Jer. 23:24). Whether sinners run to the top of the mountains or dive to the bottom of the seas, God Will find them and judge them (Amos 9:3). ‘For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil’ (Eccl. 12:14).
“God’s approach was methodical. First He singled out the tribe of Judah, then the family of the Zerahites, then the household of Zabdi, and finally the culprit Achan. Perhaps the high priest used the ephod to determine God’s direction (1 Sam. 23:6, 9; 30:7-8), or Joshua and the high priest may have cast lots. It must have been frightening for Achan and his immediate family to watch the accusing finger of God point closer and closer. ‘My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes” (Jer. 16:17 NIV). Read Psalm 10, especially verses 6, 11, and 15 to see what may have been going on in Achan’s mind and heart during this tense time of scrutiny.
“When Joshua singled out Achan as the offender, the people watching must have asked themselves, ‘What evil thing did he do that the Lord was so displeased with us?’ Perhaps the relatives of the thirty-six slain soldiers were angry as they looked at the man whose disobedience caused the death of their loved ones.”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 7:19-23 ‘The confession’: “The phrase ‘Give glory to God’ was a form of official oath in Israel (John 9:24 NIV). Achan had not only sinned against his own people, but he had also grievously sinned against the Lord, and he had to confess his sin to Him. When he said ‘I have sinned,’ he joined the ranks of seven other men in Scripture who made the same confession, some more than once, and some without sincerity: Pharaoh (Ex. 9:27; 10:16), Balaam (Num. 22:34), King Saul (1 Sam. 15:24, 30; 26:21), David (2 Sam. 12:13; 24:10, 17; Ps. 51:4), Shimei (2 Sam. 19:20), Judas (Matt. 27:4), and the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:18, 21).
“Before he could execute the Lord’s judgment, Joshua had to present the evidence that substantiated Achan’s confession. The messengers dug under Achan’s tent and found ‘the accursed thing’ that had brought defeat to Israel. The stolen goods were spread out before the Lord so He could see that all Israel was renouncing their hold on this evil treasure. The confession and the evidence were enough to convict the accused man.”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 7:20-21 ‘The Sin’: “Achan heard his commander give the order that all the spoils in Jericho were to be devoted to the Lord and were to go into His treasury (6:17-21, 24). Since Jericho was Israel’s first victory in Canaan, the first fruits of the spoils belonged to the Lord (Prov. 3:9). But Achan disobeyed and took the hazardous steps that lead to sin and death (James 1:13-15): ‘I saw  I coveted  [I] took’ (Josh. 7:21). Eve did the same thing when she listened to the Devil (Gen. 3:5), and so did David when he yielded to the flesh (2 Sam. 11:1-4). Since Achan also coveted the things of the world, he brought defeat to Israel and death to himself and his family.
“Achan’s first mistake was to look at these spoils a second time. He probably couldn’t help seeing them the first time, but he should never have looked again and considered taking them. A man’s first glance at a woman may say to him, ‘She’s attractive!’ But it’s that second glance that gets the imagination working and leads to sin (Matt. 6:27-50). If we keep God’s Word before our eyes, we won’t start looking in the wrong direction and doing the wrong things (Prov. 4:20-25).
“His second mistake was to reclassify those treasures and call them ‘the Spoils’ (Josh. 7:21). They were not ‘the spoils’; they were a part of the Lord’s treasury and wholly dedicated to Him. They didn’t belong to Achan, or even to Israel; they belonged to God. When God identifies something in a special way, we have no right to change it. In our world today, including the religious world, people are rewriting God’s dictionary! ‘Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!’ (Isa. 5:20 KJV).”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 7:24-26 ‘The judgment’: “Since a law in Israel prohibited innocent family members from being punished for the sins of their relatives (Deut. 24:16), Achan’s family must have been guilty of assisting him in his sin. His household was judged the same way Israel would deal with a Jewish city that had turned to idols. Achan and his family had turned from the true and living God and had given their hearts to that which God had said was accursed—silver, gold, and an expensive garment. It wasn’t worth it!
“At the beginning of a new period in Bible history, God sometimes revealed His wrath against sin in some dramatic way. After the tabernacle had been set up, Nadab and Abihu invaded its holy precincts contrary to God’s law, and God killed them. This was a warning to the priests not to treat God’s sanctuary carelessly (Lev. 10). When David sought to restore the ark to its place of honor, and Uzzah touched the ark to steady it, God killed Uzzah (2 Sam. 6:1-11), another warning from God not to treat sacred things carelessly. At the beginning of the church age, when Ananias and Sapphira lied to God and God’s people, the Lord killed them (Acts 5:1-11).”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 8:1 ‘God’s command for a second attack’: “Let us consider the advice of the spies that led to such a shameful defeat: ‘Don’t send all the people, but send about two thousand or three thousand men to attack Ai’ (7:3). Here we will have to deal with the error of supposing that only a part or the church will be sufficient to perform the work of the whole—that a large proportion may be idle—and that the rest will be enough to fight the Lord’s battles. I feel it to be an error that is practically to be seen in our churches and needs to be met and put to an end. In Joshua’s day this error sprang up because God was displeased with them on account of the sin of Achan. But out of that secret cause—because God was displeased with them— they were left to themselves, and they adopted a fatal policy. When God is in the midst of a church, he guides its counsels and directs the hearts of people to go about his work in the wisest manner. But even on the Lord’s own people a measure of judicial blindness may come. We may depend on it that when it becomes a doctrine that only special classes of people are to be expected to work in the church, there is some great wrong in the background.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Joshua 8:1-2 ‘A New Beginning’: “Once the nation of Israel had judged the sin that had defiled their camp, God was free to speak to them in mercy and direct them in their conquest of the land. ‘The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the LORD upholds him with His hand’ (Ps. 37:23-24 NKJV). No matter what mistakes we may make, the worst mistake of all is not to try again; for ‘the victorious Christian life is a series of new beginnings’ (Alexander Whyte).
“You start with the Word of God. We today don’t hear God’s audible voice as people often did in Bible times, but we have the Word of God before us and the Spirit of God within us, and God will direct us if we wait patiently before Him.”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 8:1-29 ‘Promised Conquest of Ai’: “The Lord instructed Joshua to lead Israel in conquest of the city of Ai: ‘Now the LORD said to Joshua: “Do not fear or be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you and arise, go up to Ai; see, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land.” … Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand” ’ (8:1,18).
“The victory of the chosen nation is described in the subsequent text as the promise is fulfilled: ‘Joshua did not draw back his hand, with which he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai’ (8:24-26).”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Joshua 8:3 ‘thirty thousand … men’: “Joshua’s elite force was far superior to that of Ai, with a mere 12,000 total population (8:25). This time Joshua took no small force presumptuously (cf. 7:3, 4), but had 30,000 to sack and burn Ai, a decoy group to lure defenders out of the city (vv. 5, 6), and a third detachment of about 5,000 to prevent Bethel from helping Ai (v. 12).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Joshua 8:3-13 ‘A New Strategy’: “God is not only the God of new beginnings, but He’s also the God of infinite variety. Remember the words of King Arthur …? ‘And God fulfills himself in many ways, / Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.’ God changes His leaders lest we start trusting flesh and blood instead of trusting the Lord, and He changes His methods lest we start depending on our personal experience instead of on His divine promises.
“The strategy God gave Joshua for taking Ai was almost opposite the strategy He used at Jericho. The Jericho operation involved a week of marches that were carried on openly in the daylight. The attack on Ai involved a covert night operation that prepared the way for the daylight assault. The whole army was united at Jericho, but Joshua divided the army for the attack on Ai. God performed a mighty miracle at Jericho when He caused the walls to fall down flat, but there was no such miracle at Ai. Joshua and his men simply obeyed God’s instructions by setting an ambush and luring the people of Ai out of their city, and the Lord gave them the victory.”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 8:7 ‘God will deliver it into your hand’: “God had sovereignly caused Israel’s defeat earlier due to Achan’s disobedience (7:1—5). Yet, this time, despite Israel’s overwhelming numbers, God was still the sovereign power behind this victory (8:7).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Joshua 8:14-17 ‘Ai emptied’: “When morning dawned, the king of Ai saw the army of Israel positioned before the city, ready to attack. Confident of victory, he led his men out of the city and against the Jews. ‘They are the most in danger,’ said Matthew Henry, ‘Who are least aware of it.’ Joshua and his men began to flee, and this gave the men of Ai even more assurance of victory.
“According to verse 17, the men of Bethel were also involved in the attack, but no details are given. Whether they were already in Ai or arrived on the scene just in time, we aren’t told, but their participation led to the defeat of their city (12:16) as well as Ai.
“It was careless of the people of Ai to leave their city undefended, but such are the follies of self-confidence. When a small army sees a large army flee without even fighting, it gives them a feeling of superiority that can lead to defeat.”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 8:18 ‘the spear’: “Joshua’s hoisted javelin represented the go-ahead indicator to occupy Ai. Possibly the raised weapon was even a signal of confidence in God: ‘For I will give it into your hand.’ Earlier, Moses’ uplifted rod and arms probably signified trust in God for victory over Amalek (Ex. 17:8-13).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Joshua 8:18-20 ‘Ai captured’: “Conscious that the battle was the Lord’s (1 Sam. 17:47; 2 Chron. 20:15), Joshua waited for further instructions. God then told him to lift up his spear toward the city (Josh. 8:18). This was the signal for the other troops to enter the city and burn it, but the signal had to be given at just the right time. The men of Ai and Bethel were trapped, and it was a simple matter for the army of Israel to destroy them. Joshua held up his spear until the victory was won (v. 26), an action that reminds us of the battle Joshua fought against Amalek when Moses held up his hands to the Lord (Ex. 17:8-16).”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 8:21-29 ‘Ai’s army and people destroyed’: “Seeing the smoke of the city, Joshua’s men stopped fleeing, and they turned and attacked the army of Ai that was pursuing them. After the Jewish soldiers in Ai left the city, they joined in the battle. The enemy was then caught between two armies. ‘Israel cut them down, leaving them neither survivors nor fugitives’ (v. 22 NIV).
“Once the army was annihilated, the rest of the population of the city was destroyed, just as at Jericho (vv. 24-25; 6:21, 24). Keep in mind that this was not the ‘slaughter of innocent people’ but the judgment of God on an evil society that had long resisted His grace and truth.”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 8:29 ‘the king of Ai’: “The execution of Ai’s populace included hanging the king. This wise move prevented later efforts to muster a Canaanite army. Further, as a wicked king, he was worthy of punishment according to biblical standards (Deut. 21:22; Josh. 10:26, 27). This carried out the vengeance of God on His enemies.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Joshua 8:30-35 ‘an altar to make peace offerings’: “This ceremony took place in obedience to Deuteronomy 27:1-26 at the conclusion of Joshua’s central campaign (cf. 6:1-8:35).
“Thanks is offered to God for giving victory. The altar, in obedience to the instruction of Exodus 2O:24-26, was built of uncut stones, thus keeping worship simple and untainted by human showmanship. Joshua gave God’s Word a detailed and central place.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

My Thoughts

Achan had sinned and taken things from Jericho.  Jericho was to be the first fruits, designated strictly for God.  Achan knew that.

With the news from the spies, Joshua felt that Ai would be easy to take.  He may have been so bold as to make a frontal assault.  When they eventually made a feint of a frontal assault with God’s blessings and instructions, the king of Ai thought it was “same old, same old.”

With the utter defeat, Joshua and the other leaders tore their clothes and lamented.  They had no idea why the attack failed.  God had promised to go before them.  They just assumed.

The old army saying is that when you assume, you make an “ass” out of you (“U”) and me.

But worse than becoming a wild donkey, about 36 men died.  That is a strange way of saying it.  About 30 men could be anywhere from 28 to 32 and no one would quibble.  I wonder if they were counting in dozens.  The number is not relevant today, but the number was relevant then in that there were either 35 or 37 families who were grieving.  The reflection questions ask about the entire family of Achan being killed and could you do that?  Then they asked if you were among the families who lost loved ones.  That could make a difference in that decision.

I had men’s lives in my hands as an Army officer and I did not take that role lightly.  I served during the Cold War, but otherwise it was peacetime.  It is amazing how many times a tank in East Germany changed positions and we mustered the men and withdrew weapons, but only once did we withdraw ammunition and we never put a round into the chamber.  At one point, I was told that if we got to that point, of weapons, ammunition, and “lock and load,” I would be the company commander, when I was a mere platoon leader.  There would be a couple of “accidents” and the officers that had been found “wanting in character” would be … gone.  That was a sobering admission by the entire group of company sergeants, almost all with Vietnam experience, but it meant that in wartime, if war had occurred, my men would trust my decisions.  Odd, I did not think I could trust my decisions under those circumstances.  It would be so much easier to ask God and God produce the battle plan and show me on the map what to do.

But Joshua got cocky.

And to find out where the sinner was, God took charge.  God had the defeat of the army done in order to show Joshua who was in charge and that the sin of one affected the many.  He knew who had sinned, but the people did not.  It was not a game of charades, but it might as well have been.  They lined up the tribal leaders and the leader of Judah was chosen.  Then the leader of the Kerahites was chosen.  Then the family of Zimri and within that family of Zimri’s son Karmi.  Then Achan was identified.

Was the family involved?  It is possible that Achan had acted alone.  He could have dug the hole under the tent by himself, but he did not.  The family knew.  Could it be possible that God was testing the entire family during this game of charades?  Could they have said, “Daddy did it!” and saved their lives?  They stayed mute and they died next to him.

The example of David was used in one of the commentaries as an example of one man’s sin that leads to many dying, not the sin with Bathsheba, but the calling of the census late in his reign.  God gave him options and David chose the punishment option that was totally in God’s hands, hoping that God’s temper would cool and God would show mercy on His people and on His servant, David, who asked for the census in the first place.  Why was the census so bad of a sin?  David wanted reassurance that he had enough men to muster an army if a neighboring enemy would attack.  David’s faith in God wavered, just a little.  In Joshua’s case, he had so many consecutive victories that he simply got sloppy in his worship.  He might have thought he was the “leader” of God’s people other than God being the leader and letting Joshua carry a stick (javelin).

I have been guilty of that, having too much success go to my head.

But even I cringed when they killed all Achan’s livestock.  God wanted a total break from sin and a total, unconditional surrender by His Chosen People to God’s Will.

With the “cancer” removed from the body of the Chosen People, the attack detailed by Joshua 8 is classic small group tactics.  I had a little heartburn with Rev. Wiersbe’s use of the title “New Strategy.”  Yet, there was a change in strategy and tactics in the second battle of Ai.  And, if you are wondering, most experts pronounce it “A”- “I”.  The strategy, something done by moving entire armies here and there for the optimum advantage, was that God chose the battles and God directed the armies.  The tactics, in this case of Ai, was to produce a feint, a distraction, a false attack.  They attacked as they had the first time.  The king of Ai did as he did before in chasing the Israelites away.  But that was the false attack, the feint.  The real attack was the remainder of the army who destroyed the city after the king’s army had left it defenseless.  While forces rarely leave a post defenseless: false fronts, feints, trickery is almost always used in battle ever since the victory at Ai.  But that is tactics, moving Joe, Frank, and Chet from one spot to another in order to achieve a local goal, destroying a small city.  The Strategy was to defeat all of Canaan.

The scholars lambast the king of AI for leaving the city defenseless, but Hitler did the same thing when he attacked Poland.  Hitler moved all his army onto the Eastern Front to attack Poland, and he left the geriatric crowd scattered along the border of France.  France and England declared war and they mustered their armies at Strasbourg, France.  They then attacked across the Rhein River into the little town of Lahr, Germany.  They set up defenses to protect the bridge that allowed them to cross the river and they waited.  They could not believe that the Germans had not fired a shot in their direction.  They would never believe that there was no one there to fire a shot.  They gathered their leaders together to discuss why the Germans had not fired a shot.  The French general in charge could not think of a logical reason why the Germans had not fired upon them other than it must be a diabolical plot to draw them into a trap.  Frightened beyond all imagination, frightened by their own imagination, the joint armies retreated without Germany firing a shot – just as Hitler had gambled would happen.

One tank would not start.  In the panic, they abandoned it, and the autobahn was built around the tank so that the French would forever be reminded that they could have pressed the attack all the way to Berlin with little to no resistance and ended World War II before it had picked up too much steam.  They failed due to their overactive imagination.  Hitler won that battle by making the same “mistake” the king of Ai had made.

But the odd thing is that the people of Bethel joined in the attack on the retreating Israelite army.  I wrote years ago about Abraham pitching his tents between Bethel and Ai, between good and evil, if you will.  Bethel means “House of God” while Ai means “Heap of Ruins.”  And here, the armies of both cities were destroyed in one battle.  Once the city of Ai was on fire, the army was surrounded, unable to return.

This time, the army is allowed to take spoils.  God has already been given his first fruits, but then an altar is erected.

Rather than Rev. Wiersbe moving to a new topic for these last six verses of Joshua 8, the building of the altar was part of the New “Strategy.”  God commanded, through Moses, to build an altar, and the people did so and they worshipped God there.  They recognized, in part due to their defeat at Ai, that their victories were the Lord’s victory and they needed to stay true to the commands He had given them.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. What kinds of things can happen in our lives when we sin and try to hide it? As with the Israelites, has the Lord ever had to ‘get tough’ with you to get you back on track? When?
“2. If you had been Joshua, would you have been tempted to let Achan go with a slap on the wrist? Send him packing? Punch him out? What does this say about your style of disciplining those you feel responsible for at home or work?
“3. If you had been Achan’s wife or children, how would you have felt? How about the parents of one of the 36 killed in the attack on Ai?
“4. Do you think it was fair for God to punish all Israel because just one person sinned? Why or why not?
“1. is there some area of your lite now in which you hear the Lord saying to you, ‘Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged’?
“2. Have you ever had an occasion when your own self-confidence led you into danger? What great thing might you attempt now in your life if God assured you of success?
“3. Some say, ‘The only failure is the failure to learn.’ Others say, ‘The only thing you can learn from losing is how to lose.’ Which would Joshua say in this regard? What would you say?
“4. if you had been an Israelite soldier, how would you have felt about killing the women of Ai? Would the experience of Achan (7:1-26) have made it any easier?
“1. What might it mean for you to ‘build an altar’ to the Lord? What would you offer?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

There are one set of questions for each chapter with one question for the last six verses of Joshua 8.

Substitute whatever group for any reference to a small group.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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