They are defeated at Ai.
VERSE 1. But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the devoted things; for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. Therefore the LORD’s anger burned against the children of Israel.
But. This is an ominous word to start a chapter with.
Achan. This one man disobeyed the will of the LORD.
took some of the devoted things. Achan stole some spoils of war.
All the spoils of war from Jericho were to be dedicated to the LORD’s treasury.
No soldier was to help himself to the booty. But Achan disobeyed the prohibition. He put himself first, instead of putting the LORD God and his nation first.
the LORD’s anger burned against the children of Israel. Due to the disobedience of one man (Achan), the LORD God was angry with the entire nation.
VERSE 2. Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Beth Aven, on the east side of Bethel, and spoke to them, saying, “Go up and spy out the land.” The men went up and spied out Ai.
Go up and spy out the land. Joshua was not aware of Achan’s disobedience. So he prepares for the next battle.
He sends spies ten miles northwest of Jericho to Ai.
VERSE 3. They returned to Joshua, and said to him, “Don’t let all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and strike Ai. Don’t make all the people to toil there, for there are only a few of them.”
there are only a few of them. The population of Ai was actually 12,000:
Joshua 8:25. All that fell that day, both of men and women, were twelve thousand, even all the people of Ai.
So Israel underestimated the strength of the enemy. That is a big mistake:
Ephesians 6:12. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
1 Peter 5:8. Be sober and self-controlled. Be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
VERSE 4. So about three thousand men of the people went up there, and they fled before the men of Ai.
they fled before the men of Ai. They are running away.
This is a massive defeat.
VERSE 5. The men of Ai struck about thirty-six men of them. They chased them from before the gate even to Shebarim, and struck them at the descent. The hearts of the people melted, and became like water.
The hearts of the people melted. They lost their courage. They were utterly demoralized. And with that, they lost their power.
A believer gets their strength from the LORD God:
Ephesians 6:10. Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (NIV translation)
struck about thirty-six men. This is very unfortunate, both for the 36 men as well as their families.
All that human suffering was due to Achan’s bad behavior.
VERSE 6. Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face before the LORD’s ark until the evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads.
Joshua tore his clothes. Joshua is stunned by the defeat.
before the LORD’s ark. Joshua’s response is righteous. He goes to the LORD God.
VERSE 7. Joshua said, “Alas, Lord GOD, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to cause us to perish? I wish that we had been content and lived beyond the Jordan!
Lord GOD, why have you … Joshua blames the LORD God for their defeat.
However, it was Achan caused their defeat. He disobeyed the will of the LORD God and stole some spoils of war.
VERSE 8. Oh, Lord, what shall I say, after Israel has turned their backs before their enemies?
VERSE 9. For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and will surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. What will you do for your great name?”
Get up! This is a brusque reply.
VERSE 11. Israel has sinned. Yes, they have even transgressed my covenant which I commanded them. Yes, they have even taken some of the devoted things, and have also stolen, and also deceived. They have even put it among their own stuff.
Israel has sinned. Actually, only Achan disobeyed the will of the LORD.
But his misdeed puts the whole nation in trouble.
some of the devoted things. They are listed in verse 21 below.
VERSE 12. Therefore the children of Israel can’t stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will not be with you any more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you.
I will not be with you any more. That is frightening.
Contrast with this earlier statement:
Joshua 6:27. So the LORD was with Joshua; and his fame was in all the land.
unless you. The presence of the LORD God will vanish, unless Joshua does certain things.
VERSE 13. Get up! Sanctify the people, and say, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, for the LORD, the God of Israel, says, “There is a devoted thing among you, Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted thing from among you.”
Sanctify the people. The first thing Joshua must do is to sanctify the people.
You cannot stand before your enemies. No military victory will be possible until they do this.
VERSE 14. In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. It shall be that the tribe which the LORD selects shall come near by families. The family which the LORD selects shall come near by households. The household which the LORD selects shall come near man by man.
VERSE 15. It shall be, that he who is taken with the devoted thing shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the LORD’s covenant, and because he has done a disgraceful thing in Israel.’ ”
he … shall be burned with fire. The second thing Joshua must do is to burn the guilty man to death.
VERSE 16. So Joshua rose up early in the morning and brought Israel near by their tribes. The tribe of Judah was selected.
Joshua rose up early in the morning. Joshua, and the whole nation, got an early start.
They must do this thing. And it must be done soon.
Judah was selected. This was probably done by drawing lots.
Doubtless the LORD God could simply reveal the identity of the guilty man to Joshua. But instead, this method was used.
It is dramatic. It conveys the seriousness of disobeying the commands of the LORD God.
VERSE 17. He brought near the family of Judah, and he selected the family of the Zerahites. He brought near the family of the Zerahites man by man, and Zabdi was selected.
VERSE 18. He brought near his household man by man, and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was selected.
Achan … was selected. This is the right person.
Proverbs 16:33. The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.
VERSE 19. Joshua said to Achan, “My son, please give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and make confession to him. Tell me now what you have done! Don’t hide it from me!”
My son. Joshua addresses Achan with tenderness, even though:
- What Achan did was terrible and selfish thing
- It caused many people to die
- It caused the nation to suffer a terrible defeat
VERSE 20. Achan answered Joshua, and said, “I have truly sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel, and this is what I have done.
I have truly sinned. Achan confesses his sin.
However, he does not express sorrow for:
- disobeying God’s order
- betraying his nation
- causing the defeat of the Army
- The death of 36 people
VERSE 21. When I saw among the plunder a beautiful Babylonian robe, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, then I coveted them and took them. Behold, they are hidden in the ground in the middle of my tent, with the silver under it.”
two hundred shekels. A shekel is about 10 grams or about 0.35 ounces.
VERSE 22. So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent. Behold, it was hidden in his tent, with the silver under it.
VERSE 23. They took them from the middle of the tent, and brought them to Joshua and to all the children of Israel. They laid them down before the LORD.
VERSE 24. Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his cattle, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had; and they brought them up to the valley of Achor.
VERSE 25. Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The LORD will trouble you today.” All Israel stoned him with stones, and they burned them with fire and stoned them with stones.
The LORD will trouble you today. The nation eradicates the entire household of Achan. He is erased from human history. Not one person alive today can trace their genetic lineage to Achan.
All Israel stoned him with stones. The nation stones the household of Achan to death.
they burned them with fire. The nation burns the household of Achan to ash.
stoned them with stones. The nation stones the household of Achan. Again.
VERSE 26. They raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. The LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Therefore the name of that place was called “The valley of Achor” to this day.
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