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Bailey Sadler Class
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – 2015
Strong & Courageous:
What This Study Is About:
week’s study is focused on how we (believers) are to deal with failure
and how God can help us to move beyond failure and refocus on God’s
future plan for us.
Your Leadership Role
in God’s Power
Move Beyond Failure
Work Through Conflict
Call Others to Step Forward
confront failure, deal with it, and move forward.
Identify The Cause of Failure (Josh. 7:13-15)
Sins That Led To Failure (Josh. 7:19-21)
With Failure & Refocus On God’s Plan (Josh 7:25-26; 8:1)
Israelites had effortlessly defeated the city of Jericho.
They apparently had followed God’s instructions carefully, and
the city wall fell down. When
they attacked the next town, Ai, they lost!
Joshua had sent spies to Ai, and the spies confidently announced
that only a small group of soldiers would be needed to take Ai.
(For a map of Israel’s three campaigns—Central, Southern, and
Northern—during the conquest of Canaan at end of this guide.)
The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza,
people who influence others doesn’t mean we never make mistakes or sin. Exercising
leadership means from time to time we will have to confront failure,
sometimes brought on by our or others’ sin. Too
many people rationalize or ignore sin, but the only real solution is to be
open and deal decisively with it. We
see in the life of Joshua that he dealt decisively with a serious sin
against God by one of the Israelites. After
it was admitted and dealt with, God used the people again. We
are not left in our failures. God forgives and calls us to move forward.
SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs
Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern
Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Identify The Cause
of Failure (Josh. 7:13-15)
13 “Go and consecrate the
people. Tell them to consecrate themselves for tomorrow, for this is what
the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There are things that are set apart
among you, Israel. You will not be able to stand against your enemies
until you remove what is set apart. 14 In the morning
you must present yourselves tribe by tribe. The tribe the Lord selects is
to come forward clan by clan. The clan the Lord selects is to come forward
family by family. The family the Lord selects is to come forward man by
man. 15 The one who is caught with the things set apart
must be burned, along with everything he has, because he has violated the
Lord’s covenant and committed an outrage in Israel.”
What are some ways our culture responds to
happened between the fall of Jericho ( Josh. 6.) and verse 13 above? (See Josh.
were the people to prepare themselves for an encounter with the Lord (v. 13)?
does it mean to “consecrate”
something or oneself (v. 13)? (See
did the people need to consecrate
themselves (v. 13)?
things were to be set apart?
was the effect of one man’s sin on the people (vv. 13-14)?
did they need to do about the sin in the camp?
do you think the sin was to be dealt with so forcefully?
to this passage, how would the guilty person/s be identified?
would be the fate of the guilty person (v. 15)?
do you think this person/s would be punished for the same crime today?
do you think sin was treated more harshly then than today?
it comes to failure, how do you think a good leader handles it?
are some reasons that we may not deal with failure in a positive manner?
What is your initial
reaction to these verses?
How would you summarize
and explain this passage to a new believer?
What happens when we ignore sin and go on as if
That Led To Failure (Josh. 7:19-21)
19 So Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of
Israel, and make a confession to Him. I urge you, tell me what you have
done. Don’t hide anything from me.” 20 Achan replied
to Joshua, “It is true. I have sinned against the Lord, the God of
Israel. This is what I did: 21 When I saw among the
spoils a beautiful cloak from Babylon, 200 silver shekels, and a bar of
gold weighing 50 shekels, I coveted them and took them. You can see for
yourself. They are concealed in the ground inside my tent, with the money
under the cloak.”
took place in verses 16-18?
was Achan and what was his sin (See Digging Deeper.)
did Joshua mean when he asked Achan “. .
. give glory to the Lord, . . .” (v. 19)?
words suggest Joshua approached Achan calmly and kindly (v. 19)?
suggests that Joshua still spoke directly and personally to Achan (v. 19b)?
did Achan respond to Joshua’s request (vv. 20-21)?
you think Achan knew what was in story for him?
against whom is all sin committed?
on this passage, do you get any sense that Achan was remorseful for his sinful
behavior? Why, or why not?
you think Achan could have done anything to change the outcome of his sinful
behavior? Why, or why not?
the outcome been different if Joshua had interceded with God on Achan’s
behalf? Why, or why not?
have no way of knowing, but do you think Achan considered what his sin might
bring on his family? Why?
Do you think confession is a necessary step for
moving beyond failure? If so, why?
How does unconfessed
sin affect our relationship with God and others?
What are some actions
Achan could have taken when he was tempted to sin?
Lessons in Joshua 7:19-21:
should confess our sins to God and ask for His forgiveness.
should avoid trying to rationalize or ignore our sins; we should accept
blame rather than blaming others.
should avoid situations that will tempt us to sin.
With Failure & Refocus On God’s Plan (Josh 7:25-26; 8:1)
7:25 Joshua said, “Why have you
troubled us? Today the Lord will trouble you!” So all Israel stoned them
to death. They burned their bodies, threw stones on them, 26
and raised over him a large pile of rocks that remains to this day. Then
the Lord turned from His burning anger. Therefore that place is called the
Valley of Achor to this day. 8:1
The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. Take the
whole military force with you and go attack Ai. Look, I have handed over
to you the king of Ai, his people, city, and land.
happened between verses 21 and 25?
to verse 25, what did Joshua say to Achan (v. 25)?
did the Lord trouble Achan (v. 25)?
participated in Achan’s punishment? (v. 25b)?
did Achan’s sin impact his family (v. 25b)?
impact do you think it had on the people of Israel?
was done with the remains of Achan and all he had (vv. 25c-26a)
did Achan’s punishment impact the Lord (v. 26)?
does Achor mean? (See Digging Deeper.)
resulted from the faithfulness of the people in dealing with sin in their camp?
you think this has a message for our churches today?
Why, or why not?
did God encourage Joshua to attack Ai (v. 8:1)?
message do you think this whole study has for believers today?
would you summarize it?
Lessons in Joshua 7:25-26; 8:1:
When we deal
directly with the cause of our failure, God can still work through us.
true solution for our sin problem is a vital relationship with Jesus.
wrath is an expression of His deep hatred of sin and of His deep
commitment to His people.
Few people truly set out to fail. In
fact, most of us do all we can to avoid failing.
Failure may be attributed to a lack of knowledge, skills, or
abilities required to succeed; exercising poor judgment; misunderstand the
gravity of a situation; or inadvertent tactical mistakes.
In the story of Achan we are confronted with the most serious kind of
failure—spiritual failure. Spiritual
failure is the result of disobedience and unfaithfulness to God.
Disobedience and unfaithfulness are more than mere mistakes; they
are acts of sin against God. As
leaders, we are charged to confront the sin that leads to failure, deal
with it kindly but directly, and lead people to confess it.
While our sinful actions have temporal consequences, in Christ
those who confess their sin are restored to usefulness to the Lord and are
able to move forward to victory.
When it comes to confessing personal sin, where do you stand?
Do you have personal sin that you need to confess before the Lord?
How quick are you to confess personal sin when it appears in your
life? On a scale of 1 (snail)
to 10 (rabbit), how do you rate yourself on the quickness with which you
confess your personal sin? Does
your rating leave unconfessed sin lingering within your camp?
Ask God to lead you in cleaning your camp!
He will, if you want it cleaned up.
Do you want to be a Joshua or an Achan?
are the implications of these truths for your life?
THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!
REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the
center of God’s will.
Lesson Outline, Introduction,
Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:
King James Version: Joshua 7:13-15,19-21,25-26; 8:1
Up, sanctify the people,
and say, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow: for thus saith the LORD God of
Israel, There is an
accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine
enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you. 14
In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to your tribes: and
it shall be, that the tribe
which the LORD taketh shall come according to the families thereof;
and the family which the LORD shall take shall come by households; and the
household which the LORD shall take shall come man by man. 15
And it shall be, that
he that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all
that he hath: because he hath transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because
he hath wrought folly in Israel.
And Joshua said unto Achan,
My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession
unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it
not from me. 20 And Achan answered Joshua, and
said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus
have I done: 21 When I saw among the spoils a
goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of
gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold,
they are hid in the earth
in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.
25And Joshua said, Why hast
thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned
him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with
stones. 26And they raised over him a great heap
of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger.
Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.
8:1And the LORD said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed:
take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given
into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land:
Version: Joshua 7:13-15,19-21,25-26; 8:1
“Go, consecrate the
people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for
this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: That which is devoted is among
you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it. 14
“‘In the morning, present yourselves tribe by tribe. The tribe that
the LORD takes shall come forward clan by clan; the clan that the LORD takes
shall come forward family by family; and the family that the LORD takes shall
come forward man by man. 15 He who 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 a disgraceful thing in
Then Joshua said to Achan,
“My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give him the praise.
Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20 Achan
replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This
is what I have done: 21 When I saw in the plunder a beautiful
robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing
fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground
inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
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. 26 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. 8:1 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.
New Living Translation: Joshua 7:13-15,19-21,25-26; 8:1
“Get up! Command the
people to purify themselves in preparation for tomorrow. For this is what the
LORD, the God of Israel, says: Hidden among you, O Israel, are things set apart
for the LORD. You will never defeat your enemies until you remove these things
from among you. 14 “In the morning you must present
yourselves by tribes, and the LORD will point out the tribe to which the guilty
man belongs. That tribe must come forward with its clans, and the LORD will
point out the guilty clan. That clan will then come forward, and the LORD will
point out the guilty family. Finally, each member of the guilty family must come
forward one by one. 15 The one who has stolen
what was set apart for destruction will himself be burned with fire, along with
everything he has, for he has broken the covenant of the LORD and has done a
horrible thing in Israel.”
Then Joshua said to Achan,
“My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, by telling the truth. Make
your confession and tell me what you have done. Don’t hide it from me.”
20 Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned
against the LORD, the God of Israel. 21 Among
the plunder I saw a beautiful robe from Babylon, 200 silver coins, and a bar of
gold weighing more than a pound. I wanted them so much that I took them. They
are hidden in the ground beneath my tent, with the silver buried deeper than the
Then Joshua said to Achan,
“Why have you brought trouble on us? The LORD will now bring trouble on
you.” And all the Israelites stoned Achan and his family and burned their
bodies. 26 They piled a great heap of stones
over Achan, which remains to this day. That is why the place has been called the
Valley of Trouble£ ever since. So the LORD was no longer angry. 8:
1Then the LORD said to
Joshua, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. Take all your fighting men and
attack Ai, for I have given you the king of Ai, his people, his town, and his
Lesson Outline — “Move Beyond
Failure” — Joshua
Identify The Cause
of Failure (Josh. 7:13-15)
Admit/Confess Sins That Led To Failure (Josh.
Deal With Failure & Refocus On God’s Plan
(Josh 7:25-26; 8:1)
Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old
“Believer's Bible Commentary,” and “The Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament: Joshua
at Ai—Joshua 7:13—8:1
The people must be consecrated again. This procedure was necessary whenever God
was going to act in some special way. He was going to come in judgment to remove
the defilement from his people.
The people would present themselves to the Lord by appearing before the
sanctuary. The terms “tribe,” “clan,” “family,” and “man”
indicate various divisions in a society that was organized tribally. The Hebrew
words are not used consistently in the OT, and it is difficult to find suitable
equivalents in English. “Family” was a larger unit than our nuclear family,
and the term “man” includes both wife and children. There is no specific
statement as to how the Lord would single out the culprit (cf. 1 Sam
10:19-24). In a similar case (1 Sam 14:36-43), the guilty party was selected by
casting lots. The use of lots eliminated any possibility of favoritism or
manipulation. The decision was placed solely in the hands of God (cf. Prov
16:33). It is interesting to notice that the cause of defeat was revealed by the
oracle, but lots were cast to find the offender.
Though corporate responsibility was stressed, individual responsibility and
guilt were not overlooked: The culprit “shall be destroyed.” The nation
would be absolved of guilt when the guilty individual was ferreted out and
punished. The death penalty was made even more offensive by burning the
offender’s body (cf. Gen 38:24; Lev 21:9). The expression “all
that belongs to him” is ambiguous. In v. 24 it is clear that both persons
and possessions were included.
culprit discovered and punished (7:16-26)
In the selection process each tribe, clan, and family was represented by a
single individual. To us the procedure seems to leave everything up to chance.
For them it left everything in the hands of God, and, in the final analysis, the
right person was chosen.
“My son” may be the customary way of addressing a subordinate. Though Joshua
deals gently and fairly with him, some indignation and vindictiveness are
apparent in v. 25. The expression “give glory to the LORD” is found
also in John 9:24. In both instances it is an appeal for an honest
confession. The same verbal root in Hebrew means “to praise” and “to
confess”; therefore “give him the praise” could be translated “confess
to him” (cf. KJV, which reads “make confession unto him”). Confession of
sin is a way of honoring God. Joshua did not rely solely on the selection by
lot. Personal confession and the gathering of evidence were also required (vv. 22-23).
Achan confessed his sin but was not forgiven because he did not confess
willingly (cf. Ps 32; 1 John 1:9). His silence during the long process
of casting lots is evidence of the hardness of his heart. As the selection came
closer and closer to him—first his tribe, then his clan, then his family—he
obviously hoped to avoid detection. His confession is not indicative of
repentance because he would not have confessed if he had not been caught. True
confession goes beyond the admission of what one has done. It includes
recognition of guilt and true remorse.
Achan called what he took “plunder.” He viewed it as something customarily
divided among the victors. Perhaps he was opposed to having everything put under
the ban. The word “shekel” indicates a measure of weight, not a coin. Money
was not coined until the seventh century. The weights are only approximate.
“Wedge” indicates an ingot or a bar (RSV). Coveting is often the beginning
of a sinful action. The tenth commandment is “You shall not covet” (Exod
20:17). The same three verbs “I saw,” “I coveted,” “I took” are
found in the story of the Fall (Gen 3:6; the words “desirable” and
“covet” are from the same Heb. root hamad; cf. James
1:13-15). Achan hid the things he took because he knew he had sinned. The gold
is not mentioned at the end of this verse or in v. 22. Silver may have been
an inclusive term for both precious metals.
The messengers located the hidden booty, brought it to Joshua, and spread
everything “before the LORD” (v. 23), i.e., at the Tent of Meeting (cf.
v. 14), because he is the final Judge.
Representatives of the entire nation
participated in the punishment of Achan in order to remove the guilt from all
the people. Apparently Achan did not have a wife at this time; only “his sons
and daughters” are mentioned. The punishment of children for the sin of their
father is an offense to our sense of justice. Achan’s family was implicated in
his crime because he could not have hidden his loot in the ground under his tent
without their knowing it. Moreover, this punishment is an example of the severe
discipline that was necessary in time of war. Special severity was required also
because Israel was God’s agent in bringing severe judgment on the Canaanites.
Achan was a wealthy man, possessing “cattle, donkeys and sheep.” He had
little need for what he stole.
Valley of Achor” has been identified with the Buqei‘ah, about ten miles west
of Qumran, high above the Dead Sea. In Hebrew “Achor” means “disaster.”
It is easily confused with Achan’s name (1 Chronicles 2:7 gives Achar as
Achan’s name), and it is obvious that a play on words is intended.
Once again “all Israel” refers to representatives from the whole nation.
They were acting in accord with their promise to Joshua in 1:18. In the
phrase “stoned him,” the third person singular pronoun is used to point to
Achan as the main offender; but the others were included. Then they were burned,
and stones were heaped on them.
The last action of v. 25 is enlarged on in v. 26 with the additional
statement that this enormous heap of stones was still standing when this story
was recorded. After Achan’s sin had been judged, “the LORD turned from his
fierce anger”; and Israel was restored to favor. The story of Achan and the
story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) are very similar. Hall explains,
“God’s first revenges are so much more fearful, because they must be
The second attack on Ai
and all Israel had been demoralized by their defeat in the first attack on Ai.
Now that the sin of Achan had been dealt with, God assured Israel of his
presence and help (cf. 1:9). This time they had the divine promise of
victory, a much larger army, and a far better strategy. The intertwining of
miracle and human effort is hard to unravel in the Book of Joshua. Even with
God’s help, common sense and the best military strategy could not be
is not clear how many men constituted “the whole army.” The numbers given in
this chapter are confusing (cf. vv. 3, 12). When Transjordanian tribes
were commanded to muster all their fighting men (1:14), they sent about 40,000
troops (4:13) out of approximately 110,580 men of military age (cf. Num
26:7, 18, 34). Using the same proportions the Twelve Tribes could have
mustered an army of 200,000 to attack a city of 12,000 counting both men and
women. Does it seem reasonable to suppose that if Joshua had come against the
city with a massive force of 200,000 men, he would have been able to lure the
inhabitants into attacking him? E.J. Young suggests that the 30,000 in v. 3
is the size of the whole army whereas the 5,000 in v. 12 is the number of
troops who were to lie in ambush. The rest of the army would have been held in
SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New
Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor;
Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers
American Commentary: Joshua 7:13-15,19-21,25-26; 8:1
The Lord’s response to Joshua’s and the
elders’ mourning was directed to Joshua alone, and it was a rebuke couched in
holiness terms. Israel (not just Achan; see v. 1) had sinned, and God
would not tolerate it. This passage shows that God was not open to the charge of
a double standard with reference to his treatment of Israel and the Canaanites.
He had ordered Israel to exterminate the Canaanites because of their sin, but
here he allowed all Israel to be affected by the sin of one man. The overriding
concern in all such episodes was his demand for holiness and obedience and the
concern for purity of worship.
7:11. Despite the indication
in 7:1 that only Achan had violated the instructions concerning the things
banned, this verse extends the responsibility to the entire nation, in an
example of what has been called “corporate solidarity.” This concept embraces at least the following
ideas: (1) the entire group is treated as a unity; (2) sometimes the entire
group is represented by a single individual; and (3) sometimes the individual
and the group are merged.
The third of these ideas is embodied here; the
individual and the group are closely identified: the verse affirms that
“Israel has sinned,” and yet later Achan confesses, “I have sinned” (v.
This verse indicates the seriousness of the sin
and God’s outrage at it, because of the slow, climactic buildup of the
language and the differing terms for sin, which become more specific with every
word. First, the general word “sin” (ḥāṭā˒) is used. Next, the more specific term
“violated” is used (˓ābar, lit., “crossed over [the line],
transgressed”). Next, the specific sin is mentioned in two different ways: the
Israelites had taken (lāqaḥ) some of the devoted things and they had stolen (gānab).
They had also lied (kiḥāš), and they had put (śām) the
devoted things among their own things. Six verbs are thus used to describe
Achan’s (=Israel’s) actions, four of which indicate sin in their own right
and the other two do so in this context. The successive clauses are all linked
by the word gam, usually translated “also.” Here, the linking of the verbs and
clauses in this way indicate a progressive buildup of specificity and, in the
process, they describe the totality of what Achan did.
Israel had violated God’s covenant. The word
“covenant” refers to many different dealings of God with his people at
different times, but here the specific reference appears to be to the portion of
the covenant he had made with his people through Moses that referred to the
annihilation of the Canaanites (Deut 20:10–20).
7:12. The reason for
Israel’s defeat is now revealed: Israel itself—just as Jericho before
it—was made liable to destruction because of its sin, and it had
suffered a humiliating defeat because of this. What’s more, God would no
longer be with Israel, until they (the “you” is now plural) removed the sin
from the camp. God’s threatened withdrawal of his presence was a serious
thing, since he had specifically promised to be with his people earlier in the
book (1:5, 9). God’s presence was withdrawn on two occasions in later times,
with dire consequences: 1 Sam 4:19–22; 16:14. This threat to withdraw
emphasizes once again God’s absolute standards and demands of holiness.
7:13–15. The sin needed to be
dealt with, and vv. 13–15 detail God’s instructions for this. In v. 13, the
instruction is again to Joshua: he was to sanctify the people in preparation for
what God would do on the morrow. The language here echoes that of 3:5 in an
ironic way, where Joshua ordered the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for
tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” Here, the people also
were to consecrate (qdš) themselves, but, in contrast with the
“amazing things” (niplā˒ôt) that would be “among” (bĕqereb) the Israelites, now the “devoted things” (ḥērem) were “among” (bĕqereb) them. The need for purification was due to very
different things in the two cases.
Verse 14, by its orderly instructions and by the
verb used here, indicates that the Lord was in control of the entire process of
identifying the culprit through the basic social units of society: tribe, clan,
Three times the verb “catches” or “captures” is used in v. 14 (lqd), again at the beginning
of v. 15 and once each in vv. 16–18. The NIV translates it “takes” (as do
but the idea indicated by “catches” is much more expressive, as
well as accurate.
The punishment was
severe and total: Achan and everything that belonged to him were to be burned
with fire (v. 15), a sentence that was carried out after stoning (v. 25).
Caleb’s sin involved violating the Lord’s covenant and doing a
“disgraceful thing” (nĕbālâ). The latter concept
denotes “disorderly and unruly action in breaking a custom” or “behaving
treacherously toward God.”
Achan was found out for the sin he had
committed, and he and his family were stoned and burned. Because he had violated
God’s command concerning the booty from Jericho, Achan found himself in the
position of the inhabitants of Jericho: he himself was devoted to destruction.
He in effect had become a Canaanite by his actions. This account masterfully
builds, slowly and deliberately, to its climactic dénouement in v. 26.
3 is again echoed (see on 7:13) here, since the first three words in Hebrew are
identical to those in 3:1: “And Joshua arose early in the morning.”
The first time, it was for a noble cause: to prepare the Israelites for entering
the land. This time, it was for a far more grim cause: to identify and punish the one who had violated the covenant.
In vv. 16–18, Achan is methodically and
inexorably identified by the process God specified in v. 14. The specific means
by which he was identified is not indicated (by lot? by Urim and Thummim?), but
the expressive vocabulary of v. 14 continues here: Achan was “caught” by the
addressed Achan as “my son,” an indication of his assuming a
leadership—even paternal—role in the incident. He issued four commands to
Achan: “ascribe glory to the Lord,” “give him praise,” “tell me what
you did,” and “do not hide it from me.” The first two clearly parallel
each other, as do the second two. However, it would appear that the two sets of
verbs also parallel each other. That is, the four actions commanded by Joshua
are part and parcel of one event. By confessing (and not hiding) his sin, he was
indeed glorifying and praising God. Joshua was not instructing Achan to indulge
in a disengaged act of glorifying and praising God and then to confess
his sin; rather, by his very confession, he was glorifying God. The same wording
is found in John 9:24, where the Pharisees spoke these words—“Give glory to
God”—in urging a blind man whom Jesus had healed to tell the truth (and, in
their minds, by doing so, he would have needed to confess his sin of lying when
he claimed that Jesus had healed him).
7:20–21. Achan immediately
confessed that he was guilty (v. 20) and gave the details of what he had done
(v. 21). He had taken plunder that was very valuable. The “beautiful robe from
Babylonia” was literally “one beautiful garment of Shinar” (see the NIV
text note). The land of Shinar is mentioned in Gen 11:2 as the place where men
built the Tower of Babel (i.e., the “Tower of Babylon”). The two hundred shekels of silver weighed more than eighty
ounces, and the fifty-shekel “wedge”
of gold weighed about twenty ounces.
Achan’s actions, besides violating (1) the
Eighth Commandment (about stealing: Exod 20:15), (2) God’s instructions in
Deut 20:10–20 (see on v. 11), (3) the injunction against lying (Lev 19:11),
and (4) the First Commandment (about not having any other gods before the Lord:
Exod 20:3; see on v. 1), also directly violated the Ninth Commandment (about
coveting: Exod 20:17). A telling parallel to this passage if Gen 3:6, where the
same verbs are used of Eve: both she and Achan “saw” (r˒h) and “desired” (or “coveted”) (ḥmd) and “took” (lqḥ) what was forbidden to them.
Achan attempted to hide his sin from the God
from whom nothing could be hidden (see Ps 139:7–12). A subtle wordplay
connects vv. 19 and 21: Joshua instructed Achan not to hide (kḥd) anything from him when he confessed (v. 19),
but Achan had hidden (ṭmn) the things he stole (v. 21).
7:22–26. This section brings the
Achan incident to a brisk conclusion, in a continuous narrative stream. In v.
22, the veracity of Achan’s words in his confession (v. 21) is confirmed,
since the wording concerning where the booty would be and how it was arranged
(with the silver below) is identical in both verses. Achan now was indeed
telling the truth and “glorifying” God (see v. 19). In v. 23, the items of
booty were “spread out” before the Lord. The word used here (yṣr) is significant, since it is translated most
commonly as “poured out,” referring to the use of oil in anointing and other
religious contexts. The stolen items were “poured out” before the Lord,
returning to him what belonged to him.
Achan was brought out to be stoned, not only
with each of the items he had stolen, but also with all his possessions and his
entire household, including his children (v. 24). This was an extremely severe
punishment (see the excursus on “Destruction and Devoted Things in Joshua”
at the end of chap. 6), but it illustrates again God’s absolute demands of
holiness. Achan’s sin had infected the entire nation of Israel (7:1), and
ridding Israel of the stain of this sin required the annihilation of everything
with which he had had intimate contact. Ironically—and tragically—for Achan,
God allowed the Israelites to take booty in the next victory, at the second
battle of Ai (8:2). He could have had anything he wanted if he had only waited
on God. Like Adam and Eve, he lost sight of the character of our generous God
and thought that satisfaction required taking. Achan’s greed was his downfall.
Also ironically, it was Joshua and “all Israel” who did this to Achan.
Previously, all of Israel had been indicted because of Achan’s sin (v. 1), but
now the nation was acting to purge itself of the contamination, and it could
again move ahead confidently in the task of taking the land of Canaan. Achan’s
self-centered actions resulted in terrible consequences not only for himself but
also for his family. This illustrates the principle that sin does have its
Joshua’s question in v. 25—“Why have you
brought this trouble on us?”— is turned on its head by his next statement,
an assertion that the Lord would now bring trouble on Achan. Joshua used the
same word for “bringing trouble” here (˓kr) that he had earlier used in warning the people
against taking the devoted items, since doing so would “bring trouble” (˓kr) on the entire camp (6:18). The story of Achan
proves the veracity of Joshua’s earlier words. Sin always would have its
consequences. The root here (˓kr) forms the basis for the
name of the site in later times (“Achor,” vv. 24, 26).
The punishment for Achan and his household was
stoning and burning (v. 25b). The exact sequence of events is not entirely
clear. The text reads, literally, “And all Israel ‘stoned’ him [with] a
stone, and they burned them with fire, and they ‘stoned’ them with
stones.” The two verbs for stoning here are different, and the burning with
fire seems to be misplaced (i.e., it would most likely have happened after—not
before—the stoning of everyone: see NIV). The overall impression forged by the
repetitions is one of completeness. It is possible that one of the words for
stoning refers more properly to the heaping up of a pile of stones over
Achan’s corpse, a point made explicitly in v. 26.
A great pile of stones
was heaped over Achan, one that remained “to this day,” that is, until the
time of the writing about this event (v. 26a). This was also done to the king of
Ai when Israel had finally defeated him (8:29), as well as to Absalom after he
was dead (2 Sam 18:17); in each case, the wording is almost identical to that
In Josh 8:29, the wording is exactly the same, making the point clearly that
God would not favor his own people when they blatantly disobeyed, any more than
he would favor wicked Canaanites. Because of his sin, Achan was expelled from
Israel and treated as a Canaanite. In this way, the Lord’s anger was abated.
The connection between this pile of stones and
the earlier set of twelve memorial stones that Joshua erected on the banks of
the Jordan River is hard to ignore. The reason for each one was different, but
both piles of stones remained in their place “until this day” (4:9; 7:26;
see also 10:27). The first set was specifically to be a reminder to Israel of
God’s presence with them (see 4:7). The pile of stones over Achan is not
infused with the same meaning, but the very fact that it remained “until this
day” shows us that it was a reminder to Israel of the story of Achan and the
consequences of sin.
The name of the place—“Valley of Achor”—means
“Valley of Trouble” (see NIV text note), undoubtedly given to it because of
the events that transpired here. Achan’s name in several places in the Greek
translation of Joshua is “Achor,” which no doubt represents a fusing of the
It too had retained its name “to this day.”
The Destruction of Ai
The account of the destruction of Ai follows
immediately upon the story in chap. 7 of Achan’s sin, the resulting defeat at
Ai, and the punishment of that sin (see the introductory comments to chap. 7).
In the larger perspective of the book, there should never have been any question
concerning the Israelites’ ability to take Ai, since Yahweh would be its
warrior and guarantor of the land (cf. 1:2–9). However, in the immediate
context of Achan’s sin, the defeat at Ai brought great distress: it caused
Joshua and the people to fear and to raise questions of God (7:5–9).
The trauma was alleviated by Israel’s rooting
out the evil in its midst, the abatement of Yahweh’s anger, and the great
victory achieved after the events of chap. 7. God was no longer angry with
Israel, since atonement had been made for its sin, and the task now was to get
on with the conquest. Thus, he gave the city of Ai into the Israelites’ hands:
they captured it via an elaborate ambush. In chap. 8, that victory is described
in some detail, more so than for any other battle in the book. It is the first
true military victory recounted (since the taking of Jericho can hardly be
called a “battle”) and involved a military strategy for which the Lord gave
The chronology and geography in this chapter are
The chapter seems to describe
two ambush forces, sent out on two different days (vv. 3–9 and 10–13).
However, this is not according to the Lord’s instructions in v. 2, and it
presents the particular difficulty of the first (improbably large) ambush force
of thirty thousand men (v. 3) being forced to spend two nights and a day in
hiding near Ai—a city with only twelve thousand inhabitants of its own, less
than half of the numbers in ambush force—without being detected by its
More probably, there was just one ambush force
and only one night involved. Verses 3–9 describe the main aspects of the
preparations. Verse 10 describes the commencement of the battle the next
morning. Then, vv. 11–13 contain a flashback, expanding upon the narrative of
vv. 3–9. This is indicated by the syntax of vv. 11 and 14. Verse 11 begins
with a disjunctive, circumstantial clause construction and thus introduces the
retrospective account of vv. 11–13. The signal that this
account is concluded—and that the main narrative is resuming—comes at the
beginning of v. 14, which begins with the paragraph marker wayĕhî (“and it happened”), followed by a
stage-setting time reference in a subordinate clause (“when the king of Ai
saw”) and a normal resumptive verb form.
This solution is not without its
problems—the main one being the number “thirty thousand” in v. 3 (on
which, see below)—but it fits best the syntax of the passage.
Thus, the sequence of events would be as
follows. Joshua commissioned a group of men to lie in ambush west of Ai, as the
Lord had instructed (vv. 3b–4, 12–13). He sent them out (v. 9a), then he
went with the main fighting force to be stationed north of the city (vv. 3a, 11)
and spent the night with this group (vv. 9b, 13b). He and the people went up to Ai the next morning (v. 10), which was seen by the
king of Ai (v. 14), who mustered his people to meet Israel in battle. The
Israelites put their ruse into effect, pretending to flee, drawing out of the
city its entire population (vv. 15–17).
At the same time, the ambush force was arising
(v. 19), and when Joshua stretched out his javelin toward Ai, they entered the
city and set it ablaze (vv. 18–19). When the Aiites saw this, they realized
that they were surrounded before and behind, and they succumbed to a slaughter
that left none alive except their king (vv. 20–26). The Israelites took the
cattle and booty as spoil (v. 27)—which had been authorized this time by God
(v. 2)—and burned the city, exposing the body of its king in an act of
humiliation before burying it under a great pile of stones (vv. 28–29).
The Beginning of
Instructions for Taking Ai (8:1)
8:1 Yahweh’s words of
encouragement to Joshua in 8:1 reinforce the statement of 7:26, that he was no
longer angry with Israel. Atonement had been made for the nation’s sin, and
the task at hand was to get on with the conquest. The encouragement consisted of
two parts. The first—“Do not be afraid”—is found more than seventy times
in the Old Testament, most commonly (but not exclusively) in battle contexts:
see, for example, Exod 14:13; Deut 1:21; 3:2; 7:18; 20:1; 31:8; it is repeated
in Josh 10:8, 25; 11:6. The second—“do not be discouraged”—is similar,
and it echoes God’s encouragement to Joshua in 1:9.
God’s encouragement here is a fitting introduction to a battle
narrative and represents a welcome promise from God, particularly in light of
the previous problems. We should note that there were no words of
promise, assurance, or guidance from God when Israel attacked Ai the first time,
a significant contrast. He was not with them because of their sin. God’s
assurance that he had already given the king of Ai and all his people and their
lands into Joshua’s hand echoes the same past-time perspective we noted at
The New American Commentary; Volume
5; Joshua; David M. Howard, Jr.; Gen. Ed.: E.
Ray Clendenen; © 1998 Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, TN.
Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Joshua 7:13-15,19-21,25-26; 8:1
7:13-26. Public trial. Verses 13ff are written in the style
of prophetic speech, particularly in light of the prophetic formula found in v.
13 (“for thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel”). The procedure for the sacred
lot is detailed in vv. 16ff, concluding with the “call for the doxology of
judgment” (v. 19) which brings the court proceedings to an end with the
defendant’s admission of guilt and acknowledgment of the justice of Yahweh
(vv. 20f). The defendant’s confession is then corroborated by the messengers
(vv. 22f), after which the sentence is carried out (vv. 24ff), and the chapter
ends with an etiology (v. 26b).
The precise nature of the sacred lot ceremony is unfortunately not
spelled out in our text, although scholars commonly note the apparently parallel
procedures found in 1 Sam. 10:20f and 14:41f (use of the lot is also mentioned
twice in Joshua (14:2; 18:6) in regard to the delineation of tribal territories.
Kyle McCarter, Jr., in his excellent commentary on 1 Samuel, has proposed an
intriguing interpretation of the “Urim and Thummim” (cf. 1 Sam. 14:41,
Septuagint) as “accursed, condemned,” and “pronounced whole, acquitted,”
respectively. These objects were apparently kept in the priest’s ephod, and
they may have been marked simply with an “’aleph” and “taw” (the first
and the last letters of the Hebrew alphabet), respectively. Although the exact
nature of their form and appearance is uncertain (with pebbles, dice, sticks and
arrows all having been proposed), they were evidently “cast” or “thrown”
in order to indicate the divine will, perhaps akin to our own practice of
“heads” or “tails.”
In any case, in Josh. 7:13-26, the three typical sociological divisions
of ancient Israel—house, clan, tribe—form the basis for the present
proceedings. Achan’s guilt and the relief of those not chosen must have been
equally and increasingly immense as first the tribe of Judah was chosen, then
the clan of Zerah, then the house of Zabdi, and finally Achan son of Carmi. As
Woudstra points out, “Instead of informing the people directly about the
identity of the offender, the Lord chooses the indirect means of the lot. This
serves to awaken in the people an awareness of their involvement in the sin
committed, and at the same time it lets the full light fall upon the individual
who committed it.”
As Butler notes, v. 19 has a doxological tone, “The culprit discovered
in the sacral process is called upon to confess his guilt, which gives praise
and glory to God by showing that the divine judgment has been just” (p. 85).
Woudstra (p. 129, n. 45) notes that the Jewish sages believed Achan became the
recipient of the world to come, since he had made confession. How ironic that
Christians, who have their own lively expectation of the world to come, often
live all too readily for this world only, forgetting that it is the truth that
will make us free.
Woudstra points out that the proper term for Achan’s sin is
“coveting” as shown in v. 21. The reader will readily recall that the
Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) ends with the prohibition of such a perilous
mental perspective (cf. Exo. 20:17; Deut. 5:21). Although commonly described as
the only commandment able to be broken without overt, outward activity, the sin
of coveting nevertheless leads all too often to the breaking of many of the
other commandments (e.g., killing, committing adultery, stealing, lying under
oath). The actual plunder involved was not that extensive. It included a robe
from Shinar (NIV, “Babylon”; but as Boling pointed out, the garment in
question might have been either an import or a local imitation), a bar of gold
weighing about one and a quarter pounds (0.6 kilograms) and 200 shekels of
silver (probably weighing a total of about five or six pounds, or a little over
two kilograms). Even at today’s inflated prices for gold, the total value of
this booty is easily under $10,000 (although the cost of the robe is impossible
to estimate). Imagine the entire nation being imperiled for this!
Spreading out the plunder “before Yahweh” (v. 23), apparently another
way of indicating a location in front of the Ark of the Covenant (cf. the
expression “Ark of Yahweh” previously in v. 6), the entire community, as it
were, returned the objects to their God. It was the melancholy duty of “all
Israel” to put Achan and his household to death after Joshua passed sentence
on them, as in v. 25b, “Why have you brought this trouble [Hebrew verbal root
] on us? Yahweh will bring trouble [same Hebrew root] on you today.” This
theme of reciprocity is, of course, found throughout the Bible, perhaps most
famously in Paul’s admonition to the Galatians, “Do not be deceived; God is
not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow” (Gal. 6:7, NRSV). Christians
believe in a sovereign God, Who can do whatever He pleases (cf. Ps. 115:3), so
we are not to bind Him, as it were, to inflexible formulas, even if they are
biblical. Still, all too often, we do reap what we sow, and we would do well
always to keep this in mind.
In any case, Achan and his family were both stoned and burned, thus
providing a haunting object lesson for his present and future compatriots. Some
have tried to maintain that only the stolen objects were burned, but the text is
clear. So that the lesson would not be lost, both a large pile of rocks and a
memorable etiology (the valley of “trouble,” Hebrew cf. the double usage of
the verbal cognate back in v. 25) are cited by the narrator (v. 26). It goes
without saying that a third melancholy memorial remains in memory of Achan and
his sin, i.e., the entirety of Josh. 7.
8:1-29. Victory over Ai. For the overall structure of this
section, consult the introductory remarks for ch. 7. Once again, commentators
who take 7:1-8:29 as one major unit may well be on target, inasmuch as the
dilemmas posed at the beginning of ch. 7 do not find complete resolution until
the end of this part of ch. 8. Still, 7:25f does provide a clear conclusion to
the Achan story proper, and it also stands as a rather close literary parallel
to the end of the present passage, 8:28f (note that in both cases burning is
said to have taken place, as well as the erection of a large pile of stones). In
any case, 8:1-29 will be divided into three sections: salvation oracle (vv. 1f),
obedient battle against Ai (vv. 3-23) and destruction of Ai (vv. 24-29).
8:1-2. Salvation oracle. Butler suggests that these verses
continue the lament perspective found in 7:6-10, where the prophetic liturgy was
then interrupted by the covenantal lawsuit (7:11f) and the long public trial
(7:13-26). Only after the trial was completed could the word of salvation be
given. Here, in sharp contrast to the spy narrative in ch. 7, the directions for
battle come directly from Yahweh, and here, in blessed relief to the depressing
results of the first Ai battle, victory and deliverance are promised in language
closely paralleling Yahweh’s original instructions to Joshua in 1:6-9. Israel,
her earthly commander, and her heavenly ruler were finally pulling in the same
direction. Interestingly, the laws were apparently modified here to allow both
plunder and livestock to be appropriated by the Israelites. Although this
modification may help reinforce the possibility that Jericho was some sort of
firstfruit to be devoted to Yahweh, some have suggested that the permission to
take spoil from Ai may well have been, among other things, intended to remove
the temptation to which Achan had succumbed. But both types of conquest were
always possible. Israel received as booty some possessions of Canaan as a means
of supply from the Lord, the manna having ceased.
Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Joshua-Ruth. Database
© 2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.
Outrage (v. 15)—The Hebrew term
nebalah refers to any senseless, foolish, or disgraceful action. In
Achan’s case, his foolish act was in direct defiance of God’s command.
Shekels (v. 21)—A standard unit
of measure which came to be associated with money through the weighing of gold
and silver. Two hundred shekels would equate to about five pounds of silver.
Burning anger (7:26)—In our context,
the phrase refers to God’s righteous indignation against Achan’s possession
of banned items in blatant violation of His expressed prohibition.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources, 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
DEDICATE, DEDICATION: A general term used in the Bible to describe an act
of setting apart or consecrating persons or things to God (or gods),
persons, sacred work, or ends. The act is usually accompanied by an announcement
of what is being done or intended and by prayer asking for divine approval
and blessing. In the Old Testament the people who were set apart included all Israel
(Ex. 19:5, 6; Deut. 7:6; 14:2) and the priests (Ex.
29:1-37). The things that were set apart included the altar in the
tabernacle (Num. 7:10-88), images of pagan deities (Dan. 3:2, 3),
silver and gold (2 Sam. 8:11), Temple (1 Kings 8:63; Ezra
6:16-18), walls of Jerusalem (Neh. 12:27), and private dwellings
(Deut. 20:5). The idea of dedication is embodied in the New Testament word
“saints.” The whole church is set apart to God (Eph. 5:26). The
individual believer is one of a dedicated, sanctified, consecrated, priestly
people; set apart “to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus
Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5).
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S.
Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.
CONSECRATE: Consecration refers to persons or things being separated to or belonging to God. They
are holy or sacred. They are set apart for the service of God. The Hebrew kadosh
and Greek hagiazo are translated by several different English words:
holy, consecrate, hallow, sanctify, dedicate.
Old Testamen: God is
said to be kadosh or “holy.” The Hebrew word originally meant
“to be separate.” The holy One of Israel is separate because He is God.
“I am God, and not man; the Holy One in your midst” (Hos. 11:9). Hosea
pointed to both the otherness or separateness of God and His nearness. The
holiness of God came to mean all that God is. With the prophets God’s
holiness was understood to include justice, righteousness, and many ethical
concerns. “God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness” (Isa.
5:16). When persons or things were “consecrated,” they were separated to or
belonged to God. “Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am
holy” (Lev. 19:2). “Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an
holy nation” (Ex. 19:6). When persons were “consecrated,” they were set
apart to live according to God’s demands and in His service.
New Testament: This ethical understanding of God’s holiness is
found throughout the New Testament. In Matthew 23:16-24 Jesus
criticized the scribes and Pharisees on the basis of their neglect of justice, mercy,
and faith. He said it is “the altar that sanctifieth the gift”
(Matt. 23:19). The cause to which persons give themselves determines the nature
of the sacrifice. When the cause is God’s, the gift is consecrated.
Jesus’ mission was to sanctify persons. Paul said that Christians
are called to be “saints,” and their sanctification comes through Christ.
In the Old Testament the ordination of persons to the service of God
is indicated by the phrase “to fill the hand.” This phrase is usually
translated “consecrate” or “ordain.”
Numbers 6:1-21 sets forth the vow of the Nazirite. Nazar
from which Nazirite is derived, means “to separate” and is translated
“consecrate” in Numbers 6:7, 9, 12.
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S.
Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.
ACHAN (ay' khuhn) or ACHAR (1 Chron.
2:7). In Joshua 7:1, a Judahite whose theft of a portion of the spoil
from Jericho brought divine displeasure and military defeat on the
Israelite army. After the battle of Ai, the Lord told Joshua the
reason for Israel’s defeat was that the ban concerning the spoil of Jericho
had been violated (Josh. 7:11). Achan was discovered to be the guilty party, and
he and his family were stoned to death (Josh. 7:25).
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S.
Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.
(aw' khawr): Place name meaning “trouble, affliction,” or
“taboo.” The valley in which Achan and his household were stoned
to death (Josh. 7:24-26). Later, it formed part of the border of Judah. It
is the subject of prophetic promises in Isaiah 65:10 and Hosea
By T. Van
McClain is professor of Old Testament and Hebrew and director of library
services at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Northeast Campus,
Schenectady, New York.
TESTAMENT WORLD at times seems quite strange to modern
readers. One reason for this
strangeness is the cultural difference that exists between modern forms of
government, generally based on territory, and the forms of government described
in the Old Testament, generally based on family relationships.
The Old Testament period covered about 4,000 years or more.
At the time of the patriarchs, the governmental system was based on
kinship, in particular the extended family or clan.
By the time of Malachi, at the close of the Old Testament, Israel was a
state. A state is a form of
government that involves territory, cultural organization, and a strong
centralized government with broad coercive powers.
The state is the most advanced form of government.
A state generally has the authority to tax, to form a bureaucracy, and to
raise a military force. States are
governments are also territorial, but the government is based more on familial
ties. The cultural change of a
people from primitive forms of government may be called cultural evolution, but
it has nothing to do with the concept of biological evolution.
Cultural evolution is simply cultural change.
Nation-states existed at the time of Abraham, but Abraham did not need to
adopt that type of government. If a
simple form of government was adequate, an “advanced” form was not
Structure of Israel
The social structure of ancient Israel
varied throughout its history.
The ‘father’s house’ . . . is the
household or extended family. It
consists of grandparents, parents, children, and even unmarried uncles, aunts,
and cousins . . . . marriage was outside the family; on the other hand, marriage
was probably to take place within the clan.1
next level of structure was the clan. A
clan would be composed of several related families.
It consisted of a group of kinsmen in a protective association.
In the Book of Ruth, the closest family member to Ruth and Naomi was
perhaps from the immediate or extended family.
He chose, though, not to be the kinsman redeemer.
Boaz was part of the clan and could then become the redeemer.2
third level of structure was the tribe. While
the words clan and tribe
can be used interchangeably, a clan is generally considered to be a smaller
family unit than a tribe. A study of
Numbers 26 suggests that a tribe generally consisted of one to eight clans.3
final and largest level of structure was the state.
The twelve tribes of Israel, “the sons of Israel,” constituted the
nation of Israel. In the family unit
the father might serve as a priest; the state level, though, called for a
centralized religious institution.4
From a Family to a
During the patriarchal period the
“father’s house” was the basic unit of government.
In Genesis 12:1, God commands Abram to leave his father’s house.
Being obedient, Abraham left his father’s house, which meant he
forfeited all of his inheritance and any rights to the family’s property.5
Further, he left his
“relatives,” his clan, his interrelated families.
At least some of Abraham’s extended family, Lot and his family, went
Joseph’s lifetime the people of Israel descended into Egypt, and the
Israelites constituted an extended family or clan.
This extended family grew during the next 400 years in Egypt into
multi-clan units or tribal units. Thus
the form of government the Israelites had at the time of the conquest (roughly
1400 BC to 1380 BC ) was tribal in nature, although some anthropologists would
argue that under Joshua the Hebrews were a multi-clan group.6
carefully distinguish several forms of government between the familial or
simplest form of government and the national or state form of government, which
is the most complex. The
governmental system of most primitive societies is based on kinship.
The family and clan based governmental structure is generally quite
informal. The multi-clan or tribal
form of government is, of course, made up of a group of clans.
Generally one clan will be considered the senior clan, but the chief of
that clan is usually subject to a ruling council made up of the chiefs of the
other clans. The clans or tribes of
Ephraim and Judah had, for most of Israel’s history, the greatest influence.
A tribal form of government does not have to be based on kinship,
although it often will be. If not
kinship then, what makes a tribe a tribe? Some
anthropologists have generally defined a tribe as “a group of individuals who
share language, culture, territory, and see themselves as an autonomous unit.”7
In addition to these traits, Israelite tribes also shared a common
the time of Moses, the importance of the tribal structure in the governance of
Israel can be illustrated by the method used of taking a census, where Numbers
1:2 indicates it was to be “by their families” and “by their fathers’
households” (NASB). The Lord also
specified in Numbers 1:4 that , “With you, moreover, there shall be a man of
each tribe, each one head of his father’s household” (NASB).
The chosen individuals were to stand as leaders with Moses.
laws also illustrate the tribal form of government that prevailed during
Moses’ lifetime. God designed that
the family’s inheritance be protected. The
family homestead was to pass to the sons, with the firstborn son receiving a
double portion. For a family with no
sons, the daughters were to receive the inheritance.
Daughters who inherited land were forbidden from marrying outside their
tribe, which prevented their land from going to some other tribe.8
action (with his family’s likely approval or knowledge) in keeping for himself
what belonged to God was, in essence, rebellion or mutiny not only against God
but against the governing authority. During
the American Revolution, General George Washington ordered the execution of the
ringleaders of a mutiny by New Jersey soldiers in January 0f 1781.
Morale was low, and “Washington, fearing the total dissolution of the
Army, [urged] severe measures.”9
Similarly, Joshua needed to take
severe measures, since Achan’s actions risked the destruction of the entire
army. Achan had disobeyed God and
had violated the covenant.
social stratification at the time of the conquest is clearly evident in the
selection for the transgressor: “In the morning you must present yourselves
tribe by tribe. The tribe the Lord
selects is to come forward clan by clan. The
clan the Lord selects is to come forward family by family.
The family the Lord selects is to come forward man by man” (Josh. 7:14,
rise to the throne in particular, along with Saul’s kingship, brought an end
to the tribal form of government for Israel.
David was politically astute and saw, for instance, the value in
affirming Saul or his tribe, the tribe of Benjamin.
David put to death Saul’s confessed killer and mourned the death of the
king (2 Sam. 1:1-27). David also
praised the men of Jabesh-gilead for burying Saul (2:4-7).
The remains, however, were not placed close to Gibeah,
Saul’s family home; so David retrieved Saul’s and Jonathan’s bones
and buried them in the sepulcher of Saul’s father, Kish, at Zela in Benjamin
(21:11-14). In addition, David
spared Saul’s grandson Mephibosheth (9:6-13).
David’s kindness toward Saul’s descendants and followers led the
tribe of Benjamin to support David (see 1 Chron. 12:29).
David’s reign, the authority of the Kingdom of Israel and then the Northern
and Southern Kingdoms superseded the tribes’ authority.
Inheritance was still determined by tribal affiliation, but governing
authority passed to the state.
Bandstra, “Tribe” in The
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, gen. ed. Bromiley, rev. ed., vol.
4 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 905.
Walton, Matthews and Chavalas, IVP
Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (Downers Grove: InterVarsity
Press, 2000), 43.
Grunlan and Mayers, Cultural
Anthropology: A Christian Perspective (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 229.
Numbers 36:6-9; Hirsch and McKim,
“Inhert/Inheritance” in The
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, gen. ed. Bromiley, rev. ed., vol.
2 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 824.
Washington Papers at the Library of Congress – Timeline: The American
Revolution,” The Library of Congress [online: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/gwhtml/1781.html.
By Daniel P.
Daniel P. Caldwell is vice president of church relations and dean of the
Cooper School of Missions and Biblical Studies, William Carey College,
DEFEATING THE GREAT CITY OF JERICHO, the Israelites focused their attention on
the city of Ai. Even though the city
was smaller than Jericho, Ai was an important city to control.
(pronounced as IGH [eye] or Ay-igh [A-eye]) probably means “the ruin.”1
The city was located in central Israel in the territory of Benjamin,
situated about two miles southeast of Bethel (modern-day Beitin).
Archaeologists identify Ai with the modern villages of Haiyan or et-Tell.2
have completed two major expeditions at Ai.
Judith Marquet-Krause led the first major excavation from 1933-1935.
After her untimely death in 1936, her husband published information about
her excavations at Ai. Joseph A.
Callaway, a professor and archaeologist from The Southern Baptist Theological
Seminary, led the second significant excavation from 1964-1972.
Callaway eventually led seven archaeological campaigns at the location.
indicated that the city’s earliest origin dates around 3000 BC.3
This period of occupation is commonly known as the Early Canaanite I Age
or the Early Bronze Age (3150-2850 BC). Other
periods of occupation continued until the return of the exiles from Babylon as
indicated in the Book of Ezra.4
The findings of archaeological
excavations have enlightened our understanding of the Israelite biblical world
during these periods.
early habitation of the city of Ai reveals many interesting archaeological
finds. The city probably began as a
village as did other sites in the surrounding area.
During the Early Canaanite I Age this city became fortified.
The logical conclusion for fortification may have been the result of a
dominant nation, such as Egypt, penetrating into the land.5
At the same time Ai was fortified, other cities in the southern region
were also fortified.
extraordinary structure made of large stones, the wall surrounding the early
city of Ai had a width of 19 feet and a height of about 21 feet.
The wall encompassed an area of about 27 acres.
This made the city considerably larger than Jerusalem, known then as
Jebus, which was about 8 to 10 acres in size at this time in Israel’s history.6
discovered within the early city a large public pool for water collection.
The pool, which was “constructed inside the corner of the city wall,”
held about 1,800 to 2,000 cubic meter of water.
“This would be enough to supplement rainfall and other sources for a
population of 2,000 inhabitants.”7 Also
scattered throughout the city were the remains of red burnished ware and painted
Archaeologists have uncovered at the site two large structures, likely
the remains of former public buildings. The
actual function of these buildings is unclear and thus up for debate.
On the top of the acropolis, the highest point in the city, workers
unearthed a large building with four remaining pillar bases.
Early excavators referred to this building as a palace.
Others argued that it was an early temple.
While temples are commonly found on high points in the city, the absence
of altars and other vessels used in worship seems to argue against this
this building and adjacent to the fortification wall, archaeologists found a
second building. This structure
contained several small rooms and numerous remains of pottery and alabaster.
Early excavators identified this building as a temple.
Some argue that the upper building may have been the temple and that the
building near the wall was a storage facility where a variety of items were
simply stored until needed.9
abandoned the early city around 2400 BC. Archaeological
evidence does not show any consistent occupation of people at this site for over
a thousand years. As a result the
city fell into ruin. Nomadic groups
may have inhabited the site for brief periods of time, as people groups commonly
moved into abandoned sites. Yet
excavations have not produced any artifact s to identify their existence.
earliest evidence of latter occupation of the site dates to around 1200 BC,
known as Iron Age I or as the Israelite Age.
Some scholars date Joshua’s conquest of the city of Ai to around 1400
BC. Thus his arrival at Ai at this
time would reveal a city with little to no occupancy by people and a city in
disrepair. The inconsistency in this
dating has led some scholars to conclude that this
site—identified as Ai—may not be correct.10
Regardless of the exact location, though, the lessons gleaned from the
biblical text concerning the sin and disobedience at Ai ring true to our present
first mention Ai in Abraham’s journey through Israel (Gen. 2:8) and mention it
again as he returned from his sojourn in Egypt (13:3).
Between Ai and Bethel Abraham built an altar and worshiped God.
the time of the Israelite conquest into Canaan, the land was divided into a
number of small territories. Local
chieftains, who each carried the title of “king,” governed each territory.
Joshua 12:1-24 mentions 33 such kings ruling in the area—2 kings east
of the Jordan and 31, west. These
kings extended their rule from a fortified citadel to the surrounding district.
Thus the Israelites’ defeat of each city included gaining control of
the immediate terrain.
defeating the great city of Jericho, the Israelites focused their attention on
the city of Ai (7:2-5). Even though
the city was smaller than Jericho, Ai was an important city to control.
Situated on a prominent road that led
to Jerusalem, Ai was only a few hours in distance away.
It was also on the main road taken by pilgrims from the hill country and
to the fertile district of Samaria.
dispatched spies from Jericho to view the city and the surrounding region.
The report they gave to Joshua implied that the city and its population
were small. So Joshua dispatched
about 3,000 soldiers to take Ai. They
were unsuccessful. They were touted
from the city, pursued by the men of Ai, and were slain along the way.
How could they have defeated the great walled city of
Jericho and its people but could not take the smaller city of Ai?
The defeat came because of the actions of Achan and his family. Under
his tent he had buried gold and silver taken from the city of Jericho.
Soldiers were not to take anything from the city.
When Achan took these items, he brought ruin
to the Israelites. For punishment,
Achan and his family were stoned to death. Afterwards
the Israelites returned to Ai and were successful in defeating the city.
other Old Testament passages outside the Book of Joshua mention Ai.
Jeremiah 49:3 mentions the city in an oracle of judgment against the
Ammonites. This passage is
problematic. The Ammonite territory
was on the east side of the Jordan River. Thus
the city mentioned must be another city of the same name or possibly a similar
biblical literature of the postexilic period mentions Ai twice.
These passages list Ai in connection with Bethel (Ezra 2:28; Neh. 7:32).
They identify the number of exiles returning to the city and identify Ai
as a city outside Jerusalem where the people lived on returning from Babylon.
revealed in the Bible and in subsequent archaeological findings, the city of Ai
has a long and interesting history of occupation, decline, and restoration.
Perhaps the greatest revelation and lesson gleaned from Ai is not from
the city but from what God did at the city.
Through the sin of Achan, the Israelites failed to do what God commanded
them to do. And punishment came.
Through their genuine repentance and forgiveness, though, God forgave and
restored the Israelites. He gave
them a second chance to be used by Him. Thus
the story of Ai serves as a reminder of how great God’s love is for us.
“Ai” in The International Standard
Bible Encyclopedia, Bromiley, gen. ed., vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
Cohen, “Ai” in The Interpreter’s
Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 1 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1962), 72.
The Archaeology of the Israelite
Settlement (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1988), 69.
Archaeology of the Land of Israel, Rainey, trans. (Philadelphia: The
Westminster Press, 1982), 57.
“Ai” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Freedman,
ed. in chief, vol. 1 (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 129.
more detailed argument of the identification of these buildings, see Aharoni,
73-74, and Finkelstein, 69-70.
No Time For Neutrality (Wheaton:
Victor Books SP Publications, Inc., 1981), 59-60.
The Book of Jeremiah, The New
International Commentary on the Old Testament (Eerdmans, 1980), 717.
VanHorn is pastor of First Baptist Church, Columbia, Mississippi.
The Tribe of Levi Is Set Apart
THE LEVITES descended
from Levi, the third son born to Jacob and Leah.
Their importance began with the events that unfolded in Egypt during the
process of the exodus. God raised up
Moses and Aaron to be the Israelites’ leaders.
They were descendants of Levi (Ex. 2:1-1).
Levi’s tribe became important initially because God’s choice of Moses
and Aaron. The genealogy listing
Levi and his three sons, Gershon, Kohath, and Merari, indicates the significance
placed on the family of Levi at the time that the Book of Exodus was written
the time of the exodus, God used the 10th plague to convince pharaoh
to let his people go. This final
plague was the death of the firstborn of all Egyptians and their livestock.
God required Moses to set aside the firstborn of all Israelites as a
perpetual reminder of this great act of deliverance (Ex. 13:1-16).
32:15-29 is a key passage for understanding why God chose the Levites instead of
the firstborn as the group that would serve Him in the tabernacle and later in
the temple. While God was inscribing
His word on stone tables for Moses, the people reverted to idolatry at the foot
of Mount Sinai. When Moses saw the
people’s sin, he smashed the tablets and then called for those who would stand
for the Lord to come to him (Ex. 32:26). The
Levites responded in loyalty to the Lord (Moses was a Levite).
God wrought judgment on the camp through the Levites.
On that same day, the Lord blessed the Levites (Ex. 32:29).
The Tribe of Levi
as Transporters of the Tabernacle
next full glimpse of the Levites comes in the Book of Numbers.
God instructed Moses to take a military census (Num. 1:1-3).
Moses omitted the Levites from the census, setting them apart instead to
service the tabernacle (Num. 1:47-53). Their
function was to take down, to transport, and to set up the tabernacle every time
the Israelites moved. They were to
encamp around the tabernacle, providing a barrier between it and the other
tribes. The place of highest honor
went to the descendants of Aaron, who camped on the east side of the tabernacle
nearest its entrance (Num. 3:38). The
positions of the other divisions of the Levites are enumerated below.
Before we look at the threefold division of the Levites, we need to
understand that God chose the Levites in place of the firstborn (Ex. 13:1-16;
Num. 3:11-13,40-51). God commanded
Moses to number the Levites. The
total was 22,000. Then God
instructed Moses to count the firstborn of all the tribes.
The total was 22,273. The
Lord substituted the Levites for the firstborn, paying Aaron and his sons 5
shekels for each of the 273 additional firstborn (Num. 3:11-51).
God chose the Levites because of their devotion to Him as displayed at
Mount Sinai in lieu of the firstborn who had been set apart for Him from the
time of the exodus (Ex. 13:1-2).
Division of the Levites
speaking, Aaron and his descendants were Levites.
However, since they were chosen by God to be the line of priests, they
were not considered in the threefold division of the Levites.
Once the Levites had been selected to serve the priests (sons of Aaron)
as a type of auxiliary work force, they were divided into three groups bearing
the names of the three sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari (Gen. 46:11;
Ex. 6:16-19; Num. 3:1—4:48). Each
division was then assigned specific tasks related to transporting the tabernacle
through the wilderness as the Israelites moved from place to place.
The Gershonites were to position themselves along the west side of the
tabernacle. They were responsible
for transporting the tent with all of its coverings, the screen for the door of
the tent, the buildings of the court, the cords, and anything pertaining to
these (Num. 3:21-26; 4:21-28). The
Kohathites camped on the south side of the tabernacle and were responsible for
portage of its contents, including the ark, the table, the lampstand, the
altars, and the vessels of the sanctuary (Num. 3:27-32).
The priests (sons of Aaron) had to cover each item in the tabernacle
before the Kohathites could transport them (Num. 4:5-15).
The Merarites were encamped on the north side of the tabernacle.
Their responsibility was to transport the frames, bars, pillars, bases,
and accessories related to the construction of the tabernacle (Num. 3:33-37;
The Levites in
Deuteronomy, the role of the Levites just prior to entering the promised land
involved more than transporting the tabernacle.
The Levites were to carry the ark of the Lord, to minister before the
Lord, and to bless the people in His name (Deut. 12:12,18-19; 14:27-29;
16:11-14). The Levites even before
David’s time, 1000 BC, served as administrators of the law, passing sentence
on legal issues (Deut. 17:9). They
were considered to be guardians of the written law (Deut. 31:9,24-26), who
insured that the king had a copy to read, to meditate on, and to enforce in the
kingdom (Deut. 17:14-20). The
Levites lived on the tithes and animal offerings made to the Lord (Deut. 18:1-8;
26:10-13). They also were used of
God to keep bloodguilt from coming on an innocent Israelite city, an extension
of their judicial duties (Deut. 21:1-9). Their
duties included making determinations with regard to leprosy (Deut. 24:8). They
joined Moses in instruction the people and were to pronounced curses and
blessings once the people entered the land (Deut. 27—28).
One of their most important roles was perpetuating the law of the Lord
among new generations of Israelites (Deut. 31:9-13).
Finally, in his blessing of the tribes before his death, Moses
acknowledged the Levites’ special position as servants of the Lord to
determine His will (Urim and Thummim), to observe His word and keep His
covenant, to teach God’s justice and law to the people, to conduct the
sacrifices, and to burn incense (Deut. 33:8-11).
The Levites in the
Levites are mentioned in at least 13 of the 39 Old Testament books.
Of particular importance is the fact that the tribe of Levi received no
territory as their inheritance in the promised land (Josh.
14:3-4; 18:7). Instead they
were dispersed throughout Israel just as Jacob had predicted on his deathbed
(Gen. 49:5-7) and were settled in 48 cities located throughout Israel (Josh.
21:1-41). Included among these 48
Levitical cities were 6 cities of refuge to which those involved in involuntary
manslaughter could flee for protection (Josh. 20).
The Levites kept the treasury, opened and closed the sanctuary, and
oversaw the supplies necessary for worship (1 Chron. 9).
In his last days, David prepared the Levites for service to the temple (1
Chron. 23). Some were appointed
judges, others singers, still others as porters, or attendants for the sons of
Aaron. They were to praise God in
the morning and evening and attend to all aspects of worship when the temple was
built. During the postexilic period,
450 BC, the Levites assisted in helping the people understand and interpret the
law as Ezra read it (Neh. 8:7-12). They
continued to function in their capacity as priests and priest assistants were
into the New Testament period.
JOSHUA’S CONQUEST OF THE LAND
By Rick Johnson
Rick Johnson is professor of Old Testament,
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.
JOSHUA’S CAMPAIGN as told in Joshua 1 – 12 took place in two major parts.
The first secured the southern regions, primarily the territory of Judah.
The second subdued the areas in the north around the Sea of Galilee and
the town of Hazor.
Joshua began the southern campaign by establishing a
base of operations at Gilgal and attacking Jericho.
First, he sent spies to Jericho. When
they reported that all of the people were terrified of Israel, he led the nation
across the Jordan to capture the city. The
people marched around Jericho blowing the rams’ horns once a day for six days.
On the seventh day, after marching around the city seven times, the
people shouted and the walls fell down flat.
The Israelites entered straight into the city and captured it, destroying
everything except Rahab, her family, and the booty Achan secretly kept.
The capture of Jericho gave Israel access to the pass leading up into the
central highlands of Judah. An
invasion here would cut off the southern region from the north, allowing a
“divide and conquer” strategy.
Following this route, the next town Israel encountered was Ai.
Since it was small, Joshua sent only a small detachment.
The Israelites were put to flight, however, because Achan kept booty God
had commanded them to destroy. After
executing Achan and his family, Joshua sent an ambush party to position itself
between Bethel and Ai. In the
morning he brought the army up from the east.
When he had lured the men of Ai out into the countryside, the ambush
attacked from the west and burned the town.
The sight of the smoke caused the men of Ai to lose heart, and Israel
defeated them completely.
Word of this victory led the kings of the hill country in Canaan to
gather to fight Israel. But the town
of Gibeon, in the region later allotted to Benjamin, deceived Israel into making
a peace treaty. When the kings of
Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon heard of it, they attacked Gibeon.
Joshua marched from Gilgal by night and launched a surprise attack early
the next morning. Israel completely
routed the Amorite kings. As their
armies fled away westward to Azekah and Makkedah, a miraculous hailstorm
destroyed more of their soldiers than did the Israelites.
The Lord also helped Israel by some kind of astronomical miracle in
response to Joshua’s prayer.1 Israel captured the five Amorite
kings and executed them. Joshua also
continued southward capturing the towns of Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon,
Hebron, and Debir. Then he returned
to Gilgal. This battle completed the
In the next phase of the conquest Jabin, king of Hazor, gathered a large
coalition from the towns and peoples in the regions near the Sea of Galilee.
They camped at the waters of Merom, probably located near modern Meiron,
northwest of the Sea of Galilee. The
brief battle narrative in Joshua 11 simply reports Joshua attacked them quickly
and put them to flight. The opposing
armies fled westward towards Great Sidon and Misrephoth-maim and eastward
towards the valley of Mizpeh. The
Israelites struck down their soldiers, hamstrung their horses, and burned their
chariots. Either the Israelite
forces were untrained in the use of horses and chariots,2 or they
renounced them in favor of dependence on God.3 Then Joshua burned the
town of Hazor and destroyed the other enemy towns.
The Book of Joshua also mentions other peoples and
towns Joshua captured but for which no battle narrative is given.
A brief notice in Joshua 11:21-22 reports Joshua completely destroyed the
Anakim from the hill country, leaving a few only in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod.
The list of conquered kings in Joshua 12:9-24 includes the kings of Aphek,
Taanach, and Megiddo, but their defeats are nowhere specifically mentioned. (See
For various explanations of this event, see the
following, Dan G. Kent, Joshua, Judges, Ruth in Layman’s Bible Book
Commentary (Nashville: Broadman, 1980), 52; Bernard Ramm, The Christian
View of Science and Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954), 107-10, 117 n.
33; Robert Dick Wilson, “Understanding ‘the “Sun Stood Still’” in Classic
Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation, Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.,
ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972), 61-65.
Trent C. Butler, Joshua, Word Biblical Commentary
(Waco, TX: Word, 1983), 127-128.
Marten H. Woudstra, The Book of Joshua, The New
International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 30,
Number 3; Spring 2004
707. What Is The Answer To & Where In The Bible Is
This Week’s Trivia Question Found? (06/28/15)
Which creature did the ten spies liken themselves to when compared to the
giants of the land? Answer
The answer to last
week’s question: (06/21/15)
What natural disaster did God release upon the Amorite army as they
passed through Beth-Horan that killed more of them than the Israelites did? Answer:
Hailstones; Joshua 10:11.
ISRAEL’S CANAAN CONQUEST:
Believer's Bible Commentary; by William
MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald.
Database © 2014 WORDsearch.