Israelites Defeated at Ai.[a] 1 The Israelites, however, acted treacherously with regard to those things that had been dedicated. Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the dedicated things for himself. The Lord’s anger blazed forth against the Israelites. 2 Joshua sent some men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, to the east of Bethel. He said to them, “Go up and take a look at the countryside,” so the men went up and investigated Ai. 3 They returned and said to Joshua, “You should not send the entire nation there, only send about two or three thousand men against Ai to conquer it. You should not bother the whole nation, for there are not that many of them. 4 So about three thousand men went up there, and they had to flee from before the men of Ai. 5 The men of Ai killed about thirty-six of them when they chased them from their gates all the way down to Shebarim. They killed them as they ran down the slopes, and the people’s courage melted away like water.
6 Joshua tore his clothes and threw himself face down on the earth in front of the Ark of the Lord, remaining there until the evening. The elders of Israel did the same, tossing dust upon their heads. 7 [b]Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord, why did you bring this people across the Jordan just to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites so they could destroy us? It would have been better if we had stayed on the other side of the Jordan. 8 O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has fled before its enemies? 9 The Canaanites and all of the other inhabitants of the land will surely hear about this. They will surround us and wipe out remembrance of our name from the earth. What would happen to the grandeur of your name?”
10 The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing on your face? 11 Israel has sinned. They have violated my covenant that I commanded them to observe. They have taken some of the dedicated things for themselves. They have stolen, they have lied, they have placed these things together with their own property. 12 This is why the Israelites could not stand up to their enemies. They turned their backs and fled because they were under a curse. I will not be with you anymore unless you wipe out those who are cursed from your midst. 13 Arise, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Sanctify yourselves in preparation for tomorrow. Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: “There are things that have been dedicated in your midst, O Israel. You will not be able to stand up to your enemies until you remove the dedicated things from your midst.” 14 In the morning you will present yourselves tribe by tribe. The tribe that the Lord chooses will present itself clan by clan. The clan that the Lord chooses will present itself family by family. The family that the Lord chooses will present itself person by person.[c] 15 That person who has taken dedicated things will be thrown into the flames, he and all that he owns. He has violated the covenant of the Lord and he has done a disgraceful thing in Israel.’ ”
16 Achan’s Guilt and Punishment. Early the next morning Joshua had the people of Israel come forward by their tribes, and Judah was chosen. 17 The clans of Judah then came forward, and the clan of the Zerahites was chosen. The clan of the Zerahites came forward family by family, and the family of Zabdi was chosen. 18 The family came forward person by person, and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah was chosen.
19 Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and make your confession to him. Tell me now what you have done, do not hide it from me.” 20 Achan answered Joshua, “I have truly sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel, for this is what I have done. 21 I spotted among the spoils a good garment made in Babylonia,[d] and two hundred silver shekels, and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels. I coveted them so I took them. They are hidden in my tent, with the silver buried underneath it.”
22 Joshua sent some runners to the tent, and there it was in the tent, with the silver buried underneath it. 23 They took it out of the tent and brought it to Joshua and to all of the Israelites, laying it out before the Lord. 24 [e]Joshua, together with all of Israel, took Achan, the son of Zerah, along with the silver, the garment, and the bar of gold, his sons and his daughters, his oxen, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all his other property to the Valley of Achor. 25 Joshua said, “Why have you brought this calamity upon us? The Lord will bring a calamity down upon you today.” Then all of the Israelites stoned him, and after they stoned the rest of them, they threw them in the fire. 26 They piled up a great mound of stones over Achan that is still there to the present. The fierce anger of the Lord was thus quenched. This is why this site is called the Valley of Achor to this day.
- Joshua 7:1 The cruel measures taken in this primitive war emphasize the condition required for God’s help, namely, unconditional obedience and the sacrifice of personal desires. Observe that Ai means “ruin”; the account bears the mark of this.
- Joshua 7:7 This informal and heartfelt prayer reveals Joshua’s confusion in the light of defeat. His resort to persuasive questioning of God reveals his weakness and fear (i.e., humanity).
- Joshua 7:14 Tribes, which are subdivisions of nomadic societies, are made up of a number of clans; clans are made up of a number of families that descend from a common ancestor and are united by ties of blood; a family is made up of relatives living together, the head of it having juridical and religious authority.
- Joshua 7:21 Babylonia: the Hebrew has “Shinar,” a region of Mesopotamia, but here standing for Babylonia, which was noted for its wealth.
- Joshua 7:24 As head of the family Achan brings all of them down because of his disobedience. His entire family is eradicated and everything that belongs to him is destroyed. The Israelites understand this punishment to be appropriate to the sin of betrayal of the Lord.