Joshua 8

Chapter 8

Joshua Conquers Ai. 1 The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid or discouraged! Arise and take all of your soldiers with you, going up to Ai. See that I have given the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land into your hands. 2 You shall treat Ai and its king just like you did Jericho, except that you can take its plunder and cattle for yourselves. Set up an ambush for them behind the city.”

3 So Joshua and all of the soldiers went up to Ai. Joshua selected thirty thousand of the strongest and most courageous and sent them out by night,[a] 4 commanding them, “Set up an ambush for them behind the city. Stay fairly close to the city, and be alert! 5 I will go with everyone who is with me and we will approach near the city. When they come out against us like they did before, we will flee before them. 6 They will chase after us until we have drawn them away from the city, for they will say to themselves, ‘They are fleeing away from us just like the first time.’ When we flee from them, 7 you are to spring out of the ambush and take the city. The Lord, your God, will deliver it into your hands. 8 When you have taken the city, set it on fire. Do what the Lord has commanded you to do! See, you now have my orders.”

9 Joshua sent them off, and they went into their ambush, lying in wait between Bethel and Ai, on the western side of Ai. Joshua spent the night with his people. 10 Early the next morning Joshua mustered the people, and he and the elders[b] of Israel marched off before them to Ai. 11 All of the soldiers who were with him went up and approached the city, drawing up in front of it. They pitched camp on the northern side of Ai, with the valley lying between them and Ai. 12 He had taken about five thousand men and set them up in an ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the western side of the city. 13 All the soldiers were thus ready, those who were on the northern side of the city and those lying in wait on the western side of the city. That night Joshua went down into the valley. 14 When the king of Ai saw this, he and all the men from the city rose early and went out to do battle with Israel at a fixed place in the plain. He did not know about the ambush that was lying in wait for him behind the city. 15 Joshua and all the Israelites were driven back before them, and they fled in the direction of the desert. 16 All of the men of Ai were summoned to pursue them. They followed after Joshua, and thus were drawn away from the city. 17 Every single man in Ai and Bethel went out after the Israelites. They left the city open and pursued the Israelites.

18 The Lord then said to Joshua, “Stretch out the spear in your hand toward Ai, for I will deliver it into your hands.” So Joshua stretched out the spear in his hands toward the city. 19 As soon as he stretched out his hand, the men who were hiding in ambush rose from their place and rushed forward. They entered into the city and captured it, quickly setting it on fire. 20 The men from Ai looked back, and they saw smoke rising up into the sky from the city. There was no possibility of fleeing in any direction, for the people who had fled into the desert turned back upon their pursuers. 21 Joshua and all of the Israelites saw that those who had been in ambush had taken the city and that smoke was rising up from the city, so they turned and attacked the men from Ai. 22 The others also came out of the city against them, so that they were caught in the middle between two Israelite forces. They cut them down; none of them escaped or survived 23 except for the king of Ai, whom they captured alive and brought to Joshua.

24 When the Israelites had finished killing all of those who lived in Ai, in the fields, and in the wilderness where they had chased them, putting all of them to the edge of the sword, all of the Israelites returned to Ai and put everyone in it to death by the sword. 25 Twelve thousand men and women were slain that day, all of those who lived in Ai. 26 Joshua did not pull back the hand that held the outstretched spear until he had wiped out everyone who had lived in Ai. 27 The Israelites carried off the cattle and plunder from the city as booty for themselves, as the Lord had instructed Joshua. 28 Joshua burned Ai, leaving it a heap of ruins, and it remains desolate to this very day. 29 He hung the king of Ai from a tree until that evening. When the sun was setting, Joshua ordered that they should take his body down from the tree and toss it down at the entrance to the city gate. They piled a large mound of stones on it, which is still there today.

30 The Altar on Mount Ebal.[c] Joshua then built an altar on Mount Ebal to the Lord, the God of Israel 31 as Moses, the servant of the Lord, had commanded the Israelites to do in the book of the law. Moses had written, “It is to be an altar of unhewn stones that no one has touched with iron tools.” They offered burnt offerings to the Lord there, and also sacrificed peace offerings. 32 There, in front of all of the Israelites, he copied on the stones the law that Moses had written. 33 All of the Israelites, including their elders, their officials, and their judges were standing on either side of the Ark. They were facing the priests, the Levites who carry the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord. There were both the foreigners and the native born. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim, and half of the people stood in front of Mount Ebal, just as Moses, the servant of the Lord, had previously commanded, so that they might bless the people of Israel. 34 Afterward he read all of the words of the law along with its blessings and curses, just as all of it is written in the book of the law. 35 Joshua read every single word that Moses had commanded before the whole assembly of Israel, along with the women, the little ones, and the foreigners who were living with them.


  1. Joshua 8:3 A victory at Ai, a stronghold of the Canaanites, was important to the Israelites’ confidence—that they were forgiven and their repentance was acknowledged by the Lord. It was also strategically important for the Canaanite kings to know that God was protecting the Israelites once again.
  2. Joshua 8:10 Elders: the leaders who formed a kind of aristocracy. In war they led their fellow tribesmen and in time of peace administered justice (Ex 18:13-26).
  3. Joshua 8:30 Gathered on Mount Ebal, near Shechem, the tribes have their first celebration in the Promised Land, in keeping with the order given them through the mouth of Moses (Deut 27). This celebration with its proclamation of blessings and curses is an element in the renewal of the covenant (Deut 28).

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