Joshua and Judges: Failures must be left in the past while the believer reaches ahead, Jos 7:24 - 8:29.

Class Outline:

Title: Joshua and Judges: Failures must be left in the past while the believer reaches ahead, JOS 7:24 - 8:29.  

The camp of Israel


Joshua sent two messengers directly to Achan's tent to fetch the things, and when they were brought he had them laid down before Jehovah, or before the tabernacle, where the whole affair had taken place.


JOS 7:24 Then Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the mantle, the bar of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that belonged to him; and they brought them up to the valley of Achor.


JOS 7:25 And Joshua said, "Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day." And all Israel stoned them with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.


The verb "stoned" is in the plural, which is why the NASB has "stoned them." Most commentators with excellent knowledge of the Hebrew conclude that the whole family was stoned to death but admit that there is a possibility that only Achan was stoned and his family was present with him in order to witness it. As far as I can see there is no way to settle the question definitely.


JOS 7:26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones that stands to this day, and the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the valley of Achor to this day.


One must remember that this is the beginning of the campaign to take the Promised Land and that campaign this is the first instance of a brazen violation of the Law of God. God makes an example out of them as He had done with Pharaoh and the Egyptians, the first generation in the wilderness, and here with the first man and his family that violated God's Law in the PL. It becomes a warning to the whole nation who witnessed his stoning and burning and possibly that of his whole family.


God did the same in the beginning of the church age with Ananias and Sapphira who instigated an evil in the church and both died at the feet of the apostle Peter. This purpose was served in the instance of them as well as Achan.


The destruction of Achan with fire was to arouse the fear of the Lord:


Acts 5:10-11

and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things.


It is interesting to note that when God begins a new program with His people in the various dispensations that the beginning of that period possesses a great amount of miracles as well as intense and rapid discipline. At the start God reveals His great power along with the great consequences of rejecting His plan for that age.


Achan had fallen under the ban by laying hands upon what had been banned, and consequently was exposed to the same punishment as a town that had fallen away to idolatry.


DEU 13:12 "If you hear in one of your cities, which the Lord your God is giving you to live in, anyone saying that 


DEU 13:13 some worthless men have gone out from among you and have seduced the inhabitants of their city, saying,' Let us go and serve other gods' (whom you have not known),


DEU 13:14 then you shall investigate and search out and inquire thoroughly. And if it is true and the matter established that this abomination has been done among you,


DEU 13:15 you shall surely strike the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying it and all that is in it and its cattle with the edge of the sword.


DEU 13:16 Then you shall gather all its booty into the middle of its open square and burn the city and all its booty with fire as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God; and it shall be a ruin forever. It shall never be rebuilt.


DEU 13:17 And nothing from that which is put under the ban shall cling to your hand, in order that the Lord may turn from His burning anger and show mercy to you, and have compassion on you and make you increase, just as He has sworn to your fathers,


DEU 13:18 if you will listen to the voice of the Lord your God, keeping all His commandments which I am commanding you today, and doing what is right in the sight of the Lord your God.


The law of the ban was founded upon the assumption, that the conduct to be punished was not a crime of which the individual only was guilty, but one in which the whole family of the leading sinner, in fact everything connected with him, participated. Thus, in the case before us, the things themselves had been abstracted from the booty by Achan alone; but he had hidden them in his tent, buried them in the earth, which could hardly have been done so secretly that his sons and daughters knew nothing of it.


JOS 7:26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones that stands to this day, and the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the valley of Achor to this day.


And so, not far from this site, we have a stone monument of twelve stones that memorialize the miracle of crossing the Jordan, and here, a monument memorializing the results of idol worship.


Now that the ban was lifted from Israel, Jehovah immediately gives instruction for Joshua to take Ai.


Once a failure is dealt with it must be left in the past, without guilt or condemnation, and the believer must press on towards the goal.


Php 3:13-14

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.


We are all sinners, which isn't a statement that condones sin, but is a reality and a fact. We all fail and we must all deal with our failures in God's grace and mercy.


HEB 4:15-16

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.


We acknowledge or confess the sin before the Father, agreeing with Him as to its sinfulness, recognizing that we are still tempted by the pull of the OSN, realizing that the sin in full was paid for on the cross, and then pressing on towards the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. This must be mastered. Guilt and condemnation must be mastered or you will always be hindered from running the race set before you.


JOS 8:1 Now the Lord said to Joshua, "Do not fear or be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you and arise, go up to Ai; see, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land.


God uses the same words that He encouraged all Israel with before they crossed the Jordan and with Joshua when he was first appointed to his command.


DEU 31:6

Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them,


JOS 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."


The people had been completely discouraged by the failure of the first expedition. Yes there was a failure, and everyone fails in some way, but a believer cannot continue to harbor fear due to his failures. If you have failed at something once, are you afraid to attempt it again? While it is true that we have to know our own limitations and that we cannot do everything we would like to, it is also true that there are things clearly commanded by God for us to do, and if He does so, then we are able to do them through His power and wisdom. Taking this small town is definitely commanded by God and the past failure is to be left in the past now that the iniquity has been dealt with. It's time to move on.


The fear that gripped Jericho and made them unable to fight has now gripped Israel. It must be thrown off. We cannot take the path of inaction because we are afraid of failure.


Fathers, teach this to your sons.


1CH 28:20

Then David said to his son Solomon, "Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.


1PE 3:14

But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled,


REV 2:10

'Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.


God has assured them of victory. The whole force of the army would have been about 200,000 men and it is hard to imagine that all of them would be used in a battle against 12,000. It is likely that they are all called to present themselves before the Lord and then Joshua will choose the soldiers for this battle.


JOS 8:2 And you shall do to Ai and its king just as you did to Jericho and its king; you shall take only its spoil and its cattle as plunder for yourselves. Set an ambush for the city behind it."


The town is under the ban, but the spoil and the cattle as to be taken by the army and so will be spoil for all of Israel. This was done because God promised them a land that wasn't barren.


DEU 6:10-11

"Then it shall come about when the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you shall eat and be satisfied,


The work of the wicked who rejected their Creator is given to the people of God. It all belongs to Him.


JOS 8:3 So Joshua rose with all the people of war to go up to Ai; and Joshua chose 30,000 men, valiant warriors, and sent them out at night.


Because of the discrepancy with verse 12 it is likely that the Hebrew word for thirty is a copyist error and that originally five was written. It is impossible to come to a definitive reason for the discrepancy.


JOS 8:4 And he commanded them, saying, "See, you are going to ambush the city from behind it. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you be ready.


JOS 8:5 Then I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. And it will come about when they come out to meet us as at the first, that we will flee before them.


JOS 8:6 And they will come out after us until we have drawn them away from the city, for they will say, 'They are fleeing before us as at the first.' So we will flee before them.


JOS 8:7 And you shall rise from your ambush and take possession of the city, for the Lord your God will deliver it into your hand.


JOS 8:8 Then it will be when you have seized the city, that you shall set the city on fire. You shall do it according to the word of the Lord. See, I have commanded you."


As soon as Joshua received from Jehovah the assurance that the town should be taken, and had been directed to resort to a certain stratagem, he selected 5,000 men, and rose up with all the people of war to advance towards the town. Early in the morning he reviewed the troops, and then set them in motion in the direction of Ai. The whole day was probably required for the march there, being about 20 miles from Jericho. As soon as they approached the town, he sent away 5000 men to place themselves in ambush, and gave them the instructions from vv. 4-8. They went without delay, and took up their position to the west of Ai during the night. Joshua himself remained with the main body of the army, and encamped on an eminence near the north side of the town. But before morning, probably just at daybreak, he led the army through the valley, and in the morning they stood in sight of the town on the eastern or north-eastern side. The inhabitants perceived them, and immediately made an attack.


The sanction of a deception strategy has been a discussion of many commentators. One must not struggle over such a thing. This is a war and in war, tactics are as essential or maybe even more so then fighting power.


"The question put by many with reference to the propriety of employing stratagem in order to deceive an enemy, indicates excessive ignorance. For it is certainly not physical force alone which determines the issue of war; but, on the contrary, those are pronounced the best generals, whose success is due less to force than to skilful maneuvers. And, therefore, if war is lawful at all, it is indisputably right to avail one's self of those arts by which victory is usually obtained. It is of course understood that neither must treaties be violated, nor faith broken in any other way." [Calvin]


Remember who God is confusing and deceiving. It is those who oppose Him and deny Him. If the people of Ai had come to repent and believe in Jehovah as the one true living God they would not have attacked Joshua's army at all and would have proposed terms for peace.


DEU 7:22-23

And the Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little; you will not be able to put an end to them quickly, lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you. But the Lord your God shall deliver them before you, and will throw them into great confusion until they are destroyed.


The tactic of the feigned retreat has been used by many military commanders since God employed it here.   


JOS 8:9 So Joshua sent them away, and they went to the place of ambush and remained between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai; but Joshua spent that night among the people.


JOS 8:10 Now Joshua rose early in the morning and mustered the people, and he went up with the elders of Israel before the people to Ai.


Those set for the ambush lay in wait in one of the wadis just to the west of Ai, in between it and Bethel. That morning the heads of the people accompanied Joshua as his advisers.


JOS 8:11 Then all the people of war who were with him went up and drew near and arrived in front of the city, and camped on the north side of Ai. Now there was a valley between him and Ai.


JOS 8:12 And he took about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city.


JOS 8:13 So they stationed the people, all the army that was on the north side of the city, and its rear guard on the west side of the city, and Joshua spent that night in the midst of the valley.


Verse 12 and the first part of 13 are a repetition of vv. 3 and 9. During the night, Joshua scouted out the valley north of the city where the ruse was to take place the next morning.


JOS 8:14 And it came about when the king of Ai saw it, that the men of the city hurried and rose up early and went out to meet Israel in battle, he and all his people at the appointed place before the desert plain. But he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city.


JOS 8:15 And Joshua and all Israel pretended to be beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness.


JOS 8:16 And all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua, and were drawn away from the city.


JOS 8:17 So not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who had not gone out after Israel, and they left the city unguarded and pursued Israel.


All of the fighting men of both Ai and Bethel pursued the Israelites leaving both cities unguarded.


It is evident from v. 17 that the inhabitants of Bethel, which was about three hours' journey from Ai, took part in the battle, probably in consequence of a treaty which the king of Ai had made with them in the expectation of a renewed and still stronger attack on the part of the Israelites. It is likely that the fighting men of Bethel were already summoned and were waiting within the city of Ai for the Israelite attack.


Nothing else is known about Bethel's involvement in this battle. Joshua did take that town, but whether he did so on this day or on another, it is impossible to tell.


JOS 12:7 Now these are the kings of the land whom Joshua and the sons of Israel defeated beyond the Jordan toward the west


JOS 12:9 the king of Jericho, one; the king of Ai, which is beside Bethel, one;


JOS 12:16 the king of Bethel, one;


These kings are not listed in the same order as they were defeated, so nothing can be inferred as to the time of the defeat of the king of Bethel.


JOS 8:17 So not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who had not gone out after Israel, and they left the city unguarded and pursued Israel.


JOS 8:18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, "Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand." So Joshua stretched out the javelin that was in his hand toward the city.


JOS 8:19 And the men in ambush rose quickly from their place, and when he had stretched out his hand, they ran and entered the city and captured it; and they quickly set the city on fire.


In order for the javelin to be seen by the ambuscade Joshua would have been on some hill watching over the battle and not in the ranks of those feigning a retreat.


As God sits on high and commands assistance in our times of need so we see Joshua here carefully overlooking the battle and calling the ambush at the precise, correct time.


Those lying in ambush would have had scouts stationed who were looking for the raised javelin and who would then relay to the 5000 that the time had come to sack Ai.


JOS 8:20 When the men of Ai turned back and looked, behold, the smoke of the city ascended to the sky, and they had no place to flee this way or that, for the people who had been fleeing to the wilderness turned against the pursuers.


"place" - yad = hand; used as a symbol of power. "they had no power to flee." It wasn't that they were out of room but of power.


In seeing smoke rising from their city their hearts fainted and then the Israelites turned on them full force and so they lost their power. Like in a football game when one team has momentum and seem to be able to do anything, and then one thing happens, a missed kick or a fumble and they lose momentum from which it seems that the other team can do anything. So much in battle is psychological and that is a very important statement for the church age believer since his entire warfare is in the soul.