Joshua and Judges: Israel follows the Lord’s command and Ai finds that is has no power Jos 8:1 - 8:29; Psa 76:1-12.

Class Outline:

Title: Joshua and Judges: Israel follows the Lord’s command and Ai finds that is has no power JOS 8:1 - 8:29; PSA 76:1-12.  


Announcements / opening prayer:  



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.


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."


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."


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.


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.


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.


The same word is used in a parallel passage, PSA 76:5.


Psa 76 For the choir director; on stringed instruments.

A Psalm of Asaph, a Song.


PSA 76:1 God is known in Judah; His name is great in Israel.


PSA 76:2 And His tabernacle is in Salem; His dwelling place also is in Zion.


PSA 76:3 There He broke the flaming arrows, The shield, and the sword, and the weapons of war. Selah.


PSA 76:4 You are resplendent, More majestic than the mountains of prey.


PSA 76:5 The stouthearted were plundered; They sank into sleep; And none of the warriors could use his hands.


PSA 76:6 At Your rebuke, O God of Jacob, Both rider and horse were cast into a dead sleep.


PSA 76:7 You, even You, are to be feared; And who may stand in Your presence when once You are angry?


PSA 76:8 You did cause judgment to be heard from heaven; The earth feared, and was still,


PSA 76:9 When God arose to judgment, To save all the humble of the earth. Selah.


PSA 76:10 For the wrath of man shall praise Thee; With a remnant of wrath You shall gird Yourself.


PSA 76:11 Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them; Let all who are around Him bring gifts to Him who is to be feared.


PSA 76:12 He will cut off the spirit of princes; He is feared by the kings of the earth.


Fear and other mental attitude sins defeat us despite what the circumstances of the battle are.


The delivered are the humble of the earth. The humble will not fear the presence of the Lord. The crown of righteousness is given to all who love His appearing. The arrogant fear His appearing. Their arrogance turns to fear since they can no longer sustain arrogance while beholding His great power.


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.


JOS 8:21 When Joshua and all Israel saw that the men in ambush had captured the city and that the smoke of the city ascended, they turned back and slew the men of Ai.


JOS 8:22 And the others came out from the city to encounter them, so that they were trapped in the midst of Israel, some on this side and some on that side; and they slew them until no one was left of those who survived or escaped.


The ambushers, done with their task in the city, came out and met the retreating men of Ai who now found themselves in a big Israeli claw or pincher movement and they were routed to the man.


JOS 8:23 But they took alive the king of Ai and brought him to Joshua.


JOS 8:24 Now it came about when Israel had finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the field in the wilderness where they pursued them, and all of them were fallen by the edge of the sword until they were destroyed, then all Israel returned to Ai and struck it with the edge of the sword.


The city is under the ban and so all the people must be put to death. We should remember that the sin of these people against God had been continuing and growing for centuries and their time of dying discipline had come. God makes provision for all mankind and all in Ai, Jericho, and any other kingdom that is destroyed by Israel has heard of the God of Israel and His salvation. Therefore, anyone could have come to believe in the promises of Jehovah, as Rahab did, and though their physical lives may not have been spared, they went directly to Paradise in Abraham's bosom within the earth and at the resurrection of Christ they were triumphantly led to heaven with Him.


JOS 8:25 And all who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000 —  all the people of Ai.


JOS 8:26 For Joshua did not withdraw his hand with which he stretched out the javelin until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai.


Joshua becomes Moses like again. Moses parted the Red Sea while Joshua parted the Jordan. After parting the Red Sea we find Moses in Exo 17 on a hill holding up his staff during a battle in which Israel was successful when his hands were up and started losing when his hands fell. Joshua in like fashion, after stopping the Jordan finds himself on a hill, watching over the battle, and holding up his javelin until Israel had utterly destroyed them.


JOS 8:27 Israel took only the cattle and the spoil of that city as plunder for themselves, according to the word of the Lord which He had commanded Joshua.


Is it any wonder that no one violated the ban with the stoning and burning of Achan and his family just days before.


Consequences of iniquity burn brightly in the conscience, yet how easily we forget.


It is often true that directly after discipline has its effect upon us that we are strong to restrain further conduct that brought it upon us, and then with time, we forget the discipline and return to that conduct. This gets to the heart of true motivation.


Our minds must be transformed until it is the truth and the love of God that motivates us and not just the avoidance of pain.


JOS 8:28 So Joshua burned Ai and made it a heap forever, a desolation until this day.


JOS 8:29 And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening; and at sunset Joshua gave command and they took his body down from the tree, and threw it at the entrance of the city gate, and raised over it a great heap of stones that stands to this day.


The king is executed and then hung on a tree as per:


DEU 21:22-23

"And if a man has committed a sin worthy of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance.



12 stones at Gilgal - God brought the 12 tribes across the Jordan.

Achan - God's discipline of violators of His sanctification.

King of Ai - God's discipline of those who oppose His people.


Because Joshua recovers from his emotionalism, fear, and confusion, he again becomes a great leader. I think this is a fine place to study the doctrine of leadership. A great deal of this study is based upon the book Spiritual Leadership by Oswald Chambers.


The doctrine of leadership.


1. Good and bad ambition.


1TI 3:1 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.


"aspires" - ovre,gomai [oregomai] = to reach or stretch out. Always in the middle voice - the subject acts in relation to himself and with a vested interest.


Paul is not condemning ambition, but in fact states that it is a fine work that he is ambitious for.  


JER 45:5

'But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them;


Jeremiah said this to his attendant Baruch and he heeded these words.


Of course, we all know the great evil that can accompany ambition, so how do we balance Paul's and Jeremiah's words?


When Paul writes his encouragement, a pastor or a deacon faced great danger and worrisome responsibility. Rewards to leadership in the early church were hardship, contempt, rejection, persecution and a certain level of poverty. When persecution came to a church as it so often did, the leaders were first in the line of fire. Therefore, to aspire to be an overseer [episkopos] could not involve an ambition for wealth, power, pleasure, or fame.


Seen in this light, Paul's encouragement does not seem so open to misuse by people merely seeking status in the church. Phonies would have little heart for such a difficult assignment. In fact, at this time, with such foreseen pressure and hardship, men with gifts of leadership needed encouragement and incentive to lead.


This kind of pressure still exists in certain parts of the world, but in our nation, some enter into the ministry as well as all other areas of leadership for the wrong reasons.


The ambition to serve the Lord and others is good.

The ambition for wealth, power, fame, and pleasure is evil.


Paul is addressing those who want to lead as servants of all while Jeremiah is warning Baruch about selfish motivation that makes ambition wrong. Notice how he says it - for yourself.


JER 45:5

'But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them;


It is motivation that determines ambitions character. [Chambers]


What are you ambitious for and why? Also, are you prepared to take the time and do things God's way, in humility, patience, and in service to others?


We are all given a spiritual gift in which we are to excel and we are to determine within ourselves to excel even more.


1CO 12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.


1CO 12:5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.


1CO 12:6 And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.


1CO 12:7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.