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7. Achan's Sin
1But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the devoted thing; for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the devoted thing: and the anger of Jehovah was kindled against the children of Israel.
2And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Beth-aven, on the east side of Beth-el, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and spy out the land. And the men went up and spied out Ai. 3And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; make not all the people to toil thither; for they are but few. 4So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai. 5And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men; and they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them at the descent; and the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.
6And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of Jehovah until the evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust upon their heads. 7And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord Jehovah, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over the Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to cause us to perish? would that we had been content and dwelt beyond the Jordan! 8Oh, Lord, what shall I say, after that Israel hath turned their backs before their enemies! 9For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and will compass us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do for thy great name?
10And Jehovah said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore art thou thus fallen upon thy face? 11Israel hath sinned; yea, they have even transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: yea, they have even taken of the devoted thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also; and they have even put it among their own stuff. 12Therefore the children of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, because they are become accursed: I will not be with you any more, except ye destroy the devoted thing from among you. 13Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow: for thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, There is a devoted thing in the midst of thee, O Israel; thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the devoted thing from among you. 14In the morning therefore ye shall be brought near by your tribes: and it shall be, that the tribe which Jehovah taketh shall come near by families; and the family which Jehovah shall take shall come near by households; and the household which Jehovah shall take shall come near man by man. 15And it shall be, that he that is taken with the devoted thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath; because he hath transgressed the covenant of Jehovah, and because he hath wrought folly in Israel.
16So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel near by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken: 17and he brought near the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zerahites: and he brought near the family of the Zerahites man by man; and Zabdi was taken: 18and he brought near his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 19And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to Jehovah, the God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me. 20And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Of a truth I have sinned against Jehovah, the God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: 21when I saw among the spoil a goodly Babylonish mantle, 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.
22So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it. 23And they took them from the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel; and they laid them down before Jehovah. 24And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the mantle, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them up unto the valley of Achor. 25And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? Jehovah shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire, and stoned them with stones. 26And they raised over him a great heap of stones, unto this day; and Jehovah turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.
Jos 7:1. Achan's Trespass.
1. the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing—There was one transgressor against the cherem, or ban, on Jericho, and his transgression brought the guilt and disgrace of sin upon the whole nation.
Achan—called afterwards "Achar" ("trouble") (1Ch 2:7).
Zabdi—or Zimri (1Ch 2:6).
Zerah—or Zarah, son of Judah and Tamar (Ge 38:30). His genealogy is given probably to show that from a parentage so infamous the descendants would not be carefully trained in the fear of God.
Jos 7:2-26. The Israelites Smitten at Ai.
2. Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai—After the sacking of Jericho, the next step was to penetrate into the hills above. Accordingly, spies went up the mountain pass to view the country. The precise site of Ai, or Hai, is indicated with sufficient clearness (Ge 12:8; 13:3) and has been recently discovered in an isolated tell, called by the natives Tell-el-Hajar, "the mount of stones," at two miles', or thirty-five minutes' distance, east southeast from Beth-el [Van De Velde].
Beth-aven—("house of vanity")—a name afterwards given derisively (Ho 4:15; 5:8; 10:5), on account of its idolatries, to Beth-el, "house of God," but here referred to another place, about six miles east of Beth-el and three north of Ai.
3. Let not all the people go up, … for they are but few—As the population of Ai amounted to twelve thousand (Jos 8:25), it was a considerable town; though in the hasty and distant reconnoitre made by the spies, it probably appeared small in comparison to Jericho; and this may have been the reason for their proposing so small a detachment to capture it.
4, 5. they fled before the men of Ai—An unexpected resistance, and the loss of thirty-six of their number diffused a panic, which ended in an ignominious rout.
5. chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim—that is, unto the "breakings" or "fissures" at the opening of the passes.
and smote them in the going down—that is, the declivity or slope of the deep, rugged, adjoining wady.
wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water—It is evident that the troops engaged were a tumultuary, undisciplined band, no better skilled in military affairs than the Bedouin Arabs, who become disheartened and flee on the loss of ten or fifteen men. But the consternation of the Israelites arose from another cause—the evident displeasure of God, who withheld that aid on which they had confidently reckoned.
6-9. Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth … before the ark … he and the elders—It is evident, from those tokens of humiliation and sorrow, that a solemn fast was observed on this occasion. The language of Joshua's prayer is thought by many to savor of human infirmity and to be wanting in that reverence and submission he owed to God. But, although apparently breathing a spirit of bold remonstrance and complaint, it was in reality the effusion of a deeply humbled and afflicted mind, expressing his belief that God could not, after having so miraculously brought His people over Jordan into the promised land, intend to destroy them, to expose them to the insults of their triumphant enemies, and bring reproach upon His own name for inconstancy or unkindness to His people, or inability to resist their enemies. Unable to understand the cause of the present calamity, he owned the hand of God.
10-15. the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up—The answer of the divine oracle was to this effect: the crisis is owing not to unfaithfulness in Me, but sin in the people. The conditions of the covenant have been violated by the reservation of spoil from the doomed city; wickedness, emphatically called folly, has been committed in Israel (Ps 14:1), and dissimulation, with other aggravations of the crime, continues to be practised. The people are liable to destruction equally with the accursed nations of Canaan (De 7:26). Means must, without delay, be taken to discover and punish the perpetrator of this trespass that Israel may be released from the ban, and things be restored to their former state of prosperity.
16-18. So Joshua rose up early, and brought Israel by their tribes—that is, before the tabernacle. The lot being appealed to (Pr 16:33), he proceeded in the inquiry from heads of tribes to heads of families, and from heads of households in succession to one family, and to particular persons in that family, until the criminal was found to be Achan, who, on Joshua's admonition, confessed the fact of having secreted for his own use, in the floor of his tent, spoil both in garments and money [Jos 7:19-21]. How dreadful must have been his feelings when he saw the slow but certain process of discovery! (Nu 32:23).
19. Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give … glory to God—a form of adjuration to tell the truth.
21. a goodly Babylonish garment—literally, "a mantle of Shinar." The plain of Shinar was in early times celebrated for its gorgeous robes, which were of brilliant and various colors, generally arranged in figured patterns, probably resembling those of modern Turkish carpets, and the colors were either interwoven in the loom or embroidered with the needle.
two hundred shekels of silver—equivalent to £22 10s. sterling, according to the old Mosaic shekel, or the half of that sum, reckoning by the common shekel.
a wedge of gold—literally, an ingot or bar in the shape of a tongue.
22, 23. Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent—from impatient eagerness not only to test the truth of the story, but to clear Israel from the imputation of guilt. Having discovered the stolen articles, they laid them out before the Lord, "as a token of their belonging to Him" on account of the ban.
24-26. Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan—He with his children and all his property, cattle as well as movables, were brought into one of the long broad ravines that open into the Ghor, and after being stoned to death (Nu 15:30-35), his corpse, with all belonging to him, was consumed to ashes by fire. "All Israel" was present, not only as spectators, but active agents, as many as possible, in inflicting the punishment—thus testifying their abhorrence of the sacrilege, and their intense solicitude to regain the divine favor. As the divine law expressly forbade the children to be put to death for their father's sins (De 24:16), the conveyance of Achan's "sons and daughters" to the place of execution might be only as spectators, that they might take warning by the parental fate; or, if they shared his punishment (Jos 22:20), they had probably been accomplices in his crime, and, indeed, he could scarcely have dug a hole within his tent without his family being aware of it.
26. they raised over him a great heap of stones—It is customary to raise cairns over the graves of criminals or infamous persons in the East still.
the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor—("trouble"),