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Joshua 7:19-26

19. And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou has done; hide it not from me.

19. Tunc dixit Josue ad Achan, Fili mi, da nunc gloriam Jehovae Deo Israel, et ede ei confessionem, atque indica mihi quid feceris, ne abscondas a me.

20. And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done:

20. Respondit Achan ad Josuam, et ait, Vere ego peccavi Jehovae Deo Israel, et sic et sic feci.

21. When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, 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.

21. Vidi inter spolia pallium, Babylonicum bonum, et ducentos siclos argenteos, et ligulam auream unam, cujus pondus erat quinquaginta siclorum, quae concupivi et abstuli; et ecce abscondita sunt in terra, in medio tabernaculi mei, et argentum subtus.

22. So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it.

22. Misit itaque Josue nuncios qui currerunt ad tabernaculum; ecce absconditum erat in tabernaculo ejus et argentum sub eo.

23. And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the LORD.

23. Acceperuntque ea e medio tabernaculi, et attulerunt ea ad Josuam et ad omnes filios Israel, statueruntque coram Jehova.

24. And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, 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 unto the valley of Achor.

24. Tollensque igitur Josue Achan filium Zera, et argentum, et pallium, et ligulam auream, et filios ejus, et filias ejus, et boves ejus, et asinos ejus, et pecudes ejus, et tabernaculum ejus, et omnia quae erant ejus, simulque universus Israel cum eo deduxerunt in vallem Achor.

25. And Joshua said, Why has thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.

25. Et dixit Josue, Cur turbasti nos? Turbet te Jehova hodie, et obruerunt eum universus Israel lapidibus combusseruntque eos igni postquam lapidaverunt eos lapidibus.

26. And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.

26. Et statuerunt super eum acervum lapidum magnum usque ad hunc diem, et aversus est Jehova ab ira excandescentiae suae; ideo vocarunt nomen loci illius vallem Achor usque in hunc diem.


19. And Joshua said unto Achan, etc Although only by lot, which seems to fall out fortuitously, Achan is completely caught; yet, as God has declared that he will point out the guilty party, as if with the finger, Joshua interrogates without having any doubt, and when the discovery is made, urges Achan to confess it. It is probable, indeed, that this was the usual form of adjuration, as we read in John’s Gospel, (John 9:24) that the scribes and priests used the same words in adjuring the blind man whose sight our Savior had restored, to answer concerning the miracle. But there was a special reason why Joshua exhorted Achan to give God the glory, because by denying or equivocating he might have impaired the credit of the decision. The matter had already been determined by lot. Joshua, therefore, simply orders him to subscribe to the divine sentence, and not aggravate the crime by vain denials.

He calls him son, neither ironically nor hypocritically, but truly and sincerely declares that he felt like a father toward him whom he had already doomed to death. By this example, judges are taught that, while they punish crimes, they ought so to temper their severity as not to lay aside the feelings of humanity, and, on the other hand, that they ought to be merciful without being reckless and remiss; that, in short, they ought to be as parents to those they condemn, without substituting undue mildness for the sternness of justice. Many by fawning kindness throw wretched criminals off their guard, pretending that they mean to pardon them, and then, after a confession has been extracted, suddenly hand them over to the executioner, while they were flattering themselves with the hope of impunity. But Joshua, satisfied with having cited the criminal before the tribunal of God, does not at all flatter him with a vain hope of pardon, and is thus more at liberty to pronounce the sentence which God has dictated.

20. And Achan answered Joshua, etc As he was now struck with astonishment, he neither employs subterfuge, nor palliates the crime, nor endeavors to give any coloring to it, but rather ingeniously details the whole matter. Thus the sacred name of God was more effectual in extorting a confession than any tortures could have been. Nor was the simplicity he thus displayed a sure indication of repentance; being, as it were, overcome with terror, he openly divulged what he would willingly have concealed. And it is no new thing for the wicked, after they have endeavored for some time to escape, and have even grown hardened in vice, to become voluntary witnesses against themselves, not properly of their own accord, but because God drags them against their will, and, in a manner, drives them headlong. The open answer here given will condemn the hypocrisy of many who obscure the clear light by their subterfuges. The expression is emphatic — thus and thus did I; meaning that each part of the transaction was explained distinctly and in order. Nor does he only acknowledge the deed, but by renouncing all defense, and throwing aside all pretext, he condemns himself in regard to its atrocity. I have sinned, he says; this he would not have said had he not been conscious of sacrilege, and hence it appears that he did not pretend mistake or want of thought.

22. So Joshua sent messengers, etc Although it is not singular for messengers to prove their obedience by running and making haste, yet the haste which is here mentioned, shows how intent all were to have the work of expiation performed as speedily as possible, as they had been filled with the greatest anxiety in consequence of the stern denunciation — I will not be with you until you are purged of the anathema. They therefore ran swiftly, not merely to execute the commands of Joshua, but much more to appease the Lord. The things carried off by stealth, when placed before their eyes, were more than sufficient to explain the cause of the disgrace and overthrow which had befallen them.

It had been said that they had turned their backs on the enemy, because, being polluted with the accursed thing, they were deprived of the wonted assistance of God; it is now easy to infer from the sight of the stolen articles, that the Lord had deservedly become hostile to them. At the same time, they were reminded how much importance God attached to the delivery of the first-fruits of the whole land of Canaan in an untainted state, in order that his liberality might never perish from their memory. They also learned that while the knowledge of God penetrates to the most hidden recesses, it is in vain to employ concealment’s for the purpose of eluding his judgment. 7373     French, “C’est folie de chercher couverture et deguisement pour eschapper son jugement et l’abuser;” “It is folly to seek cover and disguise in order to escape his judgement and deceive him.” — Ed.

24. And Joshua, and all Israel with him, etc Achan is led without the camp for two reasons; first, that it might not be tainted and polluted by the execution, (as God always required that some trace of humanity should remain, even in the infliction of legitimate punishments,) and secondly, that no defilement might remain among the people. It was customary to inflict punishment without the camp, that the people might have a greater abhorrence at the shedding of blood: but now, a rotten member is cut off from the body, and the camp is purified from pollution. We see that the example became memorable, as it gave its name to the spot.

If any one is disturbed and offended by the severity of the punishment, he must always be brought back to this point, that though our reason dissent from the judgments of God, we must check our presumption by the curb of a pious modesty and soberness, and not disapprove whatever does not please us. It seems harsh, nay, barbarous and inhuman, that young children, without fault, should be hurried off to cruel execution, to be stoned and burned. That dumb animals should be treated in the same manner is not so strange, as they were created for the sake of men, and thus deservedly follow the fate of their owners. Everything, therefore, which Achan possessed perished with him as an accessory, but still it seems a cruel vengeance to stone and burn children for the crime of their father; and here God publicly inflicts punishment on children for the sake of their parents, contrary to what he declares by Ezekiel. But how it is that he destroys no one who is innocent, and visits the sins of fathers upon children, I briefly explained when speaking of the common destruction of the city of Jericho, and the promiscuous slaughter of all ages. The infants and children who then perished by the sword we bewail as unworthily slain, as they had no apparent fault; but if we consider how much more deeply divine knowledge penetrates than human intellect can possibly do, we will rather acquiesce in his decree, than hurry ourselves to a precipice by giving way to presumption and extravagant pride. It was certainly not owing to reckless hatred that the sons of Achan were pitilessly slain. Not only were they the creatures of God’s hand, but circumcision, the infallible symbol of adoption, was engraved on their flesh; and yet he adjudges them to death. What here remains for us, but to acknowledge our weakness and submit to his incomprehensible counsel? It may be that death proved to them a medicine; but if they were reprobate, then condemnation could not be premature. 7474     These admirable remarks are well fitted to satisfy every candid mind, not only as to the nature of this very remarkable execution, but also as to its expediency and strict justice, notwithstanding its admitted severity. Several expositors, however, continue to be dissatisfied, and to bring it more into accordance with their views, attempt to explain parts of it away by means of a minute and forced criticism. On finding this process not very successful, they endeavor to supply its deficiency by extraordinary conjectures. First, with regard to the criticism, it is said that in the directions which the Lord gives to Joshua, (ver. 10-15,) he receives no authority to put any person to death, except the one who should be found to have actually committed the crime. When the words of the 15th verse, “he and all that he has,” are quoted in opposition to this view, the answer is, that the expressions does not necessarily mean more than the man himself, his cattle, and other property, and therefore may not have included his family, properly so called, or the persons who formed his household. Another criticism, still more extraordinary, would scarcely be deserving of notice had it not received the countenance of so distinguished a name as that of Grotius, who insists that Achan was the only person who actually suffered death, though his children were taken out to the place of execution and verse, in which it is said that “All Israel stoned him (Achan) with stones, and burned them with fire;” i.e., as he explains, stoned Achan only, and then burnt his dead body, and his cattle, and other effects designated by them. Such are specimens of the criticism which this transaction has called forth, and it would almost be an insult to the reader to give a serious refutation of them. The conjectures to which we have referred are equally extravagant. One of them is given in the Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature, under the article Achan, and as the writer appears both to have invented it, and to plume himself on the invention, it is but fair to give it in his own words; — “We prefer the supposition that they (Achan’s family) were included in the doom by one of those sudden impulses of indiscriminate popular vengeance, to which the Jewish people were exceedingly prone, and which, in this case, it would not have been in the power of Joshua to control by any authority which he could, under such circumstances, exercise.” — Ed.

It may be added, that the life which God has given he may take away as often as pleases him, not more by disease than by any other mode. A wild beast seizes an infant and tears it to pieces; a serpent destroys another by its venomous bite; one falls into the water, another into the fire, a third is overlain by a nurse, a fourth is crushed by a falling stone; nay, some are not even permitted to open their eyes on the light. It is certain that none of all these deaths happens except by the will of God. But who will presume to call his procedure in this respect in question? Were any man so insane as to do so, what would it avail? We must hold, indeed, that none perish by his command but those whom he had doomed to death. From the enumeration of Achan’s oxen, asses, and sheep, we gather that he was sufficiently rich, and that therefore it was not poverty that urged him to the crime. It must therefore be regarded as a proof of his insatiable cupidity, that he coveted stolen articles, not for use but for luxury.

25. And Joshua said, etc The invective seems excessively harsh; as if it had been his intention to drive the wretched man to frantic madness, when he ought rather to have exhorted him to patience. I have no doubt that he spoke thus for the sake of the people, in order to furnish a useful example to all, and my conclusion, therefore, is, that he did not wish to overwhelm Achan with despair, but only to show in his person how grievous a crime it is to disturb the Church of God. It may be, however, that the haughty Achan complained that his satisfaction, by which he thought that he had sufficiently discharged himself, was not accepted, 7575     French, “Combien qu’il se peut faire, qu’Achan estant fier se soit plaint de ce qu’on ne se contentoit pas de la reparation, et payement qu’il avoit fait, par lequel il pensoit s’estre bien acquitte, et avoir grand devoir;” “Although it may be that Achan complained of their not being contented with the reparation and payment which he had made, and by which he thought that he had acquitted himself well, and performed a great duty.” — Ed. and that Joshua inveighed thus bitterly against him with the view of correcting or breaking his contumacy. The question seems to imply that he was expostulating, and when he appeals to God as judge, he seems to be silencing an obstinate man. The throwing of stones by the whole people was a general sign of detestation, by which they declared that they had no share in the crime which they thus avenged, and that they held it in abhorrence. The heap of stones was intended partly as a memorial to posterity, and partly to prevent any one from imprudently gathering particles of gold or silver on the spot, if it had remained unoccupied. For although the Lord had previously ordered that the gold of Jericho should be offered to him, he would not allow his sanctuary to be polluted by the proceeds of theft.

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