a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

The Sin of Achan and Its Punishment


But the Israelites broke faith in regard to the devoted things: Achan son of Carmi son of Zabdi son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things; and the anger of the L ord burned against the Israelites.

2 Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. 3Then they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Not all the people need go up; about two or three thousand men should go up and attack Ai. Since they are so few, do not make the whole people toil up there.” 4So about three thousand of the people went up there; and they fled before the men of Ai. 5The men of Ai killed about thirty-six of them, chasing them from outside the gate as far as Shebarim and killing them on the slope. The hearts of the people melted and turned to water.

6 Then Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the ground on his face before the ark of the L ord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. 7Joshua said, “Ah, Lord G od! Why have you brought this people across the Jordan at all, to hand us over to the Amorites so as to destroy us? Would that we had been content to settle beyond the Jordan! 8O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has turned their backs to their enemies! 9The Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will you do for your great name?”

10 The L ord said to Joshua, “Stand up! Why have you fallen upon your face? 11Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I imposed on them. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have acted deceitfully, and they have put them among their own belongings. 12Therefore the Israelites are unable to stand before their enemies; they turn their backs to their enemies, because they have become a thing devoted for destruction themselves. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. 13Proceed to sanctify the people, and say, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the L ord, the God of Israel, “There are devoted things among you, O Israel; you will be unable to stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” 14In the morning therefore you shall come forward tribe by tribe. The tribe that the L ord takes shall come near by clans, the clan that the L ord takes shall come near by households, and the household that the L ord takes shall come near one by one. 15And the one who is taken as having the devoted things shall be burned with fire, together with all that he has, for having transgressed the covenant of the L ord, and for having done an outrageous thing in Israel.’ ”

16 So Joshua rose early in the morning, and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken. 17He brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the Zerahites was taken; and he brought near the clan of the Zerahites, family by family, and Zabdi was taken. 18And he brought near his household one by one, and Achan son of Carmi son of Zabdi son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 19Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the L ord God of Israel and make confession to him. Tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20And Achan answered Joshua, “It is true; I am the one who sinned against the L ord God of Israel. This is what I did: 21when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, then I coveted them and took them. They now lie hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and there it was, hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. 23They took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites; and they spread them out before the L ord. 24Then Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan son of Zerah, with the silver, the mantle, and the bar of gold, with his sons and daughters, with his oxen, donkeys, and sheep, and his tent and all that he had; and they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. 25Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The L ord is bringing trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him to death; they burned them with fire, cast stones on them, 26and raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the L ord turned from his burning anger. Therefore that place to this day is called the Valley of Achor.

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.

VIEWNAME is study