1 But the children of Israel [Bnei Yisroel] committed a trespass [broke covenant faith] in the accursed thing [Cherem]: for Achan, the son of [ben] Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah [ben Zerach of the tribe of Yehudah], took of the accursed thing [Cherem (that which was devoted to destruction)]: and the anger [Af] of Yahweh was kindled against the children of Israel [Bnei Yisroel].
"The children of Israel" had "committed a trespass" - a word which indicates some form of treachery or transgression. Interestingly, the word has been derived from another which means "to cover up". Thus, sin had been committed which involved the entire nation. For this sin to be forgiven, it would, like all other sins, have to be brought to the light of day and repudiated.
Achan (his name means "trouble") had taken of "the accursed thing" - that which had been "devoted" to Yahweh. This he had done in defiance of Joshua's clear instructions (6:17-19).
It was no wonder that "the anger of Yahweh was kindled against the children of Israel". *
2 And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east side of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai.
Elated at the great victory Yahweh had given them at Jericho, the Israelites turned their attention to the north-west. There, about fourteen miles from Jericho and close by Bethel, stood the city of Ai. A very ancient city, it is mentioned in the Bible as early as Gen. 12:8.
After the Babylonian captivity the city was still inhabited (Ezra 2:28). Like Jericho, it was not large (v.3). Its real worth lay in its strategic importance. The name Ai means "ruin" or "heap of ruins" (Ges.). And it very nearly brought ruin to Israel.
There is no record of Israel warring against Bethel. However, as these two cities were only a short distance apart, it was accepted that in the event of trouble the men of the two cities would support each other (8:17). There is no mention of Bethel being conquered during Joshua's campaigns. It was not totally subdued until after the death of Joshua (Judg. 1:22-26).*
3 And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about 2 or 3 thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few.
Almost too casually, they announced that Ai would present no problem to the Israelites. It is always unwise to be presumptuous, in spiritual matters. No doubt they made their report from a standpoint which they would view as the exercise of faith. All well and good. But where do the elements of faith and over-confidence become confused? Faith requires that men see the issues of life through the eyes of Yahweh. Self-confidence may result when some matters are taken for granted.*
4 So there went up thither of the people about 3 000 men: and they fled before the men of Ai.
Joshua pondered the advice of his men, and acquiesced. This younger generation had not known the horror of being vanquished by an enemy. In fear and terror they fled before the men of Ai".*
5 And the men of Ai smote of them about 36 men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.
Shebarim", probably a stone quarry some distance from the city. The word signifies "the crushings" or "the ruins".
The triumphant men of Ai drove the army of Israel "down" from their mountain heights.*
6 And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of Yahweh until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads.
Joshua and his subordinates remained in ignorance of Achan's faithlessness.
7 And Joshua said, Alas, O Adonia Yahweh, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan!
Then Joshua prayed. There is no record of him having sought a blessing upon the army before they marched off to Ai. Had he done so, it is evident that Yahweh would have spoken concerning the "trespass". The lives of thirty-six men may have been saved.
Often, because of the inadequacies of human nature, Yahweh's servants have to learn the hard way. In his misery, Joshua felt that perhaps Yahweh had withdrawn from His people entirely.
Joshua well knew that there could be no continuing victories for the Israelites, unless Yahweh blessed them. In his anguish, this was an overwhelming sorrow which Joshua found utterly confounding. What had gone wrong? Where was Yahweh? Why had the Israelites failed such a comparatively easy mission?
He prayed, simply...
8 O Yahweh, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies
9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?
The army of Israel could become demoralised. The Canaanites would "hear" what had happened. The results could well prove calamitous. Joshua imagined the jubilation of the Canaanites. And then combining to pulverise the Israelites into oblivion.
And what of the "Great Name" of Yahweh? Would it be ridiculed and held in contempt among these godless and degenerate gentiles? Mourning and stricken, Joshua poured out his heart to God. His prayer brought an immediate response.*
10 And Yahweh said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?
Action was required. And that, without delay. Whilst he remained prostrate upon the earth Joshua was not moving to rectify the cause of the disaster which had struck Israel.
God then addressed a brief statement to Joshua, which turned his heart to ice ...
Depression is self-pity and a perverted form of self-glorification. We are too big in our OWN perspective. If we realize that God is ALWAYS in full and active, wide-awake control, overlooks nothing, makes no mistakes, and is steadily bringing to pass His glorious purpose of good, then we shall not be tempted to indulge ourselves in the destructive fleshly pleasure of self-pity.
Are we discouraged by our failure? There is nothing wrong with us - at the worst - that faith and hope and love cannot cure, and there is an abundant fountain where these may freely be found. There is no state of mind that a quiet meditation on God's Word will not improve.
"Get thee up! Wherefore liest thou on thy face?" said the Lord to Joshua (Josh. 7:10).
If there is something wrong, then there is something that can be DONE about it. The Scriptures leave no room for discouragement. The great purpose of God is too grand and triumphant. If, like Paul, we FILL our lives with LABOUR on behalf of this purpose, and our hearts with THANKSGIVING that we have been offered a place in it, we shall find no room or time for discouragement or self-pity.
11 Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.
Joshua now knew the reason for their defeat at Ai. He listened fearfully, as Yahweh outlined what had been done contrary to His will. In effect, the nation was condemned on four counts: they had broken their solemn vow; they had seized that which was not theirs; they had acted deceitfully; they had taken possession of that which belonged rightfully to Yahweh.
These were the reasons for the "trouble" - and the trouble had been caused by Achan; although Joshua had yet to be enlightened as to the identity of the offender. The nation had to learn that a profession of faith in God is not sufficient to please Him. Faith must be accompanied by works of obedience. Hence, they were soon to learn:
"Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. . ." (Jas. 1:22).
Having within their ranks a man who had blatantly defied Yahweh, Israel had, themselves, become "accursed" or devoted. There was only one thing they could do: they were to "destroy the accursed. . ." They learned that "a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump . . . " (1 Cor. 5:6, cp. Gal. 5:9). Action was to be taken without delay.*
12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.
13 Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith Yahweh Elohim of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.
''Up! Sanctify the people!" Yahweh commanded. They had had to do this earlier (3:5), but perhaps now they would see a deeper significance in this. Ritual cleansing is pointless and without value, unless accompanied by an inner cleansing of the heart and mind.*
14 In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to your tribes: and it shall be, that the tribe which Yahweh taketh shall come according to the families thereof; and the family which Yahweh shall take shall come by households; and the household which Yahweh shall take shall come man by man.
Before the identity of the sinner was made known, his sentence was pronounced with chilling finality...
15 And it shall be, that he that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath: because he hath transgressed the covenant of Yahweh, and because he hath wrought folly in Israel.
With the declaration of this verdict, the lesson to be learned was pressed home unmistakeably: even though the entire nation had become contaminated through the wickedness which had been perpetrated, ultimately the question of sinfulness must be faced by the individual. Achan had stolen that which had been "devoted" to Yahweh. He had committed sacrilege. Every Israelite would be called upon to repudiate the sin. And the sinner.
He was to be "burnt with fire" - a symbol for divine judgment (cp. 6:24). The nation was to graphically learn that "the wages of sin is death".*
16 So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken:
There was to be no delay in implementing Yahweh's instructions for dealing with sin.
The atmosphere would have been tense. Uneasy, troubled, uncertain as to what would happen, the people anxiously awaited the outcome of the unfolding drama. They had been told "the tribe that Yahweh marks out by lot" and "the clan that Yahweh marks out by lot" would be the process of elimination whereby the offender would be revealed (J.B.).
17 And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken:
The tribe of Judah was "taken". A hushed stir of disbelief and fear would have rippled through the ranks of the people of Judah. From within the tribe, Yahweh's "lot" fell upon the clan - or family - of the Zarhites. They were descended from Zarah, a son of Judah. He had been born of Tamar, the twin of Pharez (Gen. 38:30; Num. 26:13, 20).
At this point, observing the unerring accuracy of the Hand of Providence, Achan could well have come forward and admitted his guilt. That he failed to do so is indicative of his disposition: he persisted in his crime and remained hardened in sin. Right to the moment
of disclosure. Achan was without excuse. Only a matter of days before he had renewed the covenant and kept the Passover, together with the rest of Israel (5:2-9).
The house of Zabdi was "taken". The avenue of guilt was narrowing.
18 And he brought 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.
From this family, one contemporary name was called: Achan! An icy hand clutched at the heart of Achan. The members of his family would have trembled. What man possessing spiritual vision could hope to escape the piercing eye of Almighty God?
"The eyes of Yahweh are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. . .For the eyes of Yahweh run to and fro throughout the whole earth. . ." (Prov. 15:3; 2 Chron. 16:9).
Of Israel's God, the prophet Jeremiah soberly reflected: "Great in counsel, and mighty in work; for thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men: to give everyone according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. . ." (Jer. 32:19).
19 And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to Yahweh Elohim of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.
With the guilty man standing before him, it would not have been surprising if Joshua had thundered forth in a blaze of anger. He refrained from doing so. As his eyes rested upon Achan, he saw a man condemned to death. He addressed him with words of tenderness,
whilst remaining unsympathetic in view of Achan's wickedness against Yahweh.
"My son. . ."
The word ben signifies not merely a son, but a son "as the builder of a family name".
What had Achan "built" for his family name? Only a terrible infamy that left a stain upon his lineage throughout history.
Joshua was saying, in effect, that when a man is faced with a revelation concerning his own sinfulness, only Yahweh is worthy of glory.
20 And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against Yahweh Elohim of Israel, and thus and thus have I done:
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.
He had hidden his stolen possessions "in the earth", which was the most appropriate place for them. A man whose life is not ruled by the principles of divine Truth is purely earthy. Achan was "earthy, sensual, devilish'\ not discerning "the wisdom that is from above" (Jas.3:15-17).
What were the things which had destroyed him? First, "a fine robe from Shinar" (J.B.). The eyes of men may readily lust after the things of Babylon, but any such thoughts should be
dismissed immediately. At that period of history, the Babylonians were regarded as the finest of weavers; so their cloth would be enthusiastically prized.
In his comment upon this incident, Josephus states that this was "a royal garment, woven entirely of gold". If such were the truth, it would have presented a dazzling prize. Obviously,
Achan had been so spellbound at the prospect of possessing such a garment, he had been unable to resist the temptation, even though it meant sinning against Yahweh.
There had also been "two hundred shekels of silver". This was approximately one hundred ounces, the value of which would have been a princely sum.
And there had been "a wedge of gold" - literally, as the A.V. margin: a tongue of gold. This would have been the equivalent of a present-day ingot, probably about twenty five ounces. Even in those days, such a "wedge" of gold would have been of enormous value. Though these precious metals rightly belonged in the treasury of Yahweh (6:24), Achan had become obsessed in his lust to possess them. Such uncontrolled desire cost him his life, and the lives of his family.
Such a situation is described in Proverbs. "He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live" (Prov.15:27). Achan "troubled" his own house because, dominated by evil motives, he had drawn himself - and therefore his family - away
from the pathway of the Truth. Covetousness is one of the greatest destroyers of men, not only because it is evil in itself, but because it fills the mind with obsessive lust to the exclusion of divine wisdom.
He who despises the "gifts" which may be sought avidly upon the basis of fleshly lust, and seeks to walk before God in all integrity, will ultimately become richer than any man of the flesh.
Another Proverb states: "He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him" (Prov. 28:22). A man who is in a hurry to become rich must devote himself to that cause. An "evil eye" is not fixed upon Yahweh, but upon those things
which captivate and ensnare the fleshly mind.
"Take heed! And beware of covetousness!" warned the Lord Jesus (Lk. 12:15). Greed can never bring eternal riches. Finally, even though it may be at the end of his life, a man who has
been dominated by a lust for material possessions will face the awful reality that he is left with nothing but poverty. For, he has not found God.
Bro John Ullman ... Joshua His Life and Times.
22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it.
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 Yahweh.
In a hushed atmosphere, the three items were brought before Joshua.
This was, in effect, an uncovering of the sin. After David's sin had been declared by the prophet Nathan, David humbled himself before God. "I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. . ." (Ps. 32:5). In a national sense, Israel was now doing this -
revealing the sin to God, and repudiating it.
The Hebrew word, yatsaq, rendered "laid them out" in the A.V. is a word used to describe the "pouring out" of the blood of the sacrifices (Lev. 8:15; 9:9, etc.). The people of Israel handled Achan's three stolen items as they would a sacrifice, symbolically "pouring" them out
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.
It is significant that the phrase "Joshua, and all Israel" occurs twice (Vv.23-24), and the words "all Israel" occur again in v.25. This was a national rejection of sin, and its effects. The judgment required by the Law was about to be carried out (Deut. 17:2-7).
Achan and his family, and all their possessions, were brought to the valley of Achor - a place which must have been considered fitting, since its name means "Trouble". The name may have been given subsequent to these events. Sin brings trouble. And "the wages of sin is
death . . ." (Rom. 6:23).
25 And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? Yahweh shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.
And it had all begun with covetousness. He saw. . .he coveted. . .he took. . . (v.21). But Achan had gained no real pleasure from his wickedness. Perhaps a certain fleeting moment of triumph. But then? The need for continual deception; the necessity for furtively keeping
the sin hidden; the constant fear of discovery and exposure. And finally, the horror of facing a violent death.
Had it been worth it? Sin never is.
26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So Yahweh turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.
The valley of Achor
The last act performed for Achan was to afford him the burial provided for a common
criminal (cp. 8:29; 10:26-27; 2 Sam 18:16-17). Thus this nefarious man perished.
"So Yahweh turned from the fierceness of His anger . . . "
This does not mean that God changed. He never changes (Mai. 3:6; Jas.1:17). His wrath was turned away when Israel, nationally, repudiated sin. In other words, Yahweh's attitude towards men is dependent upon their attitude towards Him. Thus the breach between God and the Israelites, brought about through the sin of Achan, was healed.
'The name of that place was called the valley of Achor unto this day"
- a reminder that Yahweh will continue to "trouble" sin, until it has been finally and irrevocably destroyed. In due time, the "stone cut out without hands" will come to punish the ungodly upon the earth - and he will bring with him the "fire" of divine judgment (Deut. 4:24; Heb. 12:29).
In the kingdom age, this valley will become known as Pethach Tiqvah - which means "doorway of hope". The word tiqvah occurs only twice in Joshua, on both occasions in relation to Rahab's "hope" of deliverance (2:18, 21). A link between Rahab and Achan is therefore clearly established. But why? This valley is said to be situated south-west
of Jericho, and will therefore provide a main thoroughfare up to the Temple.
"Then will I give to her (Israel) vineyards from thence, and the vale of Achor ('trouble') for a Door of Hope (Pethach Tiqvah), and she will respond there, as in the days of her youth. . ."(Hos. 2:15).
There can be little doubt that the reference to the "days" of Israel's "youth" relate to the response of the Israelites to Yahweh's word, in the matter of the sin of Achan.
As people pass through this valley travelling towards the Temple, they will be reminded of the original name of this place, and the reason for it being so named. They will also be taught the details of Rahab's faith, in contrast to the faithlessness of Achan.
The mortals who pass that way will be taught the powerful lesson which provides the link between Achan and Rahab: The human race is "troubled" by sin - which, if not repudiated, will inevitably lead to everlasting destruction. Yahweh, in His mercy, has provided a "doorway of hope", through which mortal man might be redeemed.
Rahab strode purposefully towards that "doorway of hope" and died in faith, whereas Achan spurned the goodness and mercy of God, and paid a terrible price for his wickedness.
Thus Isaiah wrote:
"Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, and the valley of Achor a place for the herds to lie down in, for my people that have sought me . . . " (Isa. 65:10). "Thou art my hope (tiqvah), Ο Adonai Yahweh; thou art my trust from my youth . . . " (Psa. 71:5).
Bro John Ullman ... Joshua His Life and Times.