Israel Is Defeated at Ai
1 But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully and violated their obligation in regard to the things [off limits] under the ban [those things belonging to the Lord], for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban [for personal gain]. Therefore the anger of the Lord burned against the Israelites.
2 Now 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.” So the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 Then they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not make all the people go up [to fight]; have only about two thousand or three thousand men go up and attack Ai; do not make the entire army go up there, for they [of Ai] are few.” 4 So about three thousand men from the sons of Israel went up there, but they fled [in retreat] from the men of Ai. 5 The men of Ai killed about thirty-six of Israel’s men, and chased them from the gate as far as [the bluffs of] Shebarim and struck them down as they descended [the steep pass], so the hearts of the people melted [in despair and began to doubt God’s promise] and became like water (disheartened).
6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord until evening, he and the elders of Israel; and [with great sorrow] they put dust on their heads. 7 Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord (a)God, why have You brought this people across the Jordan at all, only to hand us over to the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to live beyond the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what can I say now that [the army of] Israel has turned back [in retreat and fled] before their enemies? 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear about it, and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name [to keep it from dishonor]?”
10 So the Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them [to keep]. They have even taken some of the things under the ban, and they have both stolen and (b)denied [the theft]. Moreover, they have also put the stolen objects among their own things. 12 That is why the (c)soldiers of Israel could not stand [and defend themselves] before their enemies; they turned their backs [and ran] before them, because they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from among you. 13 Rise up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: “There are things under the ban among you, O Israel. You cannot stand [victorious] before your enemies until you remove the things under the ban from among you.” 14 In the morning you shall come forward by your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the Lord chooses by lot shall come forward by families, and the family which the Lord chooses shall come forward by [separate] households, and the household which the Lord chooses shall come forward man by man. 15 It shall be that the one who is chosen with the things under the ban shall be [killed and his body] burned with fire, he and all that belongs to him, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done a (d)disgraceful and disobedient thing in Israel.’”(A)
16 So Joshua got up early in the morning and had Israel come forward by tribes, and the tribe of Judah was chosen [by lot].
The Sin of Achan
17 He had the families of Judah come forward, and the family of the Zerahites was chosen; and he had the family of the Zerahites come forward man by man, and Zabdi was chosen. 18 He brought his household forward man by man; and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was chosen. 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, I implore you, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give praise to Him [in recognition of His righteous judgments]; and tell me now what you have done. Do not hide it from me.” 20 So Achan answered Joshua and said, “In truth, I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel, and this is what I have done: 21 when I saw among the spoils [in Jericho] a (e)beautiful robe from Shinar (southern Babylon) and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I wanted them and took them. Behold, they are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and they saw the stolen objects hidden in his tent, with the silver underneath. 23 And they took them from the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the sons of Israel, and (f)spread them out before the Lord. 24 Then Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the [royal] robe, the bar of gold, (g)his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and everything that he had; and they brought them up to the Valley of Achor (Disaster). 25 Joshua said, “Why have you brought disaster on us? The Lord will bring you disaster this day.” Then all Israel stoned them [to death] with stones; afterward they burned their bodies in the fire. 26 Then they piled up over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the Valley of Achor (Disaster) to this day.
a. Joshua 7:7: Heb YHWH, usually rendered Lord.
b. Joshua 7:11: Or kept secret.
c. Joshua 7:12: Lit sons.
d. Joshua 7:15: Achan, the guilty party (v 18), had not only violated the divine ban with full knowledge of what he was doing, but had attempted to escape prosecution by concealing the evidence. This was a despicable affront to God, calling for severest of punishments.
e. Joshua 7:21: I.e. a valuable, elaborately woven and decorated royal robe, perhaps even bejeweled.
f. Joshua 7:23: Lit emptied.
g. Joshua 7:24: The family was punished along with him as his co-conspirators.