Strike force runs away
- 1 Israelites broke the rules. Achan, in particular. His father was Carmi, grandfather Zabdi, and great-grandfather Zerah. His tribe was Judah. He stole objects dedicated to the LORD. The LORD got upset with Israel because of it.
- 2 Joshua sent spies to scout the city of Ai,1 near Beth-aven, east of Bethel. He told them to scout the area, too.
- 3 They came back and said, “We don’t need the whole army for this tiny town. Two or three thousand would do. There’s no need to mobilize the entire army. Ai doesn’t have many people."
- 4 Three thousand Israelites attacked Ai. But the city’s defenders chased them away.
- 5 Ai’s defenders pursued the Israelites from the city gates to the rock quarry. They killed about 36 Israelites on the hillsides. This defeat demoralized Israel’s strike force.
A few stern words for God
- 6 When Joshua got the news, he ripped2 his clothes in despair. He dropped face-down onto the ground in front of the LORD’s Box of the Law. He stayed there all day, until evening. Israel’s elders grieved with him, throwing dust on their heads.
- 7 Joshua said, “Oh my God! LORD, why did you bring us here across the river? Was it just to let these Amorites kill us? We should have stayed on the safe side of the Jordan.
- 8 I’m sorry, master. But what’s left to say? Israel’s army ran away from a fight.
- 9 When Canaan’s people hear about this, they’re going to rally with their allies, attack us, and wipe us out. They’ll erase your name from history. What are you going to do about that?"
A few stern words for Joshua
- 10 The LORD told Joshua,
- 11 “What are you doing? Get your face up out of the dirt. Israel has sinned. They broke the contract I made with them. They took objects from Jericho they should have destroyed. They stole them, kept them, and hid them. They didn’t tell anyone about it.
- 12 That’s why Israel can’t defeat their enemies now. All they can do is run away. They are now the objects that need to be destroyed. I’m not going to help you anymore. Not unless you destroy those stolen objects that should have been destroyed in the battle.
- 13 Get off the ground and clean up this mess. Tell the people to purify3 themselves because tomorrow the LORD, the God of Israel, is going to deliver this message: ‘Israel, you have in your possession something you should have destroyed. You won’t win another battle with your enemies until you get rid of those objects that don’t belong to you.’
Decided by dice in God’s hands
- 14 Tomorrow, I want you to assemble by tribes. Then throw dice4 to select one tribe from all the others. Do the same to select one extended family from all the other clans in that tribe. Do it again to select one family from the others in that clan. Then do it one man at a time to find the person responsible for this mess.
- 15 The person you catch stole from me and is hiding what should have been destroyed. You need to destroy that person along with everything he owns. Burn it all. That person broke the LORD’s contract and caused outrageous damage in Israel.”
- 16 Joshua got up early the next morning. He called the tribes forward, one tribe at time. Tribe selected: Judah.
- 17 Next, he had the clans step forward, one at a time. Clan selected: Zerah. Joshua then had the families in that group of extended families step forward, one family at a time. Family selected: Zabdi.
- 18 Joshua had each man in Zabdi’s family step forward, one at a time. Last man standing, and the one selected: Achan. His father was Carmi, grandfather Zabdi, and great-grandfather Zerah. His tribe was Judah.
- 19 Joshua told Achan, “Son, show your respect for the LORD, God of Israel. Admit to him what you did. What did you do? Don’t keep this to yourself any longer.”
- 20 Achan confessed. “You’re right. I did something terribly wrong. I disobeyed God.
- 21 I saw in the city an exquisite robe imported from the land of the two rivers.5 And I found five pounds6 of silver and a piece of gold weighing more than a pound.7 I wanted them, so I took them and buried them in the ground under my tent. Silver is at the bottom.”
- 22 Joshua sent men to Achan’s tent. They found the stolen objects, with silver at the bottom of the pile.
- 23 They took the objects to Joshua and the Israelites assembled with him. They displayed the objects for everyone to see and presented them to the LORD.
- 24 Joshua and the Israelites took Achan, the son of Zerah, to Trouble Valley.8 They took the stolen objects, too. They also took Achan’s sons and daughters. And they took his cattle, donkeys, and sheep, along with his tent and everything in it.
- 25 Joshua told Achan, “Why did you bring this trouble into our camp, hurting all of us? The LORD has led you here, and you’re in trouble now.” The Israelites stoned them all to death and burned them.
- 26 They marked the spot with a big pile of stones, which are still there today. Israel and the LORD were back on good terms. This is how Trouble Valley got its name.
The name means “the ruins.” Most archaeologist say that’s what Jericho was when Joshua got there, a ghost town long dead. The city is typically connected with a mound of ruins called et-Tel (the Mound), roughly 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Jericho—a half-day’s walk. Other scholars, a minority, speculate that the Bible’s description of the geography of Joshua’s battles with Ai better fits another site: el-Maqatir, about half a mile west of et-Tel. Some say it shows evidence of destruction in the 1400s, when some scholars say the Israelites invaded. Scholars debate when or if an invasion took place. Some say there was no invasion, but a gradual migration instead. Dates pitched for the invasion are either in about 1400 BC or 1250 BC. The 1200s reportedly track better with the known history so far, such as the discoveries in destroyed cities and surviving documents about how Egyptian kings used slave labor to build cities such as the cities captive Israelites built (Exodus 1). The 1400 BC date seems to track better with a Bible note that says Israelites came out of Egypt 480 years before Solomon started building the first permanent Jewish worship center, the Temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 6:1).
People in ancient times often expressed extreme emotion by tearing their clothes or throwing dirt on themselves. It made them look terrible, which is the way they probably felt. Today, we might express that depth of pain or grief or anger by swearing and punching a hole in the drywall. Neither of which is a productive response. And repairing drywall is harder than sewing.
Initially, purification involved at least washing clothes and not having sexual intercourse (Exodus 19:15). Later, purification rituals included a waiting period, a ritual bath, and a sacrificial offering (Leviticus 15).
More literally, they were to throw or draw “lots.” The “lots” may have been stones or animal bones marked in a way that produced random outcomes for “yes” or “no” answers, or for determining who goes first in a group. The idea is like throwing dice, with the high number going first or getting selected.
From “Shinar,” in southern Mesopotamia (meaning “land between rivers”). That’s now southern Iraq, where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers empty into the Persian Gulf.
Two hundred shekels, weighing 2 kilograms.
It weighed as much as “50 shekels.” That’s about a pound and a fourth, or half a kilogram.
Literally, “Valley of Achor.” The Hebrew name is a wordplay linked to Joshua’s accusation in 7:25. He used the word “trouble.” Achor is a Hebrew word that means to cause trouble or to do something that hurts others. The point of the wordplay: Achan caused trouble. Achan ended up in trouble—Trouble Valley.