Bible Commentaries
Joshua 8

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

God rouses Joshua from his dejection Joshua 7:6, and bids him lmarch against Ai with the main body. Though Ai was but a small city (compare Joshua 8:25 and Joshua 7:3), yet the discouragement of the people rendered it inexpedient to send a second time a mere detachment against it; and the people of Ai had, as appears from Joshua 8:17, help from Bethel, and possibly from other places also. It was fitting too that all the people should witness with their own eyes the happy consequences of having faithfully put away the sin which had separated them from God.

Verse 3

Thirty thousand men - comparing Joshua 8:3 and Joshua 8:12 (“five thousand men”), there is probably a mistake in the numbers of this verse, where an early copyist may have written the sign for 30,000 instead of that for 5,000.

Sent them away by night - The selected 5,000 would accordingly post themselves in the main ravine between Ai and Bethel in the night and early morning. The neighhorhood in which Ai was situated is described as “a wild entanglement of hill and valley;” and amidst its recesses the detachment could easily shelter itself from observation until Joshua’s other measures were taken.

Verse 10

Numbered the people - Rather, perhaps, “mustered” or “arrayed” them for their march. The distance from the camp at Gilgal to Ai is about fifteen miles. In the evening of the day after the despatch of the 5,000 liers in wait, Joshua and the host might make their appearance in the neighborhood of the city.

Verse 12

He took - Rather “had taken;” the words refer to the ambuscade which Joshua had detached during the previous night.

Verse 13

Joshua went down by night into the valley where He would be seen at daylight by the men of Ai, and was accompanied no doubt by a picked body of troops. The king of Ai, in the morning, would see neither the ambush in his rear, nor the whole of the great host of Israel among the hills away to the north on his left; but supposing, as it appears, that the Israelites before him were a body detached as on the former occasion to assail his city, he sallied out promptly to attack them.

Verse 14

At a time appointed - Rather, “at the place appointed,” i. e. some spot suitable for the drawing up of his men, which had been assigned beforehand. This was “before the plain,” i. e. it was at the entrance of the depressed tract of land which runs down to the Jordan valley, up which lay the route of the Israelites from Gilgal to Ai.

Verse 17

Or Bethel - See the Joshua 8:1 note.

Verse 18

No doubt Joshua had ascended the heights, most likely those to the north of the valley, so as to separate himself from the flying Israelites on the lower ground, and to be visible to the men in ambush behind the city. He now, at the command of God, gives the appointed signal to the ambush.

Verse 29

Compare Deuteronomy 21:22-23 notes.

Verses 30-35

All the words of the law - See Deuteronomy 31:11 ff It would seem that Joshua, on the present occasion, must have read at least all the legislative portion of the Pentateuch before the people (compare on Deuteronomy 27:3). The terms of this verse cannot be satisfactorily explained as importing only the blessings and curses of Deut. 27–28.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Joshua 8". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.