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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 7

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-26

Chapter 7

Now in chapter seven we read that,

The children of Israel committed a trespass against the Lord in the [holy thing, or in the] accursed thing: [rather] for Achan took of the accursed thing: [That is he took some of the spoil that they said was to go only to God, and he took it for himself.] and God's anger was kindled against the children of Israel ( Joshua 7:1 ).

So Moses sent some men up to look over Bethel and Ai. Now Jordan is down in the plains. Jericho is down in the plains of Jordan. It's quite a climb up the valley from Jericho to Bethel, and Ai. Actually when you're in Jericho you're about twelve hundred feet below sea level. When you get up to Bethel, you're about twenty-eight hundred feet above sea level. There is this valley that goes up, a very beautiful valley, that goes up from Jericho up to Bethel. It was the natural route. So the men went up and they looked and Ai, and they came back to Joshua. They said, "Joshua there's no need of sending the whole army, just give us two or three thousand men, and we'll take Ai."

So Joshua sent a regiment up to take the men of Ai. The men of Ai came out against them and they began to flee, and the men of Ai pursued them and thirty-six of them were slain. They came running back to camp. Joshua fell on his face before the Lord, down in verse seven, and he prayed, tore his clothes, fell to the earth on his face.

And Joshua said, Alas, [That's a term that means, "we've had it", kind of a thing, "Alas",] O Lord, why have you 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 we had stayed on the other side of Jordan. O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turns their backs before their enemies. When the Canaanites hear of this, they shall encircle us, and cut off our name from the earth: and what will you do to your great name? And the Lord said to Joshua, Stand up, why are you lying on your face ( Joshua 7:7-10 )?

I like this. It's like when Moses was lying on his face when they had found themselves trapped between Pihahiroth and Zephon, and the Red sea in front of them, and the Egyptian army had cut off their retreat route. Moses cried out unto the Lord, "We're trapped." The Lord said, "Wherefore thou criest unto me?" "Well who else am I gonna cry to? You're the one that led me down here." The Lord said, "Stretch forth your hand." In other words, "Hey, now's not the time to pray, time to move." There comes a time to move, and there's a time to pray. True. But then there's a time to get up and start moving. "And Moses, this isn't the time to pray, this is the time to move."

Now with Joshua, here he is laying out the whole lament. "Lord, what are You doing to us? What are we gonna do turning our backs to the enemies? Boy, when this word gets around, they're all gonna come down, we're gonna get wiped out. We'd have been better off if we'd stayed on the other side. Lord, what are You doing?" The Lord said, "Stand up. Why are you crying unto me?" Then the Lord revealed to him that there was sin in the camp.

They have transgressed God's covenant for they have taken unto themselves of the treasure from Jericho ( Joshua 7:11 ).

Now as we make a spiritual analogy here, and I think it is important that we do it. You see spiritually now we are entering into a new dimension of relationship with God, the life and the walk of the Spirit. Now God hasn't promised that it's gonna be all victory. There are battles. There are giants in the land. Your flesh has been deeply entrenched for a long, long time.

Now they conquered over the first obstacle because they followed the instructions of the Lord implicitly. But having gained the first victory, a danger arose, that was this business of self-confidence. "Lord we don't need Your help with Ai. We now know what the process of victory is. We're flushed with victory. God has just delivered this strong city into our hands. Ai, it isn't nearly as big as Jericho. If we can conquer Jericho then Ai will be nothing. Lord, we don't need You on this one. We can handle this one on our own. Joshua don't send the whole army, just a couple thousand of us. We'll go up and take that thing for you."

How many times, when God has given us a victory over some major issue of our flesh, we get flushed with victory? And with a feeling of confidence, and we think, "Oh my, I've got it, I've arrived. I don't need help anymore. I can handle this little area. This is nothing, Lord, you know. I'll be able to manage this one, no problem God." I go out on my own without first seeking God. God says, "Stand up. Why are you crying unto Me?" Had he prayed first, he wouldn't have been in the predicament he was in.

Now that is often true of our lives. If we had only prayed beforehand, we would have never been in the mess. So many times we are crying unto the Lord saying, "Lord, why?" He says, "Hey, why are you crying unto Me? Where were you before you started the thing? I didn't tell you to go there. I didn't command you to get into that mess. I'm not the one that directed you there. You went there on your own." Self-confidence, I think, "Lord, I can manage this. I can handle this. I don't need Your help." Man, that's when the enemy always just gives me a real trumping. Beware of that kind of self-confidence, and know that you can't conquer the least of the areas of your flesh without divine guidance and help. Sorry about that, but you're just as weak as I am when it comes to dealing with the flesh. We've got to have the help of the Lord in every area of our lives if we are going to know victory over the flesh.

Now the reason why that is so is because God doesn't want you to become a proud fool, and to go around boasting of how you conquered over your appetite. Or you conquered over this, or that, or the other, and start laying heavy trips on us, and becoming sort of pharisaical against us, saying, "Well, I used to have that problem too, but I just did this, and that and the other, and anybody can do it if they really set their mind to it, you know." That kind of bologna, and you start putting down everybody else like "If you were only as good as I am, then you could make it." So God lets us realize how hopelessly and helplessly we are lost without His help. So that when the victory comes, all I can say is, "Oh thank You, Lord. You did it."

I tried everything, everything to get rid of my temper. You don't know how hard I tried. I hated it. I hated myself whenever I would lose my temper. But one day God took it away. For a long time I was trying to control my temper because that's what my mother told me. "Son, control yourself." I tried, and there were times when I was relatively successful, building up a real head of steam inside, but keeping it capped. But then sometimes that cap didn't work, and then when I blew, I really blew because there was so much pressure inside at that point, that you know, then you really go wild. You just tear everything up. Then you feel miserable and horrible. "Oh no. Why did I do that?" Just going through the whole thing.

One day God took it away. It was no longer a process of controlling my temper. I didn't have a temper. I didn't realize that He had taken it away for several years. One day something happened that would've really triggered me with a tremendous outburst, and there was no outburst. There was no steam, there was no anger, and I realized God had taken that vile, horrible temper away. "Oh praise the Lord."

So I don't have any little formulas of success, on how to control your temper. I tried them all and they didn't work. But I have discovered that what I couldn't do for myself, the Lord was able to do for me when I came to the end of myself. When I despaired of myself, when I knew that I couldn't do it, and I cried out in desperation, "God help me. I can't do it."

Now so often we think that, "Oh, that's the end of the road when I have to call upon God when I can't do it". Oh how tragic that you would get to that point. No. How blessed, because that final cry of despair is often the prelude for the first cry of victory. When God brings you to the absolute end and despairing of yourself, and you know that there is no way you can do it and you give up. Then is when God has the opportunity to step in and begin His work, because He's taking you one point beyond yourself. That's always a great point to be. "God it can't be done unless You do it." So that then when He goes ahead and does it, I then don't play the fool and take the glory as though I did it.

Now God wants the glory for the victories in your life. God gave them a glorious victory at Jericho. They thought, "We got it made. Don't send the whole army, we'll just go up." They got whipped, came running back to Joshua. God said, "Don't cry unto Me there's sin in the camp. If everything was all right within the camp, you would've had the victory. But there's sin in the camp." They had taken of the accursed thing. So they called off the tribes, had the tribes come by, and God chose the tribe of Judah. They had the families of Judah come by, and God chose this particular family out of the tribes of Judah. Then God had the families to pass by, and God then picked out from the family, this fellow by the name of Achan from the family of the Zarhites.

and Zabdi was taken: And he brought out 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 ( Joshua 7:17-18 ).

Now if you were Achan, how would you feel if all the tribes passed by, and then they say, "The tribe of Judah", you think, "Oh, I wonder." Then they have all the families of Judah pass by, and they choose this family, the Zarhites. You think, "Uh oh getting closer." Then they have all the families of the Zarhites pass by, and they choose then your own household. Then it comes right down to you.

And Joshua said to Achan, My son, [I love the way that Joshua deals with him in tenderness, course he dealt pretty firmly in a little bit, but gives him a chance to repent at least, "And Joshua said unto Achan, My son,"] give, I pray thee, glory to Jehovah the God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what have you done; don't try to hide it from me. And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and I've done this: And when I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, I coveted them, and I took them; behold, they are hid in the earth in the middle of my tent, the silver is under it. So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it. And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and all the children of Israel, and they laid them out before the Lord ( Joshua 7:19-23 ).

So Achan was guilty of stealing, this belonged to God. It was to be given to the Lord all of the spoil of Jericho. But this man coveted, he saw this beautiful Babylonish garment. He saw this silver and gold, and he coveted these things, and took them and hid them in his tent figuring no one would know, no one would see. But his sin was costly, it cost the lives of thirty-two, thirty-six of the men of Israel, who fell before the men of Ai.

Lot of times a person thinks that he, that his sin only bothers me. "My sin it may hurt me, but it only hurts me", kind of bit. No sir. Your sin has a bad effect on others. So Achan and his family were brought forth, and Achan was stoned for his sin.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Joshua 7". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/joshua-7.html. 2014.
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