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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Joshua 7

Verses 1-5

Joshua - Chapter 7

Achan and Disaster, vs. 1-5

Back in Joshua 6:17 Joshua had strictly warned the Israelite soldiers not to take any of the spoil of Jericho, for it was devoted to the Lord, and to take it was to take of the accursed and to bring a curse on the camp of Israel. Nevertheless, a man of the tribe of Judah, Achan, took of that which was forbidden and brought the Lord’s wrath on Israel. There seems always to be someone who is willing to try the Lord’s word in a negative manner, (Galatians 6:7-8).

The next town in the path of conquest was Ai, in the central mountains north of Jerusalem, near to Bethaven and east of Bethel, well­ known from the times of the patriarchs. As he had done with Jericho, Joshua sent spies to Ai, who came back with the report of the insignificance of the place. It would not require the use of the entire army, they said, only two or three thousand being thought sufficient for the job. Joshua’s decision here was the first of three serious mistakes he would make in the conquest and division of Canaan. There is no intimation that the Lord was consulted. The Lord would surely have enlightened Joshua concerning Achan’s trespass had he sought His will in going against Ai. Consequently the advice of the spies was taken, and the men of Ai subjected the Israelites to a humiliating defeat. Thirty ­six Israelites were slain, and the remainder were chased all the way to Shebarim, thought to be stone quarries on the slope down to the Jordan valley. It is said that the hearts of the Israelites melted, meaning that they were terribly frightened and despairing, like their enemies had been previously.

Verses 6-9

Joshua Distraught, vs. 6-9

When Joshua learned of what had occurred at Ai he gathered all the elders of Israel, and they went before the ark of the Lord, tearing their garments and heaping dust on their heads.

It was a humiliating and shameful event, and Joshua does not seem to have yet grasped the problem. He seems to accuse and blame the Lord. Why did He perform the mighty miracle of bringing them over the Jordan?

Was it to deliver them to little Ai and the rest of the Canaanites? It seemed to Joshua it would have been better had all the tribes chosen to remain on the east side of the Jordan.

Then he asks a pertinent question, which he, himself, should have answered, "What shall I say when Israel turns her back on her enemies?" Why, Joshua, you should say, "Something is wrong between Israel and her God, and I must go to the Lord and find out what it is."

It was not God’s fault, but the fault of Israel. Joshua rightly concluded that with such inability of Israel to stand before her enemies word would rapidly spread, and the tribes of Canaan would gather around them and destroy Israel. And when this occurred the great name of the Lord God would be defamed, for His people would have been unable to withstand their enemies.

Verses 10-15

Joshua Rebuked, vs. 10-15

Why did the Lord rebuke Joshua? He should get up out of the dust and consider why this defeat has come to Israel instead of lying on his face complaining to the Lord.

In short, the Lord told Joshua the problem, Israel had sinned. When the Lord charges Israel with transgressing His covenant it is not merely the infraction against the ban of Jericho, for in violating that they had broken the covenant made at Sinai.

Achan had broken the third commandment by despising the Lord’s name, the eighth by his theft, the tenth by coveting. How many others knew of Achan’s sin? His family knew.

Perhaps the thirty-six casualties at Ai knew. Anyway, the sin of one man brought trouble for the entire camp of Israel, by causing them to lose their confidence in the Lord and to turn their backs in defeat. Nor would the Lord be with them again until the situation was corrected, (Luke 13:3; Luke 13:5; 1 John 1:8-9).

The Lord proceeded to show Joshua how to correct it. The Israelites should sanctify themselves for the Lord’s judgment on the morrow.

In a very revealing manner the Lord would point out the guilty party. First the guilty tribe would be taken, then the guilty family within the tribe, then the guilty household within the family, and finally the guilty man of the household.

The guilty one was to be burned in the fire for his transgression and the folly he had brought to Israel.

Verses 16-26

The Guilty Revealed and punished, vs. 16-26

Early the next morning Joshua began the grim selection of the guilty man. The tribe of Judah was taken, the family of Zerah was taken, the house of Zabdi was taken, and finally guilty Achan was singled out. Joshua asked him for a confession, and Achan acknowledged that his covetousness had led him to take a fine garment, 200 shekels of silver, and a fine golden wedge worth fifty shekels.

He had buried them in his tent and covered them over. Achan confessed, "I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel," but he received no mercy. God had given him opportunity.

The day before Achan heard the announcement from Joshua as to how the Lord would find him out and of the dread penalty of death and burning. In the process of taking tribe, family, household until it was narrowed down to Achan the guilty man never confessed until it was too late for mercy.

The trespass articles were taken out of Achan’s tent, and Israel proceeded to the terrible execution pronounced by the Lord. Achan, all his family, his cattle and beasts, everything he had was brought to the valley of Achor.

The living were stoned to death , then burned to ashes. As Achan was battered to death, Joshua asked, "Why hast thou troubled us? The Lord will trouble you!" Here is seen the terrible consequences of sin as its vengeance destroys the guilty man’s family and house as well, for they were privy to his sin, (Acts 16:31).

A great heap of stones was erected over the ashes of Achan and his family there in the valley of Achor, which in Hebrew means "the valley of trouble." This, Israel’s second stone memorial, taught them that men who defy God and flout His command must suffer judgment, (Hebrews 10:26-27).

Learn from this chapter 1) the Lord should be consulted before every great undertaking; 2) all of God’s people should be engaged in his battles; 3) when things go wrong, there should be no self-pity, but a sincere searching for the cause and confession of error; 4) men’s sins will always be found out, and all will confess, though for a great many it will be too late for mercy; 5) one sinner in the congregation brings trouble on all the camp.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Joshua 7". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/joshua-7.html. 1985.