(1) Achan . . . of the tribe of Judah.—The tribe of Judah is distinguished in sacred history both for great crimes and great achievements. (See Names on the Gates of Pearl.—Judah.)
In the going down—i.e., until they escaped into these ravines.
The whole spoil of Canaan was not so treated; but concerning that of Jericho there had been express orders, possibly because the city was especially defiled with idolatry. God had proclaimed it abomination. It was ahêrem—devoted or accursed—and no Israelite was to appropriate any of it, under penalty of becoming chêrem himself, and making his household chêrem. This Achan had done.
(14) The tribe which the Lord taketh.—There is nothing in the language of the passage, when closely considered, which would lead us to suppose that the discovery of the criminal was by casting lots. The parallel passage—viz., the selection of King Saul from the tribes of Israel (1 Samuel 10:20-21)—shows that the oracle of God was consulted. “They inquired,” and “the Lord answered.” So it was, perhaps, in the case of Achan. We seem to see the High Priest of Israel “asking counsel for Joshua after the judgment of Urim before the Lord,” as it had been foretold in Numbers 27:21; and the elders of Israel standing by, at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. The representatives of the tribes enter the sacred enclosure in succession, and pass before the High Priest, in awful silence, broken only by the voice of Jehovah, who pronounces it intervals the names of Judah, Zarhite, Zabdi, Carmi, Achan. It must have been a terrible ordeal. But all present must have felt that no human partiality, or private animosity, was seeking its victim. The Judge of all the earth was doing judgment. And when the accusation of Jehovah was followed by the explicit confession of the criminal, and this again by the discovery of the stolen spoil of Jericho, which was brought in by the messengers, and “poured out before the Lord,” and when this discovery was followed by the execution of the awful sentence, all who were present must have received a lesson, which it was impossible to forget, as to the reality of the covenant of God. And if, as seems most probable, the voice of the oracle was uttered from the inner sanctuary, from between the cherubim, but “heard even to the outer court, as the voice of the Almighty God, when He speaketh” (Ezekiel 10:5), we learn once more the majesty of the law given to Israel. The arrest of Jordan, the overthrow of Jericho, and the discovery of Achan, are all manifestations of power proceeding from the same source.
I coveted them.—The very word employed, not only in the tenth commandment (Deuteronomy 5:21), but also in Deuteronomy 7:25, the passage which forbids Israel to desire the spoils of idolatry. This coincidence of terms makes it somewhat probable that the whole were found in some idol’s temple, and were part of the spoils of the shrine.
The valley of Achor.—In 1 Chronicles 2:7, Achan himself is designated Achar (one among several examples of the alteration of a name to suit some circumstance of a person’s history. Compare Bathsheba for Bathshua, Shallum for Jehoiachin, Ishbosheth for Eshbaal, &c.). There is a double play upon the names in Hosea 2:15 : “I will give her her vineyards (Carmêha. Compare Carmi, “my vineyard”) from thence, and the valley of trouble (Achor) for a door of hope.” The valley of Achor is a pass leading from Gilgal towards the centre of the country, or, as it might be represented, from Jericho towards Jerusalem—i.e., from the city of destruction to the city of God. So it was to Israel in the conquest. The future state of Achan is in the hands of the Judge who “doeth judgment.” No mercy to his crime on earth was possible. It would have been injustice to all mankind.
Joshua 7:25And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.
Joshua 7:26And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.