and his fame was noised throughout all the country; for his wisdom and courage, for the wonderful things done for him and by him, and the great success that attended him, through the power and presence of God with him; which struck terror into the inhabitants of the land, and made his conquest of it the more easy.
INTRODUCTION TO Joshua 7
For the trespass of Achan the children of Israel were smitten and put to flight by the men of Ai, Joshua 7:1; which gave him and the elders of the people great concern, both for Israel and for the name of the Lord, which was expressed by Joshua in prayer to God, Joshua 7:6; when the Lord informed him of the reason of it, and gave him directions for finding out the guilty person, and for the punishment of him, Joshua 7:10; which directions Joshua followed, and the person was found out, who being urged to a confession made one, Joshua 7:16; upon which he and all he had, with the things he had taken, were burnt with fire, Joshua 7:22.
for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing; of what was devoted to the Lord and to sacred uses; this he had taken to himself out of the spoil of the city of Jericho, for his own use, contrary to the command of God: his descent is particularly described, that it might be known of what family and tribe he was; and it is traced up to Zerah, who was a son of Judah, Genesis 38:30,
and the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel; because of the sin of Achan.
which is beside Bethaven; a name by which Bethel in later times was called, Hosea 4:15; but here it is manifestly a distinct place from it; just hard by or near to this place, as Jarchi and Kimchi interpret it, was the city of Ai: Bethaven seems to have been the suburbs of it, or however was very near unto it:
on the east side of Bethel; near to which Abraham built an altar, as did Jacob also, and which in former times was called Luz, Genesis 12:8; and was well known in later ages by the name of Bethel; it was reckoned about a mile from Ai: the situation of this city is so particularly described to distinguish it from another city of this name, Ai of the Amorites, Jeremiah 49:3; and is here called "that Ai", that well known Ai, as Kimchi observes:
and spake unto them; at the time he sent them, when he gave them their orders to go thither:
saying, go up and view the country; the mountainous part of it; for they were now in a plain, where Jericho was seated; and observe what place was most proper to attack next, and which the best way of coming at it:
and the men went up and viewed Ai; what a sort of a city it was, how large, and what its fortifications, and what avenues were to it: by this it appears that Ai was built upon a hill, or at least was higher than Jericho and its plains; and with this agrees what a traveller says (p) of it, it is a village full of large ruins (in this he differs from Jerom) and from hence are seen the valley of Jericho, the dead sea, Gilgal, and Mount Quarantania, and many other places towards the east.
(l) Shemoth Rabba, sect. 32. fol. 185. 2.((m) In Joshua 20.fol. 34. 1.((n) Travels Of the Patriarchs, &c. p. 95. (o) De loc. Heb. fol. 87. E. (p) Baumgarten. Peregrinatio, l. 3. c. 1. p. 105.
but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; such a number they judged were sufficient to take it:
and make not all the people to labour thither; carrying their tents, bearing their armour, and going up hill:
for they are but few; the inhabitants of Ai, men and women making but twelve thousand; Joshua 8:25.
and they fled before the men of Ai; for upon their appearing at the gate of their city, they came out with all their forces against them, and as soon as they did, the children of Israel durst not face them, but without engaging with them fled at once: God having forsaken them, their courage failed, the dread of their enemies falling on them.
for they chased them from before the gate; the gate of the city of Ai:
even unto Shebarim; not that there was a place of this name before, but it was so called from hence, because there they were broken, as Kimchi observes; and the Targum and Jarchi render it,"until they were broken,''their lines broken, not being able to retreat in order, but were scattered, and fled to their camp as they could: Gussetius (q) thinks it was the; name of a place, but not so called for the above reason, but because there lay broken pieces of the rock scattered about:
and smote them in the going down; the hill from Ai; "Morad", rendered "going down", may taken for the proper name of a place, and which, Kimchi says, was a place before Ai, in which there was a declivity and descent, and in that place they smote them when they fled:
wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water; that is, the whole body of the people, when this little army returned defeated, their spirits failed them, their courage was lost, their nerves were loosed, and they became languid, faint, and feeble; not that their loss was so great, but that they perceived God had forsaken them, and what the issue of this would be they dreaded.
(q) Comment. Ebr. p. 825.
and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord, until the eventide; in a posture of adoration and prayer, in which he continued till even; how long that was cannot be said, since the time is not mentioned when the army returned from Ai; very probably it was some time in the afternoon: this was done before the ark of the Lord, the symbol of the divine Presence, not in the most holy place, where that usually was, and into which Joshua might not enter, but in the tabernacle of the great court, over against where the ark was:
he and the elders of Israel; either the elders of the people in the several tribes, or rather the seventy elders, which were the sanhedrim or council, and which attended Joshua, and assisted him as such:
and put dust upon their heads; another rite or ceremony used in times of mourning and distress, and that very anciently, before Joshua's time and after, see Job 2:12; and among various nations; so when Achilles bewailed the death of Patroclus, he is represented by Homer (s) taking with both his hands the black earth, and pouring it on his head; so Aristippus among the Athenians is said (t) to sprinkle dust on his head in token of mourning on a certain account.
(r) "Tum pius", Aeneas, &c. Virgil. Aeneid. l. 5. prope finem. (s) , &c. Iliad. 18. ver. 23. Vid. Odyss. 24. "Sparsitque cinis", &c. Seneca, Troad. Acts 1. Chorus. (t) Heliodor. Aethiop. l. 1. c. 13.
wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us: who are mentioned either for the whole people of the land of Canaan; or rather, because the people of Israel were now in that part of the country which they inhabited: these words discover much weakness, diffidence, and distrust, and bear some likeness to the murmurs of the children of Israel in the wilderness; but not proceeding from that malignity of spirit theirs did, but from a concern for the good of the people and the glory of God, they are not resented by him:
would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan; in which he seems to cast the blame, not upon the Lord but upon himself and the people, who were not content to dwell on the other side, but were desirous of a larger and better country; and now ruin seemed to be the consequent of that covetous disposition and discontented mind.
when Israel hath turned their backs before their enemies? or after they have done it; what is to be said now, this being the case? he speaks as a man confounded, and at the utmost loss how to account for the power, the providence, and promises of God.
and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it; of this defeat; not only the Amorites, among whom they now were, and the Canaanites before mentioned, but the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, and the Jebusites:
and shall environ us round; come with all their forces from all parts of the land, and surround us, so that there will be no escaping for us:
and cut off our name from the earth; utterly destroy us, that we shall be no more a nation and people, and the name of an Israelite no more be heard of, see Psalm 83:4,
and what wilt thou do unto thy great name? this, though mentioned last, was uppermost in the heart of Joshua, and was reserved by him as his strongest argument with God to appear for them and save them; since his own glory, the glory of his perfections, his wisdom, goodness, power, truth, and faithfulness, was so much concerned in their salvation.
wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? in this manner, so distressed and dejected; or for this thing, as the Targum, for this defeat of the army; something else is to be done besides prayer and supplication.
and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them; not the law given on Mount Sinai, called the covenant, though in general that was now broken, inasmuch as they then promised to hear and obey all that the Lord should say unto them, Exodus 24:7; but it particularly means the command given, Joshua 6:18; that they should take nothing of that which was devoted the Lord, and thereby make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it; and which shows that that was not a command given by Joshua of himself, but what he had from the Lord:
for they have even taken of the accursed thing; somewhat of that which was devoted to sacred uses:
and have also stolen; taken it away, not openly, but by stealth, as being conscious they ought not to have done what they did, and so sinned both against God and their own consciences:
and dissembled also; or "lied" (u); pretended they had not taken any of the accursed thing when they had; and it is probable that the people in general, each of the tribes, families, and houses, were examined by proper officers, whether they had taken any of the spoil, or not, to themselves, and they all denied they had, and he that had taken it among the rest; and perhaps was particularly asked the question, which he answered in the negative:
and they have put it even amongst their own stuff; their household stuff, mixed them with their own goods that they might not be known; or put them "in their own vessels" (w), for their own use and service.
(u) "mentiti sunt", Pagninus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (w) "in vasis suis", Montanus.
but turned their backs before their enemies: had not courage to face them, but fled as soon as they appeared:
because they were accursed; of God for the accursed thing that had been taken, as was threatened would be their case, should they take any of it; Joshua 6:18,
neither will I be with you any more, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you; that is, until they had put to death the person who had taken of the accursed thing, and made himself thereby accursed, and even all the camp of Israel; till this was done, the Lord would not be with them to protect and defend them, and give them success against their enemies.
and say, sanctify yourselves against tomorrow; either by some ceremonial ablutions, or by the performance of moral duties, as prayer, repentance, and good works; or rather, they were to "prepare" themselves, as the Targum and Kimchi interpret it, to get ready against the morrow, and expect to be thoroughly searched, in order to find out the person who had taken the accursed thing:
for thus saith the Lord God of Israel, there is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel; an accursed person, who had taken of what was devoted to the Lord for his own use, and so accursed:
thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you; by putting him to death.
and it shall be, that the tribe which the Lord taketh; how a tribe and so a family or household were taken is differently understood; what some of the Jewish writers say deserves no regard, as the detention of persons by the ark, or of the dulness of the stones in the Urim and Thummim: it seems best to understand the whole affair as done by casting lots (x); so Josephus (y) and Ben Gersom; and they might in this way be said to be taken by the Lord, because the disposition of the lot is by him, Proverbs 16:33; now it is said, that the tribe that should be taken, as Judah was, from what follows:
shall come according to the families thereof; that is, the families in that tribe, meaning the heads of them, as Kimchi well observes; these were to come to the place where the lots were cast:
and the family which the Lord shall take shall come by households; on whatsoever family in the tribe the lot should fall, the heads of households in that family should appear and have lots cast on them: and the household which the Lord shall take shall come man by man; that household that should be taken by lot, the men thereof, the heads of the house, should come each of them and have lots east on them, that the particular man that sinned might be discovered.
(x) Pirke Eliezer, c. 38. Samaritan. Chronic. apud Hottinger. Smegma. Oriental. l. 1. c. 8. p. 505. Jarchi in loc. (y) Antiqu. l. 5. c. 1. sect. 10.
he and all that he hath; the particulars of which are enumerated, Joshua 7:24,
because he hath transgressed the covenant of the Lord; See Gill on Joshua 7:11,
and because he hath wrought folly in Israel; as all sin and every transgression of the law is, and was the cause of Israel's turning their backs on their enemies; which, as Abarbinel says, was folly, and made the people of Israel look foolish, mean, and contemptible: the word has also the signification of a dead carcass, and may possibly have respect, to the thirty six men whose death he was the occasion of, Joshua 7:5, and therefore justly ought to die himself.
and brought Israel by their tribes: before the Lord, at the tabernacle, where he and the high priest and elders attended; each tribe was thither brought by their representatives:
and the tribe of Judah was taken: either his stone in the breastplate of the high priest looked dull, as some say, or rather the lot being cast fell on that tribe.
and he took the family of the Zarhites: which descended from Zerah the son of Judah; that was taken by lot:
and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and cast lots on them:
and Zabdi was taken: that part of the family of the Zarhites which sprung from Zabdi, a son of Zerah.
(z) So R. Sol. Ohel Moed, fol. 94. 2.
and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken; the lot fell upon him, and he was laid hold on, and detained.
give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, by acknowledging his omniscience, justice, power, truth, and faithfulness; as in his promises so in his threatenings:
and make confession unto him; of the sin he had been guilty of; this Joshua might urge, partly for his own good, who might more reasonably expect the forgiveness of his sin: so it is said in the Misnah (a), whoever confesses has a part in the world to come, for so we find concerning Achan, Joshua 7:19; and partly for the glory of God, this being the instance in which he is directed to give it to him; and partly on account of others, particularly the tribe, family, and household to whom he belonged, who after all might not be satisfied thoroughly that he was guilty, unless he had confessed it: according to Maimonides (b), this was but a temporary law on which Achan was put to death; for, he says, our law condemns no man to death on his own confession, nor on the prophecy of a prophet, who says that he committed such a theft; and it was not on his confession, but by the order of God, determining the affair by lot, that he was put to death: the confession Joshua directs to was not what was made to man, but to God, that is, of the evil of it, and as committed against God, though the fact itself was to be owned before man, as follows:
and tell me now what thou hast done, hide it not from me; what were the particular things he had taken; the lot showed he had taken something, but what that was, as yet was unknown, and where it was; and this Joshua desires him he would inform him of and satisfy him about, and without any reserve openly declare the truth.
(a) Sanhedrin, c. 6. sect. 2.((b) Pirush in ib. & Hilchot Sanhedrin, c. 18. sect. 6.
indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel; against him who had been so good to Israel in many instances, and particularly in delivering Jericho into their hands in so extraordinary a manner; against a law of his, respecting the spoil of that city, which sin was the more aggravated thereby; and that he had committed the sin he was taken for and charged with, he owns was a true and real fact:
and thus and thus have I done; such and such things have I taken, and in the manner as follows.
and two hundred shekels of silver; which, if coined money, was near twenty five English pounds:
and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight: or a "tongue of gold" (h); a plate of gold in the shape of a tongue, as Kimchi and Abarbinel; a piece of unwrought gold which weighed fifty shekels, and worth of our money about seventy five pounds, according to Brererwood (i): where he saw these, and from whence he took them, is not said; according to some Jewish writers, these belonged to one of their idols; it is said (k), he saw the Teraphim and the silver they offered before it, and the garment which was spread before it, and the tongue or wedge of gold in its mouth; and he desired them in his heart, and went and took them, and hid them in the midst of his tent: and the Samaritan Chronicle (l) makes him confess that he went into a temple in Jericho and found the above things there: and Masius conjectures that the wedge of gold was a little golden sword, with which the men of Jericho had armed their god, since an ancient poet (m) calls a little sword a little tongue:
then I coveted them, and took them; he is very particular in the account, and gradually proceeds in relating the temptation he was under, and the prevalence of it; it began with his eyes, which were caught with the goodliness of the garments, and the riches he saw; these affected his heart and stirred up covetous desires, which influenced and directed his hands to take them:
and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent; Josephus (n) says, he dug a deep hole or ditch in his tent, and put them there, that is, the Babylonish garment and the wedge of gold; which, as Ben Gersom gathers from Joshua 7:25, was wrapped up and hid within the garment; which is not improbable, since otherwise no account is given of that:
and the silver under it; the two hundred shekels of silver lay under the garment in which was the wedge of gold, and so it lay under them both.
(c) Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 48. (d) In Vita Catonis. (e) Bereshit Rabba, sect. 85. fol. 75. 2.((f) Ut supra. (Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 48.) (g) Bereshit Rabba, ib. (h) "linguam auream", Montanus, Tigurine version, Masius; "lingulam auream", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (i) De Ponder. &. Pret. Vet. Num. c. 5. (k) Pirke Eliezer, ut supra. (c. 38.) (l) Apud Hottinger, ut supra. (Smegm. Oriental. l. 1. c. 8. p. 505.) (m) Naevius apud A. Cell. Noct. Attic. l. 10. c. 25. (n) Ut supra. (Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 48.)
and they ran unto the tent; either for joy that the iniquity was discovered, as Kimchi; or that none of the tribe of Judah or of Achan's family or relations should get there before them, and take them from thence and make void the lot; so Jarchi, Ben Gersom, and Abarbinel; but, no doubt, it is remarked, to show the readiness and diligence of the messengers to obey the order of Joshua:
and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it; as Achan had said.
and brought them to Joshua and to the children of Israel; to Joshua as the chief ruler, and to the elders and heads of the tribes assembled together:
and laid them out before the Lord; or "poured them out" (o); the golden wedge, out of the garment in which it was wrapped, and the two hundred shekels of silver found under it: it seems as if these were poured or laid out separately upon the ground before the tabernacle, where the ark of the Lord was, they belonging to the spoils which were devoted to him; as well as hereby they were plainly seen by the Israelites, that these were the very things which Achan had confessed.
(o) "fundentes", Munster; "fuderunt", Piscator.
and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold; which, though devoted to sacred uses, yet having been converted to another's use, and made his property, was not to be employed in the service of the sanctuary, but to be burnt with him:
and his sons and his daughters; who, according to Ben Gersom, Abarbinel, and Abendana, were not brought forth to be put to death, only to be spectators of the sentence of judgment, and the execution of it, that they might keep themselves from such evil things; though, as Achan may be supposed to be a man in years, being but the fourth generation from Judah; his sons and daughters were grown up in all probability, and might be accessories in this affair; and so, as some Jewish writers remark, were worthy of death, because they saw and knew what was done, and were silent and did not declare it (p); and it seems by what is said, Joshua 22:20; that they died as well as Achan, since it is there said, "that man perished not alone in his iniquity"; though it may be interpreted of his substance, his cattle, perishing with him; and indeed from Joshua 7:25; it seems as if none were stoned but himself, that is, of his family; no mention is made of his wife, who, if he had any, as Kimchi observes, knew nothing of the matter, it being hid from her:
and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep; in which lay his substance, as that of the eastern people generally did:
and his tent, and all that he had; the tent he and his family dwelt in, with all the household goods in it:
and they brought them unto the valley of Achor; so called by anticipation here; for it had its name from the trouble Achan gave to Israel, and with which he was troubled himself: some render it, "they brought them up" (q); and as it is more proper to descend into a valley the to go up to it, it is thought there was a mountain between the camp of Israel and this valley, so Kimchi and Ben Melech; see Hosea 2:15.
(p) Pirke Eliezer, ut supra (c. 38.) Kimchi in loc. (q) "ascendere fecerunt", Pagninus, Montanus, Drusius, Vatablus.
the Lord shall trouble thee this day; by the destruction of him and all that belonged to him: this is said to show that his punishment was of God, and according to his will: in the Misnah (r) an emphasis is laid on the phrase "this day", and it is observed,"this day thou shalt be troubled, but thou shalt not be troubled in the world to come;''suggesting that though temporal punishment was inflicted on him, yet his iniquity was forgiven, and he would be saved with an everlasting, salvation; and as it may be hoped from the ingenuous confession that he made, that he had true repentance for it, and forgiveness of it:
and all Israel stoned him with stones; hence some gather, that only Achan himself suffered death, and not his sons and daughters:
and burnt them with fire after they had stoned them with stones; which the Jewish commentators understand of his oxen, asses, and sheep; so Jarchi, Ben Gersom, and Abarbinel: likewise his tent, and household goods, the Babylonish garment, gold and silver, were burnt, and he himself also, for that is the express order, Joshua 7:15; the Jews say, as particularly Jarchi observes, that he was stoned because he profaned the sabbath, it being on the sabbath day that Jericho was taken, and stoning was the punishment of the sabbath breaker, and he was burnt on the account of the accursed thing; so Abendana.
(r) Sanhedrin ut supra. (Hilchot Sanhedrin, c. 18. sect. 6.)