Joshua 8:17 MEANING

Joshua 8:17
(17) There was not a man left in Ai or Beth-el.--Another singular justification of the peculiar strategy of Joshua. The road past Beth-el to Ai had been left open. It passes the north end of the two ravines in which Joshua's ambush was posted. At the same time, it would have been easy to conceal a chain of sentinels that could observe it and tell the 35,000 men in ambush what was going on, so that if any attempt had been made by the men of Beth-el to protect Ai, it could easily have been frustrated. But no one suspected any danger, and therefore no such attempt was made. The men of Beth-el and Ai took the road that was left open to them and pursued the Israelites, probably down the ancient way past Michmash towards the Shebarim, leaving Beth-el and Ai both unprotected. After they had gone some distance, about a mile or a mile and a half from Ai, this road would bring them past the lower end of the ravine in which the ambush was posted. A second chain of outposts would easily take the signal from Joshua when this point had been passed, and then all was over with the town of Ai.

It is curious that we do not hear of the capture of Beth-el at this time, though it would have been perfectly easy to take it. The king of Beth-el is named in the list of those whom Joshua smote (Joshua 12:16). We read of its capture in Judges 1:22, and of the "entrance into the city" being sought for and betrayed. But that can hardly have been the first capture of the town.

Verse 17. - Or Bethel. These words are not in the LXX., and they may possibly have been a marginal gloss, for the intervention of the people of Bethel in this battle is very unintelligible. See note on Joshua 7:2. On the other hand, it is quite possible that the difficulty involved in their retention may have caused their omission from the LXX., and it may perhaps be thought possible that, on the capture of Ai, the Bethelites returned with all speed to their city, and that Joshua postponed its capture in consequence of the formidable confederacy (Joshua 9:1, 2), which his success had called into existence, or, perhaps, by a desire to signalise at once the victory at Ai by the ceremony (vers. 30-35) at Gerizim. We read in Joshua 12:16 that Bethel was taken. In Judges 1:22 we read that it was not (see note on Joshua 12:16).

8:3-22 Observe Joshua's conduct and prudence. Those that would maintain their spiritual conflicts must not love their ease. Probably he went into the valley alone, to pray to God for a blessing, and he did not seek in vain. He never drew back till the work was done. Those that have stretched out their hands against their spiritual enemies, must never draw them back.And there was not a man left in Ai or Bethel that went not out after Israel,.... For as these two places were very near to each other, but a mile apart, they were in confederacy, and acted together, and could easily be called to the help of each other when required: though there is a difficulty how the men of Bethel could join those of Ai, when the ambush lay between them both, Joshua 8:12; they either went another way, or the ambush purposely let them pass, for fear of a discovery by a skirmish with them, and that Bethel as well as Ai might be cleared of its armed inhabitants, and so fall an easy prey to them as well as Ai: this must be understood only of men of war; for otherwise there were inhabitants left, as old men, and such as were unfit for war, afterwards slain, Joshua 8:24,

and they left the city open: they did not stay to shut the gates, nor left porters or any guards about, to take care of, protect, and defend the city:

and pursued after Israel; with great eagerness and vehemence, not having the least apprehension of their city being in any danger.

Courtesy of Open Bible