The Book of Joshua, ch. 8, with BAC Commentary. The City of Ai is Captured.
[Joshua 8:1] AND THE LORD SAID UNTO JOSHUA, FEAR NOT, NEITHER BE THOU DISMAYED: TAKE ALL THE PEOPLE OF WAR WITH THEE, AND ARISE, GO UP TO AI: SEE, I HAVE GIVEN INTO THY HAND THE KING OF AI, AND HIS PEOPLE, AND HIS CITY, AND HIS LAND:
The Israelites had previously defeated several great and mighty nations that had been considered far more powerful than themselves. Ai was a small city kingdom that at first they had thought to capture with relatively few
men and in a short space of time. They had been wrong. They had been repulsed with losses. Their reputation (that was an important aspect of their military national formidability) had been damaged. They had been nonplussed. They had been in a position that was perhaps somewhat similar to that of the USA after Vietnam. If they did not take Ai quickly and easily there was a danger that from henceforth every little enemy enclave would give the utmost opposition. All their myriad enemies from roundabout that both hated and feared them were liable to unite and come screaming in for the kill.
We can perhaps learn a few things from the described situation:Do not treat any person or minor event with lack of respect.
Do not take success for granted.You need the help of God for the small things as well as the big ones.The God of Israel loves you and wants your success but there are elements out there who are not so inclined. If you lose or lessen the experience of the Almighty in your lives you are liable to be exposed to negative elements.After a setback it is fitting to re-examine your spiritual and moral situation. Nothing is without a cause though we do not always know what the cause or reason is. If necessary: Repent, remove the evil influence or cause of misfortune and resolve to do righteously from henceforth. The odds are that you will receive a second chance and be enabled to go forward even stronger than before. To do good one needs the direction of the God of the Bible.
[Joshua 8:2] AND THOU SHALT DO TO AI AND HER KING AS THOU DIDST UNTO JERICHO AND HER KING: ONLY THE SPOIL THEREOF, AND THE CATTLE THEREOF, SHALL YE TAKE FOR A PREY UNTO YOURSELVES: LAY THEE AN AMBUSH FOR THE CITY BEHIND IT.
<<AND THOU SHALT DO TO AI AND HER KING AS THOU DIDST UNTO JERICHO AND HER KING>>: The God of Israel is merciful. Sometimes true compassion and mercy means one must be ruthless. The sources of evil must be destroyed.
[Joshua 8:3] SO JOSHUA AROSE, AND ALL THE PEOPLE OF WAR, TO GO UP AGAINST AI: AND JOSHUA CHOSE OUT THIRTY THOUSAND MIGHTY MEN OF VALOUR, AND SENT THEM AWAY BY NIGHT.
Here Joshua takes 30,000 men and sets them in ambush. We are going according to the Commentary of Daat Mikra .
[Joshua 8:4] AND HE COMMANDED THEM, SAYING, BEHOLD, YE SHALL LIE IN WAIT AGAINST THE CITY, EVEN BEHIND THE CITY: GO NOT VERY FAR FROM THE CITY, BUT BE YE ALL READY:
<<EVEN BEHIND THE CITY>>: Dat Mikra: to the west of city. The gate of the city was on the east side. West in Hebrew is behind, before is east, Right is south, Left is north. The ancient Celts used the same terms in the same way.
[Joshua 8:5] AND I, AND ALL THE PEOPLE THAT ARE WITH ME, WILL APPROACH UNTO THE CITY: AND IT SHALL COME TO PASS, WHEN THEY COME OUT AGAINST US, AS AT THE FIRST, THAT WE WILL FLEE BEFORE THEM,
[Joshua 8:6] (FOR THEY WILL COME OUT AFTER US) TILL WE HAVE DRAWN THEM FROM THE CITY; FOR THEY WILL SAY, THEY FLEE BEFORE US, AS AT THE FIRST: THEREFORE WE WILL FLEE BEFORE THEM.
[Joshua 8:7] THEN YE SHALL RISE UP FROM THE AMBUSH, AND SEIZE UPON THE CITY: FOR THE LORD YOUR GOD WILL DELIVER IT INTO YOUR HAND.
[Joshua 8:8] AND IT SHALL BE, WHEN YE HAVE TAKEN THE CITY, THAT YE SHALL SET THE CITY ON FIRE: ACCORDING TO THE COMMANDMENT OF THE LORD SHALL YE DO. SEE, I HAVE COMMANDED YOU.
[Joshua 8:9] JOSHUA THEREFORE SENT THEM FORTH: AND THEY WENT TO LIE IN AMBUSH, AND ABODE BETWEEN BETHEL AND AI, ON THE WEST SIDE OF AI: BUT JOSHUA LODGED THAT NIGHT AMONG THE PEOPLE.
[Joshua 8:10] AND JOSHUA ROSE UP EARLY IN THE MORNING, AND NUMBERED THE PEOPLE, AND WENT UP, HE AND THE ELDERS OF ISRAEL, BEFORE THE PEOPLE TO AI.
[Joshua 8:11] AND ALL THE PEOPLE, EVEN THE PEOPLE OF WAR THAT WERE WITH HIM, WENT UP, AND DREW NIGH, AND CAME BEFORE THE CITY, AND PITCHED ON THE NORTH SIDE OF AI: NOW THERE WAS A VALLEY BETWEEN THEM AND AI.
[Joshua 8:12] AND HE TOOK ABOUT FIVE THOUSAND MEN, AND SET THEM TO LIE IN AMBUSH BETWEEN BETHEL AND AI, ON THE WEST SIDE OF THE CITY.
The main camp was to the north of the city. The main ambush of 30,000 men was close to the city on the west side. Here was takes another 5,000 men and puts them in ambush also to the west of the city but further back in the gap between the main camp and the first ambush group.
[Joshua 8:13] AND WHEN THEY HAD SET THE PEOPLE, EVEN ALL THE HOST THAT WAS ON THE NORTH OF THE CITY, AND THEIR LIERS IN WAIT ON THE WEST OF THE CITY, JOSHUA WENT THAT NIGHT INTO THE MIDST OF THE VALLEY.
[Joshua 8:14] AND IT CAME TO PASS, WHEN THE KING OF AI SAW IT, THAT THEY HASTED AND ROSE UP EARLY, AND THE MEN OF THE CITY WENT OUT AGAINST ISRAEL TO BATTLE, HE AND ALL HIS PEOPLE, AT A TIME APPOINTED, BEFORE THE PLAIN; BUT HE WIST NOT THAT THERE WERE LIERS IN AMBUSH AGAINST HIM BEHIND THE CITY.
[Joshua 8:15] AND JOSHUA AND ALL ISRAEL MADE AS IF THEY WERE BEATEN BEFORE THEM, AND FLED BY THE WAY OF THE WILDERNESS.
[Joshua 8:16] AND ALL THE PEOPLE THAT WERE IN AI WERE CALLED TOGETHER TO PURSUE AFTER THEM: AND THEY PURSUED AFTER JOSHUA, AND WERE DRAWN AWAY FROM THE CITY.
[Joshua 8:17] AND THERE WAS NOT A MAN LEFT IN AI OR BETHEL THAT WENT NOT OUT AFTER ISRAEL: AND THEY LEFT THE CITY OPEN, AND PURSUED AFTER ISRAEL.
[Joshua 8:18] AND THE LORD SAID UNTO JOSHUA, STRETCH OUT THE SPEAR THAT IS IN THY HAND TOWARD AI; FOR I WILL GIVE IT INTO THINE HAND. AND JOSHUA STRETCHED OUT THE SPEAR THAT HE HAD IN HIS HAND TOWARD THE CITY.
[Joshua 8:19] AND THE AMBUSH AROSE QUICKLY OUT OF THEIR PLACE, AND THEY RAN AS SOON AS HE HAD STRETCHED OUT HIS HAND: AND THEY ENTERED INTO THE CITY, AND TOOK IT, AND HASTED AND SET THE CITY ON FIRE.
They set fire to the city.
[Joshua 8:20] AND WHEN THE MEN OF AI LOOKED BEHIND THEM, THEY SAW, AND, BEHOLD, THE SMOKE OF THE CITY ASCENDED UP TO HEAVEN, AND THEY HAD NO POWER TO FLEE THIS WAY OR THAT WAY: AND THE PEOPLE THAT FLED TO THE WILDERNESS
TURNED BACK UPON THE PURSUERS.
The false retreat is an old military tactic. The Scythians used it often. The Normans used it to break the Anglo-Saxon ranks at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
[Joshua 8:21] AND WHEN JOSHUA AND ALL ISRAEL SAW THAT THE AMBUSH HAD TAKEN THE CITY, AND THAT THE SMOKE OF THE CITY ASCENDED, THEN THEY TURNED AGAIN, AND SLEW THE MEN OF AI.
[Joshua 8:22] AND THE OTHER ISSUED OUT OF THE CITY AGAINST THEM; SO THEY WERE IN THE MIDST OF ISRAEL, SOME ON THIS SIDE, AND SOME ON THAT SIDE: AND THEY SMOTE THEM, SO THAT THEY LET NONE OF THEM REMAIN OR ESCAPE.
The fleeing Israelites turned around and caught the Canaanites in a pincer movement. The capturers of the city came out of the city and advanced towards the men of Ai from one side; the second ambush came in from the flank adjoining the men coming out of the city. The people of Ai were surroundered.
[Joshua 8:23] AND THE KING OF AI THEY TOOK ALIVE, AND BROUGHT HIM TO JOSHUA.
[Joshua 8:24] AND IT CAME TO PASS, WHEN ISRAEL HAD MADE AN END OF SLAYING ALL THE INHABITANTS OF AI IN THE FIELD, IN THE WILDERNESS WHEREIN THEY CHASED THEM, AND WHEN THEY WERE ALL FALLEN ON THE EDGE OF THE SWORD, UNTIL THEY WERE CONSUMED, THAT ALL THE ISRAELITES RETURNED UNTO AI, AND SMOTE IT WITH THE EDGE OF THE SWORD.
[Joshua 8:25] AND SO IT WAS, THAT ALL THAT FELL THAT DAY, BOTH OF MEN AND WOMEN, WERE TWELVE THOUSAND, EVEN ALL THE MEN OF AI.
[Joshua 8:26] FOR JOSHUA DREW NOT HIS HAND BACK, WHEREWITH HE STRETCHED OUT THE SPEAR, UNTIL HE HAD UTTERLY DESTROYED ALL THE INHABITANTS OF AI.
[Joshua 8:27] ONLY THE CATTLE AND THE SPOIL OF THAT CITY ISRAEL TOOK FOR A PREY UNTO THEMSELVES, ACCORDING UNTO THE WORD OF THE LORD WHICH HE COMMANDED JOSHUA.
Their initial defeats had come upon the Israelites because they took spoil from Jericho that was forbidden to them. After having punished the guilty party for taking the spoil and purified the people they once again attacked Ai. We can perhaps learn a few things from the above:When attempting to do something that is necessary and good and not succeeding we may need to correct something within us and then make another attempt. God does not want us to quit.The trouble had come upon them because they had not lived up to the standards set for them. After purifying them God commanded them to try again and this time HE did not forbid them to take spoil from the city. It is as if God Himself was leaning from a mistake [God does not make mistakes but we are explaining things in human terminology] and this time did not set them a standard beyond their capabilities, i.e. aim high and if you do not succeed aim lower but keep striving to go forward.
[Joshua 8:28] AND JOSHUA BURNT AI, AND MADE IT AN HEAP FOR EVER, EVEN DESOLATION UNTO THIS DAY.
[Joshua 8:29] AND THE KING OF AI HE HANGED ON A TREE UNTIL EVENTIDE: AND AS SOON AS THE SUN WAS DOWN, JOSHUA COMMANDED THAT THEY SHOULD TAKE HIS CARCASE DOWN FROM THE TREE, AND CAST IT AT THE ENTERING OF THE GATE OF THE CITY, AND RAISE THEREON A GREAT HEAP OF STONES, THAT REMAINETH UNTO THIS DAY.
[Joshua 8:30] THEN JOSHUA BUILT AN ALTAR UNTO THE LORD GOD OF ISRAEL IN MOUNT EBAL,
[Joshua 8:31] AS MOSES THE SERVANT OF THE LORD COMMANDED THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, AS IT IS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW OF MOSES, AN ALTAR OF WHOLE STONES, OVER WHICH NO MAN HATH LIFT UP ANY IRON: AND THEY OFFERED THEREON BURNT OFFERINGS UNTO THE LORD, AND SACRIFICED PEACE OFFERINGS.
[Joshua 8:32] AND HE WROTE THERE UPON THE STONES A COPY OF THE LAW OF MOSES, WHICH HE WROTE IN THE PRESENCE OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL.
See the extract from Joseph given below.
[Joshua 8:33] AND ALL ISRAEL, AND THEIR ELDERS, AND OFFICERS, AND THEIR JUDGES, STOOD ON THIS SIDE THE ARK AND ON THAT SIDE BEFORE THE PRIESTS THE LEVITES, WHICH BARE THE ARK OF THE COVENANT OF THE LORD, AS WELL THE STRANGER, AS HE THAT WAS BORN AMONG THEM; HALF OF THEM OVER AGAINST MOUNT GERIZIM, AND HALF OF THEM OVER AGAINST MOUNT EBAL; AS MOSES THE SERVANT OF THE LORD HAD COMMANDED BEFORE, THAT THEY SHOULD BLESS THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL.
[Joshua 8:34] AND AFTERWARD HE READ ALL THE WORDS OF THE LAW, THE BLESSINGS AND CURSINGS, ACCORDING TO ALL THAT IS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW.
[Joshua 8:35] THERE WAS NOT A WORD OF ALL THAT MOSES COMMANDED, WHICH JOSHUA READ NOT BEFORE ALL THE CONGREGATION OF ISRAEL, WITH THE WOMEN, AND THE LITTLE ONES, AND THE STRANGERS THAT WERE CONVERSANT AMONG THEM.
Adapted from Joseph :
When the Children of Israel entered the Land of Israel after coming out of
Egypt they crossed the Jordah River, conquered the cities of Jericho and Ai
and then came to Mount Ebal overlooking the city of Schechem. Joshua then
set up an altar and wrote the Law of Moses on stones for all to read. The
archaeologist, Adam Zertal discovered what he considers to be the altar
constructed by Joshua (Joshua 8;30) in Mount Ebal by the city of Schechem
in the center of Israel. In ancient times this city was in the territory of
Menasseh. Zertal has also conducted an intensive study of the area of
Menasseh west of the Jordan in Biblical times. Zertal's findings are
discussed in his work, Am Nolad. Mizbeach Har Eival Vereishit Yisrael
(Hebrew): A People is Born. The Altar at Mount Eibal and the Beginnings of
Israel by Adam Zertal, Tel Aviv, 2000.
The altar of Joshua that was discovered on Mount Ebal had the same
dimensions as the altar in the Temple at Jerusalem. It comprised a
framework of uncut Cyclopedian ( giant ) stones. These are considered
characteristic of the Israelites. The unhewn stone framework had been
filled up with ashes and earth. The ashes were those of clean animals
according to the requirements of the Law. The Israelites had been commanded
to make an altar of earth (Exodus 20;24). They had also been commanded to
make an altar of unhewn stones. A framework of unhewn stones with an
earthen filling fulfilled both requirements. Before the altar had been
erected a preparatory ceremony of sacrifices over a mound of earth had
taken place. The altar was surrounded by a large paved courtyard and
storage arrangements. Everything was designed so that the Laws of ritual
purity could be maintained. The whole complex was on a raised mound encased
by a kind of containing wall. It was located in a kind of natural
amphitheater that could contain tens of thousands of participants with the
attention of all there directed to the altar s location. In the commandment
of Moses (above) the Israelites were told to write the Torah on plaster and
very thick pieces of plaster have been found on the site. This use of
plaster though known in the ancient world appears to have been rare in that
period. Similar plaster however was also recorded at Dir Ala (the Biblical
Succoth) in Jordan.
The altar complex on Mount Ebal had been deliberately buried. Zertal
suggests that the Israelites had done the burying before moving onwards in
order apparently to protect the sanctity of the complex (for more details
see Chapter Five in Joseph ).