The Israelites Defeat Ai
1Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. Take all your fighting men and attack Ai, for I have given you the king of Ai, his people, his town, and his land. 2You will destroy them as you destroyed Jericho and its king. But this time you may keep the plunder and the livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the town.”
3So Joshua and all the fighting men set out to attack Ai. Joshua chose 30,000 of his best warriors and sent them out at night 4with these orders: “Hide in ambush close behind the town and be ready for action. 5When our main army attacks, the men of Ai will come out to fight as they did before, and we will run away from them. 6We will let them chase us until we have drawn them away from the town. For they will say, ‘The Israelites are running away from us as they did before.’ Then, while we are running from them, 7you will jump up from your ambush and take possession of the town, for the Lord your God will give it to you. 8Set the town on fire, as the Lord has commanded. You have your orders.”
9So they left and went to the place of ambush between Bethel and the west side of Ai. But Joshua remained among the people in the camp that night. 10Early the next morning Joshua roused his men and started toward Ai, accompanied by the elders of Israel. 11All the fighting men who were with Joshua marched in front of the town and camped on the north side of Ai, with a valley between them and the town. 12That night Joshua sent 5,000 men to lie in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the town. 13So they stationed the main army north of the town and the ambush west of the town. Joshua himself spent that night in the valley.
14When the king of Ai saw the Israelites across the valley, he and all his army hurried out early in the morning and attacked the Israelites at a place overlooking the Jordan Valley.# Hebrew the Arabah. But he didn’t realize there was an ambush behind the town. 15Joshua and the Israelite army fled toward the wilderness as though they were badly beaten. 16Then all the men in the town were called out to chase after them. In this way, they were lured away from the town. 17There was not a man left in Ai or Bethel# Some manuscripts lack or Bethel. who did not chase after the Israelites, and the town was left wide open.
18Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Point the spear in your hand toward Ai, for I will hand the town over to you.” Joshua did as he was commanded. 19As soon as Joshua gave this signal, all the men in ambush jumped up from their position and poured into the town. They quickly captured it and set it on fire.
20When the men of Ai looked behind them, smoke from the town was filling the sky, and they had nowhere to go. For the Israelites who had fled in the direction of the wilderness now turned on their pursuers. 21When Joshua and all the other Israelites saw that the ambush had succeeded and that smoke was rising from the town, they turned and attacked the men of Ai. 22Meanwhile, the Israelites who were inside the town came out and attacked the enemy from the rear. So the men of Ai were caught in the middle, with Israelite fighters on both sides. Israel attacked them, and not a single person survived or escaped. 23Only the king of Ai was taken alive and brought to Joshua.
24When the Israelite army finished chasing and killing all the men of Ai in the open fields, they went back and finished off everyone inside. 25So the entire population of Ai, including men and women, was wiped out that day—12,000 in all. 26For Joshua kept holding out his spear until everyone who had lived in Ai was completely destroyed.# The Hebrew term used here refers to the complete consecration of things or people to the Lord, either by destroying them or by giving them as an offering. 27Only the livestock and the treasures of the town were not destroyed, for the Israelites kept these as plunder for themselves, as the Lord had commanded Joshua. 28So Joshua burned the town of Ai,# Ai means “ruin.” and it became a permanent mound of ruins, desolate to this very day.
29Joshua impaled the king of Ai on a sharpened pole and left him there until evening. At sunset the Israelites took down the body, as Joshua commanded, and threw it in front of the town gate. They piled a great heap of stones over him that can still be seen today.
The Lord’s Covenant Renewed
30Then Joshua built an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, on Mount Ebal. 31He followed the commands that Moses the Lord’s servant had written in the Book of Instruction: “Make me an altar from stones that are uncut and have not been shaped with iron tools.”# Exod 20:25; Deut 27:5-6. Then on the altar they presented burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord. 32And as the Israelites watched, Joshua copied onto the stones of the altar# Hebrew onto the stones. the instructions Moses had given them.
33Then all the Israelites—foreigners and native-born alike—along with the elders, officers, and judges, were divided into two groups. One group stood in front of Mount Gerizim, the other in front of Mount Ebal. Each group faced the other, and between them stood the Levitical priests carrying the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant. This was all done according to the commands that Moses, the servant of the Lord, had previously given for blessing the people of Israel.
34Joshua then read to them all the blessings and curses Moses had written in the Book of Instruction. 35Every word of every command that Moses had ever given was read to the entire assembly of Israel, including the women and children and the foreigners who lived among them.