The Book Of Joshua


Destruction of the City of Ai : Joshua 7:1-8:35

The episode of Ai unfolds in three steps. First, we find a brief description of Israel’s defeat at Ai in 7:1-5. In this story, spies wrongly advised Joshua that Ai would be an easy victory. So, he only sent some of his army to attack. We also learn that a man named Achan had secretly kept some plunder from Jericho, rather than devoting it to God. So, under God’s judgment, some thirty-six Israelites were killed at Ai and the rest were routed. 

In the second step, in 7:6-26, we read of Israel’s repentance. Joshua lamented to God, and God revealed the reason for Israel’s defeat. According to 7:11, Achan’s sin was so egregious that God announced, “Israel has … transgressed my covenant.” God gave instructions for finding Achan. And when Achan confessed his sin, he, his family and all that he had were “devoted to destruction,” just as God had commanded. The same destruction that was ordered for the Canaanites because of their terrible sins was also carried out on this Israelite family. 

The third step, in 8:1-29, shows the result of Israel’s repentance: Israel’s victory over Ai. We find a familiar pattern. God instructed Joshua to set up an ambush. Joshua commanded the people accordingly. The people obeyed. And as the battle ensued, God gave Israel victory through supernatural intervention. 

After the successes at Jericho and Ai, the account of Israel’s victories over two cities closes with covenant renewal in 8:30-35. In obedience to Moses’ command in Deuteronomy 11:29, Israel celebrated the completion of the first segment of the conquest by travelling to the heart of the Promised Land, to Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. All of Moses’ law was read, and the entire nation renewed their commitment to obey God’s covenant.