1.But the children of Israel committed, etc Reference is made to the crime, and indeed the secret crime, of one individual, whose guilt is transferred to the whole people; and not only so, but punishment is at the same time executed against several who were innocent. But it seems very unaccountable that a whole people should be condemned for a private and hidden crime of which they had no knowledge. I answer, that it is not new for the sin of one member to be visited on the whole body. Should we be unable to discover the reason, it ought to be more than enough for us that transgression is imputed to the children of Israel, while the guilt is confined to one individual. But as it very often happens that those who are not wicked foster the sins of their brethren by conniving at them, a part of the blame is justly laid upon all those who by disguising become implicated in it as partners. For this reason Paul, (1Co_5:4) upbraids all the Corinthians with the private enormity of one individual, and inveighs against their pride in presuming to glory while such a stigma attached to them. But here it is easy to object that all were ignorant of the theft, and that therefore there is no room for the maxim, that he who allows a crime to be committed when he can prevent it is its perpetrator. I certainly admit it not to be clear why a private crime is imputed to the whole people, unless it be that they had not previously been sufficiently careful to punish misdeeds, and that possibly owing to this, the person actually guilty in the present instance had sinned with greater boldness. It is well known that weeds creep in stealthily, grow apace and produce noxious fruits, if not speedily torn up. The reason, however, why God charges a whole people with a secret theft is deeper and more abstruse. He wished by an extraordinary manifestation to remind posterity that they might all be criminated by the act of an individual, and thus induce them to give more diligent heed to the prevention of crimes.
Nothing, therefore, is better than to keep our minds in suspense until the books are opened, when the divine judgments which are now obscured by our darkness will be made perfectly clear. Let it suffice us that the whole people were infected by a private stain; for so it has been declared by the Supreme Judge, before whom it becomes us to stand dumb, as having one day to appear at his tribunal. The stock from which Achan was descended is narrated for the sake of increasing, and, as it were, propagating the ignominy; just as if it were said, that he was the disgrace of his family and all his race. For the writer of the history goes up as far as the tribe of Judah. By this we are taught that when any one connected with us behaves himself basely and wickedly, a stigma is in a manner impressed upon us in his person that we may be humbled — not that it can be just to insult over all the kindred of a wicked man, but first, that all kindred may be more careful in applying mutual correction to each other, and secondly, that they may be led to recognize that either their connivance or their own faults are punished.
A greater occasion of scandal, fitted to produce general alarm, was offered by the fact of the crime having been detected in the tribe of Judah, which was the flower and glory of the whole nation. It was certainly owing to the admirable counsel of God, that a pre-eminence which fostered the hope of future dominion resided in that tribe. But when near the very outset this honor was foully stained by the act of an individual, the circumstance might have occasioned no small disturbance to weak minds. The severe punishment, however, wiped away the scandal which might otherwise have existed; and hence we gather that when occasion has been given to the wicked to blaspheme, the Church has no fitter means of removing the opprobrium than that of visiting offences with exemplary punishment.
The children of Israel committed a trespass – It is certain that one only was guilty; and yet the trespass is imputed here to the whole congregation; and the whole congregation soon suffered shame and disgrace on the account, as their armies were defeated, thirty-six persons slain, and general terror spread through the whole camp. Being one body, God attributes the crime of the individual to the whole till the trespass was discovered, and by a public act of justice inflicted on the culprit the congregation had purged itself of the iniquity. This was done to render every man extremely cautious, and to make the people watchful over each other, that sin might be no where tolerated or connived at, as one transgression might bring down the wrath of God upon the whole camp. See on Jos_7:12 (note).
The accursed thing – A portion of the spoils of the city of Jericho, the whole of which God had commanded to be destroyed.
For Achan, the son of Carmi, etc. – Judah had two sons by Tamar: Pharez and Zarah. Zarah was father of Zabdi, and Zabdi of Carmi, the father of Achan. These five persons extend through a period of 265 years; and hence Calmet concludes that they could not have had children before they were fifty or fifty-five years of age. This Achan, son of Zabdi, is called, in 1Ch_2:6, Achar, son of Zimrie; but this reading is corrected into Achan by some MSS. in the place above cited.
Keil and Delitzsch
At Jericho the Lord had made known to the Canaanites His great and holy name; but before Ai the Israelites were to learn that He would also sanctify Himself on them if they transgressed His covenant, and that the congregation of the Lord could only conquer the power of the world so long as it was faithful to His covenant. But notwithstanding the command which Joshua had enforced upon the people (Jos_6:18), Achan, a member of the tribe of Judah, laid hands upon the property in Jericho which had been banned, and thus brought the ban upon the children of Israel, the whole nation. His breach of trust is described as unfaithfulness (a trespass) on the part of the children of Israel in the ban, in consequence of which the anger of the Lord was kindled against the whole nation. מַעַל מָעַל, to commit a breach of trust (see at Lev_5:15), generally against Jehovah, by purloining or withholding what was sanctified to Him, here in the matter of the ban, by appropriating what had been banned to the Lord. This crime was imputed to the whole people, not as imputatio moralis, i.e., as though the whole nation had shared in Achan’s disposition, and cherished in their hearts the same sinful desire which Achan had carried out in action in the theft he had committed; but as imputatio civilis, according to which Achan, a member of the nation, had robbed the whole nation of the purity and holiness which it ought to possess before God, through the sin that he had committed, just as the whole body is affected by the sin of a single member.
(Note: In support of this I cannot do better than quote the most important of the remarks which I made in my former commentary (Keil on Joshua, pp. 177-8, Eng. trans.): “However truly the whole Scriptures speak of each man as individually an object of divine mercy and justice, they teach just as truly that a nation is one organic whole, in which the individuals are merely members of the same body, and are not atoms isolated from one another and the whole, since the state as a divine institution is founded upon family relationship, and intended to promote the love of all to one another and to the invisible Head of all. As all then are combined in a fellowship established by God, the good or evil deeds of an individual affect injuriously or beneficially the welfare of the whole society. And, therefore, when we regard the state as a divine organization and not merely as a civil institution, a compact into which men have entered by treaty, we fail to discover caprice and injustice in consequences which necessarily follow from the moral unity of the whole state; namely, that the good or evil deeds of one member are laid to the charge of the entire body. Caprice and injustice we shall always find if we leave out of sight this fundamental unity, and merely look at the fact that the many share the consequences of the sin of one.”)
Instead of Achan (the reading here and in Jos_22:20) we find Achar in 1Ch_2:7, the liquids n and r being interchanged to allow of a play upon the verb עָכַר in Jos_7:25. Hence in Josephus the name is spelt Acharos, and in the Cod. Vat. of the lxx Achar, whereas the Cod. Al. has Achan. Instead of Zabdi, we find Zimri in 1Ch_2:6, evidently a copyist’s error. Zerah was the twin-brother of Pharez (Gen_38:29-30). Matteh, from נָטָה, to spread out, is used to denote the tribe according to its genealogical ramifications; whilst shebet (from an Arabic root signifying “uniform, not curled, but drawn out straight and long with any curvature at all”) was applied to the sceptre or straight staff of a magistrate or ruler (never to the stick upon which a person rested), and different from matteh not only in its primary and literal meaning, but also in the derivative meaning tribe, in which it was used to designate the division of the nation referred to, not according to its genealogical ramifications and development, but as a corporate body possessing authority and power. This difference in the ideas expressed by the two words will explain the variations in their use: for example, matteh is used here (in Jos_7:1 and Jos_7:18), and in Jos_22:1-14, and in fact is the term usually employed in the geographical sections; whereas shebet is used in Jos_7:14, Jos_7:16, in Jos_3:12; Jos_4:2, and on many other occasions, in those portions of the historical narratives in which the tribes of Israel are introduced as military powers.
THE DEFEAT BEFORE AI
Committed a trespass in the accursed thing. The word lm, here used, signifies originally to cover, whence lyim a garment. Hence it comes to mean to act deceitfully, or perhaps to steal (cf. the LXX enosfisanto , a translation rendered remarkable by the fact that it is the very word used by St. Luke in regard to the transgression of Ananias and Sapphira. But the LXX is hare rather a paraphrase than a translation). It is clearly used here of some secret act. But in Lev_5:15 it is used of an unwitting trespass, committed hggvBi, in error of fact, but not of intention. Achan. Called Achar in 1Ch_2:7, no doubt from a reference to the results of his conduct. He had “troubled Israel” (rk), ver. 25, and the valley which witnessed his punishment obtained the name of Achor. The copies of the LXX vary between the two forms, the Vatican Codex having Achar; the Alexandrian, Achan. Zabdi. Zimri in 1Ch_2:6. Such variations of reading are extremely common, and are increased in our version by the varieties of English spelling adopted among our translators. (see Shemuel for Samuel in 1Ch_6:33) The LXX has Zambri here. Took of the accursed thing. Commentators have largely discussed the question how the sin of Achan could be held to extend to the whole people. But it seems sufficient to reply by pointing out the organic unity of the Israelitish nation. They were then, as Christians are now, the Church of the living God. And if one single member of the community violated the laws which God imposed on them, the whole body was liable for his sin, until it had purged itself by a public act of restitution. (see Deu_21:1-8) So St. Paul regards the Corinthian Church as polluted by the presence of one single offender, until he was publicly expelled from its communion. (see 1Co_5:2, 1Co_5:6, 1Co_5:7) The very words “body politic” applied to a state imply the same idea that of a connection so intimate between the members of a community that the act of one affects the whole. And if this be admitted to be the case in ordinary societies, how much more so in the people of God, who were under His special protection, and had been specially set apart to His service? In the history of Achan, moreover, we read the history of secret sin, which, though unseen by any earthly eye, does nevertheless pollute the offender, and through him the Church of God, by lowering his general standard of thought and action, enfeebling his moral sense, checking the growth of his inner and devotional life, until, by a resolute act of repentance and restitution towards God, the sin is finally acknowledged and put away. “A lewd man is a pernicious creature. That he damns his own soul is the least part of his mischiefs; he commonly draws vengeance upon a thousand, either by the desert of his sin, or by the infection” (Bp. Hall).
THE TAKING OF AI
After the fall of Jericho, the next city on the path of conquest was Ai. This was a very small city. Its remains have not even been located with certainty by modern archaeologists. The city of Ai is always found in the Hebrew with the definite article, “the heap” or “the ruin.” Jos_7:2 indicates that Ai was “east of Bethel.”
The modern site of Et Tell is generally thought to be the location of the ancient city of Ai (it is within a mile and a half of Bethel). The following digs have been held at the site. a. John Garstang (1928). b. Judith Marqet-Krause (1933-35). c. Joseph A. Callaway (1964). There was a pre-urban occupation of the site as early as 3200-3000 B.C. This was followed by a prosperous city in the Early Bronze Period (3000-2500 B.C.).
They chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim – They seem to have presumed that the men of Ai would have immediately opened their gates to them, and therefore they marched up with confidence; but the enemy appearing, they were put to flight, their ranks utterly broken, and thirty-six of them killed. שברים Shebarim signifies breaches or broken places, and may here apply to the ranks of the Israelites, which were broken by the men of Ai; for the people were totally routed, though there were but few slain. They were panic-struck, and fled in the utmost confusion.
The hearts of the people melted – They were utterly discouraged; and by this gave an ample proof that without the supernatural assistance of God they could never have conquered the land.
Unto Shebarim. LXX, kai ewv sunetriqan autouv , as though we had (or, as Masius suggests, from rbv to break in pieces. So the Syriac and Chaldee versions. But this is quite out of the question. The Israelites were not annihilated, for they only lost about 36 men. Nor is Shebarim a proper name, as the Vulgate renders it. It has the article, and must be rendered either with Keil, the stone quarries (literally, the crushings or breakings), or with Gesenius, the ruins, which, however, is less probable, since Ai (see above)has a similar signification. Munsterus mentions a view that it was so called in consequence of the slaughter of the Israelites. But this is very improbable. In the going down. Ai stood in a strong position on the mountains. The margin “in Morad “is therefore not to be preferred. It means, as the Israelites and their antagonists descended from the gates. The hearts of the people melted and became as water. This was not cowardice, but awe. The people had relied upon the strong hand of the Lord, which had been so wonderfully stretched out for them. From Joshua downwards, every one felt that, for some unknown reason, that support had been withdrawn.
6.And Joshua rent his clothes, etc Although it was easy to throw the blame of the overthrow or disgrace which had been sustained on others, and it was by no means becoming in a courageous leader to be so much cast down by the loss of thirty men, especially when by increasing his force a hundred-fold it would not have been difficult to drive back the enemy now weary with their exertions, it was not, however, without cause that Joshua felt the deepest sorrow, and gave way to feelings bordering on despair. The thought that the events of war are doubtful — a thought which sustains and reanimates the defeated — could not be entertained by him, because God had promised that they would always be victorious. Therefore when the success did not correspond to his hopes, the only conclusion he could draw was, that they had fought unsuccessfully merely because they had been deprived of the promised assistance of God.
Accordingly, both he and the elders not only gave themselves up to sorrow and sadness, but engage in solemn mourning, as used in the most calamitous circumstances, by tearing their garments and throwing dust on their heads. That mode of expressing grief was used also by the heathen, but was specially appropriate in the pious worshippers of God in suppliantly deprecating his wrath. The rending of the garments and other accompanying acts contained a profession of repentance, as may also be inferred from the annexed prayer, which, however, is of a mixed nature, dictated partly by faith and the pure spirit of piety, and partly by excessive perturbation. In turning straightway to God and acknowledging that in his hand, by which the wound was inflicted, the cure was prepared, they are influenced by faith; but their excessive grief is evidently carried beyond all proper bounds. Hence the freedom with which they expostulate, and hence the preposterous wish, Would God we had remained in the desert!
It is not a new thing, however, for pious minds, when they aspire to seek God with holy zeal, to obscure the light of faith by the vehemence and impetuosity of their affections. And in this way all prayers would be vitiated did not the Lord in his boundless indulgence pardon them, and wiping away all their stains receive them as if they were pure. And yet while in thus freely expostulating, they cast their cares upon God, though this blunt simplicity needs pardon, it is far more acceptable than the feigned modesty of hypocrites, who, while carefully restraining themselves to prevent any confident expression from escaping their lips, inwardly swell and almost burst with contumacy.
Joshua oversteps the bounds of moderation when he challenges God for having brought the people out of the desert; but he proceeds to much greater intemperance when, in opposition to the divine promise and decree, he utters the turbulent wish, Would that we had never come out of the desert! That was to abrogate the divine covenant altogether. But as his object was to maintain and assert the divine glory, the vehemence which otherwise might have justly provoked God was excused.
We are hence taught that saints, while they aim at the right mark, often stumble and fall, and that this sometimes happens even in their prayers, in which purity of faith and affections framed to obedience ought to be especially manifested. That Joshua felt particularly concerned for the divine glory, is apparent from the next verse, where he undertakes the maintenance of it, which had been in a manner assigned to him. What shall I say, he asks, when it will be objected that the people turned their backs? And he justly complains that he is left without an answer, as God had made him the witness and herald of his favor, whence there was ground to hope for an uninterrupted series of victories. Accordingly, after having in the loftiest terms extolled the divine omnipotence in fulfillment of the office committed to him, it had now become necessary for him, from the adverse course of events, to remain ignominiously silent. We thus see that nothing vexes him more than the disgrace brought upon his calling. He is not concerned for his own reputation, but fears lest the truth of God might be endangered in the eyes of the world. In short, as it was only by the order of God that he had brought the people into the land of Canaan, he now in adversity calls upon him as author and avenger, just as if he had said, Since thou has brought me into these straits, and I am in danger of seeming to be a deceiver, it is for thee to interfere and supply me with the means of defense.
Joshua rent his clothes, etc. – It was not in consequence of this slight discomfiture, simply considered in itself, that Joshua laid this business so much to heart; but
1. Because the people melted, and became as water, and there was little hope that they would make any stand against the enemy; and
2. Because this defeat evidently showed that God had turned his hand against them. Had it not been so, their enemies could not have prevailed.
Put dust upon their heads – Rending the clothes, beating the breast, tearing the hair, putting dust upon the head, and falling down prostrate, were the usual marks of deep affliction and distress. Most nations have expressed their sorrow in a similar way.
Alas, O Lord God – Particles of exclamations and distress, or what are called interjections, are nearly the same in all languages: and the reason is because they are the simple voice of nature. The Hebrew word which we translate alas is אהה ahah. The complaint of Joshua in this and the following verses seems principally to have arisen from his deep concern for the glory of God, and the affecting interest he took in behalf of the people: he felt for the thousands of Israel, whom he considered as abandoned to destruction: and he felt for the glory of God, for he knew should Israel be destroyed God’s name would be blasphemed among the heathen; and his expostulations with his Maker, which have been too hastily blamed by some, as savouring of too great freedom and impatience are founded on God’s own words, Deu_32:26, Deu_32:27, and on the practice of Moses himself, who had used similar expressions on a similar occasion; see Exo_5:22, Exo_5:23; Num_14:13-18.
Wherefore hast thou at all brought. The LXX seems in some way to have read db for rb they translate “why did thy servant cross?” But their rendering is a clear grammatical blunder, for the Masorites remark that the h is to be preserved. Would to God we had been content. Calvin makes some severe remarks on Joshua”s folly and want of faith under this reverse. But it may be paralleled by the conduct of most Christians in adversity. How few are there who can bear even temporal calamity calmly and patiently, even though they have abundant reason to know that temporal affliction is not only no sign of the displeasure of God, but the reverse! And when, through allowing secret sin to lurk within the soul, the Christian is overcome and brought to shame by his spiritual enemies, how much more seldom it is that he has the courage to gird up the loins of his soul and renew the conflict, in full confidence that victory will be his in the end! How much more frequently does he despair of victory, wish he had never undertaken the Christian profession, give up his belief in the protecting care and guidance of God, and desist, at least for a time, from the good fight of faith, to his own serious injury and to the detriment of God”s Church! “It is not,” adds Calvin, “a new thing for pious minds, when they aspire to seek God with holy zeal, to obscure the light of faith by the vehemence and impetuosity of their affections. And in this way all prayers would be rendered valueless, did not the Lord in His boundless indulgence pardon them, and, wiping away all their stains, receive them as if they were pure. And yet while in thus freely expostulating they cast all their care upon God, this blunt simplicity, though it needs pardon, is yet far more acceptable than the feigned modesty and self restraint of the hypocrites.”
9.For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants, etc He mentions another ground of fear. All the neighboring nations, who, either subdued by calamities or terrified by miracles, were quiet, will now resume their confidence and make a sudden attack upon the people. It was indeed probable, that as the divine power had crushed their spirit and filled them with dismay, they would come boldly forward to battle as soon as they knew that God had become hostile to the Israelites. He therefore appeals to God in regard to the future danger, entreating him to make speedy provision against it, as the occasion would be seized by the Canaanites, who, though hitherto benumbed with terror, will now assume the aggressive, and easily succeed in destroying a panic-struck people.
It is manifest, however, from the last clause, that he is not merely thinking of the safety of the people, but is concerned above all for the honor of the divine name, that it may remain inviolable, and not be trampled under foot by the petulance of the wicked, as it would be if the people were ejected from the inheritance so often promised. We know the language which God himself employed, as recorded in the song of Moses, (Deu_32:26) “I would scatter them into corners, I would make the remembrance of them cease among men; were it not that I feared the wrath (pride) of the enemy, lest their adversaries should behave themselves strangely, and lest they should say, Our hand is high, and the Lord has not done all this.”
The very thing, then, which God declares that he was, humanly speaking, afraid of, Joshua wishes now to be timelessly prevented; otherwise the enemy, elated by the defeat of the people, will grow insolent and boast of triumphing over God himself.
Keil and Delitzsch
The question which Joshua addresses to God he introduces in this way: “Pray (בִּי contracted from בְּעִי), Lord, what shall I say?” to modify the boldness of the question which follows. It was not because he did not know what to say, for he proceeded at once to pour out the thoughts of his heart, but because he felt that the thought which he was about to utter might involve a reproach, as if, when God permitted that disaster, He had not thought of His own honour; and as he could not possibly think this, he introduced his words with a supplicatory inquiry. What he proceeds to say in Jos_7:8, Jos_7:9, does not contain two co-ordinate clauses, but one simple thought: how would God uphold His great name before the world, when the report that Israel had turned their back before them should reach the Canaanites, and they should come and surround the Israelites, and destroy them without a single trace from off the face of the earth.
(Note: Calovius has therefore given the correct interpretation: “When they have destroyed our name, after Thou hast chosen us to be Thy people, and brought us hither with such great wonders, what will become of Thy name? Our name is of little moment, but wilt Thou consult the honour of Thine own name, if Thou destroyest us? For Thou didst promise us this land; and what people is there that will honour Thy name if ours should be destroyed?”)
In the words, “the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land,” there is involved the thought that there were other people living in Canaan beside the Canaanites, e.g., the Philistines. The question, “What wilt Thou do with regard to Thy great name?” signifies, according to the parallel passages, Exo_32:11-12; Num_14:13., Deu_9:28, “How wilt Thou preserve Thy great name, which Thou hast acquired thus far in the sight of all nations through the miraculous guidance of Israel, from being misunderstood and blasphemed among the heathen?” (“what wilt Thou do?” as in Gen_26:29).
For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it. The invariable argument of Moses. (Exo_32:12 Num_14:13-16 Deu_9:28 Deu_32:26, Deu_32:27) The disgrace which the sin of man brings upon the cause of the Lord is a real and very terrible thing. (cf. 2Sa_12:14 Eze_36:23)
10.And the Lord said unto Joshua, etc God does not reprimand Joshua absolutely for lying prostrate on the ground and lamenting the overthrow of the people, since the true method of obtaining pardon from God was to fall down suppliantly before him; but for giving himself up to excessive sorrow. The censure, however, ought to be referred to the future rather than to the past; for he tells him to put an end to his wailing, just as if he had said, that he had already lain too long prostrate, and that all sloth must now be abandoned, as there was need of a different remedy. But he first shows the cause of the evil, and then prescribes the mode of removing it. He therefore informs him that the issue of the battle was disastrous, because he was offended with the wickedness of the people, and had cast off their defense.
We formerly explained why the punishment of a private sacrilege is transferred to all; because although they were not held guilty in their own judgment or that of others, yet the judgment of God, which involved them in the same condemnation, had hidden reasons into which, though it may perhaps be lawful to inquire soberly, it is not lawful to search with prying curiosity. At the same time we have a rare example of clemency in the fact, that while the condemnation verbally extends to all, punishment is inflicted only on a single family actually polluted by the crime. What follows tends to show how enormous the crime was, and accordingly the particle גם is not repeated without emphasis; as they might otherwise have extenuated its atrocity. Hence, when it is said that they have also transgressed the covenant, the meaning is, that they had not sinned slightly. The name of covenant is applied to the prohibition which, as we saw, had been given; because a mutual stipulation had been made, assigning the spoils of the whole land to the Israelites, provided He received the first fruits. Here, then, he does not allude to the general covenant, but complains that he was defrauded of what had been specially set apart; and he accordingly adds immediately after, by way of explanation, that they had taken of the devoted thing, and that not without sacrilege, inasmuch as they had stolen that which he claimed as his own. The term lying is here used, as in many other passages, for frustrating a hope entertained, or for deceiving. The last thing mentioned, though many might at first sight think it trivial, is set down, not without good cause, as the crowning act of guilt, namely, that they had deposited the forbidden thing among their vessels. Persons who are otherwise not wholly wicked are sometimes tempted by a love of gain; but in the act of hiding the thing, and laying it up among other goods, a more obstinate perseverance in evil doing is implied, as the party shows himself to be untouched by any feelings of compunction. In the last part of the 12th verse, the term anathema is used in a different sense for execration; because it was on account of the stolen gold that the children of Israel were cursed, and almost devoted to destruction.
Get thee up. Not puerile lamentation, but action, is ever the duty of the soldier of the Lord. If defeat assails either the individual or the cause, there is a reason for it, and this must be promptly searched out, and with God”s aid be discovered. The sin or error once found out and put away, the combat may be renewed and brought to a successful issue.
Keil and Delitzsch
Israel had sinned, and that very grievously. This is affirmed in the clauses which follow, and which are rendered emphatic by the repetition of גַּם as an expression of displeasure. The sin of one man was resting as a burden upon the whole nation in the manner explained above (on Jos_7:1). This sin was a breach of the covenant, being a transgression of the obligation into which the people had entered in their covenant with the Lord, to keep His commandments (Exo_19:8; Exo_24:7); yea, it was a grasping at the ban, and a theft, and a concealment, and an appropriation of that which was stolen to their own use. The first three clauses describe the sin in its relation to God, as a grievous offence; the three following according to its true character, as a great, obstinate, and reckless crime. “They have put it among their own stuff” (house furniture), viz., to use and appropriate it as their own property. As all that had been stolen was a property consecrated to the Lord, the appropriation of it to private use was the height of wickedness.
Israel hath sinned. A simple but satisfactory explanation. It is not God who changes. It is we who frustrate His counsels of love and protection against our enemies. We have here another assertion of the principle that if one member suffer all the members suffer with it. Achan”s sin was the sin of all Israel. So the sin of one man is still the sin of the whole Church. And have also stolen. The accusation is cumulative. Israel, which was all involved in the sin of one among their number, had
(1) broken a solemn vow;
(2) had stolen what was not theirs;
(3) had acted deceitfully (vjK); and
(4) had appropriated to themselves what belonged to God, which, as Keil remarks, was the last and gravest feature of their crime.
This is strongly brought out by the fivefold repetition of in the original.
Because they were accursed – From this verse it appears that the nature of the execration or anathema was such, that those who took of the thing doomed to destruction fell immediately under the same condemnation. The inhabitants of Jericho and all that they had were accursed: therefore they and all their substance were to be destroyed. The Israelites took of the accursed thing, and therefore became accursed with it. This was certainly understood when the curse was pronounced: Every man who touches this property shall be involved in the same execration. Achan therefore was sufficiently aware of the risk he ran in taking any part of the anathematized thing; and when viewed in this light, the punishment inflicted on him will appear to be perfectly just and proper.
Therefore. This plain statement disposes of the idea that the repulse before Ai was simply the result of Joshua”s rashness in sending so small a body of troops. The vivid narrative of the detection of Achan, obviously taken from contemporary records, precedes the account of the final capture of the city, although Joshua, who, as we have seen, does not neglect to employ human means, resolves to take greater precautions before making a second attack. Not a hint is dropped that the former number of men was insufficient, or that Joshua had been misled by the information brought by the reconnoitring party. In the mind of the historian the defect is entirely owing to the existence of secret sin in the Israelitish comp. Except ye destroy the accursed from among. Dr. Maclear, in the “Cambridge Bible for Schools,” calls attention to the fact that 1Co_5:13 is a quotation from the LXX here, substituting, however, ton for to anayema .
13.Up, sanctify the people, etc Although the word קדש has a more extensive meaning, yet as the subject in question is the expiation of the people, I have no doubt that it prescribes a formal rite of sanctification. Those, therefore, who interpret it generally as equivalent to prepare, do not, in my judgment, give it its full force. Nay, as they were now to be in a manner brought into the divine presence, there was need of purification that they might not come while unclean. It is also to be observed in regard to the method of sanctifying, that Joshua intimates to the people a legal purgation. But though the ceremony might be in itself of little consequence, it had a powerful tendency to arouse a rude people. The external offering must have turned their thoughts to spiritual cleanness, while their abstinence from things otherwise lawful reminded them of the very high and unblemished purity which was required. And they are forewarned of what is to take place, in order that each may be more careful in examining himself. Nay, the Lord proceeds step by step, as if he meant to give intervals for repentance; for it is impossible to imagine any other reason for descending from tribe to family, and coming at length to the single individual.
In all this we see the monstrous stupor of Achan. Overcome perhaps by shame, he doubles his impudence, and putting on a bold front, hesitates not to insult his Maker. For why, when he sees himself discovered, does he not voluntarily come forward and confess the crime, instead of persisting in his effrontery till he is dragged forward against his will? But such is the just recompense of those who allow themselves to be blinded by the devil. Then when first by the taking of his tribe and next by that of his family, he plainly perceived that he was urged and held fast by the hand of God, why does he not then at least spring forward, and by a voluntary surrender deprecate punishment? It appears, then, that after he had hardened himself in his wickedness, his mind and all his senses were charmed by the devil.
Though God does not bring all guilty actions to light at the very moment, nor always employ the casting of lots for this purpose, he has taught us by this example that there is nothing so hidden as not to be revealed in its own time. The form of disclosure will, indeed, be different; but let every one reflect, for himself, that things which escape the knowledge of the whole world are not concealed from God, and that to make them public depends only on his pleasure. For though a sin may seem as it were to have fallen asleep, it is however awake before the door, and will beset the miserable man till it overtake and crush him.
Up, sanctify the people – Joshua, all the time that God spake, lay prostrate before the ark: he is now commanded to get up, and sanctify the people, i.e., cause them to wash themselves, and get into a proper disposition to hear the judgment of the Lord relative to the late transactions.
Sanctify the people. See note on Jos_3:5. Thou canst not stand before thine enemies. Observe the singular number here, intensifying the testimony of the whole history to the fact that Israel was one body before the Lord. And observe, moreover, how the existence of secret sin, even though unknown to and undetected by him in whom it lurks, has power to enfeeble the soul in its conflict with its enemies. Hence we learn the duties Of watchfulness and careful examination of the soul by the light of God”s Word.
Ye shall be brought according to your tribes – It has been a subject of serious inquiry in what manner and by what means the culpable tribe, family, household, and individual, were discovered. The Jews have many conceits on the subject; the most rational is, that the tribes being, in their representatives, brought before the high priest, the stone on the breastplate gave immediate intimation by suddenly losing its lustre. According to them, this is what is termed consulting God by Urim and Thummim. It is however most probable that the whole was determined by the lot; and that God chose this method to detect the guilty tribe, next the family, thirdly the household, and lastly the individual. This was nearly the plan pursued in the election of Saul by Samuel. “Now therefore,” says he, “present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes, and by your thousands. And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was taken. When he had caused the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their families, the family of Matri was taken, and Saul the son of Kish was taken,” 1Sa_10:19, 1Sa_10:20. If the lot was used in the one case it was doubtless used in the other also, as the procedure in the main was entirely similar. The same mode was used to find out who it was that transgressed the king’s command, when it was found that Jonathan had eaten a little honey, 1Sa_14:40-43. It is well known that the promised land was divided by lot among the Israelites; (see Num_26:55; Num_33:54; Deu_1:38, etc.); and that the courses of the priests were regulated by lot in the days of David, 1Ch_24:5, etc. That this was a frequent mode of determining difficult questions, and appointed by God himself, is evident from Lev_16:8; Psa_51:18; Pro_16:33; Pro_18:18; Act_1:26.
Taketh, i.e., by lot, as in 1Sa_14:42. (Wlypih make it fall; cf. 1Sa_10:20) (cf. Jon_1:7; also Pro_18:18) According to the families. The gradual centering of the suspicion upon the offender is one of the most striking features of the history. The genealogies of the children of Israel were very strictly kept, as the Books of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah show. Achan”s name is carefully given in the genealogy of Judah in 1 Chronicles if. 7. The subdivision of the tribes into families (or clans, Keil) and households (or, as we should perhaps say, families) was for convenience of enumeration, military organisation, and perhaps of assessment. Oehler, “Theologie des Allen Testaments,” Sec. 101, takes the same view as Keil. The tribes, he says, were divided into twOhpvmi or i.e., Geschlechter (LXX dhmoi , for which the best English equivalent is clans, as above); these into families or houses ( or fathers” hours (twOba tBe); and these again into single heads of a house ( The principle, he adds of a Mosaic family, is as follows: Every “family forms a distinct whole, which as far as possible must be maintained in its integrity. Each tribe, says Jahn (“Hebrew Commonwealth,” Book II), acknowledged a prince (aycik) as its ruler. As its numbers increased, there arose a subdivision of the tribe into collections of families. Such a collection was called a house of fathers, a hjpvmi or clan, or a thousand, rut this explanation is not so satisfactory as that given above. Kurz remarks on the important part family life played among the Hebrews, with whom, in consequence of their descent from Abraham, and the importance they attached to it, the nation was developed out of the family. See Introduction.
Keil and Delitzsch
Joshua was to take away this ban from the nation. To discover who had laid hands upon the ban, he was to direct the people to sanctify themselves for the following day (see at Jos_3:5), and then to cause them to come before God according to their tribes, families, households, and men, that the guilty men might be discovered by lot; and to burn whoever was found guilty, with all that he possessed. נִקְרַב, “to come near,” sc., to Jehovah, i.e., to come before His sanctuary.
The tribes, families, households, and men, formed the four classes into which the people were organized. As the tribes were divided into families, so these again were subdivided into houses, commonly called fathers’ houses, and the fathers’ houses again into men, i.e., fathers of families (see the remarks on Exo_18:25-26, and by Bibl. Archaeology, §140). Each of these was represented by its natural head, so that we must picture the affair as conducted in the following manner: in order to discover the tribe, the twelve tribe princes came before the Lord; and in order to discover the family, the heads of families of the tribe that had been taken, and so on to the end, each one in turn being subjected to the lot. For although it is not distinctly stated that the lot was resorted to in order to discover who was guilty, and that the discovery was actually made in this way, this is very evident from the expression אֲשֶׁר־יִלְכְּדֶנָּה (which the Lord taketh), as this was the technical term employed, according to 1Sa_14:42, to denote the falling of the lot upon a person (see also 1Sa_10:20). Moreover, the lot was frequently resorted to in cases where a crime could not be brought home to a person by the testimony of eye-witnesses (see 1Sa_14:41-42; Jon_1:7; Pro_18:18), as it was firmly believed that the lot was directed by the Lord (Pro_16:33). In what manner the lot was cast we do not know. In all probability little tablets or potsherds were used, with the names written upon them, and these were drawn out of an urn. This may be inferred from a comparison of Jos_18:11 and Jos_19:1, with Jos_18:6, Jos_18:10, according to which the casting of the lot took place in such a manner that the lot came up (עָלָה, Jos_18:11; Jos_19:10; Lev_16:9), or came out (יָצָא, Jos_19:1; Jos_19:24; Num_33:54). בַּחֵרֶם הַנִּלְכָּד, the person taken in (with) the ban, i.e., taken by the lot as affected with the ban, was to be burned with fire, of course not alive, but after he had been stoned (Jos_7:25). The burning of the body of a criminal was regarded as heightening the punishment of death (vid., Lev_20:14). This punishment was to be inflicted upon him, in the first place, because he had broken the covenant of Jehovah; and in the second place, because he had wrought folly in Israel, that is to say, had offended grievously against the covenant God, and also against the covenant nation. “Wrought folly:” an expression used here, as in Gen_34:7, to denote such a crime as was irreconcilable with the honour of Israel as the people of God.
He that is taken with the accursed thing; or, according to Keil, “he on whom the ban falls.” He and all that he hath (cf. ver. 24). The opinion that Achan”s family had in some way become participators in his sin would seem preferable to the idea that his sin had involved them in the ban. (see Deu_24:16, which qualifies Lev_26:39; so Hengstenberg, “History,” p. 218) The destruction of their possessions is due to the fact that all the family had come under the ban. Folly hlbn used of the heart as well as the head. (cf. Gen_34:7 Deu_22:21 Jud_1:19:23, 24, 20:6 2Sa_13:12 Psa_14:1) The LXX render by anomhma , and the Vulgate by herae , but Theodotion renders by afrosunh .