Josh 7:1 But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.
‘The world of ideas here is that of “holiness,” which in OT terms means the sphere that belongs specially to God and that cannot be entered in an unauthorized way by human beings.’ (McConville, art. ‘Jericho’ Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books)
‘The narrator implicates all the Israelites (6:18) in Achan’s sin. The concept of national solidarity, the notion that an individual’s acts affect the whole group, illuminates other scriptures (2 Sa. 21:1-9; Acts 9:4; Col. 1:24) and is the basis for the doctrine of humankind’s original sin in Adam and for the justification of the saints through Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:12-19).’ (NBC)
‘If Rahab, the Canaanite who found mercy, is a story of God’s grace in the midst of judgment (6:25), Achan’s story is a reminder of the holiness of God, on which no one may presume (24:19; Num. 17:11-13; Heb. 10:30-31). Ch. 7 recounts the first instance of disobedience in the Promised Land, an ominous event in light of the history that will follow (2 Kin. 17:7-20) and an occasion reminiscent of Gen. 3 (v. 21 note). The incident and its lesson for Israel are recalled in 22:18-20.’ (New Geneva)
Note that the punishment of Achan’s deception at the beginning of the promised land is mirrored by the punishments of that of Anannias and Sapphira at the beginning of the early church, Acts 5:1-11.
The Lord’s anger burned against Israel – ‘The anger of God is His personal righteous hostility to evil. Unlike ancient pagan conceptions of divine wrath, in the Bible God’s anger is never arbitrary or capricious. It is as much a part of the New Testament message as of the Old (Matt. 3:7; John 3:36; Rom. 1:18; Col. 3:6; 1 Thess. 1:10; Heb. 10:26-31; Rev. 6:16).’ (New Geneva)
Josh 7:2 Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth Aven to the east of Bethel, and told them, “Go up and spy out the region.” So the men went up and spied out Ai.
Ai ‘means “ruin” (or possibly “heap”) in the Hebrew language. The city was almost the ruin of Joshua’s leadership (Josh. 7:1-9); it was the ruin of Achan and his family (Josh. 7:16-26); and it suffered complete ruin (Josh. 8:1-29).’ (Holman) The precise site of the city is unknown: the traditional site has been shown to have been uninhabited at the time of Joshua.
Josh 7:3 When they returned to Joshua, they said, “Not all the people will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary all the people, for only a few men are there.”
Josh 7:4 So about three thousand men went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai,
Josh 7:5 who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted and became like water.
Josh 7:6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the LORD, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads.
Josh 7:7 And Joshua said, “Ah, Sovereign LORD, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan!
“Why…?” – ‘This question comes to the lips of those who find their experience contradicting their understanding of the promises of God. It can be a rebellious question (as in Num. 14:3), but it can also express a true faith perplexed by circumstances (cf. Ps. 22:1).’ (New Geneva)
Josh 7:8 O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies?
Josh 7:9 The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?”
“Our name” – ‘The promise to Abraham included a “great name” (Gen. 12:2). Joshua’s prayer is based on the promises of God.’ (New Geneva)
“Your own great name” – ‘God’s reputation is at stake (Ex. 32:12; Num. 14:13-16; Ezek. 36:16-23).’ (New Geneva)
Josh 7:10 The LORD said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?
Josh 7:11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.
“Israel has sinned” – ‘The corporate unity of Israel is stressed throughout the chapter. The sin of one man (v. 15) brought guilt on his community (22:18).’ (New Geneva)
Josh 7:12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.
Josh 7:13 “Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: That which is devoted is among you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it.
Josh 7:14 “’In the morning, present yourselves tribe by tribe. The tribe that the LORD takes shall come forward clan by clan; the clan that the LORD takes shall come forward family by family; and the family that the LORD takes shall come forward man by man.
The procedure may have been carried out with the Urim and Thummim, Ex 28:30.
Josh 7:15 He who is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the LORD and has done a disgraceful thing in Israel!’”
Josh 7:16 Early the next morning Joshua had Israel come forward by tribes, and Judah was taken.
Josh 7:17 The clans of Judah came forward, and he took the Zerahites. He had the clan of the Zerahites come forward by families, and Zimri was taken.
Josh 7:18 Joshua had his family come forward man by man, and Achan son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.
Josh 7:19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.”
‘By confessing his sin Achan gave glory to God (19), for it entailed acknowledging God’s omniscience, sovereignty, truth, zeal and holiness. Significantly, unbelieving Achan misnamed the herem plunder. His view of holy war was wrong. For him Jericho was a prize he earned, not something the divine King won. Likewise materialists see the earth’s resources as theirs, not as the Lord’s.’ (NBC)
Josh 7:20 Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done:
Josh 7:21 When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
“Saw…coveted…took” – ‘There may be an allusion here to Gen. 3:6, where these three verbs occur in the same order. The pattern of the Garden of Eden has been repeated in the Promised Land: no sooner was the gift of God given than the recipients desired what was forbidden, and took it.’ (New Geneva)
Josh 7:22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent, and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver underneath.
Josh 7:23 They took the things from the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites and spread them out before the LORD.
Josh 7:24 Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold wedge, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor.
Just as God’s mercy to Rahab extended to her family, Josh 6:23, so his punishment of Achan extended to his family too.
Josh 7:25 Joshua said, “Why have you brought this trouble on us? The LORD will bring trouble on you today.” Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them.
They…stoned the rest – ‘In biblical times families acted more as a single unit under the headship of the father than in western cultures. Families entered into covenant with God as a group, and they broke covenant collectively as here. Achan probably hid the plunder in the family tent with the full knowledge of his entire family (cf. Acts 5:1-2).’ (NBC)
The principle of corporateness is important in the Bible. ‘The one represents the many because of the corporate solidarity or oneness of the group. Thus the whole human race sinned in Adam. Because Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, his whole family was saved. In Abraham the whole nation was chosen. Through the ministrations of one priest al the people are reconciled to God. And so it will develop until the ideas of representation and substitution become fixed in the concept of salvation.’ (Goldsworthy, According to Plan, 205).
Josh 7:26 Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor ever since.
Then to Lord turned from his fierce anger – ‘God’s wrath, being righteous, ceases when sin has been dealt with. This is fundamental to the New Testament teaching that the death of Christ is an atoning or propitiatory sacrifice (Rom. 3:25, 26).’ (New Geneva)