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The Israelites are smitten at Ai, for Achan's Sin.
1 But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the angerof the LORDwas kindled against the children of Israel. 2 And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east side of Beth-el, and spake unto them, saying, Go and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai. 3 And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few.
4 So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men and they fled before the men of Ai. 5 And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down : wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.
6 And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads.
7 And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord GOD, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan! 8 O LORD, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies!
9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall
10 And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? 11 Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.
12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.
13 Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith the LORD God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.
14 In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to your tribes and it shall be, that the tribe which the LORD taketh shall come according to the families thereof; and the family which the LORD shall take shall come by housholds; and the houshold which the LORD shall take shall come man by man.
15 And it shall be, that he that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath: because he hath transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he hath wrought folly in Israel.
That God often deals with us as members of a body. Three thousand men of Israel "fled before the men of Ai." They fled, and lost six and thirty of their number; not for want of a larger army, but because of the sin of Achan, in taking for his own use a part of the devoted spoils of Jericho. One man alone did wrong, and one family alone was privy to the wrong which he had done. Yet all these six and thirty fell in consequence; yea, according to God's reckoning, all Israel had sinned. For thus it is written: "The children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing." And again, "Israel hath sinned." Can any thing more plainly prove, that God treats us not as unconnected beings, who stand or fall simply by ourselves, but as members of one family, one nation, or one church, whose interests for good or evil are closely bound up with the good or evil conduct of each other? What a weighty reason is here presented to our minds, for watching, praying, labouring, and giving, in each other's behalf! What a powerful motive is here added, to the many others which urge us to do aright; our doing wrong may be the occasion of pain or loss, of sorrow, suffering, or death, nay even of sin and of eternal death, to those whom we most dearly love!
It is our selfishness, our too high value for our single selves, which makes us averse to acknowledge this our standing as mere members of a body, mere parts, and each a trifling part, of one great whole. It is our want of faith in God, that He does all things right, which renders us slow to admit the fact, of his often thus dealing with his creatures. Had this been well considered by the people, they would not have been dispirited so readily. Nor would Joshua, if well aware of this, have dared so rashly to complain to God, as if He had without cause deserted them. Rather they would have supposed, that some sin had been committed, some breach of God's covenant, some disobedience to his will. They would have searched what sin it was, and who the sinner, and by what means they could be cleared of guilt. This was a thing, which in this case, God was pleased to do for them, by means miraculous. Christians, for their part, are instructed by St. Paul, to mark each member of their body who transgresses openly; and after full enquiry, and fair trial, to put away from themselves that wicked person. See 1 Cor. 5. 13. The exercise of such discipline is no doubt a very difficult duty for the church to discharge. But the prevalent neglect of it is a painful proof, that we do not sufficiently consider our own spiritual health and safety as connected with the well being of each other member of the church. And if God seem at times to hide his face from us, if our spiritual enemies, that should fly before our face, oftentimes prevail to our shame, who shall say whether this be not one chief cause of our losing the help of God, that we take so little pains to put away from our community the most notorious transgressors of his laws?
PART III.-0. T.
Achan is convicted, and stoned, and burnt.
16 So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken :
17 And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken:
18 And he brought his houshold man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.
19 And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.
20 And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done :
21 When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in
the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.
22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it.
23 And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the LORD.
24 And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor.
25 And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.
26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.
That God will bring to light our most secret actions. We are not told by what means God took or detected the guilty tribe, family, household, and individual. It might be by lot, a lot miraculously guided; see 1 Sam. 14. 41; or it might be by means of the Urim and Thummim; see Num. 27. 21; or it might be by some other means not mentioned here or elsewhere. It is enough for us to know, that God pointed out the guilty party, It is enough for us to be convinced, by this remarkable instance, that He knows the most secret acts we can perform, and that when He thinks fit, He knows how to bring them to light. And yet how many, who own all this, are easily prevailed upon by the tempter, to seize upon some forbidden pleasure, to take to their
own tent some accursed thing, under the notion that they shall escape detection, merely because no man sees them! Whatsoever be our temptation, let us never forget, that all things are naked and open before Him with whom we have to do! However private our opportunity for sin may be, let us continually bear in mind our Saviour's words, "There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known." Luke 12. 2. The transgression of Achan was brought to light by miraculous means. The transgressor was not however condemned and put to death, until he had made full confession, and the spoil of Jericho had been found secreted in his tent. This was doubtless done for the more full satisfaction of the people, that they might be doubly convinced of the power, and wisdom, and justice, of the Lord. And accordingly it is thus that Joshua charges Achan: "My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me." This must be one chief object of our full and free confession, whensoever we sin against God; it is giving glory to Him, as confirming the truth which He has declared of us in his word, that all we have gone astray. See Isa. 53. 6. How often must the strain of our confessions be much after the fashion of this of Achan! First we see. Then we covet. Next we take. And lastly we hide. In any one of these stages we might stop, and turn; oh how much better than go on! How much better, when we have taken, not to hide; but to own, and if possible restore! How much better still, if we have coveted, not to take; but to suppress the sinful desire! And oh how far best and safest, how only safe, and only good, not to covet at all, to see without coveting, nay, rather than covet, not to see at all!
When Achan suffered, there seems little room to doubt that his sons and his daughters suffered with him. First they were stoned to death; and afterwards their bodies were burned with fire; and lastly a great heap of stones was raised over their ashes, to remain as a memorial of their punishment. It may reasonably be supposed, that the children were accomplices in their father's crime. Or if not, this would be but one instance, amongst many, of the sufferings, which parents, by their own misconduct, entail upon their unoffending offspring. Who has not heard of hereditary diseases? Who knows not that we all inherit a spiritual sickness, and an eternal death? If God can allow this, nay order it; if we hold, as we do without shadow of doubt, that this our birth sin is justly stamped upon the nature of every child born into the world, that this order of things is consistent with the justice of a God all holy and all good, why should we be surprised to find the children of Achan perishing together with their father? why should we hesitate to admit that this must have been, if God commanded it, really and truly just?
The Lord giveth orders for the taking of Ai.
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: 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.
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. 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:
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,
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 wewill flee before them. 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.
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.
9 Joshua therefore sent them forth and they went to lie in ambush, and abode between
Beth-el and Ai, on the west side of Ai: but Joshua lodged that night among the people.
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.
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.
12 And he took about five thousand men, and set them to lie in ambush between Beth-el and Ai, on the west side of the city.
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.
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. 15 And Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness.
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.
17 And there was not a man left in Ai or Beth-el, that went not out after Israel: and they left the city open, and pursued after Israel."