The Destruction of Ai

Achan and Ai

"...Now the city (Jericho) shall be doomed (ḥērem) by the LORD to destruction, it and all who are in it. Only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.  “And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. “But all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated to the LORD; they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.” (Joshua 6:17-19) 

 So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword.  

But Joshua had said to the two men who had spied out the country, “Go into the harlot’s house, and from there bring out the woman and all that she has, as you swore to her.” And the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, her mother, her brothers, and all that she had. So they brought out all her relatives and left them outside the camp of Israel.  

But they burned the city and all that was in it with fire. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD.  

And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father’s household, and all that she had. So she dwells in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.“ 

But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the LORD burned against the children of Israel.  

Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Beth Aven, on the east side of Bethel, and spoke to them, saying, “Go up and spy out the country.” So the men went up and spied out Ai.  And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not let all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not weary all the people there, for the people of Ai are few.”  

So about three thousand men went up there from the people, but they fled before the men of Ai.  And the men of Ai struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as  Then Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads.  

And Joshua said, “Alas, Lord GOD, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all—to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan!  “O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turns its back before its enemies?  “For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will You do for Your great name?”  

So the LORD said to Joshua: “Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face?  “Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff.

 “Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you.  

“Get up, sanctify the people, and say, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the LORD God of Israel: “There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you.”  ‘In the morning therefore you shall be brought according to your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the LORD takes shall come according to families; and the family which the LORD takes shall come by households; and the household which the LORD takes shall come man by man.  

‘Then it shall be that he who is taken with the accursed thing shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has done a disgraceful thing in Israel.’ ”  

So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel by their tribes, and the tribe of Judah was taken.  He brought the clan 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.  Then he brought his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.  

Now Joshua said to Achan, “My son, I beg you, give glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.”  And Achan answered Joshua and said, “Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I have done:  “When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it.”  

So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver under it. And they took them from the midst of the tent, brought them to Joshua and to all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the LORD. Then Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor.  And Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The LORD will trouble you this day.”

So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.  Then they raised over him a great heap of stones, still there to this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of His anger.

Therefore the name of that place has been called the Valley of Achor to this day. (Joshua 7)

Previous Class: The Conquest of Jericho

"God saves everything that can possibly be saved,
Then He destroys everything that cannot be saved"
(Ray Stedman)

From Ray Stedman:

Between the Israelites and the land, however, there still flowed the Jordan River. This account of the crossing of the Jordan is very similar to the story of the crossing of the Red Sea. In many ways the two crossings picture the same thing: death. Any man venturing into the Red Sea without the waters having been parted would have gone to his death. So the crossing of these waters is a picture of death.

Now, as you may already know, the crossing of the Red Sea is a picture of Christ's death for you and me -- when he cuts us off from the world in all its attitudes, ways, and opinions. In other words, when you became a Christian, you changed your ideas and sense of values. Your baptism was an expression of the fact that you were passing out of one life into another, and that your whole attitude was changed. That was the Red Sea -- his death for you.

But the Jordan is a picture of your death with Christ, when you bring your Adamic life to an end; when all that you are in Adam comes to an end -- your reliance on yourself, your desire to have your own program, to live and make your own decisions. and set your own goals -- and you discover that you can't have his life with your program. If you want to hold onto your program, then you can have only your own, fallen Adamic life. But if you want his life, then you will also have his program, which is one of victory. You cross either the Red Sea or the Jordan River when you accept the principle involved in this. But crossing the Jordan is what you do when you let go of your own program, make up your mind, and say, "All right, if this is what you want for me Lord, this is what it will be." That is what happened with Israel when they went into the land.

You cross the Jordan the same way you crossed the Red Sea:

And the Lord said to Joshua, "This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you." (Joshua 3:7 RSV)

By faith. That is all. By obedience and by faith. God is saying to Joshua, "By the same way I led Moses to bring Israel through the Red Sea, so I will lead you to bring Israel through the Jordan." The same way! You experience the life of Christ for every living moment in the very same way that you claimed the death of Christ for your sins. The faith that got you out of Egypt is the same faith that gets you into the land. As Paul writes: "As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him." (Colossians 2:6)

Was it any harder for Israel to cross the Jordan River than to cross the Red Sea? No, they just walked down, the waters rolled back, and they went right through. The same thing. No problems. And it is no different, you see, to walk into the land. It is simply believing that God is in you and that what he said about you is true -- that he has cut off the old life (you agreed to that) and he has given you a new basis that will work. You believe it and you walk out on that basis and say, "Thank you Lord. for being in me to do through me everything that needs to be done." And you enter the land…

Ai, then, is a beautiful picture for us of those inward problems arising out of our own lusts for that which God says we cannot, and must not have. We play the hypocrite and then discover that we are prey to every evil force that comes our way. We have no power to stand. We experience failure and defeat, as Israel did. But the minute this sin was confessed, they went up to Ai and it was no longer a problem. It was a battle, but no problem. Through it, they gained victory over the problem of the flesh. --Joshua: Guidebook to Victory, by Ray Stedman.

The Destruction of Ai

Ai Captured--by a Stratagem--and Destroyed

Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed; take all the fighting men with you, and go up now to Ai. See, I have handed over to you the king of Ai with his people, his city, and his land. You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king; only its spoil and its livestock you may take as booty for yourselves. Set an ambush against the city, behind it.’

So Joshua and all the fighting men set out to go up against Ai. Joshua chose thirty thousand warriors and sent them out by night with the command, ‘You shall lie in ambush against the city, behind it; do not go very far from the city, but all of you stay alert. I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. When they come out against us, as before, we shall flee from them. They will come out after us until we have drawn them away from the city; for they will say, “They are fleeing from us, as before.” While we flee from them, you shall rise up from the ambush and seize the city; for the Lord your God will give it into your hand. And when you have taken the city, you shall set the city on fire, doing as the Lord has ordered; see, I have commanded you.’ So Joshua sent them out; and they went to the place of ambush, and lay between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai; but Joshua spent that night in the camp.

In the morning Joshua rose early and mustered the people, and went up, with the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai. All the fighting men who were with him went up, and drew near before the city, and camped on the north side of Ai, with a ravine between them and Ai. Taking about five thousand men, he set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. So they stationed the forces, the main encampment that was north of the city and its rearguard west of the city. But Joshua spent that night in the valley. When the king of Ai saw this, he and all his people, the inhabitants of the city, hurried out early in the morning to the meeting-place facing the Arabah to meet Israel in battle; but he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. And Joshua and all Israel made a pretense of being beaten before them, and fled in the direction of the wilderness. So all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and as they pursued Joshua they were drawn away from the city. There was not a man left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel; they left the city open, and pursued Israel.

Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Stretch out the sword that is in your hand towards Ai; for I will give it into your hand.’ And Joshua stretched out the sword that was in his hand towards the city. As soon as he stretched out his hand, the troops in ambush rose quickly out of their place and rushed forward. They entered the city, took it, and at once set the city on fire. So when the men of Ai looked back, the smoke of the city was rising to the sky. They had no power to flee this way or that, for the people who fled to the wilderness turned back against the pursuers. When Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that the smoke of the city was rising, then they turned back and struck down the men of Ai. And the others came out from the city against them; so they were surrounded by Israelites, some on one side, and some on the other; and Israel struck them down until no one was left who survived or escaped. But the king of Ai was taken alive and brought to Joshua.

When Israel had finished slaughtering all the inhabitants of Ai in the open wilderness where they pursued them, and when all of them to the very last had fallen by the edge of the sword, all Israel returned to Ai, and attacked it with the edge of the sword. The total of those who fell that day, both men and women, was twelve thousand—all the people of Ai. For Joshua did not draw back his hand, with which he stretched out the sword, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. Only the livestock and the spoil of that city Israel took as their booty, according to the word of the Lord that he had issued to Joshua. So Joshua burned Ai, and made it for ever a heap of ruins, as it is to this day. And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening; and at sunset Joshua commanded, and they took his body down from the tree, threw it down at the entrance of the gate of the city, and raised over it a great heap of stones, which stands there to this day.

Joshua Renews the Covenant

Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the Israelites, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, ‘an altar of unhewn stones, on which no iron tool has been used’; and they offered on it burnt-offerings to the Lord, and sacrificed offerings of well-being. And there, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written. All Israel, alien as well as citizen, with their elders and officers and their judges, stood on opposite sides of the ark in front of the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, half of them in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded at the first, that they should bless the people of Israel. And afterwards he read all the words of the law, blessings and curses, according to all that is written in the book of the law. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the aliens who resided among them. (Joshua 8)

Now when all the kings who were beyond the Jordan in the hill country and in the lowland all along the coast of the Great Sea towards Lebanon—the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites—heard of this, they gathered together with one accord to fight Joshua and Israel. (Joshua 9:1, 2)


Our God is a Consuming Fire

God is first identified as a “consuming fire” in Deuteronomy 4:24 and 9:3. The writer to the Hebrews reiterates, warning the Hebrews to worship God with reverence and awe “for our God is a consuming fire.” There is nothing mysterious about the Hebrew and Greek words translated “consuming fire.” They mean exactly that—a fire that utterly consumes or destroys. How, then, can a loving and merciful God also be a consuming fire that utterly destroys? 

In both Deuteronomy passages in which God is called a consuming fire, Moses is speaking first to warn the Israelites against idolatry (Deuteronomy 4:23-25) because God is a “jealous God” and will not share His glory with worthless idols. Idolatry provokes Him to a righteous anger which is justified when His holiness is disrespected. In Deuteronomy 9:3, Moses again refers to God as a consuming (or devouring) fire who would go ahead of the Israelites into the Promised Land, destroying and subduing their enemies before them. Here again we see God’s wrath against those who oppose Him depicted as fire that utterly consumes and destroys anything in His path. 

There are several incidents in which God’s wrath, judgment, holiness or power are displayed by fire from heaven. Aaron’s sons Abihu and Nadab were destroyed by fire when they offered a profane sacrifice, “strange fire,” in the tabernacle, a sign of their disregard for the utter holiness of God and the need to honor Him in solemn and holy fear. The confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel is another example of consuming fire from God. The prophets of Baal called upon their god all day long to rain fire from heaven to no avail. Then Elijah built an altar of stones, dug a ditch around it, put the sacrifice on the top of wood and called for water to be poured over his sacrifice three times. Elijah called upon God, and God sent fire down from heaven, completely consuming the sacrifice, the wood, and the stones and licked up the water in the ditch. Then His anger turned against the false prophets, and they were all killed. When prophesying the destruction of the Assyrians, who resisted the true and living God and warred against His people, Isaiah refers to the tongue of the Lord as a consuming fire and His “arm coming down with raging anger and consuming fire” (Isaiah 30:27-30).

God’s holiness is the reason for His being a consuming fire, and it burns up anything unholy. The holiness of God is that part of His nature that most separates Him from sinful man. The godless, Isaiah writes, tremble before Him: “Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?" Isaiah answers this by saying that only the righteous can withstand the consuming fire of God’s wrath against sin, because sin is an offense to God’s holiness. But Isaiah also assures us that no amount of our own righteousness is sufficient (Isaiah 64:6).

Fortunately, God has provided the righteousness we need by sending Jesus Christ to die on the cross for the sins of all who would ever believe in Him. In that one act, Christ mitigates God’s wrath, exchanging His perfect righteousness for our sin. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). All the wrath of God was poured out on Jesus, so that those who belong to Him would not have to suffer the same fate as the Assyrians. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31), but we need not fear the consuming fire of God’s wrath if we are covered by the purifying blood of Christ. (Got Questions)

The One Body of Christ

We followers of Jesus Christ are all one body! Sin in one member affects the entire body. Just as all the organ systems and connections in the human body function under the head of the body so the malfunction of any part of the body affects the entire body, so it is with the true church, the Body of Christ. A sore toe can incapacitate us, an organ failure can be disastrous!

For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.  
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
 For in fact the body is not one member but many.  

If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?  
And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 
If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?  

But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.  
And if they were all one member, where would the body be?  
But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.  
And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”  

No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.  
And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable,
on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty,  
but our presentable parts have no need.

But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it,  
that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.
And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)

New Body Life

Body Functioning

Supplemental Reading

The Exodus Papers

The Canaanites

Hell as the Backside of Love

The Holiness Papers

The Lord is a Man of War

The Exchanged Life

Circumcision and Purity of Heart

Fess Up


The Scars of Sin

Deliberate Sin

Earth's Near Term Future

Symptoms of a Huge Meltdown

Population Decrease Ahead

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October 9, 2021