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Victory in central Canaan (8:1-9:27)
Now that the Israelites had removed the cause of their defeat, God promised Joshua victory over Ai. He added that on this occasion the Israelites could keep the plunder for themselves (8:1-2).
Even with God’s assurance of victory, Joshua planned the attack thoroughly. One company of soldiers was to draw the men of Ai out of the city to fight, then a second company would come out of hiding to attack Ai from the rear (3-9). The plan worked perfectly. When the first Israelite company drew the enemy out, Ai was left defenceless (10-17). The second Israelite company then captured the city (18-19). The men of Ai, caught between the two companies, were wiped out (20-23). The Israelites killed the people trapped inside Ai, after which they plundered the city and burnt it (24-29).
Having now cleared the way, Joshua led his people to Shechem, about thirty kilometres farther on. God had earlier instructed the people through Moses that, as soon as possible after entry into Canaan, they were to go to Shechem to promise their obedience to the covenant. First of all Joshua built an altar, on which the people offered sacrifices that expressed dedication and fellowship. Joshua also wrote the law of God on plastered stones, which he set up in Shechem to remind the people of the rule of life that God laid down for them in their new land (30-32; Deuteronomy 27:1-8).
The people gathered at the mountains Gerizim and Ebal, on either side of Shechem, to collectively declare their loyalty to the covenant. The six tribes who gathered at Mt Gerizim answered ‘Amen’ as the blessings of the law were read. The six tribes who gathered at Mt Ebal answered ‘Amen’ as the curses for disobedience were read (33-35; cf. Deuteronomy 27:11-14).
As Israel’s fame spread, certain Canaanite tribes joined forces to resist any further advances (9:1-2). However, the people of Gibeon and three other towns in the central highlands thought of a different way to protect themselves. Knowing that Israel would destroy all the inhabitants of Canaan, they tricked Israel’s leaders into agreeing not to kill them. They did this by pretending that they were not from Canaan at all, but were from a distant country (3-15). The Israelites were angry when they discovered the truth, but the leaders would not break their promise. They allowed the Gibeonites to live, but put them to work for Israel (16-21). The Gibeonites were grateful to be alive and willingly submitted to Israel’s rule (22-27).
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Joshua 8". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany