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Bible Commentaries

Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books

Joshua 7

Verses 1-26

A Defeat Because of Sin

Jos_7:1-26

The Lord had instructed Israel to make Jericho a devoted city, that is, set apart for him. He especially instructed them to place the silver, gold and vessels of brass in his treasury ( Jos_6:17-19 ). Leslie G. Thomas noted that Satan always began his work to ensnare man in sin right at the start of a new relationship with God. He tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden, Cain at the beginning of recorded worship, Nadab and Abihu at the start of Moses' law and Ananias and Sapphira in the early days of the church on earth ( Gen_3:1-24 ; Gen_4:1-26 ; Lev_10:1-7 and Act_5:1-11 ). In each case, the devil used some item that was to be devoted to God's service to tempt man to evil. The first recorded sin in the land of Canaan is no exception. The temptation was to take the devoted thing despite God's strong warnings to the contrary.

Jos_7:1-26 opens with the sad fact that Achan took of the devoted thing. 1Ch_2:7 calls him Achar which, as the text tells us, means trouble. He troubled the whole nation by taking of the banned items and thereby robbing Israel of its purity much like an infection in one of its members can bring down the whole body. Apparently, Joshua did not know of the sin and sent out spies to observe the next place of conquest, Ai. Upon their return, they reported that the town could be taken with between 2,000 and 3,000 men. So, Joshua sent out 3,000 confidant of victory after the fall of Jericho. They were routed and thirty-six lost their lives in the defeat. Further, the people lost their courage because of the loss to such and insignificant place.

The defeat obviously came about because the Lord had left Israel's side. Joshua began to mourn before the ark of the covenant until evening when he started to talk with God. His first words might be considered murmuring if it were not for the fact that he goes on and asks what answer he should give for the Lord when those people round about them heard that Israel, God's people, had turned their backs in battle. Naturally, he foresaw the nations around them becoming bold, surrounding Israel and destroying them. The nations, as Rahab had said, had come to recognize the power of Jehovah and the greatness of his name. Joshua did not want the memory of that to be wiped off the earth.

God's answer to Joshua's depression over the defeat of Israel was threefold. First, he should get up (7:6). Second, the people would have to acknowledge their sin in taking the banned items and putting it among their own stuff in violation of God's command. Israel would no longer be able to stand before their enemies until they destroyed the accursed thing (compare Deu_13:12-18 ). While God sometimes allowed the people to keep some of the spoils of war, he had specifically told them not to take of the things of Jericho and what items were to go into his treasury ( Deu_20:10-14 ; Jos_8:1-2 ). Third, the people would have to be sanctified. To accomplish this, God had them cleanse themselves that night in preparation for coming before the Lord the next morning. They would come by tribes, families, households and then man by man until the one who had violated God's law was exposed. Then, as he had warned in the original commandment, that man would be treated as a part of the accursed thing and would be burned.

Joshua followed the Lord's instructions and at last Achan appeared before him as the man who had specifically violated God's will. Thomas says the word "confess" literally means "to say the same thing." God already knew of the sin of Achan and now Achan told the people the same thing. He described his sin by saying he saw, coveted and took the items involved. Other scriptures warn us of the danger of these very actions ( 1Jn_2:15-17 ; 1Co_6:9-10 ; Col_3:5 ; Eph_4:28 ). In this case, Achan had robbed God because he had taken that which was devoted to him.

Since Deu_24:16 expressly forbids punishing the children for the crimes of their fathers, we have to assume one of two things. Either Achan's children became accomplices to the crime because the goods were hidden in the tent where they lived, or the plural "them" in verse 24 describes Achan and his things. At any rate, the whole nation participated in the punishment of Achan by stoning and then burning him as God directed. In this way, the people put the evil away from them and were again sanctified in God's sight.

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Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Joshua 7". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/joshua-7.html. 2014.