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Wednesday, September 27th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 8

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

Verses 1-35

Pausing for God in the Middle of Victory


Often, man holds himself guilty long after God has already wiped away the sin. It seems this was the case after Achan's sin had been removed from the camp. The Lord had to reassure Joshua that there was no need for fear since he had given Ai into the hands of Israel ( Jos_8:1 ). He also told him to use an ambush to conquer the city.

Verses 3 and 12 of Jos_8:1-35 disagree as to the number of men Joshua set in ambush. The two numbers look very similar in Hebrew, so it may be one of the copyists got one of these wrong. Apparently, 5,000 men were set in ambush between Bethel and Ai. Joshua sent that group out at night so the king of Ai could not know what was behind him. Then, in the morning, Joshua rose up with the rest of the fighting men, marched to the city and set up a new camp.

Early the next morning, the king of Ai came out with his soldiers to attack the armies of the Lord. Joshua had his army flee, which convinced the king of Ai that they would again rout Israel and perhaps put away this menace from the land of Canaan. All of the fighting men of Ai and Bethel went out to pursue and destroy Israel. Then, Joshua raised his spear toward the city as a signal for those lying in wait to rise up and take the city. They set it on fire and the men of Ai, seeing it, realized there was no avenue of escape for them. Indeed, the army of Israel slew every man, not letting one escape, and brought back the king to Joshua. Joshua had the king hung upon a tree for the rest of day, calling for the body to be removed from the tree at sundown and thrown against the gates of the city where it was covered with a heap of stones. It is interesting to note that Joshua was fully complying with the law of Moses in taking the body down when the sun set ( Deu_21:22-23 ).

Having learned something from the experience at Jericho, the people completely destroyed all of the inhabitants of Ai. They were allowed to keep of the spoils of the city. With victory fresh in their minds, Joshua marched the people to somewhere near Mount Ebal. For those who are not accustomed to following God's commands completely, his next move is a strange one. God's leader caused the people to pause and renew their covenant with God by offering sacrifice and hearing again the law they were to follow.

In strict keeping with God's will as it is expressed in Deu_27:1-26 , Joshua had an altar built of uncut stones and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings to God. On the exterior of those stones, they put plaster and wrote the law of Moses. All of Israel, including men, women, children and people who were living with them, watched as the law was written. Just as God directed through Moses, Joshua positioned the tribes of Israel with six facing Mount Gerizim and six facing Mount Ebal. The blessings were to be read from Gerizim and the cursings from Ebal. These two mountains may well have been symbolic in this reading since Gerizim is fertile with rich growth and Ebal is barren. When God blesses a man or people, they are richly fertile. When God curses a man or people, his life is barren of that which truly matters. This followed instructions God had given before in Deu_11:29 .

The reading of the entire law of Moses before all the people who were to inhabit the promised land is significant. Not even a child was allowed to miss this important reading of God's covenant. Everyone in the kingdom today, be they newborn babes in Christ or longtime Christians, needs to hear and reflect upon God's will for our lives. They trusted enough in God to take time out from conquest to review his will for their lives and he kept them safe while they did. We need to realize God will not fail to provide for all our needs today if we take time out for him and make the pursuit of his will the most important thing in our lives ( Mat_6:25-34 ).

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Joshua 8". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/joshua-8.html. 2014.
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