Joshua 7:1. The children of Israel committed a trespass; that is, Achan and his children, who concealed their father’s sin, by hiding the accursed plunder in their tent. The sin of one man is here attributed to all the people of Israel; as the sin of one member vitiates and shames the whole body.
Joshua 7:2. From Jericho to Ai; called Hai, Genesis 12:8; and Aija, Nehemiah 11:31. This town lay nine miles west of Jericho on a hill, and fell to the lot of Benjamin. There was another town of that name among the Ammonites. Jeremiah 49:3.
Joshua 7:9. What wilt thou do unto thy great name? When the church comes to extremities, God’s honour comes to extremities: his great name is closely connected with that of his family.
Joshua 7:14. The tribe which the Lord taketh, as was the case when Saul was elected king. Our critics say, by lot; the text says, the Lord took the man. This was probably by the judgment of the Urim; a cloud of obscuration passed on the brilliant stones when the name was called. Be that as it might, the Lord will surely take the guilty in the day of scrutiny.
Joshua 7:24. His sons and his daughters. These by concealment became partakers of their father’s sin; and as in Korah’s case, were involved in his punishment.
Joshua 7:25. Why hast thou troubled us? Alluding to Achan’s name, as well as to his sin; and sin is the cause of all trouble.—And burned them with fire. This also is a gentile punishment. See on Exodus 22:18.
Joshua 7:26. They raised over him a great heap of stones. Tumuli of earth or of stones were raised by all the ancients on great occasions, as on Absalom. 1 Kings 18:17. Our Downs are full of burrows by Romans, Danes, and Saxons. The Romans are distinguished by urns and coins, and the Saxons by armour.
Jericho being the strongest city in all the vicinity, and excelling the other cities in wickedness, the Lord had peculiarly charged himself with its punishment, as a devoted place. The gold, silver, and brass, after being purified with fire, he had appropriated to his service. The first spoil the Lord claimed on the same principle as he had claimed the firstborn, and the firstfruits. The inhabitants he had devoted to the sword, and their houses to the flames. The whole city was therefore the Lord’s, not only by a divine claim, but because he had by an omnipotent arm thrown down the walls.
From the tragic case of Achan we may learn, that all sin is, in God’s account, an accursed thing. The anathema of the Lord is denounced against every violation of his holy law, Galatians 3:10; against all unbelievers, Mark 16:16; and against all who love not the Lord Jesus, 1 Corinthians 16:22.
One predominant sin often proves the ruin of men and of nations. Luxury and dissipation are frequently the ruin of our youth; a habit of saving in commercial people, not unfrequently becomes a confirmed covetousness in old age. This was Achan’s sin. He entered the house of a prince; and after inflicting death on the family he saw in a secret place a splendid robe decorated with gold; he saw the silver and gold lying contiguous. At this sight the lusts of his heart, which he had neglected to mortify, gained the ascendency over him. This money, he said, will elevate me above my contemporaries; this robe will distinguish me above the families of Israel. I have children; old age will come, and I ought to consult the good of my family. Conscience would reply, touch it not; the God who divided the Jordan, and threw down the strong walls of Jericho, has pronounced it accursed; this transgression and sacrilege will bring all the sins of the devoted city on thee and thy house. True, he replied, but the Lord is merciful. I may repent in future; and I will make a good use of the treasure. Passion, which had already overpowered his understanding, next overpowered his conscience. So he put the money in his pouch; and casting away his own upper garment, folded up the robe in its place cautiously covered. What could human prudence do more? He enjoyed his guilty triumph of secresy and success.
One man’s sins, however secret, may involve himself and his country in the dreadful visitations of God. Achan made his family parties in his crime; and the curse of Jericho being hereby transferred to them, the whole family perished. This was the first sin after the passover at Gilgal; and God, as in many places of scripture, has peculiarly punished the first gross offences after the renewal of a covenant. Israel, all elevated with the triumph, went up to Ai, but fainted on seeing the arms of the enemy and fled. So Samson, after violating his vows, was weak as another man. The reason of all this was, because Israel was one body, and shared in common the benefits of one covenant: therefore God thought proper to suspend the course of his blessings, that his people might be searched and sanctified: how instructive is this history to the christian church! If religion fall into decay in any place, when according to the promises it ought to flourish, a scrutiny should be made into the cause. Do the ministers and the people live in the spirit of holiness and love; for the loss of love will make any community droop? Is the public ministry faithfully enforced? Are the children and the young people properly instructed? Is there a sacred line of distinction drawn between the communicants and the corruptions of the world? Does no one live in the habits of adultery, fornication, drunkenness, malice, or fraud?
Are all family duties discharged, and the public worship respectfully attended? For all wilful and habitual sins will cause the Lord to suspend the glory of his presence, and restrain the course of his blessings. He will not be present with his people while Achan covers his crimes.
Ministers and magistrates, like Joshua and the elders, should weep and mourn when secret offences chill the spirit of religion; and when the crimes of our country retard its prosperity, and load it with calamities. Oh it was a fine spirit to see all Israel prostrate before the Lord in the day of humiliation.
God will soon discover all the secret sins of men, and bring the offenders to punishment. Achan little thought of the trouble he was bringing on his family and nation. Dazzled with ideas of opulence and splendour, he had no idea that the lot would soon find him out. Ah, and shall men for a fortune, a name, a villa, a carriage, indulge in habitual fraud. He who oppresses the labourer, or withholds a part of his treasure from religious and charitable uses, like Achan, defrauds his God. Wealth not justly acquired will prove to him and his house an accursed thing; and the Lord, far sooner than he expects, will take him by name and reveal his punishment.
Mark next the effects of Achan’s sin. He concealed it, he dissembled, and did not make an ingenuous confession till death stared him in the face. Thus it is with wicked men. Oh, what it costs them to say, I have sinned. His confession nevertheless gave glory to the holiness and omniscience of God, who will by no means clear the guilty. It partially relieved the wounds of his conscience by a copious discharge; and it was all the fruits of repentance which circumstances allowed. Offenders should always be exhorted to give glory to God, and to take the shame to themselves.
From Joshua and the elders we learn how the ministers of religion should purge the church of those who work folly in Israel, leaving them with God to grant them repentance, or farther punishment, as he shall judge in his holy counsel. In many cases a man makes his family a party in his crimes, for guilt seems to contaminate all eyes which behold it destitute of tears. May the sin of this man, so dreadful to himself and instructive to the world, warn us not to leave one wicked propensity unsubdued in the heart.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Joshua 7". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany