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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 8

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 1

And the LORD said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land:

Fear not, neither be thou dismayed. — For I have found an atonement, as Job 33:24 . And as a bone once broken is stronger after setting: as lovers are never greater friends than after a falling out: so is it betwixt God and his offending servants.

Take all the people. — That all may partake of the spoil.

See, I have given it into thine hand. — Thine it is assuredly; but by my free gift, not by thine own prowess or policy.

Verse 2

And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves: lay thee an ambush for the city behind it.

Lay thee an ambush behind it.Dolus an virtus, quis in hoste requirat? If the war be just, the use of stratagems is unquestionably warrantable. Of Decebalus, king of Dacians, in Domitian’s time, a valiant and wise warrior, it is thus storied, Noverat optime insidias faeere, proelium committere, optime uti victoria, et acceptam cladem ferre moderate; He well knew how to lay an ambush, pitch a field, use a victory, take a defeat. Dio, in Dom.

Verse 3

So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai: and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valour, and sent them away by night.

And Joshua chose out thirty thousand. — Whom he commanded to lay some in ambush, to wit the five thousand mentioned in Joshua 8:12 .

Verse 4

And he commanded them, saying, Behold, ye shall lie in wait against the city, [even] behind the city: go not very far from the city, but be ye all ready:

Ye shall lie in wait. — See Joshua 8:2 .

Verse 5

And I, and all the people that [are] with me, will approach unto the city: and it shall come to pass, when they come out against us, as at the first, that we will flee before them,

We will flee before them. — God also hath his stratagems; he seemeth sometimes to retire, that he may come upon his enemies with the greater advantage. The end of all the present troubles will be the ruin of the Antichristian faction, and we shall see the Church in her more perfect beauty, when the enemies shall be in that place that is fittest for them, the lowest, that is the footstool of Christ.

Verse 6

(For they will come out after us) till we have drawn them from the city; for they will say, They flee before us, as at the first: therefore we will flee before them.

Till we have drawn them from the city. — Heb., Pulled them. Saith Bristow in his "Motives," Pull the heretics but out of their stronghold of Scripture proofs, into the open field of fathers and councils, and then you may deal well enough with them.

Verse 7

Then ye shall rise up from the ambush, and seize upon the city: for the LORD your God will deliver it into your hand.

For the Lord your God will deliver it, … — Thus, "through faith they subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens." Hebrews 11:33-34

Verse 8

And it shall be, when ye have taken the city, [that] ye shall set the city on fire: according to the commandment of the LORD shall ye do. See, I have commanded you.

Ye shall set the city on fire. — Of this fire we may say, as Herodotus doth of Troy, set on fire by the Greeks, that the cinders and ashes thereof were set before the eyes of men, as an example of that sure rule. Great sins have great punishments from God; Tων μεγαλων αδικηματων μεγαλαι εισι και αι πιμωριαι παρα του Yεου . - Herod. like whereunto is that of Job, "Is not destruction to the wicked? and a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity?" Job 31:3

Verse 9

Joshua therefore sent them forth: and they went to lie in ambush, and abode between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai: but Joshua lodged that night among the people.

Joshua therefore sent them forth, … — Thus he fulfilled all parts and points of a good general: being, as Velleius saith of Mithridates, king of Pontus, Virtute eximius, plerunque fortuna, semper animo maximus, consiliis dux, miles manu, …, and as Catullus of Achilles,

Hostibus haud tergo, sed forti pectore notus.

Verse 10

And Joshua rose up early in the morning, and numbered the people, and went up, he and the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai.

And Joshua rose up early in the morning. — He is much noted for his early rising: his vigilancy being equal to his valour.

Verse 11

And all the people, [even the people] of war that [were] with him, went up, and drew nigh, and came before the city, and pitched on the north side of Ai: now [there was] a valley between them and Ai.

And all the people, even the people of war. — Not two or three thousand only, as when they first went against Ai, and were discomfited, but all the chief of the soldiery; lest some man should say to him, as once Archidamus did to his son, rashly conflicting with the Athenians, but wanting strength to make his party good with them, Aut viribus adde, aut animis adime: Either add to your forces, or abate of your valour.

Verse 12

And he took about five thousand men, and set them to lie in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city.

Between Bethel and Ai. — Those two confederate cities, in woods and coverts, probably in the wilderness of Bethaven. Joshua 18:12-13

Verse 13

And when they had set the people, [even] all the host that [was] on the north of the city, and their liers in wait on the west of the city, Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley.

Joshua went that night. — That is, very early in the morning, Joshua 8:9-10 with a small company, that he might provoke the citizens to sally out, which they did the rather, because they saw the Israelites in the midst of the valley, iniquo loco, in a place of disadvantage.

Verse 14

And it came to pass, when the king of Ai saw [it], that they hasted and rose up early, and the men of the city went out against Israel to battle, he and all his people, at a time appointed, before the plain; but he wist not that [there were] liers in ambush against him behind the city.

They hasted and rose up early.Sine dilatione aut deliberatione, consiliove capto, they made more haste than good speed. Warriors should do nothing rashly, Quia in proelio non datur his errare, as Lamachus said, one error is destructive. "Every purpose shall be established by counsel: therefore with good advice make war." Proverbs 20:18 See Trapp on " Proverbs 20:18 "

But he wist not. — And therefore all too late came in with his fool’s Had I known. Leo cassibus irretitus ait, Si praescivissem.

Verse 15

And Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness.

Made as if they were beaten. — See Joshua 8:2 . So Solomon made as if he would divide the living child. Our Saviour "made as if he would have gone farther." Luke 24:28 Genesis 19:2 1 Kings 3:24

Verse 16

And all the people that [were] in Ai were called together to pursue after them: and they pursued after Joshua, and were drawn away from the city.

And were drawn away from the city. — In hope of like success as before; but it proved otherwise. So wicked men praesumendo sperant, et sperando pereunt, presume and perish.

Verse 17

And there was not a man left in Ai or Bethel, that went not out after Israel: and they left the city open, and pursued after Israel.

And there was not a man left in Ai or Bethel. — Thus obdurate sinners are even ambitious of destruction. Judgments need not go to find them out; they run to meet their bane.

And they left the city open. — Security ushereth in destruction. God’s saints are oft outwitted by the devil, whilst by a wile he getteth them out of the city, - the promise and God’s gracious presence, - and then doth what he will with them. "Little children," saith St John, "if ye abide in God’s commandments" (and so keep home), "ye abide in God," and so are in safety. 1 John 2:28

Verse 18

And the LORD said unto Joshua, Stretch out the spear that [is] in thy hand toward Ai; for I will give it into thine hand. And Joshua stretched out the spear that [he had] in his hand toward the city.

Stretch out the spear.Hastam vexillarem, the spear whereon hung the colours, for a sign to the soldiers, those of the ambush to enter, and those of the army to turn head against the enemy. By this means, saith one, as by Moses’s rod, it pleased God to work for his people.

Verse 19

And the ambush arose quickly out of their place, and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand: and they entered into the city, and took it, and hasted and set the city on fire.

And the ambush arose quickly, and they ran, and hasted. — For they knew that opportunities are headlong, and once past they cannot be recovered. Armies as well as courts have their cito, cito Alexander being asked how in so short a time he had overrun so great a part of the habitable world, answered, Mηδεν αναβαλλομενος , by making no delays.

Verse 20

And when the men of Ai looked behind them, they saw, and, behold, the smoke of the city ascended up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that way: and the people that fled to the wilderness turned back upon the pursuers.

And when the men of Ai looked behind them. — They should have looked before προσσω και οπισσω . But now it was Sero inquit Nero. Sin casteth wicked men into straits inextricable, and filleth their souls with sorrows unmedicinable.

Verse 21

And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city, and that the smoke of the city ascended, then they turned again, and slew the men of Ai.

And slew the men of Ai. — Who were half dead before with fear and astonishment. Joshua 8:20

Hic rogo; non furor eat ne moriare, mori?

Verse 22

And the other issued out of the city against them; so they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side, and some on that side: and they smote them, so that they let none of them remain or escape.

So they were in the midst of Israel. — See Joshua 8:20 .

Verse 23

And the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him to Joshua.

And the king of Ai they took alive. — His preservation was but a reservation to a more solemn execution: so Revelation 19:20 the beast and false prophet were cast alive into the fiery lake, when the remnant were slain with the sword. Potentes potenter torquebuntur.

Verse 24

And it came to pass, when Israel had made an end of slaying all the inhabitants of Ai in the field, in the wilderness wherein they chased them, and when they were all fallen on the edge of the sword, until they were consumed, that all the Israelites returned unto Ai, and smote it with the edge of the sword.

Returned unto Ai, and smote it.Diruendi sunt corvorum nidi, crows’ nests are to be destroyed, lest they nest and lay there again the next year. If this city had been suffered to stand, the Canaanites might have fortified it again against them, while they were led farther to mount Ebal, and mount Gerizim.

Verse 25

And [so] it was, [that] all that fell that day, both of men and women, [were] twelve thousand, [even] all the men of Ai.

Were twelve thousand. — A poor few to stand out against such an army; but self-confidence undid them.

Verse 26

For Joshua drew not his hand back, wherewith he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai.

For Joshua drew not his hand back. — "The arms of his hands being made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob," Genesis 49:24 of whom it is said that "his hand is stretched out still." Isaiah 9:12

Verse 27

Only the cattle and the spoil of that city Israel took for a prey unto themselves, according unto the word of the LORD which he commanded Joshua.

Only the cattle and the spoil. — For encouragement of the soldiers: so at the sack of Constantinople, Mohammed, the great Turk, caused proclamation to be made through his camp that he would freely give all the spoil of the city for three days unto his soldiers, if they could win it, which also they soon did, and were so enriched therewith, that it is a proverb amongst them at this day, if any grow suddenly rich, to say, He hath been at the sacking of Constantinople. Turk. Hist., 347.

Verse 28

And Joshua burnt Ai, and made it an heap for ever, [even] a desolation unto this day.

And Joshua burnt Ai.See Trapp on " Joshua 8:8 "

Verse 29

And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide: and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcase down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones, [that remaineth] unto this day.

And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree,i.e., Either on a gallows, or cross. The Septuagint has it, upon a double tree, επι ξυλου διδυμον . intimating the cross, propter dua ligna quae se invicem intersecant, because of the two pieces standing across, as the threads in the woof and warp; whence the Jews at this day, in derision of Christ crucified, call him the woof and warp, ðòìá çé Stamen et subtegmen. because these two make the figure of the cross.

That they should take his carcass down from the tree.Ab arbore infelici, as the Latins call it. This was according to the law; Deuteronomy 21:23 but it was otherwise in the case of Saul and his sons. 2 Samuel 21:9-10 God may dispense with his own law as he pleaseth.

Verse 30

Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal,

Then Joshua built an altar. — According to Moses’s charge. Deuteronomy 11:29 ; Deuteronomy 27:5-6

to mount Ebal. — Which was far up in the country, near Shechem, in the tribe of Ephraim. Judges 9:6-7 ; Judges 20:7 The Canaanites were now so quaffed and dismayed with the destruction of Jericho and Ai, that for the present they opposed not the Israelites in their way to these two mountains, and their service there performed.

Verse 31

As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up [any] iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings.

Over which no man hath llft up any iron. — To polish or garnish it; for this was to defile it. Exodus 20:25 Deuteronomy 27:5 In God’s service we must neither be curious nor careless. Holy things must be handled Sancte magis quam scite, neither is it for men to worship God as they please.

Verse 32

And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel.

A copy of the law of Moses,i.e., The decalogue or ten commandments, and therewith, likely, the blessings and curses here pronounced on these two mountains: to the end that all the people might read them, and be well versed in them. But what a sot was that Popish doctor, who, being asked whether he had read the decalogue, denied that he had ever had any such book in his study. Amama, in Antibarb. Biblico.

Verse 33

And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, as well the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them over against mount Gerizim, and half of them over against mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel.

Before the priests and the Levites. — Whose office from God was to pronounce not only blessings, Numbers 6:23 but curses, that those that would not obey God for love should do it for fear. These curses we may read in Deuteronomy 27:15-17 , … The blessings are not mentioned by Moses, that we might learn to look for them by Messiah only. Acts 3:26

Verse 34

And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law.

And afterwards he read all the words,i.e., He caused them to be read by the Levites, Deuteronomy 27:14 and haply the sense to be given, as Nehemiah 8:8 .

Verse 35

There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.

And the strangers. — The proselyted strangers that professed the true religion.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 8". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/joshua-8.html. 1865-1868.
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