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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 8

Kingcomments on the Whole BibleKingcomments

Verses 1-2


After the evil has been removed from Israel, the people get a new opportunity to conquer Ai. God prescribes exactly how they should proceed. Only if they listen to Him will they overcome. An ambush must be laid. The enemy does not count on that. From this ambush the city is taken.

So also now every believer has a source of power that is invisible to the world. This source of power is the Holy Spirit. The world does not see Him or know Him, as the Lord Jesus says: “The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, [but] you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you” (John 14:17).

When victory is achieved, Joshua builds an altar. The offerings that are brought thereon speak of the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 10:5-2 Samuel :). Every victory we achieve is only due to what the Lord Jesus did on the cross.

The reading of the law at the end of this chapter indicates that obedience to the Word of God is the only guarantee for every victory and every altar.

Joshua 7-8 teach us an important spiritual lesson: the judgment of ourselves precedes the judgment of our enemies. “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17) must first do its sanctifying work in our lives before we can apply it to the lives of others.

Joshua 8 teaches us the return of Israel to the power of God. For their restoration they have to perform a lot of actions. All this would not have been necessary if they had acted in simplicity and sincerity of faith. But God uses these things to teach us who we are and who He is. Pride and false confidence receive a serious lesson here. It takes more effort to return in the way of blessing than it would have cost to avoid evil.

From Joshua 10:28 and onward the cities are conquered in mass. The conquests of Jericho (Joshua 6), Ai (Joshua 8) and Gibeon (Joshua 10) give the necessary principles of conquest that apply to all cities that they have to conquer afterwards. We must see what these cities represent in our lives and how we can overcome them. If we gain a victory in the power of God, then there is a danger that we will trust in our own strength. Ai teaches us how weak we are. In the picture of the chain that is as strong as the weakest link, we are as strong as the weakest Christian among us (Achan). Gibeon (Joshua 9) teaches us that the enemy is cunning.

Command to Go Up Against Ai

The people get a new chance to take Ai. But they must learn to listen to God. Now a complicated tactic is needed and ten times as many men as they thought they needed first (Joshua 7:3). One of the lessons they must learn (and so do we!) is that sins can be forgiven, but that the consequences of sins must be borne.

Verses 3-9

Going to Ambush

They have to take the whole army to take this small town. That is a deep humiliation. Half of the people also have to flee. This time it has to because it fits into God’s plan, but at the same time it is a shameful performance. They must learn never to underestimate the enemy. Every step is pre-written by the LORD (Joshua 8:8).

Here we find in the different actions the different attitudes that the people of God must adopt towards the enemy. In the New Testament we find its spiritual counterparts:
1. Stand against the enemy to resist him (Joshua 8:11; Ephesians 6:13).
2. Watch the enemy from an ambush (Joshua 8:12; 1 Corinthians 16:13).
3. Show themselves to the enemy, that he may reveal himself (Joshua 8:14; Ephesians 5:11).
4. Flee before the enemy (Joshua 8:15; 2 Timothy 2:22).
5. Destroy the enemy (Joshua 8:26; Colossians 3:5).

Verses 10-17

AI Walks Into the Ambush

Again Joshua gets up early and goes with the people of war to Ai. He lets himself be defeated with the people and flees with them. These shameful experiences are made up for by the fact that God is on their side. The power of God is with them everything succeeds.

Yet the revelation of this power is not as by Jericho. By Ai there is a lot of human input, a lot happens. That will appeal to all who love action. In comparison to this, marching around Jericho is a boring display. But by Jericho, the power of God is revealed in the exercise of faith and all honor goes to God. The way Ai is conquered doesn’t show the strength of the faith but the weakness of the human being.

We can apply this to our victories of faith. Our greatest victories are won in our inner room, on our knees, without any noteworthy characteristics. We can also apply it to the many forms of meetings offered by Christianity. There are places where there are impressive, often so-called, manifestations of the Spirit. In contrast, we read of the church in Philadelphia: “You have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name” (Revelation 3:8). The question is what we choose.

To conquer the city, a lot of actions have to be done. Joshua and the part of the people who are with him are approaching the city from the north (Joshua 8:11). This happens at night, while the Jordan has been crossed during the day and everything related to Jericho has taken place during the day. Then a part of the people west of Ai are ambushed (Joshua 8:13). When the king of Ai has observed them, they pretend to flee (Joshua 8:14-Nehemiah :). All this is necessary to judge all self-confidence.

Verses 18-29

Ai Captured and Burned

When the city is empty, God shows that He is in charge. He tells Joshua what to do. How important it is always to listen to the voice of the Lord. Joshua has to stretch out his javelin. That is not a sign for the ambush to get out, at least we don’t read that. He keeps the javelin stretched out until the full victory is achieved. It recalls the raised hands of Moses, when he is on the mountain, while Joshua is fighting the Amalekites (Exodus 17:11-1 Chronicles :).

The javelin is the symbol of judgment and the sign for victory. In Joshua we see here in the picture the Spirit of Christ who is powerfully present among God’s people and works for them in power in the judgment of their enemies. Thus we may look upon Christ in glory and know that we have victory in Him.

The men stand up from the ambush, possibly on the exhortation of what God gives in their hearts. We see Him here as the hidden origin of all actions. They know what to do because He is in charge. We will always be dependent on this leadership. Then those who have fled turn around and take part in the conquest.

After the lesson of Ai God is again with His people. Israel eradicates Ai in obedience to what God has said. This obedience is linked to Joshua’s attitude, who holds his hand with the javelin stretched out as a sign of reliance on complete over-winning. That the hand with the javelin is not withdrawn until the enemy has been completely defeated demonstrates perseverance.

This contains an important lesson for us. Only through persevering confidence victory can be achieved. That is missing with Joash, the king of Israel in the days of Elisha. When Elisha tells him to strike the ground with his arrows, he does so only three times. Joash should have struck much more often, but because he stops too early, his victory is not total (2 Kings 13:17-Psalms :). It is about persevering until the end, until the last enemy is defeated.

Joshua perseveres, as do the believers of the church in Philadelphia, who are praised by the Lord Jesus for having kept “the word of My perseverance” (Revelation 3:10). The “word of My perseverance” also means that this perseverance is found in Himself: “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5). We can only take possession of spiritual blessings by persevering in confidence on the Lord.

At Jericho everything is for the Lord, at Ai everything is for the people. First all for the Lord, then we receive our share, as the Lord may determine. Furthermore, Ai becomes a desolation. As said, Ai means ‘ruin’ and that is what God’s people make of it.

The command given by Joshua regarding the dead body of the king of Ai (Joshua 8:29), shows that he knows the Word of God. He acts according to what God has said about it in the law: “If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance” (Deuteronomy 21:22-Isaiah :).

The territory of Ai is part of the inheritance. It must not be defiled. A hanged man is a curse to God. There is curse for him who hangs on a tree and for those who do not abide in the works of the law. That is the teaching of Galatians 3. The hanged king of Ai shows that the Lord Jesus has taken that place for everyone who believes in Him and has become the cursed One on the tree. The consequence for us is that we have been bought free: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”” (Galatians 3:13). The law does not apply literally to us. The curse of the law no longer strikes us because the Lord Jesus bore it. Whoever believes will never again come under the curse of the law.

Verses 30-32

The Altar on the Ebal

Joshua does what God has commanded him to do if they came into the land: “You shall write on the stones all the words of this law very distinctly” (Deuteronomy 27:8). By building the altar Joshua claims the land for the LORD. He has already shown that the land belongs to the LORD by acting according to the precept in view of the dead body of the king of Ai (Joshua 8:29).

The altar is also a picture of the Lord Jesus, it is not worked, it is all perfect. As He is, He has become the altar on which offerings are brought. No sin offerings are brought at this altar, but burnt offerings and peace offerings. It speaks of the fact that the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus is pleasing to God (burnt offering) and that for God’s people it is the basis for fellowship with Him and with each other (peace offering).

Joshua builds the altar on the Ebal, the mountain of the curse (Deuteronomy 11:29; Deuteronomy 27:4Deuteronomy 27:13). We must learn to say ‘amen’ to the curses. Then we will experience the blessings of the Gerizim. Sacrifices are made on the mountain of the curse. For us, through the offering of Christ, the curses have been removed and the blessings have become our part.

Verses 33-35

Read All the Words of the Law

The ark takes the central place. Then the law is read. God gives His Word in connection with the ark, the altar and the blessings. In Deuteronomy 27 the people must write the law on the altar. Whosoever abides by the Word of God will abide, and will gain victories in the land. Whosoever does not observe the Word of God will suffer, and will not enjoy the blessings of God’s good land and His good blessings.

What is the law in Deuteronomy 27? There the people are given the task to make an altar on Mount Ebal and to sacrifice on it and to write the law on it (Deuteronomy 27:4-Ruth :). But what is the law? That is the whole content of the book Deuteronomy. In it we see first the blessings of the land and then the place where the LORD makes his Name dwell. We also see the conditions to enjoy the blessings in that place. Although we are not under the law, obedience is also the condition for us to enjoy the blessings. If not, we will bear the curse.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Joshua 8". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/joshua-8.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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