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Preparations for the Taking Of Ai
v. 1. And the Lord, having restored His favor to Israel by the expiation of Achan's death, said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed, cast down and filled with apprehension. Take all the people of war with thee, the entire army, 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, the territory of which Ai was capital;
v. 2. and thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king, exterminate all human beings; only the spoil thereof, in money and goods, and the cattle thereof shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves, for only Jericho, as first-fruits, had been devoted to the Lord. Lay thee an ambush for the city behind it.
v. 3. So Joshua arose and all the people of war, the entire army, as ordered by God, to go up against Ai, he gave the command that all should be mustered. And Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valor and sent them away by night, since the distance was such as to be made easily in one night's march.
v. 4. And he commanded them, saying, Behold, ye shall lie in wait against the city, ready for an attack, even behind the city. Go not very far from the city, but be ye all ready;
v. 5. and I and all the people that are with me, the main division of the army, will approach unto the city, along the road which led to it from the southeast; and it shall come to pass, when they come out against us, as at the first, that we will flee before them, employ this ruse to draw them out of the city,
v. 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, thus strengthening the enemy in their false supposition and causing them to abandon caution.
v. 7. Then ye shall rise up from the ambush and seize upon the city, capture it without difficulty; for the Lord, your God, will deliver it into your hand.
v. 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.
v. 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, there being some rocky ridges to the southwest, where concealment could easily be made. But Joshua lodged that night among the people, in camp with the larger division of his army, which marched less swiftly.
v. 10. And Joshua rose up early in the morning and numbered the people, mustered them, and went up, he and the elders of Israel, for it behooved them to take the lead in the attack, before the people of Ai, so that the watchmen of the city could see them.
v. 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. Thus their camp was plainly visible from Ai, but could not easily be attacked.
v. 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, for there was a second ridge toward the northwest.
v. 13. And when they had set the people, assigned to every company and every individual the place which he was to occupy in the attack, 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, moved forward, as though for an attack, under cover of darkness. Thus the main part of the army was on the north side of the city, the ambush of thirty thousand was on the southwest, directly behind the city, and the smaller ambush of five thousand men was ready to attack the flank of the enemy. It was not merely Joshua's military genius which appears in this story, for the plan was made by the Lord, whose purpose was to reassure the army of Israel.
Ai Taken and Destroyed
v. 14. And it came to pass, when the king of Ai saw it, that they hasted and rose up early, believing they had only the army to the north of the city to deal with; and the men of the city went out against Israel to battle, he (the king) and all his people, at a time appointed, before the plain, in the only place where a battle in open formation was possible, near the steppes of Beth-aven, east of Bethel; but he wist not that there were liers-in-ambush against him behind the city.
v. 15. And Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten before them, they feigned fear and weakness, and fled by the way of the wilderness.
v. 16. And all the people that were in Ai, all the able-bodied men, were called together to pursue after them; and they pursued after Joshua, and were drawn away from the city, leaving the latter altogether unprotected.
v. 17. And there was not a man left in Ai or Bethel, the inhabitants of the latter city having joined the forces of Ai, that went not out after Israel; and they left the city open, and pursued after Israel, thinking that the army of Israel was fleeing in utter and hopeless rout.
v. 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. Joshua was probably occupying some higher point from which he was easily visible, or he may have been mounted and his figure easily distinguishable even at a distance. And Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city.
v. 19. And the ambush, to whom the outposts had immediately signaled to that effect, arose quickly out of their place, and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand; and they entered into the city, whose defenders were all engaged in the pursuit of the Israelites, and took it, and hasted and set the city on fire.
v. 20. And when the men of Ai looked behind them, their attention being drawn in that direction by the behavior of the Israelites, who turned to watch for the signal of the smoke's rising, they saw, and, behold, the smoke of the city ascended up to heaven, and they had no power to nee this way or that way, they were paralyzed with sudden terror; and the people that fled to the wilderness turned back upon the pursuers. The whole situation of the men of Ai, who now saw before them the enemy, behind them the burning town, is admirably pictured in a few strokes.
v. 21. And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city, and that the smoke of the city ascended, for this was the sign for which they had been waiting, then they turned again, and slew the men of Ai.
v. 22. And the other, the Israelites who had lain in ambush, issued out of the city against them; so they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side and some on that side, caught in a trap from which there was no escape. And they, the Israelites, smote them, so that they let none of them remain or escape, the entire army of Ai, together with its allies, being destroyed.
v. 23. And the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him to Joshua, who was to rule regarding his disposal.
v. 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, put all its inhabitants to death.
v. 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, the adult inhabitants.
v. 26. For Joshua drew not his hand back wherewith he stretched out the spear until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. This he did according to the universal rule of the ancients, which required the general to hold the signal of battle aloft until he desired the battle to be ended.
v. 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,
v. 28. And Joshua burned Ai, and made it an heap forever, a heap of ashes and broken stones, even a desolation unto this day; its ruins were still visible at the time when the author wrote this account.
v. 29. And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide, Numbers 25:4; and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcass down from the tree, Deuteronomy 21:23, 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. The entire story teaches that we should indeed use all our physical and mental powers in the work given us by the Lord, but that everything depends upon His almighty power and blessing. It is He who must give us the victory in every battle.
Blessing and Curse Proclaimed
v. 30. Then Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God of Israel in Mount Ebal, as the Lord had commanded, Deuteronomy 27:4-5,
v. 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, Exodus 20:25. And they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the Lord, and sacrificed peace-offerings.
v. 32. And he (Joshua) wrote there upon the stones a copy of the Law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel, Deuteronomy 27:2-8.
v. 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, the ark thus occupying the center between the two divisions of the tribes, 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, Deuteronomy 11:29; Deuteronomy 27:11-26, as Moses, the servant of the Lord, had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel.
v. 34. And afterward he read all the words of the Law, the blessings and cursings, fulfilling the Law being in itself a blessing and transgressing it being in itself a curse, Deuteronomy 11:26, according to all that is written in the book of the Law.
v. 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 (living with) them, who had chosen to cast their lot with that of Israel. We believers of the New Covenant will ever be mindful of the Revelation of the New Testament, of the Gospel, never leaving it out of our eyes. For upon a man's attitude toward the Gospel of Jesus Christ depends, in the last analysis, his eternal weal or woe.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Joshua 8". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent