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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 8

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-35



Now the Lord gives explicit instructions to Joshua as to attacking Ai. How different these were to the plans Joshua used at first! God tells Joshua not to be afraid, but to take with him all the men of war, not only 3000 men (v.1). It was God who would deliver them into the hand of Joshua, so that there was no doubt of their gaining the victory. They must do with Ai as they had done with Jericho, but in this case the people could take the spoil for themselves (v.2).

God had given the total victory over Jericho, which symbolizes the world as a system of evil. But as to Ai, though God was behind all that Israel did, yet they were to fight in various ways, for Ai speaks of the details of worldliness that hinder the spiritual progress of believers. In their overcoming these things, small as they seem to be, believers will gain spiritually. Thus Israel in this case gained through the spoils.

First they were told to set an ambush behind the city. Joshua therefore chose 30,000 valiant warriors, telling them to lie in wait behind the city, not far from it, and being ready for conflict (v.4). They would wait for Joshua and those with him to show themselves before the city, with the confidence that Ai's men would come out to attack them as before. Israel would then act as though they were beaten and retreat with the men of Ai in pursuit. This would give the ambush time to enter the city and set it on fire (vs.5-8). The men therefore remained in ambush that night (v.9).

Early the next morning Joshua mustered his army and brought them to the north side of Ai, where they encamped (v.11). He also set about 5,000 men in ambush on the west side of the city. Thus there were 30,000 lying in wait behind the city and 5,000 on the west side and a large army with Joshua at the front of the city.

Then Joshua and his army marched into the valley in view of the city gates (v.13). The king of Ai immediately led his army out of the gates to attack Israel as he did before, being ignorant of the ambushes that had been laid (v.14). Joshua and his army retreated then, fleeing from Ai. All the army of Ai joined in pursuit of Israel, leaving the city without defense (vs.15-17). They were not like the men of Jericho who kept their city tightly closed against Israel, but felt themselves strong in taking the offensive, no doubt encouraged by the fact that they had done so before and won.

When Ai had been left defenseless, the Lord told Joshua to stretch out his spear toward Ai (v.18). This was the signal for which the ambush was waiting, and they rushed into the city and set it on fire before the army of Ai knew what was happening (v.19). When-they saw their city on fire, they found themselves caught in the middle, for those they pursued turned back and struck down the men of Ai (v.21). Those who had torched the city came out and attacked from behind, thus in a short time destroying all the army of Ai (v.22).

The king of Ai was taken alive and when the army had been destroyed, the armies of Israel returned into the city and finished the destruction, so that 12,000 were killed that day, the entire population of Ai (v.25). The livestock and other spoil was taken by the Israelites, however, as God had instructed (v.27). The king of Ai was hanged, then his body buried by a great heap of stones at the entrance of the city.

In all of this history we are reminded of some distinct ways in which scripture instructs us to deal with evil:

(1) Entrenched against evil -- those pitched on the north side of Ai (v.11).

Compare Ephesians 6:13.

(2) Watching against evil -- those who laid in ambush (v.12).

Compare 1 Corinthians 16:13.

(3) Appearing against evil -- Joshua's group going into the midst of the valley (v.13).

Compare Ephesians 5:11.

(4) Fleeing from evil -- Joshua's retreat (v.15).

Compare 2 Timothy 2:22.

(5) Putting evil to death -- the destruction of the army of Ai (v.26).

Compare Colossians 3:5.



It is refreshing to see how quickly Joshua responded to God's command inDeuteronomy 27:2-8; Deuteronomy 27:2-8 in building an altar on Mount Ebal, an altar of whole stones. It is reported that this altar has recently been unearthed by archaeologists, who have found it to be of very large dimensions. On this altar the Israelites offered both burnt offerings and peace offerings (v.31). Besides this, Joshua wrote a copy of the law of Moses (v.32). God did not have Israel rush immediately into further conquests, but rather sought to have them soberly consider their relationship to Him, to give Him the worship due His name and be found in a spirit of dependence on Him and obedience to His law,

More time was then taken for Israel to be gathered together, with half the congregation in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal. The ark was in the center, attended by the priests, but all Israel was required to be present. These two mountains were in close proximity, and Joshua was obeying God's command inDeuteronomy 27:11-13; Deuteronomy 27:11-13. Curses were connected with Mount Ebal and blessings with Mount Gerizim. Here Joshua read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings (v.34). Moses had rehearsed this with Israel before, but this was needed as a constant reminder to them.

No one was exempt from hearing this discourse. Women, little children and strangers living among them must be included too (v.35).

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Joshua 8". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/joshua-8.html. 1897-1910.
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