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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 7

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2553. B.C. 1451.

We have here the sin of Achan in taking the accursed thing, Joshua 7:1 . The defeat of Israel before Ai, Joshua 7:2-5 . Joshua’s humiliation and prayer, Joshua 7:6-9 . God’s directions to him, Joshua 7:10-15 . The discovery, conviction, and execution of the criminal, Joshua 7:16-26 .

Verse 1

Joshua 7:1. But the children of Israel That is, one of them. It is a usual form of speech in the Holy Scriptures, to ascribe that to many indefinitely, which properly belonged only to one or two of the same body or society. Thus ( Mat 26:8 ) we find that to be ascribed to all the disciples which was done by Judas alone: see John 12:4. Committed a trespass in the accursed thing Offended God by taking some of the spoils which were devoted to destruction, or appropriated to God’s treasury, with a curse upon him who took them. Achan, the son of Carmi He is called Achar, (1 Chronicles 2:7,) a word that signifies, He troubled. It is probable that as he had troubled Israel, (Joshua 7:25,) they changed his name thus in after-times. Zabdi Called also Zimri, 1 Chronicles 2:6. Zerah Or Zarah, who was Judah’s immediate son, (Genesis 38:30,) who went with his father into Egypt when he was very young. And thus, for making up the two hundred and fifty-six years that are supposed to come between that and this time, we must allow Achan to be now an old man, and his three ancestors to have begotten each his son at about sixty years of age; which at that time was not incredible nor unusual. Against the children of Israel Why did God punish the whole society for this one man’s sin? All of them were punished for their own sins, whereof each had a sufficient proportion; but God took this occasion to inflict the punishment upon the society. 1st, Because divers of them might be guilty of this sin, either by coveting to do what he actually did, or by concealing his fault, which, it is probable, could not be unknown to others, or by not sorrowing for it, and endeavouring to purge themselves from it: 2d, To make sin the more hateful, as being the cause of such dreadful judgments: and, 3d, To oblige all the members of every society to be more circumspect in ordering their own actions, and more diligent to prevent the miscarriage of their brethren.

Verses 2-3

Joshua 7:2-3. Go up and view the country They were not to go into the city of Ai, but into the country belonging to it, that they might understand the state of the place and people. Let two or three thousand go up and smite Ai There was no little self-confidence and presumption in this counsel: Ai, it appears, was strong by its situation, and guarded by twelve thousand men; so that there was no probability of taking it with two or three thousand. God, however, wisely permitted this advice to be followed, that Achan’s sin might be brought to light and punished, and the people in general, who were evidently lifted up through their late success, might be awakened, humbled, and reformed, and that with as little mischief and reproach as might be. For if the defeat of these few caused such consternation in Joshua and the elders, and probably in all the host, it is easy to guess what dread it would have caused if the whole army had been defeated.

Verse 4

Joshua 7:4. They fled before the men of Ai Not having courage, it seems, to strike a stroke, a plain evidence that God had forsaken them, and an instructive event, to show them what they were when God left them; that they did not gain their victories by their own valour, but that it was God that gave the Canaanites into their hands. And may we not hence conclude, however little it may be thought of, that victory or superiority in war between different nations, depends more upon the will of God than upon any other circumstance; and that a nation that goes to battle loaded with its crimes, has but little reason to hope for final victory or lasting success!

Verse 5

Joshua 7:5. The men of Ai smote thirty-six men A dear-bought victory to them, whereby Israel was awakened and reformed, and they hardened to their own ruin. They smote them in the going down That is, till they came to the plains of Jericho, Ai standing upon a hill. The hearts of the people melted, and became as water Soft and weak, and full of fluctuation and trembling. They were undoubtedly struck with this panic from God; for otherwise there was no sufficient reason for it.

Verse 6

Joshua 7:6. And Joshua rent his clothes In testimony of great sorrow for the loss felt, the consequent mischief feared, and the sin which he suspected. The outward marks of sorrow exhibited on this occasion by Joshua and the elders, are well known to have been usually shown in those ages when people were afflicted with grief on account of any great calamity, or the commission of any extraordinary crime. Fell to the earth upon his face In deep humiliation and fervent supplication. Before the ark of the Lord Not in the sanctuary, but with his face toward it. Until the even-tide Continuing the whole day in fasting and prayer. And put dust upon their heads Which was still a higher expression of great grief, and of a deep sense of their unworthiness to be relieved.

Verse 7

Joshua 7:7. Wherefore hast thou brought this people over Jordan? In this and the two following verses, Joshua shows the infirmity of human nature, and how apt even pious men are to forego their trust in God, and to think of him and his actions according to their own weakness. Because three thousand men had fled before Ai, Joshua seems ready to conclude that all God’s promises were about to be rendered of none effect; not considering the wisdom, power, and truth of the Almighty. To deliver us into the hand of the Amorites Here his expressions fall far short of that reverence, modesty, and submission which he owed to God, and they are recorded as instances, that the holy men of God of old were subject to like passions and infirmities with other men.

Verses 8-9

Joshua 7:8-9. What shall I say? In answer to the reproaches of our insulting enemies? When Israel God’s people, which he hath singled out of all nations for his own. Turneth their backs Unable to make any resistance. What wilt thou do unto thy great name? Which will upon this occasion be blasphemed, and charged with inconstancy, and with inability to resist them, or to do thy people that good which thou didst intend them. The name of God is a great name, above every name. And whatever happens, we ought to pray that this may not be polluted. This should be our concern more than any thing else: on this we should fix our eye: and we cannot urge a better plea than this, “Lord, what wilt thou do for thy great name?” Let God in all be glorified, and then welcome his whole will!

Verses 10-12

Joshua 7:10-12. Wherefore liest thou upon thy face? This business is not to be done by inactive supplication, but by vigorous endeavours for reformation. Israel hath sinned Some or one of them. They have transgressed my covenant That is, broken the conditions of my covenant, which they promised to perform, whereof this was one, not to meddle with the accursed thing. And have also stolen Taken what I had reserved for myself, Joshua 6:19. And dissembled also Covered the fact with deep dissimulation. Probably Joshua after the destruction of Jericho, had made inquiry whether the silver and gold, &c., were brought into the treasury, and whether they had destroyed all the other things as God commanded; and they all answered in the affirmative. Possibly, too, Achan might be suspected of purloining something, and, being accused, had denied it. Among their own stuff Converted it to their own use, and added obstinacy to their crime. Because they were accursed By having a man among them who is fallen under my curse. Thus they have put themselves out of my protection, and therefore are liable to the same destruction which belongs to the Canaanites. Except ye destroy the accursed Now they knew that such a crime had been committed among them, they would have been as guilty as Achan if they had not punished it.

Verse 13

Joshua 7:13. Sanctify yourselves Not only wash your clothes and give yourselves up to religious exercises, meditation, and prayer, as you were required to do formerly, when called to meet the Lord at Sinai, (see Exodus 19:10,) and lately, when you were about to be led over Jordan, (Joshua 3:5,) but purify yourselves from that defilement which you have all in some sort contracted by this accursed fact, and prepare yourselves to appear before the Lord, expecting his sentence for the discovery and punishment of the sin. This was enjoined that the guilty person might be awakened, and brought to a free confession of his fault. And it is a marvellous thing that he did not on this occasion acknowledge his crime. But this is to be imputed to the heart-hardening power of sin, which makes men grow worse and worse; to his pride, which made him loath to take to himself the shame of such a mischievous and infamous action; and to his vain conceit, whereby he might think others were guilty as well as he, and that some of them might be taken, and he escape.

Verses 14-15

Joshua 7:14-15. The tribe which the Lord taketh Which shall be declared guilty by the lot, which is disposed by the Lord, (Proverbs 16:33,) and which was to be cast in the Lord’s presence before the ark. Of such use of lots, see 1Sa 14:41 ; 1 Samuel 14:52; Jonah 1:7; Acts 1:26. Shall be burnt with fire As persons and things accursed were to be. All that he hath His cattle and goods, as is noted Joshua 7:24, according to the law, Deuteronomy 13:16. Wrought folly So sin is often called in Scripture, in opposition to the idle opinion of sinners, who commonly esteem it to be their wisdom. In Israel That is, among the church and people of God, who had such excellent laws to direct them, and such an all-sufficient and gracious God to provide for them, without any such unworthy practices. It was sacrilege, it was invading God’s rights, and converting to a private use that which was devoted to his glory, which was to be thus severely punished, for a warning to all people in all ages to take heed how they rob God.

Verse 17

Joshua 7:17. The family Either, 1st, The tribe or people, as the word family sometimes signifies; or, 2d, The families, as Joshua 7:14, the singular number being put for the plural, the chief of each of their five families, Numbers 26:20-21. Man by man Not every individual person, as is evident from Joshua 7:18, but every head of the several houses or lesser families of that greater family of the Zarhites, of which see 1 Chronicles 2:6.

Verse 18

Joshua 7:18. Achan was taken Here we learn that, however secretly we may conceal our wickedness, yet God knoweth it, and sooner or later will bring it to light and due condemnation. There is nothing secret which shall not be made manifest, neither any thing hid that shall not be known. God will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart. Reader, remember this; revere the all-seeing eye of God; stand in awe and sin not.

Verse 19

Joshua 7:19. My son So he calls him, to show that this severe inquisition and sentence did not proceed from any hatred to his person, which he loved as a father doth his son, and as a prince ought to do each of his subjects. Give glory to the Lord God of Israel As thou hast highly dishonoured him, now take the blame to thyself, and ascribe unto God the glory of his omniscience in knowing thy sin; of his justice in punishing it in thee, and others for thy sake; of his omnipotence, which was obstructed by thee; and of his kindness and faithfulness to his people, which was eclipsed by thy wickedness; all which will now be evident by thy sin confessed and punished.

Verse 20

Joshua 7:20. Indeed I have sinned He seems to make a sincere and ingenuous confession, and loads his sin with all just aggravations. Against the Lord Against his express command, and glorious attributes. God of Israel The true God, who hath chosen me and all Israel to be the people of his peculiar love and care.

Verse 21

Joshua 7:21. When I saw a goodly Babylonish garment Such garments were composed with great art, of divers colours, and of great price, as appears both from the Scriptures and from heathen authors. Two hundred shekels Not in coin, but in weight; for as yet they received and paid money by weight. When I saw He accurately describes the progress of his sin, which began at his eye. This he permitted to gaze upon these things. Hereby his desire for them was inflamed, and that desire induced him to take them, and, having taken, to resolve to keep them, and to that end, hide them in his tent. Then I coveted them See what comes of suffering the heart to go after the eyes, and what need we have to “make a covenant with our eyes!” He was drawn away, like Eve, of his own lust, and enticed; and lust having conceived, by getting the consent of his will, brought forth sin, and sin, being committed, brought forth death. Thus we see, that they who would be kept from sinful actions, must check and mortify sinful desires, particularly the desire of wealth, which we more especially term covetousness. For of what a world of evil is the love of money the root! How does it draw men into, and drown men in, destruction and perdition! 1 Timothy 6:9. They are hid in my tent, and the silver under it That is, under the Babylonish garment; covered with it, or wrapped up in it.

Verses 22-23

Joshua 7:22-23. Joshua sent messengers That the truth of his confession might be unquestionable, which some, peradventure, might think was forced from him. And they ran Partly longing to free themselves and all the people from all the curse under which they lay; and partly, that none of Achan’s relations might get thither before them, and take away the things. It was hid The parcel of things mentioned, Joshua 7:21; Joshua 7:24. Before the Lord Where Joshua and the elders continued yet in their assembly, waiting for the issue.

Verse 24

Joshua 7:24. And his sons and his daughters It is very probable, Achan being an old man, that his children were grown up, and the things which he had stolen being buried in the midst of his tent, it is likely they were conscious of the fact, as the Jewish doctors affirm they were; and if they were not accomplices in his crime, yet, at least, they concealed it. This is said, on the supposition that they were stoned and burned. But, according to the LXX., who say nothing of his children, only he was put to death. And it is not necessary to understand even the Hebrew text as affirming any thing further. It says, all Israel stoned him with stones, without mentioning his family. And what it afterward adds, And burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones, may be understood of the oxen, and asses, and sheep which belonged to Achan, and which God willed to be destroyed, together with his tent, and other effects, to excite a greater horror of his crime. For the brute creatures, though not capable of sin, nor of punishment, properly so called, yet, as they were made for man’s use, so they may be justly destroyed for man’s good. And as they are daily killed for our bodily food, it surely cannot seem strange that they should sometimes be killed for the instruction of our minds, that we may hereby learn the contagious nature of sin, which involves innocent creatures in its destructive effects.

Verses 25-26

Joshua 7:25-26. They burned them with fire after they had stoned them God would have their dead carcasses burned, to show his utmost detestation of such persons as break forth into sins of such public scandal and mischief. A great heap of stones As a monument of the sin and judgment here mentioned, that others might be warned by the example; and as a brand of infamy, as Joshua 8:29; 2 Samuel 18:17. The valley of Achor Or, the valley of trouble, from the double trouble expressed Joshua 7:25.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Joshua 7". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/joshua-7.html. 1857.
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