Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Joshua 8:17

So not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who had not gone out after Israel, and they left the city unguarded and pursued Israel.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Ambush;   Armies;   Beth-El;   Strategy;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Sieges;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Ai;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Ambush;   Bethel;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Arms;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Ai;   Bethel;   Joshua, the Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ai;   Israel;   Joshua;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Ai, Hai ;   Ambush, Ambushment;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Ai;   Journeyings of israel from egypt to canaan;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Conquest of Canaan;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Joshua (2);   Palestine;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Ai;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

There was not a man left in Ai or Beth-el - It is very likely that the principal strength of Beth-el had been previously brought into Ai, as the strongest place to make a stand in; Beth-el being but about three miles distant from Ai, and probably not greatly fortified. Therefore Ai contained on this occasion all the men of Beth-el - all the warriors of that city, as well as its own troops and inhabitants. Others think that the Beth-elites, seeing the Israelites fly, sallied out of their city as against a common enemy; but that, finding the men of Ai discomfited, and the city taken, they returned to Beth-el, which Joshua did not think proper to attack at this time. From Judges 1:24; we find that Beth-el was then a walled city, in the hands of the Canaanites, and was taken by the house of Joseph.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Joshua 8:17". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/joshua-8.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Or Bethel - See the Joshua 8:1 note.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Joshua 8:17". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/joshua-8.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And there was not a man left in Ai or Bethel that went not out after Israel,.... For as these two places were very near to each other, but a mile apart, they were in confederacy, and acted together, and could easily be called to the help of each other when required: though there is a difficulty how the men of Bethel could join those of Ai, when the ambush lay between them both, Joshua 8:12; they either went another way, or the ambush purposely let them pass, for fear of a discovery by a skirmish with them, and that Bethel as well as Ai might be cleared of its armed inhabitants, and so fall an easy prey to them as well as Ai: this must be understood only of men of war; for otherwise there were inhabitants left, as old men, and such as were unfit for war, afterwards slain, Joshua 8:24,

and they left the city open: they did not stay to shut the gates, nor left porters or any guards about, to take care of, protect, and defend the city:

and pursued after Israel; with great eagerness and vehemence, not having the least apprehension of their city being in any danger.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Joshua 8:17". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/joshua-8.html. 1999.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

Not a man — Namely, fit for war.

Bethel — Which, being a neighbouring city, and encouraged by the former success, had sent some forces to assist them; and now, upon notice sent to them of the flight of their common enemies, or upon some other signal given, all their men of war join with those of Ai in the pursuit.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Joshua 8:17". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/joshua-8.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Joshua 8:17 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.

Ver. 17. 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]

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 8:17". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/joshua-8.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Not a man, to wit, fit for war. Beth-el, being a neighbouring city, and encouraged by the former success, had sent some forces to assist them; and now, upon notice sent to them of the flight of their common enemies, or upon some other signal given, which might easily be done, having been appointed beforehand, as is usual in such cases, all their men of war join with those of Ai in the pursuit.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joshua 8:17". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/joshua-8.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

17.Or Bethel — This small city, three miles distant on the west, had probably concentrated its military strength at Ai, as the next probable point of attack by Joshua after the conquest of Jericho; for we cannot conceive of their separate and concerted action, with a large undiscovered ambuscade between them. Our interpretation is confirmed by the next statement, and they left the city — not cities — open. We have no further mention in this book of the conquest of Bethel, except that its king is in the list of those subdued by Joshua, in chap. Joshua 12:16. “It was not taken at that time, and seems long to have resisted the invaders. At last it fell before the arms, not of the little tribe of Benjamin, within whose territory it was included, but of the powerful house of Joseph, who attacked it from the north, and who thus acquired possession of it. Judges 1:23-25.” — Stanley.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 8:17". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/joshua-8.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Not one fit to bear arms. (Worthington) --- Bethel. As soon as the people of this city perceived the Israelites fleeing, they rushed out to assist the king of Hai in the pursuit. But when they saw the former rally, before they had joined their friends, (Calmet) they very prudently retired, and left the unhappy citizens of Hai to their fate. (Haydock) --- Hence all who were slain belonged to the latter city, ver. 25.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Joshua 8:17". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/joshua-8.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

man. Hebrew. ish. App-14.

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Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Joshua 8:17". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/joshua-8.html. 1909-1922.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(17) There was not a man left in Ai or Beth-el.—Another singular justification of the peculiar strategy of Joshua. The road past Beth-el to Ai had been left open. It passes the north end of the two ravines in which Joshua’s ambush was posted. At the same time, it would have been easy to conceal a chain of sentinels that could observe it and tell the 35,000 men in ambush what was going on, so that if any attempt had been made by the men of Beth-el to protect Ai, it could easily have been frustrated. But no one suspected any danger, and therefore no such attempt was made. The men of Beth-el and Ai took the road that was left open to them and pursued the Israelites, probably down the ancient way past Michmash towards the Shebarim, leaving Beth-el and Ai both unprotected. After they had gone some distance, about a mile or a mile and a half from Ai, this road would bring them past the lower end of the ravine in which the ambush was posted. A second chain of outposts would easily take the signal from Joshua when this point had been passed, and then all was over with the town of Ai.

It is curious that we do not hear of the capture of Beth-el at this time, though it would have been perfectly easy to take it. The king of Beth-el is named in the list of those whom Joshua smote (Joshua 12:16). We read of its capture in Judges 1:22, and of the “entrance into the city” being sought for and betrayed. But that can hardly have been the first capture of the town.

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Joshua 8:17". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/joshua-8.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
a man
3,24,25; 11:20; Deuteronomy 2:30; Job 5:13; Isaiah 19:11-13
Bethel
Bethel is not mentioned in the Greek version, and some, with Houbigant and Pilkington, think it was not originally in the Hebrew; because, had the men of Bethel pursued, as well as those of Ai, it would have been said that they left the cities, and not the city, open. The principal strength of Bethel might have been previously taken into Ai, as the strongest place to make a stand in; Bethel being but about three miles westward from Ai.
Reciprocal: Genesis 12:8 - of Bethel;  Joshua 12:9 - Ai;  Joshua 12:16 - Bethel;  Ezra 2:28 - Ai;  Nehemiah 7:32 - Bethel

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Joshua 8:17". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/joshua-8.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

17.And there was not a man left in Ai, etc It will be clear from the context that some were taken in the city and slain, and therefore we must hold that the sally was not by all universally, and that the old men and women and many others unfit for war, did not rush forth into the fields; the meaning simply is, that no garrison was left to defend the city. The same thing is said of Bethel, and hence we may easily conjecture that Bethel, as it was a small unimportant town, belonged to another power. The inhabitants, however, from being unable to defend their own city, abandoned it, and offered their whole force to the king of Ai, to whom they were perhaps tributaries. It is uncertain whether they went to the king of Ai before the arrival of the Israelites, to unite their forces with his in the contest, but the probability is, that as they were unable to resist they had come by agreement into a fortified and more populous city. They thought that they could not, possibly be safe unless they were preserved under the shadow of a neighboring city superior to their own.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Joshua 8:17". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/joshua-8.html. 1840-57.