Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Joshua 8:18

Then the Lord said to Joshua, "Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand." So Joshua stretched out the javelin that was in his hand toward the city.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Ambush;   Armies;   Strategy;   Thompson Chain Reference - Spears;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Sieges;   Spear;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Ai;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Ambush;   Armour;   Target;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Arms;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Ai;   Joshua, the Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ai;   Armour, Arms;   Israel;   Joshua;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Ai, Hai ;   Ambush, Ambushment;   Arms;   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 - Armor;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Ai;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Aaron's Rod;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Stretch out the spear - It is very probable that Joshua had a flag or ensign at the end of his spear, which might be easily seen at a considerable distance; and that the unfurling or waving of this was the sign agreed on between him and the ambush. (see Joshua 8:13, and the preceding observations on Joshua 8:1; (note), observation 6); and on seeing this flag or ensign unfurled, the men who lay in ambush arose and entered the city, making the fire previously agreed on. See Joshua 8:8.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Joshua 8:18". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/joshua-8.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

No doubt Joshua had ascended the heights, most likely those to the north of the valley, so as to separate himself from the flying Israelites on the lower ground, and to be visible to the men in ambush behind the city. He now, at the command of God, gives the appointed signal to the ambush.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Joshua 8:18". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/joshua-8.html. 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

"And Jehovah said unto Joshua, Stretch out the javelin that is in thy hand toward Ai; for I will give it into thy hand. And Joshua stretched out the javelin that was in his hand toward the city. And the ambush rose quickly out of their place, and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand, and entered the city, and took it; and they hasted and set the city on fire. And when the men of Ai looked behind them, they saw, and, behold, the smoke of the city ascended up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that way: and the people that fled to the wilderness turned back upon their pursuers. And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city, and that the smoke of the city ascended, then they turned again, and slew the men of Ai. And the others came forth out of the city against them; so they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side, and some on that side: and they smote them, so that they let none of them remain or escape. And the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him to Joshua."

"Stretch out the javelin ..." Holmes made fun of this outstretched javelin as a signal, saying, "It looks like a piece of sympathetic magic."[19] However, totally aside from any miraculous power which might have been released by the Divine command for Joshua to stretch out the javelin, there is the definite possibility that from a strategic elevation (the area was full of such places), the spear with which Joshua signaled the attack, "probably had a flag or streamer on it to make it more easily visible from the heights where he stood."[20] Another possibility was mentioned by Blair: "Joshua probably gave the signal by reflecting the sun from the wide flat blade of his spear."[21]

"So they let none of them remain or escape ..." The literal words here in the Hebrew are: "Until there remained to them neither remainder nor fugitive."[22] The extent of the slaughter in the conquest of Canaan must have been one of the most terrible disasters of all history. Israel systematically butchered entire populations of every city that they took.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Joshua 8:18". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/joshua-8.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And the Lord said unto Joshua, stretch out the spear that is in thy hand towards Ai,.... On which was a flag, as Abarbinel and Ben Melech think; and which is not improbable, and served for a signal for the ambush to come out and seize the city, as both they and Jarchi observe, as well as a signal also to the army of Israel to prepare to turn and face about, and engage with the enemy; though they did not actually do this until they saw the smoke of the city, Joshua 8:21,

for I will give it into thine hand; of which the stretching out of his spear seems also to be a confirming sign to him, and which he kept stretched out until all the inhabitants of Ai were destroyed, Joshua 8:26,

and Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city: and therefore must turn himself towards it; and it is highly probable that at the same time there was a full stop of the army, and that they immediately turned or prepared to turn about.

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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 8:18". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/joshua-8.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

And the LORD said unto Joshua, h Stretch out the spear that [is] in thy hand toward Ai; for I will give it into thine hand. And Joshua stretched out the spear that [he had] in his hand toward the city.

(h) Or, lift up the banner to signify when they should invade the city.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Joshua 8:18". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/joshua-8.html. 1599-1645.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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. And Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city.

Stretch out the spear — This was, either, 1. for a sign to his host present with him, to stop their flight, and make head against the pursuers: or, 2. for a signal to the liers in wait, or, 3. as a token of God's presence and assistance with them, and of their victory.

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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.
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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Joshua 8:18". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/joshua-8.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Joshua 8:18 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. And Joshua stretched out the spear that [he had] in his hand toward the city.

Ver. 18. Stretch out the spear.] Hastam vexillarem, the spear whereon hung the colours, for a sign to the soldiers, those of the ambush to enter, and those of the army to turn head against the enemy. By this means, saith one, as by Moses’s rod, it pleased God to work for his people.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 8:18". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/joshua-8.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ver. 18. And the Lord said unto Joshua, Stretch out the spear, &c.— The Hebrew word כידון kidon, signifies a shield; and so several interpreters, particularly the Vulgate, render it. Bochart, however, has shewn, that it also signifies a lance, or pike, at the top of which Joshua had fixed a streamer, to make it a standard, that the whole army might observe it, and that it was, in fact, so observed; that is, as a signal, to rally those who feigned flight; immediately determining the liers in ambush to rise, and march strait on to Ai. Probably, as this signal was beforehand agreed upon, and as God himself had given Joshua orders respecting it, the historian, who only mentions it in this place, speaks of it as if given by God at the very moment of execution. Accordingly, he stretched forth the spear, turning himself towards Ai. So formerly Moses, during the famous battle against Amalek, lifted up his rod in the sight of the Israelites, to assure them of victory.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Joshua 8:18". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/joshua-8.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The spear, or, thy banner; or there might be some banner in the end of his spear. This was prescribed and practised, either,

1. For a sign to his host present with him, to stop their flight, and make head against the pursuers; or,

2. For a signal to the liers in wait, as may seem from Joshua 8:19, who, though they were at some distance, might know this from persons whom they had set in some high and convenient places to observe Joshua’s motion, and to give notice from one to another, and that speedily, as is common in such cases, until it came to the whole ambush; or,

3. As a mystical token of God’s presence and assistance with them, and of their victory; or as a mean by God’s appointment contributing to their good success, as the like posture of Moses lifting up his hand was, Exodus 17:11,12, which may be the reason why he continued this posture till the enemies were all destroyed, Joshua 8:26; whereas if it had been a signal only, it was sufficient to do it for a little while. I know no reason why all these ends might not be joined together.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joshua 8:18". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/joshua-8.html. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

And YHWH said to Joshua, “Stretch out the spear in your hand towards Ai, for I will give it into your hand.” And Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand towards the city.’

This was clearly the signal for the ambush to attack. This would not be a signal to the ‘heel’ or reinforcements (Joshua 8:13) but to the original ambush. The spear may have had something on it to indicate that it was Joshua’s spear and he may have waved it preparatory to pointing it towards Ai. He had clearly taken up a place from which his signal could be seen. It had all been well worked out in advance. But Joshua awaited some indication from YHWH that the right time had come. Note that he then continued to hold out the spear until the battle was over (compare Exodus 17:11-12). This was the signal that the victory was YHWH’s. It would give confidence to his men.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 8:18". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/joshua-8.html. 2013.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

18.The Lord said — As there were probably no facilities for consulting the Lord by means of the urim and thummim, we infer that there was an immediate communication to Joshua of this divine command.

Stretch out the spear — This was the concerted signal for the ambush to arise and seize the city. The Hebrew word for spear has been variously explained. See note on 1 Samuel 17:6. The translator of the Vulgate, and several others, have rendered it shield. Others suppose that a shield was elevated on the spear. Gesenius suggests that the spear supported a small flag, like that of the modern lance. This could be seen by the distant liers in wait, who were, doubtless, instructed to watch for the signal.

Toward the city — An act symbolical of the terrible blow which was now to ruin it forever.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 8:18". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/joshua-8.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Joshua 8:18. Stretch out thy spear — Probably a long spear, with a flag or streamer at the top of it, for a signal to the liers in wait, as well as for a sign to his host present to stop their flight, and make head against the pursuers, and as a token of God’s presence and assistance with them, and of their victory. The Hebrew word כידון, kidon, however, here rendered spear, also signifies a shield, and is so interpreted in the Vulgate. This, if made of polished brass or steel, might be seen from a great distance, by reason of its brightness.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Joshua 8:18". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/joshua-8.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Shield, as Moses lifted up his hands, Exodus xvii. 11. Some translate, "dart, spear," or "sword." (Septuagint; Ecclesiasticus xvi. 3.) (Calmet) --- The buckler might be suspended on a spear, (Menochius) that it might be seen afar off (Worthington) by some appointed to keep watch on purpose. (Haydock)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Joshua 8:18". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/joshua-8.html. 1859.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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. And Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city.

Joshua stretched out the spear. The uplifted spear had probably a flag or streamer on it, like the Assyrian spear (Abarbanel), to render it the more conspicuous from the height where he stood. At the sight of this understood signal, the ambush nearest the city, informed by their scouts, made a sudden rush, and took possession of the city, telegraphing to their brethren by raising a smoke from the walls. Upon seeing this, the main body, who had been feigning a flight, turned round at the head of the pass upon their pursuers, while the 25,000, issuing from their ambuscade, fell upon their rear. The Aiites, surprised, looked back, and found their situation now desperate.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 8:18". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/joshua-8.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(18) And the Lord said unto Joshua, Stretch out the spear.—In the capture of Ai, as in that of Jericho, each stage of the process must be ordered by the Lord. In the former case the hand of Jehovah alone does the work. The ark is borne round the walls until they fall down before it. Against Ai, the hand of Israel is employed, and first of all in Israel the hand of Joshua. He seems to have stretched it out, with the light spear or javelin which he carried, somewhat as Moses stretched forth the rod of God over the contending hosts of Amalek and Israel, until the enemy was discomfited with the edge of the sword.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Joshua 8:18". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/joshua-8.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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. And Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city.
Stretch
7,26; Exodus 8:5; 17:11; Job 15:25
the spear
The word keedon is rendered clypeum, a shield or buckler, by the Vulgate but the LXX. translate it [gaison] which Suidas says, signifies a kind of weapon, [hoion doratos] like a spear. It may denote a short spear, javelin, or lance; for it is evident that it signifies neither the larger spear nor the shield, because it is distinguished from both.
1 Samuel 17:6,41,45; Job 39:23; Joshua may have had a flag or ensign at the end of the spear, which might be seen at a considerable distance when extended, which was the sign agreed upon by him and the ambush.
Reciprocal: Exodus 23:31 - deliver the;  Judges 20:33 - rose up

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Joshua 8:18". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/joshua-8.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

18.And the Lord said unto Joshua, etc This passage shows, that owing either to the strong fortifications of the city, or the valor of its inhabitants, or the trepidation of the Israelites, the victory was difficult, since God promises that he himself would take it by the lifting up of a spear. Had success been beyond doubt, the symbol would have been superfluous; their minds must therefore have been anxious and perplexed, since the Lord, to prevent them from fainting, raises up a banner of confidence in the hand of Joshua. It is true, indeed, that shortly after a different motive for raising the spear is mentioned, when it is said, that in this way a signal was given to the ambuscade, which accordingly rushed forth. But if it really was so used as a signal, it will scarcely do to regard the spear as a manifestation of the victorious power of God dispelling all doubt. Still, however, as it is not expressly said that the spear was the cause which brought forth the soldiers who had been placed in ambuscade, the truth may be that they came forth of their own accord, either because it was the suitable time, or because the shouting and noise made them aware that the battle had actually commenced. For it is scarcely possible to believe that the spear was seen by them, when we consider the long space which intervened, and more especially that Joshua was standing in a valley. Moreover, if we hold that the lifting up of the spear, though intended for a different purpose, had also the effect of inspiring them with additional courage, there will be no absurdity in it.

This much ought to be regarded as certain, first, that by this solemn badge they were rendered more certain of the happy issue of the battle; and secondly, that Joshua had no other intention than to incite his troops according to the command of God. For it is at last added, that Joshua did not draw back his hand until the city was taken, the enemy everywhere destroyed, and the war itself terminated. Hence it appears that he exhibited it in the middle of the conflict as an ensign of triumph, that the Israelites might have no doubt of success. For although he ordered them to engage and use their arms bravely, he at the same time distinctly declared that they had already conquered.

The course of the battle is rendered somewhat obscure by the same thing being told twice, but the substance is sufficiently plain. The children of Israel retreated feigning fear, and the battle had not actually commenced before the inhabitants of Ai were precluded from returning and defending their city. After the two armies had come to close quarters, the ambuscade arose and made such haste that the flames of the conflagration were rising from the city when the enemy turned their backs. From this we may infer that the city was in the possession of the Israelites, but that the chief slaughter took place when those who were in the city came forth to take part in the battle, because the inhabitants, hemmed in on all sides, found resistance and flight equally unavailing. They were thus seized with despair, and, huddled together in a narrow space, were everywhere cut down.

The statement, that the slaughter did not take place in the city before those who had feigned flight returned, I understand to mean, that the whole troops uniting their forces rushed in, seized the prey, and slew all who might have been left. If any one objects that the city was burnt while the battle was going on, I answer, that the fire was indeed applied so as to let both armies know that the city was in possession of the Israelites, but it was not actually destroyed by fire. It was not practicable in a moment of time to seize and carry off the booty, nay, to bring the vessels and a large part of the property without the walls; and it would have been absurd voluntarily to destroy spoils which God had granted. We see, then, that the first fire was not kindled for the purpose of destroying the whole city, but was merely a partial conflagration giving intimation of its capture, and that the Israelites entered at the open gates without bloodshed or a struggle. This is confirmed shortly after, when the burning is ascribed to Joshua himself, not only because it was burnt under his command, but because he was careful, after returning from the battle, to see that it was utterly destroyed; as it is immediately added that he made it a heap of stones in order that it might be a perpetual desolation. (76)

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Joshua 8:18". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/joshua-8.html. 1840-57.