Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Joshua 8:2

You shall do to Ai and its king just as you did to Jericho and its king; you shall take only its spoil and its cattle as plunder for yourselves. Set an ambush for the city behind it."
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Ambush;   Armies;   Communion;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Armies;   Armies of Israel, the;   Jews, the;   Sieges;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Ai;   Holman Bible Dictionary - 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;   Smith Bible Dictionary - War;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Conquest of Canaan;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Ai;  

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst to Jericho and her king,.... Burn the one and slay the other:

only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves; which they were not allowed to do at Jericho:

lay thee an ambush for the city behind it; at the west side of it: some have called in question the lawfulness of the ambush, but, as this was appointed by the Lord, there is no room for it.

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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 8:2". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/joshua-8.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves: lay thee an ambush for the city a behind it.

(a) Meaning on the west side, as in (Joshua 8:9).
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Joshua 8:2". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/joshua-8.html. 1599-1645.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

How gracious the Lord promiseth! Is it not so, in all our wars? The final issue is not doubtful. Romans 16:20. Observe how the Lord giveth the spoil and the cattle now to Israel, not as in the case of Jericho. See Joshua 6:19. And observe, moreover, that the Lord graciously condescendeth to teach Joshua, by an ambush, how to war. The prophet Isaiah, ascribeth the knowledge of the husbandman to the Lord's teaching. And David refers all his power and might in war to the same source: compare Isaiah 28:24 to the end, with Psalms 144:1-2. It is most sweet and precious, to refer all our powers, of what kind soever they may be, unto the Lord. Isaiah 42:16.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Joshua 8:2". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/joshua-8.html. 1828.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves: lay thee an ambush for the city behind it.

To Ai — That is, the city and people of Ai.

Unto Jericho and her king — That is, overcome and destroy them. This was enjoined to chastise their last insolence, and the triumphs and blasphemies which doubtless their success had produced: and to revive the dread and terror which had been impressed upon the Canaanites by Jericho's ruin, and had been much abated by the late success of Ai.

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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 8:2". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/joshua-8.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Joshua 8:2 And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves: lay thee an ambush for the city behind it.

Ver. 2. Lay thee an ambush behind it.] Dolus an virtus, quis in hoste requirat? If the war be just, the use of stratagems is unquestionably warrantable. Of Decebalus, king of Dacians, in Domitian’s time, a valiant and wise warrior, it is thus storied, Noverat optime insidias faeere, proelium committere, optime uti victoria, et acceptam cladem ferre moderate; He well knew how to lay an ambush, pitch a field, use a victory, take a defeat. (a)

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 8:2". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/joshua-8.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ver. 2. Lay thee an ambush for the city, behind it That is, to the west; for the camp of Gilgal was to the east of Ai. It is asked here, by some, "How happens it that God, who, by his infinite power, could so easily destroy Ai and its inhabitants, should make use of artifice and stratagem to procure victory to the Hebrews? The pagans themselves (they add) judged such arts unworthy of men of courage; (see for examples, Grotius de Jure B. & P. l. iii. c. 1. sect. 20.) and they seem beneath the greatness of the Almighty." But how weak is this manner of talking? Is God always obliged to work miracles, because he is able? And why does it seem more improper for him to have ordered an ambuscade to encompass the men of Ai, than to have set apart seven days for overturning the walls of Jericho, with so many ceremonies? He could, without striking a blow, have suddenly mowed down all the Canaanites, and opened to his people an entrance into Palestine, without their meeting the least opposition: but, had he chosen this method, he would neither have displayed his power by that vast number of miracles which he wrought, nor made the Israelites pass through trials that were expedient to their holiness and happiness.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Joshua 8:2". 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

To Ai, i.e. the city and people of Ai.

As thou didst unto Jericho and her king, i.e. overcome and destroy them. This was enjoined, partly to chastise their last insolence, and the triumphs and blasphemies which doubtless their success produced; and partly to revive the dread and terror which had been impressed upon the Canaanites by Jericho’s ruin, and had been much abated by the late success of Ai, and their confidence and expectation of further and greater success much raised.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joshua 8:2". 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

Joshua 8:2 a

‘And you will do to Ai and her king what you did to Jericho and her king. Only its spoil and its cattle you shall take for a prey for yourselves.’

The assurance was that it would be total victory. And the added assurance was that they could now begin to accumulate wealth from the land. YHWH had received His portion at Jericho, a token of what they owed to Him as their overlord. Now they could retain spoils for themselves. Compare on this verse Deuteronomy 2:35; Deuteronomy 3:6 on.

Joshua 8:2-4

‘ “Set up an ambush for the city, behind it.” So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up to Ai, and Joshua chose out thirty eleph men, the mighty men of valour, and sent them out, and he commanded them, “Look, you shall lie in ambush against the city, behind the city. Do not go very far from the city, but be ready, all of you.” ’

YHWH directed tactics. YHWH told him that they were to hide soldiers behind the city, probably making their way there by night. These were to lie in hiding, not far from the ‘city’, until after the frontal assault of the ‘city’. Then we are told that Joshua commanded exactly what YHWH had commanded. The way of obedience had also been restored.

“Thirty eleph men.” Ten times more than three eleph sent before. Complacency had been replaced by common sense. This thirty military units was possibly about fifteen hundred men sent to lie in ambush.

These were to go up prior to the main advance (note that ‘arose --- to go up’ rather than ‘arose and went up’ signifies preparation preparatory to movement). This would take some time. It was an upward climb of over twenty four kilometres (fifteen miles).

Later he would set a further ambush of ‘about five eleph men’ to the west of the city (Joshua 8:12). This may have been in order to strengthen the previous force, or in order to give a further prong to the attack. It may have been in case something had prevented the first contingent from taking up its position (no signal may have been spotted). This time he was taking no chances. He was no longer overconfident in their own prowess. And possibly at that stage he had become aware of Bethel looming in the distance.

Some read the text as signifying that the thirty eleph were Israel’s total force of which five eleph were put in ambush, but this does readily appear from the text, nor does it tie in with the fact that they had forty eleph Transjordanian troops (Joshua 4:13). We may roughly measure this as indicating that Israel had about fifteen thousand troops, of which fifteen hundred were in the first ambush, and five hundred in the second. (It is to some extent guesswork as we do not really know what an eleph would represent at this time).

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 8:2". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/joshua-8.html. 2013.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

2.Only the spoil thereof’ shall ye take — The spoils of Jericho had been devoted wholly to the Lord, as the first fruits of the conquest of Canaan. But the spoils of Ai and of the other conquered cities (Deuteronomy 6:10-11) are now to be appropriated unto the conquerors. The people and their king are to be slain and their city subverted. There was, henceforth, to be no temptation to the sin of Achan. Had he waited obediently and refrained from the accursed thing he might now have innocently enriched himself. So sin generally misses the mark.

Lay thee an ambush — If war itself is ever justifiable, it is right to use the mind as well as the hand, strategy as well as brute force. It is certain that a contest of wit is as proper as a contest of muscle. Says Calvin: “Those are pronounced the best generals whose success is due less to force than to skilful manoeuvres. It is, of course, understood that neither must treaties be violated, nor faith broken in any other way.”

Behind it — As Joshua was east of Ai, the ambuscade, by a flank movement up one of the numerous ravines, was to be made on the west side of the city. See note on Joshua 8:9.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 8:2". "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 8:2. Thou shalt do to Ai — as thou didst unto Jericho — That is, overcome and destroy the city and people. This was enjoined to chastise their last insolence, and the triumphs and blasphemies which doubtless their success had produced: and to revive the dread and terror which had been impressed upon the Canaanites by Jericho’s ruin, and had been much abated by the late success of Ai. The spoil thereof — shall ye take for a prey — Neither the silver nor gold, nor any thing else, was separated to the use of the tabernacle, nor ordered to be destroyed, but the people were to enjoy it entirely themselves.

Lay thee an ambush for the city behind it — Ai was not to be taken by miracle, as Jericho had been; now they must exercise their own wisdom. Having seen God work for them, whereby they might learn to depend on him, and give him the glory of all their success, they must now exert themselves, and be inured to self-denial and diligence, and to labour, toil, and hardship. And they must learn to outwit as well as to overpower their enemies. God himself commands them to take the town by stratagem; and therefore we may be sure that to do the like is lawful in other wars. But it must be well observed that no treaty was here violated, no oath or promise broken, no untruth told: to do any thing of this kind cannot be allowable or excusable in any war or case whatsoever. Nay, nothing was here concealed by the Israelites but their own counsels, which surely their enemies had no right to be intrusted with; nothing was dissembled and nothing counterfeited but a retreat, which was no necessary indication at all of their inability to maintain their attack, or of a design not to renew it. Common prudence, had they been governed by it, would have directed the men of Ai to have been upon their guard, and either to have kept within their own walls, or at least not to have ventured forward rashly in pursuit of an army which they saw to be very superior to them in number.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Joshua 8:2". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/joshua-8.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

King. There was this difference, that the king of Hai was to be gibbeted, and his corpse stoned, while the city was to be plundered by the Israelites. --- It. This mode of warfare is equally just, as if the enemy was attacked in the open field. Dolus an virtus quis in hoste requirat? (Virgil) --- God was pleased to authorize it on this occasion, that his people might be less exposed, being under some apprehensions on account of the former defeat. Some nations have preferred to encounter the enemy openly. (Grotius, Jur. iii. 1, 20.) But their example is no law for others. "When the war is just, it matters not whether a person gain the victory by open fighting or by stratagem." (St. Augustine, q. 10.) "It is often prudent to conceal the truth." (contra Mend. x.) People engaged in warfare, allow each other to take such advantages. God could easily have routed these few men by means of the army of Israel, or by a miracle, as he did at Jericho. (Haydock) --- But he is at liberty to act as he thinks proper. The ambush was laid on the south-west side of Hai, so that those of Bethel might not perceive it, as they came out to the assistance of their countrymen, ver. 17. Five thousand were placed in one place, and 25,000 in another, while the main body of the army, under Josue, took a circuit by the east, and came to attack the city on the north side. (Calmet)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Joshua 8:2". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/joshua-8.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Jericho. Compare Joshua 6:21.

the cattle. Compare Deuteronomy 20:14.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Joshua 8:2". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/joshua-8.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves: lay thee an ambush for the city behind it.

Lay thee an ambush for the city. God assured him of its capture, but allowed him to follow his own tactics in obtaining the possession.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 8:2". "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

(2) Only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take—i.e., the material spoil, not the persons of the inhabitants. (See Joshua 11:14.) Jericho was treated exceptionally, in that the material spoil was made chêrem, devoted to destruction, as the thing accursed of God.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Joshua 8:2". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/joshua-8.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves: lay thee an ambush for the city behind it.
do to Ai
24,28,29
See on ch
6:21; 10:1,28; Deuteronomy 3:2
only the spoil
27; Deuteronomy 20:14; Job 27:16,17; Psalms 39:6; Proverbs 13:22; 28:20; Jeremiah 17:11; Luke 12:20,21
lay thee
7,9,12,14,19; Judges 20:29-33; 2 Chronicles 13:13; 20:22; Jeremiah 51:12
Reciprocal: Numbers 31:11 - GeneralJoshua 10:29 - Libnah;  Joshua 10:40 - as the Lord;  2 Samuel 5:23 - fetch;  2 Samuel 15:34 - return;  1 Kings 8:44 - whithersoever;  1 Chronicles 14:14 - turn away

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Joshua 8:2". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/joshua-8.html.