Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Joshua 8:20

When the men of Ai turned back and looked, behold, the smoke of the city ascended to the sky, and they had no place to flee this way or that, for the people who had been fleeing to the wilderness turned against the pursuers.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Ambush;   Armies;   Strategy;   Thompson Chain Reference - Conflagrations;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Ai;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Ambush;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Arms;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Ai;   Joshua, the Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ai;   Israel;   Joshua;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Hand ;   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 - Ascend;   Hand;   Natural Features;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Ai;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

They had no power to flee this way or that way - They were in utter consternation; they saw that the city was taken, they found themselves in the midst of their foes; that their wives, children, and property, had fallen a prey to their enemies, in consequence of which they were so utterly panic-struck as to be incapable of making any resistance.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Joshua 8:20". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/joshua-8.html. 1832.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And when the men of Ai looked behind them,.... On some account or another, perhaps observing that the army of Israel made a full stop and was gazing at the city:

they saw, and, behold, the smoke of the city ascended up to heaven; from whence they concluded an enemy was there, and had set fire to it:

and they had no power to flee this way or that way; for if they turned back to their city there was an enemy, how powerful they knew not, possessed of it, and whom they might expect would meet them; and if they pushed forward, there was the whole army of Israel against them, which now turned and faced them, showing no fear of them:

and the people that fled to the wilderness turned back upon the pursuers; the people of Israel, that fled by the way of the wilderness, Joshua 8:15, turned about, and fell upon the men of Ai that pursued them.

Copyright Statement
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 8:20". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/joshua-8.html. 1999.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Joshua 8:20 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 the pursuers.

Ver. 20. And when the men of Ai looked behind them.] They should have looked before προσσω και οπισσω. But now it was Sero inquit Nero. Sin casteth wicked men into straits inextricable, and filleth their souls with sorrows unmedicinable.

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 8:20". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/joshua-8.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

No power, or, place; for so the Hebrew word is oft used, as Numbers 2:17 Nehemiah 7:4 Job 37:7 Psalms 104:25 Isaiah 22:18 56:5.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joshua 8:20". 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 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 (literally ‘hands’) to flee this way or that way, and the people who fled into the wilderness turned back on the pursuers.’

The word for ‘hands’ is the same as in verse 18. Joshua stretched out his hand, the city was given into his hand, while Ai had no hands like Joshua had. They had no special power to call on.

Suddenly the battle changed. The men of Ai soon became aware that their city had been sacked, for the smoke of the city ascended up to heaven (compare Judges 20:40), and they looked back and saw it. The city was as one great burnt offering to YHWH. They had no help to look to, nowhere to hide, no city to fall back to, and when the ‘terrified’ people they were chasing suddenly turned round and did not appear terrified at all, it had suddenly all become a nightmare.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 8:20". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/joshua-8.html. 2013.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

20.And they had no power to flee — [Literally, there was not in them two hands to fly. Keil makes the word rendered two hands mean on both sides, that is, it was not in them to flee on either side, or in either direction. But this explanation hardly holds good in connection with the expression בהם, in them. We prefer, therefore, the common version, which takes hands metaphorically for capability, power for action or flight.] They were appalled by the revelation of the plot, and stupified by sudden terror. Their wives, children, houses, and possessions were in the hands of a merciless foe, and they themselves were in a ravine completely shut in before and behind by Joshua’s army.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 8:20". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/joshua-8.html. 1874-1909.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

behold. Figure of speech Asterismos. App-6.

power. Hebrew hands. Put by Figure of speech Metonymy (of Cause). for the power put forth by them (App-6).

pursuers = the pursuing force (singular)

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Joshua 8:20". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/joshua-8.html. 1909-1922.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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 the pursuers.
the smoke
Genesis 19:28; Isaiah 34:10; Revelation 18:9; 19:3
and they had
Job 11:20; Psalms 48:5,6; 76:5; Amos 2:14-16; Revelation 6:15-17
power
Heb. hand.
Reciprocal: Judges 20:40 - looked;  Judges 20:43 - enclosed;  1 Samuel 13:6 - in a strait;  2 Kings 3:24 - smote the;  2 Chronicles 13:14 - looked back;  Daniel 8:7 - and there was no;  Joel 2:30 - pillars;  1 Thessalonians 5:3 - then

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Joshua 8:20". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/joshua-8.html.