Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Joshua 8:3

So Joshua rose with all the people of war to go up to Ai; and Joshua chose 30,000 men, valiant warriors, and sent them out at night.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Ambush;   Armies;   Strategy;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Armies of Israel, the;   Cities;   Sieges;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Ai;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Bethel;   Joshua, the Book of;   Night March;   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 - Army;   Choose;   Egypt;   War;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Ai;  

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Thirty thousand men - comparing Joshua 8:3 and Joshua 8:12 (“five thousand men”), there is probably a mistake in the numbers of this verse, where an early copyist may have written the sign for 30,000 instead of that for 5,000.

Sent them away by night - The selected 5,000 would accordingly post themselves in the main ravine between Ai and Bethel in the night and early morning. The neighhorhood in which Ai was situated is described as “a wild entanglement of hill and valley;” and amidst its recesses the detachment could easily shelter itself from observation until Joshua‘s other measures were taken.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Joshua 8:3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/joshua-8.html. 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

"So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up to Ai: and Joshua chose out 30,000 men, the mighty men of valor, and sent them forth by night. And he commanded them, saying, Behold, ye shall lie in ambush, against the city; go not very far from the city, but be ye all ready: and I, and all the people that are with me, will approach unto the city. And it shall come to pass, when they come out against us, as at the first, that we will flee before them; and they will come out after us, till we have drawn them away from the city; for they will say, They flee before us as at the first: so we will flee before them; and ye shall rise up from ambush, and take possession of the city: for Jehovah your God will deliver it into your hand. And it shall be, that when ye have seized upon the city, that ye shall set the city on fire; according to the word of Jehovah shall ye do: see, I have commanded you. And Joshua sent them forth; and they went to the ambushment, and abode between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai: but Joshua lodged that night among the people."

Due to Ai's location only two or three miles from Bethel, the commentators "have a fit" about the IMPOSSIBILITY of hiding 30,000 men in an ambush between the towns. Well, it is hard to imagine, but we do not know anything at all of the terrain, in fact not even for sure WHERE these places were located. We admire the zeal by which scholars have tried to get the Lord out of a difficulty like this, and perhaps the most plausible job was done by Clarke, who found that, "The Hebrew word [~'eleph] means `chief' or `mighty man of valor,' and which is here rendered thousands."[11] If this should be allowed, then it would reduce the size of the ambush from 30,000 men to 30 men, who if they were the equivalent of squad commanders, would also be accompanied by one hundred or so others. The text itself favors this kind of an understanding, due to the fact of Joshua's having "chosen out" these particular men, which seems unlikely enough with regard to 30,000. If one needs help with this problem, we recommend this view as being as good as any.

Pink's understanding of why so many Israelites were engaged in such various ways in the reduction of Ai stressed the lesson that these events carry for Christians. "God's predestination of an event does not render needless our use of means to bring it about."[12] This principle has reinforcement in the N.T. in the event where Paul had already been assured by the Lord that no lives were to be lost in the forthcoming shipwreck, but when Paul noted the sailors about to abandon ship, he firmly stated that without them many lives would be lost (Acts 27:22-31). Pink also pointed out that Joshua's knowledge of the devices of the enemy were turned to good account in this second effort to take Ai. Joshua knew that the men of Ai would come out and chase them, as they did at first, and that proved to be the key to the winning strategy. Concerning the Christian's war against Satan, "We are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Corinthians 2:11). Just as Joshua here turned the sure knowledge of what the king of Ai would do into a victory for Israel, Christians should be forewarned and ready to frustrate all of the devices of the Devil.

"Joshua lodged that night among the people ..." The critical scholars seize any pretext as an excuse for "emending," changing, the Word of God. Sizoo thought Joshua 8:9 contradicts Joshua 8:13 and proposed "emending the text (adding one letter) to make it harmonize with Joshua 8:13."[13] Blair stated that, "Such emendations are not necessary, and they serve only to support the contention that here we have TWO parallel accounts of the same incident.[14] Boling also refused suggestions that the text needs emending, writing:

"That night means the night previously mentioned in Joshua 8:3. This is the first of two nights. During this first night, the men who were in the ambush were sent on ahead so as to be already in a concealed position when the main force arrived the next day. There is NO contradiction between Joshua 8:9 and Joshua 8:13; they refer to TWO successive nights. The first night, Joshua spent with the main force; the next night, he was in the valley."[15]

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Joshua 8:3". "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

So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai,.... As the Lord had commanded him:

and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valour; out of all the men of war; these were a select company, picked men, not the whole army, as some have thought, for he was ordered to take all the people of war, as he did:

and sent them away by night; from the main army, that they might pass the city and get behind it undiscovered, for they were sent for an ambush; and of these some were to take the city, and be left in it to burn it, and some to smite the men of Ai, as Abarbinel notes.

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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 8:3". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/joshua-8.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valour — Joshua dispatched thirty thousand men under cover of night, to station themselves at the place appointed for the ambuscade. Out of this number a detachment of five thousand was sent forward to conceal themselves in the immediate precincts of the town, in order to seize the first opportunity of throwing themselves into it [Joshua 8:12 ].

Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 8:3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/joshua-8.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai: and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valour, and sent them away by night.

To go up against Ai — That is, to consider about this expedition; not as if all the people of war did actually go up, which was both unnecessary and burdensome: but it seems to be resolved by Joshua and all the council of war, that the thirty thousand here following should be selected for the enterprize. Either, 1, the thirty thousand now mentioned; or, 2. part of them; namely, such as were to lie in wait; and these were only five thousand men, as is expressed, verse12.

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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 8:3". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/joshua-8.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Joshua 8:3 So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai: and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valour, and sent them away by night.

Ver. 3. And Joshua chose out thirty thousand.] Whom he commanded to lay some in ambush, to wit the five thousand mentioned in Joshua 8:12.

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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 8:3". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/joshua-8.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

To go up against Ai, i.e. to consider and conclude about this expedition of going against Ai; not as if all the people of war did actually go up, which was both unnecessary and burdensome, and might hinder their following design; but it seems to be resolved by Joshua and all the council of war, that the thirty thousand here following should be selected for the enterprise. Either,

1. The thirty thousand now mentioned; or,

2. Part of them, to wit, such as were to lie in wait, as seems most probable, both from the next verse, which limits it to those who were to lie in wait, and from Joshua 8:9, where what is here mentioned only by anticipation is actually put in execution; and it is said of them that were sent forth, that they went to lie in ambush, and did so; and these were only five thousand men, as is expressed, Joshua 8:12. And the only inconvenience of this exposition is, that the pronoun relative them is put without, or before its antecedent, which is left to be gathered out of the following words, which is not unusual in the Hebrew tongue, as plainly appears from Exodus 14:19 Numbers 18:9 24:17 Psalms 87:1 105:19 114:2 Proverbs 7:8 14:26.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joshua 8:3". 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

3.Joshua arose’ to go up — That is, set himself about the preliminary arrangements necessary for the march.

Chose out thirty thousand — There is some apparent confusion in the details of this movement of Joshua. Some eminent commentators think that the entire army of more than six hundred thousand fighting men (Numbers 26:51) was engaged in this enterprise. The difficulties of this interpretation are: (1) the impossibility of handling advantageously so vast a body of soldiers in a country cut up by deep and narrow mountain gorges; (2) The exposure of the camp left behind them; (3) The presence of so vast an array before Ai would so appal the inhabitants that they would not venture to sally out and attack it; (4) The extreme difficulty of hiding so large an ambuscade as that of thirty thousand men not very far from the city. Some expositors have even supposed that there were two ambuscades, one of thirty thousand and the other of five thousand. But if so, Joshua 8:9; Joshua 8:12 would argue that both were in the same place, namely, “between Bethel and Ai,” on the west side of Ai, and this is hardly supposable. Further, in Joshua 8:19; Joshua 8:21 mention is made of only one ambush. The other theory is, that this number of men were all who were engaged. These were divided into two corps — one of five thousand for the ambush and the other of twenty-five thousand for the feigned assault. The latter theory being more reasonable, and involving less difficulties, is assumed by us. [On this hypothesis the order of events must be understood as follows: Joshua, having made all necessary arrangements, arose early one morning, and, accompanied by the elders, went up with the thirty thousand men who were, in this siege, all the people of war, and encamped on the north side of Ai. Joshua 8:10-11. This march occupied the day, so that it was evening when they approached Ai. That same night Joshua sent the five thousand men to lie in ambush on the west side of the city, (Joshua 8:4; Joshua 8:9; Joshua 8:12,) but he and the twenty-five thousand remained en-camped in the valley north of Ai. Joshua 8:13. The next day the king of Ai, not knowing Joshua’s stratagem, hasted out early with his people to attack the Israelites, but was caught in the snare prepared to deceive him, and he and his people and city were utterly ruined. On the apparent confusion of the narrative, see remarks in the Introduction on the style of the Hebrew historians.]

And sent them away by night — A portion of them, five thousand in number. A part is here loosely put for the whole. See Joshua 8:12, rendering the verb took, had taken, as does the Vulgate.

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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 8:3". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/joshua-8.html. 1874-1909.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai: and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valour, and sent them away by night.

So Joshua ... chose out thirty thousand men of valour - Joshua despatched 30,000 men, under covert of night, to station themselves at the place appointed for the ambuscade. Out of this number a detachment of 5,000 were sent forward to conceal themselves in the immediate precincts of the town, in order to seize the first opportunity of throwing themselves, into it.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 8:3". "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

(3) And Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men.—Some difficulty arises from the fact that thirty thousand men are mentioned as having been sent away with general instructions to form an ambush in the first instance, while five thousand were ultimately posted between Bethel and Ai. Were there two distinct bodies in ambush, or only one? It does not seem possible to answer this question with absolute certainty; but we ought to notice in the first place what the aim of Joshua was. He meant to isolate the town of Ai, taking it in front and flank; but there was another town immediately in the rear, less than two miles off. It was necessary, therefore, to employ a sufficient body of men to close the communications between Bethel and Ai from the first.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Joshua 8:3". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/joshua-8.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai: and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valour, and sent them away by night.
by night
Matthew 24:39,50; 25:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10
Reciprocal: Genesis 12:8 - Hai;  Joshua 8:12 - five thousand;  Joshua 8:17 - a man

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These files are public domain.
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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Joshua 8:3". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/joshua-8.html.