Joshua 8

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1 And Jehovah said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai; see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land;

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: set thee an ambush for the city behind it.

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

4 And he commanded them, saying, Behold, ye shall lie in ambush against the city, behind the city; go not very far from the city, but be ye all ready:

5 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;

6 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;

7 and ye shall rise up from the ambush, and take possession of the city: for Jehovah your God will deliver it into your hand.

8 And it shall be, 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.

9 And Joshua sent them forth; and they went to the ambushment, and abode between Beth-el and Ai, on the west side of Ai: but Joshua lodged that night among the people.

10 And Joshua arose up early in the morning, and mustered the people, and went up, he and the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai.

11 And all the people, [even] the [men of] war that were with him, went up, and drew nigh, and came before the city, and encamped on the north side of Ai: now there was a valley between him and Ai.

12 And he took about five thousand men, and set them in ambush between Beth-el and Ai, on the west side of the city.

13 So they set the people, even all the host that was on the north of the city, and their liers-in-wait that were on the west of the city; and Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley.

14 And it came to pass, when the king of Ai saw it, that they hasted and rose up early, and the men of the city went out against Israel to battle, he and all his people, at the time appointed, before the Arabah; but he knew not that there was an ambush against him behind the city.

15 And Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness.

16 And all the people that were in the city were called together to pursue after them: and they pursued after Joshua, and were drawn away from the city.

17 And there was not a man left in Ai or Beth-el, that went not out after Israel: and they left the city open, and pursued after Israel.

18 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.

19 And the ambush arose quickly out of their place, and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand, and entered into the city, and took it; and they hasted and set the city on fire.

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.

21 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.

22 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.

23 And the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him to Joshua.

24 And it came to pass, when Israel had made an end of slaying all the inhabitants of Ai in the field, in the wilderness wherein they pursued them, and they were all fallen by the edge of the sword, until they were consumed, that all Israel returned unto Ai, and smote it with the edge of the sword.

25 And all that fell that day, both of men and women, were twelve thousand, even all the men of Ai.

26 For Joshua drew not back his hand, wherewith he stretched out the javelin, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai.

27 Only the cattle and the spoil of that city Israel took for prey unto themselves, according unto the word of Jehovah which he commanded Joshua.

28 So Joshua burnt Ai, and made it a heap for ever, even a desolation, unto this day.

29 And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until the eventide: and at the going down of the sun Joshua commanded, and they took his body down from the tree, and cast it at the entrance of the gate of the city, and raised thereon a great heap of stones, unto this day.

30 Then Joshua built an altar unto Jehovah, the God of Israel, in mount Ebal,

31 as Moses the servant of Jehovah commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of unhewn stones, upon which no man had lifted up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt-offerings unto Jehovah, and sacrificed peace-offerings.

32 And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote, in the presence of the children of Israel.

33 And all Israel, and their elders and officers, and their judges, stood on this side of the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, that bare the ark of the covenant of Jehovah, as well the sojourner as the homeborn; half of them in front of mount Gerizim, and half of them in front of mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of Jehovah had commanded at the first, that they should bless the people of Israel.

34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the book of the law.

35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners that were among them.


Exploring the Meaning of Joshua 8      

Napsal(a) New Christian Bible Study Staff and Rev. Julian Duckworth

Joshua 8: The fall of Ai and the renewal of the covenant.

The events of this chapter - and their spiritual meaning for us - follow on from the previous chapter. After their first setback at Ai, the Children of Israel take the city of Ai by using a clever ruse. Joshua chose thirty thousand men for the battle. The plan was for five thousand of them to hide near the city, while he led the main army to attack the city. Then, Joshua and his forces would pretend to run away, pursued by the men of Ai. Those who had hidden were then to come out, go into the city, and set it on fire. The men of Ai would see this and run back, get ambushed, and be caught between Joshua’s two armies.

It all happened as planned, and Israel took Ai. (See Arcana Caelestia 1557). As with Jericho, everything in Ai was commanded to be destroyed, except that in this case the livestock and the city’s spoils were to be kept. The whole city was burned and its king was hanged on a tree until sunset and then his body was thrown down at the city entrance with a great heap of stones put over it.

The basic spiritual meaning of any battle in the Bible such as this, is to show how a heavenly principle can and will overcome a hellish or evil attack, especially for us, during some temptation - when we seek to resist and fight back.

Evil is only strong in illusion and fear-mongering; when the light of what is true shines on evil it gets shown for what it is. (Heaven and Hell 49)

The city’s name “Ai” means “a heap”. The word gets used several times in the text of the chapter. A heap implies rubble and rubbish. Cities sometimes look noble and well-planned; in Ai’s case it was the very opposite - a heap, a ruin. (Heaven and Hell 586[2])

While Jericho generally represents our wrong thinking, which first stands in the way of our regeneration and spiritual will, Ai represents our evil emotions and our selfish passions. Both of them must fall before we can make further progress.

Joshua chooses a large number to go against a relatively few in Ai, who nevertheless all rush out to fight Israel. “There was not a man left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel. Thus they left the city open.” (Joshua 8:17)

Joshua’s tactic of drawing out the men of Ai means our challenge to evil - by confronting it with the truths and commandments we know and obey. Joshua’s pretence of fleeing away draws Ai out in glee, interpreting the flight as a real retreat. Then everything turns, and Joshua’s men go forward representing the power of the truth, the Word and our persuasion of their effectiveness in winning. (Arcana Caelestia 6344[4])

Ai’s men see their city on fire, for other Israelites entered Ai and set it ablaze. This represents the self-condemnation of evil, of hell, when it is exposed to what is true, heavenly and of God. But Joshua’s men, lying in ambush and waiting for the moment, represent our keen observation of how our selfish desires work to cause havoc in us. They are 5,000. Symbolically, in the Bible, five or its multiples always stand for a small amount - but enough to use.

Hanging the king of Ai stands for our need to put down the controlling power of any evil which stirs us. And all Ai is destroyed, because all evil must be turned against and refused.

Then, and only then, Joshua remakes the covenant with the Lord God; he builds an altar, he writes a copy on stones of the Law of Moses in the presence of all Israel, the priests stand in two groups in front of two mountains, then Joshua reads the words of blessing and cursing and all the Law of Moses.

After we resist any evil and its temptation, we must re-hear and re-affirm the truth that this was the Lord’s victory, not ours, and re-dedicate ourselves to the life the Lord gives us. (True Christian Religion 13[2])

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