Napsal(a) New Christian Bible Study Staff and Rev. Julian Duckworth
Joshua 7: The defeat at Ai, and the sin of Achan.
This chapter opens with the statement that Israel had sinned at Jericho, because an Israelite named Achan had kept something for himself, against the Lord's commandment. (But Joshua doesn't know this yet.)
The great victory at Jericho was quickly followed by an embarrassing defeat at Ai. The Israelites hadn't expected much difficulty in taking Ai, and sent just a few thousand men to attack it. They were routed.
Spiritually, we might say that pride goes before a fall, but more specifically, in the work of our regeneration we are never to rest on our laurels, but to always stay alert to each situation and how we are internally handling it. (Apocalypse Revealed 158)
Understandably, Joshua pours out his heart to the Lord, wondering why they have even crossed over the Jordan to simply be destroyed. The Lord tells him that their defeat at Ai was because Israel sinned by taking some of the forbidden things of Jericho. The Lord explains how to put this right, by identifying the wrongdoer and destroying him and his family.
Note the weakness of Joshua (as earlier also with Moses at times) when things go wrong and he feels confused, full of doubt, hurt and afraid. When things go well, we go well; when things go badly, we tend to go to pieces. And we ask, “Why? Why this, why me, why now?”
The Lord’s answer is a command, “Get up! Why are you lying on your face?” This is a pretty plain meaning: The Lord wants us to use such setbacks to be able to go forward, seeing the problem as a challenge and an opportunity and learning point.
Joshua is told to find the source of the wrong and the defeat. From all the tribes, one tribe will be selected by the Lord. From all its families, one family will be chosen. From all its households, one household will be chosen, and from that household, one man will be chosen. And Achan was the man and he is brought out. (Arcana Caelestia 5135)
This drawing-by-lot is a remarkable picture of our spiritual self-examination. We’re told that to make our general confession of ‘having done what we should not have done’ is almost worthless because we are likely to just carry on the same afterwards. (Arcana Caelestia 8390) Our personal inventory must be specific. What kind of thoughts have I been allowing myself recently? What did that make me feel in my heart? Did I welcome it or want nothing to do with it? It’s a kind of pinpointing, and it leads us to Achan, whose name in Hebrew means ‘trouble’ and ‘troubler’. (The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 164)
Achan, discovered, doesn't hide or deny his wrongdoing but openly admits that he has sinned against the Lord. He'd seen a beautiful garment, much silver, and a chunk of gold, and took them, and hid them in the earth in the middle of his tent. He confesses and indeed, his confession is transparent. So must our confession be when we see things in ourselves that go against the Lord’s truths and ways. They bring forth his stolen goods from his tent.
Then, in a comprehensive way, Joshua took everything Achan owned in its entirety, including the stolen goods, to the Valley of Achor (a name again meaning ‘trouble’) and stoned him and all his family and burned them with fire and raised a heap of stones over it all. This, to us, might well sound like a brutal and an unwarranted punishment.
Spiritually, the Lord does not punish us, ever. Rather, he commands that we turn from our evils, and suffer the consequences if we don't. The Lord does this to help and encourage us to stop following our own way and to commit ourselves to following and living His way. We can only conquer Canaan, representing heaven, when we do this. (Arcana Caelestia 8622)