Joshua 8

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1 And Jehovah said to Joshua, Fear not, neither be dismayed. Take with thee all the people of war, 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 to its king as thou didst to Jericho and to its king; only, the spoil thereof and the cattle thereof shall ye take as prey for yourselves. Set an ambush against the city behind it.

3 And Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up to Ai. And Joshua chose thirty thousand valiant men, and sent them away by night.

4 And he commanded them, saying, See, ye shall be in ambush against the city, behind the city: go not very far from the city, and be all of you ready.

5 And I and all the people that are with me will approach to 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 from the city; for they will say, They flee before us, as at the first; and we will flee before them.

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

8 And it shall be when ye have taken 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 lie in ambush, and abode between Bethel and Ai, on the west of Ai. And Joshua lodged that night among the people.

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

11 And all the people of war that were with him went up, and drew near, and came before the city; and they encamped on the north of Ai; and the valley was between them and Ai.

12 Now he had taken about five thousand men, and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west of the city.

13 And when they had set the people, the whole camp on the north of the city, and their ambush on the west of the city, Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley.

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

15 And Joshua and all Israel let themselves be beaten before them; and they 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 not a man remained in Ai and Bethel that went not out after Israel; and they left the city open, and pursued after Israel.

18 And Jehovah said to 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 he had in his hand toward the city.

19 And the ambush arose quickly from their place, and they ran when he stretched out his hand, and came into the city, and took it, and hasted and set the city on fire.

20 And the men of Ai turned and saw, and behold, the smoke of the city went up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that way; and the people that fled to the wilderness turned upon the pursuers.

21 When Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city, and that the smoke of the city went up, they turned again, and slew the men of Ai.

22 And the others went 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, until they let none of them escape or flee away.

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

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

25 And so it was, that all who fell that day, men as well as women, were twelve thousand, all the people of Ai.

26 And Joshua did not draw back his hand, which he had stretched out with the javelin, until they had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai.

27 Only, the cattle and the spoil of the city Israel took as prey to themselves, according to the word of Jehovah which he had commanded Joshua.

28 And Joshua burned Ai, and made it an everlasting heap of desolation to this day.

29 And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until the evening; and at the going down of the sun Joshua commanded, and they took his carcase down from the tree, and threw it down at the entrance of the gate of the city, and raised upon it a great heap of stones, [which remains] to this day.

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

31 as Moses the servant of Jehovah had commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which iron had not been lifted up. And they offered up burnt-offerings on it to Jehovah, and sacrificed peace-offerings.

32 And he wrote there on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written before the children of Israel.

33 And all Israel, and their elders, and their officers and judges, stood on this side and on that side of the ark before the priests the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of Jehovah, as well the stranger as the home-born [Israelite]; half of them toward mount Gerizim, and the other half of them toward mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of Jehovah had commanded, that they should bless the people of Israel, in the beginning.

34 And afterwards 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 had commanded which Joshua read not before the whole congregation of Israel, and the women, and the children, and the strangers that lived 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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