Joshua 7

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1 And the sons of Israel trespassed a trespass in what was devoted*, and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zeraḥ, of the tribe of Judah, took from what was devoted; and the anger of Jehovah was·​·fierce against the sons of Israel.

2 And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is by Beth-aven from the east of Bethel, and he said to them, saying, Go·​·up and spy·​·out the land. And the men went·​·up and spied·​·out Ai.

3 And they returned to Joshua, and said to him, Let not all the people go·​·up, let about two·​·thousand men or about three thousand men go·​·up and smite Ai; make not all the people toil thither; for they are few.

4 And there went·​·up of the people thither about three thousand men; and they fled before the men of Ai.

5 And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men; and they pursued them before the gate even·​·to Shebarim, and smote them in the going·​·down: and the heart of the people melted and became water.

6 And Joshua rent his raiment and fell on his face to the earth before the ark of Jehovah until the evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they brought·​·up dust on their head.

7 And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord Jehovih*, why hast Thou made this people crossing to cross·​·over the Jordan, to give us into the hand of the Amorite, to make· us ·perish? And would·​·that we had been·​·content and dwelt across the Jordan!

8 In·​·me* Lord, what shall I say after that Israel turns the back before his enemies!

9 And the Canaanite and all they who dwell·​·in the land shall hear and will surround us and cut·​·off our name from the land; and what wilt Thou do for Thy great name?

10 And Jehovah said to Joshua, Rise·​·up; why is this that thou hast fallen on thy face?

11 Israel has sinned and has even passed·​·by My covenant which I commanded them; and they have even taken of the devoted·​·thing and have even stolen, and even deceived, and have even set it into their vessels.

12 And the sons of Israel are· not ·able to rise·​·up before their enemies; they turn their back before their enemies for they have become as a doomed·​·thing*. I will not be with you again if you do not blot·​·out the doomed·​·thing from among you.

13 Arise, sanctify the people, and say, sanctify yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says Jehovah God of Israel, There is a devoted·​·thing among thee, O Israel, thou canst not rise·​·up before thine enemies until you remove the devoted·​·thing from among you.

14 And in the morning you shall be offered according·​·to your tribes; and it shall be that the tribe which Jehovah shall take shall offer themselves according·​·to the families; and the family which Jehovah shall take shall offer themselves according·​·to the houses; and the house which Jehovah shall take shall offer themselves according·​·to the mighty·​·men.

15 And it shall be that he that is taken with the devoted·​·thing shall be burned·​·up with fire, he and all that he has; for he has transgressed the covenant of Jehovah, and because he has done folly in Israel.

16 And Joshua got·​·up·​·early in the morning, and offered Israel according·​·to their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken.

17 And he offered the family of Judah; and He* took the family of the Zarhite; and he offered the family of the Zarhite according·​·to their mighty·​·men and He took Zabdi.

18 And he offered his house according·​·to the mighty·​·men and He took Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zeraḥ of the tribe of Judah.

19 And Joshua said to Achan, My son, set, I pray thee, glory for Jehovah the God of Israel, and give confession to Him; and tell, I pray thee, what thou hast done, conceal it not from me.

20 And Achan answered Joshua and said, Truly I have sinned against Jehovah, the God of Israel, and as this and as this* have I done:

21 And I saw among the spoil one good mantle of Shinar and two·​·hundred shekels of silver and one wedge* of gold of fifty shekels weight, and I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.

22 And Joshua sent messengers and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was concealed in his tent, and the silver under it.

23 And they took them from the midst of the tent, and brought them in to Joshua and to all the sons of Israel, and poured them out before Jehovah.

24 And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan, the son of Zeraḥ, and the silver, and the mantle and the wedge of gold, and his sons and his daughters, and his ox and his donkey, and his flock and his tent, and all that he had; and they brought· them ·up to the valley of Achor.

25 And Joshua said, With what hast thou troubled us? Jehovah shall trouble thee on this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned· them ·up with fire, and stoned them with stones.

26 And they raised·​·up over him a great heap of stones to this day; and Jehovah turned·​·back from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore he called the name of that place, the Valley of Achor, to this day.


Exploring the Meaning of Joshua 7      

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)

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Thanks to the Kempton Project for the permission to use this New Church translation of the Word.