Joshua 8



1 And Jehovah said to Joshua, Fear not, and be· not ·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 her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king; only her spoil and her beasts shall you plunder for yourselves; set for thee an ambush for the city from behind it.

3 And Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go·​·up to Ai; and Joshua chose thirty thousand men, mighty·​·men of valor, and sent· them ·out by night.

4 And he commanded them, saying, See, you shall set·​·an·​·ambush against the city, from behind the city; be· not very ·far from the city; but be ye prepared, all of you.

5 And I, and all the people that are with me, shall come·​·near to the city. And it shall be, when they come·​·out to meet us, as at the first, that we shall flee before them.

6 And they will come·​·out after us, until we have pulled· them ·away from the city; for they will say, They flee before us as the first time; and we will flee before them.

7 And you shall rise·​·up from the ambush and take·​·possession·​·of the city; and Jehovah your God will give it into your hand.

8 And it shall be when you have occupied the city, that you shall kindle the city with fire; according·​·to the word of Jehovah you shall do; see, I have commanded you.

9 And Joshua sent them; and they went to the ambush, and sat between Bethel and Ai, on the west of Ai. But Joshua passed·​·the·​·night on that night in the midst of the people.

10 And Joshua got·​·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 of war that were with him went up, and approached, and came over against the city, and encamped on the north of Ai; and there was a ravine between him and Ai.

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

13 And they set the people, all the camp which was on the north of the city, and those who would supplant on the west of the city; and Joshua went on that night into the midst of the valley.

14 And it was, when the king of Ai saw it, that they hastened and got·​·up·​·early, and the men of the city went out to meet Israel for battle, he and all his people, at the time·​·appointed, facing the desert; but he knew not that there was an ambush·​·set against him from behind the city.

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

16 And all the people who were in the city were called·​·up to pursue after them; and they pursued after Joshua and were pulled·​·away from the city.

17 And there was not a man left in Ai and Bethel, that went not out after Israel, and they left the city open, and pursued after Israel.

18 And Jehovah said unto Joshua, Stretch·​·out with the javelin that is in thy hand toward Ai; for into thy hand I will give it. And Joshua stretched·​·out with the javelin that was in his hand toward the city.

19 And the ambush· that had been ·set rose·​·up in haste out of its place, and they ran as he stretched·​·out his hand, and came into the city, and captured it; and they hastened and kindled the city with fire.

20 And the men of Ai turned· their ·faces behind them, and they saw, and behold, the smoke of the city went·​·up to the heavens, and they had no power* to flee hither and thither; and the people who fled to the wilderness turned on the pursuers.

21 And Joshua and all Israel saw that those who had set·​·an·​·ambush had taken the city, and that the smoke of the city went up, and they turned·​·back and smote the men of Ai.

22 And these went·​·out from the city to meet them; and they were in the midst of Israel, these on this side and those on that side; and they smote them, until there was· not ·left of them any who survived or escaped.

23 And the king of Ai they caught alive, and brought· him ·near to Joshua.

24 And it was, when Israel had completed killing all those who dwelt·​·in Ai who were in the field, in the wilderness into which they had pursued them, and all of them had fallen to the mouth of the sword until they were entirely consumed, that all Israel returned to Ai, and smote her with the mouth of the sword.

25 And all who fell that day, from man even·​·to woman, were twelve thousand, all the men of Ai.

26 And Joshua turned· not ·back his hand which he stretched·​·out with the javelin until he had doomed all who dwelt·​·in Ai.

27 Only the beast and the spoil of that city Israel plundered for themselves, according to the word of Jehovah which He commanded Joshua.

28 And Joshua burnt·​·up Ai, and set her as an eternal mound, a desolation to this day.

29 And the king of Ai he hanged on the tree until the time of the evening, and at the setting* of the sun Joshua commanded and they took·​·down his carcass from the tree and cast it at the entrance of the gate of the city, and raised on it a great heap of stones, until this day.

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

31 as Moses the servant of Jehovah commanded the sons of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses: an altar of whole stones upon which no one has moved* any iron; and they offered·​·up on it burnt·​·offerings unto Jehovah, and sacrificed peace·​·offerings.

32 And he wrote there on the stones a second copy* of the law of Moses, which he wrote before the sons of Israel.

33 And all Israel, and their elders and the officers and their judges, stood on this side and that side of the ark in·​·front·​·of the priests, the Levites, who carried the ark of the covenant of Jehovah, as the sojourner, so the native; half of them were next·​·to Mount Gerizim, and half of them next·​·to Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of Jehovah had commanded at the first to bless the people Israel.

34 And after that, he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the cursing, according·​·to all that was written in the book of the law.

35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded which Joshua read not in·​·the·​·presence·​·of all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the infants, and the sojourner who walked in the midst of 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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Thanks to the Kempton Project for the permission to use this New Church translation of the Word.