Joshua 8

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1 And Jehovah saith unto Joshua, `Fear not, nor be affrighted, take with thee all the people of war, and rise, 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 hast done to Ai and to her king as thou hast done to Jericho and to her king; only, its spoil and its cattle ye spoil for yourselves; set for thee an ambush for the city at its rear.'

3 And Joshua riseth, and all the people of war, to go up to Ai, and Joshua chooseth thirty thousand men, mighty ones of valour, and sendeth them away by night,

4 and commandeth them, saying, `See, ye are liers in wait against the city, at the rear of the city, ye go not very far off from the city, and all of you have been prepared,

5 and I and all the people who [are] with me draw near unto the city, and it hath come to pass when they come out to meet us as at the first, and we have fled before them,

6 and they have come out after us till we have drawn them out of the city, for they say, They are fleeing before us as at the first, and we have fled before them,

7 and ye rise from the ambush, and have occupied the city, and Jehovah your God hath given it into your hand;

8 and it hath been, when ye capture the city, ye burn the city with fire, according to the word of Jehovah ye do, see, I have commanded you.'

9 And Joshua sendeth them away, and they go unto the ambush, and abide between Bethel and Ai, on the west of Ai; and Joshua lodgeth on that night in the midst of the people.

10 And Joshua riseth early in the morning, and inspecteth the people, and goeth up, he and the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai;

11 and all the people of war who [are] with him have gone up, and draw nigh and come in over-against the city, and encamp on the north of Ai; and the valley [is] between him and Ai.

12 And he taketh about five thousand men, and setteth them an ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west of the city;

13 and they set the people, all the camp which [is] on the north of the city, and its rear on the west of the city, and Joshua goeth on that night into the midst of the valley.

14 And it cometh to pass, when the king of Ai seeth [it], that hasten, and rise early, and go out do the men of the city to meet Israel for battle, he and all his people, at the appointed season, at the front of the plain, and he hath not known that an ambush [is] against him, on the rear of the city.

15 And Joshua and all Israel [seem] stricken before them, and flee the way of the wilderness,

16 and all the people who [are] in the city are called to pursue after them, and they pursue after Joshua, and are drawn away out of the city,

17 and there hath not been left a man in Ai and Bethel who hath not gone out after Israel, and they leave the city open, and pursue after Israel.

18 And Jehovah saith unto Joshua, `Stretch out with the javelin which [is] in thy hand towards Ai, for into thy hand I give it;' and Joshua stretcheth out with the javelin which [is] in his hand toward the city,

19 and the ambush hath risen [with] haste, out of its place, and they run at the stretching out of his hand, and go into the city, and capture it, and hasten, and burn the city with fire.

20 And the men of Ai look behind them, and see, and lo, the smoke of the city hath gone up unto the heavens, and there hath not been in them power to flee hither and thither -- and the people who are fleeing to the wilderness have turned against the pursuer, --

21 and Joshua and all Israel have seen that the ambush hath captured the city, and that the smoke of the city hath gone up, and they turn back and smite the men of Ai;

22 and these have come out from the city to meet them, and they are in the midst of Israel, some on this side, and some on that, and they smite them till he hath not left to them a remnant and escaped one;

23 and the king of Ai they caught alive, and bring him near unto Joshua.

24 And it cometh to pass, at Israel's finishing to slay all the inhabitants of Ai in the field, in the wilderness in which they pursued them (and they fall all of them by the mouth of the sword till their consumption), that all Israel turn back to Ai, and smite it by the mouth of the sword;

25 and all who fall during the day, of men and of women, are twelve thousand -- all men of Ai.

26 And Joshua hath not brought back his hand which he stretched out with the javelin till that he hath devoted all the inhabitants of Ai;

27 only, the cattle and the spoil of that city have Israel spoiled for themselves, according to the word of Jehovah which He commanded Joshua.

28 And Joshua burneth Ai, and maketh it a heap age-during -- a desolation unto this day;

29 and the king of Ai he hath hanged on the tree till even-time, and at the going in of the sun hath Joshua commanded, and they take down his carcase from the tree, and cast it unto the opening of the gate of the city, and raise over it a great heap of stones till this day.

30 Then doth Joshua build an altar to Jehovah, God of Israel, in mount Ebal,

31 as Moses, 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, over which he hath not waved iron -- and they cause to go up upon it burnt-offerings to Jehovah, and sacrifice peace-offerings;

32 and he writeth there on the stones the copy of the law of Moses, which he hath written in the presence of the sons of Israel.

33 And all Israel, and its elders, and authorities, and its judges, are standing on this side and on that of the ark, over-against the priests, the Levites, bearing the ark of the covenant of Jehovah, as well the sojourner as the native, half of them over-against mount Gerizim, and the half of them over-against mount Ebal, as Moses servant of Jehovah commanded to bless the people of Israel at the first.

34 And afterwards he hath proclaimed all the words of the law, the blessing and the reviling, according to all that is written in the book of the law;

35 there hath not been a thing of all that Moses commanded which Joshua hath not proclaimed before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the infants, and the sojourner who is going in their midst.


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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