Joshua Chapter 7


The Israelites smitten at Ai. (Verse 1-5.)

Joshua’s humiliation and prayer. (Verse 6-9.)

God instructs Joshua what to do. (Verse 10-5.)

Achan is detected, He is destroyed. (Verse 16-26.)

   What a great victory for the children of Israel! What a great opportunity for the devil to trip them up. Satan loves to show up right after a major victory in your life to discourage you.

   It is at this time when you are the most susceptible to the devil’s attacks because of the element of pride that usually follows a big victory in your life.

1 Corinthians 10:12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

1 But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel.

[Deut 7:25-26]

Notice here two things, number one, God is angered at Israel for the sin of just one-man Achan, and secondly, Achan’s genealogy is mentioned. Why should God be angry at the nation for the sin of one man and why is Achan’s genealogy mentioned?

First of all, we notice that he is a descendant of the tribe of Judah which should cause you to look deeper because this is the family line in which the Messiah is to be born. Secondly it mentions the name of Zerah, who is this Zerah?

“accursed thing” – what specific commands had Joshua given in this regard?

1 Chronicles 2:4 And Tamar his (Judah’s)daughter in law bare him Pharez and Zerah.

Satan wanted all the descendants of Judah to die to prevent the Messiah’s birth, and with the death of Achan that would cut off one of Judah’s lines. Satan had a problem however, he did not know which line to go after, so he went after all of them.

Satan has tried numerous times to destroy Judah’s line and he would again try in Bethlehem many centuries later to kill all the children of Judah not long after Christ’s birth.

This does not excuse Achan or his sin, because when Satan tempted him to disobey Joshua, he was responsible for the decision he made.

 Satan doesn’t make us sin, we choose to sin. Satan wants to destroy all of God’s children and since he can’t often get our life he settles for the next best thing, our testimony.

2 And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai.

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

this is the classic case of underestimating the enemy. Often in the Christian life, believers make the fatal mistake of underestimating the devil. Many biblically-ignorant, Christian preachers make fun of the devil and speak of him as though  he’s a big pushover for the believer; scripture however makes it clear that the devil is a foe to be taken seriously and an enemy that no believer can defeat on his own. Virtually every passage in the Bible that deals with the relationship between the believer and the devil and his company emphasises that victory is ONLY possible through Christ and his word. We are in a spiritual battle and the believer who thinks they are above deception or that they can defeat the devil merely by throwing around the name of Jesus Christ is in for a rude awakening.

4 So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai.

there is no record here of asking God how they should have attacked the city of Ai; beware of rushing into things without seeking God’s wisdom on the matter in prayer.

5 And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.

Joshua was unaware of the acts of Achan prior to his sending forth his soldiers to battle with Ai. Had Achan been led of the Spirit he would have said no to the lust of the eyes that Satan had placed before him.

Israel and Joshua also sinned in the area of pride. They just had a major victory that was won by God which they forgot, and they thought they could take Ai easily with just a small army and they fell.

Thirty-six men died, six is the number of man and can be divided into thirty-six, six times. The number is no coincidence.

6 And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads.

7 And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord God, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan!

8 O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies!

9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?

It seems like Joshua lost it for a moment here because he thought everything was just going to be a piece of cake in the promised land.

Things would have gone better had everyone gone along with God’s plan, but one person can hurt a lot of other people because of selfishness.

10 And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?

It should have been obvious to Joshua what the problem was rather than questioning what God was doing

11 Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.

12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.

“neither will I be with you” – the principle here is that when we as Christians sin, God’s power in our lives will be absent. God will always be with the Christian insofar as God indwells every believer, but God’s working in the believer’s life or “fellowship” with the believer will not occur when sin is present.

Study Question

What does I John 1:6 say about this? (*20*)

13 Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith the Lord God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.

14 In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to your tribes: and it shall be, that the tribe which the Lord taketh shall come according to the families thereof; and the family which the Lord shall take shall come by households; and the household which the Lord shall take shall come man by man.

15 And it shall be, that he that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath: because he hath transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he hath wrought folly in Israel.

Achan should have used this time to come forward but he did not. It is better to confess things up front. He could have spent the night crying out to God to spare his family but instead he chooses to hide his sin hoping that someone else would be called out the next morning.

16 So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken:

17 And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken:

18 And he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.

19 And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.

[I John 1:9, 1 Tim 2:5]

I’m sure the other tribes were relieved when Judah’s tribe was called out, and I’m sure those that were from Judah were ashamed when they heard their name. Our name is our testimony and we can shame ourselves and those closest to us by our actions.

No where are we commanded to confess our sins to any human priest; we confess directly to God through Jesus Christ, our only Mediator between man and God.

20 And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done:

21 When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.

We first see with our eyes and then what we see enters into our wicked hearts and we covet which leads us to take that which we shouldn’t have, then we have to hide our sin. Satan weaves a masterful web and we walk right into it.

22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it.

23 And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the Lord.

24 And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor.

25 And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the Lord shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.

“burned them with fire” – God’s method of disposing of human bodies throughout scripture is burial; every instance in the Bible where people are cremated, the context is negative and the bodies being burned are those of people who have been wicked and/or disobedient to God.

26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.

While Satan was not sure which family would bring forth the Messiah, he was happy he had destroyed another line. This is not the only line from Judah that he destroyed, but that is another story.

Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.

Verse 1-5 – Achan took some of the spoil of Jericho. The love of the world is that root of bitterness, which of all others is most hardly rooted up. We should take heed of sin ourselves, lest by it many be defiled or disquieted, Hebrews 12:15. and take heed of having fellowship with sinners, lest we share their guilt. It concerns us to watch over one another to prevent sin, because others’ sins may be to our damage. The easy conquest of Jericho excited contempt of the enemy, and a disposition to expect the Lord to do all for them without their using proper means. Thus men abuse the doctrines of Divine grace, and the promises of God, into excuses for their own sloth and self-indulgence. We are to work out our own salvation, though it is God that works in us. It was a dear victory to the Canaanites, whereby Israel was awakened and reformed, and reconciled to their God, and the people of Canaan hardened to their own ruin.

Verse 6-9 – Joshua’s concern for the honour of God, more than even for the fate of Israel, was the language of the Spirit of adoption. He pleaded with God. He laments their defeat, as he feared it would reflect on God’s wisdom and power, his goodness and faithfulness. We cannot at any time urge a better plea than this, Lord, what wilt thou do for thy great name? Let God be glorified in all, and then welcome his whole will.

Verse 10-15 – God awakens Joshua to inquiry, by telling him that when this accursed thing was put away, all would be well. Times of danger and trouble should be times of reformation. We should look at home, into our own hearts, into our own houses, and make diligent search to find out if there be not some accursed thing there, which God sees and abhors; some secret lust, some unlawful gain, some undue withholding from God or from others. We cannot prosper, until the accursed thing be destroyed out of our hearts, and put out of our habitations and our families, and forsaken in our lives. When the sin of sinners finds them out, God is to be acknowledged. With a certain and unerring judgment, the righteous God does and will distinguish between the innocent and the guilty; so that though the righteous are of the same tribe, and family, and household with the wicked, yet they never shall be treated as the wicked.

Verse 16-26 – See the folly of those that promise themselves secrecy in sin. The righteous God has many ways of bringing to light the hidden works of darkness. See also, how much it is our concern, when God is contending with us, to find out the cause that troubles us. We must pray with holy Job, Lord, show me wherefore thou contendest with me. Achan’s sin began in the eye. He saw these fine things, as Eve saw the forbidden fruit. See what comes of suffering the heart to walk after the eyes, and what need we have to make this covenant with our eyes, that if they wander they shall be sure to weep for it. It proceeded out of the heart. They that would be kept from sinful actions, must mortify and check in themselves sinful desires, particularly the desire of worldly wealth. Had Achan looked upon these things with an eye of faith, he would have seen they were accursed things, and would have dreaded them; but looking on them with an eye of sense only, he saw them as goodly things, and coveted them. When he had committed the sin, he tried to hide it. As soon as he had got this plunder, it became his burden, and he dared not to use his ill-gotten treasure. So differently do objects of temptation appear at a distance, to what they do when they have been gotten. See the deceitfulness of sin; that which is pleasing in the commission, is bitter in the reflection. See how they will be deceived that rob God. Sin is a very troublesome thing, not only to a sinner himself, but to all about him. The righteous God will certainly recompense tribulation to them that trouble his people. Achan perished not alone in his sin. They lose their own, who grasp at more than their own. His sons and daughters were put to death with him. It is probable that they helped to hide the things; they must have known of them. What fatal consequences follow, even in this world, to the sinner himself, and to all belonging him! One sinner destroys much good. What, then, will be the wrath to come? Let us flee from it to Christ Jesus as the sinner’s Friend. There are circumstances in the confession of Achan, marking the progress of sin, from its first entrance into the heart to its being done, which may serve as the history of almost every offence against the law of God, and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.