Joshua 7:2
And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east of Bethel, and spoke to them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai.
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(2) Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai.—Why Ai should be the next town selected for attack after Jericho, is a question which perhaps we cannot answer with certainty. But we may observe that the next step after the capture of Ai, before the further conquest of the country, was to set up the Ten Commandments in Mount Ebal, in the heart of the country, and to pronounce there the blessing and the curse which are the sanction of the law of God. It may well be that the course of the first military operations was directed to this end. The capture of Ai would put the Israelites in possession of the main road running north and south through Palestine, and enable them to reach the centre immediately. Thus the character of the war, which was no mere human enterprise, is maintained; and it is probable that the Divine reason for the movement is that which we are intended to observe. For the first mention of Ai, see Genesis 12:8. It is noticeable that there Abram fitst pitched his tent after his return to Canaan out of Egypt. (See also on Joshua 8:1.) Note also that Beth-aven and Bethel are distinct, although adjacent, places. The one is not a later name of the other, as has been sometimes supposed, although one is “the house of vanity” (i.e., perhaps of idols) and the other “the house of God.”

Joshua 7:2-3. Go up and view the country — They were not to go into the city of Ai, but into the country belonging to it, that they might understand the state of the place and people. Let two or three thousand go up and smite Ai — There was no little self-confidence and presumption in this counsel: Ai, it appears, was strong by its situation, and guarded by twelve thousand men; so that there was no probability of taking it with two or three thousand. God, however, wisely permitted this advice to be followed, that Achan’s sin might be brought to light and punished, and the people in general, who were evidently lifted up through their late success, might be awakened, humbled, and reformed, and that with as little mischief and reproach as might be. For if the defeat of these few caused such consternation in Joshua and the elders, and probably in all the host, it is easy to guess what dread it would have caused if the whole army had been defeated.7:1-5 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, Heb 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.Ai, Bethel - See Genesis 12:8 note. (Modern travelers place the former at Khan Haiy, in the neighborhood of Deir Diwan.) Jos 7:2-26. The Israelites Smitten at Ai.

2. Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai—After the sacking of Jericho, the next step was to penetrate into the hills above. Accordingly, spies went up the mountain pass to view the country. The precise site of Ai, or Hai, is indicated with sufficient clearness (Ge 12:8; 13:3) and has been recently discovered in an isolated tell, called by the natives Tell-el-Hajar, "the mount of stones," at two miles', or thirty-five minutes' distance, east southeast from Beth-el [Van De Velde].

Beth-aven—("house of vanity")—a name afterwards given derisively (Ho 4:15; 5:8; 10:5), on account of its idolatries, to Beth-el, "house of God," but here referred to another place, about six miles east of Beth-el and three north of Ai.

Ai, called Hai, Genesis 12:8, and Alia, Nehemiah 11:31. They were not to go into the city of Ai, but into the country bordering and belonging to it, and there to understand the state and quality of the place and people.

Beside; so the Hebrew im is used, Genesis 25:11 35:4 Judges 9:6 18:3 19:11.

Beth-aven; a city or town distinct from, but nigh unto

Beth-el, though Beth-el was afterwards by allusion called Beth-aven, Hosea 4:15 10:5. Compare Joshua 18:12. On the east side of Beth-el: compare Genesis 12:8 Joshua 8:9,12. And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai,.... Which was the next city of importance, though not so large as Jericho, and was, as the Jews say (l), three miles distant from it; Abarbinel says (m) four miles, and so Bunting (n); Jerom (o) says, that in his times very few ruins of it appeared, only the place was shown where it stood:

which is beside Bethaven; a name by which Bethel in later times was called, Hosea 4:15; but here it is manifestly a distinct place from it; just hard by or near to this place, as Jarchi and Kimchi interpret it, was the city of Ai: Bethaven seems to have been the suburbs of it, or however was very near unto it:

on the east side of Bethel; near to which Abraham built an altar, as did Jacob also, and which in former times was called Luz, Genesis 12:8; and was well known in later ages by the name of Bethel; it was reckoned about a mile from Ai: the situation of this city is so particularly described to distinguish it from another city of this name, Ai of the Amorites, Jeremiah 49:3; and is here called "that Ai", that well known Ai, as Kimchi observes:

and spake unto them; at the time he sent them, when he gave them their orders to go thither:

saying, go up and view the country; the mountainous part of it; for they were now in a plain, where Jericho was seated; and observe what place was most proper to attack next, and which the best way of coming at it:

and the men went up and viewed Ai; what a sort of a city it was, how large, and what its fortifications, and what avenues were to it: by this it appears that Ai was built upon a hill, or at least was higher than Jericho and its plains; and with this agrees what a traveller says (p) of it, it is a village full of large ruins (in this he differs from Jerom) and from hence are seen the valley of Jericho, the dead sea, Gilgal, and Mount Quarantania, and many other places towards the east.

(l) Shemoth Rabba, sect. 32. fol. 185. 2.((m) In Joshua 20.fol. 34. 1.((n) Travels Of the Patriarchs, &c. p. 95. (o) De loc. Heb. fol. 87. E. (p) Baumgarten. Peregrinatio, l. 3. c. 1. p. 105.

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

(b) This was a city of the Amorites: for there was another so called among the Amorites, Jer 49:3. The first Ai is called Aiah, Isa 10:28.

2. from Jericho to Ai] The country of Canaan seems in the time of Joshua to have been broken up into a number of small territories, each governed by an independent chief or “king,” who extended his rule from his fortified citadel to the district round. In Joshua 12:7-24, we find mention of no less than 32 such “kings.” A series of sieges, therefore, rather than of pitched battles, might be expected to characterise the campaigns of Joshua.

which is beside Beth-aven] Ai had been already mentioned in Genesis 12:8, in connection with the history of Abraham, who is said to have removed from Shechem “to a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east.” Though smaller than Jericho, Ai was a position of great importance; (a) It dominated the road to Jerusalem, then called Jebus, and was situated only a few hours distant; (b) It commanded the approaches into the heart of the country, and especially the fertile district of Samaria; (c) Its fall virtually involved that of Bethel. Beth-aven lay between Bethel and Michmash (1 Samuel 13:5; 1 Samuel 14:23). In Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:8; Hosea 10:5, the name is transferred, with a play upon the word characteristic of the prophet, to the neighbouring Bethel, once the “house of God,” but then the house of idols, or “naught.”

the east side of Beth-el] Bethel, formerly Luz (Genesis 28:19), was an ancient Canaanitish royal city. The name Bethel existed, it would seem, as early as the time of Abraham, who removed from the oaks of Mamre to the “mountain on the east of Bethel” (Genesis 12:8). Here he built an altar, and hither he returned from Egypt with Lot before their separation (Genesis 13:3-4). Even in those early times a distinction seems to have been drawn between the “city” of Luz and the consecrated “place” in its neighbourhood (Genesis 35:7) called “Bethel” by Jacob (a) Genesis 28:19, (b) Genesis 35:14-15, which name does not appear to have been appropriated to the city itself till after the conquest by Joshua (Joshua 16:1-2; Jdg 1:22-26).

Go up and view the country] So important did the Hebrew leader deem the position of Ai that he resolved to repeat the tactics already pursued at Jericho, and to send spies to “view the country.” For the use of “view” = to “survey,” “review,” comp. Ezra 8:15, “and I viewed the people and the priests, and found there none of the sons of Levi;” and Hall, Henry V., “Before whose arriuall the kyng was departed from Wyndsor to Winchester, entending to haue gone to Hampton and to haue vewed his nauie.” Shakespeare, Henry Josh v. 4. 21,

“Therefore, I say,’tis meet we all go forth

To view the sick and feeble parts of France.”

See Bible Word Book, pp. 511, 512.Verse 2. - Ai. עַי or הָעַי "the ruins" (cf. Iim and Ije-abarim, the ruins or heaps of Abarim, Numbers 33:44, 45; and Iim, Joshua 15:29. Probably it is the same as הָעַוּים which we find mentioned in conjunction with Bethel in Joshua 18:22, 23. It becomes עַיָּא in Nehemiah 11:31, and the feminine form is found in Isaiah 10:28. The latter, from the mention of Michmash in the route of Sennacherib immediately afterwards, is probably the same as Ai. Robinson and Hell - the former very doubtfully - place it at Turmus Aya, an eminence crowned with ruins above Deir Duwan. But Vandevelde contests this, and places it at Tell-el-Hajar, i.e., the Tell or heap of ruins; and G. Williams and Capt. Wilson have independently fixed on the same spot, though they call it et-Tel, or "the heap," and suppose the "el-Hajar" to have been added in answer to the question, "what heap?" This situation seems best to suit the requirements of the narrative. For it is "on the southern brow of the Wady-el-Mutyah" (Vandevelde), near that "wild entanglement of hill and valley at the head of the Wady Harith," which "climbs into the heart of the mountains of Benjamin till it meets the central ridge of the country at Bethel" (Stanley, 'Sinai and Palestine,' p. 202). Its situation, unlike that of Turmus Aya, is calculated to give cover to an ambush of 5,000 men, and it also answers to the conditions in its nearness to Michmash, from which Turmus Aya is more than three hours' journey distant. The Tell is "covered with heaps of ruins" (Capt. Wilson, 'Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement,' 4. p. 124). Conder, however ('Handbook,' p. 254), identifies Ai with Haiyan, two miles from Bethel, in the same Wady, but why, he gives no hint. A fortress so situated was one which Joshua could not leave in his rear, and so its capture was a matter of necessity. By its position, if not from the number of its inhabitants, it was necessarily a very strong one. Ai is mentioned as early as Genesis 12:8, and we find that it was inhabited down to the Captivity, for the "men of Bethel and Ai" are mentioned (and, it may be observed, in close proximity to those of Rama, Geba, and Michmash - see Isaiah 10:28 above cited) in Ezra 2:28. See also Nehemiah 11:31, above cited. The name Ai, or ruins, found so early, implies that the aboriginal inhabitants had built a city in that almost inaccessible situation. Lieut. Conder gives a very vivid description of the site et-Tel in 'Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement,' April, 1874. There are, he says, "huge mounds of broken stone and shingle ten feet high. The town," he adds, "must have been pounded small, and the fury of its destruction is still evidenced by its completeness." He continues: "The party for the ambush, following the ancient causeway from Bethel to Jordan (which we have recovered throughout its entire length) as far as Michmash, would then easily ascend the great wady west of Ai, and arrive within a quarter of a mile of the city without having ever come in sight of it. Here, hidden by the knoll of Burjums and the high ground near it, a force of almost any magnitude might wait unsuspected. The main body in the meanwhile, without diverging from the road, would ascend the gently sloping valley and appear before the town on the open battlefield which stretches away to its east and south. From the knoll the figure of Joshua would be plainly visible to either party, with his spear stretched against the sky" [see ch Joshua 8:18). But the site still eludes investigation. Lieut. Kitchener, Mr. Birch, Mr. Guest, would place it at Kh-Haiy, or the rock Rimmon. When those who have visited the country are so divided in opinion, nothing but silence remains for those who have not. Beth-avern (cf. 1 Samuel 14:23). This place has not yet been identified. It was close by Ai, and not far from Bethel, as the transference of its name to Bethel by Hosea (Hosea 4:15; 5:8; 10:5) shows. It could not have been a place of any importance, or the historian would not have found it necessary to explain where it was. Hosea has perhaps derived his knowledge of it from this passage. Some writers have identified it with Bethel. But this is obviously incorrect, since the literal rendering of the Hebrew here places Ai "in the immediate proximity of Beth-aven, eastward of Bethel." The LXX. omits all reference to Beth-aven. But there are many various readings. Bethel Formerly Luz (Genesis 28:19; Genesis 35:7; Judges 1:23). The last-cited passage seems to prove that Bethel was not among, the cities taken during Joshua's campaign; though this is extraordinary in the face of the fact that the inhabitants of Luz gave their assistance to the men of Ai in the battle (see Joshua 8:17, where, however, it is remarkable that the LXX. omits all reference to Bethel). We may observe that there is no mention of the capture of Bethel, or the destruction of the inhabitants, and that this exactly agrees with Judges 1:22-26. This is an undesigned coincidence well worthy of note. We may also remark on the exact conformity between the situation of Bethel as described here and in Genesis 12:8. The city to which the name Bethel was attached was not the place of Abraham's altar, as we learn from the passage just cited, but was in its immediate neighbourhood. The ruins which now mark its site are of a later date than the events recorded in Scripture. Its modern name is Beitin. Go up and view the country. Rather, spy (or reconnoitre); literally, foot the country. Joshua does not refuse to avail himself of human expedients because he is under Divine guidance (see also ch. 2). The reasons for this reconnoitring expedition are made clear enough by the passage quoted from Lieut. Condor's survey above. After the taking of Jericho, man and beast were banned, i.e., put to death without quarter (Joshua 6:21; cf. Joshua 6:17); Rahab and her relations being the only exceptions. Joshua had directed the two spies to fetch them out of her house, and in the first instance had them taken to a place of safety outside the camp of Israel (Joshua 6:22, Joshua 6:23). "Her brethren," i.e., her brothers and sisters, as in Joshua 2:13, not her brothers only. "All that she had" does not mean all her possessions, but all the persons belonging to her house; and "all her kindred" are all her relations by birth or marriage, with their dependants (cf. Joshua 2:13). Clericus is correct in observing, that as Rahab's house was built against the town-wall, and rested partly upon it (Joshua 2:15), when the wall fell down, that portion against or upon which the house stood cannot have fallen along with the rest, "otherwise when the wall fell no one would have dared to remain in the house." But we must not draw the further inference, that when the town was burned Rahab's house was spared.

(Note: The statements made by travellers in the middle ages, to the effect that they had seen Rahab's house (Rob. Pal. ii. pp. 295-6), belong to the delusions of pious superstition.)

וגו מחוּץ ויּנּיחוּם (Joshua 6:23; cf. Genesis 19:16), "they let them rest," i.e., placed them in safety, "outside the camp of Israel," sc., till they had done all that was requisite for a formal reception into the congregation of the Lord, viz., by giving up idolatry and heathen superstition, and turning to the God of Israel as the only true God (to which circumcision had to be added in the case of the men), and by whatever lustrations and purifications were customary at the time in connection with reception into the covenant with Jehovah, of which we have no further information.

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