Joshua 7:4
So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai.
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(4) They fled before the men of Ai.—A very natural reaction from overweening confidence to utter dismay is exhibited in this incident and its effect (Joshua 7:5), “the heart of the people melted and became as water.” The demoralisation of Israel was a suitable penalty for their assumption, quite apart from its supernatural cause. It was absolutely necessary that the character of the conquest of Canaan should be vindicated, at whatever cost.

Joshua 7:4. They fled before the men of Ai — Not having courage, it seems, to strike a stroke, a plain evidence that God had forsaken them, and an instructive event, to show them what they were when God left them; that they did not gain their victories by their own valour, but that it was God that gave the Canaanites into their hands. And may we not hence conclude, however little it may be thought of, that victory or superiority in war between different nations, depends more upon the will of God than upon any other circumstance; and that a nation that goes to battle loaded with its crimes, has but little reason to hope for final victory or lasting success!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.The total population of Ai was about twelve thousand Joshua 8:25. It could therefore hardly muster three thousand warriors. 4, 5. they fled before the men of Ai—An unexpected resistance, and the loss of thirty-six of their number diffused a panic, which ended in an ignominious rout. Not having their usual courage to strike a stroke, which was a plain evidence that God had forsaken them; and a useful instruction, to show them what weak and inconsiderable creatures they were when God left them; and that it was God, not their own valour, that gave the Canaanites and their land into their hands. So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men,.... Joshua detached from the army the largest number proposed, that there might be strength enough to take the place; and those he sent under proper officers to Ai, who went up to the very gate of the city, as appears from Joshua 7:5,

and they fled before the men of Ai; for upon their appearing at the gate of their city, they came out with all their forces against them, and as soon as they did, the children of Israel durst not face them, but without engaging with them fled at once: God having forsaken them, their courage failed, the dread of their enemies falling on them.

So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai.
But Rahab and all that belonged to her Joshua suffered to live, so that she dwelt in Israel "unto this day." It is very evident from this remark, that the account was written not very long after the event.

(Note: Rahab is no doubt the same person as the Rachab mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, who married Salmon the tribe prince of Judah, to whom she bore Boaz, an ancestor of David (Matthew 1:5). The doubts which Theophylact expressed as to the identity of the two, and which J. Outhou has since sought to confirm, rest for the most part upon the same doctrinal scruples as those which induced the author of the Chaldee version to make Rahab an innkeeper, namely, the offence taken at her dishonourable calling. Jerome's view, on the other hand, is a very satisfactory one. "In the genealogy of the Saviour," he says, "none of the holy women are included, but only those whom the Scriptures blame, that He who came on behalf of sinners, being himself born of sinners, might destroy the sins of all." The different ways in which the name is written, viz., hee Rhacha'b in Matthew, andChaab in the Sept. version of Joshua, and in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25, is not enough to throw any doubt upon the identity of the two, as Josephus always calls the harlot Rahab hee Rhacha'bee. The chronological difficulty, that Salmon and Rahab lived much too soon to have been the parents of Boaz, which is adduced by Knobel as an argument against the identity of the mother of Boaz and the harlot Rahab, has no force unless it can be proved that every link is given in the genealogy of David (in Ruth 4:21-22; 1 Chronicles 2:11; Matthew 1:5), and that Boaz was really the great-grandfather of David; whereas the very opposite, viz., the omission from the genealogies of persons of no celebrity, is placed beyond all doubt by many cases that might be cited. Nothing more is known of Rahab. The accounts of the later Rabbins, such as that she was married to Joshua, or that she was the mother of eight prophets, and others of the same kind, are fables without the slightest historical foundation (see Lightfoot, hor. hebr. et talm. in Matthew 1:5).)

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