Joshua 8:11
And all the people, even the people of war that were with him, went up, and drew nigh, and came before the city, and pitched on the north side of Ai: now there was a valley between them and Ai.
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(11) On the north side.—The lurking-place of the thirty thousand was on the west side, between Bethel and Ai. There is a ravine called the Wady Maheesin which runs nearly east and west, on the north of et-Tel, and probably Joshua’s main body took up a position on the rising ground to the north of this ravine, for it is added, “the ravine (or Gai) was between them and Ai.”

8:3-22 Observe Joshua's conduct and prudence. Those that would maintain their spiritual conflicts must not love their ease. Probably he went into the valley alone, to pray to God for a blessing, and he did not seek in vain. He never drew back till the work was done. Those that have stretched out their hands against their spiritual enemies, must never draw them back.Numbered the people - Rather, perhaps, "mustered" or "arrayed" them for their march. The distance from the camp at Gilgal to Ai is about fifteen miles. In the evening of the day after the despatch of the 5,000 liers in wait, Joshua and the host might make their appearance in the neighborhood of the city. 11-14. there was a valley between them and Ai—literally, "the valley." The people of war that were with him, to wit, the thirty thousand mentioned Joshua 8:3, or the most of them.

And all the people, even the people of war that were with him, and went up, and drew nigh,.... To the city of Ai:

and came before the city; as if they intended to besiege it, storm it, or force an entrance into it:

and pitched on the north side of Ai; which was judged fittest for the purpose:

now there was a valley between them and Ai; which the Rabbins call the valley of Halacah, as Jarchi says; so that they were upon a hill, at least on rising ground, and might the more easily be seen by the inhabitants of Ai, whom they wanted to draw out of their city.

And all the people, even the people of war that were with him, went up, and drew nigh, and came before the city, and pitched on the north side of Ai: now there was a valley between them and Ai.
Verse 11. - And all the people, even the people of war that were with him. Literally, all the people, the war that were with him. Probably the word אִישׁ has been omitted by an early copyist. Implying, no doubt, that the non-warlike portion of the community had been left under a guard at Jericho (see also ver. 1). On the north side. Joshua made a detour, and encamped on a hill on the other side of the wady. Now there was a valley. Literally, and the valley was. This valley, the Wady Mutyah (see Robinson 17. sec. 10, and note on ver. 2, ch. 7.), is a remarkable feature of the country round Ai. Our version misses this sign of personal acquaintance with the locality on the part of the historian. Joshua 8:11The whole of the people of war also advanced with him to the front of the town, and encamped on the north of Ai, so that the valley was between it (בינו, as in Joshua 3:4) and Ai. This was probably a side valley branching off towards the south from the eastern continuation of the Wady es Suweinit. - In Joshua 8:12, Joshua 8:13, the account of the preparations for the attack is founded off by a repetition of the notice as to the forces engaged, and in some respects a more exact description of their disposition. Joshua, it is stated in Joshua 8:12, took about 5000 men and placed them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west of the town. As the place where this ambuscade was posted is described in precisely the same terms as that which was occupied, according to Joshua 8:9, by the 30,000 men who were sent out to form an ambuscade in the night before the advance of the main army against Ai (for the substitution of "the city" for Ai cannot possibly indicate a difference in the locality), the view held by the majority of commentators, that Joshua 8:12 refers to a second ambuscade, which Joshua sent out in addition to the 30,000, and posted by the side of them, is even more than questionable, and is by no means raised into a probability by the expression את־עקבו (Eng. "their liers in wait") in Joshua 8:13. The description of the place, "on the west of the city," leaves no doubt whatever that "their liers in wait" are simply the ambuscade (ארב) mentioned in Joshua 8:12, which was sent out from the whole army, i.e., the ambuscade that was posted on the west of the town. עקב signifies literally the lier in wait (Psalm 49:5), from עקב, insidiari, and is synonymous with ארב. The meaning which Gesenius and others attach to the word, viz., the rear or hinder part of the army, cannot be sustained from Genesis 49:19. If we add to this the fact that Joshua 8:13 is obviously nothing more than a repetition of the description already given in Joshua 8:11 of the place where the main army was posted, and therefore bears the character of a closing remark introduced to wind up the previous account, we cannot regard Joshua 8:12 as anything more than a repetition of the statements in Joshua 8:3, Joshua 8:9, and can only explain the discrepancy with regard to the number of men who were placed in ambush, by supposing that, through a copyist's error, the number which was expressed at first in simple letters has in one instance been given wrongly. The mistake, however, is not to be found in the 5000 (Joshua 8:12), but in the 30,000 in Joshua 8:3, where ה has been confounded with ל. For a detachment of 5000 men would be quite sufficient for an ambuscade that had only to enter the town after the soldiers had left it in pursuit of the Israelites, and to set it on fire, whereas it hardly seems possible that 30,000 men should have been posted in ambush so near to the town.

(Note: We need have no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that there is a mistake in the number given in Joshua 8:3, as the occurrence of such mistakes in the historical books is fully established by a comparison of the numbers given in the books of Samuel and Kings with those in the books of Chronicles, and is admitted by every commentator. In my earlier commentary on Joshua, I attempted to solve the difficulty by the twofold assumption: first, that Joshua 8:12 contains a supplementary statement, in which the number of the men posted in ambush is given for the firs time; and secondly, that the historian forgot to notice that out of the 30,000 men whom Joshua chose to make war upon Ai, 5000 were set apart to lie in ambush. But, on further examination of the text, I have come to the conclusion that the second assumption is irreconcilable with the distinct words of Joshua 8:3, and feel obliged to give it up. On the other hand, I still adhere to the conviction that there is not sufficient ground either for the assumption that Joshua 8:12, Joshua 8:13, contain an old marginal gloss that has crept into the text, or for the hypothesis of Ewald and Knobel, that these verses were introduced by the last editor of the book out of some other document. The last hypothesis amounts to a charge of thoughtlessness against the latest editor, which is hardly reconcilable with the endeavour, for which he is praised in other places, to reconcile the discrepancies in the different documents.)

- In Joshua 8:13, העם (the people) is to be taken as the subject of the sentence: "The people had set all the host, that was on the north of the city, and its ambuscade on the west of the city." In the night, namely the night before the army arrived at the north of the town, Joshua went through the midst of the valley, which separated the Israelites from the town, so that in the morning he stood with all the army close before the town.

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