Joshua 8:13
And when they had set the people, even all the host that was on the north of the city, and their liers in wait on the west of the city, Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley.
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(13) Joshua went that night into the. . . . valley (Emek).—Not the ravine (or Gai) before mentioned (Joshua 8:11), but a wider and more open part of the valley, probably a little further to the south;· the object being to draw the men of Ai into a pursuit in the direction of the road to Gilgal.

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.Joshua went down by night into the valley where He would be seen at daylight by the men of Ai, and was accompanied no doubt by a picked body of troops. The king of Ai, in the morning, would see neither the ambush in his rear, nor the whole of the great host of Israel among the hills away to the north on his left; but supposing, as it appears, that the Israelites before him were a body detached as on the former occasion to assail his city, he sallied out promptly to attack them. 13. Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley—The deep and steep-sided glen to the north of Tell-el-hajar, into which one looks down from the tell, fully agrees with this account [Van De Velde]. Joshua himself took up his position on the north side of "the ravine"—the deep chasm of the wady El-Murogede; "that night"—means, while it was dark, probably after midnight, or very early in the morning (Joh 20:1). The king of Ai, in the early dawn, rouses his slumbering subjects and makes a hasty sally with all his people who were capable of bearing arms, once more to surprise and annihilate them. To wit, accompanied with a small part of the host now mentioned, i.e. very early in the morning, when it was yet dark, as is said in a like case, John 20:1, whence it is here called night, though it was early in the morning, as is said Joshua 8:10; for it seems most probable that all was done in one night’s space, and in this manner: Joshua sends away the ambush by night, Joshua 8:3, and lodgeth that night with twenty-five thousand men, Joshua 8:9, not far from the city. But not able nor willing to sleep all night, he rises very early, Joshua 8:10, and numbers his men, which by the help of the several officers was quickly done, and so immediately leads them towards Ai; and while it was yet duskish or night, he goes into the midst of the valley, Joshua 8:13; and when the day dawns he is discovered by the king and people of Ai, who thereupon rose up early to fight with them, Joshua 8:14. Though others conceive this was the second night, and so the ambush had lain hid a night and a day together. But then there might be danger of their being discovered, although that danger may seem to be the less, because Ai might be shut up, that none might go out nor come in, but by order, and upon necessity, because of the nearness of their enemies, as Jericho formerly was for the same reason, Joshua 6:1. Into the midst of the valley; which was near the city, thereby to allure them forth.

And when they had set the people,.... In battle array, as in 1 Kings 20:12; that is, Joshua and the officers of the army:

even all the host that was on the north of the city; where Joshua and the main army were:

and the liers in wait on the west of the city: both the first and second ambush; when all, were prepared and got ready by their several officers, to act the part they were to do:

Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley; according to Ben Gersom, to see whether the guards or sentinels which were placed there were awake or asleep, lest the men of Ai should come suddenly upon them and smite them; but perhaps it might be to pray and meditate.

And when they had set the people, even all the host that was on the north of the city, and their liers in wait on the west of the city, Joshua went that night into the {f} midst of the valley.

(f) To the intent that they in the city more easily discover his army.

Verse 13. - And when they had set. This may mean the leaders of the detachment of 30,000. Joshua does not appear to have been with them, for he is not mentioned till the latter part of the verse (see note on ver. 3). Joshua went that night. Having made all his dispositions, he descended in the evening from his vantage ground on the hill into the plain, so as to invite attack in the morning, a stratagem which (see next verse) was completely successful. Some MSS., however, have וַיָּלֶן "and he rested," for וַיֵּלֶך "and he went" here. The valley. The word here is עֶמֶק not גָי as in ver. 11. Therefore the narrow waterless ravine in which the troops in ambush were to lie hid is not meant here, but a wider valley. A consideration of this fact might do something to settle the much disputed question of the situation of Ai. The עֶמֶק though deep, as the name implies, was a valley large enough for cultivation or luxuriant vegetation (Job 39:10; Psalm 65:14; Song of Solomon 2:1). Even a battle might be fought there (Job 39:21). Such a valley as that of Chamonix or Lauterbrunnen would answer to the description, and so would the passes of Glencoe and Killiecrankie. Joshua 8:13The 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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