Joshua 8:15
And Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Joshua 8:15-17. All Israel made as if they were beaten — That is, they fled from them, as it were for fear of a second blow. The wilderness — Which lay between Ai and Jericho, whither they now seemed to flee. All the people that were in Ai — Namely, all that were able to bear arms, for old men and children were unfit for the pursuit or fight; and that they were yet left, appears from Joshua 8:24-25. Not a man — Namely, fit for war. Bethel — Which, being a neighbouring city, and encouraged by the former success, had sent some forces to assist them; and now, upon notice sent to them of the flight of their common enemies, or upon some other signal given, all their men of war joined with those of Ai in the pursuit.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.At a time appointed - Rather, "at the place appointed," i. e. some spot suitable for the drawing up of his men, which had been assigned beforehand. This was "before the plain," i. e. it was at the entrance of the depressed tract of land which runs down to the Jordan valley, up which lay the route of the Israelites from Gilgal to Ai. 15-17. Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten before them—the pretended flight in the direction of the wilderness; that is, southeast, into the Ghor, the desert valley of the Jordan, decoyed all the inhabitants of Ai out of the city, while the people of Beth-el hastened to participate in the expected victory. It is supposed by some, from "the city," and not "cities," being spoken of, that the effective force of Beth-el had been concentrated in Ai, as the two places were closely contiguous, and Ai the larger of the two. (See Jos 12:9). It may be remarked, however, that the words, "or Beth-el," are not in the Septuagint, and are rejected by some eminent scholars, as an interpolation not found in the most ancient manuscripts. Made as if they were beaten before them, i.e. fled from them, as it were for fear of a second blow; and peradventure some of them might be wounded, though none were killed, and might make that the pretence of their fleeing away.

The wilderness lay between Ai and Jericho, whither they now seemed to flee. And Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten before them,.... Or smitten, as some of them might be in the pursuit:

and fled by the way of the wilderness; not a barren desert, but, according to Kimchi and Ben Melech, a place for the pasture of cattle; though perhaps it is the same with the wilderness of Bethaven, Joshua 18:12. Epiphanius (w) makes mention of the wilderness of Bethel and Ephraim as near Jericho.

(w) Contr. Haeres. l. 1. tom. 2.

And Joshua and all Israel {g} made as if they were beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness.

(g) As they who pretended to flee for fear.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 15. - Made as though they were beaten. "Joshua conquered by yielding. So our Lord Jesus Christ, when He bowed His head and gave up the ghost, seemed as if death had triumphed over Him; but in His resurrection He rallied again, and gave the powers of darkness a total defeat" (Matthew Henry). By the way of the wilderness. Northwestward, in the direction of the wilderness of Bethel (Joshua 16:1) Accordingly Joshua set out with all the people of war against Ai, and selected 30,000 brave men, and sent them out in the night, with instructions to station themselves as an ambuscade behind the town, and at no great distance from it. As the distance from Gilgal to Ai was about fifteen miles, and the road runs pretty straight in a north-westerly direction from Jericho through the Wady Faran, the detachment sent forward might easily accomplish the distance in a night, so as to arrive on the western side of Ai before the break of day. They were then to hold themselves in readiness to fight. He (Joshua) himself would approach the town with the people of war that remained with him; and if the inhabitants of Ai should come out against him as they did before, they would flee before them till they had drawn them quite away from their town (Joshua 8:5). This was to be expected; "for they will say, They flee before us, as at the first: and we will flee before them" (Joshua 8:6). When this was done, the warriors were to come forth from their ambush, fall upon the town, and set it on fire (Joshua 8:7, Joshua 8:8). Having been sent away with these instructions, the 30,000 men went into ambush, and posted themselves "between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai" (Joshua 8:9), i.e., according to Strauss, in the Wady es Suweinit, to the north-west of Ai, where it forms almost a perpendicular wall, near to which the ruins of Chai are to be found, though "not near enough to the rocky wady for it to be possible to look down its almost perpendicular wall" (Ritter, Erdk. xvi. p. 528). Joshua remained for the night in the midst of the people, i.e., in the camp of that portion of the army that had gone with him towards Ai; not in Gilgal, as Knobel supposes.
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