Joshua 8:18
And the LORD said to Joshua, Stretch out the spear that is in your hand toward Ai; for I will give it into your hand. And Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city.
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(18) And the Lord said unto Joshua, Stretch out the spear.—In the capture of Ai, as in that of Jericho, each stage of the process must be ordered by the Lord. In the former case the hand of Jehovah alone does the work. The ark is borne round the walls until they fall down before it. Against Ai, the hand of Israel is employed, and first of all in Israel the hand of Joshua. He seems to have stretched it out, with the light spear or javelin which he carried, somewhat as Moses stretched forth the rod of God over the contending hosts of Amalek and Israel, until the enemy was discomfited with the edge of the sword.

Joshua 8:18. Stretch out thy spear — Probably a long spear, with a flag or streamer at the top of it, for a signal to the liers in wait, as well as for a sign to his host present to stop their flight, and make head against the pursuers, and as a token of God’s presence and assistance with them, and of their victory. The Hebrew word כידון, kidon, however, here rendered spear, also signifies a shield, and is so interpreted in the Vulgate. This, if made of polished brass or steel, might be seen from a great distance, by reason of its brightness.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.No doubt Joshua had ascended the heights, most likely those to the north of the valley, so as to separate himself from the flying Israelites on the lower ground, and to be visible to the men in ambush behind the city. He now, at the command of God, gives the appointed signal to the ambush. 18-25. Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city—The uplifted spear had probably a flag, or streamer on it, to render it the more conspicuous from the height where he stood. At the sight of this understood signal the ambush nearest the city, informed by their scouts, made a sudden rush and took possession of the city, telegraphing to their brethren by raising a smoke from the walls. Upon seeing this, the main body, who had been reigning a flight, turned round at the head of the pass upon their pursuers, while the twenty-five thousand issuing from their ambuscade, fell back upon their rear. The Ai-ites surprised, looked back, and found their situation now desperate. The spear, or, thy banner; or there might be some banner in the end of his spear. This was prescribed and practised, either,

1. For a sign to his host present with him, to stop their flight, and make head against the pursuers; or,

2. For a signal to the liers in wait, as may seem from Joshua 8:19, who, though they were at some distance, might know this from persons whom they had set in some high and convenient places to observe Joshua’s motion, and to give notice from one to another, and that speedily, as is common in such cases, until it came to the whole ambush; or,

3. As a mystical token of God’s presence and assistance with them, and of their victory; or as a mean by God’s appointment contributing to their good success, as the like posture of Moses lifting up his hand was, Exodus 17:11,12, which may be the reason why he continued this posture till the enemies were all destroyed, Joshua 8:26; whereas if it had been a signal only, it was sufficient to do it for a little while. I know no reason why all these ends might not be joined together. And the Lord said unto Joshua, stretch out the spear that is in thy hand towards Ai,.... On which was a flag, as Abarbinel and Ben Melech think; and which is not improbable, and served for a signal for the ambush to come out and seize the city, as both they and Jarchi observe, as well as a signal also to the army of Israel to prepare to turn and face about, and engage with the enemy; though they did not actually do this until they saw the smoke of the city, Joshua 8:21,

for I will give it into thine hand; of which the stretching out of his spear seems also to be a confirming sign to him, and which he kept stretched out until all the inhabitants of Ai were destroyed, Joshua 8:26,

and Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city: and therefore must turn himself towards it; and it is highly probable that at the same time there was a full stop of the army, and that they immediately turned or prepared to turn about.

And the LORD said unto Joshua, {h} Stretch out the spear that is in thy hand toward Ai; for I will give it into thine hand. And Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city.

(h) Or, lift up the banner to signify when they should invade the city.

18. the spear] Heb. Cidôn, a dart, or javelin which is hurled, lighter than the Chanith, or spear of the largest kind like that of Goliath, 1 Samuel 17:7; 1 Samuel 17:45, or king Saul, 1 Samuel 26:7-8. The Cidôn could easily be held outstretched for some considerable time and was probably furnished with a flag. When not in action, it was carried on the back of the warrior between the shoulders (1 Samuel 17:6). The LXX. renders the word by Gaison, a short javelin or lance, the Vulg. by sceptrum.Verse 18. - The spear. כִידון, a kind of long and slender lance, probably, like those of our lancers, with a flag attached. It is thus described by Kimchi. Jahn, in his 'Archesologia Biblica,' takes this view (sec. 276). But the Vulgate here, followed apparently by Grotius and Masius, suppose it to be a shield, though the LXX. render by γαῖσος. In 1 Samuel 17:6 the LXX. render by ἄσπις, and our version by target. It is to be distinguished from the lighter חנית or flexible javelin (see, for instance, 1 Samuel 13:22; 1 Samuel 18:10, which was thrown at the adversary, whereas the כִידלֺוֹן was used to transfix him in close combat. The 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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