Joshua 8:28
And Joshua burnt Ai, and made it an heap for ever, even a desolation to this day.
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(28) An heap for ever.—Heb., Tel-ôlam; modern name, Et-tel.

8:23-29 God, the righteous Judge, had sentenced the Canaanites for their wickedness; the Israelites only executed his doom. None of their conduct can be drawn into an example for others. Especial reason no doubt there was for this severity to the king of Ai; it is likely he had been notoriously wicked and vile, and a blasphemer of the God of Israel.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. 28. Joshua burnt Ai, and made it an heap for ever—"For ever" often signifies "a long time" (Ge 6:3). One of the remarkable things with regard to the tell we have identified with Ai is its name—the tell of the heap of stones—a name which to this day remains [Van De Velde]. For ever, or, for a long time, as that word oft signifies, as Genesis 6:3 Isaiah 42:14; for that it was after some ages rebuilt, may seem from Nehemiah 11:31, unless that were another city built near the former, there being some little difference in the name also. And Joshua burnt Ai,.... The whole city, fire being only set before to a few houses, to make a smoke as a signal; he did with it as he had done with Jericho, for so he was ordered, Joshua 8:2,

and made it an heap for ever; that is, for a long time, for it appears to have been rebuilt, and to have been inhabited by the Jews, after their return from their Babylonish captivity, Nehemiah 11:31,

even a desolation unto this day; to the time of the writing of this book; and by what has been just observed, it appears that Ezra could not be the writer of it, since this city was inhabited in his time.

And Joshua burnt Ai, and made it an heap for {l} ever, even a desolation unto this day.

(l) That it could never be built again.

28. a heap] “an everlasting toumbe,” Wyclif. Heb. a “Tel,” always with the article, The Tel, or Heap. “For a long time modern explorers in vain sought for the site of Ai, where they knew it must have stood. “The inhabitants of the neighbouring villages,” writes Canon Williams, “declared repeatedly and emphatically that this was Tel and nothing else. I was satisfied that it should be so when, on subsequent reference to the original text of Joshua 8:28, I found it written that ‘Joshua burnt Ai, and made it a Tel for ever, even a desolation unto this day.’ There are many Tels in modern Palestine, that land of Tels, even Tel with some other name attached to it to mark the former site. But the site of Ai has no other name ‘unto this day.’ It is simply et-Tel = the Heap, ‘par excellence’.”Verse 28. - And Joshua burnt Ai. He continued the work of destruction which the ambush had begun, until the city was entirely destroyed. The word in ver. 19 (שׂרפ) has rather the sense of kindling a fire; the word here (יצת), more the sense of destruction by fire. A heap forever. טֵל־עולָם a heap of eternity; i.e., a heap forever, at least up to the time of our writer. But the Ai mentioned in Ezra 2:28 may have been a city built, not on precisely the same spot, but near enough to it to take its name. And if Ai signifies ruins, and Dean Stanley be right in regarding it as referring to ruins in the days of the Philistines, the name would be particularly suitable to this particular city. Travellers have identified the place with Tel-el. Hajar, immediately to the south of the Wady Mutyah. But see note on ch. 7:2 for Robinson's conclusion, which is confirmed by Canon Tristram, from the belief that Tel-el-Hajar does not answer to the description of Ai in the Scripture narrative. Hanged on a tree. Literally, "on the tree." Perhaps after his death, But see Genesis 40:22; Deuteronomy 21:22. Until eventide. We find here a remarkable coincidence with the precept in Deuteronomy 21:23. The fact that no notice is here taken of that passage is conclusive against its having been inserted with a view to that precept in later times, and this affords a strong presumption against the Elohist and Jehovist theory. Heap. Here גַּל, an expression usually applied to a heap of stones, a cairn, though not always in precisely this sense (see Jeremiah 9:10).

CHAPTER 8:30-35. THE COPY OF THE LAW. - The men of Ai then turned round behind them, being evidently led to do so by the Israelites, who may have continued looking round to the town of Ai when the signal had been given by Joshua, to see whether the men in ambush had taken it and set it on fire, and as soon as they saw that this had been done began to offer still further resistance to their pursuers, and to defend themselves vigorously against them. On looking back to their town the Aites saw the smoke of the town ascending towards heaven: "and there were not hands in them to flee hither and thither," i.e., they were utterly unable to flee. "Hand," as the organs of enterprise and labour, in the sense of "strength," not "room," for which we should expect to find להם instead of בּהם. There is an analogous passage in Psalm 76:6, "None of the men of might have found their hands." For the people that fled to the wilderness (the Israelitish army) turned against the pursuers (the warriors of Ai), or, as is added by way of explanation in Joshua 8:21, when Joshua and all Israel saw the town in the hands of the ambuscade, and the smoke ascending, they turned round and smote the people of Ai; and (Joshua 8:22) these (i.e., the Israelites who had formed the ambuscade) came out of the town to meet them. "These" (Eng. the other), as contrasted with "the people that fled" in Joshua 8:20, refers back to "the ambush" in Joshua 8:19. In this way the Aites were in the midst of the people of Israel, who came from this side and that side, and smote them to the last man. "So that they let none of them remain:" as in Numbers 21:35 and Deuteronomy 3:3, except that in this case it is strengthened still further by וּפליט, "or escape."
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