Joshua 8:4
And he commanded them, saying, Behold, ye shall lie in wait against the city, even behind the city: go not very far from the city, but be ye all ready:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4-8) Joshua’s general plan of operations is stated in these verses. The following verses explain how it was worked out.

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.Thirty thousand men - comparing Joshua 8:3 and Joshua 8:12 ("five thousand men"), there is probably a mistake in the numbers of this verse, where an early copyist may have written the sign for 30,000 instead of that for 5,000.

Sent them away by night - The selected 5,000 would accordingly post themselves in the main ravine between Ai and Bethel in the night and early morning. The neighhorhood in which Ai was situated is described as "a wild entanglement of hill and valley;" and amidst its recesses the detachment could easily shelter itself from observation until Joshua's other measures were taken.

4. behind the city—is rendered (Jos 8:9), "on the west side of Ai." He commanded them; the same party last spoken of, Joshua 8:3, even the five thousand mentioned Joshua 8:12. This historical-narration seems obscure and intricate, and at first view to make three parties, one of thirty thousand, Joshua 8:3; one of five thousand, Joshua 8:12, which may seem to be two several ambushes; and a third of all the people, Joshua 8:5,11. But if it be more narrowly and considerately observed, it will appear that there are only two parties engaged in the taking of Ai, and but one ambush, as plainly appears by comparing Joshua 8:9 (which manifestly speaks of that party which is mentioned Joshua 8:3) with Joshua 8:12, which speaks only of five thousand, which is justly supposed to be a part of those thirty thousand named Joshua 8:3, and that part which was to lie in ambush; unless we will suppose that there were two ambushes, one of thirty thousand, and the other of five thousand, both lying in wait in the same quarter, even between Beth-el and Ai, on the west side of Ai, the only place where the ambush lay, as is said both Joshua 8:9,12,13, which seems absurd and incredible. And besides, in the execution of this command, there is mention but of one ambush, Joshua 8:12-14,19, and they are said to consist only of five thousand, Joshua 8:12, and they only take and burn the city, Joshua 8:19; so that the other supposed ambush of thirty thousand is perfectly vanished and lost, and did nothing in this work; which also is very improbable. And therefore that thirty thousand, Joshua 8:3, are the same who are called the people, and the people of war that were with Joshua, Joshua 8:5,11, which is pitched on the north side of Ai, Joshua 8:11,13, as the ambush did on the west side; but for any other side of the city, or a third party placed elsewhere about Ai, we read not one word; and therefore it may well be presumed there were no more employed to take it.

And he commanded them, saying,.... At the time he sent them away:

behold, ye shall lie in wait against the city, even behind the city; that is, on the west side of it, Joshua 8:9,

go not very far from the city, but be ye all ready; to enter into it, as soon as the forces are drawn out eastward to meet the army of Israel.

And he commanded them, saying, Behold, ye {b} shall lie in wait against the city, even behind the city: go not very far from the city, but be ye all ready:

(b) God would not destroy Ai by a miracle, as Jericho, so that other nations would fear the power and policy of his people.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. go not very far from the city] They would station themselves high up in the Wâdy Harith, at no great distance from the city, and between it and Bethel.

Joshua 8:4Accordingly 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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