Joshua 8:5
And I, and all the people that are with me, will approach to the city: and it shall come to pass, when they come out against us, as at the first, that we will flee before them,
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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." That are, or, that shall be; for at present he sent them away, Joshua 8:9, but he next morning followed them, and joined himself with the prover. Joshua 8:10,11.

We will flee; I and the twenty-five thousand with me. And I and all the people that are with me will approach unto the city,.... That is, Joshua with the main body of the army would march up to the city the next morning, in order to draw out the inhabitants of it to fight them:

and it shall come to pass, when they come out against us, as at the first; as they had done before, when the three thousand were sent against them, Joshua 7:4,

that we will flee before them; as the three thousand did, which would animate them to pursue them with the greater eagerness, and to a distance from their city.

And I, and all the people that are with me, will approach unto the city: and it shall come to pass, when they come out against us, as at the first, that we will flee before them,
5. will approach unto the city] Joshua himself took up his position on the north side of “the ravine,” apparently the deep chasm through which the Wâdy Harith descends to the Wâdy Kelt. Stanley’s Sinai and Palestine, pp. 202, 203.Verse 5. - We will flee before them. A common expedient of a sagacious general when contending with undisciplined troops is a strong position. Many instances will occur to the student of history, and among others the celebrated feigned flight of William the Conqueror at Hastings. St. Augustine doubts whether this stratagem were lawful. Cajetan and the Jesuit commentators reply that it was so "quia mendacium non tam facile committitur factis, quam verbis" (Cornelius a Lapide). Then Joshua and all Israel, i.e., the whole nation in the person of its heads or representatives, took Achan, together with the things which he had purloined, and his sons and daughters, his cattle, and his tent with all its furniture, and brought them into the valley of Achor, where they stoned them to death and then burned them, after Joshua had once more pronounced this sentence upon him in the place of judgment: "How hast thou troubled us" (עכר, as in Joshua 6:18, to bring into trouble)! "The Lord will trouble thee this day." It by no means follows from the expression "stoned him" in Joshua 7:25, that Achan only was stoned. The singular pronoun is used to designate Achan alone, as being the principal person concerned. But it is obvious enough that his children and cattle were stoned, from what follows in the very same verse: "They burned them (the persons stoned to death, and their things) with fire, and heaped up stones upon them." It is true that in Deuteronomy 24:16 the Mosaic law expressly forbids the putting to death of children for their fathers' sins; and many have imagined, therefore, that Achan's sons and daughters were simply taken into the valley to be spectators of the punishment inflicted upon the father, that it might be a warning to them. But for what reason, then, were Achan's cattle (oxen, sheep, and asses) taken out along with him? Certainly for no other purpose than to be stoned at the same time as he. The law in question only referred to the punishment of ordinary criminals, and therefore was not applicable at all to the present case, in which the punishment was commanded by the Lord himself. Achan had fallen under the ban by laying hands upon what had been banned, and consequently was exposed to the same punishment as a town that had fallen away to idolatry (Deuteronomy 13:16-17). The law of the ban was founded upon the assumption, that the conduct to be punished was not a crime of which the individual only was guilty, but one in which the whole family of the leading sinner, in fact everything connected with him, participated. Thus, in the case before us, the things themselves had been abstracted from the booty by Achan alone; but he had hidden them in his tent, buried them in the earth, which could hardly have been done so secretly that his sons and daughters knew nothing of it. By so doing he had made his family participators in his theft; they therefore fell under the ban along with him, together with their tent, their cattle, and the rest of their property, which were all involved in the consequences of his crime. The clause בּאבנים אתם ויּסקלוּ does not refer to the stoning as a capital punishment, but to the casting of stones upon the bodies after they were dead and had been burned, for the purpose of erecting a heap of stones upon them as a memorial of the disgrace (vid., Joshua 8:29; 2 Samuel 18:17). - In Joshua 7:26, the account of the whole affair closes with these two remarks: (1) That after the punishment of the malefactor the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger; and (2) That the valley in which Achan suffered his punishment received the name of Achor (troubling) with special reference to the fact that Joshua had described his punishment as well as Achan's sin as עכר (troubling: see Joshua 7:25), and that it retained this name down to the writer's own time. With regard to the situation of this valley, it is evident from the word ויּעלוּ in Joshua 7:24 that it was on higher ground than Gilgal and Jericho, probably in one of the ranges of hills that intersect the plain of Jericho, and from Joshua 15:7, where the northern border of the possessions of Judah is said to have passed through this valley, that it is to be looked for to the south of Jericho. The only other places in which there is any allusion to this event are Hosea 2:17 and Isaiah 65:10.
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