Joshua 8

1 And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear and do not be dismayed. Take all the fighting men with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, and his people, his city, and his land. And you shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king. Only its spoil and its livestock you shall take as plunder for yourselves. Lay an ambush against the city, behind it.”

So Joshua and all the fighting men arose to go up to Ai. And Joshua chose 30,000 mighty men of valor and sent them out by night. And he commanded them, “Behold, you shall lie in ambush against the city, behind it. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you remain ready. And I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. And when they come out against us just as before, we shall flee before them. And they will come out after us, until we have drawn them away from the city. For they will say, ‘They are fleeing from us, just as before.’ So we will flee before them. Then you shall rise up from the ambush and seize the city, for the Lord your God will give it into your hand. And as soon as you have taken the city, you shall set the city on fire. You shall do according to the word of the Lord. See, I have commanded you.” So Joshua sent them out. And they went to the place of ambush and lay between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai, but Joshua spent that night among the people.

10 Joshua arose early in the morning and mustered the people and went up, he and the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai. 11 And all the fighting men who were with him went up and drew near before the city and encamped on the north side of Ai, with a ravine between them and Ai. 12 He took about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. 13 So they stationed the forces, the main encampment that was north of the city and its rear guard west of the city. But Joshua spent that night in the valley. 14 And as soon as the king of Ai saw this, he and all his people, the men of the city, hurried and went out early to the appointed place toward the Arabah to meet Israel in battle. But he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. 15 And Joshua and all Israel pretended to be beaten before them and fled in the direction of the wilderness. 16 So all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and as they pursued Joshua they were drawn away from the city. 17 Not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel. They left the city open and pursued Israel.

18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand.” And Joshua stretched out the javelin that was in his hand toward the city. 19 And the men in the ambush rose quickly out of their place, and as soon as he had stretched out his hand, they ran and entered the city and captured it. And they hurried to set the city on fire. 20 So when the men of Ai looked back, behold, the smoke of the city went up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that, for the people who fled to the wilderness turned back against the pursuers. 21 And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had captured the city, and that the smoke of the city went up, then they turned back and struck down the men of Ai. 22 And the others came out from the city against them, so they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side, and some on that side. And Israel struck them down, until there was left none that survived or escaped. 23 But the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him near to Joshua.

24 When Israel had finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the open wilderness where they pursued them, and all of them to the very last had fallen by the edge of the sword, all Israel returned to Ai and struck it down with the edge of the sword. 25 And all who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000, all the people of Ai. 26 But Joshua did not draw back his hand with which he stretched out the javelin until he had devoted all the inhabitants of Ai to destruction. 27 Only the livestock and the spoil of that city Israel took as their plunder, according to the word of the Lord that he commanded Joshua. 28 So Joshua burned Ai and made it forever a heap of ruins, as it is to this day. 29  And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening. And at sunset Joshua commanded, and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the gate of the city and raised over it a great heap of stones, which stands there to this day.

30 At that time Joshua built an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, on Mount Ebal, 31 just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the people of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, “an altar of uncut stones, upon which no man has wielded an iron tool.” And they offered on it burnt offerings to the Lord and sacrificed peace offerings. 32 And there, in the presence of the people of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written. 33 And all Israel, sojourner as well as native born, with their elders and officers and their judges, stood on opposite sides of the ark before the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, half of them in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded at the first, to bless the people of Israel. 34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.

Observation- What does it mean?

  • The Lord told Joshua not to fear
  • The Lord told Joshua not to be dismayed
  • The Lord told Joshua to take all the fighting men with him
  • The Lord told Joshua He had given the king of Ai into his hand
  • The Lord told Joshua that the Children of Israel could have the spoil of Ai and it’s livestock
  • Joshua was to lay an ambush against the city from behind it.
  • Joshua took 30,000 soldiers by night to lay the ambush
  • Joshua commanded the soldiers to lay an ambush against the city from behind it
  • Joshua told the soldiers not to go very far from the city
  • Joshua told the soldiers that when the people of Ai came out against the Israelites they would run in the city after them
  • Joshua told the soldiers rest of the army would draw the men of Ai out  from the city
  • People of a I would think to themselves that the Israelites were fleeing just as they had before
  • Once the people of Ai were chasing the Israelites the ambush would be sprung
  • The soldiers from behind the city were come in and capture it
  • As soon as they had captured the city they were set it on fire
  • This was according to the word of the Lord
  • The soldiers lay in ambush between Bethel and Ai
  • Joshua spent the night among the people not among the soldiers
  • Joshua rose early in the morning
  • Joshua mustard the people and went to the city of Ai along with the elders
  • The fighting men who were with Joshua set up battle lines in front of the city.
  • They set up of their lines north of the city of Ai
  • There’s a ravine between the battle lines and Ai
  • The main encampment was to the north of the city and the ambush was sent to the west of the city.  This is a classical single and envelopment maneuver.
  • Joshua spent the night in the valley
  • When the king of Ai saw the children of Israel the men in the city hurried out to meet Israel in battle
  • The king of Ai had no idea there was an amber set
  • Joshua and all the people of Israel pretended to be beaten and fled in the direction of the wilderness.
  • When the people of Ai saw the Israelites running away,  all men of the city to took chase
  • There was not a single man left in Ai
  • When they left the city to chase the Israelites, they left the city completely unguarded and completely open.
  • The Lord told Joshua to raise his javelin as the signal to trigger the ambush
  • When Joshua raised his javelin, the men of the ambush rose up quickly of their hiding place and ran into the city
  • The ambushers hurried to set the city on fire
  • When the men of Ai looked back and saw smoke coming from the city they had nowhere to go
  • Once the city was on fire the people of Israel turned and attacked the men from Ai
  • No one from Ai survived or even escaped
  • The king of Ai was captured alive
  • The king of Ai was hung from a tree.
  • The king of Ai was brought to Joshua
  • The king of Ai was hung until dark
  • The total number of people from Ai who died that day was 12,000 that included men and women
  • Joshua did restrain the Israelites until the entire city had been destroyed.
  • Only the livestock and spoiled the city was left
  • Israel took the livestock and the spoil of the city as plunder
  • At sunset Joshua commanded that the king of Ai be cut down from the tree and placed in the entrance to the city.
  • A heap of stones placed over the king’s body
  • After the defeat of Ai Joshua built an alter to the Lord
  • The altar was built on mount Ebal
  • The altar was made of uncut stone according to the law of Moses
  • They offered burnt offerings on the altar
  • They sacrificed peace offerings
  • Joshua wrote the law of Moses on the stones
  • All the children of Israel including the sojourners and the native born stood on opposite sides of the ark
  • Half of the people of Israel stood on Mount Gerizim
  • The other half of the people of Israel stood in front of Mount Ebal
  • Joshua read the Law of Moses to the people.
  • Joshua read the curs and the blessings
  • Joshua read the complete law, not leaving out a single word
  • Joshua read it before the assembly of Israel, the women and the little children and the sojourners who were living with them

Interpretation – What does it mean?

The lord gave Joshua a set of tactics to capture Ai. Today these tactics are known as a standard single envelopment. Joshua utilized this in an ambush configuration. He started with a frontal assault from the north. The men of AI thought this was going to be easy pickings. They defeated the Israelites before they will do it again.  Joshua had his army retreat giving encouragement to the people of Ai and they would make chase. Once soldiers form Ai left the city the ambush was sprung and Joshua attacked from west.  The spies told Joshua this was going to be an easy victory. They only needed 3000 men. But God told Joshua to utilize the entire army. There were 30,000 alone in the ambush. The rest of the army set up in the frontal assault.  Again the victory was the Lord’s. The tactics were the Lord’s.  Joshua listened to the command of the Lord and won the battle.

Once the sin had been removed from Israel, God was back in command.  And when it was God who is in command victory is assured.

After the victory Joshua worshiped the Lord. Joshua built an altar, and made a sacrifice to God. Then Joshua read the law. Not just to the assembly of Israel, but Joshua read it to everyone in the camp and the sojourners, those outside the came but traveling with the Israelites. The law was kept before the people. The people could not follow the law, unless they knew it. And the Israelites wanted to follow the law. It was God who had given the law. And they were thankful to Him for his mercy and the victory they just received.

Application – How does it work?

The Israelites followed the law of God because they wanted to follow the law. They wanted follow the law because of the gratitude they felt toward God. God had given them a victory. God was giving them the land of Canaan.  They recognized that God was merciful to them. And as a result they wanted to serve Him. Their sacrifice and reading of the law was not intended to be a magic spell for the next time but in gratitude for want God had done.

We try to follow the commands of God today not because they will bring salvation but because of the recognition of what God has done for us. We, total and complete sinners and in rebellion to Him, receive mercy and grace from Him. It is only by His mercy we draw our next breath. Not only does he sustain us, but while we were in rebellion against Him, He died for us.

I have seen many pastors and church leader claim something like loving others and loving Jesus is the way to salvation. No! Loving Jesus and loving others is the result recognizing our complete indebtedness to Christ. And loving Him is the only response we can have. We love others because He loves them.

Loving does not cause our salvation. Our salvation causes our loving. Christ said if we love Him keep His commandments. The only way to keep His commandments is to know them. The only way to know them is to study them.  Understanding the order in this chain is important. As Christ said seek first the Kingdom of God not the keeping of rules.

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