Joshua 7


Sin In The Camp

‘But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So, the LORD’s anger burned against Israel. Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth Aven to the east of Bethel, and told them, “Go up and spy out the region.” So, the men went up and spied out Ai. When they returned to Joshua, they said, “Not all the army will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary the whole army, for only a few people live there.” So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water. Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the LORD, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign LORD, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?’ Joshua 7:1-9

There’s a new channel in the US which is famous for using this phrase, ‘The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.’

Truly, victory is thrilling and truly, defeat can be agony. I will never forget watching Scotland losing once again to qualify for the football world cup. The television cameras focused on the supporters and then zoomed in on the manager Walter Smith who was still sitting in the dugout in dismay, crying. How he must have felt the agony of defeat in his life at that time.

Joshua 7 begins with the word ‘but,’ for it stands in contrast to chapter 6. Joshua 6 tells of the overwhelming victory of Israel over Jericho. Surely the people were excited beyond their wildest dreams over the events of the day. Recounts of the events of the day probably lasted well into the night. It was the thrill of victory. Joshua 7 tells just the opposite, expecting Ai to be a pushover, they are routed, and Israel experiences the agony of defeat.

Jericho had been put under a ban, meaning it and everything in it was dedicated to the Lord, Joshua 6:17-19. To take anything was a sin and would bring trouble to the camp, Joshua 6:18. However, Achan acted unfaithfully and disobediently, we don’t really know why but whatever his reasons, he sinned. He took some of the things under the ban and as a result, the Lord became angry with Israel.

We usually tend to think of God’s love and mercy and grace, we don’t like to think of God as being intolerant of sin. True, God is patient, 2 Peter 3:9 but what is as equally true is the fact that one day God is going to punish evildoers, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9.

As with Jericho, Joshua sent spies to Ai and the spies returned with great confidence. Don’t let all the people go, only 2,000-3,000 men will do they said, in other words, ‘It’s a pushover.’ But sadly, things did not go as planned, Israel wound up fleeing with 36 Israelites dead. the people’s hearts melted, remember this was what was said of the Canaanites in Jericho!

There were two reasons for this, firstly, because of Achan’s sin and secondly, because of Israel’s pride, notice they didn’t consult God. and so, Joshua is stunned at what takes place and he and the elders tore their clothes and put dust on their heads. this was a sign of mourning.

Then Joshua asked 3 questions, why did you deliver us from Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites? What can I say since Israel ran from their enemy? What are you going to do for your name?

Unfortunately, we see Joshua slip here, he used the thinking of the 10 spies, Numbers 14:2-3 and he forgot what he had told the people concerning the things under the ban and why trouble would come.

‘The LORD said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. “Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: There are devoted things among you, Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them. “‘In the morning, present yourselves tribe by tribe. The tribe the LORD chooses shall come forward clan by clan; the clan the LORD chooses shall come forward family by family; and the family the LORD chooses shall come forward man by man. Whoever is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the LORD and has done an outrageous thing in Israel!’ Joshua 7:10-15

God’s answer to Joshua is abrupt, ‘Rise up, why have you fallen on your face?’ Joshua comes crying to the Lord, wanting to know why the people were routed and so God tells Joshua he ought to know why, the people have sinned, they’ve broken the covenant, they’ve taken things under the ban and they’ve concealed the stolen goods and so God will not be with them in their present condition.

The people are to consecrate themselves again, the things under the ban are to be removed and they are to pass by until the sinner is found.

The elimination process

‘Early the next morning Joshua had Israel come forward by tribes, and Judah was chosen. The clans of Judah came forward, and the Zerahites were chosen. He had the clan of the Zerahites come forward by families, and Zimri was chosen. Joshua had his family come forward man by man, and Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was chosen. Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and honour him. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.” Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath. So, Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent, and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver underneath. They took the things from the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites and spread them out before the LORD. Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold bar, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor. Joshua said, “Why have you brought this trouble on us? The LORD will bring trouble on you today.” Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his fierce anger. Therefore, that place has been called the Valley of Achor ever since.’ Joshua 7:16-26

All the tribes pass by and Judah is taken, all the families pass by and the Zerahites are taken, all the Zerahites pass by and Zabdi is taken and Zabdi’s household is brought by and Achan is taken. Joshua pleads with Achan to confess what he had done and eventually Achan, after all of this, tells of his sin. He saw, he coveted, and he took, this is reminiscent of Eve and David. 1 John 2:16.

Joshua sends messengers to Achan’s tent and sure enough, the things are there and then Achan and all his family and all his possessions are carried outside the camp to a valley where they were stoned and burned, A great heap of stones was raised over Achan serving as a reminder to the people.

A memorial in the Jordan stands as a reminder of the great things God has done for the Israelites and now we have another reminder to the Israelites that God won’t tolerate sin.

Go To Joshua 8



"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."