Joshua 7


The trespass of the Israelites, 1.

Joshua sends men to view the state of Ai, 2.

They return with a favourable report, 3.

Three thousand men are sent against it, who are defeated, and

thirty-six killed, 4, 5.

Joshua is greatly distressed, prostrates himself, and inquires

of the Lord the reason why he has abandoned Israel to their

enemies, 6-9.

The Lord raises him, and informs him that, contrary to the

command, some of the people had secreted some of the spoils of

Jericho, 10-12.

He is directed how to discover the delinquent, 13-15.

Joshua inquires in what TRIBE the guilt is found, and finds it

to be in the tribe of Judah; in what FAMILY, and finds it to

be among the Zarhites; in what HOUSEHOLD, and finds it to be

in that of Zabdi; in what INDIVIDUAL, and finds it to be Achan

son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, 16-18.

Joshua exhorts him to confess his sin, 19.

He does so, and gives a circumstantial account, 20, 21.

Joshua sends for the stolen articles, 22, 23.

And Achan and all that belonged to him are brought to the valley

of Achor, stoned and burnt, 22-26.


Verse 1. The children of Israel committed a trespass] It is

certain that one only was guilty; and yet the trespass is imputed

here to the whole congregation; and the whole congregation soon

suffered shame and disgrace on the account, as their armies were

defeated, thirty-six persons slain, and general terror spread

through the whole camp. Being one body, God attributes the crime

of the individual to the whole till the trespass was discovered,

and by a public act of justice inflicted on the culprit the

congregation had purged itself of the iniquity. This was done to

render every man extremely cautious, and to make the people

watchful over each other, that sin might be no where tolerated or

connived at, as one transgression might bring down the wrath of

God upon the whole camp. See on Jos 7:12.

The accursed thing] A portion of the spoils of the city of

Jericho, the whole of which God had commanded to be destroyed.

For Achan, the son of Carmi, &c.] Judah had two sons by Tamar:

Pharez and Zarah. Zarah was father of Zabdi, and Zabdi of Carmi,

the father of Achan. These five persons extend through a period of

265 years; and hence Calmet concludes that they could not have had

children before they were fifty or fifty-five years of age. This

Achan, son of Zabdi, is called, in 1Ch 2:6,

Achar, son of Zimrie; but this reading is corrected into Achan

by some MSS. in the place above cited.

Verse 2. Sent men from Jericho to Ai] This is the place called

Hai, Ge 12:8. It was in the east of Beth-el, north of Jericho,

from which it was distant about ten or twelve miles. From

Jos 7:4, 5 it appears to have been situated upon a

hill, and belonged to the Amorites, as we learn from Jos 7:7.

It is very likely that it was a strong place, as it chose to risk

a siege, notwithstanding the extraordinary destruction of Jericho

which it had lately witnessed.

Verse 4. About three thousand men] The spies sent to reconnoitre

the place (Jos 7:3) reported that the town was meanly garrisoned,

and that two or three thousand men would be sufficient to take it.

These were accordingly sent up, and were repulsed by the Amorites.

Verse 5. They chased them from before the gate even unto

Shebarim] They seem to have presumed that the men of Ai would have

immediately opened their gates to them, and therefore they marched

up with confidence; but the enemy appearing, they were put to

flight, their ranks utterly broken, and thirty-six of them killed.

Shebarim signifies breaches or broken places, and may

here apply to the ranks of the Israelites, which were broken by

the men of Ai; for the people were totally routed, though there

were but few slain. They were panic-struck, and fled in the utmost


The hearts of the people melted] They were utterly discouraged;

and by this gave an ample proof that without the supernatural

assistance of God they could never have conquered the land.

Verse 6. Joshua rent his clothes, &c.] It was not in consequence

of this slight discomfiture, simply considered in itself, that

Joshua laid this business so much to heart; but 1. Because the

people melted, and became as water, and there was little hope

that they would make any stand against the enemy; and 2. Because

this defeat evidently showed that God had turned his hand against

them. Had it not been so, their enemies could not have prevailed.

Put dust upon their heads.] Rending the clothes, beating the

breast, tearing the hair, putting dust upon the head, and falling

down prostrate, were the usual marks of deep affliction and

distress. Most nations have expressed their sorrow in a similar

way. The example of the distressed family of King Latinus, so

affectingly related by Virgil, may be adduced in illustration of

many passages in the history of the patriarchs, prophets,

apostles, &c.

Regina ut testis venientem prospicit hostem__

Purpureos moritura manu discindit amictus__

Filia prima manu flavos Lavinia crines,

Et roseas laniata genas.__

. . . . . . It scissa veste Latinus__

Canitiem immundo perfusam pulvere turpans.

AEn. lib. xii., ver. 594.

"The queen, who saw the foes invade the town,

And brands on tops of burning houses thrown,

She raves against the gods, she beats her breast,

And tears, with both her hands, her purple vest.

The sad Lavinia rends her yellow hair,

And rosy cheeks; the rest her sorrow share.

Latinus tears his garments as he goes,

Both for his public and his private woes;

With filth his venerable beard besmears,

And sordid dust deforms his silver hairs."


Verse 7. Alas, O Lord God] Particles of exclamations and

distress, or what are called interjections, are nearly the same in

all languages: and the reason is because they are the simple voice

of nature. The Hebrew word which we translate alas is ahah.

The complaint of Joshua in this and the following verses seems

principally to have arisen from his deep concern for the glory of

God, and the affecting interest he took in behalf of the people:

he felt for the thousands of Israel, whom he considered as

abandoned to destruction: and he felt for the glory of God, for he

knew should Israel be destroyed God's name would be blasphemed

among the heathen; and his expostulations with his Maker, which

have been too hastily blamed by some, as savouring of too great

freedom and impatience are founded on God's own words,

De 32:26, 27, and on the practice of Moses himself, who had

used similar expressions on a similar occasion; see Ex 5:22, 23;

Nu 14:13-18.

Verse 10. Wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?] It is plain

there was nothing in Joshua's prayer or complaint that was

offensive to God, for here there is no reprehension: Why liest

thou thus? this is no time for complaint; something else is

indispensably necessary to be done.

Verse 11. Israel hath sinned] It is impossible that God should

turn against his people, if they had not turned away from him.

They have taken of the accursed thing, notwithstanding my severe

prohibition. They have also stolen, supposing, if not seen by

their brethren, I should either not see or not regard it. They

have dissembled-pretended to have kept strictly the command I gave

them; and have put it among their own stuff-considered it now as a

part of their own property.

Verse 12. Because they were accursed] From this verse it appears

that the nature of the execration or anathema was such, that those

who took of the thing doomed to destruction fell immediately under

the same condemnation. The inhabitants of Jericho and all that

they had were accursed: therefore they and all their substance

were to be destroyed. The Israelites took of the accursed thing,

and therefore became accursed with it. This was certainly

understood when the curse was pronounced: Every man who touches

this property shall be involved in the same execration. Achan

therefore was sufficiently aware of the risk he ran in taking any

part of the anathematized thing; and when viewed in this light,

the punishment inflicted on him will appear to be perfectly just

and proper.

Verse 13. Up, sanctify the people] Joshua, all the time that God

spake, lay prostrate before the ark: he is now commanded to get

up, and sanctify the people, i.e., cause them to wash themselves,

and get into a proper disposition to hear the judgment of the Lord

relative to the late transactions.

Verse 14. Ye shall be brought according to your tribes] It has

been a subject of serious inquiry in what manner and by what means

the culpable tribe, family, household, and individual, were

discovered. The Jews have many conceits on the subject; the most

rational is, that the tribes being, in their representatives,

brought before the high priest, the stone on the breastplate gave

immediate intimation by suddenly losing its lustre. According to

them, this is what is termed consulting God by Urim and Thummim.

It is however most probable that the whole was determined by the

lot; and that God chose this method to detect the guilty tribe,

next the family, thirdly the household, and lastly the individual.

This was nearly the plan pursued in the election of Saul by

Samuel. "Now therefore," says he, "present yourselves before the

Lord by your tribes, and by your thousands. And when Samuel had

caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of

Benjamin was taken. When he had caused the tribe of Benjamin to

come near by their families, the family of Matri was taken, and

Saul the son of Kish was taken," 1Sa 10:19, 20. If the lot was

used in the one case it was doubtless used in the other also, as

the procedure in the main was entirely similar. The same mode was

used to find out who it was that transgressed the king's command,

when it was found that Jonathan had eaten a little honey,

1Sa 14:40-43. It is well known that the promised land was

divided by lot among the Israelites; (see Nu 26:55; 33:54;

De 1:38, &.;) and that the courses of the priests were

regulated by lot in the days of David, 1Ch 24:5, &c. That this

was a frequent mode of determining difficult questions, and

appointed by God himself, is evident from Le 16:8; Ps 51:18;

Pr 16:33; 18:18; Ac 1:26.

Verse 17. And he brought the family of Judah] Dr. Kennicott

observes, "All Israel came near by TRIBES, and one tribe was fixed

on; then that tribe came by its FAMILIES, and one family was fixed

on; then came that family by its HOUSEHOLDS, and one household was

fixed on, and then that household, coming MAN by MAN, one man

was fixed on. Yet according to the present text, in the execution

of this command, all Israel came, and the tribe of Judah was fixed

on; secondly came the families of Judah, and the family of the

Zarhites was fixed on; thirdly came the family of the Zarhites MAN

by MAN, and Zabdi was fixed on; and fourthly came the household of

Zabdi MAN by MAN, and Achan was fixed on. So that in the third

article the word for by households is most certainly left out; and

the fourth article, man by man, is improperly expressed twice.

Instead of laggebarim, MAN by MAN, in Jos 7:17, the

true word labbottim, by HOUSEHOLDS, is preserved in six

Hebrew copies, and the Syriac version. By this method was

discovered Achan, as he is here five times called, though the

valley in which he was stoned is called Achor. He is also called

Achar in the text, and in all the versions, in 1Ch 2:7. He is

called Achar in the five places of Joshua in the Syrian version;

also in all five in the Greek of the Vatican MS., and twice in the

Alexandrian MS., and so in Josephus."-Kennicott's Observat.

Verse 19. My son, give-glory to the Lord God] The person being

now detected, Joshua wishes him to acknowledge the omniscience of

God, and confess his crime. And doubtless this was designed, not

only for the edification of the people, and a vindication of the

righteous judgment of God, but in reference to his own salvation;

for as his life was now become forfeited to the law, there was the

utmost necessity of humiliation before God that his soul might be

saved. Give glory to God signifies the same as, Make a thorough

confession as in the presence of God, and disguise no part of the

truth. In this way and in these very words the Jews adjured the

man who had been born blind that he would truly tell who had

healed him; for they pretended to believe that Christ was such a

sinner that God would not work a miracle by him. Joh 9:24.

Verse 20. I have sinned against the Lord God] This seems a very

honest and hearty confession, and there is hope that this poor

culprit escaped perdition.

Verse 21. A goodly Babylonish garment] addereth

shinar, a splendid or costly robe of Shinar; but as Babylon or

Babel was built in the plain of Shinar, the word has in general

been translated Babylon in this place. It is very probable that

this was the robe of the king of Jericho, for the same word is

used, Jon 3:6, to express the royal robe, of the king of Nineveh

which he laid aside in order to humble himself before God.

Bochart and Calmet have shown at large that Babylonish robes

were very splendid, and in high reputation. "They are," says

Calmet, "generally allowed to have been of various colours, though

some suppose they were woven thus; others, that they were

embroidered with the needle; and others, that they were painted.

SILIUS ITALICUS appears to think they were woven thus:-

Vestis spirantes referens subtemine vultus,

Quos radio caelat BABYLON.

Punic. lib. xiv., ver. 667.

MARTIAL seems to say they were embroidered with the needle:-

Non ego praetulerim BABYLONIA PICTA superbe

Textra, Semiramia quae variantur ACU.

Lib. viii., E. 28, ver. 17.

PLINY (lib. viii., c. 48) and APULEIUS (Florid. lib. i.) speak of

them as if painted: "Colores diversos picturae intexere Babylon

maxime celebravit, et nomen imposuit."

Thus far Calmet: but it may be observed that the clothes woven

of divers colours at Babylon, which were so greatly celebrated,

and hence called Babylonish garments, appear rather to have had

the pictures woven or embroidered in them than painted on them,

as Calmet supposes, though it is most likely the figures referred

to were the work of the needle after the cloth came from the loom.

AQUILA translates the original, addereth shinar, by

στοληνβαβυλονικην, a Babylonish robe; SYMMACHUS, ενδυμασυναρ,

a robe of Synar; the SEPTUAGINT, ψιληνποικιλην, a fine garment of

different colours; and the VULGATE, pallium coccineum, a scarlet

cloak. There is no doubt it was both beautiful and costly, and on

these grounds it was coveted by Achan.

Two hundred shekels of silver] At three shillings per shekel,

amount to about 30. sterling.

A wedge of gold] A tongue of gold, leshon zahab what

we commonly call an ingot of gold, a corruption of the word

lingot, signifying a little tongue, of fifty shekels weight.

These fifty shekels, in weight 29 oz. 15 15/31 gr., at 2. 5s.

2� 42/93d. per shekel, would be worth about 113. Os. 10 3/4d.

This verse gives us a notable instance of the progress of sin.

It 1. enters by the eye; 2. sinks into the heart; 3.

actuates the hand; and, 4. leads to secrecy and dissimulation.

I saw, &c, I coveted, &c. I took and hid them in the earth.

Thus says St. James: "When lust (evil desire) is conceived it

bringeth forth sin; and when sin is finished it bringeth forth

death," Jos 1:15.

Verse 24. Joshua-took Achan-and all that he had] He and his

cattle and substance were brought to the valley to be consumed;

his sons and his daughters, probably, to witness the judgments of

God inflicted on their disobedient parent. See Jos 7:25.

Verse 25. Why hast thou troubled us?] Here is a reference to the

meaning of Achan's or Achar's name, meh ACHAR-tanu;

and as achar is used here, and not achan, and the

valley is called the valley of Achor, and not the valley of Achan,

hence some have supposed that Achar was his proper name, as it is

read 1Ch 2:7, and in some MSS., and ancient versions.

See Clarke on Jos 7:17.

And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with

fire, after they had stoned then with stones.] With great

deference to the judgment of others, I ask, Can it be fairly

proved from the text that the sons and daughters of Achan were

stoned to death and burnt as well as their father? The text

certainly leaves it doubtful, but seems rather to intimate that

Achan alone was stoned, and that his substance was burnt with

fire. The reading of the present HEBREW text is, They stoned HIM

with stones, and burnt THEM with fire, after they had stoned THEM

with stones. The singular number being used in the first clause

of the verse, and the plural in the last, leaves the matter

doubtful. The VULGATE is very clear: Lapidavitque EUM omnis

Israel; et cuncta quae illius erant, igne consumpta sunt, "All

Israel stoned him; and all that he had was consumed with fire."

The SEPTUAGINT add this and the first clause of the next verse

together: καιελιθοβολησαναυτονλιθοιςπαςισραηλκαιεπεστησαν

αυτωσωρονλιθωνμεγαν: And all Israel stoned HIM with stones, and

raised over HIM a great heap of stones. The Syriac says simply,

They stoned HIM with stones, and burned what pertained to HIM with

fire. The TARGUM is the same as the Hebrew. The ANGLO-SAXON

seems to refer the whole to Achan and his GOODS: [Anglo-Saxon] And

HIM they stoned there, and burnt his goods. The ARABIC version

alone says, They stoned HIM and his CHILDREN, and his goods,

[Arabic]. Instead of burnt THEM, otham, two of De Rossi's

MSS. read otho, HIM; which reading, if genuine, would make the

different members of the verse agree better. It is possible that

Achan, his oxen, asses, sheep, tent, and all his household

goods, were destroyed, but his sons and daughters left

uninjured. But it may be asked, Why are they brought out into the

valley with the rest? Why, that they might see and fear, and be

for ever deterred by their father's punishment from imitating his


I have gone thus far into this important transaction, in which

the justice and mercy of God are so much concerned, that I might

be able to assign to each its due. That Achan's life was forfeited

to justice by his transgression, no one doubts: he sinned against

a known and positive law. His children could not suffer with him,

because of the law, De 24:16, unless they had been accomplices in

his guilt: of this there is no evidence; and the text in question,

which speaks of Achan's punishment, is extremely dubious, as far

as it relates to this point. One circumstance that strengthens the

supposition that the children were not included, is the command of

the Lord, Jos 7:15:

"HE that is taken with the accursed thing, shall be burnt with

fire; he, and all that he hath." Now, all that he hath may

certainly refer to his goods, and not to his children; and his

punishment, and the destruction of his property would answer every

purpose of public justice, both as a punishment and preventive of

the crime; and both mercy and justice require that the innocent

shall not suffer with the guilty, unless in very extraordinary

cases, where God may permit the righteous or the innocent to be

involved in those public calamities by which the ungodly are swept

away from the face of the earth: but in the case before us, no

necessity of this kind urged it, and therefore I conclude that

Achan alone suffered, and that his repentance and confession were

genuine and sincere; and that, while JUSTICE required his life,

MERCY was extended to the salvation of his soul.

Verse 26. They raised over him a great heap of stones] The

burial-places, both of heroes and eminent culprits, were anciently

thus distinguished; and transactions of this kind gave rise to

those great piles of stones called cairns, that are so frequently

to be met with, especially in northern countries.

FROM the whole of this account we may see the exceeding

sinfulness of sin, and the great danger of not withstanding its

first approaches. By covetousness many lives and many souls have

been destroyed, and yet the living lay it not to heart! Who fears

the love of money, provided he can get riches? Through the

intensity of this desire, every part of the surface of the earth,

and as far as possible its bowels, are ransacked in order to get

wealth; and God alone can tell, who sees all things, to how many

private crimes, frauds, and dissimulations, this gives birth; by

which the wrath of God is brought down upon the community at

large! Who is an enemy to his country? The sinner against his God.

An open foe may be resisted and repelled, because he is known; but

the covetous man, who, as far as his personal safety will admit,

is outraging all the requisitions of justice, is an unseen

pestilence, sowing the seeds of desolation and ruin in society.

Achan's covetousness, which led him to break the law of God, had

nearly proved the destruction of the Israelitish camp, nor would

the Lord turn away from his displeasure till the evil was

detected, and the criminal punished.

Reader, is the face of God turned against thee, because of some

private transgression? Are not thy circumstances and family

suffering in consequence of something in thy private life? O

search and try thy ways, return to God, and humble thyself before

him lest thy iniquity instantly find thee out.

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