Joshua and the Israelites faced defeat against Ai, as recorded in Joshua 7, due to sin and rebellion in the camp against YHWH. The sin of a single man led to defeat for Israel. Joshua dealt with the sin according to YHWH’s instructions and was once again directed by the Lord to continue taking the promised land. He then did as the Lord instructed, and those around him did as well, and the Lord granted them victory.
In a way, this serves as a blueprint for us in our everyday lives. We can not expect YHWH to give us victory while living in rebellion against his word or the Spirit. We must deal with our sin, the sins of our family, and even the sins of our nation if we are to experience full victory on the Lord’s path. That does not mean that we as individuals can not have strong relationships with the Lord even in a sinful nation… we can. However, do not expect him to grant great and lasting victory to a nation that rebels openly against him.
The Conquest of Ai
1Now the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not fear or be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you and arise, go up to Ai; see, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land. 2“You shall do to Ai and its king just as you did to Jericho and its king; you shall take only its spoil and its cattle as plunder for yourselves. Set an ambush for the city behind it.”
3So Joshua rose with all the people of war to go up to Ai; and Joshua chose 30,000 men, valiant warriors, and sent them out at night. 4He commanded them, saying, “See, you are going to ambush the city from behind it. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you be ready. 5“Then I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. And when they come out to meet us as at the first, we will flee before them. 6“They will come out after us until we have drawn them away from the city, for they will say, ‘They are fleeing before us as at the first.’ So we will flee before them. 7“And you shall rise from your ambush and take possession of the city, for the LORD your God will deliver it into your hand. 8“Then it will be when you have seized the city, that you shall set the city on fire. You shall do it according to the word of the LORD. See, I have commanded you.” 9So Joshua sent them away, and they went to the place of ambush and remained between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai; but Joshua spent that night among the people.
10Now Joshua rose early in the morning and mustered the people, and he went up with the elders of Israel before the people to Ai. 11Then all the people of war who were with him went up and drew near and arrived in front of the city, and camped on the north side of Ai. Now there was a valley between him and Ai. 12And he took about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city. 13So they stationed the people, all the army that was on the north side of the city, and its rear guard on the west side of the city, and Joshua spent that night in the midst of the valley. 14It came about when the king of Ai saw it, that the men of the city hurried and rose up early and went out to meet Israel in battle, he and all his people at the appointed place before the desert plain. But he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. 15Joshua and all Israel pretended to be beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness. 16And all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were drawn away from the city. 17So not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who had not gone out after Israel, and they left the city unguarded and pursued Israel.
18Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand.” So Joshua stretched out the javelin that was in his hand toward the city. 19The men in ambush rose quickly from their place, and when he had stretched out his hand, they ran and entered the city and captured it, and they quickly set the city on fire. 20When the men of Ai turned back and looked, behold, the smoke of the city ascended to the sky, and they had no place to flee this way or that, for the people who had been fleeing to the wilderness turned against the pursuers. 21When Joshua and all Israel saw that the men in ambush had captured the city and that the smoke of the city ascended, they turned back and slew the men of Ai. 22The others came out from the city to encounter them, so that they were trapped in the midst of Israel, some on this side and some on that side; and they slew them until no one was left of those who survived or escaped. 23But they took alive the king of Ai and brought him to Joshua.
24Now when Israel had finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the field in the wilderness where they pursued them, and all of them were fallen by the edge of the sword until they were destroyed, then all Israel returned to Ai and struck it with the edge of the sword. 25All who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000—all the people of Ai. 26For Joshua did not withdraw his hand with which he stretched out the javelin until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. 27Israel took only the cattle and the spoil of that city as plunder for themselves, according to the word of the LORD which He had commanded Joshua. 28So Joshua burned Ai and made it a heap forever, a desolation until this day. 29He hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening; and at sunset Joshua gave command and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the city gate, and raised over it a great heap of stones that stands to this day.
30Then Joshua built an altar to the LORD, the God of Israel, in Mount Ebal, 31just as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded the sons of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of uncut stones on which no man had wielded an iron tool; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings. 32He wrote there on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written, in the presence of the sons of Israel. 33All Israel with their elders and officers and their judges were standing on both sides of the ark before the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, the stranger as well as the native. Half of them stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of the LORD had given command at first to bless the people of Israel. 34Then 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. 35There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel with the women and the little ones and the strangers who were living among them.
I also find it interesting that at the end of a great victory, Joshua reads the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, to not just Israel, but to the strangers living among them. It is another indication that the law of YHWH was not meant only for Israel, but for all who came to join Israel and dwell among them. One law for all, not separate law for Jews vs. Gentiles.
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