The Covenant is God’s Will to Man

THE COVENANT TO MOSES AND JOSHUA: XVII

The Israelites were under strict orders not to take anything from the natives for themselves, before the Lord and the Levites had taken theirs. Achan broke that pledge. And therefore, he had to die. The lesson of Achan’s transgression turned the Hebrew army into being more savage with Ai. This led to another renewed commitment to the Covenant. The result led to a gentler Joshua and a gentler army to deal with the deceiving Gibeonites.

One Man’s Mistake did Hurt Everyone

But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things; for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things; and the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.

Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Bethaven, east to Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.”

And the men went up and spied out Ai. And they returned to Joshua, and said to them, “Let not all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai; do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are but few.” So about three thousand men went up there from the people; and they fled before the men of Ai, and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six men of them, and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim, and slew them at the descent. And the heats of the people melted, and became as water.

Then Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust upon their heads. And Joshua said, “Alas, O LORD GOD, why hast thou brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! O LORD, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and will surround us, and cut off our name from the earth; and what wilt thou do for thy great name?”  The LORD said to Joshua, “Arise, why have you thus fallen upon your fact? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant which I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, and lied, and put them among their own stuff. Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become a thing of destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you (Joshua 7:1-26).

Ai was Obliterated Savagely

And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear or be dismayed; take all the fighting men with you, and arise, go up to Ai; see, I have given his people, his city, and his land; and you shall do to Ai and its kings as you did to Jericho and its king; only its spoil and its cattle you shall take as booty for yourselves; lay an ambush against the city, behind it.”

So Joshua arose, and all the fighting men, to go up to Ai; and Joshua chose thirty thousand mighty men of valor, and sent them forth 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 hold yourselves all in readiness; and I, and all the people who are with me, will approach the city. And when they come out after us, till we have drawn them away from the city; for they will say, ‘They are fleeing from us, as before.’ So will flee from 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 when you have taken the city, you shall set the city on fire, doing as the LORD has bidden; see, I have commanded you.” So Joshua sent them forth; 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.

And Joshua arose early in the morning and mustered the people, and went up, with the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai. 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. And he took about five thousand men, and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. So they stationed the forces, the main encampment which was north of the city and its rear guard west of the city. But Joshua spent that night in the valley. And when the king of Ai saw this he and all his people, the men of the city, made haste and went out early to the descent toward the Arabah to meet Israel in battle; but he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. And Joshua and all Israel made a pretence of being beaten before them, and fled in the direction of the wilderness. 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. There was not a man left in Ai or Bethel, who did not go out after Israel; they left the city open, and pursued Israel.

Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Stretch out the javelin that is in our 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. And 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 took it; and they made haste to set the city on fire. 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 that fled to the wilderness turned back upon the pursuers. And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city, and that the smoke of the city went up, then they turned back and smote the men of Ai. And the other came forth from the city against them; so they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side and some on that side; and Israel smote them, until there was left none that survived or escaped. But the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him to Joshua.

When Israel had finished slaughtering 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 smote it with the edge of the sword. And all who fell that day, both men and women, were twelve thousand, all the people of Ai. For Joshua did not draw back his hand, with which he stretched out the javelin, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. Only the cattle and the spoil of the city Israel took as their booty, according to the word of the LORD which he commanded Joshua. So Joshua burned Ai, and made it for ever a heap of ruins, as it is to this day. And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening; and at the going down of the sun Joshua commanded, and they took his body down from the tree, and cast it at the entrance of the gate of the city, and raised over a great heap of stones, which stands there to this day (Joshua 8:1-29).

Recommitment to the Covenant by Joshua

Then Joshua built an altar in Mount Ebal to the Lord, the God of Israel, 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 unhewn stones, upon which no man has lifted an iron tool”; and they offered on it burnt offerings to the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings. And there, in the presence of the people of Israel, he wrote upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written. And all Israel, sojourner as well as homeborn, 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, as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded at the first, that they should bless the people of Israel.

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. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them (Joshua 8:30-35).

Israel was Merciful to the Deceiving Gibeonites

But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they on their part acted with cunning, and went and made ready provisions, and took worn-out sacks upon their asses, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes; and all their provisions were dry and moldy. And they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal, and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a far country; so now make a covenant with us.” But the men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you live among us; then how can we make a covenant with you?” They said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” And Joshua said to them, “Who are you? And where do you come from?” they said to him, “From a very far country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God; for we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, Sihon the king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who dwelt in Ashtaroth. And our elders and all the inhabitants of our country said to us, a provisions in your hand for the journey, and go to meet them, and say to them, “We are your servants; come now, make a covenant with us.”’ Here is our bread; it was still warm when we took it from our houses as our food for the journey, on the day we set forth to come to you, but now behold, it is dry and moldy; these wineskins were new when we filled them, and behold, they are burst; and these garments and shoes of ours are worn out from the very long journey.” So the men partook of their provisions, and did not ask direction from the LORD. And Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them, to let them live; and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.   

At the end of three days after they hand made a covenant with them, they heard that there were their neighbors, and that they dwelt among them. And the people of Israel set out and reached their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriathjearim. But the people of Israel did not kill them, because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel. Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders. But all the leaders said to all the congregation, “We have sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel, and now we may not touch them. This we will do to them, and let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath which we swore to them.” And the leaders said to them, “Let them live.” So they became hewer of wood and drawers of water for all the congregation, as the leaders had said of them.

Joshua summoned them, and he said to them, “Why did you deceive us, saying, ‘We are far from you,’ when you dwell among us? Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall always be slaves, hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.” They answered Joshua, “Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the LORD you God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you; so we feared greatly for our lives because of you, and did this thing. And now, behold, we are in our hand: do as it seems good and right in your sight to do to us.” So he did to them, and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel; and they did not kill them (Joshua 9:3-26).

Joshua’s Hardest and Longest Day in Battle

The Hebrew historian described the day when the sun stood still. On that day the Hebrew army, under the mysterious commander with Joshua, defeated more kings and conquered more territory in one land day, than anyone else in Israelite history. It can be compared to “the longest day in history of the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II.” To the modern mind, “the sun standing still” is less of a miracle than the plagues in Egypt before the Exodus of Israel from Egypt and their survival in the wilderness.

When Adonizedek king of Jerusalem heard how Joshua had taken Ai, and had utterly destroyed it, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them, he feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were mighty. So Adonizedek king of Jerusalem sent to Hoham king of Hebron, to Piram king of Jarmuth, to Japhia king of Lachish, and to Debir king of Eglon, saying, “Come up to me, and help me, and let us smite Gibeon; for it has made peace with Joshua and with the people of Israel.” Then the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon, gathered their forces, and went up with all their armies and encamped against Gibeon, and made was against it.

And the men of Gibeon sent to Joshua at the camp in Gilgal, saying, “Do not relax your hand from your servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us; for all the kings of the Amorites that dwell in the hill country are gathered against us.” So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valor. And the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands; there shall not a man of them stand before you.” So Joshua came upon them suddenly, having marched up all night from Gilgal. And the LORD threw them into a panic before Israel, who slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon, and smote them as far as Azekah and Makkedah. And as they fled before Israel, while they were going down the ascent of Beth-horon, the LORD threw down a great stones from heaven upon them as far as Azekah, and they died; there were more who died because of the hailstones than the men of Israel killed with the sword.

Then spoke Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the men of Israel; and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand thou still at Gibeon, and thou Moon in the valley of Aijalon.” And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.

Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stayed in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD hearkened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel.

Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal (Joshua 10:1-15).

The Reason for the Sun not to Set

The task required a very long and hard day to complete.

1. Defeating the Amorite King

These five kings fled, and hid themselves in the cave at Makkedah. And it was told Joshua, “The five kings have been found, hidden in the cave at Makkedah.” And Joshua said, “Roll great stones against the mouth of the cave, and set men by it to guard them; but do not stay there yourselves, pursue your enemies, fall upon their rear, fall upon their rear, do not let them enter their cities; for the LORD your God has given them into your hand.” When Joshua and the men of Israel had finished slaying them with a very great slaughter, until they were wiped out, and when the remnant which remained of them had entered into the fortified cities, all the people returned safe to Joshua in the camp at Makkedah; not a man moved his tongue against any of the people of Israel.

Then Joshua said, “Open the mouth of the cave, and bring those five kings out to me from the cave.” And they did so, and brought those five kings out to him from the cave, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon. And when they brought those kings out to Joshua, Joshua summoned all the men of Israel, and said to the chiefs of the men of war who had gone with him, “Come near, put our feet upon the necks of these kings.” Then they came near, and put their feet on their necks. And Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and of good courage; for thus the LORD will do to all your enemies against whom you fight.” And afterward Joshua smote them and put them to death, and he hung them on five trees. And they hung upon the trees until evening; but at the time of the going down of the sun, Joshua commanded, and they took them down from the trees, and threw them into the cave where they had hidden themselves, and they set great stones against the mouth of the cave, which remain to this very day.

And Joshua took Makkedah on that day, and smote it and its king with the edge of the sword; he utterly destroyed every person in it, he left none remaining; and he did to the king of Makkedah as he had done to the king of Jericho (Joshua 10:16-28).

2. Disarming the Cities in the South

Then Joshua passed on from Makkedah, and all Israel with him, to Libnah, and fought against Libnah; and the LORD gave it also and its king into the hand of Israel; and he smote it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it; he left none remaining in it; and he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.

And Joshua passed from Libnah, and all Israel with him, to Lachish, and laid siege to it, and assaulted it: and the LORD gave Lachish into the hand of Israel, and he took it on the second day, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it, as he had done to Libnah.

Then Horam king of Gezer came up to help Lachish; and Joshua smote him and his people, until he left none remaining.

And Joshua passed on with all Israel from Lachish to Eglon; and they laid siege to it, and assaulted it; and they took it on that day, and smote it with the edge of the sword; and every person in it he utterly destroyed that day, as he had done to Lachish.

Then Joshua went up with all Israel from Eglon to Hebron; and they assaulted it, and took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and its king and its towns, and every person in it; he left none remaining, as he had done to Eglon, and utterly destroyed it with every person in it.

Then Joshua, with all Israel, turned back to Debir and assaulted it, and he took it with its king and all its towns; and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed every person in it; he left none remaining; as he had done to Hebron and to Libnah and its king, so he did to Debir and to its king.

So Joshua defeated the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings; he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel commanded. And Joshua defeated them from Kadesh-barnea to Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, as far as Gibeon. And Joshua took all these kings and their land at one time, because the LORD God of Israel fought for Israel. Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal (Joshua 10:29-43).