Joshua reads God’s law to the people

Chapter 8

v1 Then the *Lord spoke again. ‘Do not be afraid. Do not think that you are weak’, he said to Joshua. ‘Take the whole army with you and go to attack Ai. I will give the king, all his people, the city and its land to you. v2 You must destroy the city and its king as you did to Jericho and its king. But this time you may take their good things and all their animals for yourselves. Hide some of your men behind the city.’ v3 So Joshua and the whole army moved out to attack Ai. He chose 30 000 of the best fighting men and sent them out by night. v4 ‘Listen carefully’, he said. ‘You must go and hide behind the city. Stay near to it. Be sure to stay awake! v5 I will march towards the city with all the other soldiers. The men will come out of the city to fight us, as they did before. Then we will run away. v6 They will run after us, until we have gone from the city. They will say, “They are running away from us, as they did before”. So, when we run from them, v7 you must get out from your hiding place. You will take the city. The *Lord your God will give it to you. v8 When you have taken the city, start to burn it. Do what the *Lord has told you to do. Be sure to obey my words.’

v9 Then Joshua sent the men off. They went to wait and to hide at the west of Ai, between Bethel and Ai. But Joshua stayed with the people that night.

Verse 1 When Joshua attacked Ai the first time, the *Lord had not told him to do so (Joshua 7:2). Now that the *Israelites had punished Achan, God gave instructions to Joshua. God told Joshua to take the whole army. God would give Ai to the *Israelites.

Verse 2 God told the *Israelites that they could keep the valuable things from Ai. Achan should have waited. He could have taken any valuable things from Ai.

We must not go ahead of God. We must wait for his instructions. We must obey God. God’s instructions are in the Bible. We cannot expect God to bless us if we do not obey him. We cannot expect God to bless us if we do not listen to him. Achan and *Israel learnt this lesson the hard way.

Verses 2-9 God gave to Joshua the plans to defeat Ai. The people of Ai would think that the *Israelites were trying to defeat them again. They did not know that men were hiding behind the city. It was a very clever idea. God knows best. The people obeyed God and Joshua.

v10 Early the next morning, Joshua took all the men together to march towards Ai. He and the leaders of *Israel went in front. v11 The whole army marched up to the city and they stopped in front of it. They put their tents north of Ai. They left a valley between them and the city. v12 Joshua had hidden about 5000 men to the west of the city, between Bethel and Ai. v13 All the soldiers took their places, and they were ready to fight. Some were north of the city, by their tents. And other soldiers were hiding at the west of the city. That night, Joshua went into the valley.

v14 When the king of Ai saw Joshua’s men, the king and his men hurried out of the city. It was early in the morning. They wanted to meet *Israel at the same place as before. And they wanted to fight *Israel there. But the king of Ai did not know that *Israelite soldiers were hiding behind the city. v15 Joshua and his army let the men of Ai chase them, and they ran towards the desert. v16 The king told all the men of Ai to run after them. So they ran after the *Israelites and away from their city. v17 Not one man remained in Ai or Bethel. They all ran after the *Israelite soldiers.

Verses 10-13 It would appear that there were three groups of *Israelites. 30 000 soldiers were hiding behind Ai. 5000 soldiers were near Bethel. They were there in case the people in Bethel came out of their city. They might want to help the people of Ai. The rest of the *Israelites were with Joshua.

Verses 14-17 The king of Ai thought that he could defeat *Israel again. His soldiers came out of the city. Joshua and the *Israelites ran away as they did before. The king of Ai did not know that Joshua had made other plans!

The men of Bethel joined in the attack. Joshua had already prepared for that possibility (verse 12).

v18 Then the *Lord spoke to Joshua. The *Lord said, ‘Hold out the throwing stick that is in your hand. Point it towards Ai. I will give the city to you.’ So Joshua held out his throwing stick towards Ai. v19 The men who were hiding behind the city came out at once. They quickly ran into the city. They took it and they immediately made it burn. v20 The men of Ai looked back and saw smoke rise over the city. But they could not run away. The *Israelites who had been running away had turned to fight them. v21 Joshua and his army had seen that the *Israelites had taken the city. The men that he had hidden had taken it. Joshua’s army saw the smoke from the burning city. So they turned round and began to fight the men of Ai. v22 The *Israelites in the city then came down to join the fight. The men of *Israel were all round the men of Ai. They killed all the men of Ai. Nobody could run away. v23 The only person that they did not kill was the king of Ai. They took him to Joshua.

v24 The *Israelites killed all the men in the fields. And the *Israelites killed the men who had followed them into the desert. Then the *Israelites went back to Ai and killed everyone there. v25 All the men and women of Ai died on that day. 12 000 people died. v26 Joshua had continued to point his throwing stick at Ai until his army had killed every person. v27 But the *Israelites took the good things and the animals for themselves, as the *Lord had told Joshua. v28 Joshua burnt the city and he broke it down. It is still like that today. v29 He hanged the king of Ai on a tree and left his body there until evening. At sunset, Joshua told his men to cut the body down from the tree. Then they threw it in front of the city’s gate. They covered it with many stones. These stones are still there today.

Verse 18 Joshua waited for further instructions. God told him what to do next. God told him to hold up his throwing stick. He pointed it towards Ai. He held it up until the *Israelites had completely destroyed Ai (see verse 26). This reminds us of Moses (Exodus 17:8-16). He held his hands up in prayer when the *Israelites defeated the *Amalekites. Joshua was the captain of the army then.

Verses 19-22, 24-28 All the men of *Israel performed their tasks. Some ran away from the enemy so that the men of Ai would come out of the city. Some hid behind the city. They attacked the city when the men came out. Some protected the *Israelites from an attack from Bethel. All played their part.

All Christians have things to do. We cannot leave our work for other people to do. God has given gifts to all of us. We must use them for God.

Verses 23, 29 The *Israelites took the king of Ai to Joshua. The king of Ai had no people left. He was no longer a king. Joshua killed the king to complete the *victory. The *Israelites covered the body of the king with many stones

Earlier, they had covered Achan’s body with stones. This reminded them of their defeat. The *Israelites covered the body of the king with many stones. This reminded them of their *victory.

God changed defeat into *victory. This is what God wants to do for us. When we disappoint God by our *sins, we suffer defeat. God will forgive us if we confess our *sins to him. He will help us. He will give *victory to us.

Joshua reads God’s law to the people

v30 Then Joshua built an *altar on Ebal mountain, to the *Lord, the God of Israel. v31 Joshua made it as Moses had told the *Israelites. Moses, the *Lord’s servant, had written this in a book. This book, the *Law of Moses, told the *Israelites how they should make it. ‘You must make the *altar from stones that you have not cut with iron tools.’ They burned animals on it to *worship the *Lord. And they burned other animals, as ‘*fellowship *offerings’ to the *Lord. v32 The *Israelites watched Joshua as he made a copy of the *Law of Moses on the stones. This was the *Law that Moses had written. v33 All the *Israelites stood by the two sides of the *ark, with their faces towards the priests who carried it. The leaders, officers and judges were there, and the foreign people were with them, too. Half the people stood with their backs to Gerizim mountain. The other half stood with their backs to Ebal mountain. This is how the *Lord’s servant, Moses had told them to stand (Deuteronomy 11:29). ‘Stand like this when I am asking the *Lord to give you his *blessing’, he had said. v34 Then Joshua read the whole *Law aloud to them. He read the *blessings and the *curses from the book of the *Law. Moses had told him how to bless the *Israelites. v35 Joshua read every word to the *Israelites. Moses had told him what to read. Joshua read it to all the people, including the women, children and the foreign people who lived with them.

Verses 30-35 The *Lord had punished the *Israelites because they did not obey him at Ai. They were very careful to do exactly what God had told them after that.

At Ebal mountain, Joshua did 3 things:

·     He built an *altar. He then burned two kinds of *sacrifice on the *altar.

·     He made a copy of the Law of Moses on stones.

·     He read the *blessings and the *curses from the book of the law.

Verse 31 Joshua made the *altar with stones that workmen had not cut. (See Deuteronomy 27:1-8.) The stones were exactly as God had made them. Nobody else had made them. Joshua could not make them any better.

Jesus died to pay the punishment for our *sins. We cannot work for this.

Joshua burned two kinds of *sacrifice on the *altar:

·           burnt *offerings (see Leviticus 1:1-17). A person gave a burnt *offering to God to show that he had given himself completely to God. Here the *Israelites gave burnt *offerings to God. This was to show that they had given themselves completely to God.

·           *fellowship *offerings (see Leviticus 2:1-16). A person might feel that something separated him from God. So he brought a *fellowship *offering to God. This gave him peace with God. Here the *Israelites gave *fellowship *offerings to God. It was a way to say thank you to God. It was also a way to say that they wanted to have *fellowship with God.

The *Israelites had offended God at Ai. Now they had made things right.

These *offerings are like a picture of the death of Jesus.

Because of the death of Jesus

·           we can give ourselves completely to God (the burnt *offering);

·           we can have *fellowship with God (the *fellowship *offering).

The Law of Moses could be

·     the Books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, or

·     the ten *commandments.

Joshua probably wrote down the ten *commandments. He wrote them on stones. They would last for ever. The people could not forget them.

Christians have the Bible. This is the word of God for us. We must read it often.

Verse 33 The *Israelites stood by the two sides of the *ark. This was a sign that God was there.

Verses 34 See Deuteronomy 27:15-26; 28:15-68 for the curses that Joshua read. After Joshua read each curse, the people said, ‘Amen’. They said, ‘Amen’ to show that they agreed.

Verse 35 See Deuteronomy 28:1-14 for the *blessings that Joshua read.