Joshua 8:17: Executing the Lord’s Battle-Plan, Part 5

Verse 17:[1] And there was not a man left in Ai or Beth-el, that went not out after Israel: and they left the city open, and pursued after Israel.

[Not even one] But a multitude unfit for war remained within the gates, verse 24 (Masius, Bonfrerius).

Not a man, to wit, fit for war.

[In the city, בָּעִיר] Some codices read בָּעַי, in Ai (Masius). Thus Jonathan. Thus in the place of לָעִיר, of the city, verse 12,[2] the eastern codices have לָעַי, of Ai, as in verse 9[3] (Grotius on verse 12).

[Ai and Beth-el] As for the fact that the men of Bethel are joined with them, it is to be mentioned that they were called forth before the blockade (Bonfrerius). They appear, with their own town abandoned, to have been in Ai for a little while, so that they might defend the more fortified city with combined strength, since otherwise they would have been under the dominion of this King; for it is said, in the city, not, in the cities (Masius). Objection: But Beth-el was an exceedingly well-fortified bown, Judges 1:24. Response: Therefore, the Canaanites in the following times built up the walls of that city (Masius).

Beth-el, being a neighbouring city, and encouraged by the former success, had sent some forces to assist them; and now, upon notice sent to them of the flight of their common enemies, or upon some other signal given, which might easily be done, having been appointed beforehand, as is usual in such cases, all their men of war join with those of Ai in the pursuit.

[1] Hebrew: וְלֹֽא־נִשְׁאַ֣ר אִ֗ישׁ בָּעַי֙ וּבֵ֣ית אֵ֔ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־יָצְא֖וּ אַחֲרֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיַּעַזְב֤וּ אֶת־הָעִיר֙ פְּתוּחָ֔ה וַֽיִּרְדְּפ֖וּ אַחֲרֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

[2] Joshua 8:12:  “And he took about five thousand men, and set them to lie in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city (לָעִיר).”

[3] Joshua 8:9a:  “Joshua therefore sent them forth: and they went to lie in ambush, and abode between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai (לָעָי)…”

Joshua 8:15, 16: Executing the Lord’s Battle-Plan, Part 4

Verse 15:[1] And Joshua and all Israel (Judg. 20:36, etc.) made as if they were beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness.

[They yield the ground, etc., וַיִּנָּגְעוּ] And they were smitten (Montanus, Vatablus), or, stricken (Pagnine), or, routed (Junius and Tremellius); that is, they were feigning themselves smitten (Munster, similarly Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius, English, Drusius). They feigned that they were not able to sustain their attack (Vatablus). Sometimes verbs of the Niphal conjugation have the force of those verbs in the Hithpael (Drusius out of Masius). Now, these denote pretense; for example, מִתְעַשֵּׁר, to pretend himself rich, and מִתְרוֹשֵׁשׁ, to feign himself poor[2] (Drusius). They broke themselves up (Jonathan); they scattered themselves (Syriac); they gave their backs (Arabic). He that flees appears to be smitten, even if he is not injured in body (Munster). Others maintain that in the midst of the flight they suffered some casualties (Kimchi in Masius); which was able to happen (Drusius). I do not oppose this; although it is more probable that the victory was completely bloodless (Masius, Rabbi Salomon in Masius). For, if a very few had been slaughtered, the loss would have been mentioned, as it is done in Judge 20:31 (Masius). And the Israelites would also have been demoralized with fear (Dutch). It is able to be rendered, and they were driven away, or impelled (Malvenda).

Made as if they were beaten before them, that is, fled from them, as it were for fear of a second blow; and peradventure some of them might be wounded, though none were killed, and might make that the pretence of their fleeing away.

[By way of the wilderness] The wilderness is here taken as the place of pasturage (Munster, Hebrews in Vatablus, Drusius). In the way in which one goes toward the wilderness between Ai and Jericho (Drusius). I suspect that in this wilderness Joshua placed those camps toward the north, verse 13, and that therefore flight is now made there. I think that it was the wilderness of Beth-aven,[3] of which Joshua 18:12, which sometimes lent its own infamous name to Beth-el (Masius).

The wilderness lay between Ai and Jericho, whither they now seemed to flee.


Verse 16:[4] And all the people that were in Ai were called together to pursue after them: and they pursued after Joshua, and were drawn away from the city.

[But those, shouting, וַיִּזָּעֲקוּ] And they were called together (Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus); they were assembled (Jonathan, Drusius, Vatablus). That was not done without clamor and shouting (Drusius). They were shouting (Montanus); they were given a signal (Junius and Tremellius); they were summoned (Masius). The word זָעַק is often used in calling soldiers to some place by a trumpeter (Masius). The people shouted (Syriac); all that were in the city cried out at once (Arabic). The sense: The men of Ai, have gone out of the city, seeing that the Hebrews were fleeing, summoned all the rest with their battle-cry (Lapide): as nothing now was needful but to pursue and slaughter the enemy (Masius).

All the people, to wit, all that were able to bear arms, for old men and children were unfit for the pursuit or fight; and that they were yet left, may seem from verses 24 and 25.

[1] Hebrew: וַיִּנָּֽגְע֛וּ יְהוֹשֻׁ֥עַ וְכָל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לִפְנֵיהֶ֑ם וַיָּנֻ֖סוּ דֶּ֥רֶךְ הַמִּדְבָּֽר׃

[2] Proverbs 13:7:  “There is that maketh himself rich (מִתְעַשֵּׁר), yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor (מִתְרוֹשֵׁשׁ), yet hath great riches.”

[3] בֵּית אָוֶן/Beth-aven signifies House of Iniquity; בֵּית־אֵל/Beth-el, House of God.  See Hosea 4:15; 5:8; 10:5.

[4] Hebrew: וַיִּזָּעֲק֗וּ כָּל־הָעָם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בָּעִ֔יר לִרְדֹּ֖ף אַחֲרֵיהֶ֑ם וַֽיִּרְדְּפוּ֙ אַחֲרֵ֣י יְהוֹשֻׁ֔עַ וַיִּנָּתְק֖וּ מִן־הָעִֽיר׃

Joshua 8:14: Executing the Lord’s Battle-Plan, Part 3

Verse 14:[1] And it came to pass, when the king of Ai saw it, that they hasted and rose up early, and the men of the city went out against Israel to battle, he and all his people, at a time appointed, before the plain; but he (Judg. 20:34; Eccles. 9:12) wist not that there were liers in ambush against him behind the city.

[When he had seen it] That is, when he understood (Vatablus): when he perceived it through the watchmen and through the noise of the soldiers, etc. (Masius).

[With all the army] It is to be taken only of those that he had selected for this clash: but afterwards, verse 17, all were called out (Masius on verse 16). With the whole people, that is, with the greater part. See verse 16. Synecdoche of the whole (Piscator).

All his people, to wit, all his men of war, for the rest were left in Ai, verse 16.

[לַמּוֹעֵד[2]] [They render it variously.] At that very time (Junius and Tremellius), without delay or deliberation (Junius). The very king is tacitly branded as dull, imprudent, etc. He was obliged to post watches and scouts round about, and to search continually all places, especially the uneven and suitable for ambush: but he, foolishly puffed up with his last victory, had securely given himself to his pleasures (Masius). Others translate it, at the appointed time (Jonathan, Montanus, Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Lapide, Bonfrerius, Arabic, Piscator). At the hour which by magical art he marked as most auspicious (Rabbi Salomon in Masius). Perhaps at the hour in which he recently fought victoriously, with a superstitious hope of similar fortune (Rabbi Levi in Masius). At the top of the morning: For he had seen the camps of the Israelites at night, undoubtedly by the help of the light of the Moon, verse 13 (Piscator). Others: unto the predetermined place (Masius), namely, that in which he previously fought victoriously: Rabbi Isaiah (Masius). Others: at, or upon, the military tessera,[3] or sign. Not absurdly. Thus it is to be taken in Judges 20:38,[4] if credit is to be given to Rabbi Isaiah (Masius). That is to say, with the sign given, they sallied forth from the gates. I translate it, unto the picket. Perhaps it indicates that they proceeded unto the military picket, or the garrison set up by them in a certain place (Malvenda).

At a time appointed; at a certain hour agreed upon between the king and people of Ai, and of Bethel too, who were their confederates in this enterprise, as it may seem from verse 17. Possibly they might appoint the same hour of the day on which they had fought against Israel with such good success, looking upon it as a lucky hour.

[Toward the desert, לִפְנֵ֣י הָֽעֲרָבָ֑ה] Before the wilderness (Vatablus, Masius), on the plain (Chaldean), namely, which was before the valley in which was the army (Vatablus). Others: unto, or toward, the plain, which was previously called עֵמֶק, the valley (certain interpreters in Masius). There is no doubt that they were making for that place in which they had perceived the enemy to be (Masius). Before the plain, which was adjacent to the city toward the East: so that thus the Israelites were approaching from the flank, and were blocking the way to those fleeing (Junius).

Before the plain, that is, towards or in sight of that plain or valley in which the Israelites were, that so they might put themselves in battle-array. He wist not that there were liers in ambush; the former success having made him more careless and secure, as is usual in such cases; God also blinding his mind, and infatuating him, as he useth to do with those which he intends to destroy.

[1] Hebrew: וַיְהִ֞י כִּרְא֣וֹת מֶֽלֶךְ־הָעַ֗י וַֽיְמַהֲר֡וּ וַיַּשְׁכִּ֡ימוּ וַיֵּצְא֣וּ אַנְשֵֽׁי־הָעִ֣יר לִקְרַֽאת־יִ֠שְׂרָאֵל לַֽמִּלְחָמָ֞ה ה֧וּא וְכָל־עַמּ֛וֹ לַמּוֹעֵ֖ד לִפְנֵ֣י הָֽעֲרָבָ֑ה וְהוּא֙ לֹ֣א יָדַ֔ע כִּֽי־אֹרֵ֥ב ל֖וֹ מֵאַחֲרֵ֥י הָעִֽיר׃

[2] מוֹעֵד, appointed time or place, is related to the verbal root יָעַד, to appoint.

[3] The military tessera was a small tablet bearing the passwords and orders for the day.

[4] Judges 20:38:  “Now an appointedוְהַמּוֹעֵד) ) was sign between the men of Israel and the liers in wait, that they should make a great flame with smoke rise up out of the city.”

Joshua 8:13: Executing the Lord’s Battle-Plan, Part 2

Verse 13:[1] And when they had set the people, even all the host that was on the north of the city, and their liers in wait (Heb. their lying in wait,[2] Josh. 8:4) on the west of the city, Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley.

[But all the rest of the army…was forming a battle line,וַיָּשִׂ֙ימוּ הָעָ֜ם אֶת־כָּל־הַֽמַּחֲנֶ֗ה וגו״] [They vary.] And the people set, or arranged, all the camps (Munster, Tigurinus, Jonathan, similarly Junius and Tremellius, Montanus). Others: But all the people and the whole camp…he arranged (Syriac). But all the people, that is, the army…he arranged (Arabic). And the people, that is, all the camps that were toward the North, drew nearer (Pagnine). Who were on the Northern side of the city; do not understand the march conducted to the North (Bonfrerius). And they people, that is, all the camps (spoken by way of apposition), set, understanding themselves more closely (Vatablus). It is able also thus to be taken; And now the people were pressing, that is, were undertaking the destruction of, the city by camps, etc. Thus שָׂם is taken in 1 Samuel 15:2;[3] 2 Samuel 13:32;[4] 1 Kings 20:12[5] (Masius). I translate it, and disposuerunt, they disposed: For, when the Hebrews are without a composit, they not rarely make use of a simple in the place of a composit; so that שׂוּם might be ponere, to put or set, and disponere, to dispose[6] (Dieu).

[In such a way that the last…reached the western side of the city,וְאֶת־עֲקֵב֖וֹ מִיָּ֣ם[7]] They translate the עָקֵב as ambush (Munster, Vatablus, Masius, Drusius, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Jonathan), so called from the cunning and craftiness (Vatablus). עָקַב sometimes signifies to deceive, which is the goal of ambushes (Masius). And its ambush; that is to say, the ambush of five thousand joined itself with the camps (Vatablus). The sense: And the people that were in the camps and the ambush moved themselves at the same time against the city; the former indeed in the open, but the latter secretly (Munster). And their ambush they moved from the west (Munster). And their ambush, which was toward the west (Pagnine, Tigurinus). But nowhere does עָקֵב denote one that lies in wait, but everywhere heel, or end (Dieu). Others translate עָקֵב as calcem/heel (Montanus), calcaneum/heel (Lapide) (but the ambush was able thus to be called, because it was behind the city, that is, toward the West [Masius]), the hindmost troop (Arabic), the rear part of the army (Junius and Tremellius, Piscator). The sense: They disposed the army in such a way that the rear troop reached to the ambush (Bonfrerius, Lapide); so that, if it was needful, it might give assistance to them (Lapide).

[Joshua went forth that night[8]] Question: In what night? Response: Masius seems to think that the ambush was sent on one night, and remained in their place the following day and night, and that on the following night Joshua went forth. And so it is amazing that the ambush was not discovered. But I think that all things were accomplished on the same night. He had advanced some distance with the army before nightfall; at the beginning of nightfall he sent away the thirty thousand; at daybreak, or the top of the morning, while it was yet dark (for which reason he here calls it night), he made a journey to the city, and set a new ambush; and, while the light was coming on, he approached to the valley, and he was seen, etc. This is the plain narration, which Josephus also follows; while in the other all things are filled with difficulties. And indeed, if after a second night the matter was to be carried out, to what end had they been sent away to lie in wait the previous night (with the danger of detection)? With that night, understand, coming to an end, that is, at the top of the morning. Thus there is no conflict with verse 9, he remained that night, etc. (Bonfrerius, nearly out of Lapide).

Joshua went that night: To wit, accompanied with a small part of the host now mentioned, that is, very early in the morning, when it was yet dark, as is said in a like case, John 20:1, whence it is here called night, though it was early in the morning, as is said Joshua 8:10; for it seems most probable that all was done in one night’s space, and in this manner: Joshua sends away the ambush by night, verse 3, and lodgeth that night with twenty-five thousand men, verse 9, not far from the city. But not able nor willing to sleep all night, he rises very early, verse 10, and numbers his men, which by the help of the several officers was quickly done, and so immediately leads them towards Ai; and while it was yet duskish or night, he goes into the midst of the valley, verse 13; and when the day dawns he is discovered by the king and people of Ai, who thereupon rose up early to fight with them, verse 14. Though others conceive this was the second night, and so the ambush had lain hid a night and a day together. But then there might be danger of their being discovered, although that danger may seem to be the less, because Ai might be shut up, that none might go out nor come in, but by order, and upon necessity, because of the nearness of their enemies, as Jericho formerly was for the same reason, Joshua 6:1.

[Joshua went forth…and stood in the midst of the valley,וַיֵּ֧לֶךְ יְהוֹשֻׁ֛עַ—בְּת֥וֹךְ הָעֵֽמֶק׃] And he went into the midst of the valley (Montanus, similarly the Arabic, Junius and Tremellius, Masius). Evidently, so that he might reveal his presence to the enemy, and lure them from the city. But it is likely that he advanced accompanied, not with a great multitude, but with a number the men of Ai would be able to despise (Masius). And he proceeded, that is, he led the army forward. Others: he proceeded through the midst of the valley, where the army was, that is, looking to those things having regard to it (Vatablus). Others: he walked in the valley (Munster, Jonathan). For the sake of meditation and prayer, as it seems, he proceeded outside of the camps, which were in the same valley. See Genesis 24:63 (Grotius).

Into the midst of the valley; which was near the city, thereby to allure them forth.

[1] Hebrew: וַיָּשִׂ֙ימוּ הָעָ֜ם אֶת־כָּל־הַֽמַּחֲנֶ֗ה אֲשֶׁר֙ מִצְּפ֣וֹן לָעִ֔יר וְאֶת־עֲקֵב֖וֹ מִיָּ֣ם לָעִ֑יר וַיֵּ֧לֶךְ יְהוֹשֻׁ֛עַ בַּלַּ֥יְלָה הַה֖וּא בְּת֥וֹךְ הָעֵֽמֶק׃

[2] Hebrew: עֲקֵבוֹ.

[3] 1 Samuel 15:2:  “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait (שָׂם) for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.”

[4] 2 Samuel 13:32:  “And Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother, answered and said, Let not my lord suppose that they have slain all the young men the king’s sons; for Amnon only is dead:  for by the appointment of Absalom this hath been determined (שׂוּמָה/set) from the day that he forced his sister Tamar.”

[5] 1 Kings 20:12:  “And it came to pass, when Ben-hadad heard this message, as he was drinking, he and the kings in the pavilions, that he said unto his servants, Set yourselves in array. And they set themselves in array against the cityוַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֶל־עֲבָדָיו֙) שִׂ֔ימוּ וַיָּשִׂ֖ימוּ עַל־הָעִֽיר׃).”

[6] The prefix dis– signifies separation.

[7] עָקֵב signifies heel, footprint, or hinderpart.

[8] Hebrew: וַיֵּ֧לֶךְ יְהוֹשֻׁ֛עַ בַּלַּ֥יְלָה הַה֖וּא.

Joshua 8:9-12: Executing the Lord’s Battle-Plan, Part 1

Verse 9:[1] Joshua therefore sent them forth: and they went to lie in ambush, and abode between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai: but Joshua lodged that night among the people.

Sent them forth; the same party designed by the pronoun them, verse 3, of which see the notes there.

[Between Beth-el and Ai] Beth-el was about one hour’s journey from Ai toward the West.[2] And, because both cities were in mountainous places, there were the winding curves of hills, opportune for setting an ambush (Masius).

[In the midst of the people] That is, the men of war; that is, in the midst of the army (Piscator, Bonfrerius).

Among the people, Hebrew, that people,[3] to wit, the people of war, as they are called, verse 11, to wit, the main body of that host, consisting of thirty thousand.


Verse 10:[4] And Joshua rose up early in the morning, and numbered the people, and went up, he and the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai.

[He mustered, וַיִּפְקֹד[5]] And he visited, that is, he attentively considered whether all were prepared (Vatablus). He mustered (Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius, Syriac, similarly Jonathan), namely, by the commanders of the tribes, the commanders of hundreds, and the commanders of tens. Thus it was accomplished in a brief time (Masius). Now, he mustered them, 1. so that of them he might order a battle line: 2. so that afterwards it might be apparent how many fell in the battle (Lapide, Bonfrerius). This also is able to be the sense: In the morning he mustered the people, that is, he arranged what things were necessary among the people; then לִפְנֵ֥י הָעָ֖ם, before the face of the people, he went up with the elders, etc. (Masius).

The people, Hebrew, that people,[6] not all the people of Israel, which was needless, and required more time than could now be spared; but the rest of that host of thirty thousand, whereof five thousand were sent away; and now the remainder are numbered, partly to see whether some of them had not withdrawn themselves, taking the advantage of the night, and of the design of laying an ambush; and partly that it might be evident that this work was done without any loss of men, and thereby they might be encouraged to trust in God, and to proceed vigorously and resolutely in their work.

[With the elders] These were, either, 1. Tribunes, so called on account of the superiority of their judgment in military affairs (Masius). Or, 2. who were actually elders, and were noteworthy for their military skill (Bonfrerius). Or, 3. the Elders of Israel, who themselves belonged to the councils of war (Vatablus).

The elders of Israel; either, 1. The military elders, the chief commanders of his army. But they seem to be included in the thirty thousand, verse 3, which are supposed to be furnished and led by their several commanders; and such persons are scarce ever called the elders of Israel. Or rather, 2. The chief magistrates and rulers of Israel under Joshua, who are commonly so called; and these, I suppose, went with Joshua, and with the army, to take care that the cattle and the spoil of the city, which was given by God to all Israel for a prey, verses 2 and 27, might be justly and equally divided between those that went to battle, and the rest of the people, according to the example and prescript, Numbers 31:27; and that they who were present and assistant in the taking of that city, might not engross the whole to themselves, as is usual for soldiers in those cases to do.


Verse 11:[7] (Josh. 8:5) And all the people, even the people of war that were with him, went up, and drew nigh, and came before the city, and pitched on the north side of Ai: now there was a valley between them and Ai.

The people of war that were with him, to wit, the thirty thousand mentioned verse 3, or the most of them.

[The middle valley, וְהַגַּי] That is, an eminent one; or that in which the Israelites had previously been slaughtered (Vatablus).


Verse 12:[8] And he took about five thousand men, and set them to lie in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city (or, of Ai[9]).

[Five thousand…in ambush] This ambush was different than the former ambushes in verses 4 and 9 (Munster, Bonfrerius, Hebrews in Masius, Piscator), and was positioned more closely to the city (Munster). He sent this second ambush, so that he might deceived the citizens of the city, that is, lest they should suspect that there was another ambush (Vatablus). But this is absurd. 1. Mention will be made of only one ambush in the capture of the city. 2. Who would do this in the light of day, when the prior ambush, which was more distant, was only able to take the position through darkness (Masius)? [See what things are on verse 3.]

And he took, or, rather, but he had taken, to wit, out of the said number of thirty thousand, for this is added by way of recapitulation and further explication of what is said in general, verse 9.

[1] Hebrew: וַיִּשְׁלָחֵ֣ם יְהוֹשֻׁ֗עַ וַיֵּֽלְכוּ֙ אֶל־הַמַּאְרָ֔ב וַיֵּשְׁב֗וּ בֵּ֧ין בֵּֽית־אֵ֛ל וּבֵ֥ין הָעַ֖י מִיָּ֣ם לָעָ֑י וַיָּ֧לֶן יְהוֹשֻׁ֛עַ בַּלַּ֥יְלָה הַה֖וּא בְּת֥וֹךְ הָעָֽם׃

[2] They are separated by about two miles, but in mountainous terrain.

[3] Hebrew: בְּת֥וֹךְ הָעָֽם׃.

[4] Hebrew: וַיַּשְׁכֵּ֤ם יְהוֹשֻׁ֙עַ֙ בַּבֹּ֔קֶר וַיִּפְקֹ֖ד אֶת־הָעָ֑ם וַיַּ֙עַל ה֜וּא וְזִקְנֵ֧י יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל לִפְנֵ֥י הָעָ֖ם הָעָֽי׃

[5] פָּקַד signifies to muster, or to visit.

[6] Hebrew: הָעָם.

[7] Hebrew: וְכָל־הָעָ֙ם הַמִּלְחָמָ֜ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אִתּ֗וֹ עָלוּ֙ וַֽיִּגְּשׁ֔וּ וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ נֶ֣גֶד הָעִ֑יר וַֽיַּחֲנוּ֙ מִצְּפ֣וֹן לָעַ֔י וְהַגַּ֖י בֵּינ֥וֹ וּבֵין־הָעָֽי׃

[8] Hebrew: וַיִּקַּ֕ח כַּחֲמֵ֥שֶׁת אֲלָפִ֖ים אִ֑ישׁ וַיָּ֙שֶׂם אוֹתָ֜ם אֹרֵ֗ב בֵּ֧ין בֵּֽית־אֵ֛ל וּבֵ֥ין הָעַ֖י מִיָּ֥ם לָעִֽיר׃

[9] לָעַי; thus some Hebrew manuscripts, Targum Jonathan, the Septuagint, and the Vulgate.

Joshua 8:7, 8: Springing the Trap at Ai

Verse 7:[1] Then ye shall rise up from the ambush, and seize upon the city: for the LORD your God will deliver it into your hand.

Ye shall rise up from the ambush, to wit, upon the signal given, of which verse 18.

[And ye shall ravage the city (thus Munster, Tigurinus),וְהוֹרַשְׁתֶּ֖ם אֶת־הָעִ֑יר[2]] And ye shall drive away, that is, ye shall destroy (Vatablus). Ye shall cast them out, and destroy them from the city (thus Jonathan and many Hebrews, Munster). Ye shall expel the city, that is, its survivors, the inhabitants remaining in the city (Drusius out of Junius). But the men of war were not able to be expelled; they had all gone forth, verse 17. Neither were those remaining to be expelled, but to be killed (Piscator). Ye extirpate the city (Jonathan, Arabic); ye shall destroy the city (Syriac).


Verse 8:[3] And it shall be, when ye have taken the city, that ye shall set the city on fire: according to the commandment of the LORD shall ye do. (2 Sam. 13:28) See, I have commanded you.

Ye shall set the city on fire, to wit, part of it, as a sign to their brethren of their success; for the whole city was not burnt now, but afterwards, as is said verse 28.

[As I have commanded[4]] Behold, I have commanded you. He appears to allude obliquely to the example of Achan; to whom it was destruction not to have obeyed the Divine commands (Masius).

[1] Hebrew: וְאַתֶּ֗ם תָּקֻ֙מוּ֙ מֵהָ֣אוֹרֵ֔ב וְהוֹרַשְׁתֶּ֖ם אֶת־הָעִ֑יר וּנְתָנָ֛הּ יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֖ם בְּיֶדְכֶֽם׃

[2] יָרַשׁ, to possess or dispossess, in the Hiphil signifies to cause take possession, or to dispossess.

[3] Hebrew: וְהָיָ֞ה כְּתָפְשְׂכֶ֣ם אֶת־הָעִ֗יר תַּצִּ֤יתוּ אֶת־הָעִיר֙ בָּאֵ֔שׁ כִּדְבַ֥ר יְהוָ֖ה תַּעֲשׂ֑וּ רְא֖וּ צִוִּ֥יתִי אֶתְכֶֽם׃

[4] Hebrew: רְא֖וּ צִוִּ֥יתִי אֶתְכֶֽם׃.

Joshua 8:5, 6: The Frontal Assault at Ai

Verse 5:[1] And I, and all the people that are with me, will approach unto the city: and it shall come to pass, when they come out against us, as at the first, that (Judg. 20:32) we will flee before them…

[The remaining multitude] Hebrew: all the people.[2] By which understand not the whole multitude of Israelites (for it is not likely that the men of Ai were going to come forth, if they had observed such a multitude), but the twenty-five thousand, as was said (Masius).

That are, or, that shall be; for at present he sent them away, verse 9, but he next morning followed them, and joined himself with them, verses 10 and 11. We will flee; I and the twenty-five thousand with me.


Verse 6:[3] (For they will come out after us) till we have drawn (Heb. pulled[4]) them from the city; for they will say, They flee before us, as at the first: therefore we will flee before them.

[Until they be drawn forth, etc., עַ֣ד הַתִּיקֵ֤נוּ אוֹתָם֙ מִן־הָעִ֔יר[5]] Until we pull them away (lead them away, draw them away [Vatablus], remove them [Arabic], draw them out [Masius, Jonathan]) from that city (Junius and Tremellius), outside of the city (Masius).

[1] Hebrew: וַאֲנִ֗י וְכָל־הָעָם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אִתִּ֔י נִקְרַ֖ב אֶל־הָעִ֑יר וְהָיָ֗ה כִּֽי־יֵצְא֤וּ לִקְרָאתֵ֙נוּ֙ כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר בָּרִֽאשֹׁנָ֔ה וְנַ֖סְנוּ לִפְנֵיהֶֽם׃

[2] Hebrew: וְכָל־הָעָם.

[3] Hebrew: וְיָצְא֣וּ אַחֲרֵ֗ינוּ עַ֣ד הַתִּיקֵ֤נוּ אוֹתָם֙ מִן־הָעִ֔יר כִּ֣י יֹֽאמְר֔וּ נָסִ֣ים לְפָנֵ֔ינוּ כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר בָּרִֽאשֹׁנָ֑ה וְנַ֖סְנוּ לִפְנֵיהֶֽם׃

[4] Hebrew: הַתִּיקֵנוּ.

[5] נָתַק, to draw or pull, in the Hiphil signifies to draw or drag away.

Joshua 8:4: Ambush at Ai, Part 2

Verse 4:[1] And he commanded them, saying, Behold, (Judg. 20:29) ye shall lie in wait against the city, even behind the city: go not very far from the city, but be ye all ready…

He commanded them; the same party last spoken of, verse 3, even the five thousand mentioned verse 12. This historical narration seems obscure and intricate, and at first view to make three parties, one of thirty thousand, verse 3; one of five thousand, verse 12, which may seem to be two several ambushes; and a third of all the people, verses 5, 11. But if it be more narrowly and considerately observed, it will appear that there are only two parties engaged in the taking of Ai, and but one ambush, as plainly appears by comparing verse 9 (which manifestly speaks of that party which is mentioned verse 3) with verse 12, which speaks only of five thousand, which is justly supposed to be a part of those thirty thousand named verse 3, and that part which was to lie in ambush; unless we will suppose that there were two ambushes, one of thirty thousand, and the other of five thousand, both lying in wait in the same quarter, even between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai, the only place where the ambush lay, as is said both verse 9 and verses 12 and 13, which seems absurd and incredible. And besides, in the execution of this command, there is mention but of one ambush, verses 12-14, 19, and they are said to consist only of five thousand, verse 12, and they only take and burn the city, verse 19; so that the other supposed ambush of thirty thousand is perfectly vanished and lost, and did nothing in this work; which also is very improbable. And therefore that thirty thousand, verse 3, are the same who are called the people, and the people of war that were with Joshua, verses 5 and 11, which is pitched on the north side of Ai, verses 11 and 13, as the ambush did on the west side; but for any other side of the city, or a third party placed elsewhere about Ai, we read not one word; and therefore it may well be presumed there were no more employed to take it.

[Set ye the ambush behind the city, רְ֠אוּ אַתֶּ֞ם אֹרְבִ֤ים לָעִיר֙ וגו״] See that ye are lying in ambush to the city; be ye not far (Montanus, Jonathan). See, since ye lay an ambush, do not withdraw far (Syriac). Look ye to the city, that is, take precautions for the city on the distant side, lest anyone should bring help to it; or, look to yourselves on that side, lest anyone should surround you. To see sometimes signifies to look out for, even among the Latins. Cicero, “To Trebatius”, thou shalt look to my business; “To Atticus”, let him look to a meal for us, that is, let him take care of, let him provide. Sometimes it signifies to beware, as in Mark 12:38;[2] 13:9;[3] Philippians 3:2[4] (Drusius). Look (attend [Vatablus]) to yourselves; ye shall lie in ambush to the city (Pagnine, Vatablus). See that ye are lying in ambush, who are liers in wait, who are going to lie in ambush to the city (Drusius). Behold, ye shall set an ambush (Munster, similarly the Septuagint, Arabic, Tigurinus, Dutch). רְאֵה signifies behold, Joshua 6:2;[5] Genesis 41:41;[6] 27:27;[7] Zechariah 3:4[8] (Drusius). See, ye must lie in ambush, etc. (Piscator).

[Do not withdraw further] So that ye might be able immediately to enter the city lieft unprotected by its garrison (Masius).

[1] Hebrew: וַיְצַ֙ו אֹתָ֜ם לֵאמֹ֗ר רְ֠אוּ אַתֶּ֞ם אֹרְבִ֤ים לָעִיר֙ מֵאַחֲרֵ֣י הָעִ֔יר אַל־תַּרְחִ֥יקוּ מִן־הָעִ֖יר מְאֹ֑ד וִהְיִיתֶ֥ם כֻּלְּכֶ֖ם נְכֹנִֽים׃

[2] Mark 12:38:  “And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of (βλέπετε/see) the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces…”

[3] Mark 13:9a:  “But take heed to (βλέπετε/see) yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten…”

[4] Philippians 3:2:  “Beware of (βλέπετε/see) dogs, beware of (βλέπετε) evil workers, beware of (βλέπετε) the concision.”

[5] Joshua 6:2:  “And the Lord said unto Joshua, See (רְאֵה), I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour.”

[6] Genesis 41:41:  “And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See (רְאֵה), I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.”

[7] Genesis 27:27:  “And he came near, and kissed him:  and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See (רְאֵה), the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed…”

[8] Zechariah 3:4:  “And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him.  And unto him he said, Behold (רְאֵה), I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.”

Joshua 8:3: Ambush at Ai, Part 1

Verse 3:[1] So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai: and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valour, and sent them away by night.

[And all the army…and thirty thousand chosen men, etc….Set ye the ambush] It is asked here whether there was a twofold ambush. Some affirm this (Rabbi Salomon in Mayer,[2] Bonfrerius). There was one ambush of thirty thousand, another of five thousand (Bonfrerius): the former, so that they might break in upon the city, etc.; the latter, so that they might rush against those fleeing. If you should saythat both ambushes were from the West, I respond that Western side had breadth; therefore, the former were able to be stationed toward the North, the latter toward the South (Bonfrerius on verse 12). But who would think that thirty thousand men were able to occupy a place next to the city for a whole day without the citizens of Ai knowing (Masius)? Responses: 1. They were lying hidden there, not during the day, but at night. 2. They were helped by the darkness of night, the security of the men of Ai elated with the preceding victory, and God, the author and director of the strategy (Bonfrerius) [and that perhaps the citizens, as had previously happened at Jericho, closed the gates, and now secured themselves within the bulwarks]. Others think that there was only one ambush (thus Masius, Calvin). The sense of the passage is such, Joshua arose, and the entire people, so that they might go up to Ai; that is, Joshua was preparing himself, so that he might lead a selection of soldiers against the expedition of Ai. The military men were promptly offering their names to this cause. Therefore, after he had selected thirty thousand out of all, he sent them away by night, not indeed all, but, by synecdoche, certain of them, that is, the five thousand mentioned in verse 12. But I, and those that are with me, etc.,[3] that is, I, with the other twenty-five thousand soldiers, will lure the townspeople, by feigning a retreat, etc. (Masius).

To go up against Ai, that is, to consider and conclude about this expedition of going against Ai; not as if all the people of war did actually go up, which was both unnecessary and burdensome, and might hinder their following design; but it seems to be resolved by Joshua and all the council of war, that the thirty thousand here following should be selected for the enterprise. Either, 1. The thirty thousand now mentioned; or, 2. Part of them, to wit, such as were to lie in wait, as seems most probable, both from the next verse, which limits it to those who were to lie in wait, and from verse 9, where what is here mentioned only by anticipation is actually put in execution; and it is said of them that were sent forth, that they went to lie in ambush, and did so; and these were only five thousand men, as is expressed, verse 12. And the only inconvenience of this exposition is, that the pronoun relative them is put without, or before its antecedent, which is left to be gathered out of the following words, which is not unusual in the Hebrew tongue, as plainly appears from Exodus 14:19; Numbers 18:9; 24:17; Psalm 87:1; 105:19; 114:2; Proverbs 7:8; 14:26.

[By night] This is characteristic of a circumspect General; as he does not fear the enemy in a cowardly fashion, neither does he rashly despise him. He did not doubt of victory. But the industry of men ought not to grow slack on account of the works of God. Then, God commanded an ambush to be set. It would not be such, unless they had taken their place without the city knowing (Masius).

[1] Hebrew: וַיָּ֧קָם יְהוֹשֻׁ֛עַ וְכָל־עַ֥ם הַמִּלְחָמָ֖ה לַעֲל֣וֹת הָעָ֑י וַיִּבְחַ֣ר יְ֠הוֹשֻׁעַ שְׁלֹשִׁ֙ים אֶ֤לֶף אִישׁ֙ גִּבּוֹרֵ֣י הַחַ֔יִל וַיִּשְׁלָחֵ֖ם לָֽיְלָה׃

[2] Little is known of the life of John Mayer.  He was an Anglican churchman and scholar, but ill health appears to have kept him from public functions.  He wrote a seven-volume commentary on the Bible, digesting the commentators that preceded him.  Mayer completed his work on the commentary in 1653.

[3] Verse 5.

Joshua 8:2: God’s Promise and Command concerning Ai, Part 2

Verse 2:[1] And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto (Josh. 6:21) Jericho and her king: only (Deut. 20:14) the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves: lay thee an ambush for the city behind it.

[And thou shalt do to Ai] Under the name of the city he includes its citizens, as it is evident from verse 24. Question: Why did God command this, while He conceded that the places of the Canaanites were to be inhabited by the Israelites, Deuteronomy 19:1? Responses: 1. The enemy was not yet suppressed to such an extent that it was well-advised that any fortified places remain, which were able to be a place of retreat for him. 2. To hold citadels and towns as garrisons before the great part of the war was finished was nothing other than to increase their confidence in themselves, to diminish their confidence in God. But God will that the Israelites trues in Him alone (Masius).

To Ai, that is, the city and people of Ai. As thou didst unto Jericho and her king, that is, overcome and destroy them. This was enjoined, partly to chastise their last insolence, and the triumphs and blasphemies which doubtless their success produced; and partly to revive the dread and terror which had been impressed upon the Canaanites by Jericho’s ruin, and had been much abated by the late success of Ai, and their confidence and expectation of further and greater success much raised.

[The prey…ye shall divide among yourselves] That yourselves is to be noted: He does not say, to the General alone, or to some tribunes, etc. For it is just that where there are common dangers, there also the benefits are common. With this plunder God recreated them, lest they should think that they were going to join in battle with the enemy perpetually for nothing (Masius).

[Set an ambush] Interpreters ask here whether it is lawful to make use of stratagems in war. Some hold the affirmative (Masius, Serarius, Beza, Grotius). For, …Who asks whether the enemy was defeated by strategy or valor?[2] See what things we have in Concerning the Law of War and Peace 3:1:6 (Grotius). The difficulty is created by the fact that in these there is an appearance of lying: for lying in deed is no less than lying in speech. Therefore, to feign flight and fear so that you might draw an enemy into an ambush, what else is that but to lie? And thus falsehood could be ascribed, not only to Joshua, but also to God (Bonfrerius). Responses: 1. To conceal my counsels from an enemy is not to lie (Masius). 2. Joshua was able, etc., to flee, not with the intention of deceiving, but so that he might manage the affair in keeping with God’s commandment, or with the intention of occupying a more advantageous place for fighting, even if he might foresee that the enemies were going to be deceived, unto which he was relating himself permissively. 3. God rightly commands anything indifferent of itself, by which He was foreseeing that these impious Canaanites were to be confused and deceived, which He decides to permit for their punishment (Bonfrerius). 4. There was no injustice here, neither is faith, given to the enemy, broken. 5. Lying is not so easily committed in deeds as in words, as Cajetan rightly observes. For words have a determined and precise significance, to which they are directed: But deeds have a broad and ambiguous significance. Joshua was not lying, because he intended what he was signifying by his deed, namely, to draw them out of the city, etc. He knew that the men of Ai were going to interpret it otherwise, that is, that he flees for fear of death, and therefore that they were going to be deceived: but this deception of them he did not signify by his deed, nor intend formally, but he merely permitted it to be done (Lapide).

[Behind it] That is, on the Western side, as in verse 9 (Vatablus, Masius). For those things were decided in the camp, in the East (Masius).

[1] Hebrew: וְעָשִׂ֙יתָ לָעַ֜י וּלְמַלְכָּ֗הּ כַּאֲשֶׁ֙ר עָשִׂ֤יתָ לִֽירִיחוֹ֙ וּלְמַלְכָּ֔הּ רַק־שְׁלָלָ֥הּ וּבְהֶמְתָּ֖הּ תָּבֹ֣זּוּ לָכֶ֑ם שִׂים־לְךָ֥ אֹרֵ֛ב לָעִ֖יר מֵאַחֲרֶֽיהָ׃

[2] Virgil’s Æneid 2:390.