Joshua 7:11: God’s Explanation of the Defeat at Ai, Part 2

Verse 11:[1] (Josh. 7:1) Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: (Josh. 6:17, 18) for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and (see Acts 5:1, 2) dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.

[Israel has sinned] One of Israel (Lapide, Talmudists in Masius). Rather, the children of Israel. For the sin of one member is often imputed to the whole body (Drusius, similarly Masius). So that God might apply the remedy, He reveals the ills. We are rightly cured from ills only after we have a knowledge of them, having been closely examined (Malvenda).

Israel; some or one of them, as before on Joshua 7:1.

[It has transgressed my covenant] Either, because the obedience that they had promised in the covenant, Exodus 19:8; 24:7, they did not yield (Junius, Drusius); or, because they acted against my interdict (Drusius). Hence it is evident that the General did not set forth that law concerning the anathema by his own will, but by the command of God (Masius). He aggravates the offense here by degrees. They offended grievously. 1. They saved things that it was necessary to have destroyed. 2. And they took them for themselves privately. 3. And that secretly, as if anything is able to be done without my knowledge. 4. Moreover, they tried to deceive with lies. 5. They persevered in purpose, with those things stored among their furniture. Thus it is able to be translated; for also they have taken…indeed, also they have stolen, indeed also they have lied, indeed also they have stored, etc. (Piscator).

[And they have lied, וְגַ֣ם כִּֽחֲשׁ֔וּ] And also they denied (Jonathan, Arabic, Montanus), they lied (Syriac, Junius and Tremellius). Either, 1. not in word, but in deed (Lapide): by not bringing into the Lord’s treasury what he ought (Malvenda out of Junius). Or, 2. because, with Joshua preventing lest they seize upon anything of the cursed thing, all, either expressly or tacitly, are seen to promise that they were going to oblige him (Bonfrerius). All had promised that they would take nothing of the cursed thing, Joshua 6:17-20 (Menochius out of Serarius). Or, 3. inasmuch as they denied that they took it (Vatablus, Drusius). Perhaps some asked Achan concerning the cursed thing (Drusius). Or, all having been asked whether they had taken anything denied (certain interpreters in Malvenda). Or, 4. because purpose was to deny by lying, if anyone had asked (Drusius).

[And they have hidden among the stuff[2]] There are those that think his tent to be signified (Drusius); in which they had buried those things (Kimchi in Masius). I rather translate it, they stored it among their own furniture (Masius, similarly Vatablus), which he calls vessels. Ἐνοσφίσαντο (Septuagint), they converted it unto their own use (Drusius). They mixed it with their own things, persisting in their sin (Malvenda out of Junius). It is to be observed how gravely God charges that with sin, which could appear slight, being conjoined with the injury of no man, and hence how no hope of salvation would remain to us, if God should treat with us according to perfect justice, Psalm 143:2 (Masius).

Transgressed my covenant, that is, broken the conditions of my covenant which I have commanded them, and they have promised to perform, namely, obedience to all my commands, Exodus 19:8; 24:7, whereof this was one, not to meddle with the accursed thing. Of the accursed thing, which I charged them not to meddle with. And have also stolen, that is, taken my portion which I had reserved, Joshua 6:19. Dissembled; covered the fact with deep dissimulation, and a real, if not verbal, profession of their innocency. Possibly Achan might be suspected; and being accused, had denied it, or was resolved to deny it. Put it even among their own stuff; converted it to their own use, and added obstinacy and resolvedness to the crime; thus he loads this sin with divers aggravations.

[1] Hebrew: חָטָא֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְגַם֙ עָבְר֣וּ אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֔י אֲשֶׁ֥ר צִוִּ֖יתִי אוֹתָ֑ם וְגַ֤ם לָֽקְחוּ֙ מִן־הַחֵ֔רֶם וְגַ֤ם גָּֽנְבוּ֙ וְגַ֣ם כִּֽחֲשׁ֔וּ וְגַ֖ם שָׂ֥מוּ בִכְלֵיהֶֽם׃

[2] Hebrew: וְגַ֖ם שָׂ֥מוּ בִכְלֵיהֶֽם׃.

2 thoughts on “Joshua 7:11: God’s Explanation of the Defeat at Ai, Part 2

  1. Matthew Henry: “God informs Joshua of the true and only cause of this disaster, and shows him wherefore he contended with them (Joshua 7:11): Israel hath sinned. ‘Think not that God’s mind is changed, his arm shortened, or his promise about to fail; no, it is sin, it is sin, that great mischief-maker, that has stopped the current of divine favours and has made this breach upon you.’ The sinner is not named, though the sin is described, but it is spoken of as the act of Israel in general, till they have fastened it upon the particular person, and their godly sorrow have so wrought a clearing of themselves, as theirs did, 2 Corinthians 7:11. Observe how the sin is here made to appear exceedingly sinful. 1. They have transgressed my covenant, an express precept with a penalty annexed to it. It was agreed that God should have all the spoil of Jericho, and they should have the spoil of the rest of the cities of Canaan; but, in robbing God of his part, they transgressed this covenant. 2. They have even taken of the devoted thing, in contempt of the curse which was so solemnly denounced against him that should dare to break in upon God’s property, as if that curse had nothing in it formidable. 3. They have also stolen; they did it clandestinely, as if they could conceal it from the divine omniscience, and they were ready to say, The Lord shall not see, or will not miss so small a matter out of so great a spoil. Thus thou thoughtest I was altogether such a one as thyself. 4. They have dissembled also. Probably, when the action was over, Joshua called all the tribes, and asked them whether they had faithfully disposed of the spoil according to the divine command, and charged them, if they knew of any transgression, that they should discover it, but Achan joined with the rest in a general protestation of innocency, and kept his countenance, like the adulterous woman that eats and wipes her mouth, and says, I have done no wickedness. Nay, 5. They have put the accursed thing among their own goods, as if they had as good a title to that as to any thing they have, never expecting to be called to an account, nor designing to make restitution. All this Joshua, though a wise and vigilant ruler, knew nothing of, till God told him, who knows all the secret wickedness that is in the world, which men know nothing of God could at this time have told him who the person was that had done this thing, but he does not, (1.) To exercise the zeal of Joshua and Israel, in searching out the criminal. (2.) To give the sinner himself space to repent and make confession. Joshua no doubt proclaimed it immediately throughout the camp that there was such a transgression committed, upon which, if Achan had surrendered himself, and penitently owned his guilt, and prevented the scrutiny, who knows but he might have had the benefit of that law which accepted of a trespass-offering, with restitution, from those that had sinned through ignorance in the holy things of the law? Leviticus 5:15, 16. But Achan never discovering himself till the lot discovered him evidenced the hardness of his heart, and therefore he found no mercy.”

  2. Jonathan Edwards, “Hope and Comfort usually follow Genuine Humiliation and Repentance”: “…search and endeavour to find out the troubler. You have heard that when the godly are in darkness, it is not for want of love in God to them, or a readiness in him to give them comfort; but that sin is doubtless the cause of their darkness in one way or another. Their troubler lies at their own door. There is doubtless some troubler in the camp, which causes God to withdraw. And therefore if you would have light revive, and have the comfortable presence of God again, the first thing which you do must be to search, and find out the troubler. Many, when they are in darkness, proceed in a wrong way. They go to examining past experience. And that they should do; but what is wrong in it is, that they do that only. They spend their time in seeking for something in themselves which is good; whereas they ought to spend more of it in seeking out that which is bad. Whatever good there is, they are never likely to find it out, till they find out the sin which obscures and hides it. And whatever they reflect upon, which they formerly thought was good, is not likely to afford any satisfaction to them, till that bad thing be removed out of the way which troubled them. They wonder what the cause is, that they are so in the dark. They verily thought in time past, that they were right, and that they had experienced a right work of God’s Spirit on their hearts, and thought that they were the children of God. But now God hides his face from them, and they wonder what is the matter; as Joshua seemed to be astonished when Israel was smitten down at Ai. Sometimes they almost conclude, that it is because they are not the children of God. They pray to God to renew his comforts to them, and spend much time. And they ought to pray. But they have more need to do something else. Joshua spent a great deal of time in prayer when Israel was troubled. He fell upon his face till eventide, complaining to God about his withdrawing from them. But God says to him, Joshua 7:10, 11, ‘Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?’ As much as to say, you had more need to be doing something else, than lie there. ‘Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant, which I commanded them; for they have even taken of the accursed thing’ [Joshua 7:11]. And Josh 7:13, ‘Up, … sanctify yourselves.’ This teaches you, who are under darkness, and have your hopes darkened, and comforts deadened, what you should do. You must arise and search, and find out the troubler. If you do not do this, it will signify nothing to you to lie crying and complaining to God about your darkness. You have other business which you have more need to do, though prayer should not be left undone. Let me beseech you, therefore, to be thorough in this. You have need to be thorough, for it is an exceedingly difficult thing to find out the accursed thing in such cases. Men’s hearts do like Achan, who hid the accursed thing in the earth in the midst of his tent, Joshua 7:21. He hid it very closely. He did not content himself with hiding it in the most secret place in his tent, but he dug in the ground and buried it in the earth under his feet, that there might be no sign of it above ground. So are men’s deceitful hearts wont to hide the accursed thing which troubles them. When they are put upon searching for the cause of their trouble and darkness, they think of one thing and another, but commonly overlook the chief cause of all their trouble. It does not so much as enter their minds. They search the tent, but that is not enough; they must search the very ground, or they will not find it out. When they tell of their darkness, and are put upon searching to see whether some sinful way is not the cause, they readily own that it is their fault. But yet they mistake the true Achan, notwithstanding all they confess of the corruption of their hearts. It is not merely corruption in their hearts, working in their thoughts, which is the cause; but it is some way of outward sin and wickedness, in which they have of late in a great measure allowed themselves. That is the principal cause of their trouble; some way of pride, or covetousness, or some way of envy, or evil-speaking, or ill will to their neighbours, or self-will, or some other way of unsuitable carriage, which is the chief cause of their darkness. In some respects, it is a great deal easier to find out little sins than greater sins, which causes many to strain at a gnat who swallow a camel. Sins which are common to all, and of which all complain, such as corrupt workings of heart, they are willing to feel that it is no disgrace to have them. And the godly commonly tell of such things, and it does not affright them to see them. But such things as malice, a proud behaviour, and many other things which might be mentioned, are disagreeable. They are not willing to see such things in themselves. They therefore call them by good names, and put good constructions on them, and hide them, as Achan did his accursed thing underground. The sin which troubles them most, has greatest possession of their hearts, and does most blind and prejudice their minds, is passed over. They can soon enough discover and see such things in others, in one of an opposite party, or the like, but they cannot see them in themselves; and so they continue still under darkness. It is an exceedingly difficult thing to find out the troubler. You have need, therefore, to be exceedingly thorough in searching for this matter, and not to spare yourself, or bribe your conscience at all, but labour to be impartial in the search. And to induce you to this, consider what God said to Joshua, Joshua 7:12, ‘Neither will I be with you any more, unless you destroy the accursed thing from among you.'”

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