Joshua 7:16-18: The Lot Closes in on Achan

Verse 16:[1] So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken…

[It was found] Understanding, to have withheld from the anathema (Vatablus).


Verse 17:[2] And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken…

[According to their families] Hebrew: the family of Judah,[3] that is, the Tribe. Thus Judges 13:2, the family of the Danites; Acts 3:25, πᾶσαι αἱ πατριαὶ τῆς γῆς, all the kindreds of the earth, that is, families; and elsewhere, the family which thou leddest out of Egypt[4] (Drusius).

The family of Judah; either, 1. The tribe or people, as the word family sometimes signifies, as Judges 13:2; Zechariah 12:13; Amos 3:1; Acts 3:25, compared with Revelation 1:7. Or, 2. The families, as Joshua 7:14, the singular number for the plural, the chief of each of their five families, Numbers 26:20, 21. Man by man; not every individual person, as is evident from Joshua 7:18, but every head of the several houses or lesser families of that greater family of the Zarhites, of which see 1 Chronicles 2:6.


Verse 18:[5] And he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, (1 Sam. 14:42) was taken.

He; either Joshua, or Zabdi by Joshua’s appointment.

[Dividing into individual men, לַגְּבָרִים] Man by man, that is, by the houses of the fathers (Drusius). It signifies the leaders of the families (Vatablus).

[1] Hebrew: וַיַּשְׁכֵּ֤ם יְהוֹשֻׁ֙עַ֙ בַּבֹּ֔קֶר וַיַּקְרֵ֥ב אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לִשְׁבָטָ֑יו וַיִּלָּכֵ֖ד שֵׁ֥בֶט יְהוּדָֽה׃

[2] Hebrew: וַיַּקְרֵב֙ אֶת־מִשְׁפַּ֣חַת יְהוּדָ֔ה וַיִּלְכֹּ֕ד אֵ֖ת מִשְׁפַּ֣חַת הַזַּרְחִ֑י וַיַּקְרֵ֞ב אֶת־מִשְׁפַּ֤חַת הַזַּרְחִי֙ לַגְּבָרִ֔ים וַיִּלָּכֵ֖ד זַבְדִּֽי׃

[3] Hebrew: אֶת־מִשְׁפַּ֣חַת יְהוּדָ֔ה.

[4] Amos 3:1 may be in view.

[5] Hebrew: וַיַּקְרֵ֥ב אֶת־בֵּית֖וֹ לַגְּבָרִ֑ים וַיִּלָּכֵ֗ד עָכָ֞ן בֶּן־כַּרְמִ֧י בֶן־זַבְדִּ֛י בֶּן־זֶ֖רַח לְמַטֵּ֥ה יְהוּדָֽה׃

2 thoughts on “Joshua 7:16-18: The Lot Closes in on Achan

  1. Matthew Henry: “We have in these verses…[t]he discovery of Achan by the lot, which proved a perfect lot, though it proceeded gradually. Though we may suppose that Joshua slept the better, and with more ease and satisfaction, when he knew the worst of the disease of that body of which, under God, he was the head, and was put into a certain method of cure, yet he rose up early in the morning (Joshua 7:16), so much was his heart upon it, to put away the accursed thing. We have found Joshua upon other occasions an early riser; here it shows his zeal and vehement desire to see Israel restored to the divine favour. In the scrutiny observe, 1. That the guilty tribe was that of Judah, which was, and was to be, of all the tribes, the most honourable and illustrious; this was an alloy to their dignity, and might serve as a check to their pride: many there were who were its glories, but here was one that was its reproach. Let not the best families think it strange if there be those found in them, and descending from them, that prove their grief and shame. Judah was to have the first and largest lot in Canaan; the more inexcusable is one of that tribe if, not content to wait for his own share, he break in upon God’s property. The Jews’ tradition is that when the tribe of Judah was taken the valiant men of that tribe drew their swords, and professed they would not sheathe them again till they saw the criminal punished and themselves cleared who knew their own innocency. 2. That the guilty person was at length fastened upon, and the language of the lot was, Thou art the man, Joshua 7:18. It was strange that Achan, being conscious to himself of guilt, when he saw the lot come nearer and nearer to him, had not either the wit to make an escape or the grace to make a confession; but his heart was hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, and it proved to be to his own destruction. We may well imagine how his countenance changed, and what horror and confusion seized him when he was singled out as the delinquent, when the eyes of all Israel were fastened upon him, and every one was ready to say, Have we found thee, O our enemy? See here, (1.) The folly of those that promise themselves secrecy in sin: the righteous God has many ways of bringing to light the hidden works of darkness, and so bringing to shame and ruin those that continue their fellowship with those unfruitful works. A bird of the air, when God pleases, shall carry the voice, Ecclesiastes 10:20. See Psalm 94:7, etc. (2.) How much it is our concern, when God is contending with us, to find out what the cause of action is, what the particular sin is, that, like Achan, troubles our camp. We must thus examine ourselves and carefully review the records of conscience, that we may find out the accursed thing, and pray earnestly with holy Job, Lord, show me wherefore thou contendest with me. Discover the traitor and he shall be no longer harboured.”

  2. Lewis Bayly, “Practice of Piety”: “As soon as thou perceivest thyself to be visited with any sickness, meditate with thyself: …Shut to thy chamber door (Matthew 6:6;) examine thy own heart upon thy bed (Psalm 4:4); search and try thy ways (Lamentations 3:40); search as diligently for thy capital sin as Joshua did for Achan, till thou findest it (Joshua 7:16, etc.). For albeit God, when he beginneth to chasten his children, hath respect to all their sins, yet when his anger is incensed, he chiefly taketh occasion to chasten, and enter with them into judgment for some one grievous sin, in which they have lived without repentance.”

    When thou hast thus considered all thy sins, put thyself before the judgment-seat of God, as a felon or murderer standing at the bar of an earthly judge; and with grief and sorrow of heart confess to God all thy known sins, especially thy capital offences, wherewith God is chiefly displeased. Lay them open, with all the circumstances of the time, place, and manner how they were committed, as may most serve to aggravate the heinousness of thy sins, and to shew the contrition of thy heart for the same. Lift up thy hand, and acknowledge thyself before the righteous Judge of heaven and earth, guilty of eternal death and damnation for those thy heinous sins and transgressions. And having thus accused and judged thyself, cast down thyself before the footstool of his throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16), assuring thyself, that whatsoever the kings of Israel be, yet the God of Israel is a merciful God (1 Kings 20:31); and cry unto him, from a penitent and faithful heart, for mercy and forgiveness, as eagerly and earnestly as ever thou knewest a malefactor, being to receive his sentence, cry unto the judge for favour and pardon; vowing amendment of life, and, by the assistance of his grace, never to commit the like sin any more. All which thou mayest do in these or the like words:—

    A Prayer when one begins to be sick: O most righteous Judge, yet in Jesus Christ my gracious Father! I, wretched sinner, do here return unto thee, though driven with pain and sickness, like the prodigal child with want and hunger. I acknowledge that this sickness and pain comes not by blind chance or fortune, but by thy divine providence and special appointment. It is the stroke of thy heavy hand, which my sins have justly deserved; and the things that I feared are now fallen upon me (Job 3:26.) Yet do I well perceive that in wrath thou rememberest mercy (Habakkuk 3:2), when I consider how many and how heinous are my sins, and how few and easy are thy corrections. Thou mightest have stricken me with some fearful and sudden death, whereby I should not have had either time or space to have called upon thee for grace and mercy; and so should have perished in my sins, and have been for ever condemned in hell.

    But thou, O Lord, visitest me with such a fatherly chastisement, as thou usest to visit thy dearest children whom thou best lovedst; giving me, by this sickness, both warning and time to repent, and to sue unto thee for grace and pardon. I take not, therefore, O Lord, this thy visitation as any sign of thy wrath or hatred, but as an assured pledge and token of thy favour and lovingkindness, whereby thou dost with thy temporal judgments draw me to judge myself, and to repent of my wicked life, that I should not be condemned with the godless and unrepentant world. For thy holy word assures me, that ‘whom thou lowest, thou thus chastenest; and that thou scourgest every son that thou receivest.’ That if I endure thy chastening, thou offerest thyself unto me as unto a son; and that all that continue in sin, and yet escape without correction, whereof all thy children are partakers, are bastards and not Sons; and that thou chastenest me for my profit, that I may be a partaker of thy holiness. O Lord, how full of goodness is thy nature, that hast dealt with me so graciously in the time of my health and prosperity; and now, being provoked by my sins and unthankfulness, hast such fatherly and profitable ends in inflicting upon me this sickness and correction!

    I confess, Lord, that thou dost justly afflict my body with sickness, for my soul was sick before of a long prosperity, and surfeited with ease, peace, plenty, and fulness of bread. And now, O Lord, I lament and mourn for my sins; ‘I acknowledge my wickedness, and my iniquities are always in my sight.’ Oh what a wretched sinner am I, void of all goodness by nature, and full of evil by sinful custom! Oh what a world of sin have I committed against thee, whilst thy long-sufferance expected my conversion, and thy blessings wooed me to repentance! Yet, O my God, seeing it is thy property more to respect the goodness of thy own nature than the deserts of sinners, I beseech thee, O Father, for thy Son Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the merits of that all-saving death which he hath voluntarily suffered for all who believe in him, have mercy upon me, according to the multitude of thy mercies; turn thy face away from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities: cast me not out of thy presence, neither reward me according to my deserts: for if thou dost reject me, who will receive me? Or who will succour me, if thou dost forsake me? But thou, O Lord, art the helper of the helpless, and in thee the fatherless findeth mercy (Hosea 14:3): for though my sins be exceeding great, yet thy mercy, O Lord, far exceedeth them all; neither can I commit so many as thy grace can remit and pardon. Wash, therefore, O Christ, my sins with the virtue of thy precious blood, especially those sins which from a penitent heart I have confessed unto thee; but chiefly, O Lord, forgive me. [1] And seeing that of thy love thou didst lay down thy life for my ransom, when I was thine enemy, O save now the price of thine own blood, when it shall cost thee but a smile upon me, or a gracious appearance in thy Father’s sight in my behalf. Reconcile me once again, O merciful Mediator, unto thy Father; for though there be nothing in me that can please him, yet I know that in thee, and for thy sake, he is well pleased with all whom thou acceptest and lovest. And if it be thy blessed will, remove this sickness from me, and restore to me my former health again, that I may live longer to set forth thy glory, and to be a comfort to my friends who depend upon me, and to procure to myself a more settled assurance of that heavenly inheritance which thou hast prepared for me. And then, Lord, thou shalt see how religiously and wisely I shall redeem the time, which heretofore I have so lewdly and profanely spent. And to the end that I may the sooner and the easier be delivered from this pain and sickness, direct me, O Lord, I beseech thee, by thy divine providence, to such a physician and helper, as that, by thy blessing upon the means, I may recover my former health and welfare again. And, good Lord, vouchsafe, that as thou hast sent this sickness to me, so thou wouldst likewise be pleased to send thy Holy Spirit into my heart, whereby this present sickness may be sanctified unto me; that I may use it as thy school, wherein I may learn to know the greatness of my misery and the riches of thy mercy; that I may be so humbled at the one, that I despair not of the other; and that I may so renounce all confidence of help in myself, or in any other creature, that I may only put the whole rest of my salvation in thy all-sufficient merits. And forasmuch as thou knowest, Lord, how weak a vessel I am, full of frailty and imperfections, and that by nature I am angry and froward under every cross and affliction, O Lord, who art the giver of all good gifts, arm me with patience to endure thy blessed will and pleasure, and of thy mercy lay no more upon me than I shall be able to endure and suffer. Give me grace to behave myself in all patience, love, and meekness, unto those that shall come and visit me; that I may thankfully receive, and willingly embrace all good counsels and consolations from them; and that they may likewise see in me such a good example of patience, and hear from me such godly lessons of comfort as may be arguments of my Christian faith and profession, and instructions unto them how to behave themselves when it shall please thee to visit them with the like affliction of sickness. I know, O Lord, I have deserved to die; and I desire not longer to live, than to amend my wicked life, and in some better measure to set forth thy glory. Therefore, O Father, if it be thy blessed will, restore me to health again, and grant me a longer life. But if thou hast, according to thy eternal decree, appointed by this sickness to call for me out of this transitory life, I resign myself into thy hands, and holy pleasure; thy blessed will be done, whether it be by life or by death. Only I beseech thee of thy mercy forgive me all my sins, and prepare my poor soul, that by a true faith and unfeigned repentance, she may be ready against the time that thou shalt call for her out of my sick and sinful body. O heavenly Father, who art the hearer of prayer, hear thou in heaven this my prayer, and in this extremity grant me these requests, not for any worthiness that is in me, but for the merits of thy beloved Son Jesus, my only Saviour and Mediator, for whose sake thou hast promised to hear us, and to grant whatsoever we shall ask of thee in his name. In his name, therefore…I conclude this my imperfect supplication….”

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