Joshua 8:23-26: The Disposal of Ai, Part 1

Verse 23:[1] And the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him to Joshua.

[The king they apprehended alive] Whether of their own will, or having been commanded beforehand to do this, so that he might die by an extraordinary sort of punishment, for the terror of the other Kings. For the common people hang upon the sentence of their Kings, and most are imitators of their life rather than devotees of laws. Therefore, by law such were condemned to a severer judgment (Masius). It is the custom of the peoples that a captured Kings yields to the King or General of the army, who renders a recompense to his captors (Grotius).

The king of Ai they took alive: Reserving him to a peculiar and more ignominious punishment, for the terror of the other kings, who were the chief causes of all that opposition and disturbance which Israel met with in gaining the possession of the Promised Land.


Verse 24:[2] And it came to pass, when Israel had made an end of slaying all the inhabitants of Ai in the field, in the wilderness wherein they chased them, and when they were all fallen on the edge of the sword, until they were consumed, that all the Israelites returned unto Ai, and smote it with the edge of the sword.

[Heading toward the wilderness, etc., בַּשָּׂדֶ֗ה בַּמִּדְבָּר֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר רְדָפ֣וּם בּ֔וֹ] Verbatim: in the field, in the wilderness which they had pursued them in it (Montanus); in the field, that is, in the wilderness, whither they had pursued them (namely, the Israelites [Vatablus]) in it (Pagnine, Vatablus); in the field (plain [Tigurinus]) of the wilderness where they pursued them (Munster, Tigurinus). But the Syriac encloses this in parentheses, and thus renders it, (for in the fields and in the wilderness they pursued them) (Syriac).

[They smote the city] Hebrew: they smote it[3] (Munster, Montanus, similarly the ancients), the remains of it (Junius and Tremellius), it, that is, the men that were in it (Piscator).

And smote it: that is, The inhabitants of it, the men, who through age or infirmity were unfit for war, and the women, verse 25.


Verse 25:[4] And so it was, that all that fell that day, both of men and women, were twelve thousand, even all the men of Ai.

[Twelve thousand] Numbered here are, either, 1. only those that were killed in the city (certain interpreters in Malvenda): or, 2. only the men of Ai, because it is expressly said, all (the inhabitants) of the city of Ai (Bonfrerius): or, 3. the men both of Ai and of Beth-el, which is more probable because of the narration of the scouts: whereby the madness of the men of Ai is greater, who so rashly set themselves against so great a people; and the counsel of God more admirable, who willed His own to conquer, although far superior in number, yet by stratagem, not by force, lest they should ascribe the glory of the victory to themselves, rather than to Him (Masius).

Twelve thousand, even all the men of Ai: Not strictly, but largely so called, who were now in Ai, either as constant and settled inhabitants, or as sojourners, and such as came to them for their help, such as being confederate with them are esteemed as one with them; for it is evident that the men of Beth-el are included in this number, verse 17, the Israelites who took this number being unable to distinguish who belonged to the one city, and who to the other.


Verse 26:[5] For Joshua drew not his hand back, wherewith he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai.

[He did not draw in his hand] He did not draw back, or retract, his hand (Vatablus, Masius), that is, he did not lay aside the lance that he was holding in his hand (Vatablus): which would have been a sign of retreat. Others: that is to say, energetically and strenuously he fought (Masius). [See what things are on verse 18.]

Joshua drew not his hand back, etc.: Either, 1. He ceased not to fight with that hand. Or, 2. He kept his hand and spear in the same posture, both stretched out and lifted up, as a sign both to encourage them, and to direct them to go on in the work. See on verse 18.

[Until they were destroyed, עַ֚ד אֲשֶׁ֣ר הֶחֱרִ֔ים] Until he destroyed (Montanus, similarly the Syriac), had consumed (Jonathan), extirpated (Munster, similarly the Arabic); right until he had devoted to destruction (Junius and Tremellius), that is, as he had destroyed those devoted to God. It is able to be translated, he had destroyed by slaughter. Hebrew: he had anathematized (Piscator).

[1] Hebrew: וְאֶת־מֶ֥לֶךְ הָעַ֖י תָּ֣פְשׂוּ חָ֑י וַיַּקְרִ֥בוּ אֹת֖וֹ אֶל־יְהוֹשֻֽׁעַ׃

[2] Hebrew: וַיְהִ֣י כְּכַלּ֣וֹת יִשְׂרָאֵ֡ל לַהֲרֹג֩ אֶת־כָּל־יֹשְׁבֵ֙י הָעַ֜י בַּשָּׂדֶ֗ה בַּמִּדְבָּר֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר רְדָפ֣וּם בּ֔וֹ וַֽיִּפְּל֥וּ כֻלָּ֛ם לְפִי־חֶ֖רֶב עַד־תֻּמָּ֑ם וַיָּשֻׁ֤בוּ כָל־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ הָעַ֔י וַיַּכּ֥וּ אֹתָ֖הּ לְפִי־חָֽרֶב׃

[3] Hebrew: וַיַּכּ֥וּ אֹתָ֖הּ.

[4] Hebrew: וַיְהִי֩ כָל־הַנֹּ֙פְלִ֜ים בַּיּ֤וֹם הַהוּא֙ מֵאִ֣ישׁ וְעַד־אִשָּׁ֔ה שְׁנֵ֥ים עָשָׂ֖ר אָ֑לֶף כֹּ֖ל אַנְשֵׁ֥י הָעָֽי׃

[5] Hebrew: וִיהוֹשֻׁ֙עַ֙ לֹֽא־הֵשִׁ֣יב יָד֔וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר נָטָ֖ה בַּכִּיד֑וֹן עַ֚ד אֲשֶׁ֣ר הֶחֱרִ֔ים אֵ֖ת כָּל־יֹשְׁבֵ֥י הָעָֽי׃

1 thought on “Joshua 8:23-26: The Disposal of Ai, Part 1

  1. Matthew Henry: “We have here an account of the improvement which the Israelites made of their victory over Ai…. They put all to the sword, not only in the field, but in the city, man, woman, and child, none of them remained, Joshua 8:24. God, the righteous Judge, had passed this sentence upon them for their wickedness, so that the Israelites were only the ministers of his justice and the executioners of his doom. Once in this story, and but once, mention is made of the men of Bethel, as confederates with the men of Ai, Joshua 8:17. Though they had a king of their own, and were not subjects to the king of Ai (for the king of Bethel is reckoned among the thirty-one kings that Joshua destroyed, Joshua 12:16), yet Ai being a stronger place they threw themselves into that, for their own safety, and the strengthening of their neighbours’ hands, and so (we may presume) were all cut off with them; thus that by which they hoped to prevent their own ruin hastened it. The whole number of the slain, it seems, was but 12,000, an inconsiderable body to make head against all the thousands of Israel; but those whom God will destroy he infatuates. Here it is said (Joshua 8:26) that Joshua drew not his hand back wherewith he stretched out the spear (Joshua 8:18) till the slaughter was completed. Some think the spear he stretched out was not to slay the enemies, but to animate and encourage his own soldiers, some flag or ensign being hung out at the end of this spear; and they observe it as an instance of his self-denial that though the fire of courage wherewith his breast was filled would have pushed him forward, sword in hand, into the hottest of the action, yet, in obedience to God, he kept the inferior post of a standard-bearer, and did not quit it till the work was done. By the spear stretched out, he directed the people to expect their help from God, and to him to give the praise.”

Leave a Reply to Johnuse Cancel reply