King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Joshua 7

The Israelites smitten at Ai. (1-5) Joshua’s humiliation and prayer. (6-9) God instructs Joshua what to do. (10-5) Achan is detected, He is destroyed. (16-26)

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The Israelites smitten at Ai

1 But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.

2 And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai.

3 And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few.

4 So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai.

5 And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.

Joshua’s humiliation and prayer

6 And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads.

7 And Joshua said, Alas, O LORD God, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan!

8 O LORD, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies!

9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?

God instructs Joshua what to do

10 And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?

11 Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.

12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.

13 Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith the LORD God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.

14 In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to your tribes: and it shall be, that the tribe which the LORD taketh shall come according to the families thereof; and the family which the LORD shall take shall come by households; and the household which the LORD shall take shall come man by man.

15 And it shall be, that he that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath: because he hath transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he hath wrought folly in Israel.

Achan is detected, He is destroyed

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

17 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:

18 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, was taken.

19 And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.

20 And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done:

21 When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.

22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it.

23 And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the LORD.

24 And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor.

25 And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.

26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Children. Achan was guilty of theft: some of the rest might have connived at his fault. He had taken what was reserved for the Lord. The offender was discovered, to inspire all with a horror for his conduct. Some of his brethren were punished, (v. 5,) but they suffered for their own secret transgressions, or death might be no real punishment to them; while the Israelites were awakened to a sense of their own inability to conquer without the divine protection, and were forced to humble themselves. H. — Chastisements are the marks of God’s displeasure, though they frequently proceed also from his clemency. — Achan is called Achar, 1 Par. ii. 7. These five persons occupy the space of 265 years; so that they must have been 50 or 55 years old, when they had children.

Ver. 2. Against Hai, to see the situation and strength of that city, which was about 10 miles west, or rather north, of Jericho. It was afterwards rebuilt, 1 Esd. ii. 28. — Bethaven and Bethel are the same place; (S. Jerom. C.) though many distinguish them, with Cellarius. The former name means “the house of iniquity,” because Jeroboam there set up a golden calf. Bethel was its former appellation, in consequence of the vision of Jacob. Gen. xxviii.

Ver. 3. Few. It appears, however, that the city contained 12,000 fighting men; so that these spies must have formed a false notion of its strength. C. viii. 25.

Ver. 5. Sabarim, which means people “broken and defeated.” Sept. “they pursued them from the gate, till they had entirely broken them,” destroying 36, and putting the rest to flight. C. — This small disaster filled the whole camp with dismay, as the Lord generally caused the victories of his people to be complete, and without any loss, as long as they continued in his favour. None were found wanting of those who attacked and destroyed so many of the Madianites. Num. xxxi. 49. H.

Ver. 6. Heads. These marks of grief were very common. Achilles covered his head with ashes, tore his garments and face, when he received news of the death of his friend, Patroclus. Homer and Virgil, (xii.) speaking of Latinus, the king, says, It scissa veste Latinus—Canitiem immundo perfusam pulvere turpans.

Ver. 7. Began. Some had established themselves in the land of Galaad. M. — Heb. “would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan.” Josue speaks in this animated manner, through zeal for the glory of God, (C.) more than for any personal inconvenience. He was grieved that any one should have merited God’s displeasure. He was afraid that the Chanaanites would blaspheme the great name of the Lord, v. 9.

Ver. 11. Lied. Each one, on delivering up what he had taken, made profession, at least by his behaviour, (H.) that he retained nothing. Achan did like the rest, but he kept back of the plunder. C. — He lied, and did not comply with the promise made by all Israel, which he was bound to observe, as much as if he had made it with his own mouth.

Ver. 13. Sanctified. Prepared by washing, &c. to appear before the tabernacle, and see the event. Sept. “purify the people.” Chal. “call an assembly.”

Ver. 14. Find. Heb. “it shall be the tribe which the Lord taketh.” H. — This was done by lots, as on similar occasions, 1 K. x. 20. and xiv. 41. When God authorized this method, there could be no danger in it. But to have recourse to lots without such authority, would be often tempting God. The apostles chose an apostle by lot: but they had first taken every precaution (C.) to select two persons, both fit for the important charge. H. — To commit the choice of sacred ministers to chance would be extremely improper. “We forbid the use of lots in the elections,” said Honorius. C.

Ver. 18. Juda. The dignity of this tribe enhanced the fault of Achan. M.

Ver. 19. My son. Clemency is the virtue of great souls. — Give glory. Confess candidly. Jo. ix. 24.

Ver. 21. Garment. Heb. “a robe of Sannaar, or of Babylon.” This city was famous for embroidered, or painted robes, such as were worn by kings. Jonas iii. 6. Plin. viii. 48. — Rule, or linget. No coin was yet used. C.

Ver. 24. His sons, &c. Probably conscious to, or accomplices of the crime of their father, (Ch). as he could hardly have concealed these things in the midst of his tent without their knowledge. M. — But granting, with S. Aug. (q. 8,) that they were innocent of this crime, God, who is the sovereign arbiter of life and death, might order them out of the world, on this occasion, without injustice.

Ver. 25. Day. Hence some have drawn a very weak argument, to prove the repentance of Achan, as if he had only to undergo a temporary punishment. It is probable, however, that his sincere confession, proceeding from a penitent heart, might influence God to shew him mercy. — Fire. Children, as well as his other effects; though some have supposed that the former were spared, as they are not here specified. Heb. seems to include them; “and burnt them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.” Chaldee says they were stoned first. C.

Ver. 26. Achor. That is, trouble; (Ch). in allusion to the name of Achar, as he is called in the Sept. invariably, and in the Heb. and Vulg. in the Book of Chronicles. H. — This heap of stones was thrown upon the ashes of the deceased, or perhaps at his person, while he was burning at the stake, as it is the custom still among the Turks. Roger. ii. 7. The king of Hai was treated in this manner. C. viii. 29. See 2 K. xviii. 17. The vale of Achor was on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho, where a small castle, at Adommim, was built to protect travellers from the insults of robbers, who infested that part. Lu. x. 30. C. xv. 7.