Series: Thru the Bible
Message – The Day the Earth stood still!
Three main points right off the bat.
“(1) The LORD said to Joshua,
- “Do not be afraid or discouraged.” – No Fear (Phil 4)
- “Take the whole military force with you and go attack Ai.” – Many times God has Israel take only a few into battle this time He has them take all into battle. He does both for similar reasons. Faith & Humility. God is ALWAYS teaching us. Just like Deut. 8 tells us, “Pay attention to the WAY God leads you.”
- “Look, I have handed over to you the king of Ai, his people, city, and land.” – Promotion and power belong to God!
(2) Treat Ai and its king as you did Jericho and its king; you may plunder its spoil and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.”
“(3) So Joshua and the whole military force set out to attack Ai. Joshua selected 30,000 fighting men and sent them out at night. (4) He commanded them: “Pay attention. Lie in ambush behind the city, not too far from it, and all of you be ready. (5) Then I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. When they come out against us as they did the first time, we will flee from them. (6) They will come after us until we have drawn them away from the city, for they will say, ‘They are fleeing from us as before.’ While we are fleeing from them, (7) you are to come out of your ambush and seize the city, for the LORD your God has handed it over to you. (8) After taking the city, set it on fire. Follow the LORD’s command–see that you do as I have ordered you.”
People try to hyper-spiritualize things and that is a mistake. We MUST be led by God and not solely upon past experience or human reasoning. That having been said, God does expect us to think. One verse which strikes a balance between the two is Prov. 16:9,
“A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD determines his steps.”
Joshua plans his way
“(9) So Joshua sent them out, and they went to the ambush site and waited between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai. But he spent that night with the troops. (10) Joshua started early the next morning and mobilized them. Then he and the elders of Israel led the troops up to Ai. (11) All those who were with him went up and approached the city, arriving opposite Ai, and camped to the north of it, with a valley between them and the city. (12) Now Joshua had taken about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. (13) The military force was stationed in this way: the main camp to the north of the city and its rear guard to the west of the city. And that night Joshua went into the valley. (14) When the king of Ai saw the Israelites, the men of the city hurried and went out early in the morning, so that he and all his people could engage Israel in battle at a suitable place facing the plain of the Jordan. But he did not know there was an ambush waiting for him behind the city. (15) Joshua and all Israel pretended to be beaten back by them and fled toward the wilderness. (16) Then all the troops of Ai were summoned to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were drawn away from the city. (17) Not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel, leaving the city exposed while they pursued Israel.”
Isn’t deception a lie and isn’t lying a sin? Evidently not all deception is sin. Here we see Joshua pretending something is true which isn’t. His clear intention is to mislead – which technically is different than either deception or a lie. Deception is instruction with the intent to lead into error. Mislead is to suggest something is true which is not to gain advantage.
Upon Googling the difference between these terms I found the following,
- Lying is the act of telling something known to be false.
- Deceiving is using some sort of plot for personal advantage.
- Misleading is causing someone to have a wrong idea or impression of something.
Lying and misleading might be tools used for the purposes of deception, but saying that someone was deceived is ultimately saying that there was a trick or scheme involved for the deceiver’s gain. Misleading doesn’t necessarily involve telling falsehoods or untruths, just that the end result is in causing someone to have a misconception about something. Lying, meanwhile, is the act of saying something that is demonstrably not true while knowing it to be not true.”
Now one might accuse of this all being smoke and mirrors – mere over-defining for convenience sake, but words, actions and intentions all have roots, methods, meanings and intended results and so all of these matter to some degree or another.
God determines his steps
“(18) Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Hold out the sword in your hand toward Ai, for I will hand the city over to you.” So Joshua held out his sword toward it. (19) When he held out his hand, the men in ambush rose quickly from their position. They ran, entered the city, captured it, and immediately set it on fire. (20) The men of Ai turned and looked back, and smoke from the city was rising to the sky! They could not escape in any direction, and the troops who had fled to the wilderness now became the pursuers. (21) When Joshua and all Israel saw that the men in ambush had captured the city and that smoke was rising from it, they turned back and struck down the men of Ai. (22) The men in the ambush came out of the city against them, and the men of Ai were trapped between the Israelite forces, some on one side and some on the other. They struck them down until no survivor or fugitive remained, (23) but they captured the king of Ai alive and brought him to Joshua. (24) When Israel had finished killing everyone living in Ai who had pursued them into the open country, and when every last one of them had fallen by the sword, all Israel returned to Ai and struck it down with the sword. (25) The total of those who fell that day, both men and women, was 12,000–all the people of Ai. (26) Joshua did not draw back his hand that was holding the sword until all the inhabitants of Ai were completely destroyed. (27) Israel plundered only the cattle and spoil of that city for themselves, according to the LORD’s command that He had given Joshua. (28) Joshua burned Ai and left it a permanent ruin, desolate to this day. (29) He hung the body of the king of Ai on a tree until evening, and at sunset Joshua commanded that they take his body down from the tree. They threw it down at the entrance of the city gate and put a large pile of rocks over it, which remains to this day.”
Honor where honor is due
“(30) At that time Joshua built an altar on Mount Ebal to the LORD, the God of Israel, (31) just as Moses the LORD’s servant had commanded the Israelites. He built it according to what is written in the book of the law of Moses: an altar of uncut stones on which no iron tool has been used. Then they offered burnt offerings to the LORD and sacrificed fellowship offerings on it. (32) There on the stones, Joshua copied the law of Moses, which he had written in the presence of the Israelites. (33) All Israel, foreigner and citizen alike, with their elders, officers, and judges, stood on either side of the ark of the LORD’s covenant facing the Levitical priests who carried it. As Moses the LORD’s servant had commanded earlier, half of them were in front of Mount Gerizim and half in front of Mount Ebal, to bless the people of Israel. (34) Afterwards, Joshua read aloud all the words of the law–the blessings as well as the curses–according to all that is written in the book of the law. (35) There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read before the entire assembly of Israel, including the women, little children, and foreigners who were with them.”
This is an interesting passage. It reveals several things.
- Joshua acting autonomously apart from God
- Joshua was almost certainly intimidated on some level or else VERY gullible. He should have told them he’d seek the Lord his God to see if they were telling the truth or not.
We know from Deut. 20:11 that they were allowed to make peace with foreign nations by allowing them to become servants of Israel in pace of being destroyed. However, this was NOT allowed to ANY of the inhabitants of Canaan.
“(1) When all the kings heard about Jericho and Ai, those who were west of the Jordan in the hill country, in the Judean foothills, and all along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea toward Lebanon–the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites– (2) they formed a unified alliance to fight against Joshua and Israel.”
“(3) When the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, (4) they acted deceptively. They gathered provisions and took worn-out sacks on their donkeys and old wineskins, cracked and mended. (5) They wore old, patched sandals on their feet and threadbare clothing on their bodies. Their entire provision of bread was dry and crumbly. (6) They went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant land. Please make a treaty with us.” (7) The men of Israel replied to the Hivites, “Perhaps you live among us. How can we make a treaty with you?” (8) They said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” Then Joshua asked them, “Who are you and where do you come from?” (9) They replied to him, “Your servants have come from a far away land because of the reputation of the LORD your God. For we have heard of His fame, and all that He did in Egypt, (10) and all that He did to the two Amorite kings beyond the Jordan–Sihon king of Heshbon and Og king of Bashan, who was in Ashtaroth. (11) So our elders and all the inhabitants of our land told us, ‘Take provisions with you for the journey; go and meet them and say, “We are your servants. Please make a treaty with us.”‘ (12) This bread of ours was warm when we took it from our houses as food on the day we left to come to you. But take a look, it is now dry and crumbly. (13) These wineskins were new when we filled them, but look, they are cracked. And these clothes and sandals of ours are worn out from the extremely long journey.” (14) Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions, but did not seek the LORD’s counsel. (15) So Joshua established peace with them and made a treaty to let them live, and the leaders of the community swore an oath to them. (16) Three days after making the treaty with them, they heard that the Gibeonites were their neighbors, living among them. (17) So the Israelites set out and reached the Gibeonite cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim. (18) But the Israelites did not attack them, because the leaders of the community had sworn an oath to them by the LORD, the God of Israel. Then the whole community grumbled against the leaders. (19) All the leaders answered them, “We have sworn an oath to them by the LORD, the God of Israel, and now we cannot touch them. (20) This is how we will treat them: we will let them live, so that no wrath will fall on us because of the oath we swore to them.” (21) They also said, “Let them live.” So the Gibeonites became woodcutters and water carriers for the whole community, as the leaders had promised them. (22) Joshua summoned the Gibeonites and said to them, “Why did you deceive us by telling us you live far away from us, when in fact you live among us? (23) Therefore you are cursed and will always be slaves–woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God.” (24) The Gibeonites answered him, “It was clearly reported to your servants that the LORD your God had commanded His servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land before you. We greatly feared for our lives because of you, and that is why we did this. (25) Now we are in your hands. Do to us whatever you think is right.” (26) This is what Joshua did to them: he delivered them from the hands of the Israelites, and they did not kill them. (27) On that day he made them woodcutters and water carriers–as they are today–for the community and for the LORD’s altar at the place He would choose.”
To be frank I am not certain why God honored this, clearly the oath was not binding due to it being struck under false pretenses. Also, they spoke out of turn, without consulting God. It is possible that God saw the potential for repentance and turning to Him in this people as well as an opportunity to show the mercy and integrity of God in keeping oaths. We know God was not simply silent here, but that He respected Joshua’s oath in that He later helped Joshua defend the people of Gibeon in mighty ways which have never before or after been done – as we will now see.
“(1) Now Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had captured Ai and completely destroyed it, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and that the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were living among them. (2) So Adoni-zedek and his people were greatly alarmed because Gibeon was a large city like one of the royal cities; it was larger than Ai, and all its men were warriors. (3) Therefore Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem sent word to Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king of Lachish, and Debir king of Eglon, saying, (4) “Come up and help me. We will attack Gibeon, because they have made peace with Joshua and the Israelites.” (5) So the five Amorite kings–the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon–joined forces, advanced with all their armies, besieged Gibeon, and fought against it. (6) Then the men of Gibeon sent word to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal: “Don’t abandon your servants. Come quickly and save us! Help us, for all the Amorite kings living in the hill country have joined forces against us.” (7) So Joshua and his whole military force, including all the fighting men, came from Gilgal. (8) The LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, for I have handed them over to you. Not one of them will be able to stand against you.” (9) So Joshua caught them by surprise, after marching all night from Gilgal. (10) The LORD threw them into confusion before Israel. He defeated them in a great slaughter at Gibeon, chased them through the ascent of Beth-horon, and struck them down as far as Azekah and Makkedah. (11) As they fled before Israel, the LORD threw large hailstones on them from the sky along the descent of Beth-horon all the way to Azekah, and they died. More of them died from the hail than the Israelites killed with the sword. (12) On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke to the LORD in the presence of Israel: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and moon, over the valley of Aijalon.” (13) And the sun stood still and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on its enemies. Isn’t this written in the Book of Jashar? So the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed its setting almost a full day. (14) There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD listened to the voice of a man, because the LORD fought for Israel.”
“(15) Then Joshua and all Israel with him returned to the camp at Gilgal. (16) Now the five defeated kings had fled and hidden themselves in the cave at Makkedah. (17) It was reported to Joshua: “The five kings have been found; they are hiding in the cave at Makkedah.” (18) Joshua said, “Roll large stones against the mouth of the cave, and station men by it to guard the kings. (19) But as for the rest of you, don’t stay there. Pursue your enemies and attack them from behind. Don’t let them enter their cities, for the LORD your God has handed them over to you.” (20) So Joshua and the Israelites finished inflicting a terrible slaughter on them until they were destroyed, although a few survivors ran away to the fortified cities. (21) The people returned safely to Joshua in the camp at Makkedah. No one could say a thing against the Israelites. (22) Then Joshua said, “Open the mouth of the cave, and bring those five kings to me out of there.” (23) That is what they did. They brought the five kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon to Joshua out of the cave. (24) When they had brought the kings to him, Joshua summoned all the men of Israel and said to the military commanders who had accompanied him, “Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.” So the commanders came forward and put their feet on their necks. (25) Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. Be strong and courageous, for the LORD will do this to all the enemies you fight.” (26) After this, Joshua struck them down and executed them. He hung their bodies on five trees and they were there until evening. (27) At sunset Joshua commanded that they be taken down from the trees and thrown into the cave where they had hidden. Then large stones were placed against the mouth of the cave, and the stones are there to this day. (28) On that day Joshua captured Makkedah and struck it down with the sword, including its king. He completely destroyed it and everyone in it, leaving no survivors. So he treated the king of Makkedah as he had the king of Jericho. (29) Joshua and all Israel with him crossed from Makkedah to Libnah and fought against Libnah. (30) The LORD also handed it and its king over to Israel. He struck it down, putting everyone in it to the sword, and left no survivors in it. He treated Libnah’s king as he had the king of Jericho. (31) From Libnah, Joshua and all Israel with him crossed to Lachish. They laid siege to it and attacked it. (32) The LORD handed Lachish over to Israel, and Joshua captured it on the second day. He struck it down, putting everyone in it to the sword, just as he had done to Libnah. (33) At that time Horam king of Gezer went to help Lachish, but Joshua struck him down along with his people, leaving no survivors in it. (34) Then Joshua crossed from Lachish to Eglon and all Israel with him. They laid siege to it and attacked it. (35) On that day they captured it and struck it down, putting everyone in it to the sword. He completely destroyed it that day, just as he had done to Lachish. (36) Next, Joshua and all Israel with him went up from Eglon to Hebron and attacked it. (37) They captured it and struck down its king, all its villages, and everyone in it with the sword. Just as he had done at Eglon, he left no survivors. He completely destroyed Hebron and everyone in it. (38) Finally, Joshua turned toward Debir and attacked it. And all Israel was with him. (39) He captured it–its king and all its villages. They struck them down with the sword and completely destroyed everyone in it, leaving no survivors. He treated Debir and its king as he had treated Hebron and as he had treated Libnah and its king. (40) So Joshua conquered the whole region–the hill country, the Negev, the Judean foothills, and the slopes–with all their kings, leaving no survivors. He completely destroyed every living being, as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded. (41) Joshua conquered everyone from Kadesh-barnea to Gaza, and all the land of Goshen as far as Gibeon. (42) Joshua captured all these kings and their land in one campaign, because the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel. (43) Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.”
I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.
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