A Silent Enemy: Sin in the Camp (Joshua 7-8)

Scripture reading – Joshua 7-8

With the fortress of Jericho defeated, and destroyed, the men of Israel set their eyes on the next city, Ai. Joshua had reminded the people that the LORD had accursed all that was in Jericho, and the gold, silver, brass, and iron was sanctified, and dedicated for the “treasury of the house of the LORD” (6:24, 26). Nevertheless, one man in Israel had disregarded Joshua’s oath, and had foolishly taken that which was accursed (7:1).

Joshua 7 – A Hidden Sin in the Camp

Joshua 7:1 reveals both the sin and the sinner, whose transgression would not be discovered until thirty-six soldiers of Israel had perished in battle (7:5).

Joshua 7:11But 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 Lordwas kindled against the children of Israel.

Who was Achan? In the realm of two million citizens, we might assert he was nobody; however, he was a transgressor who committed a great sin against the LORD. Achan was a son of the tribe of Judah (7:1), and a father with sons and daughters (7:24). He was a man of possessions, for he owned ox, asses, and sheep (7:24). He was, however, a covetous man, and a thief (7:20-21).

Defeat at Ai (7:3-5)

Unlike the battle of Jericho, Joshua failed to consult the LORD before he ordered men to attack Ai (7:2). Joshua sent men to spy out Ai, and they returned, and advised, “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” (7:3). Confident, and presumptuous, Joshua heeded the advice of his spies, and sent three thousand soldiers into battle. Israel was defeated (7:4-5), leaving the nation confused, humiliated, and humbled by the deaths of thirty-six warriors of Israel.

Joshua’s Remorse (7:6-9)

Distraught by the defeat, Joshua “rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD” (7:6). He was joined by “the elders of Israel,” and they “they put dust upon their heads” as a sign of mourning (7:6). In dismay, Joshua cried to the LORD, “what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies?” (7:8) He appealed to the LORD, consider how Israel’s defeat will embolden our enemies, and they will encircle us, “cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?” (7:9)

The LORD’S Rebuke, and the Cause for Israel’s Defeat (7:10-14)

Joshua’s cry insinuated the LORD had failed Israel; however, such was not the case, for God had promised Joshua, “whithersoever thou goest” I will be with you (1:9).

The LORD rebuked Joshua, saying, “Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?” (7:10). He revealed, the cause for Israel’s defeat was not His unfaithfulness, but the sin of one man had troubled the whole nation (7:11-12). The LORD warned, He would not bless the nation until the sin was put out of the camp (7:10-13).

The Discovery of Achan’s Sin (7:14-21)

The next morning, Joshua made hast to begin searching out the sin in Israel, and he did as the LORD had commanded (7:14-16). It was revealed that the sin had been committed by a man of the tribe of Judah (7:16). When the tribe of Judah passed before Joshua, the “family of the Zarhites” was implicated (7:17). The Zarhites were examined, and the household of “Zabdi was taken, and [Joshua] brought [Zabdi’s] household man by man and; and Achan…was taken” (7:18).

Perhaps hoping his sin would go undetected, Achan held out until he was discovered. When Joshua confronted, and appealed for him to confess his sin (7:19), Achan answered, “Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done” (7:20).

Achan’s Confession (7:21)

Achan’s confession revealed the pattern of sin that men take when they sin against the LORD. He consideredthe opportunity to sin, and looked “among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight” (7:21a). He coveted them (7:21b). Achan then carried them to his tent (7:21c), and concealed them, hiding them “in the earth in the midst of [his] tent” (7:21).

The Effect of Achan’s Sin Upon His Household (7:22-26)

Joshua’s men searched, and discovered all Achan had confessed, but there was no appeal that would satisfy the LORD’S wrath. Because of Achan’s sin, thirty-six men had died in the defeat of Ai (7:4-5), and now the whole congregation passed judgment. Taking him, and all that he owned outside the camp, Israel stoned him to death, along with his sons and daughters, and livestock (7:24). All was destroyed, and the people “burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. 26And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of his anger” (7:25-26).

I close with two observations. 1) When God’s people are right with Him, their most powerful enemies will fall before them. 2) When we conceal our sin, we are powerless to face even our weakest enemies.

* Joshua 8 records the victory that followed the nation’s judgment against Achan.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith