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Scripture reading – Joshua 7

* This is the first of two devotionals for today.

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 disregarded Joshua’s oath and foolishly took that which was accursed (7:1).

Joshua 7

A Concealed Sin in the Camp (7:1-2)

Joshua 7:1 reveals both the sin and the sinner, whose transgression was not discovered until thirty-six soldiers of Israel had perished in battle (7:5). We read of that tragic event: “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” (Joshua 7:1).

Who was Achan? We could assert he was nobody in the realm of two million citizens. 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, there is no record that Joshua consulted the LORD before he ordered men to attack Ai (7:2). He had sent out men to spy on 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 a mere three thousand soldiers to war against Ai. As a result, Israel was defeated (7:4-5), and the nation was left confused and humiliated 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 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 to consider how Israel’s defeat would embolden their enemies. He feared the adversaries of Israel would encircle them and “cut off [their] name from the earth,” and he wondered, “What wilt thou do unto thy great name?” (7:9)

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

Sadly, Joshua’s cry to the LORD insinuated that somehow God had failed Israel. However, such was not the case, for He had promised Joshua, “Whithersoever thou goest” I will be with you (1:9).

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

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

The following day, Joshua made haste to begin searching out the sin in Israel and 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. Then, 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. First, he consideredthe opportunity to sin. He had 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 then coveted them (7:21b). Achan then carriedthem 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 no appeal 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 Achan 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).

Closing thought:

Like many sinners, Achan only confessed his sin when it was discovered. He had the opportunity to repent, come forward, and confess his sin after Israel was defeated at Ai (thirty-six of his countrymen had perished, 7:5). Instead, his heart was hardened, and his confession was offered only after his sin was exposed. God’s people could not tolerate such evil in their midst, and the LORD bless them. The LORD had warned Joshua, “Neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you” (7:12).

When God’s people obey His Word, their most powerful enemies fall before them. However, we cannot overcome our weakest enemy when we conceal sin.

* Note – A second devotional will follow and be taken from Joshua 8 (the record of Israel’s victory over Ai following that nation’s judgment against Achan.) 

Questions to consider from Joshua 7:

1) Why was the LORD angry with Israel? (7:1)

2) Where did the men of Israel put their confidence? (7:3)

3) How did the defeat at AI affect Israel? (7:5)

4) What were Joshua’s concerns following Israel’s defeat? (7:8-9)

5) What sins did Achan confess that invited God’s judgment? (7:20-21)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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