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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1But 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.
Committed a trespass - (compare Leviticus 5:15 note), "acted treacherously and committed a breach of faith." This suitably describes the sin of Achan, who had purloined and hidden away that which had been dedicated to God by the ban Joshua 6:19.
The "trespass" was the act of one man, yet is imputed to all Israel, who also share in the penalty of it Joshua 7:5. This is not to be explained as though all the people participated in the covetousness which led to Achan's sin Joshua 7:21. The nation as a nation was in covenant with God, and is treated by Him not merely as a number of individuals living together for their own purposes under common institutions, but as a divinely-constituted organic whole. Hence, the sin of Achan defiled the other members of the community as well as himself. and robbed the people collectively of holiness before God and acceptableness with Him. Israel had in the person of Achan broken the covenant Joshua 7:11; God therefore would no more drive out the Canaanites before them.
The accursed thing - Rather "in that which had been devoted or dedicated." Achan in diverting any of these devoted things to his own purposes, committed the sin of sacrilege, that of Ananias and Sapphira. Acts 5:2-3.
Achan or Achar - (the marginal reference) the "n" and "r" being interchanged, perhaps for the sake of accommodating the name to עכר ‛âkar, "trouble" Joshua 7:25. Zabdi is generally identified with the Zimri of 1 Chronicles 2:6. Zerah was twin brother of Pharez and son of Judah Genesis 38:30. In this genealogy, as in others, several generations are omitted, most likely those which intervened between Zerah and Zabdi, and which covered the space between the migration of Jacob's household to Egypt and the Exodus. (Numbers 26:5, see the note).
2And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east side of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai.
Ai, Bethel - See Genesis 12:8 note. (Modern travelers place the former at Khan Haiy, in the neighborhood of Deir Diwan.)
3And 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.
The total population of Ai was about twelve thousand Joshua 8:25. It could therefore hardly muster three thousand warriors.
4So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai.
5And 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.
Shebarim - Rather, perhaps, "the stone quarries." The smallness of the slaughter among the Israelites indicates that they fled early, probably without real conflict in battle.
6And 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.
On these signs of mourning, compare the marginal references and Leviticus 10:6; Numbers 20:6; 1 Samuel 4:12.
7And 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!
8O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies!
9For 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?
What wilt thou do unto thy great name? - i. e. "after the Canaanites have cut off our name what will become of Thy Name?" This bold expostulation, that of one wrestling in sore need with God in prayer, like the similar appeals of Moses in earlier emergencies (Compare the marginal references), is based upon God's past promises and mercies. What would be said of (God by the pagan if now He permitted Israel to be destroyed?
10And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?
God's answer is given directly, and in terms of reproof. Joshua must not lie helpless before God; the cause of the calamity was to be discovered.
11Israel 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.
Also stolen, and dissembled also - The anger of God and the heinousness of Israel's sin are marked by the accumulation of clause upon clause. As a climax they had even appropriated to their own use the consecrated property purloined from God.
12Therefore 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.
Accursed - Compare Joshua 6:17-18.
13Up, 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.
14In 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.
The Lord taketh - i. e. by lot. The Hebrew word for lot suggests that small stones, probably white and black ones, were used. These were probably drawn from a chest (compare the expressions in Joshua 18:11; Joshua 19:1). The lot was regarded as directed in its result by God (margin reference); and hence, was used on many important occasions by the Jews and by other nations in ancient times. For example:
(1), for apportionment, as of Canaan among the twelve tribes Numbers 26:55; of the Levitical cities (Joshua 21:4 ff); of spoil or captives taken in war Joel 3:3.
(2) for detection of the guilty, as in the case if Achan, Jonathan 1 Samuel 14:42, and Jonah Jon 1:7.
(3) for determining the persons to undertake a dangerous or warlike enterprise Judges 20:10.
(4) for making appointment to important functions (Leviticus 16:8 ff; Acts 1:26); or for sharing the duties or privileges of an office among those concerned 1 Chronicles 24:31; Luke 1:9.
The casting of lots before Haman Esther 3:7 seems to have been with a view of determining the lucky day for his undertaking against the Jews. One passage Proverbs 18:18 perhaps points also to the employment of the lot to decide litigation.
15And 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.
burnt with fire - i. e. after he had been put to death by stoning Joshua 7:25; Leviticus 20:14.
16So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken:
17And 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:
18And 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.
19And 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.
Give glory to the Lord - A form of solemn adjuration by which the person addressed was called upon before God to declare the truth. The phrase assumes that the glory of God is always promoted by manifestation of the truth (compare the marginal references).
20And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done:
21When 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.
A goodly Babylonian garment - literally, "a robe or cloak of Shinar," the plain in which Babylon was situated Genesis 10:10. It was a long robe such as was worn by kings on state occasions Jonah 3:6, and by prophets 1 Kings 19:13; Zechariah 13:4. The Assyrians were in early times famous for the manufacture of beautiful dyed and richly embroidered robes (compare Ezekiel 23:15). That such a robe should be found in a Canaanite city is natural enough. The productions of the far East found their way through Palestine both southward toward Egypt and westward through Tyre to the countries bordering on the Mediterranean. (Compare Ezekiel 27:24 and the context.)
Wedge of gold - i. e. some implement or ornament of gold shaped like a wedge or tongue. The name lingula was given by the Romans to a spoon and to an oblong dagger made in shape of a tongue. The weight of this "wedge" was fifty shekels, i. e. about twenty-five ounces (see Exodus 38:24 note). The silver was under the rest of the stolen property. The mantle would naturally be placed uppermost, and be used to cover up the others.
22So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it.
23And 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.
24And 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.
The sin had been national (Joshua 7:1 note), and accordingly the expiation of it was no less so. The whole nation, no doubt through its usual representatives, took part in executing the sentence. Achan had fallen by his own act under the ban Joshua 6:18, and consequently he and his were treated as were communities thus devoted Deuteronomy 13:15-17. It would appear too that Achan's family must have been accomplices in his sin; for the stolen spoil could hardly have been concealed in his tent without their being privy thereto.
25And 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.
26And 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.
A great heap of stones - As a memorial of Achan's sin and its punishment. (Compare Joshua 8:29; 2 Samuel 18:17.)
The valley of Achor - Compare the marginal references. This valley formed part of the northern border of Judah Joshua 15:7; and must therefore have lain among the ridges which cross the plain to the south of Jericho. But its exact site is uncertain. (Conder identifies it with Wady Kelt.)