1. the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing--There was one transgressor against the cherem, or ban, on Jericho, and his transgression brought the guilt and disgrace of sin upon the whole nation. Achan--called afterwards "Achar" ("trouble") (1Ch 2:7). Zabdi--or Zimri (1Ch 2:6). Zerah--or Zarah, son of Judah and Tamar (Ge 38:30). His genealogy is given probably to show that from a parentage so infamous the descendants would not be carefully trained in the fear of God.
Jos 7:2-26. THE ISRAELITES SMITTEN AT AI. 2. Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai--After the sacking of Jericho, the next step was to penetrate into the hills above. Accordingly, spies went up the mountain pass to view the country. The precise site of Ai, or Hai, is indicated with sufficient clearness (Ge 12:8 13:3) and has been recently discovered in an isolated tell, called by the natives Tell-el-Hajar, "the mount of stones," at two miles', or thirty-five minutes' distance, east southeast from Beth-el [VAN DE VELDE]. Beth-aven--("house of vanity")--a name afterwards given derisively (Ho 4:15 5:8 10:5), on account of its idolatries, to Beth-el, "house of God," but here referred to another place, about six miles east of Beth-el and three north of Ai. 3. Let not all the people go up, . . . for they are but few--As the population of Ai amounted to twelve thousand (Jos 8:25), it was a considerable town; though in the hasty and distant reconnoitre made by the spies, it probably appeared small in comparison to Jericho; and this may have been the reason for their proposing so small a detachment to capture it. 4, 5. they fled before the men of Ai--An unexpected resistance, and the loss of thirty-six of their number diffused a panic, which ended in an ignominious rout.
5. chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim--that is, unto the "breakings" or "fissures" at the opening of the passes. and smote them in the going down--that is, the declivity or slope of the deep, rugged, adjoining wady. wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water--It is evident that the troops engaged were a tumultuary, undisciplined band, no better skilled in military affairs than the Bedouin Arabs, who become disheartened and flee on the loss of ten or fifteen men. But the consternation of the Israelites arose from another cause--the evident displeasure of God, who withheld that aid on which they had confidently reckoned.
6-9. Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth . . . before the ark . . . he and the elders--It is evident, from those tokens of humiliation and sorrow, that a solemn fast was observed on this occasion. The language of Joshua's prayer is thought by many to savor of human infirmity and to be wanting in that reverence and submission he owed to God. But, although apparently breathing a spirit of bold remonstrance and complaint, it was in reality the effusion of a deeply humbled and afflicted mind, expressing his belief that God could not, after having so miraculously brought His people over Jordan into the promised land, intend to destroy them, to expose them to the insults of their triumphant enemies, and bring reproach upon His own name for inconstancy or unkindness to His people, or inability to resist their enemies. Unable to understand the cause of the present calamity, he owned the hand of God. 10-15. the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up--The answer of the divine oracle was to this effect: the crisis is owing not to unfaithfulness in Me, but sin in the people. The conditions of the covenant have been violated by the reservation of spoil from the doomed city; wickedness, emphatically called folly, has been committed in Israel (Ps 14:1), and dissimulation, with other aggravations of the crime, continues to be practised. The people are liable to destruction equally with the accursed nations of Canaan (De 7:26). Means must, without delay, be taken to discover and punish the perpetrator of this trespass that Israel may be released from the ban, and things be restored to their former state of prosperity. 16-18. So Joshua rose up early, and brought Israel by their tribes--that is, before the tabernacle. The lot being appealed to (Pr 16:33), he proceeded in the inquiry from heads of tribes to heads of families, and from heads of households in succession to one family, and to particular persons in that family, until the criminal was found to be Achan, who, on Joshua's admonition, confessed the fact of having secreted for his own use, in the floor of his tent, spoil both in garments and money [Jos 7:19-21]. How dreadful must have been his feelings when he saw the slow but certain process of discovery! (Nu 32:23). 19. Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give . . . glory to God--a form of adjuration to tell the truth. 21. a goodly Babylonish garment--literally, "a mantle of Shinar." The plain of Shinar was in early times celebrated for its gorgeous robes, which were of brilliant and various colors, generally arranged in figured patterns, probably resembling those of modern Turkish carpets, and the colors were either interwoven in the loom or embroidered with the needle. two hundred shekels of silver--about $200 according to the old Mosaic shekel, or the half of that sum, reckoning by the common shekel. a wedge of gold--literally, an ingot or bar in the shape of a tongue, worth about $500. 22, 23. Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent--from impatient eagerness not only to test the truth of the story, but to clear Israel from the imputation of guilt. Having discovered the stolen articles, they laid them out before the Lord, "as a token of their belonging to Him" on account of the ban.
24-26. Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan--He with his children and all his property, cattle as well as movables, were brought into one of the long broad ravines that open into the Ghor, and after being stoned to death (Nu 15:30-35), his corpse, with all belonging to him, was consumed to ashes by fire. "All Israel" was present, not only as spectators, but active agents, as many as possible, in inflicting the punishment--thus testifying their abhorrence of the sacrilege, and their intense solicitude to regain the divine favor. As the divine law expressly forbade the children to be put to death for their father's sins (De 24:16), the conveyance of Achan's "sons and daughters" to the place of execution might be only as spectators, that they might take warning by the parental fate; or, if they shared his punishment (Jos 22:20), they had probably been accomplices in his crime, and, indeed, he could scarcely have dug a hole within his tent without his family being aware of it.
26. they raised over him a great heap of stones--It is customary to raise cairns over the graves of criminals or infamous persons in the East still. the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor--("trouble"), unto this day--So painful an episode would give notoriety to the spot, and it is more than once noted by the sacred writers of a later age (Isa 65:10 Ho 2:15).