Joshua
Introduction 1-2 Command to Go up Against Ai 3-9 Going to Ambush 10-17 Ai walk into the ambush 18-29 Ai Captured 30-32 The Altar on the Ebal 33-35 Read All the Words of the Law
Introduction

After the evil has been removed from Israel, the people get a new opportunity to conquer Ai. God prescribes exactly how they should proceed. Only if they listen to Him will they overcome. An ambush must be laid. The enemy does not count on that. From this ambush the city is taken.

So also now every believer has a source of power that is invisible to the world. This source of power is the Holy Spirit. The world does not see Him or know Him, as the Lord Jesus says: “The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, [but] you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you” (Jn 14:1717[that is] the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, [but] you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.).

When victory is achieved, Joshua builds an altar. The offerings that are brought thereon speak of the Lord Jesus (Heb 10:5-105Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, But a body You have prepared for Me;6In whole burnt offerings and [sacrifices] for sin You have taken no pleasure.7“Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come (In the scroll of the book it is written of Me) To do Your will, O God.’”8After saying above, “Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and [sacrifices] for sin You have not desired, nor have You taken pleasure [in them]” (which are offered according to the Law),9then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second.10By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.). Every victory we achieve is only due to what the Lord Jesus did on the cross.

The reading of the law at the end of this chapter indicates that obedience to the Word of God is the only guarantee for every victory and every altar.

Joshua 7-8 teach us an important spiritual lesson: the judgment of ourselves precedes the judgment of our enemies. “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17b17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.) must first do its sanctifying work in our lives before we can apply it to the lives of others.

Joshua 8 teaches us the return of Israel to the power of God. For their restoration they have to perform a lot of actions. All this would not have been necessary if they had acted in simplicity and sincerity of faith. But God uses these things to teach us who we are and who He is. Pride and false confidence receive a serious lesson here. It takes more effort to return in the way of blessing than it would have cost to avoid evil.

From Joshua 10:28 and onward the cities are conquered in mass. The conquests of Jericho (Joshua 6), Ai (Joshua 8) and Gibeon (Joshua 10) give the necessary principles of conquest that apply to all cities that they have to conquer afterwards. We must see what these cities represent in our lives and how we can overcome them. If we gain a victory in the power of God, then there is a danger that we will trust in our own strength. Ai teaches us how weak we are. In the picture of the chain that is as strong as the weakest link, we are as strong as the weakest Christian among us (Achan). Gibeon (Joshua 9) teaches us that the enemy is cunning.


Command to Go up Against Ai

1Now the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not fear or be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you and arise, go up to Ai; see, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land. 2You shall do to Ai and its king just as you did to Jericho and its king; you shall take only its spoil and its cattle as plunder for yourselves. Set an ambush for the city behind it.”

The people get a new chance to take Ai. But they must learn to listen to God. Now a complicated tactic is needed and ten times as many men as they thought they needed first (Jos 7:33They returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not let all the people go up; [only] about two or three thousand men need go up to Ai; do not make all the people toil up there, for they are few.”). One of the lessons they must learn (and so do we!) is that sins can be forgiven, but that the consequences of sins must be borne.


Going to Ambush

3So Joshua rose with all the people of war to go up to Ai; and Joshua chose 30,000 men, valiant warriors, and sent them out at night. 4He commanded them, saying, “See, you are going to ambush the city from behind it. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you be ready. 5Then I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. And when they come out to meet us as at the first, we will flee before them. 6They will come out after us until we have drawn them away from the city, for they will say, ‘[They] are fleeing before us as at the first.’ So we will flee before them. 7And you shall rise from [your] ambush and take possession of the city, for the LORD your God will deliver it into your hand. 8Then it will be when you have seized the city, that you shall set the city on fire. You shall do [it] according to the word of the LORD. See, I have commanded you.” 9So Joshua sent them away, and they went to the place of ambush and remained between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai; but Joshua spent that night among the people.

They have to take the whole army to take this small town. That is a deep humiliation. Half of the people also have to flee. This time it has to because it fits into God’s plan, but at the same time it is a shameful performance. They must learn never to underestimate the enemy. Every step is pre-written by the LORD (verse 88Then it will be when you have seized the city, that you shall set the city on fire. You shall do [it] according to the word of the LORD. See, I have commanded you.”).

Here we find in the different actions the different attitudes that the people of God must adopt towards the enemy. In the New Testament we find its spiritual counterparts:
1. Stand against the enemy to resist him (verse 1111Then all the people of war who [were] with him went up and drew near and arrived in front of the city, and camped on the north side of Ai. Now [there was] a valley between him and Ai.; Eph 6:1313Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.).
2. Watch the enemy from an ambush (verse 1212And he took about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city.; 1Cor 16:1313Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.).
3. Show themselves to the enemy, that he may reveal himself (verse 1414It came about when the king of Ai saw [it], that the men of the city hurried and rose up early and went out to meet Israel in battle, he and all his people at the appointed place before the desert plain. But he did not know that [there was] an ambush against him behind the city.; Eph 5:1111Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;).
4. Flee before the enemy (verse 1515Joshua and all Israel pretended to be beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness.; 2Tim 2:22a22Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love [and] peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.).
5. Destroy the enemy (verse 2626For Joshua did not withdraw his hand with which he stretched out the javelin until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai.; Col 3:55Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.).


Ai walk into the ambush

10Now Joshua rose early in the morning and mustered the people, and he went up with the elders of Israel before the people to Ai. 11Then all the people of war who [were] with him went up and drew near and arrived in front of the city, and camped on the north side of Ai. Now [there was] a valley between him and Ai. 12And he took about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city. 13So they stationed the people, all the army that was on the north side of the city, and its rear guard on the west side of the city, and Joshua spent that night in the midst of the valley. 14It came about when the king of Ai saw [it], that the men of the city hurried and rose up early and went out to meet Israel in battle, he and all his people at the appointed place before the desert plain. But he did not know that [there was] an ambush against him behind the city. 15Joshua and all Israel pretended to be beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness. 16And all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were drawn away from the city. 17So not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who had not gone out after Israel, and they left the city unguarded and pursued Israel.

Again Joshua gets up early and goes with the people of war to Ai. He lets himself be defeated with the people and flees with them. These shameful experiences are made up for by the fact that God is on their side. The power of God is with them everything succeeds.

Yet the revelation of this power is not as by Jericho. By Ai there is a lot of human input, a lot happens. That will appeal to all who love action. In comparison to this, marching around Jericho is a boring display. But by Jericho, the power of God is revealed in the exercise of faith and all honor goes to God. The way Ai is conquered doesn’t show the strength of the faith but the weakness of the human being.

We can apply this to our victories of faith. Our greatest victories are won in our inner room, on our knees, without any noteworthy characteristics. We can also apply it to the many forms of meetings offered by Christianity. There are places where there are impressive, often so-called, manifestations of the Spirit. In contrast, we read of the church in Philadelphia: “You have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name” (Rev 3:8b8‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.). The question is what we choose.

To conquer the city, a lot of actions have to be done. Joshua and the part of the people who are with him are approaching the city from the north (verse 1111Then all the people of war who [were] with him went up and drew near and arrived in front of the city, and camped on the north side of Ai. Now [there was] a valley between him and Ai.). This happens at night, while the Jordan has been crossed during the day and everything related to Jericho has taken place during the day. Then a part of the people west of Ai are ambushed (verse 1313So they stationed the people, all the army that was on the north side of the city, and its rear guard on the west side of the city, and Joshua spent that night in the midst of the valley.). When the king of Ai has observed them, they pretend to flee (verses 14-1614It came about when the king of Ai saw [it], that the men of the city hurried and rose up early and went out to meet Israel in battle, he and all his people at the appointed place before the desert plain. But he did not know that [there was] an ambush against him behind the city.15Joshua and all Israel pretended to be beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness.16And all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were drawn away from the city.). All this is necessary to judge all self-confidence.


Ai Captured

18Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand.” So Joshua stretched out the javelin that was in his hand toward the city. 19The [men in] ambush rose quickly from their place, and when he had stretched out his hand, they ran and entered the city and captured it, and they quickly set the city on fire. 20When the men of Ai turned back and looked, behold, the smoke of the city ascended to the sky, and they had no place to flee this way or that, for the people who had been fleeing to the wilderness turned against the pursuers. 21When Joshua and all Israel saw that the [men in] ambush had captured the city and that the smoke of the city ascended, they turned back and slew the men of Ai. 22The others came out from the city to encounter them, so that they were [trapped] in the midst of Israel, some on this side and some on that side; and they slew them until no one was left of those who survived or escaped. 23But they took alive the king of Ai and brought him to Joshua. 24Now when Israel had finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the field in the wilderness where they pursued them, and all of them were fallen by the edge of the sword until they were destroyed, then all Israel returned to Ai and struck it with the edge of the sword. 25All who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000—all the people of Ai. 26For Joshua did not withdraw his hand with which he stretched out the javelin until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. 27Israel took only the cattle and the spoil of that city as plunder for themselves, according to the word of the LORD which He had commanded Joshua. 28So Joshua burned Ai and made it a heap forever, a desolation until this day. 29He hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening; and at sunset Joshua gave command and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the city gate, and raised over it a great heap of stones [that stands] to this day.

When the city is empty, God shows that He is in charge. He tells Joshua what to do. How important it is always to listen to the voice of the Lord. Joshua has to stretch out his javelin. That is not a sign for the ambush to get out, at least we don’t read that. He keeps the javelin stretched out until the full victory is achieved. It recalls the raised hands of Moses, when he is on the mountain, while Joshua is fighting the Amalekites (Exo 17:11-1311So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed.12But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set.13So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.).

The javelin is the symbol of judgment and the sign for victory. In Joshua we see here in the picture the Spirit of Christ who is powerfully present among God’s people and works for them in power in the judgment of their enemies. Thus we may look upon Christ in glory and know that we have victory in Him.

The men stand up from the ambush, possibly on the exhortation of what God gives in their hearts. We see Him here as the hidden origin of all actions. They know what to do, because He is in charge. We will always be dependent on this leadership. Then those who have fled turn around and take part in the conquest.

After the lesson of Ai God is again with His people. Israel eradicates Ai in obedience to what God has said. This obedience is linked to Joshua’s attitude, who holds his hand with the javelin stretched out as a sign of reliance on complete over-winning. That the hand with the javelin is not withdrawn until the enemy has been completely defeated demonstrates perseverance.

This contains an important lesson for us. Only through persevering confidence victory can be achieved. That is missing with Joash, the king of Israel in the days of Elisha. When Elisha tells him to strike the ground with his arrows, he does so only three times. Joash should have struck much more often, but because he stops too early, his victory is not total (2Kgs 13:17-1917He said, “Open the window toward the east,” and he opened [it]. Then Elisha said, “Shoot!” And he shot. And he said, “The LORD’S arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Aram; for you will defeat the Arameans at Aphek until you have destroyed [them].”18Then he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground,” and he struck [it] three times and stopped.19So the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck Aram until you would have destroyed [it]. But now you shall strike Aram [only] three times.”). It is about persevering until the end, until the last enemy is defeated.

Joshua perseveres, as do the believers of the church in Philadelphia, who are praised by the Lord Jesus for having kept “the word of My perseverance” (Rev 3:1010Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that [hour] which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.). The “word of My perseverance” also means that this perseverance is found in Himself: “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ” (2Thes 3:55May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.). We can only take possession of spiritual blessings by persevering in confidence on the Lord.

At Jericho everything is for the Lord, at Ai everything is for the people. First all for the Lord, then we receive our share, as the Lord may determine. Furthermore, Ai becomes a desolation. As said, Ai means ‘ruin’ and that is what makes God’s people of it.

The command given by Joshua regarding the dead body of the king of Ai (verse 2929He hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening; and at sunset Joshua gave command and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the city gate, and raised over it a great heap of stones [that stands] to this day.), shows that he knows the Word of God. He acts according to what God has said about it in the law: “If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance” (Deu 21:22-2322“If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree,23his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.).

The territory of Ai is part of the inheritance. It must not be defiled. A hanged man is a curse to God. There is curse for him who hangs on a tree and for those who do not abide in the works of the law. That is the teaching of Galatians 3. The hanged king of Ai shows that the Lord Jesus has taken that place for everyone who believes in Him and has become the cursed One on the tree. The consequence for us is that we have been bought free: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”” (Gal 3:1313Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—). The law does not apply literally to us. The curse of the law no longer strikes us, because the Lord Jesus bore it. Whoever believes will never again come under the curse of the law.


The Altar on the Ebal

30Then Joshua built an altar to the LORD, the God of Israel, in Mount Ebal, 31just as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded the sons of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of uncut stones on which no man had wielded an iron [tool]; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings. 32He wrote there on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written, in the presence of the sons of Israel.

Joshua does what God has commanded him to do if they came into the land: “You shall write on the stones all the words of this law very distinctly” (Deu 27:88You shall write on the stones all the words of this law very distinctly.”). By building the altar Joshua claims the land for the LORD. He has already shown that the land belongs to the LORD by acting according to the precept in view of the dead body of the king of Ai (verse 2929He hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening; and at sunset Joshua gave command and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the city gate, and raised over it a great heap of stones [that stands] to this day.).

The altar is also a picture of the Lord Jesus, it is not worked, it is all perfect. As He is, He has become the altar on which offerings are brought. No sin offerings are brought at this altar, but burnt offerings and peace offerings. It speaks of the fact that the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus is pleasing to God (burnt offering) and that for God’s people it is the basis for fellowship with Him and with each other (peace offering).

Joshua builds the altar on the Ebal, the mountain of the curse (Deu 11:2929“It shall come about, when the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, that you shall place the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal.; 27:4,134So it shall be when you cross the Jordan, you shall set up on Mount Ebal, these stones, as I am commanding you today, and you shall coat them with lime.13For the curse, these shall stand on Mount Ebal: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.). We must learn to say ‘amen’ to the curses. Then we will experience the blessings of the Gerizim. Sacrifices are made on the mountain of the curse. For us, through the offering of Christ, the curses have been removed and the blessings have become our part.


Read All the Words of the Law

33All Israel with their elders and officers and their judges were standing on both sides of the ark before the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, the stranger as well as the native. Half of them [stood] in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of the LORD had given command at first to bless the people of Israel. 34Then afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the book of the law. 35There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel with the women and the little ones and the strangers who were living among them.

The ark takes the central place. Then the law is read. God gives His Word in connection with the ark, the altar and the blessings. In Deuteronomy 27 the people must write the law on the altar. Whosoever abides by the Word of God will abide, and will gain victories in the land. Whosoever does not observe the Word of God will suffer, and will not enjoy the blessings of God’s good land and His good blessings.

What is the law in Deuteronomy 27? There the people are given the task to make an altar on Mount Ebal and to sacrifice on it and to write the law on it (Deu 27:4-84So it shall be when you cross the Jordan, you shall set up on Mount Ebal, these stones, as I am commanding you today, and you shall coat them with lime.5Moreover, you shall build there an altar to the LORD your God, an altar of stones; you shall not wield an iron [tool] on them.6You shall build the altar of the LORD your God of uncut stones, and you shall offer on it burnt offerings to the LORD your God;7and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and eat there, and rejoice before the LORD your God.8You shall write on the stones all the words of this law very distinctly.”). But what is the law? That is the whole content of the book Deuteronomy. In it we see first the blessings of the land and then the place where the LORD makes his Name dwell. We also see the conditions to enjoy the blessings in that place. Although we are not under the law, obedience is also the condition for us to enjoy the blessings. If not, we will bear the curse.


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