For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4
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JOSHUA - CHAPTER 7

 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

7:1.  "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. 

It might have been expected that no Israelite who had witnessed the miraculous destruction of Jericho would have dared to trangress God's command, but man in Adam is an incorrigible rebel, the slave of his old fallen corrupt nature, that nature impelling rebellion against the Creator.

It may seem strange also that the whole nation should have been charged with the trespass, literally treachery, but it is to be remembered that Israel "the church in the wilderness" (Ac 7:38), while not the same as the Church of this present age, resembled her in many ways.  The Church is a corporate body comprised of all believers converted between Pentecost and the Rapture, and Corinthians chapter 12 declares that each member of the Church bears the same relation to it as do the individual members of our natural bodies to the whole body, so that what happens to one member affects the whole body, and so with the Church, 1 Co 12:26. 

The verse we are now studying indicates that the same principle applied also to Israel, and would teach us that in the experiences of Israel God intends us to read instruction relating to the Church.  As already noted, the proscription relative to the things in Jericho, are the symbolic warning to us against coveting the things of this evil world.

The transgressor was an Israelite, and as such he represents one professing to be a believer, but without necessarily being one, for it is to be remembered that profession may be false, and there are many such in the world today.  This, however, does not preclude the fact that genuine believers may also be guilty of similarly coveting the things of this world. Being able to determine whether he represents a false professor or a genuine believer is of little importance.  The lesson God would have us learn is the folly of coveting the things of this world.  It will cost the unbeliever his soul; and the believer, loss of reward at the Bema.

His name Achan means troubler, the son of Carmi my vineyard, the son of Zabdi my dowry, the son of Zerah a rising, of the tribe of Judah he shall be praised."  He appears to have been of honorable ancestry, for since Israel is referred to as the Lord's vineyard, his father Carmi my vineyard seems to point to one in a right relationship with God.  Zabdi my dowry, and Zerah a rising are ambiguous, and yield no readily apparent lesson, but Judah he shall be praised seems to speak of good rather than evil.  A good ancestry, however, is no protection from sin.  Some of God's choicest saints have been guilty of very grievous offenses.

7:2.  "And 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."

Ominously significant is the absence of any reference to Joshua's having sought God's direction relative to the conquest of Ai.  It was only a small city, but Israel's defeat at the hand of the men of Ai is meant to remind us that there is nothing in our lives so trivial as to preclude the need of seeking God's guidance in relation to it.

Ai, meaning the heap (of ruins), is as much a type of the world as is Jericho, but from a different perspective.  Israel's defeat there is to teach us that there is just as much need of vigilance in relation to the small things of this world as to those which are obviously of consequence.  It is often in the small things that we suffer our greatest defeats.

Its meaning the heap (of ruins) points to the truth that this world is a ruined planet, which like the men upon it, has had to be redeemed through the Lord's death at Calvary, see Ro 8:19-23.

Bethaven means house of vanity, and Ai's being beside it reminds us that everything associated with this world is vanity, worthless.

Bethel means house of God, and since the east is the direction that speaks of sin and departure from God, Ai's being east of Bethel adds another brush stroke to the symbolic picture of the world: it is spiritually "east" of God's house.

7:3.  "And 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 labor thither; for they are but few."

Like Samson shorn of his hair and, "...knowing not that the Lord was departed from him" (Jgs 16:20), those sent to reconnoiter Ai knew not that there was sin in their midst, and that it had robbed them of God's power.  There is need for us to examine ourselves daily, and to confess and forsake every known sin.  It is lack of such examination and repentance that has left the professing church in her present terrible state.  Sin will cause us to lose sight of our own weakness, leading us to underestimate the power of the enemy, for with God's power cut off we are powerless.

7:4.  "So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai."

Confident in their own power, and ignorant of how weak they were without God's help, they suffered defeat, and lost thirty-six men.  We too will know nothing but defeat if God's power is gone, and it will not be made available where there is sin.

7:5.  "And 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."

Thirty-six Israelites died.  What we do affects others, as declared by Paul relative to believers as the body of Christ, "Whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it" (1 Co 12:26).  It should be the prayer of every believer that he be preserved from anything that would bring God's judgment on the assembly of which he is a member.

While the factors of thirty-six are 22 x 32 speaking of witness and resurrection respectively, the more obvious factors are 6 x 6, the number of man, weakness, sin, failure, imperfection.  These thirty-six slain Israelites declare the fact that even in believers (spiritual Israelites) there is still the old nature, and therefore the potential for all the evil associated with the number six.  Unknown to Joshua and the other Israelites was the fact that as Adam brought sin into the world, and with it the judgment of God, so had Achan brought sin into the camp, and with it the judgment of God, for sin and divine judgment go together. 

Though the blatant sin of Achan has tended to obscure it, there was fault also on Joshua's part.  As discussed above, there is no record of his having consulted God relative to the matter of going against Ai.  There is little question that had he talked with God he would have been told of Achan's sin, so that it could have been dealt with before it brought death to thirty-six others, and discouragement into the whole camp. 

While Achan's sin was of deliberate commission, Joshua's was of accidental omission.  They were very different in nature, and it is instructive to note that there was no offering prescribed for sins of deliberate commission.  Probably Joshua's failure to seek guidance from God relative to the conquest of Ai, is due to the fact that he didn't think there was any need for such consultation since the city was small; and a practical lesson to be learnt from his failure in this matter is that there is no detail of our lives so trivial as to be beyond the scope of God's interest, nor so inconsequential that we don't need to seek His guidance.

Shebarim means breaches, and Israel's being chased to Shebarim ought to remind us that sin robs us of God's protection.  It brings a breach in our defences against our spiritual foes who watch ceaselessly for just such an opening through which they may enter to do us harm.

Some scholars understand "and smote them in the going down (descent or slope) to mean that others, besides the first thirty-six slain at the gate of Ai, were also killed as they fled.  If this is correct then it emphasizes even more the deadly consequences for the local assembly of the sin of just one member.

Someone has very truly said that "nothing succeeds like success," and in nothing is this axiom more true than in its application to our conflict with the forces of darkness.  Small wonder that the hearts of the men of Israel "melted, and became as water."  It behooves each one of us to pray that we will be preserved from anything that would cause us to turn our backs and flee from the enemy.

7:6.  "And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord until the even tide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads."

The full import of the rent clothes is often missed as a result of failure to understand the typological significance of clothing.  Garments are a Biblical symbol of righteousness, so that the rending of the clothes is the typical acknowledgement that there was a rent in their righteousness, the result being that righteousness was gone from them, and with it God's blessing and protection, for in His view there is no such thing as partial righteousness.  With Him there are no gray areas.  Unbelievers are completely sinful; and believers, completely righteous.  Righteousness is a complete garment, a fact, incidentally, which lends special significance to the fact that at Calvary the soldiers said concerning the Lord's coat, "Let us not rend it...." (Jn 19:24).  In preserving it from being rent, God was declaring symbolically, that even when the Lord Jesus Christ was made sin for us, He never ceased to be inherently sinless.  His unrent coat is the symbolic assurance to every man who accepts that "coat" by trusting Him as Savior, that he has received a complete, a perfect righteousness.  He stands before God accepted in Christ, as holy and sinless as the Lord Himself.

Joshua's prostrating himself on the earth before "the ark of the Lord until the eventide" portrays the only proper attitude for the believer who is experiencing God's displeasure.  The reality of his distress is disclosed in that he lay on the earth all day long, even though he was unaware of the sin that had provoked God to anger.  Such genuine sorrow rebukes the casual attitude adopted by many professing Christians relative, not to sins of which they are unaware, but to sins of deliberate commission.  We would perhaps have a greater fear of sinning if we but grasped more clearly the terrible nature of sin.  Adam's sin was what many today would call a minor offence, yet the consequences have been appalling, requiring the death of the Lord Jesus Christ to deliver men from having to suffer those consequences eternally.  No sin is minor in God's sight!  

"...he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads."  His being joined by the elders, teaches the necessary lesson that when a local church finds evidence of God's displeasure, the only recourse is for the elders to adopt the same penitent attitude, and to carefully inquire the cause.  Some of those evidences are lack of blessing in the Gospel; lack of spiritual gift; worship become a mere formality without any sign of the Holy Spirit's leading; poorly attended prayer and Bible study meetings, etc.  Sadly, however, few today discern these things as evidence of God's anger, with the result that they are attributed to the nature of the times we live in, and instead of repentant waiting upon Him, elders and people busy themselves with all kinds of human expedients and programs to preserve the outward appearance long after the power of God has been withdrawn from them.

7:7.  "And 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!"

From the vantage point of our place in time, and with a full knowledge of the outcome, it is easy to condemn Joshua, yet how often we are guilty of acting exactly as he did!  With our eyes off God and on circumstances, we too fail to recognize that there must be a cause, and that that cause must be sin; and with that fact lost sight of, we too forget His promises, question His wisdom, distrust His motives, and wish ourselves back "on the other side Jordan." 

7:8.  "O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies!"

Well might Joshua ask this question.  When we lose sight of the fact that sin is the only thing that can cut us off from God's power and blessing, we are left without hope, for it leaves us then with no alternative but to think that we are nothing but pawns in the hand of a capricious God.  Had Joshua stopped to remember what God had done for them in Egypt, and at the Red Sea; how He had fed them with manna, and given them water out of the smitten rock; how He had led them by a pillar of cloud by day, and one of fire by night; how He had given them the lands of Sihon and Og; how He had brought them dryshod across a flooding Jordan; how He had destroyed Jericho, he would surely have been delivered from the folly of charging God with fault.  When we are tempted to repeat his folly we should remember Calvary. The God Who gave His only Son to die for us is not capricious.  Having paid such a price to give us life, He is not going to destroy us.  In Israel's defeat at Ai, He would teach us that seeming adversity is either because we have sinned, or because He is refining our faith.  Our recourse relative to the former is to confess, repent, and forsake the sin; and in the latter circumstance, to trust Him implicitly until the refining fire has done its work.  Job, even while in God's crucible, said, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" Job 13:15.   Such faith honors God, and brings us blessing.

7:9.  "For 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?"

Even in the midst of despair Joshua apparently remembered God's promises, and still clung to the fact that God's honor and Israel's blessing were inseparably linked together.  If Israel's name were cut off from the earth, God's great name would be irreparably tarnished, for out of all the nations He had publicly selected them as His chosen people.  We too are His chosen people, and we should never forget that our eternal blessing and His honor are also inseparably linked together, for He has promised to bless us eternally.

7:10.  "And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?"

This seems to imply that Joshua ought to have known that nothing but sin could have brought this defeat to Israel, so that instead of lying on the earth searching for a cause, he would have been better employed in searching out the sin that had caused God to withdraw His power from them.  And so is it with us.  Very often time spent in wondering why there is no power, no blessing, would be better spent in examining our own lives to discover the sin that has brought the blight.

7:11.  "Israel 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."

What Joshua ought to have known at least in general, God declared in detail, and the lesson He would have us learn is that when there is lack of blessing, the underlying cause is sin, a fact which ought to impel each one of us to conduct an honest examination of his own life, with the sincere prayer that where the sin is unknown, God will reveal it, so that it can be confessed, repented of, and put away.

Since Joshua couldn't have been expected to know the details of the sin, God Himself revealed them; but having revealed them, He left it to Joshua to search out the transgressor, and to deal with him according to God's direction.

First, there was the general fact that Israel had sinned, reminding us that what we do as individuals has an effect on the whole local church.  Then there was the emphasis on the fact that the sin was not inadvertant.  It was deliberate transgression of the covenant that God had made with Israel, i.e., that obedience would ensure blessing; and disobedience, judgment.  We, though not under the law, are in the same covenant relationship with God: obedience secures His blessing; disobedience, chastisement, not only for ourselves as individuals, but for the whole church.

They had taken of the "accursed thing," which was the Babylonish garment, God having commanded that everything except the silver, gold, brass and iron, was to be burnt.  (For the spiritual significance of the three things taken by Achan, see comments on verse 21).

Theft was also involved, and theft of unbelievable audacity, for since the metal was to have been brought "into the treasury of the Lord," the offender had stolen from God!

"... and dissembled also."  Since the word means to hide under a false pretence, there seems to be implied more than the fact that Achan had taken these forbidden things, and hidden them.  Had he also perhaps boasted of having faithfully obeyed every detail of God's command?  He wouldn't be the first whose dishonesty has been masked by self-proclaimed integrity.

"... and they have put it even among their own stuff."  All that Israel had was what God had given them, and it is to be remembered that when He brought them out of Egyt, it was as those who took with them "jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment" Ex 12:35, (the very same things Achan had stolen), which God had commanded them to demand (not "borrow" as in the KJ version) of the Egyptians, He having put it into the hearts of the Egytians to give what the Israelites asked.  Refusal to be content with what God has given them, has led many another, some of them believers, also to steal from Him.

7:12.  "Therefore 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."

God Himself emphasized that Israel's defeat was because of the sin of this one man, and if we don't learn the lesson that our sin adversely affects the whole local assembly, then we are failing to read the warning imprinted on this portion of Scripture.

No stronger word could have been used to describe Israel's state, for "accursed" means "doomed to destruction,"  and we shouldn't forget that God here used it, not just relative to Achan, but to all Israel.  Sin is a terrible thing, fraught with terrible consequences.  And God set two alternatives before Joshua and the elders: they must either destroy the guilty man, or be themselves destroyed as a nation.  The principle applies also to the local church.  The congregation that refuses to deal with sin will die.  In many an assembly today there is much questioning as to the lack of blessing, and the excuse frequently offered is that it is only to be expected; we're living in the closing days of the age.  Yes, we are living in the closing days, but God is no less willing to bless than He was in the early apostolic age.  This is not to say that we should be looking for the same large numbers of converts as in that early age.  We should realize that the bulk of the harvest has been gathered in, but we should also remember that God's law governing Israel ensured that there would be left in their fields for the gleaners the unreaped corners, the stalks not gathered up as the sheaves were being bound, and the occasional overlooked sheaf (see Le 19:9; 23:22; Dt 24:19).  The spiritual application is to the Church.  There are still souls to be saved, and if we are not seeing results from the preaching of the Gospel, perhaps it is time to examine ourselves as to whether the fault lies with us.

7:13.  "Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow: 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."

"Sanctify" means "to set apart," and it seems that in the present context the sanctification is to be the result of examination, so that literally Joshua was being commanded, not only to set the people apart, but he was also to instruct them to set themselves apart.  His sanctification of them would be on the morrow, when guided by God, he would separate them as described in verses 17 and 18, until the guilty Achan stood revealed as the culprit.  But the people were to sanctify themselves, and this very clearly implies self-examination.  Is it possible that this personal sanctification or setting apart was God's gracious provision of opportunity for Achan to confess his sin and save himself?  It is difficult to see what other reason there could have been for it.  If this is the explanation, then the lesson God would have us learn is that it is madness to refuse to examine ourselves and make confession to Him as instructed in 1 Jn 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness"

"...against tomorrow."  Tomorrow was the day of judgment; the day when the confession would be compelled, and be too late for mercy.  For every believer there is a corresponding "tomorrow" - the judgment seat of Christ, where unconfessed sin will translate into forfeited reward; but for every unbeliever there is also a "tomorrow" - that dreadful day when he will stand at the great white throne, his compelled confession coming too late to save him from consignment to eternal torment in the lake of fire. 

The "accursed thing" in the midst of Israel would bring death to Achan and his guilty family, for God had warned that he who took the accursed thing would make himself a curse, see 6:18.  (Since God doesn't slay the righteous with the guilty, it is clear that Achan's family had also a part in the crime since they too were put to death).  Furthermore, God's promise to abandon Israel if the guilty weren't put away, translates into the assurance that if Achan were spared by Joshua and the other Israelites, then God would destroy Israel, for without His protecting care they could not survive.

The equivalent of the accursed thing in a man's life will destroy him and the assembly if they refuse to deal with it.

7:14.  "In 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."

In Scripture the morning is frequently associated with judgment, as here, reminding us that when God executes judgment it will be in the all revealing light of His presence which will banish the darkness under which men attempt to hide their sins.  The knowledge that that morning faces every man ought to strike terror into the heart of saint and sinner alike, and impel that penitent confession apart from which there can be no salvation for the sinner, or blessing for the saint.

The process by which the transgressor was finally exposed isn't revealed, but presumably it may have been by the use of the Urim and the Thummim, the two stones by which God's will was made known, see Ex 28:30.  One stone appears to have meant YES and the other NO, so that the method would have been to couch the inquiry in such form as would require a YES or NO answer. The high priest therefore would simply put his hand into the Breastplate and withdraw one stone, his knowing which one being precluded by their being identical to the touch.  Thus for example, the identity of the guilty tribe could be ascertained by asking, Is it Judah, in which case the stone retrieved would be the one signifying Yes; or it could have been by the process of elimination, e.g., the question being, Is it Dan, in which case the stone withdrawn would have signified No, and so on until Judah was singled out.

That sin is a personal individual thing is clearly revealed in that the search gradually narrowed down to Achan.  There will be no sharing of guilt either at the Bema or at the great white throne.  The judgment will be that of the individual standing face to face with the Lord Jesus Christ, for He will be the Judge at both assizes.

7:15.  "And 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 (wickedness) in Israel."

As verse 25 makes clear the guilty were first stoned with stones, and then burnt with fire, there being, as it were, a double death.  This invests their deaths with a solemn significance, for there can be little question that typologically it declares that they died as unbelievers, the stoning pointing to the death of the body; the burning, to the second death: ultimate consignment of body, soul, and spirit to the lake of fire following the judgment of the great white throne.

7:16.  "So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken:"

The early rising declares the urgency of the matter, and serves to remind us that God's business ought to be given first place in our lives.  And the fact that the guilty man was of the tribe of Judah - the tribe which speaks of praise - surely ought to sound the warning that there is great need for all of us to heed the counsel given by Paul, "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world (age) are come.  Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" 1 Co 10:11-12

7:17.  "And 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:"

17:18.  "And 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."

Zarah or Zerah means a rising as of the sun; Zabdi, a gift: a dowry; and Carmi, my vineyard. 

All of these meanings have a good connotation, so that the tragedy of Achan's folly stands out all the more dramatically against the backdrop of his honorable lineage, and his privileged place in Israel.  His sin had caused the praise of the nation to be exchanged for lamentation; and his own bright prospect to be supplanted by the certainty of eternal woe.  If there were no other warning in Scripture, this dark chapter in Israel's history should be sufficient to deter us from looking covetously on the things of earth.  How paltry those once-coveted articles must have seemed to Achan in the light of his imminent departure to another world!  The record has been preserved so that we might learn to view the things of this world in the light of eternity, and thus be preserved from repeating his folly.

7:19.  "And 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,"

7:20.  "And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done:"

Whether by our obedience which enables Him to bless, or by our disobedience that compels Him to curse, God will be glorified.  Achan, like many another, chose the latter course.  The confession, which made earlier and voluntarily, might have saved him, was given by compulsion, and too late.  Sin, voluntarily confessed during the day of grace, will be pardoned; but confession compelled in the day of judgment will be visited with wrath.

7:21.  "When 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."

It is the Lord Himself Who warns, "If thine eye offend thee (causes you to sin), pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire," Mk 9:47.  John warns, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.... For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever" 1 Jn 2:15-17.  Only eternity will reveal how often in the past thirty-four hundred years Achan has wished that he might have lost his eyes before they lighted upon the accursed thing in Jericho, and caused him to lose his soul.

As always in Scripture, the spiritual message transcends the literal.  The literal things that cost Achan his life and his soul, are themselves symbols of equally deadly things that have brought countless others into the same place of torment.

In Scripture, Babylon represents the realm of false religion, including apostate Christianity, though Philistia is the specific representative of apostasy. Garments represent either the righteousness of Christ that clothes the believer, or the "filthy rags" of the unbeliever's self-righteousness.  The gaudy hues of the "Babylonian garment" have captured the eye of many a man, leading him to despise the simple white purity of the robe of Christ's righteousness, which God declares to be the only garment acceptable to Him. There are multitudes sharing Achan's torment today who also saw the "Babylonish garment" as a thing to be coveted - mere morality being mistaken for righteousness, because it came in connection with a magnificent building, an ornate ritual, a sensual worship, an intellectual oratory.... everything, in fact, that constitutes "religion," including that of apostate Christianity as well as heathenism.

The second item that caught his covetous attention was the "two hundred shekels of silver," the metal which is the Biblical symbol of redemption.  In Ex 30:11-15 God had appointed that rich and poor alike must give half a shekel of silver as the token price of redemption.  The amount stolen by Achan was four-hundred times that weight; and as the Babylonish garment is symbolic, so also is that stolen silver.  It represents the value man sets on his own efforts to earn redemption, which God says must be accepted as a free gift; but fallen man in his blind pride refuses the gift, insisting that God accept instead  his "good works," thus declaring by implication that those works are "four hundred times" better than the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In God's estimation there is nothing more precious than the blood of His Son, for after declaring a soul to be of more value than the whole world, Mk 8:36, He assures believers, "Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold... but with the precious blood of Christ," 1 Pe 1:18-19.

As that stolen silver cost Achan his life and his soul, so will man's attempt to justify himself in the sight of God by any means other than faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, prove to be also the means of his own destruction.

The third lure presented by Satan was "a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight."  In Scripture, gold is always the symbol of glory, and one reason why it is so frequently found following silver in the Bible is that in the spiritual realm the order is, first redemption (symbolized by silver), and then glory (portrayed by gold).  The man who seeks eternal glory by any way other than faith in a despised and rejected Christ, will discover, like Achan, that that way is the way that leads to destruction.

For those interested in the significance of Biblical numbers, attention is drawn to the two hundred, and the fifty.  The factors of two hundred are 23 x 52, and since two is the number of witness or testimony, and five, of responsibility, the spiritual significance is that of threefold witness, that witness, in the present bad context, being before God, before man, and in the estimate of the dupe's own deluded mind; while the twofold five speaks of responsibility to God and man, the spiritually-blinded dupe believing that through religious observances, he has fulfilled both.

The factors of fifty are 2 x 52, and being the same as those connected with the silver, they declare the truth that the religious, but unconverted man, is convinced that his religion not only fulfills responsibility in regard to salvation, but in regard to his future glorification also.

"... they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it."  This picture is no less dramatic because symbolic.  It portrays that awful day when, like Achan, every unconverted man, religious and irreligious alike,  will look back from the great white throne with bitter regret, to see in the clear light of eternity the worthlessness of the things for which he bartered away his soul.

"...and the silver under it."  Silver, we have seen to be symbolic of redemption; and in its being buried under the other things, we are being shown the tragic fact that the unbeliever will discover when it is too late, that he has left the "silver" of redemption buried back on earth under the other things - so important on earth, so worthless in eternity - that have damned his soul.

7:22.  "So Joshua sent messengers and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it."  

"... and the silver under it," is repeated again. God would emphasize by repetition the symbolic warning of that buried silver.  "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Mk 8:36.

7:23.  "And 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."  

This is the symbolic announcement of the truth declared in Mt 10:26, "For there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known."  "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is," 1 Co 3:13.  "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, Who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts," 1 Co.4:5.  That coming day of judgment will reveal not only the secret words and deeds, it will reveal even the thoughts.  And it is necessary to remember that the believer's judgment will be at the judgment seat of Christ, to assess the value of his works, and give an appropriate reward to be enjoyed for ever in heaven.  The judgment of the unbeliever will be a thousand years later at the great white throne, to evaluate his works, and to dispense an appropriate degree of torment to be endured for ever in the lake of fire.  As all the evidence of Achan's guilt was spread out before the Lord for all to see so will it be at the great white throne. Every thought, word, and deed of the unbeliever will be revealed for all to see before he is banished into the eternal torment of the lake of fire, to receive the due reward of his deeds.

7:24.  "And 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."

Everything belonging to Achan - not just the stolen things, but all his goods, all his animals, and his children - was brought out to the valley of Achor to be burned with him, the execution of his children assuring us that they were his accomplices, for in Ez 18:20 it is written, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die.  The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son...." 

Animals in those days represented a man's wealth, so that the destruction of the animals declares the utter extent of the loss accruing from that one act of folly.  It has been recorded as a warning to others not to follow in his steps.

The propriety of God's having chosen Achor, meaning trouble or to trouble, as the place where Achan troubler was to end his life, is too obvious to need comment.  The place where every unbeliever dies will be also the equivalent of Achor, for it will mark the beginning of an eternity of trouble impossible to imagine.

7:25.  "And 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."

This points, not only to the coming judgment of all unbelievers, but its being emphasized that he was being put to death for having troubled Israel, may teach by implication the abhorrence with which God views those who trouble His people, "For thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath He sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple (pupil) of His eye," Ze 2:8.  Israel's complete acquiescence with the Divine punishment points to the coming day of judgment when the redeemed will approve the sentence pronounced by Christ that will banish unbelievers to the eternal torment of the lake of fire.  

It is impossible to mistake the spiritual significance of the burning that followed the stoning.  There could be no clearer picture of the second death.  The stoning represents the death of the body; the burning, the consignment of body, soul and spirit to the lake of fire, as it is written, "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death.  And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire," Re 20:14-15.

7:26.  "And 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."

How many beheld that cairn through the years, and remembered the fate of Achan, is unknown.  It has either long since gone, or, if still standing, is no longer recognized as the place where Achan came to such a terrible end.  God, however, has preserved the record in His Word to be a warning to all who read.   

"So the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger."  For the believer, the fierceness of that anger is "turned away" because it was poured out on his Substitute at Calvary. so that, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus," Ro 8:1. 

It is possible that pardon may have been available up until that morning when the tribes were assembled for judgment - a pardon made possible in anticipation of Calvary.  Since confession and forgiveness are inseparably linked together, Achan's refusal to confess, until too late, would then translate into rejection of Christ.  The result was that he had to go out to the valley of Achor to bear his own punishment.  The man who rejects Christ as his Savior will have to go out to the place of which the valley of Achor is but a shadow, also to bear his own punishment, throughout eternity.  No small part of his  punishment will be the remorse of knowing that he sold his soul for worthless things; and of knowing that his eternal torment need not have been, since Christ had already borne the punishment at Calvary, his own unbelief alone having rendered that sacrifice worthless.

[Joshua 8]

 

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     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
2000-2005 James Melough
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