The Book of Joshua

Chapter 8

God encourages Joshua, 1, 2. The stratagem whereby Ai was taken, 3-28. The king thereof is hanged, 29. Joshua builds an altar, 30, 31; writes the law on stones, 32; and pronounces the blessings and curses, 33-35.

1 And the LORD said to Joshua, "Do not fear, neither be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai. Behold, I have given into your hand the king of Ai and his people, his city, and his land. 2 And you shall do to Ai and her king as you did to Jericho and her king. Only its loot and its cattle you shall take as plunder for yourselves. Set an ambush for the city behind it."

3 So Joshua and all the people of war arose to go up against Ai. And Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valor and sent them away by night. 4 And he commanded them, saying, "Behold, you shall lie in wait against the city, even behind the city. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you be ready. 5 And I, and all the people who are with me, will approach the city. And it shall come to pass when they come out against us, as at the first, that we will flee before them 6 (For they will come out after us) until we have drawn them from the city, for they will say, 'They flee before us, as at the first.' Therefore, we will flee before them. 7 Then you shall rise from the ambush and seize upon the city, for the LORD your God will deliver it into your hand, 8 And it shall be when you have taken the city, that you shall set the city on fire. According to the commandment of the LORD you shall do. Behold, I have commanded you." 9 Joshua therefore sent them forth. And they went to lie in ambush, and stayed between Beth-el and Ai, on the west side of Ai, but Joshua lodged that night among the people.

10 And Joshua rose early in the morning and numbered the people and went up—he and the elders of Israel—before the people to Ai. 11 And all the people, even the people of war who were with him, went up, drew near, came before the city, and pitched on the north side of Ai. Now there was a valley between them and Ai. 12 And he took about five thousand men and set them to lie in ambush between Beth-el and Ai, on the west side of the city. 13 And when they had set the people, even all the host that was on the north of the city, and their ambush on the west of the city, Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley. 14 And it came to pass when the king of Ai saw it, that they hastened and rose early, and the men of the city went out against Israel to battle—he and all his people—at a time appointed, before the plain. But he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. 15 And Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten before them and fled by the way of the wilderness. 16 And all the people who were in Ai were called together to pursue them. And they pursued Joshua and were drawn away from the city. 17 And there was not a man left in Ai or Beth-el who did not go out after Israel. And they left the city open and pursued Israel.

18 And the LORD said to Joshua, "Stretch out the spear that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand." And Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city. 19 And the ambush arose quickly out of their place, and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand. And they entered into the city, took it, and hastened to set the city on fire. 20 And when the men of Ai looked behind them, they saw, and behold, the smoke of the city ascended to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that way. And the people who fled to the wilderness turned back upon the pursuers. 21 And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that the smoke of the city ascended, they turned back and slew the men of Ai. 22 And the other issued out of the city against them so that they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side and some on that side. And they smote them so that they let none of them remain or escape. 23 And the king of Ai they took alive and brought him to Joshua.

24 And it came to pass when Israel had made an end of slaying all the inhabitants of Ai in the field, in the wilderness in which they chased them, and when they had all fallen on the edge of the sword until they were consumed, that all the Israelites returned to Ai and smote it with the edge of the sword. 25 And so it was, that all who fell that day, both of men and women, were twelve thousand, even all the men of Ai. 26 For Joshua did not draw his hand back with which he stretched out the spear until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. 27 Only the cattle and the loot of that city Israel took as plunder for themselves, according to the word of the LORD which he commanded Joshua. 28 And Joshua burnt Ai and made it a heap forever, even a desolation to this day. 29 And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until evening. And as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcass down from the tree, cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise upon it a great heap of stones, which remains to this day.

30 Then Joshua built an altar to the LORD God of Israel on mount Ebal, 31 As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man has lifted up any iron. And they offered upon it burnt-offerings to the LORD and sacrificed peace-offerings. 32 And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel. 33 And all Israel, their elders, officers, and their judges stood on this side of the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD—the stranger as well as he who was born among them. Half of them were over against mount Gerizim, and half of them over against mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel. 34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded which Joshua did not read before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them.


Matthew Henry Commentary - Joshua, Chapter 8[➚]


[v.1] - "go up to Ai" - This is the second time the Israelites attempted to take Ai. The first attempt (Joshua 7:2-5) was a failure, due to the sin of Achan when he took of the accursed thing (Joshua 7:1, 11, 20-21). This second attempt is successful, for the people have repented and the Lord has delivered the king of Ai into the hand of Joshua.

[v.2] - Reference, Joshua 6:15-27 for the destruction of Jericho.

[v.6] - "as at the first" - This is referring to the first time the Israelites attempted to take Ai and were driven back.

[v.29] - "hanged on a tree until evening" - Reference, Deuteronomy 21:22-23.

[v.31] - The reference to the law of Moses in this verse can be found in Deuteronomy 27:5-6.

[v.34] - "the blessings and cursings" - These blessings and cursings are found in Deuteronomy, ch. 27 and 28.