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affect, with an abiding and salutary awe, not only those who witnessed it, but all who should, after. wards, learn the history of the event.
Had we been on the spot, and acquainted with the peculiar circumstances of the transaction, we should doubtless have understood more fully than we now can, the reasons of it.
It is quite possible, that either the general character of Achan's children may have been so notoriously wicked, or their participation in the guilt of their father, in some way, so well understood, that their doom appeared to the Israelites to be in accordance with their deserts. The Scriptures do not always give us the full account of the events which they record. The facts which they contain, are just such as God saw would be best adapted, if received with a proper spirit, for our instruction in duty. In not drawing out the minuter shades and colors of these facts, or explaining the particular reasons, in the course of his moral government over the world, on which their existence depended, he tries the teachableness of our disposition, our filial confidence in him, and our humility and candor in judging of the conduct of the Infinite and Omniscient Mind. And we should do well never to forget these truths in reading the Sacred Oracles, whenever they present to our view matters of obscure or incomprehensible import.
Achan having suffered the penalty due to his guilt, and the accursed thing being destroyed from among the Israelites, the anger of the Lord was appeased, and he addressed Joshua in these encouraging words: "Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land.” He then directed Joshua completely to destroy the city and its king, as Jericho had been destroyed; permitting the Is. raelites, however, to take the spoils for their own use; and enjoining the employment of an ambush to effect the conquest. Such a measure God had a right to prescribe; and the simple justification of those who employed it is, that they acted in accordance with the divine direction.
By " all the people of war,” we are not to understand, as the subsequent part of the narrative clearly shows, the whole number of the soldiery, six hundred thousand ; but such a portion as was needed to ensure success, and probably, the choicest and most effective men, thirty thousand in all. Five thousand of these Joshua sent, in the darkness of the night, secretly to post themselves on the west side of Ai, between it and Bethel. There he directed them to remain till himself and the residue approaching the place,
as if to attack it, the men of Ai would rush out to give them battle, and pursuing the Israelites, who would designedly flee before them, leave the city to be easily entered and taken possession of by those who were lying in ambush. A signal from Joshua was to tell them when to make this movement; and, after entering Ai, they were to kindle a fire in it as an indication of their object being accomplished, and also that it might produce consternation among the ranks of their enemies.
Before the light of the ensuing morning had broken upon them, Joshua inspected the twentyfive thousand men, to ascertain that they were all there, and in readiness. He then led them through the valley, on the north side of the city, and, as the day dawned, appeared with his host in full view before it. On perceiving them, the king of Ai concluded at once to give them battle. His late success prompted him to do this with the most sanguine hopes of victory. He rushed forth from the gates with a powerful party of armed
and was probably soon joined by such in Bethel as were able to do military service; while as the united forces approached the Israelites, the latter fled before them by the way of the wilderness. The stratagem suc. ceeded. The remaining armed men in Ai were summoned to the pursuit, which now became hotter and closer than ever. The enemies of Israel were sure of an easy triumph, and their shouts of exultation rent the air.
At this critical juncture, the Lord directed Joshua to stretch out towards Ai, and to keep in that position, the spear which he held in his hand, having probably a flag of some kind on the end of it, declaring that he would now give the city into his possession. Joshua did so; and as this was the signal, on seeing which those in ambush were to come forth, they immediately rushed into Ai, where there were none capable of making any resistance, and set a part of it on fire.
Soon, the thick, black smoke ascended towards heaven, and was seen distinctly by the Israelites and their pursuers. The latter perceived, at once, that their city was in the hands of their enemies, and were thrown into great dismay and confusion. The former, also, knew well the cause, and turning upon the king of Ai and his army attacked them with great slaughter. In the meanwhile the five thousand, who had conducted the ambush, sallying out of the city, fell upon their enemies on that side. Resistance was in vain. All were put to death by the Israel. ites, excepting the king of Ai, who was con. ducted as a prisoner to Joshua.
The victors, then, marching directly to Ai, slew all the remaining inhabitants, sparing nei. ther age nor sex. For such was the command of Jehovah, who, in his infinite wisdom, had resolved on their complete extermination, while the Israelites were but the executioners of his justice. The cattle, however, and the other spoils they took for their own use, as they had been permitted to do; after which the entire city was reduced to ashes. Twelve thousand was the whole number, including those who died in battle and who were slain in the city, that perished on this memorable day.
The success of the Israelites, it appears, was intimately connected with the continued stretching out of the spear which was upraised by the hand of Joshua. He " drew not his hand back," we are told, "wherewith he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai.” This act of his was evidently intended as something more than a signal for the men in ambush to rush from the place of their concealment. It was, also, to direct the whole army of the Israelites in their movements. While the spear was raised, it was an indication to them, like the uplifting of the hands of Moses at Rephidim, of the presence and assistance of the Almighty, and they proceeded with confidence in the work of extermination which they were commanded to perform. Nor was it let down till this dreadful work was completed; an illustrious