Joshua 8 KJV, Sermon, Commentary, Summary, Bible Study, Ai

Today we’ll be studying Joshua chapter 8. We’ll see The Destruction of Ai.

And of course, by dropping into the 8th chapter of this book, we’re assuming that we know what’s preceded us thus far. What have we seen so far in the book of Joshua?

In the first 2 chapters of this book we saw Joshua being encouraged to take leadership of Israel and take them into God’s promised land for them. What about chapers 3 and 4? That was where Joshua and all Israel crossed the Jordan River on dry ground. What happened next in chapters 5 and 6? Well, what’s the first city that Israel captured in the land of Canaan? Jericho. That’s what we saw in those chapters. The conquest of Jericho. And then last time in chapter 7 what did we witness? Chapter 7 is sort of like the proverbial glue holding together the story of Jericho’s conquest with the story of Israel’s military activies regarding the city of Ai.

So chapters 5 through 8 are fairly closely related. Let’s think about it. Chapters 5 and 6 deal with Israel’s victory against Jericho. The Lord gave detailed commands to Joshua regarding Israel’s tactics and approach. And I believe that these tactics weren’t the “best practices” of those days. Right? They weren’t like the advised way to attack an enemy city, naturally. We have an ROTC program here at UW-Whitewater and at Maranatha Baptist University. No one is teaching those students in their military classes that to penetrate your enemy’s defenses all you need to do is just go around blowing trumpets for 7 days and that’ll do it! God gave Joshua these tactics, at least in part, to show that it wasn’t by their might or power or wisdom that they would win victories against their enemies. It was God’s invisible hand and outstretched arm that would win the victory.

So Israel defeats Jericho with God’s help. Then they just naturally move on to the next city on their way to where they’re headed. And Joshua in chapter 7 sends spies to scope out Ai. The spies return and tell him that only a few thousand troops are needed. This Ai is a small-time city. No need to have all the men of war go up against it. So Joshua (maybe?) and about 3,000 men from Israel go up and fight Ai… and they lose. But why? Achan took some stuff that God said Israel shouldn’t take. But shouldn’t God have warned his people?… I think he did. But he did so silently, not audibly. What should have warned Joshua that things weren’t the same as they were at Jericho? Well, where was God’s instructions? Where were the commanded tactics for conquering Ai like Joshua had received with Jericho? They didn’t come. The Lord was absolutely silent to Joshua.

Is it not terrifying when God is silent to us? It’s true that sometimes darkness veils his lovely face, as the song says. Behind dark clouds of harsh providence beams his loving and kind countenance toward those of us who are accepted in the Beloved one. But don’t let that reality dull you to the fact that God’s silence is meant to speak to you. And you would do well to do like Joshua did – no, don’t despair like he did. But seek the Lord. Fall before him. Plead his mercy and his son’s death on your behalf. He’s ready to make the matter known to you. And then make things right, like Israel did. And do you know what will happen? God won’t be distant. He’ll lead you with his righteous right hand. He resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Draw near to God and he’ll draw near to you. So, let’s see God doing this again with Joshua in 8:1-2.

Joshua 8:1-2

[8:1 ¶ And the LORD said unto Joshua, 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: 2 And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves: lay thee an ambush for the city behind it.]

Listen to those words of comfort. “Fear not.” “Don’t be dismayed.” “I have given into thy hand.” God is again with his people. They took care of the sin problem in their midst. And now he’s ready to work with them again.

Now, I want to point out a few things. First, whom did God say was supposed to go up against Ai? Joshua and all the people. That’s different from what Joshua did in his own strength, isn’t it? Joshua sent about 3,000 people up to Ai the first time. And there’s some question in my mind as to whether Joshua himself went up against Ai. I think he may have stayed behind. But God’s ways are different from ours, aren’t they? God says all the people go this time.

God also reveals that he’s given all of Ai into Joshua’s hand. And he says that Joshua will do to the king of Ai just as he did to the king of Jericho. Don’t tell me you don’t remember what happened to the king of Jericho! You don’t remember? Good. Because we weren’t actually told what happened to the king of Jericho when Israel invaded that city. So actually we’ll have to find out what Joshua and Israel did to the king of Jericho by watching what they do to Ai and its king later on in this passage. So stay tuned.

Now, do you remember what the Israelites were allowed to take when they attacked Jericho? Absolutely nothing. They had to kill and burn all living beings and give all the inanimate objects to the Lord. But what about with Ai? What could they take in Ai? They could actually take the spoil and the cattle this time. So that’s different. By the way, again, how could Joshua have known what was off-limits the first time he sent people to attack Ai? The Lord is the one who was calling the shots regarding what could and could not be taken by the Israelites for spoil. How Israel needed God’s direction! How we need his direction…

And lastly we just need to note the tactics involved in this attack. With Jericho, the battle tactic was to march around the city once a day for 6 days, march 7 times on the 7th day and blow 7 horns and shout. This time God mixes it up a little and has Joshua put men in ambush. The men were to lay in wait behind the city. We’ll see what side of the city that was on in just a little while.

So Joshua then takes what the Lord commanded him and he puts it into practice. Let’s read verses 3 through 9.

Joshua 8:3-9

3 ¶ So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai: and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valour, and sent them away by night. 4 And he commanded them, saying, Behold, ye shall lie in wait against the city, even behind the city: go not very far from the city, but be ye all ready: 5 And I, and all the people that are with me, will approach unto 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) till 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 ye shall rise up 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 ye have taken the city, that ye shall set the city on fire: according to the commandment of the LORD shall ye do. See, I have commanded you. 9 Joshua therefore sent them forth: and they went to lie in ambush, and abode between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai: but Joshua lodged that night among the people.

So Joshua and all the people start preparing to attack Ai. And how many men does Joshua choose to lie in wait behind Ai? 30,000! That’s a good bit more than the original 3,000 that went up against Ai at the beginning. And these are just the men lying in wait! Not to mention the rest who are with Joshua and will be going up to Ai with him. So, Joshua sends these 30,000 men away by night.

And actually, most of the verses we just read are Joshua’s conversation with these men he’s sending away under the cover of night. Before they leave he tells them how this is going to work. They’re going to hide themselves behind Ai. We learn that this is actually west of the city of Ai. The west side of Ai is considered its back part. So you’d assume that its front is which direction? East. We’ll consider whether that’s the case or not in a little while. So the 30,000 men go into hiding on the west of Ai between Ai and Bethel, which would have been northwest of Ai. And somehow 30,000 men are going to remain hidden there for a day or so. A number of Bible scholars have pointed to this unlikely event – hiding 30,000 men in between two cities. And they think this is unlikely to have actually happened. Some have even proposed that there are two descriptions of the conquest of Ai in this chapter and they’re contradictory or at least competing with one another. I don’t think we need to go that way. Listen, in the book of Joshua we’re not talking about what’s likely. We’re talking about what is possible. And with God, how many things are possible? Yeah, all things. The walls of Jericho falling was unlikely to have happened. This kind of thing doesn’t happen every day. The Jordan River drying up is completely unbelievable… unless you believe that there is a God who created all things and sustains all things and can do whatever he wants in heaven and on earth. So, 30,000 men hiding between two cities is unlikely. But it is possible with God.

So these 30,000 were to lie in wait. Meanwhile, Joshua and the other Israelites were going to come to Ai and pretend to flee before them as they did the first time. When the people of Ai come out to chase the fleeing Israelites that’s when the ambush arises from their position and enters the city and immediately burns it with fire.

This is the Lord’s command, Joshua says. And it’s also Joshua’s command. “See I have commanded you” he says. With that authoritative message, the 30,000 depart to the west side of Ai and Joshua spends the night with the rest of the people. I assume this is still at their camp in Gilgal, near the Dead Sea.

Let’s see what happens on the next day. Verses 10 through 13.

Joshua 8:10-13

[10 ¶ And Joshua rose up 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 that were with him, went up, and drew nigh, and 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 Bethel 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 liers in wait on the west of the city, Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley.]

So, Joshua rises early in anticipation of the day’s battle. He and the people go up to Ai. Again, they’re starting at Gilgal which is at or below sea level. They’re traveling northwest into the hill country. They are literally “going up” – elevationally – just as the text says.

Now, verse 12 is a little confusing. Joshua already sent 30,000 men to lie in wait behind the city of Ai. But here it says he sent 5,000 men. Well, which is it? Some commentators have proposed that actually Joshua sent only 5,000 men and that the reference to 30,000 men previously is a scribal error. They say this would explain better how this number of men could be hidden for a day or two without being noticed. But there’s a problem with this. There’s no textual evidence of a scribal error here. Plus, I understand that hiding 5,000 men is going to be easier than hiding 30,000. But really, hiding 5,000 men I’m sure presents its own difficulties.

So, here’s what I think is happening in this section. Joshua orignally sent 30,000 men to hide behind Ai at night time. Then the next morning Joshua and all Israel go up to Ai from Gilgal. On the way, Joshua decides to send 5,000 more men to hide behind the city. Why send 5,000 more men? I’m really not sure. Maybe he saw that they didn’t need as many men fleeing as they needed men in ambush. But this is what happens.

Then Joshua and all Israel (minus now the 35,000 that are behind the city) come to the north side of Ai. North? I thought the front of Ai was on the east. I mean, its back was on the west. I’m not sure where the entrance to Ai was. It very well may have been on the east of the city. The text doesn’t say this isn’t the case. But Joshua and all Israel decided to camp on the north side of the city. That’s all we know. And there’s a valley on the north side of the city between Israel and Ai.

And lastly, when the 35,000 were settled on the west and the rest of Israel on the north, then Joshua went down into the valley and spent the night there. Did all Israel go with him? It doesn’t specifically say they did. It seems that he went down alone into the valley.

When the Israelites fought Jericho, do you remember what they met with as far as resistance? Israel really met with no resistance. Ai is a different story. For as small as they are, Ai proved to be fairly feisty. Let’s witness that in verses 14 through 17.

Joshua 8:14-17

[14 And it came to pass, when the king of Ai saw it, that they hasted and rose up 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 wist not that there were liers in 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 that were in Ai were called together to pursue after them: and they pursued after Joshua, and were drawn away from the city. 17 And there was not a man left in Ai or Bethel, that went not out after Israel: and they left the city open, and pursued after Israel.]

So the king of Ai wakes up and sees Israel again. So he gathers all his troops and they pursue Israel. And at this point, Israel is fleeing from before the Aiites (I saw that in a commentary this week) as they did before. But the secret is that there are Isralites behind the city! But, shhh, don’t tell the king of Ai! So Israel flees into the wilderness. The wilderness (or dessert) would have been east of Ai. So everyone is running to the east into the dessert. And the king of Ai wasn’t reserved about doing this. He sent not only all the people of his city after Israel. He also called up all the men in Bethel to join him and chase after the fleeing Israelites. And the result was that not a man was left in either of these two cities. In their zealous haste, they just all left and the city was wide open.

Hmm… Enemy cities left empty. Men in ambush near by. I wonder what happens next… Verses 18 through 23.

Joshua 8:18-23

[18 ¶ And the LORD said unto Joshua, Stretch out the spear that is in thy hand toward Ai; for I will give it into thine 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, and took it, and hasted and 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 up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that way: and the people that 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, then they turned again, and slew the men of Ai. 22 And the other issued out of the city against them; so 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.]

How did the men in ambush even see Joshua lifting up his spear? Have you ever wondered that? Because here’s the situation geographically. Joshua and Israel start off in the valley north of Ai. The men in ambush are on the west side of the city. Then apparently Joshua and Israel flee eastward into the wilderness. And then at some point Joshua raises his spear and the people behind the city can see it and take it as their cue to enter the city of Ai and set it on fire. Here’s my theory. Remember the mention of the valley to the north of Ai? Well, I’m not sure how deep that valley was or how high the land was on either side of that valley. But could it be that Joshua got up onto the hill on the north side of that valley so that the folks on the west of the city could see him? It’s possible. Perhaps this is why Israel didn’t start the fight on the east of the city where perhaps the gate to the city was. If Joshua was on the east of the city, the people on the west would have had a very difficult time seeing him.

In verse 26, which we haven’t read yet, we’re told that Joshua didn’t let his hand down for the entire battle. And that’s given as the reason for Israel’s victory. Does this scenario remind you of another battle scene in the Old Testament? Remember when Amalek (I’ll just mention one more time that he’s the anscestor of Haman!) came and fought against Israel after they left Egypt? At that time Joshua was actually the one leading the battle against Amalek. And what was Moses doing? He was up on a hill holding up the rod of God. As he kept his arms up Israel won. When he let his arms down, Israel started losing. And now Moses’ replacement, Joshua is in the place of his old mentor. And now he’s the one holding up the spear and seeing his people win a victory.

And isn’t it amazing again what we’re seeing here in a battle scene? It’s not military strength or ingenious man-made tactics that win the battle. God does give them tactics and plans to attack the city and they are pretty ingenious. But ultimately God sees fit to use something as typically powerless as a raised spear to win the victory. If this battle was just men against other men, that spear should be used to thrust people through, not held in the air. But the battle is the Lord’s.

Now, this is one exciting scene, isn’t it? Joshua raises the spear. The men in ambush come out and enter the city and burn it with fire. Then the fleeing Israelites see the fire and turn back against the Aiites. The men of Ai must be completely confused at this point. They look back and see their city on fire. And that’s not all. Men are issuing out of their burning city and they’re not friendly. So Ai finds itself in the middle of Israelites. And all the men of Ai are slaughtered. Except for the king of Ai. Remember, we’re still waiting to figure out what happens to him. And when we figure out what happened to him we’ll also know (at least generally) what happened to the king of Jericho.

Now, the Israelites aren’t quite finished with Ai yet. Let’s read verses 24 through 29.

Joshua 8:24-29

[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 wherein they chased them, and when they were all fallen on the edge of the sword, until they were consumed, that all the Israelites returned unto Ai, and smote it with the edge of the sword. 25 And so it was, that all that fell that day, both of men and women, were twelve thousand, even all the men of Ai. 26 For Joshua drew not his hand back, wherewith he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. 27 Only the cattle and the spoil of that city Israel took for a prey unto themselves, according unto the word of the LORD which he commanded Joshua. 28 And Joshua burnt Ai, and made it an heap for ever, even a desolation unto this day. 29 And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide: and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcase down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones, that remaineth unto this day.]

We have a few things to mention here. First, you maybe thought that once Israel destroyed all the men of Ai in the field and in the wilderness that that was the end of Ai. After all, the text gave us the impression that not a person was left in Ai. But the text just actually says that there wasn’t a man left. In other words, there were no men of war left in the city to defend it. Were there older men there? Possibly. Were there women? Yes, definitely. Children? They’re not mentioned specifically. But you can be pretty sure that anywhere there are men and women together, there will be children. And so these are the people still in the city that’s at least partially burning. And they’re the ones whom Israel destroys after killing the soldiers in the field.

The Israelites kill all the people according to God’s command. Likewise, they take the spoil. And that’s OK this time. And finally we see what the Israelites do to the king of Ai. They hang him. But they don’t leave his body on the tree over night. That would violate the command of God. So they take his body down from the tree and throw it into the gate of the burned city and they heap stones over his body. This is similar to what they did to Achan. And we didn’t know, but this is actually the kind of treatment that the king of Jericho received.

So, Israel entered Canaan. They took Jericho. They took Ai. And now they’ll go perhaps 20 miles north of Ai to a place where they have business to attend to. Let’s finish the chapter with verses 30 through 35.

Joshua 8:30-35

[30 ¶ Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in 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 hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto 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, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, as well the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them 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 read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.]

This is an event that Moses commanded Joshua and all Israel several times. When they came into the land they need to find Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal and pronounce the blessings and curses for keeping or breaking the Law. Joshua was also supposed to write the Law on stones and recite it in front of Israel.

So, we’re at the end of the first 8 chapters of the book of Joshua. I took note of Pastor Fuller’s Wednesday night Bible Doctrines message. He encouraged us several times to read the Bible looking for God’s character and what’s true of him. Let’s try to practice that with the stories of Jericho and Ai in Joshua. What have we seen about God in this section?

We could point to so many things. Let me mention just a few. First, God keeps his promises. He promised Israel this land that they just entered. He promised it to Abraham hundreds of years prior to giving it to his descendants. God’s promise might seem slow to happen. But the Lord always keeps his promises. Not just to his people in the Old Testament. But to you, too.

And the opposite side of that coin is that God keeps his promises of punishment for disobedience. Remember Achan. Remember the failure God’s people experienced because of his sin. God doesn’t leave the guilty unpunished. We are thankful he’s punished his own son for our sins. But disobedience is still serious to the Lord, even (and especially) when it comes from his children. As New Testament believers, we should be comforted by the fact that where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. But we also need to take the advice from the apostle Paul that we shouldn’t continue in sin so that grace may increase. How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

So sin does bring consequences. And more often than not they are quite unpleasant. But what did we see today in chapter 8? We saw that once the sin is dealt with, God is happy to give his people victory. God is profuse in his assistance to his people. He really does want to bless. But sin gets in the way and prevents his blessings. Blessings that our God would otherwise be quick to show us.

Let’s get ready for next week. If Israel caused fear in the hearts of the citizens of Canaan by simply crossing the Jordan River, how do you think the inhabitants are feeling now? Well, we’ll see some more fear. Have you noticed though how many ways that fear has been manifested thus far? Jericho? They closed everything up and hid. Ai? They came out and attacked. And we’ll see yet another reaction in our next lesson – deception – with the Gibeonites.

Joshua 7 KJV Sermon, Achan, Bible, Study, Commentary, Analysis

Let’s turn to Joshua 7. We’ll be studying this chapter in the book of Joshua today. I actually originally set out to teach both chapters 7 and 8. But I had way too much material on chapter 7 to go any farther. So Lord-willing when we return from Easter we’ll continue chapter 8 of Joshua. But today we’re in chapter 7. And I’ll just give this title to the message – God Troubles Achan.

So, what’s happened so far in the book of Joshua? In the first 2 chapters we saw Joshua being encouraged to enter the Promised Land. In the next 2 chapters (3 and 4) we saw all Israel crossing the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land. And then last week in chapters 5 and 6 we saw Israel conquer the walled city of Jericho – the first city they captured in the Promised Land. And do you remember what the rules were for conquering Jericho? Let’s read 6:17-19 to remind ourselves of what Joshua had commanded right before entering Jericho.

[6:17 And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. 18 And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. 19 But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.]

So all human and animal life needed to be accursed. That word accursed (cherem) means something that is dedicated to God. And not dedicated in the sense that we sometimes dedicate our children to the Lord when they’re first born by having a formal religious ceremony. No, this dedication to God involved utter destruction. All human and animal life were to be dedicated to God — for his destruction of them. But the inanimate objects – gold, silver, brass, and iron – they’re holy or consecrated to the Lord. They also were to be dedicated, but not for destruction – but rather to go into the Lord’s treasury.

Joshua 7:1

And the way that chapter 6 ended made us all think that this had been carried out. The things meant for destruction were destroyed. The things meant for the treasury went there. And that was mostly the case. But, were there any exceptions? Yes. Read 7:1.

[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.]

Again when we hear about “the accursed thing” we’re still talking about the things devoted to destruction at the hands of God… Alright. So one person took something. What’s the big deal? Well, note how God responded to this theft. His anger was kindled like a fire against whom? Achan? Certainly Achan. But was his anger limited to Achan? No, God was angry at all Israel. Why? Because of the sin of one among them.

Now, let me ask you. Does that seem fair to you? Doesn’t it seem like only Achan should have received God’s anger? It might seem unfair to us. But let’s just remember that God entered into a covenant with that entire nation. If one of the members of that nation transgressed then it’s as if all transgressed. So God’s anger burned against Israel because they as a nation – through just one of their compatriots – sinned against God.

And that’s all we hear about Achan’s sin for now. But no one else knows about this, so the story moves on to the next city that Israel is going to conquer.

But before we move on let me go back to last week’s lesson and point something out. Did you ever wonder why Israel attacked Jericho first? Why Jericho of all the cities? Maybe the answer is nothing more spectacular than that Jericho was the first city in the Israelites’ path. But wait, did they have a path? Were they on their way to some place? Yes. They’re actually headed to Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. They need to utter the blessings and the curses of the Law on those two mountains.

Joshua 7:2-3

But we’re not going to make it that far today. So, let’s on to the next city on the path to Gerizim and Ebal! Let’s read verses 2-3.

[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. 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 labour thither; for they are but few.]

Joshua again sends spies. Apparently though they don’t enter the city like they did at Jericho. And the spies find that Ai – pronounce it like “eye” [‘ay] – is pretty tiny. And for that reason they advise Joshua to send only 2 or 3 thousand men to fight against the city. I mean, based on the wild success that Joshua and Israel had at Jericho, you can understand why the spies and even Joshua himself would think this would be a piece of cake.

But let me point out a contrast between Jericho and Ai. With Jericho, God is the one who tells Joshua how the attack is supposed to work. And we’ll see in chapter 8 that God again tells Joshua how to wage war against Ai. But who is telling Joshua how to wage war on Ai right here? God? No. Men. Fallible men. Maybe well-intentioned men. They may be wise men. But Joshua needs God’s direction. He didn’t have to ask God about it last time at Jericho, apparently. It seems that God just gave it. And this time God doesn’t give it. Should that have been a sign to Joshua to halt the attempted conquest of Ai? The text doesn’t say. But I do wonder if Joshua should have picked up on this and consulted the Lord on his apparent silence.

Joshua 7:4-5

Well, what happens to Israel when they come up against Ai? Verses 4 and 5.

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

So, I did some research and discovered that we apparently don’t know where exactly Shebarim is. If it was a city or landmark, it has since disappeared. That kind of thing happens sometimes over the course of – oh – about 3,500 years! But we’re not totally in the dark regarding the physical aspects of this scene. Israel would have come from Gilgal. Gilgal was on the north end of the Dead Sea on the east side of Canaan. Now, Ai was northwest of Gilgal. Let me fill you in on a geography fact about Israel. Its western border is the Mediterranean Sea. And it’s eastern border is the Dead Sea and Jordan River. Each of these borders are very low in their elevation. But in the middle of the country is what’s known as the Hill Country. Why? Because it’s hilly. It’s higher than Sea Level. And its in this Hill Country where the city of Ai resided.

So the people of Israel would have come from the southeast and gone northwest toward Ai – all the while, they’re going up-hill into the hill country. So when Ai starts beating Israel back, where do you think Israel goes? Yeah, they’re going back to base in Gilgal – southeast. And they’re not going up. They’re going downward. That’s why it says that the people of Ai smote Israel in “the going down” or the descent.

Joshua 7:6-9

How did Israel react to this defeat? The text says that their hearts melted. Uh-oh. That’s bad news. That sounds really similar to how the pagans were originally reacting to Israel. Now Israel is the one with melting hearts. Are their leaders experiencing a similar reaction? Let’s see what they’re doing in verses 6 through 9.

[6 ¶ And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. 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! 8 O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies! 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?]

What do you think about Joshua’s reaction? He starts by tearing his clothes and falling on his face. He’s devastated. What could be the explanation for God’s abandoning his people? God promised to be with Joshua. God stopped the Jordan River for Israel to cross. He overthrew Jericho. God was causing Joshua’s fame to be proclaimed abroad. And now… this. Defeat at the hands of the tiny city of Ai. I thought God promised not to fail or forsake Joshua. But to Joshua, isn’t this exactly what it looked like? It looked like God had forsaken him and all Israel. Of course Joshua doesn’t know about Achan at this point. We are given that information up front. But he still doesn’t know. So he humbles himself before God, along with all the elders of Israel.

But then what comes out of his mouth is noteworthy. Joshua surely remembers God’s promise to be with Israel and give her victory as she loves and obeys him. That was his promise. But reality is now colliding with that promise. The reality is that Israel was defeated. Israel won’t fail if she obeys. But Israel failed. So… what should Joshua have concluded? I think he should have concluded that Israel somehow did not obey. Right? Success through obedience was the message of Deuteronomy before Israel entered the Land. So… lack of success comes through… disobedience. But does Joshua conclude that? If he did, it sure isn’t what’s coming out of his mouth. What does he say to begin with? “Lord, why have you brought us here? To give us over to the Amorites so they can destroy us?” Wow! Is that really what he thought God was doing? Was that really God’s purpose? This sounds surprisingly similar to what the Isralites kept accusing God of in the wilderness. Remember? “Hey Moses, did you bring us out here to the dessert because there weren’t enough graves in Egypt?” So Joshua, in a moment of weakness, is starting to question God’s promises. Then what does he say next? He laments that Israel had been overly ambitious and crossed the Jordan in the first place. “If only we would have been content to live on the other side of the Jordan!” he says. But this was God’s plan – that Israel enter the land of Canaan and destroy the 7 wicked nations. Joshua was doubting God’s plan. And then Joshua goes on to worry out-loud about the Canaanites surounding them and cutting off their name from the earth. And – Joshua goes on to say – when that happens, then what will happen to God’s great name. If God allows his people to be cut off before their enemies then what will that do to God’s name – God’s reputation? This last concern that Joshua expresses – about God’s name – seems to be somewhat godly. I mean, Joshua is concerned that God’s name be hallowed and not profaned. And so, in this sense it’s admirable. And yet, it comes at the end of a list of other anxieties that seem to not be so admirable. So, what we see here overall in Joshua’s response is really a leader of God’s people despairing. And I’d have to say that this despair is not of faith.

So, shame on Joshua, right? I can’t believe anyone would be so faithless in the face of a trial! Really? Does anyone here think that about Joshua? Yes, we need to recognize that how Joshua responded to this difficulty in his life wasn’t really a model of how we’re to respond. But does anyone here empathize with his response? Do you know what it’s like to have a promise from God in his word? But then you’re faced with circumstances that just seem to defy that promise and God’s own faithfulness to you? When that happens to you and me, we need the Lord’s help to remember that the one thing we shouldn’t be doubting is God and his promises. Doubt your circumstance — doubt the reason you’re in the situation you’re in — before you doubt God and his promises.

Let me issue another application. Does anyone in here doubt that Joshua was a godly man? Do you think he was a good leader? Did he love God? But he was led into temptation through the act of one single disobedient covetous Israelite. Achan wasn’t even directly disobedient to Joshua himself. But his disobedience caused his godly leader to stumble. Each one of us has leadership God has placed in our lives. In most cases there is very little earthly glory these leaders receive. They – as the apostle Paul would say – are gladly spending and being spent for your sake. And oftentimes what these imperfect and yet faithful leaders receive in return from those whom they’re trying to lead is expressed by the apostle Paul when he said that the more he loved, the less he was loved. This can happen in any relationship – parent-child, husband-wife, pastor-congregation. Let’s resolve to be a blessing to our leaders wherever they’re found in our life. Let’s do our part to help them not stumble.

Joshua 7:10-15

Now, you may think I was being a little unfair with Joshua. Maybe you wonder if his statements were in fact something to emulate in your own praying to the Lord. Well, let the Lord’s own reaction inform you as to what he thought about Joshua’s statements. Let’s read verses 10 through 15.

[10 ¶ And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? 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. 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. 13 Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: 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. 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. 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 in Israel.]

So the Lord just cuts to the chase and tells Joshua to get up. God asks the rhetorical question – “why are you on the ground?” He then gets right to the issue. The issue that somehow Joshua had completely overlooked. Remember, obedience = success. Therefore where there’s no success there was… what? Disobedience. It’s as if God expected Joshua to figure that out… And yet the Lord is very merciful. He lays out pretty plainly what the problem is and what Joshua needs to do to remedy the issue. The problem, of course, is that someone – God’s not saying whom yet – but someone stole something under the ban. And that’s why God is so angry. And that’s why Israel can’t stand before tiny Ai. So God gives the plan. See? If Joshua would have approached the Lord before the original battle at Ai, God would have I’m sure let him in on this to begin with. But at any rate, here’s the plan now. Tomorrow each tribe would come and one would somehow be chosen by the Lord. Then one family within that tribe would be taken. One household within that family would be taken. And finally one man within that household would be taken. And the man who was taken would be burned with fire. But not only him, but actually “all he has” would also be burned.

Is there any thought in any of us here that says that somehow God is overreacting? Is burning someone to death for stealing a few things fair, you might wonder? I think we want to move our way of thinking away from “what’s fair?” to “what’s just?” Would it be just of God to punish a sinner? Yes. We are so used to God’s grace and forgiveness and mercy and leniency in this New Testament Church era. But we all need to be brought back to the reality that God cannot allow sin to go unpunished. It might not strike us as fair. But it is most certainly just of God to do this.

Lastly, notice the punishment God prescribes. Judgement by fire. Just like the people of Jericho experienced. By disobeying the Lord, Achan proved that he was no better than those pagans that Israel had just destroyed. After all, wasn’t the reason that God destroyed Jericho ultimately because of their disobedience?

Joshua 7:16-18

So, we move to the next day. Joshua needs to find out who’s the one who caused their military defeat. Let’s read verses 16 through 18 for the details.

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

So the tribe of Judah, the family of Zerah, the household of Zabdi, then finally Achan the son of Carmi was taken. How did this happen? We’re not told. It was likely either that Joshua was casting lots and the lot identified the guilty one. Or it could have been that the Lord himself communicated directly with Joshua to let him know which one should be taken.

Joshua 7:19-21

But however it happened, now Joshua and all Israel know who the culprit is. And Joshua converses with Achan in verses 19 through 21. Let’s read that.

[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.

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

Give glory to the Lord. How? Confess your sins. That was Joshua’s admonition to Achan. So Achan actually confessed his sins in front of Joshua. He owned up to all that he had done… Now, as New Testament believers – what’s the promise to us as we confess our sin? God is faithful and just to forgive us. I’ll spoil the ending of the story for any who don’t know it – that’s not what happens with Achan. There’s no forgiveness and cleansing on the horizon. Just judgement and destruction.

Let’s note what Achan took. He took a “goodly Babylonish garment.” The word translated “garment” is sometimes translated elsewhere as “robe.” It’s the kind of garment that the king of Nineveh replaced with sackcloth after hearing the message of Jonah. What else does he take? Two hundred shekels of silver and 50 shekels of gold. In terms we can better understand, he took about 80 ounces of silver and 20 ounces of gold. Combined this would have weighed a bit over 6 pounds. This is less than most new born babies weigh. So, what Achan took wasn’t heavy. But it was costly – at least in our day. At about $20.00 USD per ounce of silver today ($1600) and $1318 per ounce of gold ($26,360), this is almost $28,000 USD — plus whatever the robe would have cost.

So what do we learn from this? We learn that Achan was greedy. We learn he was motivated by money and material gain. We learn he really didn’t trust the Lord. Remember, the Lord promised each one of these Israelites houses they didn’t build, cisterns they didn’t make, and lands full of good things. Did he really not trust that God would provide everything he needed? And the most important thing we learn is that Achan’s valuation of the Lord was less than $28,000 in terms of today’s currency. This is a problem.

Here’s something we might not think of either. How many Israelites lost their lives as a result of Achan’s selfishness? Verse 5 says that 36 men died in the battle. 36 lives of men who were interested in obeying God. These men perished. Their families were bereaved of their husband and father. 36 widows. Many more than 36 orphans. All created by Achan’s flippant act of selfishness.

And that’s how I view it. Achan didn’t rob Fort Knox. He didn’t come away with bars and bars of gold. He was acting like a petty thief. Well, why did God end up being so harsh to him? Think about it. Achan broke the commandment to not covet. He broke God’s command to not steal. Achan refused to listen to God’s command to devote everything in the God-forsaken city of Jericho to God. God through Joshua had just clearly stated that everything was God’s in that city. What was Achan’s problem? Did he not know of these commands? Oh, he knew. Did he not care? I think that’s probably more likely. He knew what God wanted. But he showed that he couldn’t care less about doing God’s will.

And let me say this. Achan didn’t have to be perfect. Theoretically if Achan desired that garment and the silver and the gold – and that’s all he did – and then he just walked away from those things – he would have lived. Who knows whatever other sins Achan may have committed in his heart? That wasn’t why God was condemning him. Achan let his internal desire consume him. And in the absence of any apparent vital relationship with the God of Israel, he externally acted out his internal evil desire.

So, a question that’s often asked in light of God judging sin is “why is God so harsh in response to sin sometimes?” But here’s the question I’m left asking. Why is God so merciful to us? I understand how God needs to punish sin – sometimes swiftly and immediately. Adam sinned and he and Eve were ut of the garden and condemned to eventual death. Israel sinned at Kadesh-barnea and immediately they were barred from the Promised Land. Ananias and Saphira sinned and God struck them dead on the spot. But what about when God doesn’t immediately judge sin? What about during the reign of the judges where everyone is doing whatever he feels is right? Why no swift and shocking judgement then? What about Israel’s long spiral down with their various kings? Why no immediate harsh judgement? And the only answer I have is what God said to Moses – I will be merciful to whom I will. God is just to punish sin immediately. But if he wants to delay the punishment, that also is his right.

Joshua 7:22-23

So, Achan gave Joshua his report. He confessed what he had done to Joshua. And so verses 22 and 23 tell of Joshua sending messengers to Achan’s tent to see if his report was accurate. Let’s read that.

[22 ¶ So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it. 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.]

Notice before whom they laid these things out. Not just man. But actually, they laid them out before the Lord. It’s as if the Lord was specially present among Israel in those days. And it seems that when God’s presence is with his people in a special way that disobedience is often not overlooked. Again, think of Ananias and Saphira.

Joshua 7:24-26

Finally, let’s see what Joshua and all Israel do with Achan. Verses 24 through 26.

[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. 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. 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.]

Let’s notice a word play used here. Look at the end of verse 24. The last word is… Achor. It’s talking about the Valley of Achor, which is north of Gilgal. So the Israelites came back from Ai in the Hill Country back southeast to Gilgal. They found out who troubled Israel. And then they went a little north to this Valley of Achor to execute judgement on Achan. I’m going to pronounce his name the way it would be pronounced in Hebrew – or at least I’ll try to. So here’s the word play. Achor means something like “disturbance” or “trouble” in Hebrew. So they go to the Valley of Trouble. And Joshua asks Achan – whose name is pretty similar to Achor – Joshua asks why he troubled – or achor’ed – Israel. Then Joshua says that the Lord will trouble – or achor Achan. And this is what Joshua warned Israel about in 6:18. He admonished all of Israel to keep themselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest they bring on themselves destruction and trouble (akar).

But notice the recipients of this trouble. It wasn’t just Achan – I’ll return to our typical English pronunciation of his name. It was him and his sons and daughters and all he owned. His sons and his daughters. It’s interesting that it doesn’t mention his wife specifically. I’m not quite sure where she would have been or if she would have been grouped into “all that he had.” Maybe he was divorced. Maybe she had passed away previously. I don’t know. But his sons and daughters were there. And all Israel stoned them.

I’ve tried to envision what it would be like to see someone stoned to death. It’s a very unpleasant thought to me. So much so that I have a very difficult time concentrating on the details. But let me try. Stones are plentiful in much of Israel. That’s why to this day you’ll hear even of Muslims on the Temple Mount throwing stones at the police or visitors. That’s the weapon of choice because stones are so abundant. This place of the Valley of Achor would be similar. It’s in an arrid region that has a lot of stones. So these people pick up these stones. They’d probably try to use sizeable ones. I don’t think they’re lobbing pebbles. And I can hardly bring myself to think about it. If the stone was large enough and hit someone in the head I suppose they’d be knocked unconscious. That would be merciful. But what if the people weren’t very good at aiming? They might hit the person in the face. In the torso. How many times would this need to happen before the person was dead? Did the person facing execution try to duck? Was the person tied up and unable to move? If he wasn’t, is there any way he could resist the urge to flee? There’s no easy painless way through this type of execution. It’s not like lethal injection or even the electric chair. This is a terrifying execution style.

And then when Achan and his family were finally dead, Israel burned them with fire. It’s worth noting that God explicitly called for them to be burned with fire. But for what it’s worth, he didn’t call for them to be stoned. I’m not saying that he disagreed with that punishment. I’m just saying he didn’t explicitly call for it.

Are you troubled yet by this story? The most troubling part for me is that Achan’s sons and daughters experienced Achan’s fate. We have no indication that they were a part of his crime. Maybe they were. But that’s not stated. What do we make of this? If this part of the story is anything, it’s a warning. Friends, I guarantee you that if you let yourself indulge in sin you will not be alone in suffering its consequences. You will bring trouble on yourself and on others with you. And your family is the group who will primarily suffer. This is just the way it is. God visits the iniquities of the fathers on the children and grandchilren of those who hate him.

But here’s where I’ll leave it. God also shows mercy to thousands of those who love him. And I think of my sin and I can see myself in Achan’s place. Can you? I deserve a brutal and painful punishment for my sin. But thanks be to God that where sin abounds, God’s grace much more abounds. Why is it that God seems to be so severe with some – and yet he’s extended mercy to me? Achan confessed to no avail. He still experienced punishment. And yet when I confess my sin I receive forgiveness and cleansing. God has said he’ll show mercy to whom he’ll show mercy. And he has seen fit to invite me into the New Covenant. One of the stipulations of that blessed covenant is that God will be gracious to my sins and will remember my iniquities no more.

God isn’t carefree when it comes to sin, even in the New Testament – even in your life. But Achan was troubled and ultimately destroyed for his sin. And I have been extended pardon by the Lord. And if this is the case for you as well, and I trust it is, rejoice and give thanks. Praise the Lord for the mercy and kindness he chooses to bestow upon us undone sinners. Achan received justice. And for us, because Christ received the justice that our sins deserved, we receive mercy.

Next time, we’ll see what God does with Ai now that his people have purged the evil from among them.

Joshua 6 KJV Sermon, Commentary, Bible, Jericho, Analysis

So now, all the preliminary stuff is out of the way. It’s as if Joshua and his men all now turn their sights toward Jericho.

Joshua 6:1

And what do they find? Chapter 6, verse 1.

[6:1 ¶ Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in.]

You better believe it was shut. These people were afraid. But isn’t it incredible that no one besides Rahab had turned from their sin and asked for mercy from Israel’s God?… Not really, folks. A criminal can fear the appearance of the police and yet he’ll still flee to an old abandoned house and hold a days-long shoot out with the authorities before he’s subdued. It’s not unusual that hardened sinners fear — and yet at the same time vainly try to flee — God’s judgement.

Joshua 6:2-5

So everyone in Jericho is frightened. What happens next? The Lord actually has a word for Joshua in verses 2 through 5.

2 And the LORD said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour. 3 And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. 4 And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. 5 And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.

So that’s the plan. The men of war were going to travel around the city one time for six days with 7 priests with rams’ horns leading the way before the Ark of the Covenant. The 7th day they would go around the city not once, but 7 times, blowing the trumpets. When the priests blew the horns with a long blast then the people would shout and the wall will fall down flat so that everyone can go straight up into the city.

Joshua 6:6-11

Next, Joshua gives the command and the people begin their first day of circling around Jericho. Let’s read verses 6 through 11.

[6 And Joshua the son of Nun called the priests, and said unto them, Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD.

7 And he said unto the people, Pass on, and compass the city, and let him that is armed pass on before the ark of the LORD.

8 ¶ And it came to pass, when Joshua had spoken unto the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns passed on before the LORD, and blew with the trumpets: and the ark of the covenant of the LORD followed them. 9 And the armed men went before the priests that blew with the trumpets, and the rereward came after the ark, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets. 10 And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout. 11 So the ark of the LORD compassed the city, going about it once: and they came into the camp, and lodged in the camp.]

Did Jericho have any watchmen on its walls? If so this is what they would have experienced. A number of men brandishing weapons to lead this group. Then priests in their special holy garments blowing trumpets – those eerie sounding shofars. [Show ram horn] Then some other priests in their garments carry what would have looked to the people of Jericho to be a golden box – perhaps with angels on top of it. Then there were the rest of the men of war following that group. And to both those who may have been on the wall and to those who were huddled inside the city terrified of what was to come – no one heard a sound from the individuals in this group – except of course the constant sound of the rams’ horns. The rest of Israel silently made their way around the city and back into the camp at Gilgal.

The sound of those trumpets would have fallen on the ears of the people of Jericho with two different reactions. To almost every inhabitant in that city the trumpets would have been the sound of impending doom. Except one family heard those trumpets a little differently. To Rahab and her family, those trumpets were the sound of deliverance.

Joshua 6:12-14

So, that was the first day. Verses 12 through 14 tell us what happened the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th days.

[12 ¶ And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. 13 And seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD went on continually, and blew with the trumpets: and the armed men went before them; but the rereward came after the ark of the LORD, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets. 14 And the second day they compassed the city once, and returned into the camp: so they did six days.]

Joshua 6:15-21

And now the 7th day – let’s read verses 15 through 21.

[15 ¶ And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times. 16 And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city. 17 And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. 18 And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. 19 But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.

20 So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. 21 And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.]

The people go around Jericho 7 times. On the 7th time the priests blow the trumpets. When the priests blow those trumpets, the people shout. And the captain of the Lord’s host knocks down that wall. Well, the text doesn’t say that. But really, 7 horns and the voices of even 500,000 men can’t knock down a wall. Believe me. NPR did a special on this. There was no human way this wall was going to come down. This book, by the way, is not a manual for military commanders. If any such a person tried this naturally, he would fail. This was a work of God. And whether the captain of the Lord’s host was behind it or whether God used others means, God was the one responsible for knocking down this wall.

Now, the wall – which must have been mighty thick – fell down flat. Did it fall inward? Outward? However it fell, it fell down flat in such a way that the people could go up straight into the city. I imagine that’s as opposed to the wall falling and forming a bunch of rubble so that the men had to gingerly maneuver through the fallen stones… And when they did go up they killed everyone. Women? Yes. The elderly? Yes. Children? Yes. Why!? Because God told them to. God was using Israel as a judgement on these wicked nations. These nations were so bad that these children that we’re so concerned about – a number of them would have been sacrificed to their demon idols. And those who lived would grow up to emulate their fathers. They would all worship idols. God didn’t want that. He gave them time to repent. He really did. As my family is reading through Genesis we just came across this statement from God to Abraham to the effect that Abraham’s descendants needed to stay out of the land for hundreds of years because God was giving the Amorites time to fill up their iniquity. God was being very patient with the Amorites – 1 of these 7 wicked nations. He wouldn’t destroy them for another 500 years or so from Abraham’s time! Some of us in this room wouldn’t countenance rebellion against us for 500 seconds! God took it for 500 years.

Joshua 6:22-25

And don’t forget Rahab! Rahab believed God and hid the two spies when they came. And what was her reward from this faithful, patient God? Read verses 22 through 25.

[22 ¶ But Joshua had said unto the two men that had spied out the country, Go into the harlot’s house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as ye sware unto her. 23 And the young men that were spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; and they brought out all her kindred, and left them without the camp of Israel. 24 And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. 25 And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.]

Wow. Imagine being Rahab and her family. The Israelites are destroying the only city you’ve ever known right before your eyes. They’re killing all the people you’ve grown-up with. And you alone and your family are being securely transported by these very same Israelites to a place of safety. They’re placed outside the camp. This was perhaps so that they could be purified. But eventually at least Rahab entered the camp and she was there until the time of the writing of this book. Why? Not because she was any less wicked than the rest of her peers. But because she received God’s messengers in peace.

How was it that Rahab was kept safe in her house? Wasn’t her house on the wall? Yes, it was. Perhaps the part of the wall on which her house existed didn’t collapse. Maybe only one side of the wall fell. Maybe that’s why it was so easy for Israel to destroy all the people – they were trapped with only one way in. Whatever the case, the Lord preserved Rahab’s physical house so that she could be retrieved from there in safety.

Joshua 6:26-27

We’re near the end of the conquest of Jericho – notice I say conquest, not battle. I didn’t read about a battle here. Right? I didn’t notice the people of Jericho fighting at all. God did the heavy lifting, so to speak. But after this conquest, Joshua has some words. Let’s read verses 26 and 27.

[26 ¶ And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the LORD, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it.

27 ¶ So the LORD was with Joshua; and his fame was noised throughout all the country.]

Joshua issues a curse on the one who would rebuild Jericho. This curse actually comes to pass later in the history of Israel in the book of Kings. Maybe we’ll get to that some time.

And finally the story ends with the statement of something that is by now quite obvious. God was with Joshua. He parted the Jordan River before him. God caused the wall of Jericho to fall before him. Nothing could stand in his way.

And as long as Israel kept doing what they were supposed to do, this would keep happening. Unfortunately, we see that not everyone was on board with God’s plan through Joshua. The text here says that everything was destroyed and that certain things were put into the Lord’s treasury. Well, almost everything. Everything except for what Achan stole. And, as I say each week, we’ll hear about that… next time.

Joshua 5 KJV Sermon, Bible, Commentary, Explanation, Summary

We’ll be studying Joshua chapters 5 and 6 today. The title I’m giving this message is “Jericho: Destruction and Deliverance.”

But first I feel like I need to say something about last week’s lesson. Yes, I did keep saying “Jericho” when I meant “Jordan” but that’s not what I want to address. I want to address my feeling throughout last week that those two chapters we covered lacked action and that therefore we were in danger of feeling like the story – and my lesson based upon it – was uninteresting. I had a few people come and tell me that they didn’t feel that the story or the lesson were boring at all. And that reminds me of something that I know intellectually as someone who teaches the Scripture. We’re trained to just “say what the Bible says.” And that’s an easy admonition to listen to and mentally assent to. But it’s a whole other matter when you’re left to practice it. But what I saw last week was that if we just desire to understand the Bible and have someone here teaching it as best he can and saying just what it says as best he can – then God’s people can learn and grow from it, no matter whether there’s action or excitement or whether you’re simply witnessing a quiet and somewhat repetitious retelling of a miracle – like crossing the Jordan – not the Jericho!

So, thank you for being attentive and wanting to understand better what God’s word says.

OK, now on to this week’s lesson on Joshua 5 and 6. Israel is now in the land promised to them by God. And God had already made it clear that they would need to wage war against the 7 nations that inhabitted Canaan. Israel was to act as God’s instrument of judgment on those nations. They simply needed to follow him and do what he commands. [Look at Google Map?]

Now, before we get into the fighting, we need to take care of some matters in the first 12 verses of chapter 5. Do you remember the end of the lesson last week? 12 men – one from each tribe of Israel – took a stone from the dried Jordan River bed. They brought the stones to Gilgal – where Israel lodged that night. Then Joshua revealed why God had them take those stones. The stones were to be memorials to their children, yes. But there was another reason. These stones were for the nations. Read 4:24 – “That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty…” The stones and the reality that they portrayed were supposed to let the nations know that the hand of the Lord is mighty. Did this indeed happen?

Joshua 5:1

Let’s read 5:1.

[5:1 ¶ And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, which were on the side of Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites, which were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel.]

[Map of Canaan] We’re told that the Amorites are just west of the Jordan. The Canaanites are near the sea. And from these two groups that are mentioned and their reaction we get the idea that probably any of the 7 nations who heard about Israel’s miraculous crossing over the Jordan River were experiencing the same state of mind.

Now, we need to remember something God told us back in Deuteronomy. These nations that the Lord was going to drive out before Israel – they were larger and mightier than the Israelites. The Israelites humanly-speaking were underdogs. What would cause these nations to be so fearful of Israel? Oh, just the fact that the largest river in the area decided to immediately dry up just so that they could cross over into Canaan. But even these hardened sinners could see that God was with Israel doing these things for them. He had to be. Rivers don’t just suddenly stop by themselves. And large powerful nations – like those led by Og and Sihon – don’t just get defeated by a roving band of men from the desert. That is, unless the God of the whole universe decides to get involved! So the nations are trembling. It would seem to be the time to strike! But Israel has a few things to attend to first.

Joshua 5:2-9

Let’s read about the first action they take after entering the promised land – verses 2 though 9.

2 ¶ At that time the LORD said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time. 3 And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. 4 And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people that came out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out of Egypt. 5 Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised. 6 For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: unto whom the LORD sware that he would not shew them the land, which the LORD sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey. 7 And their children, whom he raised up in their stead, them Joshua circumcised: for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them by the way. 8 ¶ And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole. 9 And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day.

So God commanded Joshua to circumcise all Israel – well, all the men, of course. And Joshua goes ahead and makes sure that happens. Other translations give the hill on which the circumcisions took place a nice name – Gibeah-HaAraloth. But this name simply means what we have in the KJV — “Hill of the Foreskins.” These were the by-products of this ritual that God instituted with Abraham centuries earlier. Circumcision was to be a sign that the person receiving this procedure was included in the covenant community. In fact, according to Genesis 17:14 any man who was not circumcised was to be “cut off from his people” because he had broken God’s covenant.

Isn’t it telling of the spiritual condition of those men who refused to believe God’s promises and were forced to wander in the wilderness? They didn’t even circumcise their boys. God truly was displeased with that generation and you can understand why. They not only refused to believe God but they also refused to pass along to their children this sign of God’s covenant with them. Well, God let each one of them die in the wilderness. And now he had a new group to work with. And he wanted them to do right. And notice — God is the one who initiates this. Do you suppose this might have been encouraging to the men at that time? I mean, by commanding this to happen God is really symbolically inviting them back in to his covenant that he made with Abraham so long ago. God promised Abraham this land that they were now actually standing in. But God didn’t promise the land merely to Abraham, but to Abraham and his offspring – namely through Isaac and then Jacob. So these men who were inheriting covenant promises also needed to physically bear the sign of that covenant. And this is why they needed to be circumcised.

And lastly we need to understand what God means when he tells Joshua he rolled away the reproach of Egypt. And that’s why they named the place Gilgal – which apparently means “rolling”. What is the reproach of Egypt? I think most likely this means that the Egyptians were reproaching the Israelites. Picture it. Israel leaves Egypt with great signs and wonders. The Egyptians try to recapture them but are stopped at the Red Sea. Israel goes to Sinai and then starts north only to have the incident at Kadesh-barnea where all of the men besides two of them are completely faithless to the Lord. So he lets them wander for 40 years. Do you suppose the Egyptians heard about that? No, the Egyptians wouldn’t want to come back up north and try to get Israel. They learned the hard way already – via the Red Sea incident –that that’s just not something they should be attempting. But Egypt could certainly mock Israel and despise them. And that’s apparently just what Egypt did. They mocked – or reproached – Israel. But now that Israel is entering the land? Well, I suppose you could say, who’s laughing now? God rolled away their reproach.

Joshua 5:10-12

So the Israelites receive the sign of circumcision in their flesh before their first military activity in the land. What else do they do? Let’s read verses 10-12.

[10 ¶ And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho. 11 And they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes, and parched corn in the selfsame day. 12 And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.]

4:19 already told us that Israel crossed the Jordan River and camped at Gilgal on the 10th day of the 1st month. So now, 3 days later the people eat the Passover. It’s the meal that commemorates Israel’s deliverance from Egypt – the ones whose reproach was just now finally being rolled away. And what happened after the Passover? Verse 11 tells us they ate some food from the land. That’s the emphasis there. And then what happened after they started eating from the land? The manna ceased to fall for them. All those 40 plus years it fell for them. But now that they’re finally in their land they don’t need it. So God stops sending it. God always provides for his people. He’ll do it miraculously, if needed. But we shouldn’t think little of him providing for us through normal providential means, either.

Now, where did Israel eat the Passover? In the plains of? Jericho. You didn’t forget about Jericho, did you? This is the first city to be attacked. Rahab is there waiting for deliverance. And this is no small task. It is a walled city. Do you suppose Joshua might be wondering how he’ll attack the city? He seems very courageous. But do you suppose he might need a little encouragement about this next phase in his leadership of God’s people?

Joshua 5:13-15

Well, if he does need any encouragement he certainly gets it in verses 13 through 15.

[13 ¶ And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? 14 And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship [shachah], and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? 15 And the captain of the LORD’S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.]

Does Joshua’s reaction surprise you? In a way it should. Joshua apparently can’t tell that this man is anything other than a mere man. Right? He comes up to the man and asks if he is for Israel or for Jericho. So this man apparently looks like just a regular man. He’s brandishing a sword, but we’re in a military scene here. So that’s not unusual. The only thing that indicates that there’s something different about this man is his response to Joshua’s question. He says that he’s the captain of the Lord’s host or army. But I thought Joshua was the captain of God’s army. And it’s here where we realize even more acutely that there’s something going on behind the scenes. Israel served as God’s human army. But there’s an army behind the scenes that this man commands. This captain and his army make all the difference in the human realm. Their victory decides the victory of Israel. We don’t hear about this captain again. Did he disappear and then wage war in an invisible spiritual realm? Was he and his army silently and invisibly moving among Israel as they fought? Later on, are they the ones whom the Lord uses to throw down hailstones and stop the Sun? Any of those possibilities may very well have been the case. We can’t say for sure.

And really, who is this captain? Is he an angel? The text says Joshua worshiped him, which would of course be idolatry if this captain wasn’t God. This word translated “worship” [shachah] can also mean simply “to bow” like when Rachel and Leah bowed to Esau when they came to Canaan. But this word really can also mean “worship.” I don’t know that I can come to a dogmatic conclusion on whether this man was God – perhaps Jesus Christ before he was incarnated. But I like the thought of that. After all, who better to lead the Lord’s army than the Lord himself? Imagine Jesus – our Jesus, the Jesus of the New Testament – receiving worship from Joshua — that hero of the faith. And there’s one more reason I would lean toward thinking that this is an appearance of God the Son. Did you notice what he tells Joshua to do? Remove your sandal. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Yeah, God himself said it in Exodus 3. Whom did God say that to? Moses. Do you suppose that Joshua knew that God had used those same words with Moses, his mentor? I think the clues lead us to believe that this captain was somehow God himself. And that’s pretty exciting, isn’t it? Even if this was just an angel, it’s still exciting. And if it’s exciting for us, you know it was exciting for Joshua, too. And in that encouragement and excitement, Joshua and Israel were ready to be the human instruments of God to judge these 7 wicked nations.


Haggai 2 Sermons KJV About Commentary Bible Study

Haggai 2 Word Cloud

Haggai 2:1-9

And actually, this isn’t all God has to say about his divine presence. He continues with that theme is chapter 2 verses 1 through 9. We’ll read that.

[2:1 In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying, 2 Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying, 3 Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? 4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts: 5 According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. 6 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; 7 And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts. 9 The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.]

So it’s about one month after Haggai’s second prophecy. And God now wants to continue to encourage his people. Why did he need to encourage them? Well, some of them were alive to see the first Temple – Solomon’s Temple. Remember that glorious Temple? Now, this second Temple actually was larger than that first one according to measurements we find in the Scripture. But even though this second Temple was larger, it was a little less glorious looking. After all, we know that in Solomon’s time gold was so plentiful that silver really counted as nothing. That’s a lot of gold! And a good deal of that gold was used in his Temple. In addition to that, there were skilled craftsmen carving wood and fashioning metal. There were other precious adornments in that first Temple. And of course, there was the ark of the covenant in there as well. But this second Temple of Zerubbabel’s… well, it had wood in it. Did it have some gold? I think it probably did. But it certainly didn’t have as much as it had previously. Were there carvings in it? Maybe some. And they apparently didn’t have the ark. And so in these ways this second Temple seemed to be less glorious than the first. The people perhaps wondered if it was even worth working on this seemingly-inglorious project.

But God doesn’t view this as some inglorious task. This is of utmost importance to him. So he comes and tells his people through Haggai to “be strong!” He tells them to work. And he again reminds them of his presence – “I am with you!” That’s in the present.

He also looks back to the past. He reminds Israel of the promise he made with them when they left Egypt. I think this is referring to his covenant that he made with them at Mount Sinai. That’s the covenant that brought Israel into an official relationship as a nation with the Lord. His spirit – or probably something like his essence – was among them at that time and was still presently.

So with Lord’s presence with his people in the past and present in view, he turns also to the future. He says he’s going to shake the heavens, earth, sea, land, and all nations. I think this is looking back to his activity in delivering his people from Egypt. He shook that nation with plagues and judgments. And remember when Israel left Egypt, the Egyptians gave them gold and other valuable objects. Well, here God promises to shake not just one nation but all nations. And the result is that all the nations are going to bring what’s desirable among them to this Temple in latter days. Some have interpreted this to be a Messianic prophecy. I don’t think that’s the case. We need to ask ourselves – “What do the nations desire?” Currently judging by the way things are in this world I think that most of them aren’t desiring Messiah. Well, what s this talking about then? I believe the answer is in verse 8 – the silver and the gold belongs God. This second Temple is lacking these kind of things. But God is promising to make his Temple glorious with gold and silver and other precious materials in latter times.

The question we all have is – when is this going to happen? I mean, do you remember Pastor Fuller’s discussion of the glory of Herod’s Temple – the one that existed in the time of Christ? That Temple was glorious. And it came after Zerubbabel’s. Is that the fulfillment of this prophecy? I don’t think so. I don’t know of a shaking of all nations at that time or a shaking of all creation. And really, only the Romans were involved in bringing wealth to the Temple at that point. But God here promises that all the nations will bring their wealth.

I think the key to when this shaking will take place is the end of verse 9. God promises that when this shaking happens he’ll bring peace to “this place” which is probably referring to Jerusalem. When has there been peace in Jerusalem since Haggai issued this prophecy in about 520 BC? I can’t really think of a time. But I know a time will come when Messiah returns and will set up an earthly kingdom over which peace will reign. I know nations and their kings will stream to Jerusalem and bring their glory there. So for these reasons, I think this is speaking of a time yet to come in the future.

So this is the 3rd encouragement to do God’s will. Being reminded of God’s constant unending presence – in the present as it was in the past and as it will be in the future.

Haggai 2:1-9 Illustration

Isn’t it an encouragement (to keep following the Lord) to remember all that he’s brought you through? Do you remember his presence with you back then? And isn’t it amazing to know that he’s still with you? And then we’re reminded that the Lord will never leave or forsake us. He will be with us always. To the end of the world and then even after that. We can’t flee from his presence. He won’t let us go.

Haggai 2:1-9 Application

Are you allowing this blessed truth that God is with you now as he has been in times past and will be into the future – are you allowing it to be the catalyst to continue doing his will? Don’t give up, brethren. He’s with you if you’re his.

Haggai 2:10-19

But while we think of the past, we can certainly see God’s presence with us. But if you’re like me – and actually like Israel – you can call to mind not only God’s presence but actually your own failures in the past. Let’s read about that in Haggai’s 4th message from the Lord in verses 10-19.

[2:10 ¶ In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 11 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, 12 If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. 13 Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. 14 Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean. 15 And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD: 16 Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty. 17 I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD. 18 Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD’S temple was laid, consider it. 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you.]

This prophecy happens about 2 months after the last one Haggai delivered. And it starts out seemingly not so happy again. Haggai asks some priests about the law. In particular, what does God say about a piece of meat that had been sanctified – if it touches something else, does whatever it touched become holy? The answer, as any priest would have known, was “no”. That wasn’t part of the law. But what about this? If something that’s holy touches these things and they’re not made holy… then if any of these things touched something unclean, what would happen? The answer? Those things would be made unclean. So touching a holy thing doesn’t make it holy. But touching something unclean does make it unclean. And then God uses that as a picture of how he viewed this nation of Israel. Anything unclean that touched them in any way made them unclean. They were so easily swayed by the paganism around them. And unfortunately they had no positive influence on those around them. And yet even all the holy things they knew and practiced didn’t ultimately make them holy as God wanted them to be.

So with that stated, then God again calls his people to consider some of the realities he already reminded them of in Haggai’s first prophecy. “Remember before you started building the Temple and I made life so difficult for you? And you didn’t turn to me – that’s what I truly desired. Well, remember that time and now be aware of this reality. From this day onward I will bless you.” What a beautiful statement. What a relief. “I will bless you.” And this was a bold promise to make from the prophet Haggai. Haggai had started his ministry only about 3 months ago from the time of this most recent prophecy. And before that time Israel had apparently experienced difficulty after difficulty directly from the Lord for their disobedience. And now Haggai pronounces blessing from the time that the Temple started to be rebuilt. This is a rather startling claim. How could they be sure he was telling the truth? That’s what verse 19 is getting at. The seed is still in the barn. Nothing has born fruit yet this season. It’s not as if Haggai could look around at the produce of the land and kind of gather that this year was just going to be a better year for planting. No, this was a word from the all-knowing Lord. And thus it would certainly happen.

So what we have in this 4th prophecy is this. It’s a reminder of past failures because of disobedience, coupled with promises of present and future blessings for doing God’s will. This is yet one more encouragement to obey God.

Haggai 2:10-19 Illustration

Have you been saved? We’re talking about doing God’s will. What in this day is more the will of God than you trusting his son to be saved? Have you trusted Christ – that he suffered for your sins so that you could be forgiven and be a child of God? If you have, then you can certainly identify with this prophecy. Remember the old things you got in to before you knew Christ? Remember the shame? Remember the years of wandering? Of fruitlessness? Your vain life? But now that you know Christ you’re experiencing blessing. No, everything isn’t just easy. But relationships perhaps are being mended. You have a peace that totally eluded you before. You have confidence of your eternal destiny. The Lord is using you to advance his kingdom in ways small or large. Things have changed for the better generally. This is all from God. And what can we do but humbly give him thanks for these wonderful blessings? Blessings instead of the curses we deserve.

Haggai 2:10-19 Application

So have you taken note of the blessings that God has used to replace the curses he sent on you previously? Remember those curses, but don’t focus on them. Focus on God’s promise of blessing both now and into the future – really forevermore.

Haggai 2:20-23 Explanation

And really these blessings for those who obey the Gospel and the curses for those who disobey and disbelieve continue on – into eternity. And we see some parallels to this in the next and last prophecy of this book. Let’s read verses 20 through 23.

[2:20 ¶ And again the word of the LORD came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying, 21 Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth; 22 And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother. 23 In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the LORD, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the LORD of hosts.]

This prophecy comes out the same day as the last one. And it’s addressed to only Zerubbabel. Some of the content is familiar. We’ve already seen God’s promise to shake the heavens and the earth. But this time Zerubbabel is told that God will totally overthrow the pagan kings of this world. And when God does that he’s going to take Zerubbabel and make him as a signet ring. What does that mean? Well, there are a few things to say about this. First, a signet ring was something very precious to a king. So precious in fact that he would keep it on his person constantly. So that act of giving someone this ring would have been an act of supreme trust. The signet ring was used to give the king’s authority to something like a document—like we saw in the book of Esther with Haman’s edict and then Mordecai’s as well. So that’s what a signet ring is. But why does God mention a signet ring anyway? And why does he say he’ll make Zerubbabel like one of those to him? In the book of Jeremiah in chapter 22, God has a message for Zerubbabel’s Grandfather Jeconiah. The message is that even if Jeconiah was a signet ring – something precious to him – yet God would cast him away. And then God goes on to curse Jeconiah’s line and say that none of his descendants will prosper sitting on David’s throne. So it sounded like Jeconiah and all his lineage were cast off from the Lord. But here in the book of Haggai, God reverses this curse in a way. Picturing the signet ring as Jeconiah, you can imagine then God coming and picking up the ring which is now Zerubbabel and putting it on. When God goes to topple all the nations and their kings, he will prefer Zerubbabel because God had chosen him.

But this toppling of nations hasn’t happened yet as far as I can tell. And Zerubbabel is dead now. So what I – and I think just about all the commentators – see happening here is God using Zerubbabel to symbolize the Davidic line – and ultimately Christ, the son of David. When God overthrows all nations and sets up his Millenial kingdom, Christ will reign on the throne.

So what do we have in this 5th and final prophecy? Really what we have is a promise of future judgment for those who refuse to do God’s will. And along with that we have the assurance that God will favor those who are doing his will – even their descendants.

Haggai 2:20-23 Application

The kings of the pagan nations had no concern for doing God’s will. And they will be overthrown some day along with everyone else who refuses to love and obey God. Zerubbabel on the other hand was following the Lord. And as a result both he and his family to future generations would be blessed… Would you submit to God and do his will? In our context, for any one here who doesn’t know the Lord, would you obey him by believing his son? If you do this you and your family after you for perhaps a long time will reap the rewards. And really for the rest of us who know Christ, this last prophecy wasn’t so much a challenge or commandment to Zerubbabel as it was a promise. No strings attached. Just a promise from God of future blessings and an assurance of God’s favor.

We’ve seen throughout this book that God wants to get your attention if you’re putting off doing his will. He wants you to get to work. And he may make life difficult until you do. But once you do, he’ll promise you his presence. He’ll stir you to be able to do his will. His presence will be with you always. You will remember past failures from your life of disobedience. But the blessings you receive will far outweigh those memories. And when judgment comes in the future, God will still have a plan for you, while he’ll need to punish those who have no interest in doing his will.