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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Joshua

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Commentary spanning earlier chapters

5.13–8.35 : Central campaign.

The central campaign, which is described in the greatest detail, has three sections: 5.13–6.27; 7.1–8.29; and 8.30–35 .

7.1–8.29 : Achan and Ai.

7.1–5 : First battle of Ai and Achan's sin.

In contrast to the climactic conclusion in which Joshua is exalted ( 6.27 ), Achan's sin is described. Although only one person was unfaithful, all Israel was liable because the state of being devoted (“herem”) is contagious, and the booty would contaminate Israel's camp and put it into a state of devotion (“herem”).

2 :

The name Ai (modern et‐Tell) means “the ruin.” The site, 3 km (2 mi) east of Bethel, was uninhabited during the Late Bronze Age.

3–5 :

The spies believe that Israel is too strong to worry about such a small fortress (contrast Num 13–14 ). Overconfidence spells a lack of consultation and of dependence on the LORD. The men of Ai thoroughly repulsed the Israelite contingent (cf. Num 14.42–45 ).

8.1–29 : Third application of “herem”: second battle of Ai and Ai's destruction.

1–2 :

The LORD gives assurance and instructions, making clear that Achan's sin has been removed so that God can once again give Israel the land. Note also the modification of the “herem”: They may have the plunder of Ai.

3–8 :

Joshua relates the LORD's instructions to the Israelites. The repetitions build suspense.

9–29 :

Ai is captured and put under the “herem.”

9 :

Bethel, the modern village of Beitin, is 17 km (11 mi) north of Jerusalem. Later it became one of the principal shrines of the Northern Kingdom (1 Kings 12.28–30; Gen 12.8; 28.11–22 ).

14–15 :

Facing the Arabah … in the direction of the wilderness, toward the Rift Valley, to the east.

18–29 :

Joshua's stretching out his sword is similar to Moses' actions in Ex 14.15–21,26–27; 17.9–12 . The third implementation of the “herem” is the Canaanite city of Ai, which is depicted as a sacrificial burnt offering. Ironically, God allowed the Israelites to take some of the plunder from Ai that was under the “herem” (v. 27 ), perhaps to avoid a repeat of the action of Achan.

28 :

Forever a heap of ruins, lit. “an eternal tell, a devastation,” cf. 11.13n.; Deut 13.16 .

29 :

The hanging of the king of Ai and his stone memorial in the gate of the city are common actions in ancient Near Eastern warfare. This also anticipates the execution of the five kings in 10.26–27 and follows the Deuteronomic injunction (Deut 21.22–23 ). It also offers a contrast to 1 Sam 15 , where Saul does not put Agag, the Amalekite king, to death, thereby disqualifying himself from leadership.

8.30–35 : Covenant renewal as land grant: Shechem.

The events narrated in ch 9 are the natural sequel to the story about the fall of Ai (note that 8.29 flows into 9.3 ). Hence this account of covenant renewal is parenthetical to the main action and is connected by many scholars with 24.1–28 . Traveling to Ebal would have required the tribes to make a trip of about 50 km (30 mi) by road from Ai to Ebal and then to retrace their steps to encamp at Gilgal ( 9.6 ). This narrative serves to portray Joshua as carrying out the command given to Moses in Deut 27.4–7 (cf. Deut 11.29–30). Joshua, who obeyed, is the foil to Achan, who did not (cf. 6.27 and 7.1 ). The connections between this section and Deuteronomy are especially strong.

30 :

Mount Ebal is one of the two mountains (Gerizim being the other) that flank the pass of Shechem in central Canaan.

31 :

Quoting Deut 27.5 .

32 :

On the stones, not the stones of the altar, but those Moses had commanded to be used; see Deut 27.2–3; cf. Josh 24.26–27 . A copy of the law, see Deut 17.18 .

34 :

Blessings and curses, see Deut 27.11–13; 28; cf. Lev 26.3–39 .

35 :

Patterned after the ritual of Deut 31.9–13 .

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