Joshua 7:25-26
And Joshua said, Why have you troubled us? the LORD shall trouble you this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones…

Again we stand beside a heap of stones. Again it will be profitable to put and to answer the question, "What mean ye by these stones?" This is the third occasion on which such a question might arise. The first heap of stones was raised on the brink of Jordan; the second lay some miles distant; the third is still further in the land. The first heap was a token of Jehovah's might; for taken from the river-bed by twelve stalwart warriors, they told to all succeeding generations that by a strong hand and a stretched-out arm Israel was brought into Canaan. The second heap, stretched far and wide, the ruins of a famous city, was the token of Jehovah's judgment. This third heap in the valley of Achor, the cairn erected over the dead body of Achan, was the token of Jehovah's discipline. The twelve stones speak of Jehovah's relation to the sin of those who trust Him and accept His leadership. He buries all their iniquities, He brings them into His promised inheritance, and gives them a permanent place therein. The ruined city speaks of Jehovah's relation to the sin of these who stubbornly resist Him. He smites them with a rod of iron. This rugged pile speaks of Jehovah's relation to the sin of those who profess to obey Him, but who in their deeds deny Him. If He judges the world, much more must He judge His own house. The twelve stones on Jordan's bank were a monument of Israel's hope. He who had led them over, and brought them in, would assuredly bless them with all earthly blessings in His fair heritage. The ruins of Jericho were a monument of Israel's faith. For nothing but faith could have been so patient, so docile, so mighty, so victorious "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down." The heap in the valley of Achor was a monument of Israel's love. They heaped up this cairn of condemnation to show their detestation of the crime of which Achan was guilty. Thus this act revealed their love to God in the strongest light. By this third heap we stand, and as we do so, let us ponder the discovery of Achan's crime, its confession, and its punishment. Joshua gave himself no rest till he got to the root of this matter. Though appalled by such severe tokens of the Divine displeasure, he did not murmur against God, but persistently made inquiry of God. He did not complain of God, he complained to God; and his faithful persistency was rewarded (vers. 10-12). "Get thee up. My mind has not changed. My arm is not shortened. My word is not broken. Get thee up, for the discovery and punishment of this sin." The discovery of Achan's sin was, therefore, the result of Divine directions. It was God who set everything in motion for the detection of the hidden criminal. The discovery was undertaken most solemnly, as a deeply spiritual and religious act (ver. 13). Three times in the course of their history had the children of Israel been thus called solemnly to sanctify themselves. On the first occasion, it was at the foot of Sinai, in prospect of the giving of the law. On the second occasion it was at Jordan, in prospect of entering into the land. On the third occasion, it was here, in prospect of the discovery and punishment of the transgressor. To receive God's will, to enter into God's inheritance, to purge away transgression, such things demand the most thorough consecration. It is plain from the Divine record that Israel went about this solemn work in the right way. There was no burst of ungovernable excitement and blind popular fury. With judicial calmness and religious reverence, the terrible drama was begun, continued, and ended. It was also prosecuted deliberately. There was no unseemly haste or confusion. A proclamation was made in the evening previous as to the manner of procedure on the following day; and then the carrying out of the process of casting lots must have been slow and deliberate. What a night must that have been for Joshua l How thankfully must he have laid himself to rest in the blessed consciousness that as surely as the darkness of night would fly before the dawning day, so all his difficulties would vanish, and all the disgrace of Israel would be blotted out. And what a night must that have been for Achan! He would feel as did another whose mental torture a great poet has described —

"Macbeth hath murdered sleep, the innocent sleep,

Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care,

Balm of hurt minds."

Oh! what a long, black, miserable night was that. The voice cried, "Sleep no more," and on the morrow, as with bloodshot eyes he took his place in the ranks of his tribe, what must have been his terror! And then to mark the circle of condetonation closing upon him, growing less and less at each casting of the lot, he rooted meanwhile to the dark spot, its centre, till at last, pointed out by the finger of God, he stood alone, the incarnation of disaster and disgrace, the hateful object for every eye in Israel, the awful focus of their fiery indignation, burning into his soul one thought, one agony, "We have found thee, O our enemy." The method of discovery was most impressive for the people, revealing so marvellously the finger of God. Whatever the precise process of the lot may have been, and that is hard to discover, there was no difficulty, hesitation, timidity, uncertainty, or partiality in its carrying out. The method of discovering the crime was also the most merciful that could have been adopted for the offender. It gave him time to think; a blessed space for repentance; an opportunity, if there was any spark of spiritual life within, to cast off the incubus of iniquity. Every step would serve to convince him how utterly foolish it was to promise himself secrecy in sin, and how certainly at the last God would discriminate between the innocent and the guilty, however for a little while they were involved in the same condemnation. Thus Achan stands exposed in the sight of all Israel. Joshua, filled with unutterable compassion for the trembling sinner, though absolutely certain of his guilt, has no harsh word to utter, but only seeks to win him to a right frame of mind. Nothing could be more touching than this venerable leader's words. He deals with him as a grey-haired father with a wayward son, urging him to the only course that in the circumstances could yield one spark of consolation (ver. 19). Achan breaks down under this unexpected kindness. He had looked for nothing but harsh reproof and unmitigated severity; therefore in broken accents he replies, "Indeed I have sinned," &c. This confession is worthy of notice, and has some features which relieve the darkness of the scene. To begin with, it was voluntary. There was here no extortion of a confession from unwilling lips. Joshua spoke in love, calling him "my son." It is evident that he has no personal ill-will, no hard spirit of revenge. He appealed to the glory of God. Thus Joshua brought forth this free confession of Achan's guilt. His confession was as full as it was free. The miserable man kept nothing back. He made a clean breast of it. His full confession shows that penitents cannot be too particular. His confession was also personal. He felt that it was first of all, and above all, a matter between himself and God, and therefore, though others, in all likelihood, were sharers in his guilt (for he could not well have hid these things in his tent without the cognisance of his family), still he made no mention of them, he condemned none but himself, for he felt himself the greatest sinner. Also Achan's confession was sincere. He did not attempt in the faintest degree to excuse himself. He pleaded no palliation of his offence. Surely, therefore, in this confession we have a gleam of light thrown across the gloom of this narrative. Just as in a picture of this dark valley and its black pile of stones, we have seen one white bird hovering amid the gloom, so this confession is the white bird of hope hovering over Achan's grave, and relieving somewhat the blackness of its darkness, His punishment trod swiftly on the heels of his confession. This punishment was at once a solemn expression of the evil of sin, a vindication of God's truth and justice, a prelude to future victory, and a monument to all succeeding ages, declaring, "be sure your sin will find you out." We are also told that all Achan's substance was destroyed, that which he possessed, as well as that which he stole. What a poor prize had Achan then in the things he so much admired. No good ever comes of ill-gotten gains. In regard to this punishment of Achan, the fate of his family deserves to be noticed. What happened to them? Two explanations have been offered. The first is that they shared Achan's sin and therefore shared his punishment. Another explanation is that Achan's family were spared. This rests on the fact that there is a change from the plural in ver. 24 to the singular in ver. 25. Joshua took Achan and all his possessions and all his family to the scene of execution, but the punishment fell only on Achan, for Joshua said (ver. 25): "Why hast thou troubled us? the Lord will trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them (his cattle and goods) with fire after they had stoned them with stones." Whichever is the true explanation we may rest assured that the demands of justice were not ignored. Thus we leave Achan, and surely as we stand by this heap of stones and consider his sad end, these words come to mind — "the love of money is the root of all evil, which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." Looking again at this event, we are struck with the parallelism between the early history of Israel as recorded in the Book of Joshua and the early history of the Church as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. The taking of Jericho corresponds in its mighty triumph to the Day of Pentecost and the casting down of the walls of rebellion and prejudice through the proclamation of the gospel. Then the sin of Achan is strikingly paralleled by that of Ananias and Sapphira. The cause of transgression was the same in both, and the punishments present a striking resemblance. It was a salutary lesson taught both to Israel and to the Church. It showed that the God who dwelt among men was a consuming fire, that His judgment must follow shortly and surely on the heels of sin, and that holiness is the only source and secret of success in the work of the Lord.

(A. B. Mackay.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: Joshua said, "Why have you troubled us? Yahweh will trouble you this day." All Israel stoned him with stones, and they burned them with fire and stoned them with stones.

Achan's Punishment
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