So about three thousand men went up, but they fled before the men of Ai.
I. IT DISOBEYS A COMMANDMENT. Only two precepts had been issued at the sacking of Jericho, one to spare Rahab and her family, another to "keep from the accursed thing," and the latter precept was broken. The command was distinct, unmistakable; no difficulty in comprehending its import. Scripture defines sin as the "transgression of the law." "By the law is the knowledge of sin." A prohibition tests man's obedience perhaps even more than an injunction to perform some positive act. The tempter easily lays hold of it, keeps it before the eye, irritates man's self will, and insinuates doubts respecting the reason of the prohibition. Christ endorsed the moral law of the old dispensation - nay, made it even more stringent; but He altered the principle of obedience, or, better still, increased the power of the motives to compliance. When we sin we still transgress a law, and sins of wilful commission are, in number, out of all proportion to sins of ignorance.
II. SIN IS OFTEN THE EFFECT OF COVETOUS DESIRES. - Achan saw, coveted, and took (ver. 21). The seeing was innocent; the dwelling on the object of sight with desire was sinful. "Coveted" is the same word as used in Genesis 3:6. "Saw... a tree to be desired." "When lust (desire) hath conceived it bringeth forth sin." The outward object has no power to make us fall except as it corresponds to an inward affection. If the object be gazed upon long, the affection may be inordinately excited, and desire produce sinful action. Hence the counsel of the wise man regarding "the path of the wicked: .... Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away." It is not mixing in the world to perform our duties that is reprobated, nor even that amount of care which shall secure us an honourable position therein; but such an intent fixing of the eye upon riches, honour, pleasure, as denotes a love of the world and the things that are in it. Our affection must be set on things above as the best preservation against the influence of unholy passions; for where the heart is occupied, there evil finds it hard to effect a lodgment.
III. SIN ROBS GOD. - All the metals were to be brought to the treasury, to be dedicated to the use of Jehovah (Joshua 6:19). But Achan wished to appropriate a portion to his own ends, thus taking what belonged to God. He set up self in opposition to his God. Sin deprives God not only of gold, but of honour, love, obedience, and the use of those talents committed to men, that they may be faithful servants and stewards, not sordid proprietors. From the sinner's heart ascends no sweet incense of faith and love; in the household of the worlding there is no family altar with its grateful offering of prayer and praise; the body of the unbeliever, instead of being a temple of God, is part of the kingdom of darkness.
IV. SIN IMPLIES A DELIGHT IN WHAT GOD ABOMINATES. The possessions of the Canaanites were placed under the ban; they were denominated "the accursed thing." The Babylonish garment was to have been burnt, and the silver and gold could only be redeemed from the curse by being set apart for sacred uses. The very fact that the Almighty had condemned the property should have been sufficient to deter any one from seeking to seize it. And so with us; regard for our Father in heaven ought at once to make us shun what He has declared hateful, and look upon it with aversion; and belief in His unerring discernment should cause us readily to acquiesce in His judgment, even if at first sight the places and practices condemned do not appear hideous or sinful. The grievous nature of sin is evinced in its betrayal of a hankering after what the laws of God denounce, and consequently its revelation of a character differing from that of God, loving what is unlovely in His sight.
V. SIN IN GOD S PEOPLE IS A VIOLATION OF A COVENANT. Achan had transgressed the "covenant" (vers. 11 and 15), or, as it is expressed in ver. 1, had "committed a trespass " - i.e., a breach of trust - had acted faithlessly. Jericho, as the first city taken, was to be made an example of, and therefore none of the spoil was to accrue to the Israelites, but the plunder of other cities was to be allowed to enrich them. Yet Achan disregarded the understood agreement. Nor must it be forgotten that Israel stood in a peculiar relationship to the Almighty, who promised to bless them if they adhered to the terms of the covenant, which required them to be very obedient unto every commandment which the Lord should give by the mouth of His accredited messengers. A similar covenant is reaffirmed under the gospel dispensation, only it is pre-eminently a covenant of grace, not of works. Jesus died that they who lived should henceforth live unto Him who died for them. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all other things shall be added unto you," was the stipulation of the great Teacher. To "sin wilfully" is to count the blood of the covenant wherewith we axe sanctified an unholy thing (Hebrews 10:29). Jesus is the Mediator of a "new covenant." The same epistle concludes with a prayer that the God who, in virtue of the blood of the everlasting covenant, raised Christ from the dead, may perfect His people in every good work, that thus on both sides the "conditions" may be observed.
VI. SECRECY IS THE USUAL ACCOMPANIMENT OF SIN. Achan did not wear the "garment" or exhibit the "gold," but hid his plunder "in the earth in the midst of his tent" (ver. 21). The attempt to cloak sin may arise either from a feeling of shame, or from the fear of detection and punishment. This last is a baser motive than the first. Shame is an evidence that the man is not wholly bad, that the voice of conscience has not been totally silenced. That after the Fall our first parents did not set their faces;like a flint was a testimony that evil had not acquired complete mastery over them. Oh that men visited with these compunctions of conscience would attend to the self attesting nature of sin! We may rejoice in the endeavour to conceal crimes, so far as it indicates that society is not yet so corrupt as unblushingly to acknowledge sin as such. Since God mentions the "dissembling" of Achan as aggravating his offence, it is probable that he was afraid of the vengeance which discovery would bring upon his head. Already sin was inflicting its punishment. There could not be open, unrestrained fruition of ill-gotten gains. Rejoicing naturally demands the presence of others to share our joy, and by participation to increase the common stock; but there can be no such gathering to greet the result of sins, for they -
"The cloak of night being plucked from off their backs, 1. The load of guilt by which it oppresses us. 2. The shifts, subterfuges, and tricks resorted to for the purpose of concealing our sins, or transferring the blame to others, are convincing proofs that sin troubles us. 3. Sin troubles us by its corrupt and restless influence on the tempers and dispositions. 4. But it is chiefly into futurity that we are to look for the troubles of sin (Proverbs 11:21; Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23). II. HOWEVER ARTFULLY CONCEALED, SIN MUST BE EXPOSED. 1. The most secret sins are often revealed in this world. 2. Those sins that escape detection here, will be manifested in the last day (Ecclesiastes 12:14). III. WHEN THE SINNER IS EXPOSED, HE IS LEFT WITHOUT ANY REASONABLE EXCUSE. Joshua said, "Why hast thou troubled us?" What could he say? Could he plead ignorance of the law? No; it was published in the camp of Israel. The weakness of human nature? No; he had strength to do his duty. The prevalence of temptation? No; others had similar temptations, and yet conquered. And what shall we have to say when God shall summon us to His bar? IV. THAT PUNISHMENT TREADS UPON THE HEELS OF SIN. "The Lord shall trouble thee this day." 1. God has power to trouble sinners. The whole creation is a "capacious reservoir of means," which He can employ at His pleasure. 2. God will trouble sinners. He will either bring them to repentance, when they shall "look upon Him whom they have pierced, and mourn," or He will vex them in His wrath, and dash them in pieces as a potter's vessel.Infer — 1. What a powerful preventive this should be to deter us from committing sin. 2. See the madness of sinners, who, for the sake of a few sordid despicable pleasures, which always leave a sting behind, will desperately plunge themselves into an abyss of troubles which know no bound nor termination. 3. Since sin is so troublesome, let us all seek a deliverance from its dominion and influence. 4. Learn what ideas you should entertain of those who seek to entice you to sin. They are agents of the devil, and you should shun them as you would shun perdition. (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
1. The load of guilt by which it oppresses us.
2. The shifts, subterfuges, and tricks resorted to for the purpose of concealing our sins, or transferring the blame to others, are convincing proofs that sin troubles us.
3. Sin troubles us by its corrupt and restless influence on the tempers and dispositions.
4. But it is chiefly into futurity that we are to look for the troubles of sin (Proverbs 11:21; Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23).
II. HOWEVER ARTFULLY CONCEALED, SIN MUST BE EXPOSED.
1. The most secret sins are often revealed in this world.
2. Those sins that escape detection here, will be manifested in the last day (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
III. WHEN THE SINNER IS EXPOSED, HE IS LEFT WITHOUT ANY REASONABLE EXCUSE. Joshua said, "Why hast thou troubled us?" What could he say? Could he plead ignorance of the law? No; it was published in the camp of Israel. The weakness of human nature? No; he had strength to do his duty. The prevalence of temptation? No; others had similar temptations, and yet conquered. And what shall we have to say when God shall summon us to His bar?
IV. THAT PUNISHMENT TREADS UPON THE HEELS OF SIN. "The Lord shall trouble thee this day."
1. God has power to trouble sinners. The whole creation is a "capacious reservoir of means," which He can employ at His pleasure.
2. God will trouble sinners. He will either bring them to repentance, when they shall "look upon Him whom they have pierced, and mourn," or He will vex them in His wrath, and dash them in pieces as a potter's vessel.Infer —
1. What a powerful preventive this should be to deter us from committing sin.
2. See the madness of sinners, who, for the sake of a few sordid despicable pleasures, which always leave a sting behind, will desperately plunge themselves into an abyss of troubles which know no bound nor termination.
3. Since sin is so troublesome, let us all seek a deliverance from its dominion and influence.
4. Learn what ideas you should entertain of those who seek to entice you to sin. They are agents of the devil, and you should shun them as you would shun perdition.
(Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
Israel stoned him with
(T. W. M. Lund, M. A.)
They raised over him a great heap of stones
"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.)
The valley ofI. WE SHOULD GRIEVE MORE FOR SIN THAN FOR ITS RESULTS. As soon as we have committed sin, we look furtively round to see whether we have been watched, and then we take measures to tie up the consequences which would naturally accrue. Failing this, we are deeply humiliated. We dread the consequences of sin more than sin; discovery more than misdoing; what others may say and do more than the look of pain and sorrow on the face that looks out on us from the encircling throng of glorified spirits. But with God it is not so. It is our sin, one of the most grievous features in which is our failure to recognise its intrinsic evil, that presses Him down, as a cart groans beneath its load. The true way to a proper realisation of sin is to cultivate the friendship of the holy God. The more we know Him, the more utterly we shall enter into His thought about the subtle evil of our heart. We shall find sin lurking where we least anticipated, in our motives, in our religious acts, in our hasty judgment of others, in our want of tender, sensitive, pitying love, in our censorious condemnation of those who may be restrained by the action of a more sensitive conscience than our own from claiming all that we claim to possess. We shall learn that every look, tone, gesture, word, thought, which is not consistent with perfect love indicates that the virus of sin has not yet been expelled from our nature, and we shall come to mourn not so much for the result of sin as for the sin itself.
II. WE SHOULD SUBMIT OURSELVES TO THE JUDGMENT OF GOD. "And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?" It was as if He said, "Thou grievest for the effect, grieve rather for the cause. I am well able to preserve My people from the assaults of their foes, though all Canaan beset them, and I am equally able to maintain the honour of My name. These are not the main matters for concern, but that a worm is already gnawing at the root of the gourd, and a plague is already eating out the vitals of the people whom I have redeemed. With My right arm I will screen you from attack, whilst you give yourselves to the investigation and destruction of the accursed thing." Whenever there is perpetual failure in our life, we may be sure that there is some secret evil lurking in heart and life, just as diphtheria breaking out repeatedly in a household is an almost certain indication that there is an escape of sewer gas from the drains.
1. In searching out the causes of failure we must be willing to know the worst, and this is almost the hardest condition. Ostrich-like, we all hide our heads in the sand from unwelcome tidings. It is the voice of an iron resolution, or of mature Christian experience, that can say without faltering, "Let me know the worst." But as we bare ourselves to the good Physician let us remember that He is our husband, that His eyes film with love and pity, that He desires to indicate the source of our sorrow only to remove it, so that for Him and for us there may be the vigour of perfect soul-health and consequent bliss.
2. When God deals with sin He traces back its genealogy. Notice the particularity with which twice over the sacred historian gives the list of Achan's progenitors. It is always, "Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah" (vers. 1, 16-18). Sin is sporadic. To deal with it thoroughly we need to go back to its parentage. A long period will often intervene between the first germ of sin, in a permitted thought or glance of evil, and its flower or fruit in act. We generally deal with the wrong that flames out before the sight of our fellows; we should go behind to the spark as it lay smouldering for hours before, and to the carelessness which left it there. We only awake when the rock disintegrates and begins to fall on our cottage roof; God would lead us back to the moment when a tiny seed, borne on the breeze, floating through the air, found a lodgment in some crevice of our heart, and, although the soil was scanty, succeeded in keeping its foothold, till it had struck down its tiny anchor into a crack, and gathered strength enough to split the rock which had given it welcome. And by this insight into small beginnings our God would forearm us against great catastrophes.
3. It is a good thing at times to muster the clans of heart and life. We must make the principal tribes of our being pass before God. The public, and private, our behaviour in the business, the family, the church, until one of them is taken. Then to take that department and go through its various aspects and engagements, analysing it in days, or duties; resolving it into its various elements, and scrutinising each. This duty of self-examination should be pursued by those who have least relish for it, as probably they really need it; whilst they who are naturally of an introspective or morbid disposition should not engage themselves in it to any large extent. And whoever undertakes it should do so in reliance on the Holy Spirit, and give ten glances to the blessed Lord for every one that is taken at the corruptions of the natural heart. It is looking off unto Jesus which is the real secret of soul-growth.
III. WE SHOULD HOLD NO PARLEY WITH DISCOVERED SIN. God never reveals an evil which He does not require us to remove. And if heart and flesh fail, if our hand refuses to obey our faltering will, if the paralysis of evil has so far enfeebled us that we cannot lift the stone, or wield the knife, or strike the flint stones for the fire, then He will do for us what must be done, but which we cannot do. Some are cast in a mould so strong that they can dare to raise the hatchet, and cut off the arm just madly bitten, and before poison has passed from it into the system; others must await the surgeon's knife. But the one lesson for all the inner life is to be willing for God to do His work in us, through us, or for us. So the valley of Achor becomes the door of hope. From that sterile, mountain-guarded valley, Israel marched to victory; or, to use the highly-coloured imagery of Hosea, it was as though the massive slabs opened in the cliffs, and the people passed into cornfields, vineyards, and olive-yards, singing amid their rich luxuriance as they sang in their youth in the day when they came up out of Egypt. Ah! metaphor as true as fair! For all our inner life there is no valley of Achor where the work of execution is faithfully performed in which there is not a door of hope, entrance into the garden of the Lord, and a song so sweet, so joyous, so triumphant, as though the buoyancy of youth were wed with the experience and mellowness of age.
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.).
PeopleAchan, Amorites, Canaanites, Carmi, Israelites, Joshua, Zabdi, Zarhites, Zerah, Zerahites, Zimri
PlacesAi, Beth-aven, Bethel, Jericho, Jordan River, Shebarim, Shinar, Valley of Achor
TopicsAi, Fled, Flee, Flight, Routed, Thither, Thousand
Outline1. The Israelites are smitten at Ai
6. Joshua's complaint
10. God instructs him what to do
16. Achan is taken by the lot
19. His confession
24. He and all he had are destroyed in the valley of Achor
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJoshua 7:4
6173 guilt, and God
LibraryAchan's Sin, Israel's Defeat
'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. 2. And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Beth-aven, on the east side of Beth-ei, 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 …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Whether one Can, Without a Mortal Sin, Deny the Truth which Would Lead to One's Condemnation?
Contention Over the Man Born Blind.
The Eighth Commandment
Confession of Sin --A Sermon with Seven Texts
Restraining Prayer: is it Sin?
The Practice of Piety in Glorifying God in the Time of Sickness, and when Thou Art Called to Die in the Lord.
Exposition of the Moral Law.
Of a Private Fast.
The Knowledge of God
The Covenant of Works
The Holiness of God
Second Great Group of Parables.
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