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Chapter 8

Capture of Ai. (A)The Lord then said to Joshua: Do not be afraid or dismayed. Take all the army with you and prepare to attack Ai.(B) I have delivered the king of Ai into your power, with his people, city, and land. Do to Ai and its king what you did to Jericho and its king—except that you may take its spoil and livestock as plunder.(C) Set an ambush behind the city. So Joshua and all the soldiers prepared to attack Ai. Picking out thirty thousand warriors,[a] Joshua sent them off by night with these orders: “See that you ambush the city from the rear. Do not be very far from the city. All of you must be ready. The rest of the people and I will come up to the city, and when they make a sortie against us as they did the last time, we will flee from them. They will keep coming out after us until we have drawn them away from the city, for they will think, ‘They are fleeing from us as they did the last time.’ When we flee, then you rise from ambush and take possession of the city, which the Lord, your God, will deliver into your power. When you have taken the city, set it on fire in obedience to the Lord’s command. These are my orders to you.”(D) Then Joshua sent them away. They went to the place of ambush, taking up their position to the west of Ai, toward Bethel. Joshua, however, spent that night with the army.

10 Early the next morning Joshua mustered the army and went up to Ai at its head, with the elders of Israel. 11 When all the troops he led were drawn up in position before the city, they pitched camp north of Ai, on the other side of the ravine. 12 He took about five thousand warriors and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, west of the city. 13 Thus the people took up their stations, with the main body north of the city and the ambush west of it, and Joshua waited overnight in the valley. 14 The king of Ai saw this, and he and all his army came out very early in the morning to engage Israel in battle at the place in front of the Arabah, not knowing that there was an ambush behind the city. 15 Joshua and the main body of the Israelites fled toward the wilderness, pretending defeat, 16 until the last of the soldiers in the city had been called out to pursue them. Since they were drawn away from the city, with everyone pursuing Joshua, 17 not a soldier remained in Ai or Bethel. They abandoned the city, leaving it open, as they pursued Israel.

18 Then the Lord directed Joshua: Stretch out the javelin in your hand toward Ai, for I will deliver it into your power. Joshua stretched out the javelin in his hand toward the city, 19 and as soon as he did so, the men in ambush rose from their post, rushed in, captured the city, and immediately set it on fire. 20 By the time the army of Ai looked back, the smoke from the city was going up to the heavens. Escape in any direction was impossible, because the Israelites retreating toward the wilderness now turned on their pursuers; 21 for when Joshua and the main body of Israelites saw that the city had been taken by ambush and was going up in smoke, they struck back at the forces of Ai. 22 Since those in the city came out to intercept them, Ai’s army was hemmed in by Israelites on both sides, who cut them down without any fugitives or survivors(E) 23 except the king, whom they took alive and brought to Joshua.

24 When Israel finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the open, who had pursued them into the wilderness, and all of them to the last man fell by the sword, then all Israel returned and put to the sword those inside the city. 25 There fell that day a total of twelve thousand men and women, the entire population of Ai. 26 (F)Joshua kept the javelin in his hand stretched out until he had carried out the ban on all the inhabitants of Ai. 27 However, the Israelites took for themselves as plunder the livestock and the spoil of that city, according to the command of the Lord issued to Joshua. 28 Then Joshua destroyed Ai by fire, reducing it to an everlasting mound of ruins, as it remains today.(G) 29 He had the king of Ai hanged on a tree until evening;(H) then at sunset Joshua ordered the body removed from the tree and cast at the entrance of the city gate, where a great heap of stones was piled up over it, which remains to the present day.

Altar on Mount Ebal. 30 [b](I)Later, on Mount Ebal, Joshua built to the Lord, the God of Israel, an altar 31 of unhewn stones on which no iron tool had been used,(J) just as Moses, the servant of the Lord, had commanded the Israelites, as recorded in the book of the law. On this altar they sacrificed burnt offerings to the Lord and made communion sacrifices. 32 There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua inscribed upon the stones a copy of the law written by Moses. 33 And all Israel, resident alien and native alike, with their elders, officers, and judges, stood on either side of the ark facing the levitical priests who were carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord.(K) Half of them were facing Mount Gerizim and half Mount Ebal, just as Moses, the servant of the Lord, had first commanded for the blessing of the people of Israel. 34 (L)Then were read aloud all the words of the law, the blessings and the curses, exactly as written in the book of the law. 35 (M)Every single word that Moses had commanded, Joshua read aloud to the entire assembly, including the women and children, and the resident aliens among them.

Footnotes

  1. 8:3 Thirty thousand warriors: this figure of the Hebrew text, which seems extremely high, may be due to a copyist’s error; some manuscripts of the Septuagint have “three thousand,” which is the number of the whole army in the first, unsuccessful attack (7:4); the variant reading in v. 12 mentions “five thousand.” More likely, the word for “thousand” here and in other military contexts may designate a squad or fighting unit, itself composed of significantly fewer warriors.
  2. 8:30–35 These ceremonies were prescribed in Dt 11:29 and 27:2–26.

Ai Destroyed

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid;(A) do not be discouraged.(B) Take the whole army(C) with you, and go up and attack Ai.(D) For I have delivered(E) into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder(F) and livestock for yourselves.(G) Set an ambush(H) behind the city.”

So Joshua and the whole army moved out to attack Ai. He chose thirty thousand of his best fighting men and sent them out at night with these orders: “Listen carefully. You are to set an ambush behind the city. Don’t go very far from it. All of you be on the alert. I and all those with me will advance on the city, and when the men come out against us, as they did before, we will flee from them. They will pursue us until we have lured them away from the city, for they will say, ‘They are running away from us as they did before.’ So when we flee from them, you are to rise up from ambush and take the city. The Lord your God will give it into your hand.(I) When you have taken the city, set it on fire.(J) Do what the Lord has commanded.(K) See to it; you have my orders.”

Then Joshua sent them off, and they went to the place of ambush(L) and lay in wait between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai—but Joshua spent that night with the people.

10 Early the next morning(M) Joshua mustered his army, and he and the leaders of Israel(N) marched before them to Ai. 11 The entire force that was with him marched up and approached the city and arrived in front of it. They set up camp north of Ai, with the valley between them and the city. 12 Joshua had taken about five thousand men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. 13 So the soldiers took up their positions—with the main camp to the north of the city and the ambush to the west of it. That night Joshua went into the valley.

14 When the king of Ai saw this, he and all the men of the city hurried out early in the morning to meet Israel in battle at a certain place overlooking the Arabah.(O) But he did not know(P) that an ambush had been set against him behind the city. 15 Joshua and all Israel let themselves be driven back(Q) before them, and they fled toward the wilderness.(R) 16 All the men of Ai were called to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were lured away(S) from the city. 17 Not a man remained in Ai or Bethel who did not go after Israel. They left the city open and went in pursuit of Israel.

18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Hold out toward Ai the javelin(T) that is in your hand,(U) for into your hand I will deliver the city.” So Joshua held out toward the city the javelin that was in his hand.(V) 19 As soon as he did this, the men in the ambush rose quickly(W) from their position and rushed forward. They entered the city and captured it and quickly set it on fire.(X)

20 The men of Ai looked back and saw the smoke of the city rising up into the sky,(Y) but they had no chance to escape in any direction; the Israelites who had been fleeing toward the wilderness had turned back against their pursuers. 21 For when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that smoke was going up from it, they turned around(Z) and attacked the men of Ai. 22 Those in the ambush also came out of the city against them, so that they were caught in the middle, with Israelites on both sides. Israel cut them down, leaving them neither survivors nor fugitives.(AA) 23 But they took the king of Ai alive(AB) and brought him to Joshua.

24 When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the wilderness where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. 25 Twelve thousand men and women fell that day—all the people of Ai.(AC) 26 For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin(AD) until he had destroyed[a](AE) all who lived in Ai.(AF) 27 But Israel did carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the Lord had instructed Joshua.(AG)

28 So Joshua burned(AH) Ai[b](AI) and made it a permanent heap of ruins,(AJ) a desolate place to this day.(AK) 29 He impaled the body of the king of Ai on a pole and left it there until evening. At sunset,(AL) Joshua ordered them to take the body from the pole and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. And they raised a large pile of rocks(AM) over it, which remains to this day.

The Covenant Renewed at Mount Ebal

30 Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal(AN) an altar(AO) to the Lord, the God of Israel, 31 as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the Israelites. He built it according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses—an altar of uncut stones, on which no iron tool(AP) had been used. On it they offered to the Lord burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings.(AQ) 32 There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua wrote on stones a copy of the law of Moses.(AR) 33 All the Israelites, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the Lord, facing the Levitical(AS) priests who carried it. Both the foreigners living among them and the native-born(AT) were there. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal,(AU) as Moses the servant of the Lord had formerly commanded when he gave instructions to bless the people of Israel.

34 Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law—the blessings and the curses—just as it is written in the Book of the Law.(AV) 35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the foreigners who lived among them.(AW)

Footnotes

  1. Joshua 8:26 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them.
  2. Joshua 8:28 Ai means the ruin.

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