Joshua 7-8: The Body of Christ

Joshua 7

1But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for(AM) Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.

Achan is the subject of scrutiny in chapter 7: his name, meaning troubler or troublesome, in indicative of his contribution to Israel. Though he is the son of Carmi (“giving/my vineyard”), who is son of Zabdi (“giving/endowment”), who is son of Zerah (“rising”), who is from the tribe of Judah, he ironically forgets what it means to give; what it means to be endowed; what it means to garden God’s land, to be His steward. Instead, he horded and coveted the things which should have been devoted to the LORD, indicative of the state of his heart. It is his action which led to the LORD being angry (v.1). With this looming pretext to the rest of the chapter, we have a contrast between the end of the last chapter with the Commander of the LORD standing by their side, against this Achan who seemed to compromise the position of Israel despite the Commander’s role.

The focus then moves to v.2-3, with the omen looming closer – Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai (“heap of ruins”), which is near Beth-aven (“house of vanity”), east of Bethel (“house of God”) and said to them to spy the land. Although it seemed that the men of Ai were few (v.3-4), which seemed to justify the low number of men in attacking Ai, they still fled (v.4).

There is however something disturbing in the statistics shown in v.5 – that Israel with 36 dead and 2964 alive should flee when the majority of the army is still alive and well. In chapters 1-6 where Jericho (amongst the other nations of Canaan) is seen as a military might compared to Israel’s weak army, one would imagine that the events of chapter 6 taught us how the LORD would secure a victory without the lifting of Israel’s finger or self-confidence. However, Achan’s sin – being part of the body of Christ – has harmed the rest of Christ’s body. The LORD is clearly not with Israel during this particular conquest, because Israel is not moving together in faith. Without the underlying trust in God, the breaking of the covenant disables them from achieving the land; and Israel as a nation, being a type of the church, cannot enter the Promised Land if they do not stick to their head, the true Joshua.

2Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near(AN) Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. 3And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” 4So about 3,000 men went up there from the people. And(AO) they fled before the men of Ai, 5and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people(AP) melted and became as water.

The disappointment of Joshua is displayed in v.6, the dust on their heads representing destruction as a result of sin and ruin (Deuteronomy 32:24; 1 Samuel 2:8; 1 Kings 16:2). This nation of Ai, near Beth-aven, has symbolically brought the Israelites the type of disaster and disappointment as the narrator contrasted the House of God (Bethel, which was once called Luz, “almond tree”) where Jacob rested and Ai the House of Ruin. Who is the cause of this ruin? Achan and his coveting. Thus, although Israel is a light to the nations, she can also become a proverb of taboo (Deuteronomy 28:37), a parable of one who does not stand by Christ as intimated in v.8-9.

6Then Joshua(AQ) tore his clothes and(AR) fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put(AS) dust on their heads. 7And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord GOD,(AT) why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! 8O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! 9For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and(AU) cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?”

There are several obvious reasons why Israel received such punishment and discipline as to lead to the death of 36, along with striking fear into the hearts of the people:

  1. The possessions, firstfruit or not, are essentially His. We are only stewards (Matthew 25 – parable of the talents; Titus 1:7), temporarily holding on to His possessions though He is generous and merciful enough to allow us to partake and own it (by the firstfruit of Christ and the Spirit) and to share in it in New Creation (Luke 3:11; Romans 11:17; 2 Corinthians 1:5; Colossians 1:12; Hebrews 12:10; Revelation 22:19).
  2. He will give us infinitely more; for Achan to literally steal from God is committing the sin of theft (against God – Exodus 20:15; Deuteronomy 5:31-33) because of the root problem – a lack of belief or faith that God will provide. A lack of trust in the Christ who will perform these statutes perfectly, so to enable us to ‘live long in the land’. Even more so, a lack of trust in oneself to love and adore these statutes, and instead trust no-one, leaving the only choice of disobedience which Achan committed. Moses lived in tents because he longed for the greater things, rather than live as a prince of Egypt; but Achan satiated the lust of his eyes, despite already possessing all of the non-devoted things. This is akin to Adam and Eve’s great sin of eating the fruit from the tree of good and evil, despite being given everything else in the Garden of Eden. Furthermore, Israel has already been allotted much land and possessions as in Numbers 33-36; Achan’s sin runs deep as he seeks to covet and covet, but unwittingly does not realise that this is all that he will ever receive.

10The LORD said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? 11Israel has sinned; they have(AV) transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the(AW) devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. 12(AX) Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They(AY) turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become(AZ) devoted for destruction.[e] I will be with you no more, unless you destroy(BA) the devoted things from among you. 13Get up! Consecrate the people and say,(BB) ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the LORD, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” 14In the morning therefore you shall be brought near(BC) by your tribes. And the tribe that the LORD takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the LORD takes shall come near by households. And the household that the LORD takes shall come near man by man. 15(BD) And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has(BE) transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has done(BF) an outrageous thing in Israel.'”

What is interesting is how this episode of discipline, and the ‘vengeance’ of God is played out so quickly after Achan’s sin – however, the symbolic representation of the message in chapter 7 is its wider context. Joshua is a book about first-fruit fulfilment of the promises and the law made in the Pentateuch. Achan’s sin is a type of the dying parts of the church affecting the Body of Christ as a whole (Matthew 5:30 in relation to the corporate Body of Christ) Israel, representing the church, will suffer and fail as a result of unaccounted and unrepented sins because of the hidden persistence in disobedience, an inevitability which creates the physical and spiritual church divide.

However, it is in this event that we see the spiritual church being affected by the physical church (Achan); as such, the event of Israel’s failure to conquer Ai is but a type of event which were to happen to the global New Testament Church when evangelism fails; when the Spirit is not depended on; when God does not bless our works. Why? Because the Church Body is harbouring sin and is caring only for one’s individual spiritual health, but not learning to discern and exhort others to holiness.

The persecution of Achan when eschatologically displayed is indicative of how Achan will be sought out by God, no matter where he hides the stolen possessions, no matter how he hides his sin. He will come before the LORD and confess all, but by then it is too late. When we do not look at this episode eschatologically, we run a danger of relating God’s punishment to every particular sin immediately; however, God’s true punishment of second death comes after the confession and revelation of the non-Christians’ sins when He seeks them out on the Resurrection Day of sinner and saint alike. Only in this teleological context can we realise why Achan’s confession is made too late; and it also teaches us that it is God’s will to (eventually) destroy the physical church so to ensure that only the spiritual church is victorious and unhindered by dying parts of the Body. However, in these times of wilderness and in these last days it is not our duty to sift the wheat from the chaff; it is our duty to rebuke, reproof, exhort and even excommunicate, but only God Himself can eternally eradicate all opposition within and outside of the Bride. Thus, v.16-21 is extensive in representing a truth repeated in detail in the book of Revelation – that the Father will use His Angel and angels to seek out by His providence those who have sinned against Him:

16So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken. 17And he brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the(BG) Zerahites was taken. And he brought near the clan of the Zerahites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. 18And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 19Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son,(BH) give glory to the LORD God of Israel and(BI) give praise[f] to him. And(BJ) tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly(BK) I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels,[g] then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

This divine providence is represented in the form of the “lot” as in Proverbs 16:33, but this providence is not philosophical but is Christological, fitting to the story of Joshua confronting Achan. In the words of Athanasius in his “On the Incarnation”:

“…But suppose they confess that there is a Word of God, that He is the Governor of all things, that in Elim the Father wrought the creation, that by His providence the whole receives light and life and being, and that He is King over all, so that He is known by means of the works of His providence, and through Him the Father. Suppose they confess all this, what then? Are they not unknowingly turning the ridicule against themselves? The Greek philosophers say that the universe is a great body, and they say truly, for we perceive the universe and its parts with our senses. But if the Word of God is in the universe, which is a body, and has entered into it in its every part, what is there surprising or unfitting in our saying that He has entered also into human nature? If it were unfitting for Him to have embodied Himself at all, then it would be unfitting for Him to have entered into the universe, and to be giving light and movement by His providence to all things in it, because the universe, as we have seen, is itself a body. But if it is right and fitting for Him to enter into the universe and to reveal Himself through it, then, because humanity is part of the universe along with the rest, it is no less fitting for Him to appear in a human body, and to enlighten and to work through that. And surely if it were wrong for a part of the universe to have been used to reveal His Divinity to men, it would be much more wrong that He should be so revealed by the whole! In accordance with God the Father, represented by the ark, fulfilling His will through Joshua the type of Jesus, we can see how this ‘random’ picking of the tribe and individual needed to be done through Joshua to underline the symbology of this event on a Trinitarian basis. It is through Christ that the Father’s will is continuously carried out; Joshua’s temporary typological role as head of Israel is never confused with his role being different from the role of the Three Persons because we know Joshua is a man; but the Father and His Angel are basically what the Ark and Joshua are respectively representing.”

22So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. 23And they took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the LORD. 24And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the(BL) Valley of Achor. 25And Joshua said, “Why did you(BM) bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel(BN) stoned him with stones.(BO) They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. 26And they raised over him(BP) a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then(BQ) the LORD turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.[h]

It is especially interesting how this incident is alluded to in one of the Angel’s parables in Matthew 25 – the parable of the talents – which refers to the devoted things that Achan stole:

  1. The cloak from Shinar, a beautiful cloak
  2. 200 shekels of silver
  3. A bar of gold weighing 50 shekels

Adam Clarke looks at the etymology of the ‘cloak from Shinar’ which the KJV describes as the “Babylonish garment”:

“A goodly Babylonish garmentאדרת שנער addereth shinar, a splendid or costly robe of Shinar; but as Babylon or Babel was built in the plain of Shinar, the word has in general been translated Babylon in this place. It is very probable that this was the robe of the king of Jericho, for the same word is used, Jon_3:6, to express the royal robe, of the king of Nineveh which he laid aside in order to humble himself before God. Bochart and Calmet have shown at large that Babylonish robes were very splendid, and in high reputation. “They are,” says Calmet, “generally allowed to have been of various colors, though some suppose they were woven thus; others, that they were embroidered with the needle; and others, that they were painted.”

Although Clarke describes the physical beauty of the garment, he did not dive into the depth of what is represented by the coveting of such garment. If his description is accurate, that this phrase is equally a description of the royal robe, then Achan’s sin is representative of coveting the robe of the Head of the enemy. Instead of, by faith, remaining in the robe of righteousness of Christ, Achan has submitted himself to the cloak from Babylon, the silver and gold of the enemy which was supposed to be devoted to the LORD. The physical splendour has satiated Achan’s lusts for possessions but he does not realize that his sin has led him to covet a pagan treasure.

These verses in particular seem to find inspiration from this story of Achan:

Mat 25:24-30 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, (25) so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ (26) But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? (27) Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. (28) So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. (29) For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. (30) And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

We learn that Achan’s shame, like the servant, is brought to the open, and in this chapter we see Achan’s sin brought to the open in v.23 before three groups: Yeshua, Israel, and the LORD. Achan hid the treasures in the soil (v.21-22), a constant refrain, just as the servant of the parable did. Where Jesus stated that this servant is to be cast into the outer darkness, it is not because the servant truly saved the treasure for Him; rather, the servant did not have faith in handling the money for Christ, and dealt with the possessions as he wished. He presumed too much (v.24-25).

Similarly, it is no coincidence that throughout the whole Bible, these three groups stand as witnesses against the sinner, just as it would occur on the Day of Resurrection, the glorified and sheltered re-born Bride of Christ, by the power of the Spirit, with Christ, and the Father, standing as witnesses against the resurrected sinners who will experience their second death. The punishment of the servant into the outer darkness is the same punishment before the three witnesses on the Day of Resurrection: and Achan has served as a type of this servant before the Commander of the LORD, a type of Christ in the office of Judge and Destroyer.

So Achan is the first to be subjected to the funeral by the great heap of stones, again repeated in chapter 8v.29 – and this type of burial is symbolic of the Rock of Ages standing on all who oppose Him. Indeed, trouble is on Achan and his family because he is the first type of the physical church to be destroyed if they do not stand under Christ’s banner, but under their own. His lack of persistence in faith, his self-reliance, his coveting of treasure representing Babylon are the same images in the book of Revelation – the whore of Babylon and the people’s ‘treasures’ being revealed for what they are under His fiery punishment. So this valley of Achor, this valley of trouble is simultaneous a sign of inevitable destruction for those outside of the Church as well as a symbol of hope:

A new name was given to the place; it was called theValley of Achor, or trouble. This was a perpetual brand of infamy upon Achan’s name, and a perpetual warning to all people not to invade God’s property. By this severity against Achan, the honour of Joshua’s government, now in the infancy of it, was maintained, and Israel, at their entrance upon the promised Canaan, were reminded to observe, at their peril, the provisos and limitations of the grant by which they held it. The Valley of Achor is said to be given for a door of hope, because when we put away the accursed thing then there begins to be hope in Israel, Hos_2:15; Ezr_10:2. (Matthew Henry)

Joshua 8

1And the LORD said to Joshua,(BR) “Do not fear and do not be dismayed. Take all the fighting men with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See,(BS) I have given into your hand the king of Ai, and his people, his city, and his land. 2And you shall do to Ai and its king as you did(BT) to Jericho and its king. Only(BU) its spoil and its livestock you shall take as plunder for yourselves. Lay an ambush against the city, behind it.”

Our intimate God continually sympathises with us despite the situation – v.1: “do not fear and do not be dismayed”. How easy it is to be dismayed when one cannot even keep track of one congregant’s coveting! However, the LORD soothes Joshua’s heart, and by faith, they must conquer Ai without compromise. This is directly related to the third verse, where there seems to be a vast contrast in both number of men and attitude towards the war against Ai. Matthew Henry looks at this attitude and number change from bringing 30,000 instead of the mere 3000 men (chapter 7v.4) to do His bidding:

“The camp of Israel suffering for the same: The anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel; he saw the offence, though they did not, and takes a course to make them see it; for one way or other, sooner or later, secret sins will be brought to light; and, if men enquire not after them, God will, and with his enquiries will awaken theirs. man a community is under guilt and wrath and is not aware of it till the fire breaks out: here it broke out quickly. 1. Joshua sends a detachment to seize upon the next city that was in their way, and that was Ai. Only 3000 men were sent, advice being brought him by his spies that the place was inconsiderable, and needed no greater force for the reduction of it, Jos_7:2, Jos_7:3. Now perhaps it was a culpable assurance, or security rather that led them to send so small a party on this expedition; it might also be an indulgence of the people in the love of ease, for they will not have all the people to labour thither. Perhaps the people were the less forward to go upon this expedition because they were denied the plunder of Jericho; and these spies were willing they should be gratified. Whereas when the town was to be taken, though God by his own power would throw down the walls, yet they must all labour thither and labour there too, in walking round it. It did not bode well at all that God’s Israel began to think much of their labour, and contrived how to spare their pains. It is required that we work out our salvation, though it is God that works in us. It has likewise often proved of bad consequence to make too light of an enemy. They are but few (say the spies), but, as few as they were, they were too many for them. It will awaken our care and diligence in our Christian warfare to consider that we wrestle with principalities and powers.

Thus, Matthew Henry so responds to the cunning plan of decoy from v.4-9. This tactic is considerably different from their approach to Jericho. Jericho was symbolically the first city to be conquered; but Ai is the second of the list of cities which the LORD is hoping to devote to destruction through Israel. Joshua’s plan displays the type of thinking which his spies did not in chapter 7 – and this place of ambush between Bethel (House of God) and Ai (Heap of Ruins) is significant for already being established in Genesis 12:8 and 13:3. This place is where Abraham built an altar worshipping Yahweh in response to His covenant with him, and the ambush at this location is a precursor to the victory of the Israelites as God promised in v.1.

3So Joshua and all the fighting men arose to go up to Ai. And Joshua chose 30,000 mighty men of valor and sent them out by night. 4And he commanded them, “Behold,(BV) you shall lie in ambush against the city, behind it. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you remain ready. 5And I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. And when they come out against us(BW) just as before, we shall flee before them. 6And they will come out after us, until we have(BX) drawn them away from the city. For they will say, ‘They are fleeing from us, just as before.’ So we will flee before them. 7Then you shall rise up from the ambush and seize the city, for the LORD your God will give it into your hand. 8And as soon as you have taken the city, you shall set the city on fire. You shall do according to the word of the LORD.(BY) See, I have commanded you.” 9So Joshua sent them out. And they went to the place of ambush and lay between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai, but Joshua spent that night among the people.

V.9-10 tend to be overlooked, but we must not forget that Joshua, like Yeshua, dwelled with us in His cosmic victory over the Satan, and the most important thing we look forward to is to fully and eternally taste the intimacy of the temporary incarnation of Christ. Joshua spending the night with the troops displays Christ’s willing intimacy and communion with us. V.10-17 then chronicles the ambush in the form of the main encampment on the north of Ai, and the rear guard at the west of Ai.

10Joshua arose early in the morning and mustered the people and went up, he and the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai. 11And(BZ) all the fighting men who were with him went up and drew near before the city and encamped on the north side of Ai, with a ravine between them and Ai. 12He took about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. 13So they stationed the forces, the main encampment that was north of the city and its rear guard west of the city. But Joshua spent that night in the valley. 14And as soon as the king of Ai saw this, he and all his people, the men of the city, hurried and went out early to the appointed place[i] toward(CA) the Arabah to meet Israel in battle.(CB) But he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. 15And Joshua and all Israel(CC) pretended to be beaten before them and fled in the direction of the wilderness. 16So all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and as they pursued Joshua they(CD) were drawn away from the city. 17Not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel. They left the city open and pursued Israel.

This deception of Joshua’s (v.15) is to be directly contrasted to the deception of the Gibeonites in chapter 9. Unlike the deception of the Gibeonites, Joshua’s actions of the ambush and such are borne from the wisdom of God, and the javelin in Joshua’s hand is symbolic of the warring victory of Joshua (1 Samuel 17:6, 45; Job 39:23; Jeremiah 6:23) until v.26 where he had kept the javelin out. The javelin itself, like Moses’ staff, is merely allegorical to God’s true strength, akin to the outstretched arms of Moses in Exodus 17:11-12. In all the action described, the inevitable destruction of Ai is seen in v.20 – the “smoke into heaven” (c.f. Genesis 19:28; Exodus 19:18; Deuteronomy 29:20; Psalm 66:15; Revelation 8:4; Revelation 9:2). This smoke, simultaneously like a sacrificial offering, as well as indicative of the smoke from a burning furnace – both describing the destruction of Ai and the establishment of “Ai” as part of the true Bethel, House of God.

18Then the LORD said to Joshua,(CE) “Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand.” And Joshua stretched out the javelin that was in his hand toward the city. 19And the men in the ambush rose quickly out of their place, and as soon as he had stretched out his hand, they ran and entered the city and captured it. And they hurried to set the city on fire. 20So when the men of Ai looked back, behold, the smoke of the city went up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that, for the people who fled to the wilderness turned back against the pursuers. 21And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had captured the city, and that the smoke of the city went up, then they turned back and struck down the men of Ai. 22And the others came out from the city against them, so they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side, and some on that side. And Israel struck them down, until there was(CF) left none that survived or escaped. 23But the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him near to Joshua.

With the noting of 12,000 in Ai, one wonders how it was possible for the spies to be so neglectful in chapter 7, so complacent, to expect their 3000 to conquer 12,000. Joshua’s shrewdness and cunning borne from the Spirit anointed upon him furthermore leads him to hang the King of Ai on a tree (v.28-29) as a sign to the neighbouring nations.

One question should be asked: why did they not stone him like they stoned Achan? Why hang first, then raise a great heap of stones? This stipulation of hanging on the tree is explicitly described in Deuteronomy 21:22-23, and Clarke interestingly notes the Septuagint interpretation of the Hebrew:

As soon as the sun was down – It was not lawful to let the bodies remain all night upon the tree. See the note on Deu_21:23. The Septuagint say the king of Ai was hanged επι ξυλον διδυμον, upon a double tree, which probably means a forked tree, or something in the form of a cross. The tree on which criminals were hanged among the Romans was called arbor infelix, and lignum infelix, the unfortunate, ill-fated, or accursed tree.”

Indeed, when Christ was on the cross, he is indeed cursed. The full wrath of God was placed onto his own Son – what happened to Ai and what will happen to the later kings are exactly the depth and weight of what happened to the Son as to cause Him to exclaim “Why have You forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1). The contemporary conception of ‘cosmic child abuse’ is misconceived, because Christ really did feel the judgment wrath on the church’s behalf: but what happened to Ai, as one of the heads of the enemy nations, is what would happen to all non-Christians should they not stand in the Bride in Jesus.

24When Israel had finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the open wilderness where they pursued them, and all of them to the very last had fallen by the edge of the sword, all Israel returned to Ai and struck it down with the edge of the sword. 25And all who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000, all the people of Ai. 26But Joshua did not draw back his hand with which he(CG) stretched out the javelin until he had devoted all the inhabitants of Ai to destruction.[j] 27Only the livestock and the spoil of that city Israel took as their plunder, according to the word of the LORD that he(CH) commanded Joshua. 28So Joshua burned Ai and made it forever a(CI) heap of ruins, as it is to this day. 29(CJ) And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening.(CK) And at sunset Joshua commanded, and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the gate of the city and(CL) raised over it a great heap of stones, which stands there to this day.

So chapter 8 ends suitably with v.30-36 where we see Yeshua building an altar to the LORD on Mt. Ebal, the stone/bare mountain, the mountain of curses fulfilling what is said in Deuteronomy 27:6 – the altar of uncut stones.

30At that time Joshua built an altar to the LORD, the God of Israel,(CM) on Mount Ebal, 31just as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded the people of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, “an altar of uncut stones, upon which no man has wielded an iron tool.” And they offered on it burnt offerings to the LORD and sacrificed peace offerings. 32And there, in the presence of the people of Israel, he wrote on(CN) the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written. 33And all Israel,(CO) sojourner as well as native born, with their elders and officers and their judges, stood on opposite sides of the ark before the Levitical priests(CP) who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, half of them in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal,(CQ) just as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded at the first, to bless the people of Israel. 34And afterward(CR) he read all the words of the law,(CS) the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. 35There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel,(CT) and the women, and the little ones, and(CU) the sojourners who lived[k] among them.

These uncut stones are Christ, the untempered Stone on Whom we stand, the Stone under Whom the enemy of God remains. In the words of Matthew Henry:

“They built an altar, and offered sacrifice to God (Jos_8:30, Jos_8:31), in token of their dedication of themselves to God, as living sacrifices to his honour, in and by a Mediator, who is the altar that sanctifies this gift. This altar was erected on Mount Ebal, the mount on which the curse was put (Deu_11:29), to signify that there, where by the law we had reason to expect a curse, by Christ’s sacrifice of himself for us and his mediation we have peace with God; he has redeemed us from the curse of the law by being made a curse for us, Gal_3:13. Even where it was said, by the curse, You are not my people, there it is said, through Christ the altar, You are the children of the living God, Hos_1:10. The curses pronounced on Mount Ebal would immediately have been executed if atonement had not been made by sacrifice. By the sacrifices offered on this altar they did likewise give God the glory of the victories they had already obtained, as Exo_17:15. Now that they had had the comfort of them, in the spoils of Ai, it was fit that God should have the praise of them. And they also implored his favour for their future success; for supplications as well as thanksgivings were intended in their peace-offerings. The way to prosper in all that we put our hand to is to take God along with us, and in all our ways to acknowledge him by prayer, praise, and dependence. The altar they built was of rough unhewn stone, according to the law (Exo_20:25), for that which is most plain and natural, and least artful and affected, in the worship of God, he is best pleased with. Man’s device can add no beauty to God’s institutions.”

What is especially noteworthy is how a copy of the law was written on the stones: a pronouncement of the judgment of Christ, which in turn justifies how these stones typify the global judgment on the Day of Resurrection. It is the law which condemns the King of Ai; it is the law which hung him on the tree; and it is the law which holds the promise of Christ:

“Accordingly, apart from the Mediator, God never showed favor toward the ancient people, nor ever gave hope of grace to them. I pass over the sacrifices of the law, which plainly and openly taught believers to seek salvation nowhere else than in the atonement that Christ alone carries out. I am only saying that the blessed and happy state of the church always had its foundation in the person of Christ. For even if God included all of Abraham’s offspring in his covenant [cf. Genesis 17:4], Paul nevertheless wisely reasons that Christ was properly that seed in whom all the nations were to be blessed [Galatians 3:14], since we know that not all who sprang from Abraham according to the flesh were reckoned among his offspring [Galatians 3:16]. For, to say nothing of Ishmael and others, how did it come about that of the two sons of Isaac, the twin brothers Esau and Jacob, while they were yet in their mother’s womb, one was chosen, the other rejected [Romans 9:11]? Indeed, how did it happen that the firstborn was set aside while the younger alone kept his status? How, also, did it come about that the majority was disinherited? It is therefore clear that Abraham’s seed is to be accounted chiefly in one Head, and that the promised salvation was not realized until Christ appeared, whose task is to gather up what has been scattered. So, then, the original adoption of the chosen people depended upon the Mediator’s grace. Even if in Moses’ writings this was not yet expressed in clear words, still it sufficiently appears that it was commonly known to all the godly. For before a king had been established over the people, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, describing the happiness of the godly, already says in her song: “God will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his Messiah” [1 Samuel 2:10]. By these words she means that God will bless his church. To this corresponds the prophecy that is added a little later: “The priest whom I shall raise up… will walk in the presence of my Christ” [1 Samuel 2:35, cf. Vg.].” – John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion in chapter “Fallen Man Ought to Seek Redemption in Christ”.

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Joshua 7-8: The Body of Christ

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