Joshua 9:1-15

Guile of the Gibeonites

Now it came about when all the kings who were beyond the Jordan, in the hill country and in the lowland and on all the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, heard of it, that they gathered themselves together with [a]one accord to fight with Joshua and with Israel.

When the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai,they also acted craftily and [b]set out as envoys, and took worn-out sacks on their donkeys, and wineskins worn-out and torn and [c]mended, and worn-out and patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and had become crumbled. They went to Joshua to the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us.” The men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you are living [d]within our land; how then shall we make a covenant with you?” But they said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” Then Joshua said to them, “Who are you and where do you come from?” They said to him, “Your servants have come from a very far country because of the [e]fame of the Lord your God; for we have heard the report of Him and all that He did in Egypt,10 and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon and to Og king of Bashan who was at Ashtaroth. 11 So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us, saying, ‘Take provisions in your hand for the journey, and go to meet them and say to them, “We are your servants; now then, make a covenant with us.”’ 12 This our bread was warm when we took it for our provisions out of our houses on the day that we left to come to you; but now behold, it is dry and has become crumbled. 13 These wineskins which we filled were new, and behold, they are torn; and these our clothes and our sandals are worn out because of the very long journey.” 14 So the men of Israel took some of their provisions, and did not ask for the [f]counsel of the Lord. 15 Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live; and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them.

As I read this, I kept waiting for it. Where was the fatal mistake? I had read the story before, so I knew the end result, but in verse 14 the real mistake just comes bouncing off the page.

They “did not ask for the counsel of the Lord.” And so happens the conundrum of Gibeon. It doesn’t end there, but that’s for another day. Today, it’s important to know that God is interested in all we do, for His hand has a play in all of it. He set it in motion millennia ago, and we would do well to seek His will in everything. Maybe not in what color socks we wear, but there are plenty of “mundane” things we might do that would be better off with God’s take on them, not to mention the important decisions we make each and every day. Seek Him first… that seems to be a recurring theme lately.


Joshua 8:30-35

30 Then Joshua built an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, in Mount Ebal, 31 just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the sons of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of uncut stones on which no man had wielded an iron tool; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings. 32 He wrote there on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which [m]he had written, in the presence of the sons of Israel. 33 All Israel with their elders and officers and their judges were standing on both sides of the ark before the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, the stranger as well as the native. Half of them stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of the Lord had given command at first to bless the people of Israel. 34 Then afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the book of the law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel with the women and the little ones and the strangers who were [n]living among them.

If Joshua were a king, this was his coronation. Having just won two amazing victories, all of Israel is gathered once more. But there is one important difference. Joshua knows who their King is, and he is not it. God is their sovereign and Joshua gives Him the honor and the priority here.

He builds an altar to the Lord, writes the law on the stones of the altar, and then reads the commands of the Lord to all the people, every last word. I suspect though, that this would have very much solidified Joshua’s leadership positions, which is an interesting side effect of giving honor to God.

Only when we live a life that is honoring and following God’s will can we properly lead others. We can’t do it on our own strength, our own wisdom, and certainly not with our only plan. Seek Him first…


Joshua 8:10-29

10 Now Joshua rose early in the morning and mustered the people, and he went up with the elders of Israel before the people to Ai. 11 Then all the people of war who were with him went up and drew near and arrived in front of the city, and camped on the north side of Ai. Now there was a valley between him and Ai. 12 And he took about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the [c]city. 13 So they stationed the people, all the army that was on the north side of the city, and its rear guard on the west side of the city, and Joshua spent that night in the midst of the valley. 14 It came about when the king of Ai saw it, that the men of the city hurried and rose up early and went out to meet Israel in battle, he and all his people at the appointed place before the desert plain. But he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. 15 Joshua and all Israel pretended to be beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness. 16 And all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were drawn away from the city. 17 So not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who had not gone out after Israel, and they left the city [d]unguarded and pursued Israel.

18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand.” So Joshua stretched out the javelin that was in his hand toward the city. 19 The men in ambush rose quickly from their place, and when he had stretched out his hand, they ran and entered the city and captured it, and they quickly set the city on fire. 20 When the men of Ai turned [e]back and looked, behold, the smoke of the city ascended to the sky, and they had no place to flee this way or that, for the people who had been fleeing to the wilderness turned against the pursuers. 21 When Joshua and all Israel saw that the men in ambush had captured the city and that the smoke of the city ascended, they turned back and [f]slew the men of Ai. 22 [g]The others came out from the city to encounter them, so that they were trapped in the midst of Israel, [h]some on this side and some on that side; and they [i]slew them until no one was left [j]of those who survived or escaped. 23 But they took alive the king of Ai and brought him to Joshua.

24 Now when Israel had finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the field in the wilderness where they pursued them, and all of them were fallen by the edge of the sword until they were destroyed, then all Israel returned to Ai and struck it with the edge of the sword. 25 All who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000—all the [k]people of Ai. 26 For Joshua did not withdraw his hand with which he stretched out the javelin until he had [l]utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. 27 Israel took only the cattle and the spoil of that city as plunder for themselves, according to the word of the Lord which He had commanded Joshua. 28 So Joshua burned Ai and made it a heap forever, a desolation until this day. 29 He hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening; and at sunset Joshua gave command and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the city gate, and raised over it a great heap of stones that stands to this day.

The plan of attack comes off without a hitch, and I think there are two very important reasons for it. Of course, the more important one was that they had disobeyed God and taken spoil from Jericho. The second one was the opposite. Instead of looking to God for a plan of attack (to obey), Joshua just went with what the people were saying, and trusted that they could just squash Ai with a very small army.

Now, one would hope you could trust what your advisers were saying, but when one sees later that there were 12,000 people in Ai, it seems a bit silly to only take 3,000 to attack. In that day, less than half of those were likely to be fighting men. But still, it’s not a lopsided battle by any means, and the men of Ai were fighting for their lives, their homes, and their families.

After they took care of the disobedience, Joshua rightly looks to God for a battle plan, and obeys it without hesitation. That’s not to say we can just say, “Hey God, what should I do today?” and then expect an audible reply. You might get one, but more likely, what you’ve just done is to re-orient your focus. You have set your eyes on God, and considered what it is that He might want you to do.

When your gaze is in the right direction, then your mind will often follow properly (perhaps with a bit of coercion). Fix your eyes on God, and seek His path for your life. It may be what you had in mind already, but it might not, and it’s always best to reconcile the two.


Joshua 8:1-9

The Conquest of Ai

Now the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear or be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you and arise, go up to Ai; see, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land. You shall do to Ai and its king just as you did to Jericho and its king; you shall take only its spoil and its cattle as plunder for yourselves. [a]Set an ambush for the city behind it.”

So Joshua rose with all the people of war to go up to Ai; and Joshua chose 30,000 men, valiant warriors, and sent them out at night. He commanded them, saying, “See, you are going to ambush the city from behind [b]it. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you be ready. Then I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. And when they come out to meet us as at the first, we will flee before them. They will come out after us until we have drawn them away from the city, for they will say, ‘They are fleeing before us as at the first.’ So we will flee before them. And you shall rise from your ambush and take possession of the city, for the Lord your God will deliver it into your hand. Then it will be when you have seized the city, that you shall set the city on fire. You shall do it according to the word of the Lord. See, I have commanded you.” So Joshua sent them away, and they went to the place of ambush and remained between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai; but Joshua spent that night among the people.

There is something that Jesus said centuries later that comes to mind, and it goes something like this, “be innocent (harmless) as doves, and shrewd as snakes…” We sometimes get this idea in our heads that we are supposed to be innocent and foolish, much like a small child.

But you don’t win lost souls by being foolish. Though Paul would later say, “God chose the foolish things to shame the wise…” I think it’s likely out of context to say that we are those foolish things.

Rather, God gives us great wisdom, and His Spirit reveals to us mysteries that the world knows not. Just like Joshua and the Israelites, we are to be cunning, clever, armed to the teeth. Not with weapons of physical warfare… for our battle is not against flesh and blood… but with weapons that can bring down spiritual strongholds. We can only do this through God’s strength, it isn’t our own cunning, our own cleverness, but that given to us by God Himself.


Joshua 7:16-26

The Sin of Achan

16 So Joshua arose early in the morning and brought Israel near by [i]tribes, and the tribe of Judah was taken. 17 He brought the family of Judah near, and he took the family of the Zerahites; and he brought the family of the Zerahites near man by man, and Zabdi was taken. 18 He brought his household near man by man; and Achan, son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, was taken. 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, I implore you, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give praise to Him; and tell me now what you have done. Do not hide it from me.” 20 So Achan answered Joshua and said, “Truly, I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel, and [j]this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it.”

22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was concealed in his tent with the silver underneath it. 23 They took them from inside the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the sons of Israel, and they poured them out before the Lord. 24 Then Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the mantle, the bar of gold, his sons, his daughters, his [k]oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that belonged to him; and they brought them up to the valley of [l]Achor. 25 Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.” And all Israel stoned [m]them with stones; and they burned them with fire [n]after they had stoned them with stones. 26 They raised over him a great heap of stones that stands to this day, and the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the valley of [o]Achor to this day.

The punishment seems a bit harsh until one remembers that Achan’s sin caused the death of 36 men in the previous battle. While it is a bit difficult to tell for sure, it almost seems as if Achan realized the magnitude of what he had done, and submitted willingly to the punishment (though it was to be his death).

Indeed, his only hope was to repent and turn back to God before his physical death. In that way, he might avoid a worse fate, that of eternal punishment, death, and separation from God. We ought not to forget the eternal consequences of our sin. While the repercussions on this earth might be surprising, even shocking, the repercussions in eternity are the most important. Sin separates us from God, and without repentance, there is no cure.

God offers the cure, but we must turn from our disobedience, and accept His life, His will, and His gift in order to be made right with God for all eternity. To take part in something we can’t even imagine, that will make this physical life seem but a shadow.


Joshua 7:1-15

Israel Is Defeated at Ai

But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the Lord burned against the sons of Israel.

Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “[a]Go up and spy out the land.” So the men went up and spied out Ai. They returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not let all the people go up; only about two or three thousand men need go up [b]to Ai; do not make all the people toil up there, for they are few.” So about three thousand men from the people went up there, but they fled [c]from the men of Ai. The men of Ai struck down about thirty-six of their men, and pursued them [d]from the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them down on the descent, so the hearts of the people melted and became as water.

Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, both he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord [e]God, why did You ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing [f]to dwell beyond the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned their [g]back before their enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?”

10 So the Lord said to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things. 12 Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their [h]backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst. 13 Rise up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, for thus the Lord, the God of Israel, has said, “There are things under the ban in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you have removed the things under the ban from your midst.” 14 In the morning then you shall come near by your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the Lord takes by lot shall come near by families, and the family which the Lord takes shall come near by households, and the household which the Lord takes shall come near man by man. 15 It shall be that the one who is taken with the things under the ban shall be burned with fire, he and all that belongs to him, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has committed a disgraceful thing in Israel.’”

Notably, God doesn’t strike the guilty party dead, and even allows the consequences to be played out so that Joshua and the Israelites turn to Him for answers.

While this sin would end in physical death, that isn’t always the case. But there are consequences when we sin. Even when we think we’ve gotten away with something, somehow the rules of the universe (which God created, thus being His rules) come back upon us.

Don’t think you can “enjoy” some small sin because it won’t affect anyone else. Sin always has consequences, and they often affect those we care about the most. Sin is never worthwhile, just ask Achan…


Joshua 6

The Conquest of Jericho

Now Jericho was tightly shut because of the sons of Israel; no one went out and no one came in. The Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and the valiant warriors. You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days. Also seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark; then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall be that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down [a]flat, and the people will go up every man [b]straight ahead.”

So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord.” Then [c]he said to the people, “Go forward, and march around the city, and let the armed men go on before the ark of the Lord.” And it was so, that when Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Lord went forward and blew the trumpets; and the ark of the covenant of the Lord followed them. The armed men went before the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard came after the ark, while they continued to blow the trumpets. 10 But Joshua commanded the people, saying, “You shall not shout nor let your voice be heard nor let a word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I tell you, ‘Shout!’ Then you shall shout!” 11 So he had the ark of the Lord [d]taken around the city, circling it once; then they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp.

12 Now Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. 13 The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord went on continually, and blew the trumpets; and the armed men went before them and the rear guard came after the ark of the Lord, while they continued to blow the trumpets. 14 Thus the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp; they did so for six days.

What stands out to me here, is that this plan is ludicrous. If you’ve ever seen the Veggie Tales re-telling of this story, you’ll hear the same from the residents of Jericho. There is no doubt the walls of Jericho were stout and secure. The Israelites had no siege equipment, and swords and spears were not going to knock a wall down.

The previous chapters talk of how the inhabitants of the land, including Jericho, were afraid of the Israelites. But on their human merits, this seems silly as well. Though they were a large host, they were ill-equipped to siege a city well-defended like Jericho. It is unlikely that those people were really afraid of the Israelites. Rather, they were afraid of the God of the Israelites, because they had seen and heard of His miracles.

So it is no surprise that God sends them to Jericho first. He must show them that He really IS fighting the battles for them, lest they think they conquered the land on their own merits. It may be like that in our own lives. We feel that the situation is too big, that there are giants in our way, and we are ill-equipped to deal with them. But on God’s terms, we can and will win the day. Not because we invoke His name into our plan, but because we follow His plan and forsake our own will.


Joshua 5

Israel Is Circumcised

Now it came about when all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard how the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until [a]they had crossed, that their hearts melted, and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the sons of Israel.

At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make for yourself flint knives and circumcise again the sons of Israel the second time.” So Joshua made himself flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at [b]Gibeath-haaraloth. This is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, died in the wilderness along the way after they came out of Egypt. For all the people who came out were circumcised, but all the people who were born in the wilderness along the way as they came out of Egypt had not been circumcised. For the sons of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, that is, the men of war who came out of Egypt, [c]perished because they did not listen to the voice of the Lord, to whom the Lord had sworn that He would not let them see the land which the Lord had sworn to their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. Their children whom He raised up in their place, Joshua [d]circumcised; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them along the way.

Now when they had finished circumcising all the nation, they remained in their places in the camp until they were [e]healed. Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” So the name of that place is called [f]Gilgal to this day.

10 While the sons of Israel camped at Gilgal they observed the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the desert plains of Jericho. 11 On the [g]day after the Passover, on [h]that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain12 The manna ceased on the [i]day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year.

13 Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” 14 He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” 15 The captain of the Lord’s host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

As if it weren’t clear earlier, here God reinforces an earlier sentiment. God isn’t on anyone’s “side”. The question is, “are you on God’s side?”

You can do all the good things you want, but that doesn’t put God on your side. Only when you are serving and following Him, can you say that God is on your side, because you are on His side. You have joined His team.


Joshua 4:14-24

14 On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; so that they [d]revered him, just as they had [e]revered Moses all the days of his life.

15 Now the Lord said to [f]Joshua, 16 “Command the priests who carry the ark of the testimony that they come up from the Jordan.” 17 So Joshua commanded the priests, saying, “Come up from the Jordan.” 18 It came about when the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord had come up from the middle of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were [g]lifted up to the dry ground, that the waters of the Jordan returned to their place, and went over all its banks as before.

19 Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth of the first month and camped at Gilgal on the eastern edge of Jericho. 20 [h]Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. 21 He said to the sons of [i]Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ 22 then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the Lord your God had done to the [j]Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; 24 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may [k]fear the Lord your God [l]forever.”

Not only is it good for us to have reminders, but it’s good to have things that will stand out so that your children ask about them. Or things that your friends will notice and say, “what’s that all about?”

Then you can say, “it’s a reminder that the Lord is mighty…” and share the good news, beyond anything the Israelites knew in that day. The fact that God is mighty AND that he loves us enough to take the penalty for our sins and give us eternal life with Him.

We all need reminders, but it’s even better when our reminder is also a conversation starter about God.


Joshua 4:1-13

Memorial Stones from Jordan

Now when all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, and command them, saying, ‘Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.’” So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe; and Joshua said to them, “[a]Cross again to the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel. [b]Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask [c]later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.”

Thus the sons of Israel did as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, just as the Lord spoke to Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel; and they carried them over with them to the lodging place and put them down there. Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan at the place where the feet of the priests who carried the ark of the covenant were standing, and they are there to this day. 10 For the priests who carried the ark were standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything was completed that the Lord had commanded Joshua to speak to the people, according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua. And the people hurried and crossed;11 and when all the people had finished crossing, the ark of the Lord and the priests crossed before the people. 12 The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh crossed over in battle array before the sons of Israel, just as Moses had spoken to them; 13 about 40,000 equipped for war, crossed for battle before the Lord to the desert plains of Jericho.

Just as the Israelites erected memorials to remind them of what God had done, it’s good for us to have things in our lives that remind us of how amazing God is, and how much He has done for us.

If you find yourself forgetting to thank God for what He has done in your life, maybe you need another monument or two. Not that you have to build it out of huge stones, but make it something that is an unavoidable reminder.