Joshua 8:1-29: Ai Taken
Now that Achan and his family had been destroyed, the children of Israel could try again to take Ai. Some soldiers went up quietly and hid themselves behind Ai. Then Joshua moved with more soldiers as if to attack the city. The men of Ai went out against them, and Joshua and his men ran from them, as the soldiers of Israel did the first time that they tried to take Ai. But this was to draw the men of Ai out of the city. At the right moment Joshua stretched out his spear, and the men that were behind Ai came out of their hiding and took the city. Joshua and his men also helped, and the city and people of Ai were destroyed.
What town did the children of Israel try to take after destroying Jericho? Why did they fail? Who can tell us now about the second attempt to take Ai? Now the disobedience had been put away from among them, they should go again against Ai and succeed. You remember the way up the rough valley among the hills, and Ai is reached about two miles before one comes to Bethel. Now read the story of the taking of Ai. Notice that from this city the people were allowed to take spoils for themselves, unlike Jericho. Joshua's stretching forth his spear until all the inhabitants were destroyed, reminds us of the battle with the Amalekites when Moses went to the hilltop with the rod of God in his hand, and while he held up his hands Israel prevailed. (Exod. 17:8-16) Ai was now taken, and the children of Israel had planted their power both in the plain of Jordan and high on the central hills of Canaan.
1. What was the next city of Canaan after Jericho which the children of Israel took? Did they take it when they first tried to do so? Why not?
2. When they did take Ai, how was it done? What unseen army do we have to help us?
What does the taking of Ai represent? The fall of Jericho in the plain near Jordan meant the overcoming of external evils and the entrance upon external heavenly states. Ai on the high hills represents an interior state in which evil must be overcome and goodness established. Bethel, the house of God, the place of Jacob's dream and the place from which Abram and Lot looked out over the land, represents a state of perception and knowledge of heavenly things. Ai represents a state of knowledge not so interior. When Abram camped with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east, it is said to describe a state in which as yet knowledge of heavenly things is obscure (the west) and knowledge of worldly things is clear (the east). This suggests why at this time the people took Ai, but there is no mention as yet of taking Bethel. (A. 1453, 1557)
Why did the people fail when they first tried to take Ai; when they took it, why was it done by an ambush? At first the people failed because Achan had stolen something from Jericho and hidden it in his tent. It represents a secret indulgence of evil. Till this is repented of, the power of the Lord is not with us to enable us to enter into states of inner perception and life. When we do repent we can enter into these states. Why? Because we ourselves are stronger than before? No, but because the unseen powers of heaven and the Lord are with us. Of ourselves we are still weak and should flee before the enemy just as we did before. But the powers of heaven fight for us, represented at another time to Elisha's servant by horses and chariots of fire, and represented here by the ambush on the side of Bethel, the house of God and gate of heaven. Notice that the ambush arose as Joshua stretched forth his spear. This like Moses' rod was an emblem of the Divine omnipotence - further evidence that the ambush represents the unseen power of heaven and the Lord. (A. 7673)
Why were the people to keep the spoil of Ai, while they must destroy that of Jericho? The gold, silver, brass, and iron saved from Jericho represent principles in themselves true which are useful when disassociated from evil. This is the case with all intellectual treasures, and the spoil of Ai seems to represent such treasures, for Ai and Bethel represent states of perception and knowledge.
The requirement to build the altar of stones over which no one hath lifted up any iron (Exod. 20:25) reminds us of what is said about the building of the temple. (1 Kings 6:7) We must take the Lord's truth as He gives it to us, and not fashion it to suit ourselves. (R. 457; A. 10406)