Joshua 8

Listen to Joshua 8

The Fall of Ai

1 And the LORD said to Joshua, 1"Do not fear and do not be dismayed. Take all the fighting men with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, 2I have given into your hand the king of Ai, and his people, his city, and his land.
2 And you shall do to Ai and its king as you did 3to Jericho and its king. Only 4its spoil and its livestock you shall take as plunder for yourselves. Lay an ambush against the city, behind it."
3 So 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.
4 And he commanded them, "Behold, 5you shall lie in ambush against the city, behind it. Do not go very far from the city, but all of you remain ready.
5 And I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. And when they come out against us 6just as before, we shall flee before them.
6 And they will come out after us, until we have 7drawn them away from the city. For they will say, 'They are fleeing from us, just as before.' So we will flee before them.
7 Then you shall rise up from the ambush and seize the city, for the LORD your God will give it into your hand.
8 And 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. 8See, I have commanded you."
9 So 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.
10 Joshua arose early in the morning and mustered the people and went up, he and the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai.
11 And 9all 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.
12 He took about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city.
13 So 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.
14 And 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[a] toward 10the Arabah to meet Israel in battle. 11But he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city.
15 And Joshua and all Israel 12pretended to be beaten before them and fled in the direction of the wilderness.
16 So all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and as they pursued Joshua they 13were drawn away from the city.
17 Not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel. They left the city open and pursued Israel.
18 Then the LORD said to Joshua, 14"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.
19 And 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.
20 So 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.
21 And 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.
22 And 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 15left none that survived or escaped.
23 But the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him near to Joshua.
24 When 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.
25 And all who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000, all the people of Ai.
26 But Joshua did not draw back his hand with which he 16stretched out the javelin until he had devoted all the inhabitants of Ai to destruction.[b]
27 Only the livestock and the spoil of that city Israel took as their plunder, according to the word of the LORD that he 17commanded Joshua.
28 So Joshua burned Ai and made it forever a 18heap of ruins, as it is to this day.
29 19And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening. 20And 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 21raised over it a great heap of stones, which stands there to this day.

Joshua Renews the Covenant

30 At that time Joshua built an altar to the LORD, the God of Israel, 22on Mount Ebal,
31 just 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.
32 And there, in the presence of the people of Israel, he wrote on 23the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written.
33 And all Israel, 24sojourner as well as native born, with their elders and officers and their judges, stood on opposite sides of the ark before the Levitical priests 25who 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, 26just as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded at the first, to bless the people of Israel.
34 And afterward 27he read all the words of the law, 28the 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 commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, 29and the women, and the little ones, and 30the sojourners who lived[c] among them.

Joshua 8 Commentary

Chapter 8

God encourages Joshua. (1,2) The taking of Ai. (3-22) The destruction of Ai and its king. (23-29) The law read on Ebal and Gerizim. (30-35)

Verses 1-2 When we have faithfully put away sin, that accursed thing which separates between us and God, then, and not till then, we may look to hear from God to our comfort; and God's directing us how to go on in our Christian work and warfare, is a good evidence of his being reconciled to us. God encouraged Joshua to proceed. At Ai the spoil was not to be destroyed as at Jericho, therefore there was no danger of the people's committing such a trespass. Achan, who caught at forbidden spoil, lost that, and life, and all; but the rest of the people, who kept themselves from the accursed thing, were quickly rewarded for their obedience. The way to have the comfort of what God allows us, is, to keep from what he forbids us. No man shall lose by self-denial.

Verses 3-22 Observe Joshua's conduct and prudence. Those that would maintain their spiritual conflicts must not love their ease. Probably he went into the valley alone, to pray to God for a blessing, and he did not seek in vain. He never drew back till the work was done. Those that have stretched out their hands against their spiritual enemies, must never draw them back.

Verses 23-29 God, the righteous Judge, had sentenced the Canaanites for their wickedness; the Israelites only executed his doom. None of their conduct can be drawn into an example for others. Especial reason no doubt there was for this severity to the king of Ai; it is likely he had been notoriously wicked and vile, and a blasphemer of the God of Israel.

Verses 30-35 As soon as Joshua got to the mountains Ebal and Gerizim, without delay, and without caring for the unsettled state of Israel, or their enemies, he confirmed the covenant of the Lord with his people, as appointed, ( Deuteronomy 11 , Deuteronomy 27 ) . We must not think to defer covenanting with God till we are settled in the world; nor must any business put us from minding and pursuing the one thing needful. The way to prosper is to begin with God, ( Matthew 6:33 ) . They built an altar, and offered sacrifice to God, in token of their dedicating themselves to God, as living sacrifices to his honour, in and by a Mediator. By Christ's sacrifice of himself for us, we have peace with God. It is a great mercy to any people to have the law of God in writing, and it is fit that the written law should be in a known tongue, that it may be seen and read of all men.

Cross References 30

  • 1. Joshua 1:9; Joshua 10:25; Deuteronomy 1:21; Deuteronomy 7:18; Deuteronomy 31:8
  • 2. Joshua 2:24; Joshua 6:2
  • 3. Joshua 6:21
  • 4. ver. 27; Deuteronomy 20:14
  • 5. [Judges 20:29]
  • 6. Joshua 7:5
  • 7. ver. 16
  • 8. 2 Samuel 13:28
  • 9. ver. 5
  • 10. See Deuteronomy 1:1
  • 11. Judges 20:34
  • 12. Judges 20:36
  • 13. ver. 6
  • 14. ver. 26
  • 15. Deuteronomy 7:2
  • 16. ver. 18
  • 17. ver. 2
  • 18. Deuteronomy 13:16
  • 19. Joshua 10:26
  • 20. Deuteronomy 21:23
  • 21. Joshua 7:26
  • 22. See Exodus 20:24, 25; Deuteronomy 27:4-6
  • 23. Deuteronomy 27:2-4
  • 24. Deuteronomy 31:12
  • 25. Deuteronomy 31:9, 25
  • 26. Deuteronomy 11:29; Deuteronomy 27:11-13
  • 27. Deuteronomy 31:11; Nehemiah 8:2, 3; Nehemiah 13:1
  • 28. Deuteronomy 30:19; See Deuteronomy 28:2-68
  • 29. Deuteronomy 31:12
  • 30. ver. 33

Footnotes 3

  • [a]. Hebrew appointed time
  • [b]. That is, set apart (devoted) as an offering to the Lord (for destruction)
  • [c]. Or traveled

Chapter Summary


Joshua is encouraged to go up and take Ai, and is directed what method to make use of, Jos 8:1,2; accordingly he set an ambush on the west side of it, and, he and the rest of the army went up before it, Jos 8:3-13; which, when the king of Ai saw, he and all his forces came cut against them, and the Israelites making a feint as if they were beaten, drew on the men of Ai to pursue them, upon which the ambush arose and entered the city and set fire to it, Jos 8:14-19; the smoke of which being observed by Joshua and Israel, they turned back upon the pursuers, and the ambush sallying out of the city behind them, made an entire destruction of them, then slew all the inhabitants, took the spoil, burnt the city, and hanged the king of it, Jos 8:20-29; after this Joshua built an altar at Ebal, wrote the law on stones, and read the blessings and curses in it before all Israel, Jos 8:30-35.

Joshua 8 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.