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CHAPTER 8 May 22 
The Conquest of Ai
Yahweh said to Joshua, Don’t be afraid, neither be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you and arise, go up to Ai. Behold, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, with his people, his city, and his land. 2You shall do to Ai and her king as you did to Jericho and her king, except its spoil and its livestock, you shall take for a plunder for yourselves. Set an ambush for the city behind it. 3So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up to Ai. Joshua chose thirty thousand men, the mighty men of valour, and sent them out by night. 4He commanded them, saying, Behold, you shall lie in ambush against the city, behind the city. Don’t go very far from the city, but all of you be ready. 5I, and all the people who are with me, will approach to the city. It shall happen, when they come out against us, as at the first, we will flee before them. 6They will come out after us, until we have drawn them away from the city; for they will say, ‘They flee before us, like the first time’. So we will flee before them, 7and you shall rise up from the ambush, and take possession of the city; for Yahweh your God will deliver it into your hand. 8It shall be, when you have seized on the city, that you shall set the city on fire. You shall do this according to the word of Yahweh. Behold, I have commanded you. 9Joshua sent them out; and they went to prepare the ambush, and stayed between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai; but Joshua stayed among the people that night. 10Joshua rose up early in the morning, mustered the people, and went up, he and the elders of Israel, at the head of the people to Ai. 11All the people, even the men of war who were with him, went up and drew near to the city, and encamped on the north side of Ai. Now there was a valley between him and Ai. 12He had set about five thousand men in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city. 13So they set the people, even all the army who was on the north of the city, and the ambush on the west of the city; and Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley. 14It happened, when the king of Ai saw it, that they hurried and rose up early, and the men of the city went out against Israel to battle, he and all his people, at the time appointed, before the Arabah; but he didn’t know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. 15Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness. 16All the people who were in the city were called together to pursue after them. They pursued Joshua, and were drawn away from the city. 17There was not a man left in Ai or Bethel who didn’t go out after Israel. They left the city open and pursued Israel. 18Yahweh said to Joshua, Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand. Joshua stretched out the javelin that was in his hand toward the city. 19The ambush arose quickly out of their place, and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand, entered into the city and took it. They hurried and set the city on fire. 20When the men of Ai looked behind them, they saw, and behold, the smoke of the city ascended up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that way. The people who fled to the wilderness turned back on the pursuers. 21When Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city, and that the smoke of the city ascended, then they turned again, and killed the men of Ai. 22The others came out of the city against them, so they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side, some on that side. They struck them so that they let none of them remain or escape. 23They captured the king of Ai alive, and brought him to Joshua. 24It happened that when Israel had made an end of killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the field, in the wilderness in which they pursued them, and they had all fallen by the edge of the sword until they were consumed, that all Israel returned to Ai and struck it with the edge of the sword. 25All that fell that day, both of men and women, were twelve thousand, even all the men of Ai. 26For Joshua didn’t draw back his hand with which he stretched out the javelin, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. 27Only the livestock and the spoil of that city Israel took for prey to themselves, according to the word of Yahweh which He commanded Joshua. 28So Joshua burnt Ai and made it a heap forever, even a desolation, to this day. 29He hanged the king of Ai on a tree until the evening, and at the sundown Joshua commanded, and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the gate of the city, and raised a great heap of stones on it that remains to this day.
The Blessing and Curse Pronounced
30Then Joshua built an altar to Yahweh, the God of Israel, in Mount Ebal, 31as Moses the servant of Yahweh commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of uncut stones, on which no man had lifted up any iron. They offered burnt offerings on it to Yahweh, and sacrificed peace offerings. 32He wrote there on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel. 33All Israel, their elders and officers and their judges, stood on both sides of the ark before the priests the Levites who carried the ark of Yahweh’s covenant, the foreigner as well as the native. Half of them stood in front of Mount Gerizim, and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of Yahweh had commanded at the first, for the blessing of the people of Israel. 34Afterward 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. 35There was not a word of all that Moses commanded which Joshua didn’t read before all the assembly of Israel, with the women, the little ones, and the foreigners who were among them.


8:1 Joshua’s dismay was a loss of lost faith in 1:3,9.
8:2 God told Israel to totally destroy the spoil from the cities they attacked. But when they failed to do this with Jericho, God told them that with Ai, the next city on the agenda, they were allowed to keep the spoil; even though Dt. 20:14-16 said that this was how they should treat their distant enemies, but not cities like Ai which were part of their inheritance. This was an undoubted concession to human weakness. The same concession to human weakness applied to other cities apart from Ai; it became a general policy that Israelites took all the spoil of the Canaanite cities for themselves; and yet following straight on from this we are told that Joshua "left nothing undone of all that Yahweh commanded Moses" (11:14,15). God accepted those concessions to human weakness, this living on a lower level, as total obedience. The grace of all this is marvellous. 
8:5 We will flee before them-  Fleeing before their enemies was perhaps a recognition of the truth of Dt. 28:25. This was included in the battle plan in order to show recognition that they had sinned and deserved to flee. God gave them, and us, victory on the basis they recognized that they deserved to be defeated.
8:18 The glint of the sun on the javelin would’ve been the signal for the ambushers to come and attack the city.
8:26 Given the similarities with the battle against Amalek, were Joshua’s arms held up in fervent prayer? Prayer is commonly associated with upheld arms. Earlier, Moses had held his hands up whilst Joshua led the army into battle, succeeding because Moses had his hands held up in prayer (Ex. 17:10). Now, Joshua is the one holding his hands up in prayer, whilst Israel are in battle. Lesson: We go through experiences which later repeat; and we are in the position of those who had before prayed for us, and are expected to replicate their examples.