Achan, Achar, Achor [Ā'chăn,Ā'chär, Ā'chôr]—trouble. The son of Carmi of the tribe of Judah (Josh. 7; 1 Chron. 2:7).
It did not take Joshua long to discover that his defeat at Ai, after a succession of victories, was due to some transgression of the divine covenant (Josh. 7:8-12). Thus, as the result of an inquiry, Achan was exposed as the transgressor, and confessing his sin in stealing and hiding part of the spoil taken at the destruction of Jericho, was put to death in consequence. In keeping with the custom of those days, Achan was probably stoned with his immediate relatives, and their dead bodies burned—the latter making punishment more terrible in the eyes of the Israelites.
Achan was put to death in “the valley of Achor” meaning “the valley of trouble”—the valley being called atter Achan who had been the troubler of Israel (Josh. 7:25, 26). Thus in 1 Chronicles 2:7 Achan is spelled as Achar. But “the valley of trouble” became a “door of hope” all of which is spiritually suggestive (Isa. 65:10; Hos. 2:15).
I. Covetousness means defeat. God had forbidden anyone taking to himself the spoils of Jericho, but one man, only one amongst all the hosts of Israel, disobeyed and brought failure upon all. Achan’s sin teaches us the oneness of the people of God. “Israel hath sinned” (Josh. 7:11). The whole cause of Christ can be delayed by the sin, neglect or lack of spirituality of one person (1 Cor. 5:1-7; 12:12, 14, 26).
II. The whole process of sin. Along with Eve and David in their respective sins, Achan also saw, coveted and took. James expresses the rise, progress and end of sin when he says that man is “drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (Jas. 1:14, 15). The inward corruption of Achan’s heart was first drawn forth by enticing objects—desire of gratification was then formed—ultimately determination to attain was fixed.
III. Prayer was rejected for action. When the most unexpected defeat of Ai came about, Joshua fell on his face before the Lord, and earnestly asked for an explanation of the reverse. But God said, “Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? ...Take away the accursed thing” (Josh. 7:10, 13). God cannot hear and bless if there is sin in the camp. For often we acknowledge the greatness of our national sins, but fail to drag out our personal sins testifying against us. Once Achan was discovered and judged, Israel went forward to victory.
IV. The richness of divine mercy. When the accursed thing was removed and chastisement exercised, triumph quickly followed trouble. The valley of Achor became a door of hope. The locust-eaten years are restored. Confession and forgiveness open closed lips, quicken dormant energies and liberate power in the service of the Lord.