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But there was sin among the Israelis. God’s command to destroy everything except that which was reserved for the Lord’s treasury was disobeyed. For Achan (the son of Carmi, grandson of Zabdi, and great-grandson of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah) took some loot for himself, and the Lord was very angry with the entire nation of Israel because of this.

Soon after Jericho’s defeat, Joshua sent some of his men to spy on the city of Ai, east of Bethel.

Upon their return they told Joshua, “It’s a small city and it won’t take more than two or three thousand of us to destroy it; there’s no point in all of us going there.”

So approximately three thousand soldiers were sent—and they were soundly defeated. About thirty-six of the Israelis were killed during the attack, and many others died while being chased by the men of Ai as far as the quarries. The Israeli army was paralyzed with fear at this turn of events. Joshua and the elders of Israel tore their clothing and lay prostrate before the Ark of the Lord until evening, with dust on their heads.

Joshua cried out to the Lord, “O Jehovah, why have you brought us over the Jordan River if you are going to let the Amorites kill us? Why weren’t we content with what we had? Why didn’t we stay on the other side? O Lord, what am I to do now that Israel has fled from her enemies! For when the Canaanites and the other nearby nations hear about it, they will surround us and attack us and wipe us out. And then what will happen to the honor of your great name?”

10-11 But the Lord said to Joshua, “Get up off your face! Israel has sinned and disobeyed my commandment and has taken loot when I said it was not to be taken; and they have not only taken it, they have lied about it and have hidden it among their belongings. 12 That is why the people of Israel are being defeated. That is why your men are running from their enemies—for they are cursed.[a] I will not stay with you any longer unless you completely rid yourselves of this sin.

13 “Get up! Tell the people, ‘Each of you must undergo purification rites in preparation for tomorrow, for the Lord your God of Israel says that someone has stolen from him, and you cannot defeat your enemies until you deal with this sin. 14 In the morning you must come by tribes, and the Lord will point out the tribe to which the guilty man belongs. And that tribe must come by its clans and the Lord will point out the guilty clan; and the clan must come by its families, and then each member of the guilty family must come one by one. 15 And the one who has stolen that which belongs to the Lord shall be burned with fire, along with everything he has, for he has violated the covenant of the Lord and has brought calamity upon all of Israel.’”

16 So, early the next morning, Joshua brought the tribes of Israel before the Lord, and the tribe of Judah was indicated. 17 Then he brought the clans of Judah, and the clan of Zerah was singled out. Then the families of that clan were brought before the Lord and the family of Zabdi was indicated. 18 Zabdi’s family was brought man by man, and his grandson Achan was found to be the guilty one.

19 Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the God of Israel and make your confession. Tell me what you have done.”

20 Achan replied, “I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. 21 For I saw a beautiful robe imported from Babylon, and some silver worth $200, and a bar of gold worth $500. I wanted them so much that I took them, and they are hidden in the ground beneath my tent, with the silver buried deeper than the rest.”

22 So Joshua sent some men to search for the loot. They ran to the tent and found the stolen goods hidden there just as Achan had said, with the silver buried beneath the rest. 23 They brought it all to Joshua and laid it on the ground in front of him. 24 Then Joshua and all the Israelites took Achan, the silver, the robe, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, donkeys, sheep, his tent, and everything he had, and brought them to the valley of Achor.

25 Then Joshua said to Achan, “Why have you brought calamity upon us? The Lord will now bring calamity upon you.”

And the men of Israel stoned them to death and burned their bodies, 26 and piled a great heap of stones upon them. The stones are still there to this day, and even today that place is called “The Valley of Calamity.” And so the fierce anger of the Lord was ended.


  1. Joshua 7:12 for they are cursed, literally, “they have become ‘something which must be totally destroyed’ or else become totally God’s.”

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