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Israel Conquers Ai

The Lord told Joshua, “Don’t be afraid and don’t panic![a] Take the whole army with you and march against Ai![b] See, I am handing over to you[c] the king of Ai, along with his people, city, and land. Do to Ai and its king what you did to Jericho and its king, except you may plunder its goods and cattle. Set an ambush behind the city.”

Joshua and the whole army marched against Ai.[d] Joshua selected 30,000 brave warriors and sent them out at night. He ordered them, “Look, set an ambush behind the city. Don’t go very far from the city; all of you be ready! I and all the troops[e] who are with me will approach the city. When they come out to fight us like before, we will retreat from them. They will attack[f] us until we have lured them from the city, for they will say, ‘They are retreating from us like before.’ We will retreat from them. Then you rise up from your hiding place[g] and seize[h] the city. The Lord your God will hand it over to you. When you capture the city, set it[i] on fire in keeping with the Lord’s message. See, I have given you orders.”[j] Joshua sent them away and they went to their hiding place[k] west of Ai, between Bethel and Ai.[l] Joshua spent that night with the army.[m]

10 Bright and early the next morning Joshua gathered[n] the army,[o] and he and the leaders[p] of Israel marched[q] at the head of it[r] to Ai. 11 All the troops that were with him marched up and drew near the city.[s] They camped north of Ai on the other side of the valley.[t] 12 He took 5,000 men and set an ambush west of the city between Bethel and Ai. 13 The army was in position—the main army north of the city and the rear guard west of the city. That night Joshua went into[u] the middle of the valley.

14 When the king of Ai and all his people saw Israel, they rushed to get up early. Then the king and the men of the city went out to meet Israel in battle, at the meeting place near the rift valley.[v] But he did not realize an ambush was waiting for him behind the city.[w] 15 Joshua and all Israel pretended to be defeated by them, and they retreated along the way to the wilderness. 16 All the reinforcements[x] in Ai[y] were ordered[z] to chase them; they chased Joshua and were lured away from the city. 17 No men were left in Ai or Bethel;[aa] they all went out after Israel.[ab] They left the city wide open and chased Israel.

18 The Lord told Joshua, “Hold out toward Ai the curved sword[ac] in your hand, for I am handing the city[ad] over to you.” So Joshua held out toward Ai the curved sword in his hand. 19 When he held out his hand, the men waiting in ambush rose up quickly from their place and attacked.[ae] They entered the city, captured it, and immediately set it on fire. 20 When the men of Ai turned around, they saw[af] the smoke from the city ascending into the sky and were so shocked they were unable to flee in any direction.[ag] In the meantime the men who were retreating to the wilderness turned against their pursuers. 21 When Joshua and all Israel saw that the men in ambush had captured the city and that the city was going up in smoke,[ah] they turned around and struck down the men of Ai. 22 At the same time the men who had taken the city came out to fight, and the men of Ai were trapped in the middle.[ai] The Israelites struck them down, leaving no survivors or refugees. 23 But they captured the king of Ai alive and brought him to Joshua.

24 When Israel had finished killing all the men[aj] of Ai who had chased them toward the wilderness[ak] (they all fell by the sword),[al] all Israel returned to Ai and put the sword to it. 25 So 12,000 men and women died[am] that day, including all the men of Ai. 26 Joshua kept holding out his curved sword until Israel had annihilated all who lived in Ai.[an] 27 But Israel did plunder the cattle and the goods of the city, in keeping with the Lord’s orders[ao] to Joshua. 28 Joshua burned Ai and made it a permanently uninhabited mound (it remains that way to this very day).[ap] 29 He hung the king of Ai on a tree, leaving him exposed until evening.[aq] At sunset Joshua ordered that his corpse be taken down from the tree.[ar] They threw it down at the entrance of the city gate and erected over it a large pile of stones (it remains to this very day).[as]

Covenant Renewal

30 Then Joshua built an altar for the Lord God of Israel on Mount Ebal, 31 just as Moses the Lord’s servant had commanded the Israelites. As described in the law scroll of Moses, it was made with uncut stones untouched by an iron tool.[at] On it they offered burnt sacrifices to the Lord and sacrificed tokens of peace.[au] 32 There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua inscribed on the stones a duplicate of the law written by Moses.[av] 33 All the people,[aw] rulers,[ax] leaders, and judges were standing on either side of the ark, in front of the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord. Both resident foreigners and native Israelites were there.[ay] Half the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and the other half in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the Lord’s servant had previously instructed them to do for the formal blessing ceremony.[az] 34 Then[ba] Joshua read aloud all the words of the law, including the blessings and the curses, just as they are written in the law scroll. 35 Joshua read aloud every commandment Moses had given[bb] before the whole assembly of Israel, including the women, children, and resident foreigners who lived among them.[bc]


  1. Joshua 8:1 tn Or perhaps “and don’t get discouraged!”
  2. Joshua 8:1 tn Heb “Take with you all the people of war and arise, go up against Ai!”
  3. Joshua 8:1 tn Heb “I have given into our hand.” The verbal form, a perfect, is probably best understood as a perfect of certitude, indicating the certainty of the action.
  4. Joshua 8:3 tn “And Joshua and all the people of war arose to go up [against] Ai.”
  5. Joshua 8:5 tn Heb “the people.”
  6. Joshua 8:6 tn Heb “come out after.”
  7. Joshua 8:7 tn Heb “from the ambush.”
  8. Joshua 8:7 tn Heb “take possession of.”
  9. Joshua 8:8 tn Heb “the city.”
  10. Joshua 8:8 tn Heb “I have commanded you.”
  11. Joshua 8:9 tn Or “the place of ambush.”
  12. Joshua 8:9 tn Heb “and they stayed between Bethel and Ai, west of Ai.”
  13. Joshua 8:9 tn Heb “in the midst of the people.”
  14. Joshua 8:10 tn Or “summoned, mustered.”
  15. Joshua 8:10 tn Heb “the people.”
  16. Joshua 8:10 tn Or “elders.”
  17. Joshua 8:10 tn Heb “went up.”
  18. Joshua 8:10 tn Heb “them” (referring to “the people” in the previous clause, which requires a plural pronoun). Since the translation used “army” in the previous clause, a singular pronoun (“it”) is required in English.
  19. Joshua 8:11 tn Heb “All the people of war who were with him went up and approached and came opposite the city.”
  20. Joshua 8:11 tn Heb “and the valley [was] between them and Ai.”
  21. Joshua 8:13 tn Some Hebrew mss read, “spent the night in.”
  22. Joshua 8:14 sn This probably refers to the hill country at the edge of the rift valley between Ai and Jericho. This part of the battle was probably engaged where Israel would have come up to the hill country out of the rift valley from Jericho, an ascent of about 4000 feet (with ups and downs) over ten miles.
  23. Joshua 8:14 tn Heb “did not know that an ambush for him was behind the city.”
  24. Joshua 8:16 tn Heb “All the people.”
  25. Joshua 8:16 tc Some textual witnesses read “the city.”
  26. Joshua 8:16 tn Or “were summoned”; or “were mustered.”
  27. Joshua 8:17 tc The LXX omits the words “or Bethel.”
  28. Joshua 8:17 tn Heb “who did not go out after Israel.”
  29. Joshua 8:18 tn Traditionally “spear,” but see HALOT 472 s.v. כִּידוֹן, which argues based upon evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls that this term refers to a curved sword of some type; note the definition “scimitar” given there.
  30. Joshua 8:18 tn Heb “it”; the referent (the city of Ai) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  31. Joshua 8:19 tn Heb “and ran.”
  32. Joshua 8:20 tn Heb “and they saw, and look.” The Hebrew term הִנֵּה (hinneh, “look”) draws attention to the scene and invites the audience to view the events from the perspective of the men of Ai.
  33. Joshua 8:20 tn Heb “and there was not in them hands to flee here or there.” The Hebrew term יָדַיִם (yadayim, “hands”) is idiomatic for “strength.”
  34. Joshua 8:21 tn Heb “and that the smoke of the city ascended.”
  35. Joshua 8:22 tn Heb “and these went out from the city to meet them and they were for Israel in the middle, some on this side, and others on the other side.”
  36. Joshua 8:24 tn Heb “residents.”
  37. Joshua 8:24 tn Heb “in the field, in the wilderness in which they chased them.”
  38. Joshua 8:24 tc Heb “and all of them fell by the edge of the sword until they were destroyed.” The LXX omits the words, “and all of them fell by the edge of the sword.” They may represent a later scribal addition.
  39. Joshua 8:25 tn Heb “fell.”
  40. Joshua 8:26 tn Heb “Joshua did not draw back his hand which held out the curved sword until he had annihilated all the residents of Ai.”
  41. Joshua 8:27 tn Heb “message, word.”
  42. Joshua 8:28 tn Heb “and made it a permanent mound, a desolation, to this day.”
  43. Joshua 8:29 tn Heb “on a tree until evening.” The words “leaving him exposed” are supplied in the translation for clarity.
  44. Joshua 8:29 sn For the legal background of this action, see Deut 21:22-23.
  45. Joshua 8:29 tn Heb “to this day.”
  46. Joshua 8:31 tn Heb “as it is written in the scroll of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones on which no one had wielded iron.” The expression “whole stones” refers to stones in their natural condition, i.e., not carved or shaped artificially with tools (“wielded iron”).
  47. Joshua 8:31 tn Or “peace offerings.”
  48. Joshua 8:32 tn Heb “and he wrote there on the stones a duplicate of the law of Moses which he wrote before the sons of Israel.”
  49. Joshua 8:33 tn Heb “All Israel.”
  50. Joshua 8:33 tn Or “elders.”
  51. Joshua 8:33 tn Heb “like the resident foreigner, like the citizen.” The language is idiomatic, meaning that both groups were treated the same, at least in this instance.
  52. Joshua 8:33 tn Heb “as Moses, the Lord’s servant, commanded to bless the people, Israel, formerly.”sn Moses’ earlier instructions are found in Deut 11:29.
  53. Joshua 8:34 tn Or “afterward.”
  54. Joshua 8:35 tn Heb “There was not a word from all which Moses commanded that Joshua did not read aloud.”
  55. Joshua 8:35 tn Heb “walked in their midst.”