BIBLE STUDY SERIES #569, 570 and 571

20 October, 2002

JOSHUA 7:20-26 - CAPTAIN OF THE HOST - PART IX

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting the present series of Bible Studies for over ten years now; starting with a Study that began the sequence back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. With occasional digressions, we have taken up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy and continued into the Book of Joshua. We had reached the story contained in Joshua 7, so you may wish to have your Bibles open to chapters 7 and 8 of that reference as we consider what God's Holy Word would show us from today's readings.

In order to set the stage for new listeners, I will explain that Joshua has led the Tribes of Israel to the Jordan River, which, through the miraculously-timed intervention of The Almighty God they had easily crossed, to the consternation of the Canaanites of Jericho. We had seen that Joshua, while considering how Jericho should be assaulted, was confronted by a manifestation of Deity, Who is Captain of the Host of The LORD. Following His direct divine orders by circling Jericho, the walls had fallen and the city was taken.

We were, at the end of our last Study, considering how important, for all Israel, the protective shield of the LORD their God was, over them, and how unprepared the people were for a sudden shocking reverse to their progress, which came about as the result of the sin of one man and his family, the members of which did not obey the strict injunction of The LORD. Joshua 7 had begun with the solemn words:

1. But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.

There had then followed, verse by verse, the unfolding story of the assignment, by Joshua, of a scouting party to go forward to view the land. This party of scouts had returned with the news that there was a small city, Ai, which would not require the presence of the whole army to make a successful assault upon it. About three thousand troops were deemed sufficient, and despatched. However, to the dismay and consternation of the forces and the people of Israel, they were repulsed with the loss of about 36 of their number. This brought an immediate appeal by the head of the army, Joshua, and the other leaders, with clothes torn and dust of repentance upon their heads, before The LORD, and to this appeal the reply came, in verse 12 which says "Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you."

In the last Bible study, we had read to the end of the chapter, so we have some advance knowledge of how the matter was eventually concluded. We had considered the measure of guilt which had marked Achan and his whole family. But we must see his sin in the context of the sinful nations of the Canaanites at that time. With the sin of Achan and his family, there had developed something worse than the total depravity and sinfulness of the Canaanites. They had not made a solemn contract with The LORD, but Israel had made such a binding contract, which, in effect, had made the whole nation of Israel into the national wife of Yahweh, The LORD. In the human context, a wife is said to be, legally, one with her husband, so that, as the wife of their God, Israel's sin made the union one in which sin was found. When sin was revealed within the camp of Israel, the nation was not in a condition of righteousness which was required for the execution of their holy service against the Canaanites. Thus, it was that The LORD would not continue to shelter the army of Israel as it proceeded against the corrupt Canaanites when there was, in the camp of Israel itself, a man and his family the actions of whom had defied the strict orders of The LORD. Israel was a special nation of The LORD's service. As the Prophet Amos was later to report to Israel in his day, "Hear this word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities" (Amos 3:1-2).

Achan's sin was of greater account or severity than the sins of the opposing Canaanites because Israel had, collectively, as a nation, and individually, agreed to a binding Contract of which the two stone tablets bearing the Ten Commandments, had formed the documentary evidence; tablets which even now were lying within the Ark of the Covenant which was at this moment in the midst of the Camp of Israel.

Later Babylonians wrote contracts on clay tablets, and they had an expression which they used when they wished to show that a contract had been broken. They expressed it in the term "To Break the Tablet." The breaking of the Laws of The LORD, which were written on the two stone tablets was an act which was symbolically meant in the same sense of a contract. That contract was a bond between the wife and her husband, and it involved obligations on the part of each towards the other. You might recall Exodus 32:19, and also Deuteronomy 9:17, describing the moment when Moses descended Mount Sinai carrying the original tablets of stone bearing those Ten Commandments. Exodus 32:19 states:

And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.

Moses had actually carried out the symbolic action literally when he first descended Mount Sinai to find sin in the camp of Israel. He immediately broke the stone tablets bearing the Ten Commandments that formed the agreement between Israel and their God. Later, he had to return up the Mount to obtain a second set of written Commandments on new tablets, as recorded in Exodus 34:1 and Deuteronomy 10:1. Exodus 34:1 states:

And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.

The act of using stones in order to execute a sinner would seem, symbolically, to be one in which the broken fragments of the tablets of the Law-contract which the sinner has broken are thrown at the guilty party. In that sense, the Law which they have broken falls upon them and kills them. The sad ending of Achan is described in verses 23-26. What happened to Achan and his household when the evidence was presented was the judgment of stoning, followed by fire and heaping of rocks over the remains, in the Valley of Achor:

23. And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the LORD.
24. And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor.
25. And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.
26. And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.

Perhaps the theme of this Old Testament connection lay behind the words quoted by Our LORD in Matthew 21:44, and Luke 20:18. The latter states "Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." The following quotation comes from Psalm 118:22. However we must read that verse in the context of verses 19-24, for the context reveals the marvellous New Testament truth which is bonded thereto:

19. Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD.
20. This gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter.
21. I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.
22. The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
23. This is the LORD's doing, it is marvellous in our eyes.
24. This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."

Even now, we hear or read in the news of places where religious applications of the penalty of stoning are still taught and advocated. Such religious views have diverged from the Biblical Old Testament setting which relates to those Ten Commandments. Such teaching is thus also deprived of the essential New Testament continuance and component which we would therefore point out.

That Old Testament symbolism converges, in the Christian tradition, with the Crucifixion to mark out that doorway of stone described by Psalm 118. It shows us that an alternative exists in the doorway. It relates to Salvation in the totally new light which Jesus Christ revealed in His famous words of John 14:6. "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me." He also used the symbolism of the door; a usage which goes back to the blood-smeared lintels and side posts of the first Passover in Exodus 12:22-23. Where the Old Covenant Law was written on stone, the New Covenant Law, (which was also made specifically with Israel and Judah, as Jeremiah 31:31-37 clearly shows), was to be written in their hearts, and so, with broken heart, we are smitten. By dying to self, we accept a new life in Christ. John 10:7-9 states:

7. Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
8. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
9. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

We shall consider further of these matters in the next Bible study.

27 October, 2002

JOSHUA 7:20-26 - CAPTAIN OF THE HOST - PART X

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting the present series of Bible Studies for over ten years now; starting with a Study that began the sequence back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. With occasional digressions, we have taken up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy and continued into the Book of Joshua. We had reviewed the story contained in Joshua 7, so you may wish to have your Bibles open to that chapter as we consider what God's Holy Word would show us from today's readings.

In order to set the stage for new listeners, I will explain that Joshua has led the Tribes of Israel to the Jordan River, which, through the miraculously-timed intervention of The Almighty God they had easily crossed, to the consternation of the Canaanites of Jericho. We had seen that Joshua, while considering how Jericho should be assaulted, was confronted by a manifestation of Deity, Who is Captain of the Host of The LORD. Following His direct divine orders by circling Jericho, the walls had fallen and the city was taken.

We were, at the end of our last Study, considering how important, for all Israel, the protective shield of the LORD their God was, over them. Joshua 7 had begun with the solemn words:

1. But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.

There had then followed, verse by verse, the unfolding story of the assignment, by Joshua, of a scouting party to go forward to view the land. This party of scouts had returned with the news that there was a small city, Ai, which would not require the presence of the whole army to make a successful assault upon it. About three thousand troops were deemed sufficient, and despatched. However, to the dismay and consternation of the forces and the people of Israel, they were repulsed with the loss of about 36 of their number. This brought an immediate appeal by the head of the army, Joshua, and the other leaders, with clothes torn and dust of repentance upon their heads, before The LORD, and to this appeal the reply came, in verse 12 which says "Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you."

At that, inquiry was instituted, and the sin was found with a family in the Tribe of Judah, of which Achan, its head, had taken 200 shekels of silver, a wedge (or bar) of gold, and a "goodly Babylonish garment" from Jericho. The garment ought to have been burnt, and the precious metals ought to have been brought to The LORD's treasury, as the curse or "ban" had been pronounced against that city. The result was that Achan and his family perished by stoning, and their remains by fire, and burial under a huge pile of stones in the Valley of Achor.

Perhaps we can find further prophetic thoughts and symbolism therein. We ought to consider some words of Hosea the Prophet, given centuries later concerning the latter-day circumstances of the members of the twelve tribes of Israel to whom the words of The LORD were addressed through that Prophet. In Hosea 2:15, in reference to the Tribes of Israel of Hosea's time, when her idolatrous whoredom has brought her to a state of destitution, he was given God's promise that those Tribes of Israel will pass into Assyrian captivity, but later, will become free and decide to return to The LORD. He prophesies that, in the wilderness, The LORD will "give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope..." This prophetic statement, remember, is directed to the Northern House of Israel as they are soon to be torn from their land by the Assyrians and herded as captives away to the north, towards the direction of the Caspian Sea. It indicates a time when they will once again be allured by The LORD, which we might take to mean that they will receive the Gospel of the New Testament era.

Mentioning the "valley of Achor" in that context surely indicates that there is a strong lesson which will be directed to those departed Israel nations in these latter times out of this account of Achan's great sin, and its drastic result and punishment. Thus, there is surely more to this than meets the eye of the casual reader of the Scriptural account in Joshua 7.

I cannot help finding a relevant theme in the fact that the Tribe of Judah seems to have had a prominent part at several points in the history of God's people wherein silver is exchanged for members of their own family for personal profit. God develops acts of ultimate salvation for Israel out of the situation on each occasion, but with no credit accruing to the betrayer bearing that tribal name.

There was the occasion in Genesis 37:26-28 wherein Judah, looking to make a profit for each of the brothers, suggested that, instead of slaying their brother Joseph, all the rest of his brothers ought to join him in selling Joseph to the Ishmeelites who were on the trade route going down to Egypt. Joseph's brothers did this, for a price of 20 pieces of silver. Judah did not know that it was by God's oversight, and that the ultimate result would save the whole family from famine because they were later invited to dwell there, in Egypt, under Joseph's care and protection.

There was the present occasion wherein Achan had taken the two hundred silver shekels and that wedge of gold with the Babylonish garment from Jericho, and it cost the lives of about thirty-six Israelite soldiers, and also those of himself and his own family. Joshua must rectify the situation or The LORD will no longer assist His people. The betrayal of Achan's fellow soldiers will, however, in Hosea's prophecy, which is found in Hosea 2:15, yet become, through its example, the door of hope to the Israelites of the Assyrian captivity, when they seek to return to their LORD. Hosea 2:15 states "And I will give her (that is, to Israel) her vineyards from thence (that is, from their new home in the unsettled lands to which they will have fled), and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt." Doubtless this is a reference to the need for Israel in those latter days taking some similar action which purges and cleanses sin out of the camp of Israel.

There was the famous occasion when Judas of Kerioth sold Jesus by the sign of a kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane, to the chief priests, whose temple guard went to arrest him there. It was for thirty pieces of silver that Judas sold his Lord, and he later hanged himself when he saw what resulted. Yet from the perspective of the whole of subsequent history we can see that the Crucifixion was the necessary central act of all time, and the Cross formed the essential door of escape for all who desire to come to Him in repentance for Salvation.

At each point, we might see that Jesus, Himself born of the genealogical lineage of King David, of the House of Judah, in human fleshly terms, was either present in pre-incarnate symbolism or in actuality, and on each occasion He became the Redeemer of the situation.

Joseph's life story is a prophetic picture of the relationship of Jesus to His Israel people. Joshua is named with the Hebrew form of the name, "Jesus", and is carrying out the directly revealed orders of the Captain of The Host of The LORD, while Jesus Himself in the flesh is seen in the third of the three episodes, and He acts on each occasion in the capacity of the ultimate Redeemer.

We cannot leave the topic without also recalling a righteous occasion of revival in Judah, under Josiah, of the Davidic lineage, and found in II Kings 22:3-13:

3. And it came to pass in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, that the king sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, the scribe, to the house of the LORD, saying,
4. Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may sum the silver which is brought into the house of the LORD, which the keepers of the door have gathered of the people:
5. And let them deliver it into the hand of the doers of the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD: and let them give it to the doers of the work which is in the house of the LORD, to repair the breaches of the house,
6. Unto carpenters, and builders, and masons, and to buy timber and hewn stone to repair the house.
7. Howbeit there was no reckoning made with them of the money that was delivered into their hand, because they dealt faithfully.
8. And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.
9. And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again, and said, Thy servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work, that have the oversight of the house of the LORD.
10. And Shaphan the scribe shewed the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king.
11. And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes.
12. And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king's, saying,
13. Go ye, enquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.

Thus bringing money into the treasury was the means whereby the truth of the Scriptures was revealed through the reading of the Law of The LORD, and a great revival came about, which is described in that and the following chapter, II Kings 23.

3 November, 2002

JOSHUA 7:20-26 - CAPTAIN OF THE HOST - PART XI

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting the present series of Bible Studies for over ten years now; starting with a Study that began the sequence back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. With occasional digressions, we have taken up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy and continued into the Book of Joshua. We had reviewed the story contained in Joshua 7, so you may wish to have your Bibles open to that chapter as we consider what God's Holy Word would show us from today's readings.

In order to set the stage for new listeners, I will explain that Joshua has led the Tribes of Israel to the Jordan River, which, through the miraculously-timed intervention of The Almighty God they had easily crossed, to the consternation of the Canaanites of Jericho. We had seen that Joshua, while considering how Jericho should be assaulted, was confronted by a manifestation of Deity, Who is Captain of the Host of The LORD. Following His direct divine orders by circling Jericho, the walls had fallen and the city was taken.

We were, at the end of our last Study, considering how important, for all Israel, the protective shield of the LORD their God was, over them. Joshua 7 had begun with the solemn words:

1. But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.

There followed, the unfolding story of the assignment, by Joshua, of a scouting party which returned with the report on a small city, Ai, which would not require the presence of the whole army to make a successful assault upon it. About three thousand troops were deemed sufficient, and despatched. However, they were repulsed with the loss of about 36 of their number. This brought an immediate appeal by the head of the army, Joshua, and the other leaders, with clothes torn and dust of repentance upon their heads, before The LORD, and to this appeal the reply came, in verse 12 which says "Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you."

At that, inquiry was instituted, and the sin was found with a family in the Tribe of Judah, of which Achan, its head, had taken 200 shekels of silver, a wedge (or bar) of gold, and a "goodly Babylonish garment" from Jericho. The garment ought to have been burnt, and the precious metals ought to have been brought to The LORD's treasury, as the curse or "ban" had been pronounced against that city. The result was that Achan and his family perished by stoning, and their remains by fire, and burial under a huge pile of stones in the Valley of Achor. We will soon see how the campaign developed thereafter. However, we should not move ahead without consulting some recognised commentaries, lest we deprive ourselves of wisdom contained therein.

The Companion Bible mentions, in regard to the contents of this chapter, that where it speaks of Achan being "taken" in the inquiry which was to search out the guilty, the means was through the High Priestly function which used the Urim and Thummim. It explains these terms, stating "The Urim stone bringing to 'light' the guilty, and the Thummim declaring the 'perfection' of innocence." It also makes reference to a further four-inch-long column note in small print on this subject which is found at Exodus 28:30, and another at Numbers 26:55. Where the word "burnt" appears, it states "burnt up, but not necessarily alive, the Hebrew word being "saraph." Also included in the notes is an explanation that "son of Zerah" means "great-grandson" to which I might add that the word "son" in Hebrew can have a genealogical sense, meaning a descendant through several generations.

The New Bible Commentary on this chapter is headed "Reverse at Ai and Achan's sin..." It states "Ai stood on rising ground to the west of Jericho, near Bethel, and was the next obvious objective for the Israelites. But the high hopes of the invaders received an unexpected setback. The first verse of the chapter anticipates by giving the reason for this reverse, and then the history proceeds." At "committed a trespass", it explains "Lit. 'acted faithlessly', for this was a breach of the covenant. "On the advice of the spies which Joshua had sent forward to make a reconnaissance, only part of the army was sent to attack the city, though it is made clear later that this was not the cause of the repulse. The garrison sallied out and the Hebrews were driven in retreat down the steep descent towards Shebarim, or 'the stone quarries', leaving thirty-six of their number dead."

After recounting a summary of the dismay of the Israelites, that their God was not protecting their army, and the appeal and then the process of inquiry regarding guilt, the Commentary continues: "Joshua soon learned the reason for defeat: the ban had been violated...". It then goes on to explain: "The sin of one member of the community was held to be that of the whole people. Israel was now a nation, and the sin of the individual was the sin of the nation until the nation repudiated it and expiation was made. Achan was identified by the sacred lot and made confession that he had taken gold and silver and 'a mantle of Shinar' ... and had hidden them beneath his tent, from which they were now fetched and poured out (rather than laid) as an offering to the Lord (23). The final scene in the valley of Achor (lit. 'troubling') saw the execution of the sentence when Achan was stoned to death and he and all that he had were burned with fire. Did Achan's family share in his destruction? It is difficult to be certain. The plural 'them' used in verse 25 may refer only to his possessions, and Jos. xxii. 20 is not conclusive on the question since it can refer just as naturally to the thirty-six who died because of his sin. The law of Dt. xxiv. 16 clearly prohibits the putting to death of an offender's relatives, unless, of course, their knowledge of his sin involved them in his guilt. By Achan's death the act of sacrilege was expiated, and the scene of the tragedy, the valley of Achor, became a door of hope as the people set their faces once more to the advance." Some of those latter comments, I think, do not as clearly address the ultimate meaning of the events as I have previously shown, however, they are the words of that Commentary, and I report them as given in that source.

Keil and Delitzsch present further views on this chapter which extend through 10 pages, so I shall scan these paragraphs for some viewpoints while seeking to avoid further repetitions. They observe the contrast which is seen when "At Jericho the Lord had made known to the Canaanites His great and holy name; but before Ai the Israelites were to learn that He would also sanctify Himself on them if they transgressed His covenant, and that the congregation of the Lord could only conquer the power of the world so long as it was faithful to His covenant. But notwithstanding the command which Joshua had enforced upon the people (chap. vi. 18), Achan, a member of the tribe of Judah, laid hands upon the property in Jericho which had been banned, and thus brought the ban upon the children of Israel, the whole nation. His breach of trust is described as unfaithfulness (a trespass) on the part of the children of Israel in the ban, in consequence of which the anger of the Lord was kindled against the whole nation... ." They continue, explaining the breach of trust as: "generally against Jehovah, by purloining or withholding what was sanctioned to Him, here in the matter of the ban, by appropriating what had been banned to the Lord. This crime was imputed to the whole people, not ... as though the whole nation had shared in Achan's disposition, and cherished in their hearts the same sinful desire which Achan had carried out in action in the theft he had committed; but as ... Achan, a member of the nation, had robbed the whole nation of the purity and holiness which it ought to possess before God, through the sin that he had committed, just as the whole body is affected by the sin of a single member." Moving further, the reference states of the words "They have put it among their own stuff", the meaning "to use and appropriate it as their own property. As all that had been stolen was a property consecrated to the Lord, the appropriation of it to private use was the height of wickedness." In contrast to the New Bible Commentary, Keil and Delitzsch determine that all the family and their domestic animals were collected together and stoned and buried under an heap of stones in the valley of Achor.

We might conclude with a quotation from the Prophet Malachi 3:6-12, which pertains to the same theme, of robbing The LORD:

6. For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
7. Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?
8. Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
9. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
10. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
11. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.
12. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.

With those words we will end today's Bible Study.

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