Sefer Yehoshua-Chapter 7: The sin of Achan and failed battle of Aiy

Chapter 7: The sin of Achan and failed battle of Aiy


1. Someone secretly takes plunder from Jericho:

  • The Jewish people betrayed their pledge to abide by the prohibition against taking any of the possessions of the city.
  • Achan, the son of Karmi, the son of Zavdi, the son of Zerach from the tribe of Judah is the one who took from the consecrated possessions, and as a result, G-d was very angry with the Jewish people.

2. Sending spies to the city of Aiy:

  • Yehoshua sent people from Jericho to Aiy for the sake of spying the city.
  • The spies return and inform Yehoshua of the potential easy conquest of the city: The spies returned and told Yehoshua that there is no need to send out many soldiers to conquest the city, as their inhabitants are few. They suggested to send between 2000 to 3000 soldiers and there is no need to trouble anyone else to come.

3. The small army of soldier’s battle Aiy and fall in battle:

  • Approximately 3000 soldiers went to battle Aiy and they fled from before the soldiers of Aiy. The army of Aiy killed 36 Jewish soldiers and chased after them from before the city gates until the area called Shevarim, and there they smote [the 36 soldiers] on the descending hill.
  • The heart of the nation melted like water [becoming fearful that they could not be victorious].
  • Yehoshua’s reaction: Yehoshua and the elders of Israel tore their garments and fell onto their faces to the ground before the Aron of Hashem. They placed earth on their heads.

4. Yehoshua confronts Hashem about the failed battle and Hashem explains the sin that caused it:

  • Yehoshua said to Hashem: “Why did you take us past the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorite and to destroy us. It would have been better if we would have remained on the other side of the Jordan [in the land of Sichon and Og that we already conquered[1]]. What can I say after we saw the Jewish people flee before their enemies? The Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear about this and surround us and cut our name off from the earth, and what will become of Your great name?”
  • Hashem replies to Yehoshua: Hashem told Yehoshua to get up from his falling position [and that it is his fault that the soldiers fell in battle, as Hashem told Yehoshua that he will be successful if he leads the battle, and here Yehoshua remained in the camp. In addition, Hashem never instructed Yehoshua to sanctify the plunder of the city, and it is his actions that caused the sin to take place[2]]. Hashem told Yehoshua that the Jewish people have sinned and transgressed the covenant, by stealing from the consecrated plunder and lying about it. The Jewish people were not able to stand before their enemies, and they fled from before them due to the stealing of the consecrated item. Hashem warned Yehoshua that He cannot be with them unless they destroy the consecrated item from within their midst. “Go sanctify the nation and let them be prepared for tomorrow [for the consecrated item to be found and removed], as so says Hashem the G-d of Israel, that they will not be able to stand before their enemies until the consecrated item is removed from amongst you.”

5. Hashem instructs Yehoshua how to find the perpetrator:

  • Hashem instructed Yehoshua as follows: In the morning, all the tribes shall gather [and pass before the Aron[3]]. The tribe that will be captured [and freeze] in front of [the Aron of] Hashem [being unable to move[4]] is to be singled out. [In addition, the tribes stood in front of the Urim Vetumim, and the tribes stone that shined was singled out.[5]] The [male[6]] family leaders [i.e. oldest living ancestor of a family[7]] of that tribe are then to pass by [the Aron of Hashem] and the family leader who is captured [and frozen] before Hashem is to have the various family descendants [i.e. male leaders of the families of his descendants] pass before Hashem. The male family leader who is captured [and frozen] before the Aron of Hashem is then to have the men of that family pass forward.
  • The punishment for the guilty individual: The person who is discovered to be guilty of stealing the consecrated item is to be burnt in the fire, him and all his belongings [including his tent, livestock[8] and children, but not his wife[9]].

6. Yehoshua gathers the tribes and performs G-d’s instructed selection process:

  • Yehoshua woke early in the morning and gathered the tribes.
  • The perpetrator is caught: The tribe of Yehuda was selected [as their stone lit up when they passed before the Choshen[10], and they froze as they passed the Aron of Hashem]. The tribe of Yehuda was brought forward and [a lottery was made between the family leaders[11] until] the family of Zarchi was selected. The many branches of the Zarchi family were brought forward and amongst them the Zavdi family was selected. All the men of the Zarchi family were brought forward and Achan, the son of Karmi, the son of Zavdi, the son of Zerach, of the tribe of Yehuda, was selected.
  • Achan is pressed to confess: Yehoshua confronted Achan and pressed upon him to confess his sin [after he began attacking the validity of the selection process through a lottery system under the claim that someone had to be chosen[12]]. Achan indeed confessed saying that he sinned to Hashem [not only with the stealing of these consecrated items, but also with stealing many other consecrated items in the times of Moshe.[13] He confessed only after seeing that his tribe, Yehuda, was preparing to wage war against the rest of Bnei Yisrael, and many thousands would be killed.[14]]

7. The confession of Achan:

  • Achan confessed that he coveted and stole from the plunder, a king’s garment from Babylon called “Aderet”, and two hundred silver Shekalim, and one bar of gold which weighed 50 Shekalim. Achan stated that the stolen items are buried in his tent, [with the gold buried under the Aderet garment[15]].
  • Yehoshua retrieves the items: Yehoshua sent messengers to retrieve the stolen items and they ran to the tent [of Achan due to joy of the items being found[16] as well as to prevent the tribe of Judah or family of Achan from taking the items before they would arrive[17]]. The items were removed from the tent and placed before Yehoshua and the entire Jewish people, and they were thrown before Hashem.

8. Achan, his family, and possessions are burnt at the stake:

  • Yehoshua took Achan the son of Zerach, and the Aderet garment, the bar of gold, his sons and daughters, his ox, donkeys, and sheep, his tent and all his belongings. He brought them, together with the entire Israel to the valley of Achor. Yehoshua said to Achan, “Just as you have caused us to become smitten, so too Hashem will smite you on this day.”
  • All the Jewish people stoned him and burnt them in a fire and stoned them.[18] They then established a stone mound over them, which remains there until this day. This place was named Emek Achor until this day.
  • After the above events, Hashem rescinded His anger.


[1] Rashi 7:7

[2] Rashi 7:10; Rav Yosef Karo 7:10

[3] Metzudos David 6:13; Radak 6:14

[4] Radak 6:14

[5] Radak 6:14

[6] Radak 6:14

[7] See Rashi 6:14

[8] Rashi 6:15

[9] Radak 6:15

[10] Rashi 7:16

[11] Rashi 7:17; Radak 7:19

[12] See Rashi and Radak 7:19

[13] Rashi and Radak and Metzudos David 7:20; Sanhedrin 42b

[14] Rashi 7:20

[15] Radak and Metzudos David 7:21

[16] Radak 7:22

[17] Rashi and Metzudos David 7:22

[18] Who was killed and why is the stoning repeated? According to Rashi 7:25 only Achan and the animals were killed and not the rest of his family. [See Sanhedrin 44a] The family simply watched the stoning. [Ralbag 7:24] Achan was stoned to death for desecrating Shabbos. Likewise, the animals were stoned, and the belongings were burnt. However, according to other Mefarshim, they were all stoned. [See Metzudos David 7:25; Ralbag ibid; Radak 7:15]

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles

Leave A Comment?

You must be logged in to post a comment.