Joshua 8 Commentary. Finally Ai is taken.
The key line is the comparison between the capture of Jericho and the capture of Ai. Look at the instructions for Jericho. Israel did very little. In addition Israel was told to take nothing for themselves as plunder. Ai had different instructions. An entire army was required and Israel was free to plunder the city.
We may draw a couple of lessons from this chapter. Each battle has its own instructions. Don’t get instructions for yesterday’s battle and use them for today’s battle.
Secondly the LORD decides what is right and what is wrong. The LORD defines right and wrong. Taking plunder from Jericho was wrong because the LORD said so. Taking plunder from Ai was right because the LORD said so.
Jericho was the first city to be taken during the conquest while Ai was the second. Jericho had a miracle while Ai involved sweat. Battles are different and so are the instructions. We also learn that failure in battle can be a consequence of sin. The battle can be important but easy, uncomplicated and actually cheap. But when the LORD works against you, even simple things become impossible. Meticulous planning and preparedness become foolishness. Unless the LORD builds the house, they that labor do so in vain. You know the difference when the LORD makes you fail in a place where no one fails.
The presence of the Commander of the armies of the LORD right at the start of the campaign informed Joshua that the battle was the LORD’s. At Ai, Joshua seemed to have operated in isolation. After the defeat now the LORD speaks. The result of the assault on Ai is very different. Involve the LORD in all your battles: small or big; very small or very big; complicated or uncomplicated; expensive or cheap. Importantly don’t change the winning formula. Don’t replace the Commander-In-Chief.
Joshua writes the law on stones. The word of the LORD must be written on lasting material. It is permanent. The law constituted a set of blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. The story of Ai is an example of the law playing itself right in front of them. Disobedience brought about failure.
Eventually Ai is destroyed but the hard-fought victory is as much a miracle as the easy Jericho battle. The LORD is telling us that even very simple battles can be lost when we disobey. The obvious becomes complicated. But with the LORD victory is guaranteed, whether by a direct miracle or by sweat.
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