The hope for the long anticipated Promised Land flowing with milk and honey was finally realized. Ending the forty year-long trek in the wilderness, the Israelites crossed the Jordan River and headed toward Jericho (Num 20:21-21:3). The bitter experience with Edom’s refusal to allow them passage through their borders was now behind them.
Moses and Aaron had been gathered to their people rather than enter with Israel into Canaan because of the incident at Meribah (Num. 20:10-11, 13). Aaron was stripped of his priestly garments and his son Eleazar took his place. Moses and Aaron died and God himself buried Moses (Deut. 34:5-6; Num. 20:25-28). “And Israel vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities” (Num. 21:2). God’s promise of victory over their enemies was conditional on keeping themselves from the accursed thing.
We remember the account of the men going to spy out the land and how Rahab hid them rather than betray God’s people to the enemy. Because of her faith in God they made a covenant to take her and her family out of Jericho before destroying it utterly (Josh. 2:18-20; 6:17). Before the battle, God had instructed the Israelites to march around the city once each day for six days and finally march around the city seven times on the seventh day before blowing the trumpets for battle (Josh. 6:3-20). Their obedience brought down the walls and every person and animal in Jericho was destroyed. The Israelites understood Jericho was to be burnt with fire.
If the story had ended as it began, there would have been no trouble to record, but of course Israel did not keep its part of the covenant. Joshua 7:1 records, “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.” God had specifically warned all Israel: “And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it” (Josh 6:18).
Achan apparently had no faith in God’s warning. God testified that “Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff (Joshua 7:11). Achan coveted the spoil after the battle of Jericho, when God had said explicitly that the silver and gold was His (Josh 6:19).
Nobody suspected anything was wrong until the battle at the city of Ai. Following that resounding defeat, they cast lots so see who among the people had sinned. When the lot finally fell on Achan, Joshua encouraged him to give God the glory by telling the truth. From his own mouth, Achan testified to what happened. “When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it” (Joshua 7:21).
Achan’s name means trouble. The son of Carmi of the tribe of Judah, Achan unintentionally brought about the Israelites’ defeat at Ai (Josh 7:1, 18-24). He is called Achar in 1 Chr. 2:7, and described as the “troubler of Israel, who transgressed in the accursed thing.” What a shameful heritage to leave his family just because he did not overcome his greed for gain!
1. Why did Israel not have the victory at Ai when they first went to battle (Joshua 22:20)?
2. Were most of the Israelites faithful to God (Joshua 6:24)?
3. Have you heard the term, “sin in the camp?”
4. Did Achan know that the gold belonged to God (Joshua 6:19)?
5. Who did Achan really steal from?
6. How were the children of Israel able to identify who among them had sinned in the “cursed thing?” (Joshua 7:13, 15, 18).
7. When the lot fell on Achan, what did Joshua say to him (Joshua 7:19)?
8. How did Achan give glory to God in his confession (Joshua 7:20)?
9. Where had Achan hidden the stolen things (Joshua 7:22)?
10. As a result of Achan’s sin, what punishment was dealt to him and his family (Josh 7:24)?
11. Did Achan’s covetousness only affect his own soul? Who else was “troubled?”
12. How were Achan’s wife and children influenced to disobey God’s warning?
13. Why was it necessary to burn Achan’s family and all his possessions with fire (Josh 7:24; Josh 22:20)?
14. What was the ‘heritage’ that Achan’s family received?
15. Could Achan’s family have avoided being condemned with him by exposing his sin?