Joshua 8

The Israelites destroy Ai

1 Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid. Continue to be brave! Take the whole army with you and go to attack Ai. This time, I will give the king and all his people to you. I will also give to you the city and its land. 2 You must destroy the city and its king as you destroyed Jericho and its king. But this time you may take their valuable things and their animals for yourselves. Hide some of your men behind the city, so that they are ready to attack.’

3 So Joshua and the whole army marched towards Ai. Joshua chose 30,000 of the best soldiers and he sent some of them out at night time. 4 He said to them, ‘Listen carefully. Go and hide behind the city. Stay near to it. Be ready to attack! 5 In the morning, I will march towards the city with our other soldiers. When we get near to the city, the enemy's men will come out of the city to fight against us, as they did before. Then we will turn round and we will run away. 6 They will chase us away from the city. They will say, “The Israelites are running away from us, as they did before.” We will continue to run away from them. 7 Then you must leave the place where you have hidden. Go into the city and take it. The Lord your God will give it to you. 8 When you have taken the city, start to burn it. Do what the Lord has told you to do. Be sure that you obey my commands.’

9 Then Joshua sent the men away. They went and they hid on the west side of Ai, between Bethel and Ai. But Joshua stayed with his other soldiers that night.

10 Early the next morning, Joshua took the army to march towards Ai. He and the leaders of Israel marched in front. 11 The soldiers who were with Joshua marched up to the city. They stopped in front of it, on the north side. They put up their tents there, where there was a valley between them and the city. 12 Joshua had already sent about 5,000 men to hide on the west side of the city, between Bethel and Ai. 13 The whole Israelite army was ready to fight. Most of them were with their tents on the north side of the city. The other soldiers were hiding on the west side of the city. That night Joshua went down into the valley.

14 The king of Ai saw that Israel's army had arrived. Early the next morning, the king and his army hurried out of the city. They wanted to fight against Israel's army at the same place as before, on the hill near the Jordan valley. But the king of Ai did not know that some Israelite soldiers were hiding behind the city. 15 Joshua and his army let the men of Ai chase after them. They pretended to be afraid. They ran towards the desert. 16 The king told all the men who remained in the city to chase the Israelites. So they continued to chase after them, far away from their city. 17 No men remained in Ai or Bethel. They all chased after the Israelites. There was nobody left to keep the city safe.

18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Hold out the spear that is in your hand. Point it towards Ai. I am now giving the city to you.’

So Joshua held out his spear towards Ai.

19 As soon as he did this, the men who were hiding behind the city came out quickly. They ran into the city and they took it. Immediately they used fire to burn it. 20 The men of Ai looked behind them and they saw smoke in the sky above the city. But they could do nothing to escape. The Israelites who had been running away from them now turned round to fight them. 21 Joshua and his army also saw the smoke. They knew that the other group of soldiers had taken the city. So they turned round and began to attack the men of Ai. 22 Now the Israelites who had gone into the city also came out to fight. So the men of Ai were in between the two groups of Israelite soldiers. The Israelites killed all the men of Ai. 23 Only the king of Ai was still alive. They caught him and they took him to Joshua.

24 The Israelites killed all the men who had lived in Ai. They killed them when they chased them towards the desert. Then the Israelite soldiers went back to Ai and they killed everyone there. 25 All the people of Ai died on that day. That was 12,000 men and women. 26 Joshua continued to point his spear at Ai, until his army had killed every person who lived there. 27 But the Israelites took the valuable things and the animals for themselves. That was what the Lord had told Joshua. 28 Joshua burned the city and he broke down its walls. It is still like that today. 29 He hanged the king of Ai on a tree. He left his body there until evening. At sunset, Joshua told his men to cut the body down. They threw it on the ground outside the city's gate. They covered it with a heap of stones. Those stones are still there today.

Joshua reads God's law to the people

30 Then Joshua built an altar on Ebal mountain, to worship the Lord, Israel's God. 31 He built it as the Lord's servant, Moses, had told the Israelites to do. Moses had written this on the scroll of God's laws. The law said, ‘You must build an altar with whole stones that you have not cut. Do not use any iron tools on them.’ They made burnt offerings on the altar to worship the Lord. They also made sacrifices as friendship offerings. 32 The Israelites watched Joshua as he made a copy of God's Law on the stones. This was the Law that Moses had written. 33 All the Israelites stood on each side of the Covenant Box, with their faces towards the priests who carried it. The leaders, officers, and judges were there, as well as foreign people who lived with the Israelites. Half the people stood with their backs to Mount Gerizim. The other half stood with their backs to Mount Ebal. Moses had told them to stand like that when the Lord was going to bless them. 34 Then Joshua read the whole Law aloud to them. He read the blessings and the curses, as they are written on the scroll of the Law. 35 Joshua read aloud every command that Moses had written. He read it to all the Israelite people. The women, children and the foreign people who lived with them also listened.

8:31When the people wanted to thank God for something special, they made ‘friendship offerings’. They burned an animal as a sacrifice, and they ate a meal together (See Leviticus 3; 7:11-17).
8:35God had punished the people of Israel because they did not obey him at Ai. They were very careful to do just what God had told them after that. They were very happy when God helped them to win the fight. When Joshua read the Law to them, they listened with great care.