Joshua 8

They destroyed Ai

1 Then the Lord spoke again. ‘Do not be afraid. Do not think that you are weak,’ he said to Joshua. ‘Take the whole army with you and go to attack Ai. I will give the king and all his people and the city and its land to you. 2 You must destroy the city and its king as you did Jericho and its king. But this time you may take their good things and all their animals for yourselves. Hide some of your men behind the city.’ 3 So Joshua and the whole army moved out to attack Ai. He chose 30,000 of the best fighting men and sent them out by night. 4 ‘Listen with great care,’ he said. ‘You are to go and hide behind the city. Stay near to it. Be sure to stay awake! 5 I will march towards the city with all the other soldiers. The men will come out of the city to fight us, as they did before. Then we will run away. 6 They will run after us, until we have gone from the city. They will say, “They are running away from us, as they did before”. So, when we run from them, 7 you must get out from your hiding place. You will take the city. 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. See that you obey my words.’

9 Then Joshua sent the men off. They went to wait and hide to the west of Ai, between Bethel and Ai. But Joshua stayed with the people that night.

10 Early the next morning, Joshua took all the men together to march towards Ai. He and the leaders of Israel went in front. 11 The whole army marched up to the city and stopped in front of it. They put their tents north of Ai. They left a valley between them and the city. 12 Joshua had hidden about 5,000 men to the west of the city, between Bethel and Ai. 13 All the soldiers took their places, ready to fight. Some were north of the city, by their tents. And other soldiers were hiding to the west of the city. That night Joshua went into the valley.

14 When the king of Ai saw Joshua's men, the king and his men hurried out of the city. It was early in the morning. They wanted to meet Israel at the same place as before. And they wanted to fight Israel there. But the king of Ai did not know that there were Israelite soldiers hidden behind the city. 15 Joshua and his army let the men of Ai push them back, and they ran towards the desert. 16 The king told all the men of Ai to run after them. So they ran after Israel and away from their city. 17 Not one man remained in Ai or Bethel. They all ran after the Israelite soldiers.

8:17In verse 3, Joshua told 30,000 men to hide behind Ai. But in verse 12, Joshua hid 5,000 men. It is not clear why these numbers are different. Perhaps Joshua used two different groups of soldiers.

18 Then the Lord spoke to Joshua. The Lord said, ‘Hold out the spear that is in your hand. Point it towards Ai. I will give the city to you.’

So Joshua held out his spear towards Ai.

19 As soon as he did this, the men hiding behind the city came out at once. They quickly ran into the city. They took it and immediately made it burn. 20 The men of Ai looked back and saw smoke rise over the city. But they could not run away. The Israelites who had been running away had turned to fight them. 21 Joshua and his army had seen that they had taken the city. The men that he had hidden had taken it. Joshua's army saw the smoke from the burning city. So they turned round and began to fight the men of Ai. 22 The Israelites in the city then came down to join the fight. The men of Israel were all round the men of Ai. They killed all the men of Ai. Nobody could run away. 23 The only person that they did not kill was the king of Ai. They took him to Joshua.

24 The Israelites killed all the men in the desert and fields where they had run from the fight. Then they went back to Ai and killed everyone there. 25 All the men and women of Ai died on that day. 12,000 people died then. 26 Joshua had kept pointing his throwing stick at Ai until his army had killed every person who lived there. 27 But the Israelites took the good things and the animals for themselves, as the Lord had told Joshua. 28 Joshua burnt the city and broke it down. It is still like that today. 29 He hanged the king of Ai on a tree and left his body there until evening. At sunset, Joshua told them to cut the body down and throw it in front of the city gate. They covered it with many stones. These stones are still there today.

Joshua reads the God's law to the people

30 Then Joshua built an altar on Mount Ebal, to the Lord, the God of Israel (‘Mount’ is another name for mountain). 31 He made it as Moses had told the Israelites. Moses, the Lord's servant, had written this in a book. This book, the Law of Moses, told him how it should be made. ‘The altar must be made of stones that had not been cut with iron tools.’ They burnt animals on it to worship the Lord. And they burnt other animals, as ‘fellowship offerings’ to the Lord. 32 The Israelites watched Joshua as he made a copy of the Law of Moses on the stones. This was the Law that Moses had written. 33 All the Israelites stood on the two sides of the Covenant Box, with their faces towards the priests who carried it. The leaders, officers, and judges were there, and the foreign people were with them, too. Half the people stood with their backs to Mount Gerizim. The other half stood with their backs to Mount Ebal. This is how the Lord's servant, Moses had told them to stand (Deuteronomy 11:29). ‘Stand like this when I am asking the Lord to give you his blessing,’ he had said. 34 Then Joshua read the whole Law aloud to them. He read the blessings and the curses, as they are written in the book of the Law. Moses had told him how to bless the people of Israel. 35 Joshua read aloud every word that Moses had written. He read it to all the Israelite people, including the women, children and the foreign people who lived with them.

8:31When the people wanted to thank God for something special, they made ‘fellowship offerings’. They gave an animal that people could burn. And they ate a meal together (Leviticus chapter 3 and 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.