Joshua 8:19
And the ambush arose quickly out of their place, and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand: and they entered into the city, and took it, and hurried and set the city on fire.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Joshua 8:19-23. They entered and set the city on fire — That is, some part of it, sufficient to raise a smoke, and give notice to their brethren of their success. But certainly not all of it, because in that case they would have lost the prey which God had allowed them. Indeed, it is evident from verse

28, that the main part of the city was not burned till after the battle, and they had taken out all the cattle and other spoils that were therein. The people that fled turned back — That is, the Israelites, who had counterfeited a flight, turned upon the men of Ai, who pursued them. The other issued out of the city — Namely, those who lay in ambush, and were now in possession of the city. The king they took alive — Reserved him to a more ignominious death.8:3-22 Observe Joshua's conduct and prudence. Those that would maintain their spiritual conflicts must not love their ease. Probably he went into the valley alone, to pray to God for a blessing, and he did not seek in vain. He never drew back till the work was done. Those that have stretched out their hands against their spiritual enemies, must never draw them back.No doubt Joshua had ascended the heights, most likely those to the north of the valley, so as to separate himself from the flying Israelites on the lower ground, and to be visible to the men in ambush behind the city. He now, at the command of God, gives the appointed signal to the ambush. 18-25. Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city—The uplifted spear had probably a flag, or streamer on it, to render it the more conspicuous from the height where he stood. At the sight of this understood signal the ambush nearest the city, informed by their scouts, made a sudden rush and took possession of the city, telegraphing to their brethren by raising a smoke from the walls. Upon seeing this, the main body, who had been reigning a flight, turned round at the head of the pass upon their pursuers, while the twenty-five thousand issuing from their ambuscade, fell back upon their rear. The Ai-ites surprised, looked back, and found their situation now desperate. i.e. Not all of it, as appears both from Joshua 8:28, and because then they had lost that prey which God had allowed them; but some part of it, enough to raise a smoke, and give notice to their brethren of their success. And the ambush arose quickly out of their place,.... As soon as the sentinels set in proper places observed the signal, and gave them notice of it, which was the stretching out of the spear, as appears by what follows:

and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand; and the spear in his hand; from whence it is plain, that though the Lord is said to bid Joshua do this now, he had orders from him for it before and the ambush must have been made acquainted with it before they were sent away; and this was only a renewal of the order from the Lord, and which pointed out the proper time, the very crisis, when it should be stretched out:

and they entered into the city; without any difficulty, the gates being open:

and took it; took possession of it, and the strong holds in it:

and hasted and set the city on fire; that is, they made haste to set some houses on fire as the signal to the army of Israel to return.

And the ambush arose quickly out of their place, and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand: and they entered into the city, and took it, and hasted and set the city on fire.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
The whole of the people of war also advanced with him to the front of the town, and encamped on the north of Ai, so that the valley was between it (בינו, as in Joshua 3:4) and Ai. This was probably a side valley branching off towards the south from the eastern continuation of the Wady es Suweinit. - In Joshua 8:12, Joshua 8:13, the account of the preparations for the attack is founded off by a repetition of the notice as to the forces engaged, and in some respects a more exact description of their disposition. Joshua, it is stated in Joshua 8:12, took about 5000 men and placed them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west of the town. As the place where this ambuscade was posted is described in precisely the same terms as that which was occupied, according to Joshua 8:9, by the 30,000 men who were sent out to form an ambuscade in the night before the advance of the main army against Ai (for the substitution of "the city" for Ai cannot possibly indicate a difference in the locality), the view held by the majority of commentators, that Joshua 8:12 refers to a second ambuscade, which Joshua sent out in addition to the 30,000, and posted by the side of them, is even more than questionable, and is by no means raised into a probability by the expression את־עקבו (Eng. "their liers in wait") in Joshua 8:13. The description of the place, "on the west of the city," leaves no doubt whatever that "their liers in wait" are simply the ambuscade (ארב) mentioned in Joshua 8:12, which was sent out from the whole army, i.e., the ambuscade that was posted on the west of the town. עקב signifies literally the lier in wait (Psalm 49:5), from עקב, insidiari, and is synonymous with ארב. The meaning which Gesenius and others attach to the word, viz., the rear or hinder part of the army, cannot be sustained from Genesis 49:19. If we add to this the fact that Joshua 8:13 is obviously nothing more than a repetition of the description already given in Joshua 8:11 of the place where the main army was posted, and therefore bears the character of a closing remark introduced to wind up the previous account, we cannot regard Joshua 8:12 as anything more than a repetition of the statements in Joshua 8:3, Joshua 8:9, and can only explain the discrepancy with regard to the number of men who were placed in ambush, by supposing that, through a copyist's error, the number which was expressed at first in simple letters has in one instance been given wrongly. The mistake, however, is not to be found in the 5000 (Joshua 8:12), but in the 30,000 in Joshua 8:3, where ה has been confounded with ל. For a detachment of 5000 men would be quite sufficient for an ambuscade that had only to enter the town after the soldiers had left it in pursuit of the Israelites, and to set it on fire, whereas it hardly seems possible that 30,000 men should have been posted in ambush so near to the town.

(Note: We need have no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that there is a mistake in the number given in Joshua 8:3, as the occurrence of such mistakes in the historical books is fully established by a comparison of the numbers given in the books of Samuel and Kings with those in the books of Chronicles, and is admitted by every commentator. In my earlier commentary on Joshua, I attempted to solve the difficulty by the twofold assumption: first, that Joshua 8:12 contains a supplementary statement, in which the number of the men posted in ambush is given for the firs time; and secondly, that the historian forgot to notice that out of the 30,000 men whom Joshua chose to make war upon Ai, 5000 were set apart to lie in ambush. But, on further examination of the text, I have come to the conclusion that the second assumption is irreconcilable with the distinct words of Joshua 8:3, and feel obliged to give it up. On the other hand, I still adhere to the conviction that there is not sufficient ground either for the assumption that Joshua 8:12, Joshua 8:13, contain an old marginal gloss that has crept into the text, or for the hypothesis of Ewald and Knobel, that these verses were introduced by the last editor of the book out of some other document. The last hypothesis amounts to a charge of thoughtlessness against the latest editor, which is hardly reconcilable with the endeavour, for which he is praised in other places, to reconcile the discrepancies in the different documents.)

- In Joshua 8:13, העם (the people) is to be taken as the subject of the sentence: "The people had set all the host, that was on the north of the city, and its ambuscade on the west of the city." In the night, namely the night before the army arrived at the north of the town, Joshua went through the midst of the valley, which separated the Israelites from the town, so that in the morning he stood with all the army close before the town.

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