Joshua 8:2
And you shall do to Ai and her king as you did to Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall you take for a prey to yourselves: lay you an ambush for the city behind it.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) Only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye takei.e., the material spoil, not the persons of the inhabitants. (See Joshua 11:14.) Jericho was treated exceptionally, in that the material spoil was made chêrem, devoted to destruction, as the thing accursed of God.

Joshua 8:2. Thou shalt do to Ai — as thou didst unto Jericho — That is, overcome and destroy the city and people. This was enjoined to chastise their last insolence, and the triumphs and blasphemies which doubtless their success had produced: and to revive the dread and terror which had been impressed upon the Canaanites by Jericho’s ruin, and had been much abated by the late success of Ai. The spoil thereof — shall ye take for a prey — Neither the silver nor gold, nor any thing else, was separated to the use of the tabernacle, nor ordered to be destroyed, but the people were to enjoy it entirely themselves.

Lay thee an ambush for the city behind it — Ai was not to be taken by miracle, as Jericho had been; now they must exercise their own wisdom. Having seen God work for them, whereby they might learn to depend on him, and give him the glory of all their success, they must now exert themselves, and be inured to self-denial and diligence, and to labour, toil, and hardship. And they must learn to outwit as well as to overpower their enemies. God himself commands them to take the town by stratagem; and therefore we may be sure that to do the like is lawful in other wars. But it must be well observed that no treaty was here violated, no oath or promise broken, no untruth told: to do any thing of this kind cannot be allowable or excusable in any war or case whatsoever. Nay, nothing was here concealed by the Israelites but their own counsels, which surely their enemies had no right to be intrusted with; nothing was dissembled and nothing counterfeited but a retreat, which was no necessary indication at all of their inability to maintain their attack, or of a design not to renew it. Common prudence, had they been governed by it, would have directed the men of Ai to have been upon their guard, and either to have kept within their own walls, or at least not to have ventured forward rashly in pursuit of an army which they saw to be very superior to them in number.8:1,2 When we have faithfully put away sin, that accursed thing which separates between us and God, then, and not till then, we may look to hear from God to our comfort; and God's directing us how to go on in our Christian work and warfare, is a good evidence of his being reconciled to us. God encouraged Joshua to proceed. At Ai the spoil was not to be destroyed as at Jericho, therefore there was no danger of the people's committing such a trespass. Achan, who caught at forbidden spoil, lost that, and life, and all; but the rest of the people, who kept themselves from the accursed thing, were quickly rewarded for their obedience. The way to have the comfort of what God allows us, is, to keep from what he forbids us. No man shall lose by self-denial.God rouses Joshua from his dejection Joshua 7:6, and bids him lmarch against Ai with the main body. Though Ai was but a small city (compare Joshua 8:25 and Joshua 7:3), yet the discouragement of the people rendered it inexpedient to send a second time a mere detachment against it; and the people of Ai had, as appears from Joshua 8:17, help from Bethel, and possibly from other places also. It was fitting too that all the people should witness with their own eyes the happy consequences of having faithfully put away the sin which had separated them from God. CHAPTER 8

Jos 8:1-28. God Encourages Joshua.

1, 2. The Lord said unto Joshua, Fear not—By the execution of justice on Achan, the divine wrath was averted, the Israelites were reassured, defeat was succeeded by victory; and thus the case of Ai affords a striking example of God's disciplinary government, in which chastisements for sin are often made to pave the way for the bestowment of those temporal benefits, which, on account of sin, have been withdrawn, or withheld for a time. Joshua, who had been greatly dispirited, was encouraged by a special communication promising him (see Jos 1:6; De 31:6-8) success in the next attempt, which, however, was to be conducted on different principles.

take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai—The number of fighting men amounted to six hundred thousand, and the whole force was ordered on this occasion, partly because the spies, in their self-confidence, had said that a few were sufficient to attack the place (Jos 7:3), partly to dispel any misgivings which the memory of the late disaster might have created, and partly that the circumstance of the first spoil obtained in Canaan being shared among all, might operate both as a reward for obedience in refraining from the booty of Jericho, and as an incentive to future exertions (De 6:10). The rest of the people, including the women and children, remained in the camp at Gilgal. Being in the plains of Jericho, it was an ascent to Ai, which was on a hill.

I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land … lay thee an ambush for the city—God assured Joshua of Ai's capture, but allowed him to follow his own tactics in obtaining the possession.

To Ai, i.e. the city and people of Ai.

As thou didst unto Jericho and her king, i.e. overcome and destroy them. This was enjoined, partly to chastise their last insolence, and the triumphs and blasphemies which doubtless their success produced; and partly to revive the dread and terror which had been impressed upon the Canaanites by Jericho’s ruin, and had been much abated by the late success of Ai, and their confidence and expectation of further and greater success much raised. And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst to Jericho and her king,.... Burn the one and slay the other:

only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves; which they were not allowed to do at Jericho:

lay thee an ambush for the city behind it; at the west side of it: some have called in question the lawfulness of the ambush, but, as this was appointed by the Lord, there is no room for it.

And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves: lay thee an ambush for the city {a} behind it.

(a) Meaning on the west side, as in Jos 8:9.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. the spoil thereof] unlike the case of Jericho, is formally conceded to the Israelites.

an ambush] “Put busshementis to the citye bihynde it,” Wyclif. Literally a weaver, a lier in wait, from arab, to weave = “nectere insidias, struere dolos.”

for the city behind it] High up, probably in the main ravine between Ai and Bethel. “Ai must be somewhere between Michmash and Rimmon, a region greatly cut up with gorges and ravines; and as I passed from Beit-în toward Michmash, I could easily understand how Joshua’s ambush of 5000 men could lie hid between Ai and Bethel.” Thomson’s Land and the Book, p. 671.Verse 2. - Only the spoil thereof. Ai was not solemnly devoted, like Jericho, though (see Deuteronomy 20:16, 17) the Canaanitish people were. Behind it. Joshua was advancing from the southeast. The ambush (אֹרֵב literally, "a lier in wait," here a band of liers in wait, the word itself originally signifying to plait, weave, hence to design) was therefore (ver. 12) on the opposite, or west side of the city. The question which has been raised whether God could rightly command a stratagem seems scarcely to require discussion. Joshua sent two messengers directly to Achan's tent to fetch the things, and when they were brought he had them laid down before Jehovah, i.e., before the tabernacle, where the whole affair had taken place. הצּיק, here and in 2 Samuel 15:24, signifies to lay down (synonymous with הצּיג), whilst the Hiphil form is used for pouring out.
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