Notes on Joshua 7:16-26

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

Joshua 7:16, KJV So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken:

The method, again, was not specified. One wonders if the nation knew or had been informed as to what the reason was for the tribes, etc., to be taken. A question: why didn’t Achan confess his sin at this time?

17 And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken:

Judah had three sons by a Canaanite woman (Genesis 38) but the oldest two (Er and Onan) died without having any children. Shelah, the youngest of these three, apparently never performed the duties of “levirate marriage”, or marrying Er’s widow, in order to keep Er’s line alive. At any rate, we do not have a record in Scripture that he did this. Judah then had relations with his daughter-in-law, Tamar, and she had twin sons, Pharez and Zarah (Gen 38:30). Achan was thus a descendant of Zarah. See also 1 Chron. 2:3-7 for the full genealogy.

Nothing is known of Zabdi except the mention of his name in this text. There is another Zabdi mentioned in 1 Chronicles 8:19, but he was from the tribe of Benjamin.

18 And he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.

Each person will one day stand before God and give an account of either his deeds or his sins (compare 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 for believers with Revelation 20:11-15 for unbelievers). If you have never accepted God’s gift of salvation, what better time than right now to do this?

We do not know how or in what manner Achan was selected, nor how he made his way to Joshua. This may have been the longest journey of his life. He knew judgment was coming, and yet, he could have confessed and repented at any time before now.

19 And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide (it) not from me.

Note how graciously Joshua approached Achan. Joshua then asked Achan to give glory to God and to confess his sin, plus reveal to Joshua what he—Achan—had done.

20 And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done:

This confession was either genuine, admitting what he had done, even though he was aware of the punishment awaiting him; otherwise, this was simply remorse over being caught or convicted of his sins. Only God and Achan know for sure where Achan will spend eternity.

Achan does, however, deserve credit for at least making a confession. How many would still try to lie or deny their involvement in any sin, even when facing death?

21 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.

The “Babylonish garment” seems to be something very special. Its exact design or purpose in unstated. Babylon itself was many miles away and trade between Babylon and Jericho might have been difficult, at best. Achan thought it was something he wanted for himself so he took it, even though it was supposed to be destroyed, along with the other goods found in Jericho. The silver and gold were supposed to have been placed in the Lord’s treasury.

Note how many commandments Achan broke in just this incident!

22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, (it was) hid in his tent, and the silver under it.

Achan didn’t try to hide the fact or location of the items. The silver was apparently placed first in the hole he dug in the earth, under his tent, then the gold and finally the garment.

Note that the garment, which was a “goodly” garment, was basically stored in the dirt! Did he wonder what could he do with it, if anyone saw him wearing such an item?

We would do well to remember the words of Jesus Christ, Who said, many years later, to stop getting and keeping treasures for ourselves, because moths and rust could ruin just about anything, plus, thieves could break into your house and steal whatever they could carry away (Matthew 6:19-20, paraphrased). Achan had let himself be deceived into taking what he should not have, and thinking he could get by with it. Had he forgotten that the Lord sees everything?

23 And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the LORD.

“Them” probably refers to the garment, gold, and silver which Achan had taken. Taking all the items and placing them on display before Israel and the Lord shows the absolute guilt—the “evidence”—of Achan’s sin against Israel and against God.

24 And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor.

This was going to be the place of execution. God had already declared the sentence of death for whoever had taken the “accursed things” in verse 15. Apparently Achan’s entire family was involved in his sin, otherwise, they would not have been included with him.

25 And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.

They—Achan, his family, his livestock, and even what he had stolen—were all stoned to death and then were burned with fire. This included the gold and silver. Apparently, the Lord didn’t want money in His treasury which had been tainted with sin.

26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.

Perhaps this was a memorial, of a sort, to God’s wrath or anger. Memorials can recall the good things, such as the two altars of stones they had recently built; or, for bad things, such as here. May all of us learn that the wages of sin is, and always will be, death (Romans 6:23).

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