Verses 1-13: Now that Achan’s sin has been resolved, God tells Joshua to take Ai. God assures Joshua of success, telling him to not be afraid. Presumably Joshua would have remembered how Israel had been defeated initially, and would have been fearful to try again, but God knows that the source of sin had been removed and therefore He helps to strengthen Joshua’s resolve in taking Ai.
In comparison to marching around the walls of Jericho, there are war tactics and a strategy involved in taking Ai. A large army was to be hidden at the rear of the city while a smaller faction was to “attack” from the front. Once the “attackers” in front of the city were engaged by the Ai army, they were to immediately retreat, drawing Ai’s battle resources away from the city. Once this happened, Israel’s larger faction laying in wait at the rear was to advance upon the city, take it, and burn it. This time however, and unlike with Jericho, the Israelites could take spoils.
Verses 14-29: The action takes place in these verses. The plan unfolds and is accomplished just as God instructed. Some additional details come up as well. God tells Joshua to raise up his hand with a spear when it is time for the large rear army to advance on Ai. Joshua keeps his hand with the spear raised throughout the conquest of the city. The warriors of Ai are caught in between the Israelites once the city is taken and burning. They are hunted down and destroyed, as are the city’s inhabitants. Only the king of Ai is kept alive. His end, however, is unpleasant. He is hung from a tree until the sun goes down, then is taken down and a great mound of stones heaped over him. God had assisted the Israelites in utterly destroying Ai. He was giving them the promised land.
Verses 30-35: Joshua renews the covenant with God and the people by building a proper altar and producing sacrifices. He also rewrites the law of Moses and has it read among all the people, in the presence of the ark of the covenant, the elders, officers, judges, priests and levites.
Take a moment and envision this scene. This is an action taken by a great leader to reaffirm faith and allegiance to God, who helped them. To do it in the presence of all, Joshua was spreading his faith to others, showing them to honor and obey God. Joshua was not ashamed and nor did he delay in this reaffirmation. Have I properly honored God for the things He has done for me?
Was God testing the people with Jericho at first by not allowing them to keep any spoils? We can’t know for sure, but it seems to explain why He would let them take spoils from Ai.
An important lesson we can take from this chapter is obedience. When Achan sinned in Chapter 7, many people suffered. When all obeyed Joshua in this chapter, who took his orders from God, everyone benefited! Then, as is just, as is proper, God was honored and glorified by Joshua in the midst of all the people.