So Joshua arose early in the morning and brought Israel near by tribes, and the tribe of Judah was taken. He brought the family of Judah near, and he took the family of the Zerahites; and he brought the family of the Zerahites near man by man, and Zabdi was taken. He brought his household near man by man; and Achan, son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, was taken. Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, I implore you, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give praise to Him; and tell me now what you have done. Do not hide it from me.” So Achan answered Joshua and said, “Truly, I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it.”
So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was concealed in his tent with the silver underneath it. They took them from inside the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the sons of Israel, and they poured them out before the Lord. Then Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the mantle, the bar of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that belonged to him; and they brought them up to the valley of Achor. Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.” And all Israel stoned them with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones. They raised over him a great heap of stones that stands to this day and the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the valley of Achor to this day. Joshua 7:16-26 NASB
This is one of the most disturbing acts of corporate judgment in the Bible. It troubled me as I read of Achan’s disobedience, the resulting defeat at Ai, the manner of God’s judgment and penalty for the sin of disobedience. God had warned Israel not to take anything as the plunder of war (Joshua 6:18-19).
We have two contrasting stories at Jericho. Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute repented of her sin, acknowledged the Lord, aligned herself with Israel, was spared and received into the household of faith by God. She abandoned Canaan and its gods and turned to the Lord and lived. Achan, an Israelite with a covetous heart was disobedient to the Lord, stole the riches of Canaan from the Lord, lost his inheritance in the Promised Land, his life, cost the lives of all his family and all he possessed was destroyed and burned.
It is also a true account of how one man’s sin affected the entire nation of Israel. Throughout the Old Testament, Israel is considered a corporate unity in covenant with and in the holy service of the Lord. Thus, Achan’s sin was a sin, not only against God, but also his family and all of Israel.
Achan (Heb., signifies ‘trouble’ or ‘trouble-maker’) took a beautiful imported garment, a small amount of silver and gold, all ‘devoted’ to the Lord and hid them in his tent rather than destroying the garment and taking the silver and gold to the treasury of the Lord. Achan’s disobedience regarding the devoted things showed he did not fear God. God does not seek partial obedience and compliance with His instructions; we must obey Him completely without reservation with a pure and holy heart in all things.
God was the one who judged this matter. Joshua and all Israel were God’s agents for executing His judgment on both the Canaanites and this violator of the covenant. In the end, Joshua asked: “Why have you troubled us?
It was a somber manner in which the sin was determined. Achan could have immediately confessed and repented. However, he waited as Israel passed by Joshua under the command of the Lord, tribe by tribe until the tribe of Judah was taken, and then by family to man until the lot fell upon Achan.
Joshua deals gently with Achan, “My son,…give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel…tell me what you have done. Do not hide it from me.” Achan confessed: “I saw… I coveted… I took… I concealed.” This is the path of most sin, especially with the sin of covetousness. To covet is to desire that which belongs to another and, here the things of the ban belonged to God.
Here is the difficult question: why would a loving and merciful God demand such extreme judgment in requiring the execution of Achan, his entire family and all his livestock at the hands of Joshua and all Israel? These things taken by Achan under the ban were holy because they were part of the holy war and belonged to God. Therefore, total annihilation was required including the offender and all of his possessions. God is a just, holy and righteousness God, and is serious in executing judgment upon deliberate, original sin of those who are unholy – who refuse to repent and worship Him. God’s judgment upon Jericho was all encompassing by insisting nothing be taken for self. God was showing the Israelites they were in a holy covenant with Him and were to keep themselves holy unto His service. Therefore, Achan and all his family were stoned to death and burned along with all of his possessions to purge sin and remove it from Israel.
Disobedience brings ruin even upon the innocent. Sin’s effects go beyond the initial sinner. This is a warning to each of us. God’s wrath can only be turned away by true repentance through death to sin by accepting Jesus Christ in faith as the atonement for sin as we turn to obey God and worship Him. Sin had to be cleansed from the Israelites, and also from each of us.
God stands willing to forgive and give us grace and mercy (Hebrews 4:14-16). He will give us the free gift of salvation by faith in Christ Jesus if we will ask Him for forgiveness and cleansing (Ephesians 2:1-10).