Joshua 8 – “The Capture of Ai; Blesses and Curses at Mount Ebal”

smoke fire distance natureHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

The Israelites ambush Ai and kill its 12,000 inhabitants. Joshua recites Moses’ teaching of blessings and curses upon Mount Ebal.


II. Photo

The soldiers of Ai are doomed: “The men of Ai looked back and saw the smoke of the city rising to the sky; they had no room for flight in any direction.” (v. 20a)


III. Select Verses

1-2:  The LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be frightened or dismayed. Take all the fighting troops with you, go and march against Ai. See, I will deliver the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land into your hands. You shall treat Ai and her king as you treated Jericho and her king; however, you may take the spoil and the cattle as booty for yourselves. Now set an ambush against the city behind it.”

18: The LORD then said to Joshua, “Hold out the javelin in your hand toward Ai, for I will deliver it into your hands.” So Joshua held out the javelin in his hand toward the city.

24-25: When Israel had killed all the inhabitants of Ai who had pursued them into the open wilderness, and all of them, to the last man, had fallen by the sword, all the Israelites turned back to Ai and put it to the sword. The total of those who fell that day, men and women, the entire population of Ai, came to twelve thousand.

29: And the king of Ai was impaled on a stake until the evening. At sunset, Joshua had the corpse taken down from the stake and it was left lying at the entrance to the city gate. They raised a great heap of stones over it, which is there to this day.

30-35: At that time Joshua built an altar to the LORD, the God of Israel, on Mount Ebal,  as Moses, the servant of the LORD, had commanded the Israelites — as is written in the Book of the Teaching of Moses — an altar of unhewn stone upon which no iron had been wielded. They offered on it burnt offerings to the LORD, and brought sacrifices of well-being.  And there, on the stones, he inscribed a copy of the Teaching that Moses had written for the Israelites.  All Israel — stranger and citizen alike — with their elders, officials, and magistrates, stood on either side of the Ark, facing the levitical priests who carried the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant. Half of them faced Mount Gerizim and half of them faced Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded them of old, in order to bless the people of Israel.  After that, he read all the words of the Teaching, the blessing and the curse, just as is written in the Book of the Teaching.  There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua failed to read in the presence of the entire assembly of Israel, including the women and children and the strangers who accompanied them.


IV. Outline

1-2. Yahweh guarantees the conquest of Ai

3-8. Joshua’s ambush plan

9-17. Joshua draws the soldiers of Ai out of the city

18. Joshua’s javelin: the symbol of destruction

19. Ai is set ablaze

20-22. The soldiers of Ai are killed

23. The king is spared

24 All the Israelites attack Ai

25. The victims of Ai are 12,000

26. Joshua’s javelin is withdrawn

27. The people’s booty

28. Ai becomes a mound of ruins

29. The king is killed, displayed, and buried under stones

30-31a. Joshua builds an altar on Mt. Ebal in accordance with the teaching of Moses

31b. Sacrifices

32-35. The writing and reciting of blessings and curses at Mt. Ebal, in accordance with the teahing of Moses


V. Comment

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VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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