This week in our Sunday morning class we studied Joshua 7-8 which covers the Battle of Ai.
This was the first battle after the fall of Jericho. Joshua sent spies to look over the land and they came back with reports that the city of Ai could be taken with only a small number of men. A small army of only 3000 men was dispatched and soon came running back after being repulsed by the men of Ai and losing 36 men in the brief fight.
After the great victory in Jericho the Israelites were stunned. Joshua tore his clothes and fell on his face before the Ark of the Covenant. After a period of mourning, the Lord spoke to Joshua and informed him that they had transgressed his covenant by taking items devoted to destruction from Jericho.
An inquiry was made, lots were cast and eventually Achan was identified. Achan had hidden a cloak that he had taken from Jericho along with both silver and gold in his tent. Achan, his family and all of his belongings were taken to the Valley of Achor and they were stoned to death and buried under a large heap of stones.
There are several possible locations for the Valley of Achor. I have a picture of only one of the places, but it is the strongest candidate site. Early writers thought that the valley was north of Jericho, but Joshua 15:7 describes it as part of the border between Judah and Benjamin which would put it south of Jericho. The Hyrcania Valley or El-Buqei’a is probably too far south. In the picture above, taken from Jericho (Tell es-Sultan), we see the entrance to a deep valley in the hills. This is Wadi al-Qelt which originates near Jerusalem. I also like this picture as it shows the outlines of the foundations of several buildings in Jericho. Achan would have taken the items from a building in Jericho and then met his demise within site of his crime.
After the sin of Achan and the people of Israel was dealt with the Lord gave Joshua the battle plan for taking the city of Ai. I will not go into the details of the plan. You can read the account in Joshua 8.
We did not visit the site of Ai, but did drive through the area where Ai is located during my vacation earlier this year. The pictures above and below were taken in the general area of Ai and are not meant to depict the exact site. In fact, there is some discussion as to which tell is the site of the Ai of Joshua’s time. There are three tells in close proximity to each other; Khirbet Maqatir, Khirbet Haiyan and el-Tell. During the times of the patriarchs, Ai was most likely at el-Tell. Khirbet Maqatir is most likely the fortress that was destroyed by Joshua and Khirbet Haiyan where the Israelites lived before and after the Persian captivity.
In the two pictures taken near the site of Ai we see what the hill country north of Jerusalem looks like. We see terraced land for growing crops and a rolling landscape. There are also many valleys and you see shepherds with their flocks grazing in the fields.
Next week we will be studying the Gibeonite deception. One of my favorite accounts from the book of Joshua.
I am enjoying the class and especially the extra research that I am doing to find out more about the sites we have been talking about.
If you want to catch up with the class, here are the previous posts:
To view links to the entire class series click on Walls of Jericho.