2. The Conquest of Canaan by Israel
(1) Conquest of Central Canaan <6:1 – 8:35>
Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. . The time for God’s judgment to fall on the inhabitants of Canaan had arrived, first the city of Jericho and all that was in it was to be destroyed. The Lord gives His battle plans to Joshua as to how the city was to be taken and Joshua conveys the plans to the people, executes them and the city is taken . God had given them the city but this did not excuse them from doing their part, even though it may have seemed to be a strange approach for an army to capture a city it was God’s way and they had to do it God’s way.
God also gives specific instructions in regards to the city and everything that was in it . They were ordered not to spare or keep anything since all was under the condemnation of God and doomed to destruction, excepting Rahab and those that were in her house; “…keep away from the devoted things” was the precise command of God. What does the reference to “devoted things” mean? In the Greek text the word used is “cherem” which means “a thing devoted, a thing dedicated, a ban, a devotion” or to be “utterly destroyed, (appointed to) utter destruction” or a “dedicated thing, things which should have been utterly destroyed, (appointed to) utter destruction” (Strong’s definition). Why was Jericho and everything in it classified as “devoted”? God had already judged them for their gross ungodliness and sins and the sentence was death and destruction, the armies of Israel were only God’s tool for executing the sentence, therefore the city, its inhabitants, and everything in it was to be totally destroyed, and the people were not to take any of the things that could not be destroyed either by sword or by fire , anything that could not be destroyed must be used in the service of God and therefore had to be placed in the Tabernacle for God’s use. If this command was disobeyed God’s punishment would fall on the Israelite community, . This was the process described by Moses when he gave them his final commands before his death: “However, in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them….as the LORD your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God.” , this was God’s way of protecting His people from the gross immoral sins of the inhabitants of the land. At the end of the battle and the destruction of the city, Joshua pronounces a solemn oath fulfilled when Heil, from Bethel, rebuilt Jericho during the reign of the ungodly king Ahab in Israel.
Encouraged by their success at Jericho, Joshua sent some of his men to spy on the city of Ai, who returned with the report that the city was an easy take and that only a portion of the army was needed. Hearing this Joshua sent 3000 men who were routed by the men of Ai , which caused great distress to Joshua and the whole nation of Israel. God then reveals to Joshua that “Israel has sinned…” . This was the reason why Israel was defeated . One person had violated God’s covenant and stole what was God’s possession, and this had brought about a collective guilt upon the whole nation , and this called for a consecration of all the people for they would not be able to stand against their enemies until the sin had been dealt with .; so the next day all the tribes had to present themselves before the Lord until the person who sinned was identified. Achan was identified and confessed his guilt before God and all the people . Therefore Achan and all his family had to endure the wrath of God for their sin, he and his family were stoned to death . The question remains and could be asked of us today; “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’” How do we rob God today? Each and every one of us is “devoted” to God, either in judgment or in salvation and this should be our chief concern as we attempt to answer the question .
The sin of Achan and Israel, having been dealt with by God, now reopens the way to the continuation of the conquest of the land. God reassures Joshua, “…. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land.” Joshua is instructed to do to Ai as was done to Jericho, but the difference here is that the plunder is now assigned to the troops . God had received His portion now the rest belongs to the people. Although Joshua is in command, God is still giving the directions ; and so God allows us to live our lives and make decisions, however, we need the direction from knowledge of the Word of God . Success and victory will be ours in whatever God instructs us to do but only when we “Do what the LORD has commanded.” .
The conquest of central Canaan now completed, Joshua carries out the command of Moses by building an altar to the Lord at Mount Ebal and offered to God burnt offerings and fellowship offerings and Joshua and the people renewed their covenant with God . So it should be with us today, as God allows us success and victory in our lives, this should be followed by our thanksgiving to Him and a renewal of our commitment to follow Him.