Pastoral Commentary for Joshua 7
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie
Unfaithfulness was the hallmark of God's people from the beginning, as an Israelite named Achan stole the things devoted to the Lord for himself. As a result, what should have been an easy victory for Israel against the town of Ai became a disastrous defeat and filled the people with fear. Joshua was deeply distressed for clearly the Lord was not with them, and he prayed asking why God had done such a thing to His people. God told Joshua what had happened and how to determine the guilty party and what their punishment should be. When Achan was taken from the tribe of Judah (perhaps by means of the Urim and Thummin) and confronted with his sin, he confessed. God's command was firm however and he was stoned to death and burned with all that he had. Buried under a heap of stones, Achan's place of death served as a lasting reminder of the outrageous sin he had committed against the LORD, and the trouble he caused for the people of Israel. Thus, that place became known as the Valley of Achor, that is, the valley of trouble (a play on words using a form of Achan's name). Although the punishment seems harsh to us, we must remember that later on God promised His penitent people through the prophet Hosea that He would "make the Valley of Achor a door of hope" (Hosea 2:15). And in the end from the same tribe of Judah from which trouble had come, God would bring the Savior. The Scriptures clearly reveal both the judgment of God and the grace of God.