Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Children. Achan was guilty of theft: some of the rest might have connived at his fault. He had taken what was reserved for the Lord. The offender was discovered, to inspire all with a horror for his conduct. Some of his brethren were punished, (ver. 5,) but they suffered for their own secret transgressions, or death might be no real punishment to them; while the Israelites were awakened to a sense of their own inability to conquer without the divine protection, and were forced to humble themselves. (Haydock) — Chastisements are the marks of God’s displeasure, though they frequently proceed also from his clemency. — Achan is called Achar, 1 Paralipomenon ii. 7. These five persons occupy the space of 265 years; so that they must have been 50 or 55 years old, when they had children.
Ver. 2. Against Hai, to see the situation and strength of that city, which was about 10 miles west, or rather north, of Jericho. It was afterwards rebuilt, 1 Esdras ii. 28. — Bethaven and Bethel are the same place; (St. Jerome; Calmet) though many distinguish them, with Cellarius. The former name means “the house of iniquity,” because Jeroboam there set up a golden calf. Bethel was its former appellation, in consequence of the vision of Jacob, Genesis xxviii.
Ver. 3. Few. It appears, however, that the city contained 12,000 fighting men; so that these spies must have formed a false notion of its strength, chap. viii. 25.
Ver. 5. Sabarim, which means people “broken and defeated.” Septuagint, “they pursued them from the gate, till they had entirely broken them,” destroying 36, and putting the rest to flight. (Calmet) — This small disaster filled the whole camp with dismay, as the Lord generally caused the victories of his people to be complete, and without any loss, as long as they continued in his favour. None were found wanting of those who attacked and destroyed so many of the Madianites, Numbers xxxi. 49. (Haydock)
Ver. 6. Heads. These marks of grief were very common. Achilles covered his head with ashes, tore his garments and face, when he received news of the death of his friend, Patroclus. Homer and Virgil, (Æneid xii.) speaking of Latinus, the king, says, It scissa veste Latinus—Canitiem immundo perfusam pulvere turpans.
Ver. 7. Began. Some had established themselves in the land of Galaad. (Menochius) — Hebrew, “would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan.” Josue speaks in this animated manner, through zeal for the glory of God, (Calmet) more than for any personal inconvenience. He was grieved that any one should have merited God’s displeasure. He was afraid that the Chanaanites would blaspheme the great name of the Lord, ver. 9.
Ver. 11. Lied. Each one, on delivering up what he had taken, made profession, at least by his behaviour, (Haydock) that he retained nothing. Achan did like the rest, but he kept back of the plunder. (Calmet) — He lied, and did not comply with the promise made by all Israel, which he was bound to observe, as much as if he had made it with his own mouth.
Ver. 13. Sanctified. Prepared by washing, &c., to appear before the tabernacle, and to see the event. Septuagint, “purify the people.” Chaldean, “call an assembly.”
Ver. 14. Find. Hebrew, “it shall be the tribe which the Lord taketh.” (Haydock) — This was done by lots, as on similar occasions, 1 Kings x. 20., and xiv. 41. When God authorized this method, there could be no danger in it. But to have recourse to lots without such authority, would be often tempting God. The apostles chose an apostle by lot: but they had first taken every precaution (Calmet) to select two persons, both fit for the important charge. (Haydock) — To commit the choice of sacred ministers to chance would be extremely improper. “We forbid the use of lots in the elections,” said Honorius. (Calmet)
Ver. 18. Juda. The dignity of this tribe enhanced the fault of Achan. (Menochius)
Ver. 19. My son. Clemency is the virtue of great souls. — Give glory. Confess candidly, John ix. 24.
Ver. 21. Garment. Hebrew, “a robe of Sannaar, or of Babylon.” This city was famous for embroidered, or painted robes, such as were worn by kings, Jonas iii. 6. (Pliny, [Natural History?] viii. 48.) — Rule, or linget. No coin was yet used. (Calmet)
Ver. 24. His sons, &c. Probably conscious to, or accomplices of the crime of their father, (Challoner) as he could hardly have concealed these things in the midst of his tent without their knowledge. (Menochius) — But granting, with St. Augustine (q. 8,) that they were innocent of this crime, God, who is the sovereign arbiter of life and death, might order them out of the world, on this occasion, without injustice.
Ver. 25. Day. Hence some have drawn a very weak argument, to prove the repentance of Achan, as if he had only to undergo a temporary punishment. It is probable, however, that his sincere confession, proceeding from a penitent heart, might influence God to shew him mercy. — Fire. Children, as well as his other effects; though some have supposed that the former were spared, as they are not here specified. Hebrew seems to include them; “and burnt them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.” Chaldean says they were stoned first. (Calmet)
Ver. 26. Achor. That is, trouble; (Challoner) in allusion to the name of Achar, as he is called in the Septuagint invariably, and in the Hebrew and Vulgate in the Book of Chronicles. (Haydock) — This heap of stones was thrown upon the ashes of the deceased, or perhaps at his person, while he was burning at the stake, as it is the custom still among the Turks. (Roger. ii. 7.) The king of Hai was treated in this manner, chap. viii. 29. See 2 Kings xviii. 17. The vale of Achor was on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho, where a small castle, at Adommim, was built to protect travellers from the insults of robbers, who infested that part, Luke x. 30., and chap. xv. 7.
Bible Text & Cross-references:
For the sin of Achan, the Israelites are defeated at Hai. The offender is found out, and stoned to death; and God’s wrath is turned from them.
1 But *the children of Israel transgressed the commandment, and took to their own use of that which was accursed. *For Achan, the son of Charmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zare, of the tribe of Juda, took something of the anathema: and the Lord was angry against the children of Israel.
2 And when Josue sent men from Jericho against Hai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east side of the town of Bethel, he said to them: Go up, and view the country: and they fulfilled his command, and viewed Hai.
3 And returning, they said to him: Let not all the people go up, but let two or three thousand men go, and destroy the city: why should all the people be troubled in vain, against enemies that are very few?
4 There went up therefore three thousand fighting men: who immediately turned their backs,
5 And were defeated by the men of the city of Hai, and there fell of them six and thirty men: and the enemies pursued them from the gate as far as Sabarim, and they slew them as they fled by the descent: and the heart of the people was struck with fear, and melted like water.
6 But Josue rent his garments, and fell flat on the ground, before the ark of the Lord, until the evening, both he and all the ancients of Israel: and they put dust upon their heads.
7 And Josue said: Alas, O Lord God, why wouldst thou bring this people over the river Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorrhite, and to destroy us? would God, we had stayed beyond the Jordan, as we began.
8 My Lord God, what shall I say, seeing Israel turning their backs to their enemies?
9 The Chanaanites, and all the inhabitants of the land, will hear of it, and being gathered together will surround us, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do to thy great name?
10 And the Lord said to Josue: Arise, why liest thou flat on the ground?
11 Israel hath sinned, and transgressed my covenant: and they have taken of the anathema, and have stolen and lied, and have hid it among their goods.
12 Neither can Israel stand before his enemies, but he shall flee from them: because he is defiled with the anathema. I will be no more with you, till you destroy him that is guilty of this wickedness.
13 Arise, *sanctify the people, and say to them: Be ye sanctified against to-morrow: for thus saith the Lord God of Israel: The curse is in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thy enemies, till he be destroyed out of thee, that is defiled with this wickedness.
14 And you shall come in the morning, every one by your tribes: and what tribe soever the lot shall find, it shall come by its kindreds, and the kindred by its houses, and the house by the men.
15 And whosoever he be that shall be found guilty of this fact, he shall be burnt with fire, with all his substance, because he hath transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and hath done wickedness in Israel.
16 Josue, therefore, when he rose in the morning, made Israel to come by their tribes, and the tribe of Juda was found.
17 Which being brought by its families, it was found to be the family of Zare. Bringing that also by the houses, he found it to be Zabdi:
18 And bringing his house man by man, he found Achan, the son of Charmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zare, of the tribe of Juda.
19 And Josue said to Achan: My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel, and confess, and tell me what thou hast done, hide it not.
20 And Achan answered Josue, and said to him: Indeed I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done.
21 For I saw among the spoils a scarlet garment, exceeding good, and two hundred sicles of silver, and a golden rule of fifty sicles: and I coveted them, and I took them away, and hid them in the ground is the midst of my tent, and the silver I covered with the earth that I dug up.
22 Josue therefore sent ministers: who running to his tent, found all hid in the same place, together with the silver.
23 And taking them away out of the tent, they brought them to Josue, and to all the children of Israel, and threw them down before the Lord.
24 Then Josue, and all Israel with him, took Achan, the son of Zare, and the silver, and the garment, and the golden rule, his sons also, and his daughters, his oxen, and asses, and sheep, the tent also, and all the goods: and brought them to the valley of Achor:
25 Where Josue said: Because thou hast troubled us, the Lord trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him: and all things that were his, were consumed with fire.
26 *And they gathered together upon him a great heap of stones, which remaineth until this present day. And the wrath of the Lord was turned away from them. And the name of that place was called the Valley of Achor, until this day.
1: Year of the World 2553.; Josue xxii. 20. — ** 1 Paralipomenon ii. 7.
13: Leviticus xx. 7.; Numbers xi. 18.; Josue iii. 5.; 1 Kings xvi. 5.
26: 2 Kings xviii. 17.