Holy War: Ai and Consecration
1 Samuel 15; Joshua 7–8
Samuel Lesson #053
July 5, 2016
“Father, it is a great joy to study Your Word, to be challenged to think more deeply and precisely about what Your Scripture says, to be reminded about its truthfulness, its accuracy, to have our faith strengthened and edified.
Father, as we continue our study, help us to understand the significance in terms of what we study, because these questions and issues come up in many different conversations in unexpected ways whether it involves students in our high school or college or university campus, or whether it involves conversations with a neighbor or acquaintance or friend. These kinds of things come up all the time. We are mandated in Scripture to always be ready to give an answer to defend our position, to make it clear to those who ask for the hope that is within us.
Father, we pray that You would help us to think clearly about Your Word. It is not just a matter of academic exercise. It is a matter of everything in Your Word has to impact our lives, our thinking, our relationship with You, and secondarily our relationship with others. We pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.”
In our study of 1 Samuel we have progressed to 1 Samuel 15, a command by God to Saul to completely annihilate the Amalekites. That is the kind of command that just does not sit well with modern man. This is often interpreted by those whose starting point is hostility to the Word of God that this just shows that the God of the Old Testament is an evil, wicked, arbitrary god. He is no different from the evil, wicked gods of the Canaanites or any of the others.
This happens because their starting point is wrong, and because their starting point is wrong they are going to end up at the wrong place. We have to understand what the Bible teaches about why God did this and what its nature was. As we have been so sadly reminded in recent weeks and the last year with these jihadi attacks in Paris, Brussels, Southern California, and Florida that the idea is that jihad is a holy war.
The idea that what the Bible has is equivalent to jihad, through using that term “holy war”, is disrespectful to Scripture. It is a misunderstanding of what is going on and why.
This is why we are continuing to look at what this whole concept of so called “biblical holy war.” I began working through this. We have been looking at holy war.
We are looking at Ai. A quick review since last week. Let me just review a few of the points we covered when talking about this concept of so-called holy war. The question was:
Is there such a thing as biblical Holy War?
I have grown up hearing that term. A lot of people have used that term, but as I got into the text of Scripture, looking at the terminology this last time, the question occurred to me:
Is this really a valid translation of the Hebrew term that is used?
The word for “holy” is from the word qadash or the adjective qadosh. That is not used in this term. The word for “war” is a completely different word.
1. The term “holy war” is not used in the Bible.
Those words are not used in the text of Scripture. The word that is used in Scripture is this word:
2. The biblical term in Joshua 7:1 is translated “accursed” things.
It is a difficult word to bring over into English. It is the word cherem and it has the idea of banning something or prohibiting someone from benefiting from something, devoting it to the Lord, or destroying it. Actually, none of these terms really captures the meaning.
I have used a couple of quotes from the technical dictionary, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. It captures the basic idea in the first sentence:
“The basic meaning is the exclusion of the object from the use or abuse of man and its irrevocable surrender to God.”
In other words, when these cities or peoples or nations within Canaan were put under “the ban,” cherem, then they are surrendered to God. In the war Israel was used as an instrument of God’s justice, His judgment upon these sinful people who God had graciously allowed to continue to exist for four centuries. Now they are to be judged and destroyed, but not in a way that brings any value or benefit to the instrument of Israel being used in that judgment:
- Israel is not supposed to prosper from this.
- Israel is not going to benefit.
- Israel is not to take plunder.
- Israel is not going to be benefited in terms of salvation or spirituality.
The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis defines it as:
“Consecration for service to God is dealt with in Leviticus 27:28 (persons or things are under the ban); Joshua 6:18; Micah 4:13 (objects are put under the ban). Whatever is devoted to the Lord …”
These things are to be used for God’s service, not for personal benefit.
3. As such, the core idea of consecrating something to God informs us that the doctrinal application is going to relate to sanctification.
The lessons that we are going to learn here are going to have to do with setting something apart to God. In that sense we see a close connection to the idea of holiness because that is the idea of holiness, being set apart to the service of God. But the point that I want to keep hammering home, so you remember this, is:
“Unlike Islamic jihad or the Holy War of the Middle Ages, the heresy of the Christian Crusades, fighting in a cherem in the Old Testament did nothing [to work] toward salvation or spiritual growth and was not to enrich the victor.”
All of this is set apart for God.
4. This is talked about in terms of this period of war between Israel as she destroyed the inhabitants of the land that God gave her. That these Canaanites groups were guilty of the grossest religious sins of all time—infant sacrifice, sexual orgies, and temple prostitution.
I skipped the next four points, but as a reminder in point 9:
9. During this limited period of history from the Conquest that began in 1406 BC through the last period of Saul’s kingship (that is a limited period of time.) The rules of engagement are spelled out in Deuteronomy 20:16–18. They were applied to the Canaanites but the rules of engagement were different for those who were non-Canaanites.
God is specifically targeting that population because of their behavior, because of their sin. It is not racial. It is spiritual.
The examples that we are going to look at in point 13 had to do with the battles of Jericho and Ai as described in Joshua 6–8.
One of the things that I spent time on last week was looking at the archeology. Archeology is important.
- Archeology provides us with evidence.
- Archeology provides us with validation, verification, and a look into the culture by studying the remains that have been found of a particular civilization.
- Archeology is not going to prove or disprove the Bible.
- Archeology is an important discipline because on the one hand there are people who make claims that archeology does not substantiate the Bible.
You cannot let things like that go. Can you?
I know there is probably somebody listening to me that say, “Well, why do we listen to the idiots and the heretics? How should they define the battle?”
Because in the history of Christianity we have always let the heretics define the battle. In the early church, for example, there was no thought given to the collection of a canon until you get into about AD 150. The different books of the New Testament were being copied and passed around and being used, but around AD 150 you had a heretic by the name of Marcion come along. He is deeply and profoundly anti-Semitic. He hates the Jewish people.
Marcion looks at these books from the Apostles and he says that Matthew cannot be from God because it is so pro Israel. Mark cannot be either. Luke, probably, but we are only going to take about two-thirds of the Gospel of Luke. We are going to throw out the Gospel of John.
Marcion only accepted about ten of Paul’s Epistles. He got rid of all the Jewish-oriented Epistles: Hebrews, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, James. Marcion defines a very narrow canon based upon his anti-Semitic presuppositions. Immediately, when he says this is the canon, what has to happen?
People who understand the truth have to say, no it is not, and this is why you are wrong. This is what the Scripture says.
What happens with our archeology is the same kind of thing and other science, these areas, are part of human intellectual activity. We have to understand truth from error. We have to be able to answer those who are the opponents of Christianity who seek to use these things in an attempt to destroy the confidence that Christians have in Scripture.
Granted, Christians should not let their confidence be shaken. Confidence should be in the Word, but that is only a belief by people who do not understand the sin nature. That is only a belief who people who are living in an idealistic world.
When you send off your children and your grandchildren to state college or university, the first thing their liberal arts professors are going to try to do in the first semester is destroy their faith in evangelical Christianity. They have to have answers. They have to know what is going on. They have to understand what the Scriptures say. Unfortunately, too many schools today do not provide those kinds of answers.
We are looking at these two situations here in terms of how it relates to understanding cherem:
- The battle for Jericho.
- The battle for Ai.
But we are also getting the opportunity to look at this in terms of its archeology and its historicity because that is important. The Word of God is not a philosophy book. The Word of God is not directly teaching us a philosophy of life. It is indirect.
When you look at philosophies—Platonism, Aristotelians, Neo-Platonism, Cartesianism, all of the various philosophical frameworks—what you see is this attempt to build a philosophy of life that is totally grounded on human rationalism or empiricism.
When you look at other world religions, they are not grounded in space-time history. They are grounded in human ideas, human rationalism and empiricisms, things of that nature. They are grounded in mysticism. Mysticism also comes across into Christianity in a very insidious way when it says that you do not have to worry or teach about Christian evidences because God is just going to make it clear to you that it is true.
Let’s see what Luke said in Acts 1:1–3 where it says Jesus appeared to His disciples and gave them many infallible proofs. Jesus gave the disciples evidences for the truth of His physical bodily resurrection. That this was not some sort of apparition and other things of that nature.
We have to understand that one of the unique things about biblical Christianity and Judeo-Christian revelation is that the doctrine of Scripture is integrally and intimately connected to historical geographical realities. If the history and the geography are not true, the doctrine is not true either.
Walt Kaiser, who was the president of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary for a number of years, and a well-known evangelical scholar, made this comment: “The Bible’s theological truth claims are suspended on a cable of historical factuality.”
In other words, if the history in the Bible is wrong, the doctrine is wrong. You cannot separate them. In other words, for valid theological truth to be derived from the Bible, it is essential that the Bible historical content is also true. Otherwise, it becomes another philosophy of life like everything else.
That is one of the interesting things. I will mention Joel Kramer a little later. He is an archeologist over in Israel right now. Before Joel went over there he was a photo journalist. He was a lay pastor in Salt Lake City. He cranked out a couple of excellent videos dealing with Mormonism, one of which was on the Bible and Mormonism.
Even before Joel went to Israel, he has been living in Israel nine years now, he made the point in these videos that not a single geographical location in the Book of Mormon can be found anywhere on the planet. There are no archeological remains. You cannot find any of the people groups. You cannot find any of those things. It is total mythology. Yet in the Bible:
- You can to Shechem.
- You can go to Samaria.
- You can go to Shiloh.
- You can go to Jerusalem.
- You can go to Bethlehem.
- You can go to Nazareth.
You can go to all these different places that are mentioned in the Bible because it is a historical, geographically based faith. Another way to put that is it is a space-time faith. It is related to reality. When we look at some of these issues that I am going to bring up, it helps us to have:
- Confidence that the Bible is true.
- It also helps us to understand that there are biblical answers.
I know that you are not going to go out and be able to fully give the answer for some of these technical things. I have spent years studying these things. But what I learned when I was in high school, listening to some people talking about creation and evolution, is that as they answered very technical scientific arguments that when I heard people try to counter that later on, I would say:
“I can’t articulate the answer, but I have heard someone articulate the answer.”
I was not sucked into a false idea because I had heard a clear presentation of the truth. That is part of the reason that I do this. Another reason that I do this is because nobody else does it is:
Where are you going to find it?
If the role of the local church is to equip people to do the work for the ministry and to understand the Word of God to be able to give an answer for the hope that is in them?
If the pastor is not teaching it, who is?
I remember about 11–12 years ago, when I was traveling with Tommy Ice and Tim LaHaye, we were over in Greece. While we were there Tommy was listening to my Genesis tapes from when I was at Preston City Bible Church. Tommy made the comment that I had started Genesis on the Documentary Hypothesis.
Ed Hindson commented by asking why I would do that in a sermon? And Tommy said that if the pastor does not do it, where are the people in the church going go learn how to answer those things?
Ed, who at the time was Jerry Falwell’s assistant and has his PhD (and I respect Ed in many ways), just had a blank look and said that he guessed that was right. So this may go over some people’s heads but there are people who listen who need this information.
We looked at Jericho last time. We looked at this map. This will orient us. This is from Logos Bible Software. I pointed this out the last time. It is actually erroneous. I did e-mail them about the correction. They said this was from an older version of Logos. It will not be fixed, but they will make sure it is correct in upcoming map versions.
They located Ai south, but it is really et Tell and Khirbet el-Maqatir north. Actually the green dot on the map should not even be seen here. It is located in a different place. This map has the locations wrong, but it gives us a general idea. North of the Dead Sea the Israelites came across from Shittim, which means acacia wood. The Israelites crossed over at Gilgal. They had a covenant renewal ceremony. This is where they were sanctified.
Remember, I am saying that the main idea in Jericho is this idea of sanctification, positional, as well as experiential. This is the positional sanctification of the nation, because the generation of men that were born and who grew up during the wilderness wanderings were not made sons of the covenant. They had not been circumcised. They could not be true heirs of the covenant.
Here the Israelites had a mass bris ceremony. If you study Yiddish, what happens is the final “t” in Hebrew shifts to an “s” in Yiddish. The word Shabbat ends with a “t”, but in Yiddish it ends with an “s”. You will hear those who come from Eastern Europe say “Good Shabbas.” You can hear that difference. If any of you have seen Fiddler on the Roof you have heard this.
If berith or brit is the Hebrew word for covenant, then change that final “t” to an “s” and you have a “bris.” Bris is the ceremony where the male child is taken and circumcised on the eighth day. That is his identification with the Covenant of Abraham. You had all these men among the Israelites who were not identified with the Covenant of Abraham because they had not been circumcised, and they have to be circumcised. That is equivalent to the positional sanctification of the nation.
Then the Israelites had their first battle at Jericho. We went through this last time, talking about the archeological issues there. I am just going to remind you in this slide. I have updated it since last time. You have these three periods of time that are talked about in archeology. What is referred to as:
- Early Bronze— roughly 3000–1900 BC
- Early Bronze 1 – Post-diluvian
- Early Bronze 2 – Patriarchs
This is according to standard chronologies. I would think that the Flood is somewhere around 2900–2800 BC. I would not go back as far as 3000 BC. This basically covers the period from Noah getting off the ark up through the call of Abraham.
- Middle Bronze Period—1900 BC–1550 BC
That covers most of the period of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
- Late Bronze Period—1550 BC–1200 BC
- Late Bronze 1 is dated from 1550–1400 BC and includes the Exodus date1447 BC and the Conquest date 40 years later, after 40 years in the wilderness, in 1407 BC.
When you hear the term “Late Bronze” that is what we are talking about. Each of these periods have distinctive pottery. Each period has distinct ways in which walls were built and ways in which they built cities. When archeologists go back they can identify with these things.
We talked about this one archeologist who was at the forefront of the excavations at Jericho, John Garstang. He excavated in Israel in 1928 and again in 1930. He wrote the definitive work on Bronze Age pottery. That is important because this is at the core of this debate over the location of Ai. He is the man who dated the pottery. They still use his book.
This one traditional location for Ai John Garstang also excavated. He identified that it was inhabited during the time of the Exodus and the Conquest. The people suddenly disappeared, according to Garstang, in 1400 BC, which is about the time the Conquest period ends. Garstang also did the work in Jericho, but later archeologist came along and came up with some other ideas. Garstang is instrumental at Jericho, at Ai, and at Bethel.
We looked at the evidence from Jericho.
This is Bryant Wood. He is another important name for us to know and understand. He is a good guy. He’s not related to Andy Woods. He is very solid. He is the archeologist who did the groundbreaking work on Jericho. But, I would disagree or question based upon what I have been studying, and what others have taught me. Wood’s identification and views of the location of Ai have become very popular.
Many of you in the congregation will remember one day last year in about November or December, when we went to a series of lectures over at Houston Baptist University. The university has an incredible museum over there—the Museum of the Bible.
The museum staff brought in a team of archeologists. Bryant Wood, who I just mentioned was one of the speakers; Eugene Merrill, who was one of my professors at Dallas Theological Seminary was another one of the professors on the team. They brought in a couple of other speakers, including the man taking Bryant Wood’s place as head of the dig. Bryant Wood has some health problems.
These men gave us their argument. What generated that was the previous year discovery of an Egyptian scarab in this place called Khirbet el-Maqatir. See, the scarab was found, but the scarab is dated to the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. What it showed was that there was somebody who had some sort of connection with the 18th Dynasty of Egypt.
Many people had thought this was a very minor, minor place. And it might have been, but it showed that it was occupied during this same time period as the Exodus.
That is important.
On the basis of that and some other evidence people from Bible and Spade, The Associates for Biblical Research, have concluded that Khirbet el-Maqatir is the location of biblical Ai.
Because of the way liberal theologians have treated et-Tell, there have been a huge number of evangelicals who have been swayed to this view.
I am going to show you some reasons against that, but before we get into the archeology I want to go back to why we are talking about Ai in terms of sanctification and holy war. When we look at Joshua 6 it describes what was to take place at Jericho.
Joshua 6:17 says: “Now the city shall be doomed by the Lord to destruction, [cherem] it and all who are in it. Only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things [cherem]…”
Cherem is translated “accursed things” but it is the banned things, the accursed things. It means everything, everything there, everything valuable, everything not valuable. Everything was to be destroyed. The command is to abstain from the cherem things lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things. That is cherem all the way through there.
Joshua 6:18–20 “And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it [judgment upon Israel]. But all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated to the Lord [set aside [qodesh]; they shall come into the treasury of the Lord. So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat.”
Something happens though: They burn the city.
Joshua 6:24, “But they burned the city and all that was in it with fire. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord.”
Joshua followed up on a promise to Rahab and her family in Joshua 6:25. Rahab survived. Joshua then charged them in Joshua 6:26:
“Cursed be the man before the Lord who rises up and builds this city Jericho; he shall lay its foundation with his firstborn, and with his youngest he shall set up its gates.”
That curse was fulfilled in 1 Kings 16:34 when a man rebuilt the city. When he started his oldest son died. When he finished his youngest son died.
Then something happens: Joshua 7:1, “But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the cherem things…” They violate the mandate. “… for Achan the son of Carmi the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel.”
One person does this. This is a picture of the corporate impact of sin. We often think that sin just affects me, but sin can impact your family. They are cursed by association. Sin can impact more than your family. If you are in a leadership position your sin can impact a whole culture. Sin is not just a private thing between you and God. It is in terms of your spiritual life, but the consequences can impact a huge number of people.
Achan commits a sin. He stole from the accursed things, the cherem things.
“… so the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel.”
This is an idiom that means God is going to harshly judge them. We would say, using an idiom also, that God “threw the book at them.”
Joshua 7:1 basically tells us what the real issues are here. It is not military technology. It is not military skill. It is not leadership. It is a sin problem but Joshua does not know this. This is secret. Nobody knows that Achan has stolen these cherem things. These things were to be devoted or set aside to God. The things are hidden. Joshua goes on as if everything is just fine.
In Joshua 7:2, “Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Beth Aven, on the east side of Bethel, and spoke to them, saying, ‘Go up and spy out the country.’ So the men went up and spied out Ai.”
One of the interesting things that you have in Scripture is these kinds of geographical details are pretty specific. This is to enable people to go back and say that this is exactly where this happened and can understand that the Bible is not talking in generalities, but that this is important for some reason to be able to identify this particular place and location.
What we have here is the identification of Jericho, which we talked about earlier, and Ai. It is beside this place called Beth Aven. Beth Aven is only mentioned a couple of times in the Old Testament. It is a very small location, but it tells us that Ai was beside or very close to Beth Aven. It is on the east side of Bethel. The geography is laid out here. The men go up and spy it out.
What is significant about this geographically?
This is really interesting how this ties together. If you go back to Genesis 12:7, God has given Abram his marching orders. He is to leave Ur of the Chaldees. He is supposed to go to the land that God has promised him. Abram goes there and as he goes into the land, he travels from the north to the south. He is going to come into the land. He comes to Shechem, which is located in the middle of modern day Nablus, which is by ancient Samaria.
Abram comes to Shechem as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh, Genesis 12:6, then we are reminded that the Canaanites are still in the land.
Genesis 12:7, “Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’ And there he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.”
Then we are told that what he typically did here was Abram would make proclamation in the name of the Lord, which is mentioned in Genesis 12:8:
“And he moved from there to the mountain (or hill) east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.”
Have we seen “east of Bethel” lately?
Yes. We have. We just saw it in reference to Ai. Ai is east of Bethel, but Ai is a little further east than this hill.
“… and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east.”
Abram is in the middle between Bethel and Ai.
“… there he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.”
This phrase has always bothered me. It is idiomatic. What does it mean to “call on the name of the Lord”?
We think that that sounds like prayer. It is not prayer. This is an idiom for making proclamation in the name of the Lord. Abram builds a huge altar there. He is in the midst of these Canaanite idolaters. He is proclaiming the greatness of God. He, as it were, is taking control of the land. He builds an altar in Shechem. He moves a day travel south of there to Bethel. He is going to build an altar there. Abram is going to do this all the way down to Hebron, the spine of Israel down the mountains.
This map is what it looks like. This is a map blow-up of the modern Arab village of Beitin. Beitin is the Arab equivalent of Bethel.
What does Bethel mean?
Bethel means the house of God. The Canaanite name was Luz.
This is Beitin (on the map). It is a rather large area. It extends down pretty far south, down to the area due west of et-Tell. I have put a line so you have a due east axis between Beitin and et-Tell. We see the area to the east of Beitin is where William Foxwell Albright in the late 1920s excavated Bethel. This area was all agricultural area. When the excavation team finished they had to fill the dig back in again.
When we were there back in early May, Joel had with him Albright’s original sketches of the area. We could see that these areas do not change much over the years. The old houses and barns and everything that were there in 1928 are still there. You can mark them and go out into the pasture and you can see the area. It is all olive trees now. You can see this area that was excavated by Albright.
If you turn around from that area and you look back due east, you are going to be on a direct axis with Ai. But this claim that Khirbet el- Maqatir is Ai is a little off because it is south of that axis. That is just one point I am going to make here. If we go to Bethel, just west of there it is marked by a mosque and a minaret, the road to the east of Beitin that runs north to south is the road you will see in the next slide.
If you go less than 100 yards to the west, there is the remains of a 3rd century Byzantine church that was referenced by Eusebius in a commentary in the 4th century where he says that this church was built on the traditional site of where Abraham had built his altar. Something else happened in that site. If you are with me in Genesis 12, turn to Genesis 35.
Genesis 35 describes Jacob’s return to Bethel. He had gone to his cousin Laban’s up north. Now he is coming back with his wives Rachel and Leah and with the two concubines and his sons. On his way back in Genesis 35:1:
“Then God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God.’ ”
Jacob goes to Bethel and builds an altar, at the same place his grandfather built an altar, and made proclamation to God. This was a known site in the ancient world. It was marked.
“Then God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.’ ”
Jacob has been at the same place already. This time he has his family with him. There God renews the Abrahamic Covenant with him.
Genesis 35:6–7, “So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him. And he built an altar there and called the place El Bethel,” meaning the God of Bethel.
That name is preserved in the Arabic name, Beitin.
“… because there God appeared to him when he fled from the face of his brother.”
In the rest of the chapter it talks about God renewing the Abrahamic Covenant.
This slide is a photo of the road to the east of Beitin looking due east from the remains of the Byzantine church. On the slide you will see the highway I pointed out on the map. The ridge line and houses we will see later from the other side of the hill. What is on the other side of the hill due east of here is et-Tell, which is the traditional site for Ai. Khirbet el-Maqatir is to the southwest of et-Tell. That locates this historically. You can go to these places. It is phenomenal to be standing there and know that 4,000 years ago Abraham and Sarah camped there and built an altar to the Lord. You can be probably 50 feet of where they were.
Joshua 7:3 is where they are setting up for battle, as they come to Joshua for their marching orders. Joshua has sent the spies into Ai. The spies come back to Joshua and say:
“And they returned to Joshua and said to him, ‘Do not let all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not weary all the people there, for the people of Ai are few.’ ”
The spies do not need the whole army. We just need a part of it. We can do it with 2,000–3,000 men to go up and attack Ai. The people of Ai are few.
Joshua 7:4, “So about three thousand men went up there from the people, but they fled before the men of Ai.”
In other words, they are getting stomped by the men of Ai.
Joshua 7:5, “And the men of Ai struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them down on the descent; …”
What happens is that God is bringing judgment on Israel because of the sin of Achan. I did not put all these verses in the slides, but Joshua has a bit of a meltdown. He has lost 36 men. His response, Joshua 7:6–7:
“Then Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. And Joshua said, ‘Alas, Lord God, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all—to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us! Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan!’ ”
Joshua has given up. He has quitter all over him. Israel won Jericho, but now they have lost 36 men and he is ready to give it up, God, you have just brought us over here to destroy us!
Joshua 7:8, “O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turns its back before its enemies?”
Then the LORD speaks to Joshua in Joshua 7:10–12:
“So the Lord said to Joshua: ‘Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff.’ ”
The “accursed things,” that is the cherem things. Notice how many times this word appears. You cannot translate it holy war, “they have taken the holy war things.” That does not make sense. They have taken the things that have been banned, the banned things. They have put it among their own stuff. Notice, the whole nation is suffering because of the sin of one person.
“Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, …”
It seems kind of harsh, but this is what we are seeing in the cherem warfare. It is that this is all about God and His righteousness. It is not about man. It is not about what mankind is doing. It is about God’s justice and righteousness. God is saying if you do not follow my rulebook specifically, then I am not going to give you any more victory because this is not about just giving you land. It is about defending the integrity of God.
God tells them in Joshua 7:13, “Get up, sanctify the people …”
What is the solution?
It is not positional sanctification. That occurred at Gilgal when all of the men from the wilderness wanderings had to be circumcised. Now they have to be experientially circumcised.
When you are teaching the children in Sunday School, if you want a good story from the Old Testament that talks about confession and turning back to God from disobedience to obedience, this is the example to use. There has to be experiential sanctification.
Joshua 7:13, “Get up, sanctify the people, and say, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the Lord God of Israel: “There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you.” ’ ”
The Israelites are now outside of the area of the Arab village of Deir Dibwan. They have to go through this exercise of cleansing the nation from sin.
Here is another map. This is a little darker, but it gives you the relationship of where they were. Here is Beitin. Burj Beitin is the location of the Byzantine church that I mentioned earlier. Burj Beitin is due west of et-Tell. South of that line is Khirbet el-Maqatir.
Before we continue the story of the consecration, let’s go back to archeology a minute. This is what Garstang wrote:
“The city of Ai and the camp enclosure of Hazor were apparently abandoned from that time (late 15th century BC). While Jericho was not rebuilt … for some centuries.”
I spent most of the day today reading a PhD dissertation that was arguing for Khirbet el-Maqatir. I have read numerous articles in the last couple of weeks and over the last several years. When I was with Joel he made two really important contributions to my understanding of this whole issue:
1. The claim that Khirbet el-Maqatir is the correct location for Ai is built on the assumption that et-Tell was not occupied from about 1550 BC until about 1200 BC.
What do they base that on?
They base that on the pottery. In fact, the individual who wrote this PhD dissertation dismisses the pottery issue in one sentence by saying it has been under debate for the last 30 years. That was it.
Who wrote the book on pottery?
John Garstang. Garstang is the one who excavates et-Tell. He says that there is evidence of Middle Bronze pottery all through the ruins. It is used to fill in gaps in the walls. It is obvious that there was occupation at et-Tell until approximately 1400 BC. That is when the conquest ended. That is what Garstang is saying.
Here is another visual showing this east–west axis. Beitin is at the top northeast. et-Tell is south of Beitin. Khirbet el-Maqatir is to the west of Beitin. According to the text you cannot see Beitin from et-Tell. But you have a better visual of it from Khirbet el-Maqatir. There is a ridgeline between et-Tell and Beitin. In Joshua 8 Joshua sets up a part of the ambush on this ridgeline. The houses I pointed out earlier are on the top of that ridgeline. We were to the north of the ridgeline looking south at the other side of the ridge.
This is what you see looking back toward Beitin.
This is another photo. This is standing at Khirbet el-Maqatir looking toward et-Tell. You cannot see et-Tell from Khirbet el-Maqatir. Khirbet el-Maqatir is possibly Beth Aven.
There you have Dr. Ice in the foreground and Joel up ahead. We are walking this area where Khirbet el-Maqatir is.
What is the other line of evidence?
2. Another line of evidence is the claim that the gates of Khirbet el-Maqatir was a fortification and that they have discovered a gate and the wall. The problem is that experts from three different background people, who have no idea of what they were looking at. They were not told what they were looking at.
- One was from the Israel Archeological Antiquities Authority.
- Another was a professor of archeology in Israel.
- The third was another individual that Joel brought out to the site.
Joel asked him to please identify: What is this?
What he was showing them was this gate that Bryant Wood said was the gate from this time period showing the wall. Biblical text says that there is a gate in the wall. Wood was identifying this as that Middle Bronze gate.
All three of these individuals came out there and almost immediately when they looked at this evidence on the ground said this is a Byzantine winepress. All three of them identified it as a Byzantine winepress. A Byzantine winepress is 4th–7th century AD. That is a lot newer than something that is 1400 BC. That is a bit of a problem.
This is et-Tell. It is very large. It is built on this tell and it is quite a large site and quite extensive. We know that it was inhabited from probably not long after the Flood until about 2400 BC. It covers an area of about 27 acres. That fits because et-Tell is also identified as an area that is a little bit larger than one of the major cities, Gibeah; that there was an Early Bronze temple that was built on top of the Tell.
Another part of the evidence is these walls. These walls fit Late Bronze fortifications. They are smaller stones. You can see that in the walls. The gaps are filled in with even smaller stones.
You see the same thing with this wall. This would have been one of the major walls around et-Tell.
This evidence helps to substantiate this. Also the geography fits. This is one reason it has been identified that way for a very long time. All of that, I believe, helps us to understand this.
I talked earlier about Bethel and how Albright excavated and then had to cover it over. Now it is an olive tree grove. That is where we are here. You can see the back of Joel talking to the Arab owner.
We were over at his house earlier.
This is the apse of that Byzantine church that was located where Abraham had built his altar.
Let’s see what happens in Joshua 7. In terms of consecration this kind of war can only take place under God’s direction and according to God’s rules. It is not going to be done on man’s rules. That is the point I am trying to get:
How do we distinguish cherem warfare from these other kinds of so-called “holy wars”?
The reason is because they are designed to validate and to express the righteousness of God. They are done God’s way. Man cannot go out there with sin in the camp. The LORD says to Joshua that this is what we are going to do. We are going to sanctify the people, Joshua 7:13, and tell them:
“Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel.’ ”
The next morning, after they have sanctified themselves spiritually, they are prepared. All of the tribes come out. They are going to move through the tribes by lot. In Joshua 7:15 we learn:
“Then it shall be that he who is taken with the accursed thing shall be burned with fire.”
- The person is going to be burned at the stake.
- All of his family is going to be killed.
- All of his possessions are going to be destroyed.
God took this seriously. Holy war is not that I am on some kind of crusade and I am going to kill people who do not agree with God. Cherem warfare, as it is defined in Scripture, is much more significant than that.
Joshua 7:16, “So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel by their tribes, and the tribe of Judah was taken.”
The tribe would be taken by lot.
Joshua 7:17–18, “He brought the clan of Judah, and he took the family of the Zarhites; and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. Then he brought his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.”
They are taken by family, clan, and by household. Achan, the son of Zabdi is identified. Joshua 7:19–20 says:
“Now Joshua said to Achan, ‘My son, I beg you, give glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.’ And Achan answered Joshua and said, ‘Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel…’ ”
You have got to confess sin. Even though Achan’s sin impacted the whole nation, the sin is always against God.
Remember this: Personal sin is a violation of whose standard?
- Not your husband’s standard.
- Not your wife’s standard.
- Not your friend’s standard.
- Not the nation’s standard.
- It is a violation of God’s standard.
Achan sinned against the Lord God. David said the same thing when he confessed his sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the conspiracy to murder her husband, Uriah the Hittite. David said in 2 Samuel 12:13, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Achan says, “‘Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I have done.’ ”
Then Achan explains what he has done. Skip down to Joshua 7:24:
“Then Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, ‘Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.’ So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones. Then they raised over him a great heap of stones, still there to this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the Valley of Achor to this day.”
What does that tell you?
That the writer is writing this at a time when the monument to Achan was still there. You can go there. It is historical. It happened in space-time history. It is not something that somebody made up.
Joshua 8 talks about their victory. They cannot have victory until they deal with sin.
Joshua 8:1, “Now the Lord said to Joshua: ‘Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed; take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land.’ ”
All of this is then described:
Joshua 8:9, “Joshua therefore sent them out; and they went to lie in ambush, and stayed between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai, but Joshua lodged that night among the people.”
The west side of Ai is that ridge that I pointed out where those houses are. You cannot really grasp the text unless you grasp the geography, because this happened in a real place. God is not just giving you spiritual principles. He is talking about things that happened in real places. We learn from that, but you cannot separate the doctrine from the location.
As we go through this Scripture, it describes the ambush and how they are destroyed. They destroy all of the people of Ai.
What is the point of all this?
As we are looking at understanding cherem we realize it is all about the integrity of God. It is all about His righteousness and His justice. He has graciously given the Canaanites enough rope to hang themselves. Now the hangmen are the Israelites that are coming into the Promised Land after 400 years.
It is not something that is arbitrary. It is not something that is done quickly. It is done out of grace. People are given an extension upon an extension, but God’s justice must prevail. His integrity must prevail.
This cherem is only directed to those who are specifically preventing the Israelites from fulfilling God’s plan for the nation. That is why God will call for the Amalekites to be annihilated. It is because they are seeking to destroy Israel. They become a prototype for all anti-Semites down through the centuries.
“Father, we thank You for the opportunity to study these things and to be reminded how important it is to understand Your Word in terms of its original context and in terms of the geography and the history of the land. That we understand that these are real things. These are genuine circumstances and situations that reflect Your integrity, Your righteousness, and Your justice. These are not just stories. These are not just motivational illustrations. These are designed to teach real-time events that teach us and communicate to us the importance of walking with You, walking in fellowship, dealing with the sin in our life, and honoring and glorifying You according to Your Word. Only then can we have real victory in the spiritual warfare that we are engaged in. We pray that we would be challenged by these things in Christ’s Name. Amen.”