The Conquest of Ai
3 So Joshua set out with all the people of war to go up against Ai; then Joshua chose thirty thousand valiant men, and sent them out at night. 4 He commanded them, saying, “Listen closely, you are going to lie in wait and ambush the city from behind it. Do not go very far away from the city, but all of you be ready. 5 Then I and all the people who are with me will approach the city. And when they come out to meet us [for battle] as [they did] the first time, we will run away from them. 6 They will come out after us until we have lured them away from the city, because they will say, ‘They are running from us as [they did] before.’ So we will run from them. 7 Then you will emerge from the ambush and take possession of the city, for the Lord your God will hand it over to you. 8 When you have taken the city, you shall set it on fire; you shall do [exactly] as the Lord commanded. See, I have commanded you.” 9 So Joshua sent them off, and they went to the place for the ambush and stayed [hidden] between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai; but Joshua spent that night among the people [in Gilgal].
10 Now Joshua got up early in the morning and assembled the people, and went up with the elders of Israel before the people to Ai. 11 Then all the fighting men who were with him went up and advanced and arrived in front of the city, and camped on the north side of Ai. Now there was a ravine between them and Ai. 12 And Joshua took about five thousand men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city. 13 So they stationed the people, all the army—the main encampment that was north of the city, and their rear guard on the west side of the city—and Joshua spent that night in the valley. 14 Now when the king [and the people] of Ai saw it, the men of the city hurried and got up early and went out to meet Israel in battle, the king and all his people at the appointed [time and] place before the desert plain (the Arabah). But he did not know that there was an ambush against him [waiting] behind the city [on the west side]. 15 So Joshua and all Israel pretended to be defeated by them, and ran toward the wilderness. 16 Then all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were lured away from the city. 17 Not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who had not gone out after Israel; so they left the city open and unguarded and they pursued Israel.
18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Reach out with the spear that is in your hand [and point it] toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand.” So Joshua reached out with the spear in his hand [and pointed it] toward the city. 19 The [men in] ambush emerged quickly from their [hiding] place, and when Joshua stretched out his hand they ran and entered the city and captured it, and quickly set the city on fire. 20 When the men of Ai turned back and looked, behold, the smoke of the city was ascending toward the sky, [a]and they had no opportunity to run this way or that way. Then the people who had been running to the wilderness turned back toward the pursuers. 21 When Joshua and all Israel saw that the [men in] ambush had taken the city and that the smoke of the city was ascending, they turned back and struck down the men of Ai. 22 Then the others came out of the city to confront the men of Ai [as they returned], so that they were trapped in the midst of Israel, some on this side and some on that side; then Israel struck them until none of them survived or escaped. 23 But they took the king of Ai alive and brought him to Joshua.
24 When Israel had finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the field in the wilderness where they pursued them, and they had all fallen by the edge of the sword until they were destroyed, then all Israel returned to Ai and struck it with the edge of the sword. 25 And all who fell that day, both men and women, were twelve thousand, all the people of Ai. 26 For Joshua did not withdraw his hand with which he stretched out the spear until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. 27 Israel took only the livestock and the spoil of that city as plunder for themselves, according to the word of the Lord which He had commanded Joshua. 28 So Joshua burned Ai and made it a [b]rubbish heap forever, a desolation until this day. 29 He [c]hanged [the body of] the king of Ai on a tree [leaving it there] until evening; at sunset Joshua gave a command and they took the body down from the tree and dumped it at the entrance of the city gate, and piled a great heap of stones over it that stands to this day.
30 Then Joshua built an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, on Mount Ebal, 31 just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the sons of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, an altar of uncut stones on which no one has wielded an iron tool; and they offered on it burnt offerings to the Lord, and sacrificed peace offerings. 32 And there, in the presence of the sons of Israel, Joshua wrote on the stones a copy of the Law of Moses which Moses had written. 33 All Israel, the stranger as well as the native born [among them], with their elders and officers and their judges, stood on either side of the ark before the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord. Half of them stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded at first to bless the people of Israel. 34 Then afterward Joshua read all the words of the law, the blessing and curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before the entire assembly of Israel, including the women and the children and the foreigners who were living among them.
- Joshua 8:20 Lit it was not in their hands.
- Joshua 8:28 Heb tel.
- Joshua 8:29 This was not an execution by hanging; the king was killed beforehand, probably with a sword, then his body was hung up (or impaled) to further shame him in the minds of others.