HILE the Israelites at God's word were destroying the city of Jericho there was one man who disobeyed God's command. A man named Achan, of the tribe of Judah, saw in one house a beautiful garment that had come from Babylon, and a wedge-shaped piece of gold and some silver. He looked at it, longed to have it for his own, took it secretly to his tent, and hid it. He thought that no one had seen him do this thing. But God saw it all; and Achan's robbery of God, to whom everything belonged that was in Jericho, brought great trouble to Israel.
From Jericho there was a road up the ravines and valleys leading to the mountain country. On one of the hills above the plain stood a little city called Ai. Joshua did not think it needful for all the army to go and take Ai, because it was a small place. So he sent a small army of three thousand men. But the men of Ai came out against them, and killed a number of them, and drove them away, so that they failed to take the city.
And when the rest of the people heard of this defeat they were filled with fear. Joshua was alarmed, not because he was afraid of the Canaanites, but because he knew that God was not with the men who went against Ai. And Joshua fell on his face before the Lord, and said:
"O Lord God, why hast thou led us across Jordan only to let us fall before our enemies? What shall I say, O Lord, now that the men of Israel have been beaten and driven away?"
And God said to Joshua:
"Israel has sinned. They have disobeyed my words, and have broken their promise. They have taken the treasure that belongs to me, and have kept it. And that is the reason why I have left them to suffer from their enemies. My curse shall rest on the people until they bring back that which is stolen, and punish the man who robbed me." And God told Joshua how to find the man who had done this evil thing.
The next morning, very early, Joshua called all the tribes of Israel to come before him. When the tribe of Judah came near God showed to Joshua that this was the tribe. Then as the divisions of Judah came by God pointed out one division; and in that division one household, and in that household one family, and in that family one man. Achan was singled out as the man who had robbed God.
And Joshua said to Achan, "My son, give honor to the Lord God, and confess your sin to him; and tell me now what you have done. Do not try to hide it from me."
And Achan said, "I have sinned against the Lord. I saw in Jericho a garment from Babylon, and a wedge of gold, and some pieces of silver, and I hid them in my tent." Then Joshua sent messengers, who ran to the tent of Achan, and found the hidden things, and brought them out before all the people.
Then, because Achan's crime had harmed all the people, and because his children were with him in the crime, they took them all, Achan, and his sons and his daughters, and the treasure that had been stolen, and even his sheep and his oxen, and his tent, and all that was in it. And the people threw stones upon them until all were dead; then they burned their bodies and all the things in the tent. And over the ashes they piled up a heap of stones, so that all who saw it would remember what came to Achan for his sin.
Thus did God show to his people how careful they must be to obey his commands, if they would have God with them. After this Joshua sent another army, larger than before, against Ai. And they took the city, and destroyed it, as they had destroyed Jericho. But God allowed the people to take for themselves what they found in the city of Ai.
Then they marched on over the mountains, until they came near to the city of Shechem, in the middle of the land of Canaan. The people of the land were so filled with fear that none of them resisted the march of the Israelites. Near Shechem are the two mountains, Ebal on the north, and Gerizim on the south. Between these is a great hollow place, like a vast bowl. There Joshua gathered all the people of Israel, with their wives and their children.
In the midst of this place they built an altar of unhewn stones heaped up, for they had left the Tabernacle and the brazen altar standing in the camp at Gilgal, by Jordan. On this new altar they gave offerings to the Lord and worshipped.
Then before all the people Joshua read the law which Moses had written. And all the people, with their wives, and even the little children, listened to the law of the Lord. Half of the tribes stood on the slope of Mount Ebal on the north, and these, as Joshua read the words of warning which God had given to those who should disobey, all answered with one voice "Amen." And the other half of the tribes stood on the slope of Mount Gerizim on the south; and as Joshua read God's words of blessing to those who should obey the law, these answered "Amen."
When they had done all this, and thus given the land to the Lord and pledged themselves to serve God, they marched again down the mountains, past the smouldering ruins of Ai, past the heap of stones that covered Achan, and past the broken walls of Jericho, back to the camp at Gilgal beside the river.
Jericho as it now is