The Capture of Ai
Joshua sent men from Jericho to a city called Ai, saying to them: "Go up and view the country." And the men went up and explored all the land around Ai. When they came back to Joshua they reported that the people were few in number and that it would take only two or three thousand men to capture the land.
So Joshua sent three thousand men to capture Ai, but when they reached the city and the men of Ai came out to give battle, the soldiers of Joshua were afraid and fled before the men of Ai, and about thirty-six of them were killed. When Joshua heard of this he tore his clothes and fell with his face to the ground and put dust upon his head, according to the custom in those days of expressing grief.
"What shall we do when Israel flees before the face of its enemies?" Joshua cried aloud to the Lord. "Behold, the Canaanites shall hear of it and shall surround us and cut us off from the face of the earth."
The Lord told Joshua to rise up from the ground, and sanctify the people for there was one among them who had sinned and that was the reason why the soldiers of Israel fled before the men of Ai. He must find out who had done wrong and punish him before the people could hope to conquer their enemies. Then the Lord told Joshua to have all the people march by tribes, then by households, then by man and man, and he would show him the guilty one.
So they marched before Joshua, and first a tribe was marked by the Lord, then a household was marked, and finally a man named Achan was marked as guilty of sin. "My son, tell me now what you have done, and hide it not from me," Joshua said to Achan.
Achan told him that he saw among the spoils of Jericho a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold and he wanted them. So he took them for himself and hid them in his tent with some silver also, instead of bringing them into the treasury of the Lord.
Joshua hastened to send messengers to the tent of Achan, who searched his tent and found the spoils and the silver. They took all they found and brought it to Joshua, who laid it before the people of Israel. Achan stood before them and confessed to the crime of stealing that which belonged to the Lord.
Then Joshua and the people of Israel took Achan and all his family, and all his property and carried them to the valley of Achor. There they stoned them with stones and burned them with fire. Afterwards they raised a great heap of stones over the dead bodies to let the people know that the Lord would punish those who disobeyed him.
Then the Lord told Joshua: "Fear not; take all the people of war with you and go against Ai. I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people and his city and his land." Joshua then chose thirty thousand men and sent them away by night, and told them to lie in wait behind the city but not very far and be ready when he needed them. So the thirty thousand men went and hid in ambush behind the city of Ai.
Joshua took other soldiers with him in the morning and came near Ai and left five thousand in another ambush before the city. Then he approached the city with a few men, and the king of Ai came out with his soldiers to give battle. Joshua made as if he were beaten and fled before the soldiers of Ai, and all the people of Ai and the soldiers of Ai pursued them until there was not a soul left in the city.
Then Joshua turned and stretched out his hand as the Lord commanded him, and the ambush arose behind the city and on one side of the city, and the great army of Israel rushed into Ai and set fire to it.
Then the soldiers that were with Joshua turned and caught the men of Ai between the burning city and themselves. Other soldiers of Israel came from behind and from one side until the men of Ai were surrounded and could not escape. They were slain, every man of them, except the king of Ai, who was captured alive and brought to Joshua. Joshua afterwards had him hanged on a tree and his body covered with a great heap of stones at the gate of the city, which had been destroyed by fire.