'Studies in the Old Testament'

God leads Israel into Canaan - 7

February, 2010

(Continued from page 427)

The Sin of Achan and its' impact on Israel

Prior to the invasion of Jericho, God gave specific commands regarding the "spoil" inside the city.  The old cliché, "To the victor [go] the spoils" is not only true in military circles, but it is true with God as well. It was as if God said, "This is My battle; this is My military victory. I do not need you to help Me defeat Jericho; therefore all of the spoil, all of the booty, is Mine."  Reading in Joshua 6:17-191:

17  "And the city shall be under the ban, it and all that is in it belongs to the LORD; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in the house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent.  18  "But
as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, lest you covet them and take some of the things under the ban, so you would make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it.  19  "But all the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron are holy to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD."

Jericho had been placed "under the ban," a phrase which comes from the Hebrew word,
herem, "a devoted thing, a ban" and is therefore translated "under the ban" in some translations to indicate something sanctified to the Lord, so "accursed" here doesn't mean in the sense of something being a curse (although some would argue that the result for Achan and his family, and for all Israel, was a curse of sorts).  The verb form, haram, means "to ban, devote, or destroy utterly." Basically, this word refers to the exclusion of an object from use or abuse by man along with its irreversible surrender to God. It is related to an Arabic root meaning "to prohibit, especially to ordinary use." The "harem," meaning the special quarters for Muslim wives, comes from this word. So, to surrender something to God meant devoting it to the service of God or putting it under a ban for utter destruction.7

For something to be under the ban meant one of two things.
1. Everything living was to be completely destroyed. This has been called barbaric and primitive - nothing less than the murder of innocent lives, but the Canaanites were by no means innocent. They were a vile people who practiced the basest forms of immorality including child sacrifice. God had given them over four hundreds of years to repent, but now their iniquity had become full (see Genesis 15:16; Leviticus 18:24-28). The one family who did turn to the Lord (Rahab and her family) were spared. As with Sodom and Gomorrah, if there had been even ten righteous, God would have spared the city (Genesis 18), but since he could not find even ten, He removed Lot and his family (Genesis 19). Further, if any city had repented as did Nineveh at the preaching of Jonah, He would have spared that city, but in spite of all the miraculous works of God which they had heard of, there was no repentance, they remained steadfast in their depravity.  Norman Geisler commented:

. . . . the battle confronting Israel was not simply a religious war; it was a theocratic war. Israel was directly ruled by God and the extermination was God's direct command (cf. Exodus 23:27-30; Deuteronomy 7:3-6; Joshua 8:24-26). No other nation either before or after Israel has been a theocracy. Thus, those commands were unique. Israel as a theocracy was an instrument of judgment in the hands of God.5

2. All the valuable objects like gold and silver were to be dedicated to the Lord's treasury. This was evidently to be done as a kind of first fruits of the land and an evidence of the people's trust in the Lord's supply for the future (cf. Leviticus 27:28-29).

If man touches that set aside for God he therefore risks the very wrath of God for the spoil belonged to Him since He was the sole victor in the battle against Jericho.&nb