LESSON 47 – Failure and Conquest at Ai – Joshua 7-8


  • Joshua 7:1-9
    • What do we know at the beginning of this story that Joshua and the soldiers don’t know? (7:1 – Achan, a man from the tribe of Judah, had taken things for himself from Jericho. God is very angry.)
    • What is the military plan to take the city of Ai? NOTE: Look up Ai on a Bible map to see how far it is from Jericho. (7:2-3. Spies came back and said that Ai was no big deal. Just send out 2 or 3 thousand men and don’t worry the rest of the army.) Joshua followed this advice – notice that he didn’t ask God about what to do.
    • What happened? (7:4-5. 3,000 soldier went and it was a disaster.  Thirty-six Israelites died and they were chased back all the way back to the camp.)
    • How do the Israelites feel about this defeat? (7:5 – their hearts melted and became like water [NAS version] – this means they were scared to death)
  • Joshua 7:10-25.  Joshua now goes to God in prayer.
    • Where does he go and who goes with him? (7:6,7. He kneels before the Ark and the elders come too.)
    • What is Joshua’s prayer? (7:7-9. He correctly gives God the credit for the defeat – not the people of Ai. Since he knows nothing about Achan he is confused and overwrought. He asks why then didn’t just stay on the other side of the Jordan. He is afraid that when the Canaanites find out about this defeat they will surround them and wipe them out. He reminds God that this would not be a good thing for God’s reputation either.)
    • How does God respond? (7:10-15. He asks Joshua why he’s lying on the ground and tells him to get up and take care of the problem.) God instructs Joshua to tell the Israelites they need to get right with God, find out who has the consecrated items stolen from God and that until this is done they will be unable to have victory over their enemies.
    • How does Joshua find out who stole the items? (vs. 16-18. We are not told how exactly each tribe and family group were selected. One commentator called it a “divine manhunt”. Each group was brought before Joshua and God in some indicated which group had the guilty party.  First the tribes came, then the clans, then the families and lastly each male head of household from that family.) 
    • Who was the guilty party? (7:18. Achan from the tribe of Judah.)
    • What did Achan say had happened and what had he taken from Jericho? (7:20-21. He immediately acknowledges his sin. He says he saw the things, he coveted them and then he took them. The things he stole were: a robe from Babylonia, 200 shekels of silver – about 5 lbs, and a wedge of gold that weighed about 1.25 lbs.) Achan tells Joshua were the things are in his tent and soldiers are sent to find it and bring it back.
    • What did they do to Achan? Who else was punished? (7:22-26. Joshua and the Israelites took Achan outside the camp along with the things he stole, his sons and daughters, his own cattle, donkeys and sheep and stoned all of them.  They then burned what was left and heaped a large pile of rocks over them.)
  • Joshua 8:1-29
    • What encouraging words does God give Joshua now that sin problem has been taken care of? (8:1-2. To not be afraid or discouraged, because God will now give them victory over Ai. They were to take all of the fighting force, not just a few men. They were going to destroy everyone and burn the city just like in Jericho, but this time they could carry off the plunder for themselves.  God’s plan was an ambush.)
    • You may read the story of the attack to your children or you can summarize it. Drawing a picture of what happened can be helpful. This is really a very clever plan. First, Joshua took all the forces and marched on Ai. Joshua took 5,000 men and set them between Bethel and Ai – west of the city – to wait for his signal. (Check your map for Ai and Bethel.) Then Joshua went back with the rest of the army. The men of Bethel thought they would have an easy victory when they saw Joshua’s group start to attack. They rushed out of the walled city like the last time. Joshua and his men fell back, faking that they were retreating. The men of Ai, thinking they had the Israelites beaten emptied the city. No men were left to protect it.  At that point, Joshua takes up his staff and points it toward the men hidden on the other side of the city. They rush into Ai and set it on fire. Ai’s men look back and see their city on fire. Joshua’s forces turn around and start to attack. The forces in the city come out against the men of Ai and they are trapped and have no place to retreat. No survivors remained (12,000 in all were killed) except the king who was brought to Joshua. The king was hanged and then his body dumped in front of the city gate. They buried him with rocks.  The writer Joshua many years later (probably Joshua himself) notes that the pile of rocks is still there. (These rocks are not visible today however!)
    • Joshua 8:30-35. After the victory at Ai Joshua brought the Israelites together at Mt. Gerizim and Ebal and obeyed the command of Moses by reading to everyone (even the “strangers” – those Egyptians who had come with them and others along the way) the Law. They also sacrificed animals as directed by Moses in an expression of worship and obedience.  As the people are getting ready to settle into their new homes, they needed to be reminded of God’s blessings and curses.


If Jericho was a picture of the world, then Ai is a picture of the flesh. Pride and overconfidence will cause failure and create serious consequences – not for just you, but for all those that love you. That is the central point of this lesson. The nation of Israel lost a battle because of one man’s sin – 36 were dead and the reputation of God’s people was tarnished.  When Christians sin the world doesn’t judge just that one person – the whole Church gets the blame. We are seen as hypocrites and failures.  If we claim Christ, we need to be sure we live like it, because God’s reputation and the reputation of our school, church, family, etc is at stake. Israel’s experience at Ai is very like many Christians today who don’t walk closely with the Lord. Here’s a summary of what happens:

  1. Obedience followed by victory.
  2. Victory followed by blessing.
  3. Blessing followed by pride and disobedience. {We think we did it ourselves!}
  4. Disobedience followed by defeat. {The Lord humbles us}
  5. Defeat followed by judgment. {We face consequences for our actions}
  6. Judgment followed by repentance.
  7. Repentance followed by obedience.
  8. Obedience followed by victory, and the cycle continues.

Encourage your family to break the cycle. Remain obedient in every circumstance; guard against pride; use the resources God gives you (like your parents and teachers); don’t go easy on the enemy (give yourself permission to sin); pray and ask for God’s direction – then take it! Ask your family to share their struggles with each other. Is someone having trouble controlling their temper? How about wanting a comfortable, entertaining life? Pray for each others.

Digging Deeper

  1. Notice the progression of sin in Achan’s confession in Joshua 7:21. Compare this to James’ warning in James 1:12-15.  How are we to overcome the flesh? Look up Romans 8:1-17 and Galatians 5:15-26 for further study on this subject. Next, make a 4 panel comic strip that illustrates the sin pattern of Achan only with a more modern temptation. The last panel must include a way for the person to escape the temptation and a Bible verse needs to be referenced.
  2. In a day of little commitment and broken covenants, renewal is important. What promises have you made to God? In what ways can you renew your covenants? One way is to write them down and keep them with you to help you remember.  Take a 4 x 6 card or a 3 x 5 card, write your promise to God and then illustrate or decorate it. If you have a verse to go along with the covenant, write it on the card as well. The purpose of this assignment is to give you a reminder of how you have determined to obey God.