Thursday, August 26, 2004

Joshua 8A: The conquest of Ai

This time, Joshua returns with overwhelming force, at least 35,000 men against at most 6,000 men from Ai. He sends 5,000 of them to attack the unguarded city after the soldiers of Ai and-- note Bethel also--have been drawn off in pursuit of the Israelites. This would also ensure the men of Bethel, the larger city, could not reinforce Ai before it was burned. Joshua camps with to the north of the city. In the night he goes into the valley in which his soldiers were trapped the previous time, one presumes with a number of troops. When the men of both Bethel and Ai pursue Joshua, they will encounter this larger force and be trapped, with 5,000 raiders above them burning their homes and killing their families.

In a scene reminiscent of Moses fighting against the Amalekites in Exodus 17, Joshua extends his javelin against Ai. The Israelites are allowed to keep the plunder this time. In a foreshadowing of the crucifixion of Jesus, Joshua hangs the king of Ai on a tree, but has the corpse taken down before evening in accord with Deuteronomy 21:22-3 "If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse. You must not desecrate the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance." So in the end, Bethel's defensive army is destroyed, and Ai massacred and extinguished.

Maps of Ei-Tell, generally associated with Ai are found at:

Bethel is often associated with Beit-el, but the identification is not certain ( Although Genesis 12:8 speaks of a mountain between Bethel and Ai, the traditional identification of Beitin with Bethelis inconsistent. An alternate site for Ai is el Bireh, with Khirbet Nisya the alternate location for Bethel. (
The argument for the alternate location of Ai is given here:
and here:


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