As I have mentioned previously, for many years I struggled with pornography. There is much shame that goes into addiction. You feel bad for what you have done, and you often hate who you are. Added to that pain is the problems you feel have been created around you.
No matter how private your sin, the story of Achan is often used to guilt you into more shame. While what Achan did was wrong, I believe too much blame is focused on him. Our prejudice to hate sin makes us miss God’s heart of this story. I hope to remove some of that shame and release a fresh view of the love of God.
Sin in the Camp
Before the miraculous victory of Jericho, the Israelites were commanded not to take any of the spoils that would come from the victory – all the gold, silver, and other precious things belonged to God. Everything was to be killed or left buried. Achan saw Jericho fall but then coveted some of the riches in the plunder. He must have seen an opportunity and took some.
Nobody else knew what happened, and the Israelites kept moving forward into the next battle. The only problem was God decided not to go with them this time, and the Israelites experienced a big defeat to the city of Ai. Joshua and the elders wept before the Lord and sought His face, and God told them He didn’t go with them because there was sin in the camp. God gave Joshua instructions of what to do.
Joshua parades the Israelites around narrowing them down to the tribe of Judah, then to the clan of Zerah, then to the family of Zimri. Finally, Joshua had each member of the Zimri family come before him until Achan was chosen. Achan confesses his sin, and the Israelites check to make sure he is telling the truth. Once they are convinced of what Achan did, the Israelites stone Achan, the spoils, his family, and his possessions in the Valley of Achor. They pile the stones up so high it became a lasting memorial in Israel of what happened.
A Greater Sin in the Camp
For someone struggling with sin, this passage terrifies you. It appears to offer no hope and is often taught this way. “Your sins are keeping those around you of God’s blessings.” Or, “we will never accomplish what God has called us to with sin in our midst.” These statements are true to some extent, but they are not the purpose of God’s story. Achan’s sin did not cause Israel to lose the battle of Ai. There was a more grievous sin in Israel’s midst that God was trying to root out.
Achan may have cause God’s presence not to go with Israel into the battle, but the responsibility was with Joshua to follow the presence. The Bible makes it clear that Joshua did not inquire of the Lord before the battle. The Israelites investigated the city of Ai and determined that it would be an easy battle. They made a rational conclusion and didn’t seek the Lord’s direction. The point is that Joshua should have known God’s presence would not go with them. He was supposed to seek the Lord.
This is highlighted even more in the Gibeonite deception that happens in the next story. They didn’t inquire of the Lord again and thus were deceived into making a treaty with people they were commanded to destroy.
The point I believe God was making with these two stories and with the battle of Jericho to some extent was that God wanted the Israelites to follow His lead. Yes, they were being given the land, but they were to follow God to know that He was the One giving it to them. He had a specific way for them to take the land, and He wanted them sensitive to His presence. Achan’s sin didn’t lead to the defeat of Ai; it was that Joshua’s sin of not inquiring of the Lord before sending Israel into the battle.
Achan was Framed
It is easy to read God’s hatred of sin, but also I don’t think God’s plan was to kill Achan. If that was the case, God could have told Joshua, “Psst, Achan stole some of the plunder. Go to his tent and you’ll find it buried underneath.” Instead, God had Joshua parade Israel all around. Each step closer to Achan was another opportunity for Him to confess.
However, our fear of punishment keeps our problems hidden. Sure we all want freedom, but all we can see is the strong hand of punishment coming for our heads. The truth is we don’t see God telling Joshua to kill Achan. Joshua was told to destroy the plunder, not the person (Joshua 7:12). Why have Achan confess if the plan was to kill him? Our familiarity with God frequently gets us out of step with His Spirit because we assume how He wants us to act.
God Was for Achan
Later on in the Old Testament, God says that the Valley of Achor has become a door of hope (Hosea 2:15). Sin does keep you from God’s best for you. It hinders you from seeing God’s love for you. The Valley of Achor, that place where your sins are exposed, that place where you only see death and punishment, … that is the place you will find hope for your freedom. It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Let’s allow those around us to come clean and find love and hope in our eyes. Let us love others as God loves us.
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Actually God did tell Joshua to kill Achan. In Joshua 7:15 it records God’s words to Joshua, “15 Then it shall be that he who is taken with the accursed thing shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done a disgraceful thing in Israel.’”
I read it like the case of Moses at the water at Meribah. Even though there is opportunity for repentance and forgiveness, there may still be lasting consequences for sin. Moses wasn’t allowed to enter Canaan despite being made right with God.
First of all, I apologize for the belated reply. I have been traveling back to America the last couple months and haven’t been diligent on my blog besides the posts, and they have even been more sporadic than I would have liked.
I am aware of this verse and I agree you can make a case that God would have killed Achan even if he confessed. My thinking is that God’s compassion and love for humility overrides His need for justice. Even in the Old Testament, we have examples of God relenting when there is a display of humility before the Lord.
Thank you for your comment and insight. I wish you all the best.
God was for Achan????
No.tread carefully there lest you pervert the word of God. God never sides with disobedience. To obey is better than sacrifice. Achan’s was outright disobedience and his actions cost 36 men.
God makes it clear to Joshua they did not win over Ai because there was an accursed thing in their midst.not because Joshua didn’t go to God before the attack. There was a grievous sin in Israel.
God is merciful. But he hates sin. Lets calk out sin for what it is. The modern church is guilty of not preaching fervently against sin…and trying to absorb Achan of blame and trying to paint his sin as favourable with God is really weird. Very very strange i must say.
I believe God is for all of us. He says that He doesn’t want any to perish but all to come to repentance. He also says He doesn’t change.
You are definitely in the majority believing that God wanted to expose Achan’s sin and make him as a sin to Israel of God’s holiness. But, if this is the case, why does He not just tell Joshua who committed the sin instead of going through the whole show?
Later in Hosea, God says that He will make their valley of Achor become a door of hope. God wants us to trust Him that we can come to Him with our mistakes and sin so we can find freedom. If we fear He will smite us for every wrongdoing, then we will never come to Him.
Achan’s sin was very serious and caused the Israelites from winning the first battle with Ai. However, God wasn’t trying to kill His people, we wanted cleansing so they can move forward. If Joshua sought the Lord’s direction before going to battle, they could have avoided the whole thing. The same could be true with the Gibeonite deception.
God has definite ideas of right and wrong, but He is not an angry God waiting to immediately punish us with the smallest infraction. However, if we refuse His solution to our sin, then even the smallest infraction will send people to hell.
Your analysis of the sin of Israel/Achan is incorrect because of a misunderstanding of God’s nature and His repsonse to sin. This has been the way of the religion of man that disregards the religon of God. It is hard to listen to a God of wrath. God’s wrath is as real as His love and until we read the Bible accounts in respect to this then we are destined to err in understanding and application. As a previous responder said you expiciltiy denied that God commanded the sinner to be destroyed along with the accursed things. That is error! The text says: But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel. -Joshua 7:1. God said Israel sinned, even though one was guilty. We see a collective responsiblity for the sin of one, much like the prophets would take ownership for the guilt of the nation even though they themsevles did not commit those sins (Daniel 9:5). God says Israel has sinned and thus they had. Do not presume to speak for God!
Get up, sanctify the people, and say, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the Lord God of Israel: “There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you.” In the morning therefore you shall be brought according to your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the Lord takes shall come according to families; and the family which the Lord takes shall come by households; and the household which the Lord takes shall come man by man. Then it shall be that he who is taken with the accursed thing shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done a disgraceful thing in Israel.’ ” -Josuah 7:13-15.
He who had taken the accursed things and the things themsleves were to be burned up! Now to presume God would be merciful if Achan would have come forward sooner, especially before the battle at Ai is too much speculation for the lesson of the event. Like I said at the beginning, we must understand the fullness of God’s nature and stop forcing our presumption into the illustrations He gives us.
Modern spins of Old Testament texts will not work! Should Joshua had consulted God? Most definitely! Would he prevented the tragedy of the battle? Most assuredly! Would Achan been saved, from physical death? That depends on God! God owns the right as judge and He is a righteous judge, for they knew not to take of the accursed things for themselves of the city of Jericho (Joshua 6:18-19) God did His part by telling them what to do and not to do, it was up to them to obey. God does desire all men to come to repentance (2Peter 3:9), however, never presume that God’s longsuffering and mercy nullifies His divine judgment and condemnation. The example of Achan teaches us we must obey God’s directive or we and by consequence, others will be punished! This is not a lesson on not shaming, find an example that is, and leave text alone that don’t, because you do a disservice to the scriptures(2Timothy 2:15). Don’t force narratives that aren’t there! Poor exegisis will put us in disharmony with God everytime, and this is a perfect example of such!
Chuck, thank you for your opinions on the subject. Much can be speculated on what didn’t happen. Achan didn’t confess; Achan didn’t survive. However, my view of God’s nature is consistent with other stories in the Old Testament. David finally realizes his sin and gets the verdict that his son would die. He immediate fasted and prayed knowing that God may yet be merciful to him (2 Samuel 12:22). Jonah didn’t want to go to Ninevah because He knew God just might be merciful on them and not actually punish them (Jonah 4:2). We should never presume upon His mercy by taking our sin lightly, however, your view of Achan negates the reality of a merciful God, who desires reconciliation with His world in every aspect of their lives. It will encourage people to hide their sin because there would be no help for them. Would God have forgiven Achan? Only God knows. But could it have been possible? Absolutely.
By the way, be careful how you “correct” those who don’t agree with you, thinking you have the perfect understanding of Scripture or judging motives of the one you disagree with. We all have to be careful that we don’t teach perfect understanding of a passage while not representing other clear commands through the manner of our words. You can have dialogue without making accusations.