Joshua 5-8: Israelites exterminate everyone in Jericho and Ai

Under Joshua’s command, the Israelites make flint knives and circumcise themselves.  They celebrate passover at Gilgal.  When Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw the “captain of the LORD’s host”.  He prostrated himself to the captain; the captain asked him to remove his shoes, and strangely enough, nothing further is described.  Then, under the LORD’s command, 7 priests carrying the Ark circle the city once every day for 6 days.  On the 7th day, they circle the city 7 times and give a big shout; the city walls come tumbling down.  The Israelites burn down the city and exterminate everything–man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and ass–except for Rahab the prostitute’s family.

However, one of the Israelites, Achan, violated God’s command to donate all valuable loot to the LORD’s treasury.  Due to this, God allows Ai to win a minor victory against the Israelites.  The LORD then points Achan out to the Israelites.  The Israelites kill Achan, his sons, and his daughters by stoning and by fire.

Then, the Israelites deceive Ai by feigning retreat.  While the soldiers of Ai are pursuing, they enter the city and burn it down.  After completely defeating the city, they exterminate the entire population, twelve thousand in all.


  • Archeological evidence shows that Jericho and Ai were uninhabited during the late Bronze Age, when the events described here would have happened.
  • It is not explained how the prostitute’s house was not destroyed when the wall fell down.  The house was built inside the wall, according to 2:15.
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