The Sin of Achan

O Israel: you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you. Joshua 7:13

Does anybody know the story of Achan? I recently read about him in Joshua 7. His disobedience towards the Lord cost him and his family their lives. It should not have taken him by surprise though, for the Lord had fairly warned him and all Israel. Joshua and the Israelites were ready to take the city of Jericho under the direction of God Almighty and before they headed in, the Lord gave them a very stern warning. Here’s how it went down.

And you, by all means keep yourselves from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. Joshua 6:18

I love how God prefaced “by all means”. He is practically begging Israel, warning them with love and authority, directing them as clearly as possible to not touch, look upon, consider or even think about taking the accursed things they WILL MOST DEFINITELY find in the city of Jericho. But Achan did not listen. He took a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels (Joshua 7:21). Achan says he coveted them and took them. Meaning, he stopped fighting, which was his sole reason for being there, stared at the forbidden items and somehow snuck them back to his tent. I doubt he continued to fight with such weight now requiring his strength and attention. He shifted his strength in another direction. He abandoned his Godly mission to take for himself the things God had clearly warned him not to take.

God had warned them against the accursed things. Damnable, detestable: that is what accursed means. These things would bring trouble to the camp of Israel. Israel was called to be a Holy people, not damnable and detestable.

After the fall of Jericho, Joshua and three thousand men attacked the city of Ai. The people in the city of Ai were few and yet Israel ran home with their tales between their legs and lost about 36 men that day. Joshua and all Israel were so confused, for had that not just taken down Jericho?

And the Lord told Joshua, “Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore unless you destroy the accursed from among you.” Joshua 7:11-12 God always keeps his word.

So Joshua, through the sorting of tribes, families, households and then man to man, brought Achan forward, along with the stuff he had stolen, his sons and daughters, his oxen, donkeys and sheep and all that he had. And Joshua asked Achan, “Why have you troubled us?” And right there, that day, Achan and all that he had were stoned to death and set on fire. I can barely read it. It’s so troubling isn’t it? Not to mention the 36 men who’s lives were lost in the battle of Ai. Thirty-nine families lost their men because of the disobedience of Achan. Whew – tough stuff!

God is powerful is He not? He keeps his word. His Holiness is everything. He will never allow his Holiness to be shared with the accursed things of this world. Are we not so blessed to be loved by a righteous God? How tenderly he loves us while in a breath he could destroy us. Who today is grateful for the mercy of God…



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