But all of Israel was deemed unfaithful in utterly destroying everything in Jericho because this one guy, Achan, took some plunder. So God was angry with all of Israel.
Wasn’t there something earlier in this bible about God not punishing the innocent for the sins of the guilty?
Anyway, Josh sends some spies to Ai and they come back and say, “We don’t have to take the whole army, just send about 3,000 men.” So Joshua sends about 3,000 men and they lose the battle and 36 soldiers are killed.
The implication of this story is that God was angry with them, so He let their enemies defeat them and kill 36 guys who had nothing to do with the sin of Achan.
Everyone cries and mourns and Josh asks God, “Why’d you even bring us here if you’re going to abandon us, we should have stayed on the other side of the Jordan.”
God: Why are you sad, you guys sinned against me and took plunder from Jericho!
Josh: No, we didn’t.
God: Cast lots to see who it is.
Josh: Couldn’t you just tell us who it is? You are God… come on…
God: Play the dice game.
So they find out Achan took the plunder, and yet again, God was somehow pissed with the ENTIRE nation for the sin of one. So they get Achan to confess that he took some stuff from Jericho, they bring the stuff out of his tent, and then they throw big heavy rocks at him, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, and his stuff and burned it with fire and put up a heap of stones over them.
And this apparently made God happy again.
Let me posit an alternative scenario.
Josh makes a tactical mistake and sends a small force head on against a walled city. They lose the battle. Josh and the priests say it’s because of sin. They find this guy who took some stuff from Jericho and kill him because obviously God must be punishing all of them for what this guy did. And we should go ahead and kill his family too because… we like chucking big rocks at people?
Josh tries a change of tactics. He takes the entire army, sends off 30,000 men to ambush the men of Ai, and then pretends to run away from them. The men of Ai send everyone out to pursue and then the 30,000 Israelis march in, set the town on fire and start plundering and killing. Then the main army turned around and they killed all of the men of Ai. They captured the king of Ai and brought him to Josh. And they genocided the rest of the town, men, women and children, about 12,000 people in all. They looted the town and then set it on fire and hung the king of Ai from a tree.
And then they worshipped God because this book is just horrible.
So the politics of the Canaan come into play. The local kings of the city-states band together to fight against Israel, seeing as how the Israelites have sacked and burned two cities to the ground. Meanwhile, another city, Gibeon decided not to fight, and instead try and broker a peace arrangement with Josh and his wacky genocidal band of merry men.
Maybe they heard that the Israelites weren’t supposed to make peace treaties with the people of Canaan, so they dress their envoys in old worn clothes, gather some hard, dried out bread, and some old wineskins and send them to Josh.
So they said, “Hey, guys… we’re from a really, really far country, you wouldn’t have heard of it, I’m sure, but we’ve heard of you and how your God totes killed the Egyptians and we were hoping we could, you know, not be genocided if that’s okay with you?”
Josh: How do we know you’re not from around these parts?
Envoys: No, no, we’re from a really far country, one you haven’t heard of, because look at our old clothes and shoes, they’re so old they’re from last season, but they were new and fashionable when we left, and look at our bread, it was warm and piping hot and now it’s crusty and dry and moldy.
Josh: Okay, good enough for me. We won’t kill you and your wives and children.
Josh was not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.
Three days later, Josh finds out the truth and everyone is angry, but they all agree that they made a pact with the Gibeonites not to kill them. So Josh called the envoys back and said… and I’m not joking here:
Josh: Why did you lie to us about being from far away?!?
Envoys: Dude, you’re joking, right? Why would we do this? Because we heard that you crazed religious zealots think your God ordered you to flippin’ kill us all!
Josh: That’s so unfair… I was looking forward to the killing. Alright, I guess you can be our slaves.
And they all lived happily ever after.