Old Testament Story List

Conquering Host

After the victory at Jericho, the Israelites wanted to move farther into the land of Canaan. Joshua sent spies to Ai, the next town. "Go up and view the country," he told them.

When they returned, they told Joshua, "We will need only three thousand men to take the city, because it is small.

So, Joshua sent three thousand soldiers to Ai. This time the soldiers did not return with shouts of victory. Instead they came running with the men of Ai right behind them. A few brave Israelites even lost their lives in the battle.

How discouraged the Israelites were at their defeat! Joshua was so troubled that he tore his clothes and fell on his face before the ark. It was a long time before he could find words to say. Finally, he prayed, "O Lord God, why did this happen? Why did our men turn their backs on their enemies? What will people say about our God when they know we have been defeated?"

And God said, "I cannot help the Israelites when there is sin in the camp. I commanded that no one should take anything for himself from Jericho, but one has disobeyed."

The next day Joshua searched for the man who had done this. Joshua discovered that Achan was the guilty man. Joshua told him, "My son, confess your wrong to the Lord, and tell me what you have done. Do not hide it from me."

Achan said, "Yes, I have sinned against the Lord. In one of the houses of Jericho I saw a beautiful robe and much silver and gold. I wanted them so much that I took them. They are buried beneath my tent. You will find the robe on top with the silver and gold under it."

Joshua sent messengers to Achan's tent. They dug and found the things Achan had taken. At Joshua's command Achan and everything that belonged to him were brought to a valley outside the camp. The Israelites stoned and burned them. 

Then the Lord told Joshua, "Do not be afraid or dismayed. Go to Ai. The city and the land will be yours. The cattle and the things you find there will belong to you."

Joshua chose thirty thousand brave men and sent them to Ai at night. "Go a little beyond the city," he told them, "and wait there."

In the morning Joshua sent five thousand soldiers to the west side of the city. Joshua and some of his men came out to fight the soldiers of Ai. The Israelites pretended they were beaten and ran. After them came the soldiers of Ai in hot pursuit. When they were far enough away from the city, Joshua gave the signal. The soldiers who were waiting behind the city entered it.

As the soldiers of Ai ran after Joshua's men, they must have thought, "What cowardly men these Israelites are!" But when they started back to their city, they saw that Joshua had trapped them. More soldiers were coming behind them, and their city was on fire. This was another victory for the people who obeyed God.

After the victory, Joshua led the people farther north to Mt. Ebal. There Joshua built an altar of stones, inscribing them with the Ten Commandments and there, the people worshiped.

One day, while camped at Gilgal, strange men came. Their clothes were in tatters, and their shoes were full off holes. The donkeys carried old, ragged sacks. The leather bottles from which the men drank were old and worn. The little bit of bread that was left in their sacks was dry and moldy.

The strangers asked to see Joshua and his officers. To them the strangers explained, "We have come from a far country to make peace with you."

As Joshua and his officers listened, they thought, "Surely these men have come a long way." They felt sorry for these poor people. Joshua and his officers felt so sure that the strangers spoke the truth that no one asked God what to do. Instead, Joshua promised to let these men and their people live when the Israelites came to their country.

Three days later, the Israelites moved on and came to the land of Gibeon. There thy learned that the strange visitors had come from this nearby land. They had taken dry, moldy bread and worn out clothes just to make Joshua and his officers believe they had come from a far country.

All the officers were angry and ashamed. They said, "We have promised them by the Lord God of Israel that we would let them live. We cannot break our promise." After some time the officers thought of a plan, "We have to let these people live, but we will make them our servants."

Joshua said to the men of Gibeon, "Because you did not tell the truth, you and your people will never again own houses and lands. You will be our slaves. You will cut our wood and carry our water."

Although the Gibeonites had to work hard, they were glad to be alive. They thought it was better to be slaves than to be killed.

News came to the king of Jerusalem that Joshua had taken Ai and destroyed Jericho. Even the great royal city of Gibeon with her many warriors had made peace with the Israelites.

Because the king of Jerusalem was afraid, he sent word to neighboring kings, "Come and help me war against the people of Gibeon because the have made peace with the Israelites." So five kings gathered their armies and marched across the hills and valleys to Gibeon. They camped around the great city and made war against it.

The people of Gibeon were terrified. They sent word to Joshua, "Remember, we are your servants. Com quickly and save us. All the kings of the Amorites are attacking us."

Joshua took his army and his mighty warriors and went up to Gibeon. The Lord told Joshua, "Do not be afraid, for I will be with you. Your enemies will not win."

After marching all night, the Israelites came upon the soldiers at Gibeon in a surprise attack. The enemy turned and ran. As they ran, hail began to fall. More men were killed in the hailstorm than in the battle.

News of this battle soon reached other cities of Canaan, and everywhere the people were afraid of the Israelites. Joshua took all that land, the hills and the south country and the valley and the plain. He defeated thirty-one kings and took the cities and country where they had ruled. Then the Israelites rested from war in their camp at Gilgal.

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