God’s solution to an Achan heart (Joshua 7)

Joshua base image 1. The Reason for Spiritual Defeat

Self-confidence and neglected prayer?

The wrath of God because of sin? 1 Sam 15:23

2. The Threat of God’s Wrath: Ichabod

Ichabod (means inglorious in Hebrew) appear in the Books of Samuel as the brother of Ahitub and the son of Phinehas. He was born on the day that the Ark was taken into Philistine captivity. His mother went into labour due to the shock of hearing that her husband and father-in-law died and the Ark had been captured. She is said to have died shortly after having given birth to him, and having named him (1 Sam 4:21). His name is said to be a reference to the fact that the glory is departed from Israel, either in reference to the death of his father, or of Eli, or a reference to the loss of the Ark.

The process to Achan’s sin: He saw, he coveted, and he took. Gen. 3:6, 2 Sam. 11:2-4

3. The Impact of Sin

1. On his community (in their defeat). 1 Cor 10; Eph 4:30; 1 Thess 5:19

2. On his family (in their death). Acts 5; Rev 14:18-20; Is 63:1-6

The death of the whole family is another troubling aspect of the book of Joshua (see my discussion on herem).  Our 21st century shock comes from our sense of individual responsibility.  However, in many cultures and certainly in the Ancient New East household did take corporate responsibility for the actions of its individual members.  God held the whole of Israel for the actions of individuals.  We might see an echo in the sense of familial shame that some cultures apply when one person is found guilty.

In this case it is only those who where living in his household (v24) and not his entire family. The “devoted thing” was hid in the middle of the tent, dug into the ground. Therefore, everyone in the tent must have been aware of it and at the very least acquiesced in its stealth, and therefore shared in Achan’s sin. Therefore, God did not punish these people merely for the sin of the father. He destroyed the whole family because  “Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?” 1 Cor 5:6. The “whole batch” being Israel, and the “little yeast” being the household of Achan.  We see something of the same principle at work in Hebrews 10:26-31:

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

It also works in reverse for Rahab:

The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. … Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.” So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel. Joshua 6:17-23

So then, it seems that God did not destroy any innocent member of the household of Achan, but He did spare Rahab’s whole family for her righteousness.

4. The Appeal in Prayer

Can we be defeated? 1 Cor. 10:13

Our failure dishonours the Lord

Our plea is that the Lord will be glorified. Rom 8:28-29

5. The Mercy of God (v 14-21; 2 Cor 7:8-11; 1 John 1:5-9)

Experiencing the mercy of God comes from repentance.  In 2 Corinthians we are reminded that that sorrow lasts only for a little while (v 8). The kind of sorrow that God intends results in a change of heart: Your sorrow led you to repentance (v 9). The Corinthians did not merely regret what they had done but repented of it. Metanoia (repentance) denotes not just a change of mind about something but a reorientation of the whole person. Judas felt remorse for what he had done in betraying Jesus to the authorities but his remorse did not result in repentance. Feeling sorry is remorse. Repentance goes further. Repentance the wrong committed but also seeks to rectify it.

Cell Outline

Pick some questions from both sections:

Section 1
As we grow older the sins obviously become more serious. Why is it sometimes hard for us to admit them?

Do you agree or disagree with the statement that ‘the churches God uses are the ones filled with messed up people? Why? Luke 19:10

Why would God want to use ‘messed up people’? What do you think about this statement: “if you’ve messed up ‘bigger’ you may be a ‘bigger’ candidate to be used by God”? Exodus 4:10

Someone has said: “God doesn’t choose the prepared but he prepares the chosen”. Why is it possible that God is able to use someone who really feels they need God’s help compared to someone who ‘has it all together’? 1 Samuel 16:7

What areas in your life have you noticed that you are more likely to depend on God?

What can you specifically do this week that shows you really are depending on God with any struggles or sins you feel are in your life? What inadequacies do you deal with that you feel like you can pray about that God can change?

Section 2

How do you explain the spies making such a big error in estimating the strength of Ai? (Compare 7:3 and 8:25)

What were the different steps in Achan’s sin? (7:21)? How does this pattern show the usual workings of sin? (James 1:15)? Can you think of any other Bible stories of a sinful action that followed this pattern? How do you see this pattern in your life?

What do you learn about God from the word “unless” in 7:12?

What had to be accomplished for restoration of fellowship with God and power against their enemy? (Compare the end of the chapter with the beginning.)

What important lessons do you learn in this chapter about (i) Sin (ii) Judgment for sin (iii) Forgiveness

How do you view these things in your life as compared to how God sees them? What steps can you make in your life to view these things the way God does?


Is there some area of your life that you have really struggled and overcome and you know that now God wants you to help others with the same struggles?

What are the possibilities of making restitution for something you have done wrong in the past?

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