Here’s more evidence that the book of Joshua is engaged in after-the-fact divine blessing: they win this chapter by having good tactics. The last time they went against Ai, fresh off their crushing victory at Jericho, they sent only two or three squads, and not surprisingly were defeated. Now, they employ an elaborate feint, sending a small army against Ai and letting their soldiers think they were going to rout them again, then retreating back past where the rest of the army is lying in wait. The city, without most of its men, gets sacked by the Israelite’s main force, and when the army of Ai tries to return, they’re caught in a pincer attack, and are utterly defeated.
That’s not God intervening, that’s just fighting smart. It would be interesting to have a time machine and to go back to see whether these were based on real battles. This strategy is specific enough that I suspect they were.
According to this chapter, twelve thousand people were murdered at Ai. I really refuse to call it anything else. Soldiers are one thing, unarmed civilians another. And this time God lets them keep the bounty for… reasons. No, really, it doesn’t explain why, at all. The NOAB’s suggestion that God is somehow preventing another Achan by letting them take bounty doesn’t make much sense, unless this becomes a permanent rule. And I don’t think it’s a good idea; again, you shouldn’t profit off of war.
There’s a tangent here were Joshua and the Israelites go to Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gezirim to fulfill God’s commands in Deuteronomy 24. There, Joshua supposedly recited the text of Deuteronomy, or at least a version of it. This is actually really good evidence for the whole “Deuteronomist history” idea, partly because this interrupts the narrative rather abruptly. The city they invade in the next chapter isn’t far from Ai, and going to Ebal and Gezirim would take them way out of their way. Maybe the Deuteronomist editor was upset that Joshua seemed to be taking way too long to fulfill one of the duties Moses left him, and either moved this here from later or added it in altogether.
The Japanese: fukuhei “ambush” (v 2), erisuguru “to choose the best,” okurikomu “to send in” (v 3), taisei “preparation” (v 4), taikyaku suru “to retreat” (v 5), obikidasu “to lure out” (v 6), taiki suru “to stand by, to wait” (v 9), hedateru “to separate from,” shiku “to take a position” (v 11), haichi suru “to station, to post, to array” (v 12), nageyari “javelin, lance” (v 18), otte “pursuers,” mukinaoru “to turn around, to face about” (v 20), uchikakaru “to strike at” (v 21), hasamiuchi “pincer attack,” au “to encounter” (odd kanji), uchinomesu “to overcome, to wallop” (v 22), haikyo “ruins,” uchisuteru “to abandon” (v 28), sarasu “to expose,” oou “to cover, to conceal” (v 29).