on Joshua 8 :1
Fear not - The iniquity being now purged away, because of which God had turned his hand against Israel, there was now no cause to dread any other disaster, and therefore Joshua is ordered to take courage.
Take all the people of war with thee - From the letter of this verse it appears that all that were capable of carrying arms were to march out of the camp on this occasion: thirty thousand chosen men formed an ambuscade in one place; five thousand he placed in another, who had all gained their positions in the night season: with the rest of the army he appeared the next morning before Ai, which the men of that city would naturally suppose were the whole of the Israelitish forces; and consequently be the more emboldened to come out and attack them. But some think that thirty thousand men were the whole that were employed on this occasion; five thousand of whom were placed as an ambuscade on the west side of the city between Beth-el and Ai, Joshua 8:12, and with the rest he appeared before the city in the morning. The king of Ai seeing but about twenty-five thousand coming against him, and being determined to defend his city and crown to the last extremity, though he had but twelve thousand persons in the whole city, Joshua 8:25, scarcely one half of whom we can suppose to be effective men, he was determined to risk a battle; and accordingly issued out, and was defeated by the stratagem mentioned in the preceding part of this chapter. Several eminent commentators are of opinion that the whole Israelitish force was employed on this occasion, because of what is said in the first verse; but this is not at all likely.
1. It appears that but thirty thousand were chosen out of the whole camp for this expedition, the rest being drawn up in readiness should their co-operation be necessary. See Joshua 8:3, Joshua 8:10.
2. That all the people were mustered in order to make this selection, Joshua 8:1.
3. That these thirty thousand were sent off by night, Joshua 8:3, Joshua himself continuing in the camp a part of that night, Joshua 8:9, with the design of putting himself at the head of the army next morning.
4. That of the thirty thousand men five thousand were directed to lie in ambush between Beth-el and Ai, on the west side of the city, Joshua 8:12; the twenty-five thousand having taken a position on the north side of the city, Joshua 8:11.
5. That the whole of the troops employed against Ai on this occasion were those on the north and west, Joshua 8:13, which we know from the preceding verses were composed of thirty thousand chosen men.
6. That Joshua went in the course of the night, probably before daybreak, into the valley between Beth-el and Ai, where the ambuscade of five thousand men was placed, Joshua 8:13, and gave them the proper directions how they were to proceed, and agreed on the sign he was to give them at the moment he wished them to act, see Joshua 8:18 : and that, after having done so, he put himself at the head of the twenty-five thousand men on the north side of the city: for we find him among them when the men of Ai issued out, Joshua 8:15, though he was the night before in the valley on the west side, where the ambuscade lay, Joshua 8:13.
7. That as Ai was but a small city, containing only twelve thousand inhabitants, it would have been absurd to have employed an army of several hundred thousand men against them.
8. This is confirmed by the opinion of the spies, Joshua 7:3, who, from the smallness of the place, the fewness of its inhabitants, and the panic-struck state in which they found them, judged that three thousand troops would be quite sufficient to reduce the place.
9. That it appears this judgment was correctly enough formed, as the whole population of the place amounted only to twelve thousand persons, as we have already seen, Joshua 8:25.
10. That even a less force might have been sufficient for the reduction of this place, had they been supplied with battering-rams, and such like instruments, which it does not appear the Israelites possessed.
11. That this is the reason why Joshua employed the stratagems detailed in this chapter: having no proper instruments or machines by means of which he might hope to take the city by assault, (and to reduce it by famine, which was quite possible, would have consumed too much time), he used the feigned flight, Joshua 8:19, to draw the inhabitants from the city, that the ambush, Joshua 8:12, Joshua 8:15, might then enter, and take possession of it.
12. That had he advanced with a greater force against the city the inhabitants would have had no confidence in risking a battle, and consequently would have kept within their walls, which would have defeated the design of the Israelites, which was to get them to issue from their city.
on Joshua 8 :1
God rouses Joshua from his dejection Joshua 7:6, and bids him lmarch against Ai with the main body. Though Ai was but a small city (compare Joshua 8:25 and Joshua 7:3), yet the discouragement of the people rendered it inexpedient to send a second time a mere detachment against it; and the people of Ai had, as appears from Joshua 8:17, help from Bethel, and possibly from other places also. It was fitting too that all the people should witness with their own eyes the happy consequences of having faithfully put away the sin which had separated them from God.
on Joshua 8 :1
8:1 Take all the people - That all of them might be partakers of this first spoil, and thereby encouraged to proceed in their work. The weak multitude indeed were not to go, because they might have hindered them in the following stratagem; and it was but fit that the military men who run the greatest hazards, should have the precedency in the spoils.