Why did God tell Joshua to kill Achan and his entire family?
Why did God command Joshua to kill the whole family of Achan, including the animals? The fundamental answer to the question is that Achan rebelled against God by intentionally disobeying Him.
Joshua 6 describes the defeat of the city of Jericho. Verses 15-19 reveals that God had prohibited any of the soldiers from taking any of the spoils from the battle of Jericho. That is, no one was allowed to take anything from the city during or after the city was conquered. The only exceptions to the prohibition are described in verses 17.
Joshua 7:1 tells us that a man called Achan “acted unfaithfully.” That is, he knowingly violated God’s prohibition. He was rebellious. God had granted the Israelites’ success in battle, but Achan was selfish and rebellious. So, God did not help the Israelites when they fought against Ai (Joshua 7:2-5). Immediately, Joshua knew something was wrong. Because Achan had rebelled and taken things that were banned, Israel was not successful. So, Joshua asked God why did this happen? Joshua 7:10-15 reveals the discussion that occurred between God and Joshua.
Verses 16-18 describes how Achan was identified as the guilty man. Apparently, he was identified by a lot (v. 14-15). The lot would identify the tribe. Then the lot would identify the family and the lot would then identify the individual. Achan was revealed to be guilty. Apparently, God used this method to teach the Israelites that intentional disobedience is a serious sin. Verses 20-21 say that Achan knew he had sinned, but he had hoped to escape being caught. Verse 22 reveals that the evidence of his sin was found. Verses 24-26 state that the punishment was death by stoning of himself, his family, and all his animals.
Then Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the mantle, the bar of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that belonged to him; and they brought them up to the valley of Achor. Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The LORD will trouble you this day.” And all Israel stoned 1them with stones; and they burned them with fire 2after they had stoned them with stones. They raised over him a great heap of stones that stands to this day, and the LORD turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the valley of Achor to this day. Joshua 7:24-26 (NASB)
Why was the family killed in addition to Achan? First, Achan had intentionally rebelled against God (Joshua 22:19-20). Second, his family may very well have known about his sin and said nothing. The entire family may have been guilty. Scripture is not specific. So, God destroyed the entire family. That was the consequence of his sin. Galatians 6:7 says,
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. Galatians 6:7 (NASB)
Intentional disobedience is more serious that unintentional sins. We do not know all of the facts, so we cannot know all of the reasons for this punishment. But we must remember that some men died when Israel attempted to defeat Ai. Achan’s sin affected other people other than his family too! God was sending a message to the nation of Israel that willful disobedience will result in punishment.
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