1 Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Don’t be afraid; don’t give up. Lead all your fighting men to Ai.* Ai See Josh. 7:2. The name of this town means “the ruins.” I will help you defeat the king of Ai. I am giving you his people, his city, and his land. 2 You will do to Ai and its king the same thing you did to Jericho and its king. Only this time you can take all the wealth and animals and keep it for yourselves. You will share the wealth with your people. Now, tell some of your soldiers to hide behind the city.”
3 So Joshua led his whole army toward Ai. Then Joshua chose 30,000 of his best fighting men and sent them out at night. 4 Joshua gave them this command: “Listen carefully to what I tell you. You must hide in the area behind the city. Wait for the time to attack. Don’t go far from the city. Continue to watch and be ready. 5 I will lead the men with me; we will march toward the city. The men in the city will come out to fight against us. We will turn and run away from them as we did before. 6 These men will chase us away from the city, so we will run away. They will think that we are running away from them as we did before. 7 Then you should come out of your hiding place and take control of the city. The LORD your God will give you the power to win.
8 “You must do what the LORD says. Watch me and I will give you the command to attack the city. When you have taken control of the city, burn it.”
9 Then Joshua sent them to their hiding place and waited. They went to a place west of Ai, between Bethel and Ai. But Joshua stayed the night with his people.
10 Early the next morning Joshua gathered the men together. Then Joshua and the leaders of Israel led the men to Ai. 11 All the soldiers who were with Joshua marched to Ai. They stopped in front of the city. The army made its camp north of the city. There was a valley between the army and Ai.
12 Then Joshua chose about 5000 men. He sent these men to hide in the area west of the city, between Bethel and Ai. 13 So Joshua had prepared his men for the fight. The main camp was north of the city. The other men were hiding to the west. That night Joshua went down into the valley.
14 Later, the king of Ai saw the army of Israel. The king and his people hurried out to fight the army of Israel. The king of Ai went out the east side of the city toward the Jordan Valley, so he did not see the soldiers hiding behind the city.
15 Joshua and all the men of Israel let the army of Ai push them back. Joshua and his men began running east toward the desert. 16 The people in the city began to shout and started to chase them. All the people left the city. 17 All the men of Ai and Bethel chased the army of Israel. The city was left open—no one stayed to protect the city.
18 Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Hold your spear toward the city of Ai, because I will give you that city.” So Joshua held his spear toward the city of Ai. 19 When the Israelites who were hiding saw this, they quickly came out from their hiding place and hurried toward the city. They entered the city and took control of it. Then the soldiers started fires to burn the city.
20 The men from Ai looked back and saw their city burning. When they saw the smoke rising into the sky, they lost their strength and courage. They stopped chasing the men of Israel. The Israelites stopped running away. They turned and went to fight the men from Ai. There was no safe place for the men from Ai to run to. 21 When Joshua and his men saw that his army had taken control of the city and that smoke was rising from it, they stopped running away and turned to fight the men of Ai. 22 Then the men who were hiding came out of the city to help with the fight. The army of Israel was on both sides of the men of Ai—the men of Ai were trapped. Israel defeated them. They fought until none of the men from Ai were left alive—none of the enemy escaped. 23 But the king of Ai was left alive. Joshua’s men brought him to Joshua.
A Review of the Fighting
24 During the fighting, the army of Israel chased the men from Ai into the fields and into the desert. So the army of Israel finished killing all the men from Ai in the fields and in the desert. Then the Israelites went back to Ai and killed all the people who were still alive in the city. 25 All the people of Ai died that day; there were 12,000 men and women. 26 Joshua had held his spear toward Ai as a sign to his people to destroy the city. And he did not stop until all the people of Ai were destroyed. 27 The Israelites kept the animals and other things from the city for themselves. This is what the LORD said they could do when he gave Joshua the commands.
28 Then Joshua burned the city of Ai. That city became an empty pile of rocks. It is still like that today. 29 Joshua hanged the king of Ai on a tree and left him hanging there until evening. At sunset Joshua told his men to take the king’s body down from the tree. They threw his body down at the city gate. Then they covered the body with many rocks. That pile of rocks is still there today.
Reading the Blessings and Curses
30 Then Joshua built an altar for the LORD, the God of Israel. He built the altar on Mount Ebal. 31 The LORD’S servant Moses told the Israelites how to build altars. So Joshua built the altar the way it was explained in the Book of the Law† Law Or “Teachings.” Also in verses 32, 34. of Moses. The altar was made from stones that were not cut. No tool had ever been used on those stones. They offered burnt offerings to the LORD on that altar. They also gave fellowship offerings.
32 There Joshua copied onto the stones the law Moses had written down. This was for all the people of Israel to see. 33 The elders, officers, judges, and all the Israelites were standing around the Box of the LORD’S Agreement. They were standing in front of the priests, the Levites who carried the Holy Box. The Israelites and the other people with them were all standing there. Half of the people stood in front of Mount Ebal and the other half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim. The LORD’S servant Moses had told the people to do this. He told them to do this to be blessed.
34 Then Joshua read all the words from the law. He read the blessings and the curses. He read everything the way it was written in the Book of the Law. 35 All the Israelites were gathered together there. All the women and children and all the foreigners who lived with the Israelites were there. And Joshua read every command that Moses had given.
*8:1 Ai See Josh. 7:2. The name of this town means “the ruins.”
†8:31 Law Or “Teachings.” Also in verses 32, 34.