Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Committed a trespass - (compare Lev 5:15 note), "acted treacherously and committed a breach of faith." This suitably describes the sin of Achan, who had purloined and hidden away that which had been dedicated to God by the ban Jos 6:19.
The "trespass" was the act of one man, yet is imputed to all Israel, who also share in the penalty of it Jos 7:5. This is not to be explained as though all the people participated in the covetousness which led to Achan's sin Jos 7:21. The nation as a nation was in covenant with God, and is treated by Him not merely as a number of individuals living together for their own purposes under common institutions, but as a divinely-constituted organic whole. Hence, the sin of Achan defiled the other members of the community as well as himself. and robbed the people collectively of holiness before God and acceptableness with Him. Israel had in the person of Achan broken the covenant Jos 7:11; God therefore would no more drive out the Canaanites before them.
The accursed thing - Rather "in that which had been devoted or dedicated." Achan in diverting any of these devoted things to his own purposes, committed the sin of sacrilege, that of Ananias and Sapphira. Act 5:2-3.
Achan or Achar - (the marginal reference) the "n" and "r" being interchanged, perhaps for the sake of accommodating the name to עכר ‛âkar, "trouble" Jos 7:25. Zabdi is generally identified with the Zimri of Ch1 2:6. Zerah was twin brother of Pharez and son of Judah Gen 38:30. In this genealogy, as in others, several generations are omitted, most likely those which intervened between Zerah and Zabdi, and which covered the space between the migration of Jacob's household to Egypt and the Exodus. (Num 26:5, see the note).
Ai, Bethel - See Gen 12:8 note. (Modern travelers place the former at Khan Haiy, in the neighborhood of Deir Diwan.)
The total population of Ai was about twelve thousand Jos 8:25. It could therefore hardly muster three thousand warriors.
Shebarim - Rather, perhaps, "the stone quarries." The smallness of the slaughter among the Israelites indicates that they fled early, probably without real conflict in battle.
On these signs of mourning, compare the marginal references and Lev 10:6; Num 20:6; Sa1 4:12.
What wilt thou do unto thy great name? - i. e. "after the Canaanites have cut off our name what will become of Thy Name?" This bold expostulation, that of one wrestling in sore need with God in prayer, like the similar appeals of Moses in earlier emergencies (Compare the marginal references), is based upon God's past promises and mercies. What would be said of (God by the pagan if now He permitted Israel to be destroyed?
God's answer is given directly, and in terms of reproof. Joshua must not lie helpless before God; the cause of the calamity was to be discovered.
Also stolen, and dissembled also - The anger of God and the heinousness of Israel's sin are marked by the accumulation of clause upon clause. As a climax they had even appropriated to their own use the consecrated property purloined from God.
Accursed - Compare Jos 6:17-18.
The Lord taketh - i. e. by lot. The Hebrew word for lot suggests that small stones, probably white and black ones, were used. These were probably drawn from a chest (compare the expressions in Jos 18:11; Jos 19:1). The lot was regarded as directed in its result by God (margin reference); and hence, was used on many important occasions by the Jews and by other nations in ancient times. For example:
(1), for apportionment, as of Canaan among the twelve tribes Num 26:55; of the Levitical cities (Jos 21:4 ff); of spoil or captives taken in war Joe 3:3.
(2) for detection of the guilty, as in the case if Achan, Jonathan Sa1 14:42, and Jonah Jon 1:7.
(3) for determining the persons to undertake a dangerous or warlike enterprise Jdg 20:10.
(4) for making appointment to important functions (Lev 16:8 ff; Act 1:26); or for sharing the duties or privileges of an office among those concerned Ch1 24:31; Luk 1:9.
The casting of lots before Haman Est 3:7 seems to have been with a view of determining the lucky day for his undertaking against the Jews. One passage Pro 18:18 perhaps points also to the employment of the lot to decide litigation.
burnt with fire - i. e. after he had been put to death by stoning Jos 7:25; Lev 20:14.
Give glory to the Lord - A form of solemn adjuration by which the person addressed was called upon before God to declare the truth. The phrase assumes that the glory of God is always promoted by manifestation of the truth (compare the marginal references).
A goodly Babylonian garment - literally, "a robe or cloak of Shinar," the plain in which Babylon was situated Gen 10:10. It was a long robe such as was worn by kings on state occasions Jon 3:6, and by prophets Kg1 19:13; Zac 13:4. The Assyrians were in early times famous for the manufacture of beautiful dyed and richly embroidered robes (compare Eze 23:15). That such a robe should be found in a Canaanite city is natural enough. The productions of the far East found their way through Palestine both southward toward Egypt and westward through Tyre to the countries bordering on the Mediterranean. (Compare Eze 27:24 and the context.)
Wedge of gold - i. e. some implement or ornament of gold shaped like a wedge or tongue. The name lingula was given by the Romans to a spoon and to an oblong dagger made in shape of a tongue. The weight of this "wedge" was fifty shekels, i. e. about twenty-five ounces (see Exo 38:24 note). The silver was under the rest of the stolen property. The mantle would naturally be placed uppermost, and be used to cover up the others.
The sin had been national (Jos 7:1 note), and accordingly the expiation of it was no less so. The whole nation, no doubt through its usual representatives, took part in executing the sentence. Achan had fallen by his own act under the ban Jos 6:18, and consequently he and his were treated as were communities thus devoted Deu 13:15-17. It would appear too that Achan's family must have been accomplices in his sin; for the stolen spoil could hardly have been concealed in his tent without their being privy thereto.
A great heap of stones - As a memorial of Achan's sin and its punishment. (Compare Jos 8:29; Sa2 18:17.)
The valley of Achor - Compare the marginal references. This valley formed part of the northern border of Judah Jos 15:7; and must therefore have lain among the ridges which cross the plain to the south of Jericho. But its exact site is uncertain. (Conder identifies it with Wady Kelt.)