Israel Conquers Ai
The Lord told Joshua, “Don’t be afraid and don’t panic! Take the whole army with you and march against Ai! See, I am handing over to you the king of Ai, along with his people, city, and land. Do to Ai and its king what you did to Jericho and its king, except you may plunder its goods and cattle. Set an ambush behind the city!”
Joshua and the whole army marched against Ai. Joshua selected thirty thousand brave warriors and sent them out at night. He told them, “Look, set an ambush behind the city. Don’t go very far from the city; all of you be ready! I and all the troops who are with me will approach the city. When they come out to fight us like before, we will retreat from them. They will attack us until we have lured them from the city, for they will say, ‘They are retreating from us like before.’ We will retreat from them. Then you rise up from your hiding place and seize the city. The Lord your God will hand it over to you. When you capture the city, set it on fire. Do as the Lord says! See, I have given you orders.” Joshua sent them away and they went to their hiding place west of Ai, between Bethel and Ai. Joshua spent that night with the army.
Bright and early the next morning Joshua gathered the army, and he and the leaders of Israel marched at the head of it to Ai. All the troops that were with him marched up and drew near the city. They camped north of Ai on the other side of the valley. He took five thousand men and set an ambush west of the city between Bethel and Ai. The army was in position – the main army north of the city and the rear guard west of the city. That night Joshua went into the middle of the valley.
When the king of Ai saw Israel, he and his whole army quickly got up the next day and went out to fight Israel at the meeting place near the Arabah. But he did not realize men were hiding behind the city. Joshua and all Israel pretended to be defeated by them and they retreated along the way to the desert. All the reinforcements in Ai were ordered to chase them; they chased Joshua and were lured away from the city. No men were left in Ai or Bethel; they all went out after Israel. They left the city wide open and chased Israel.
The Lord told Joshua, “Hold out toward Ai the curved sword in your hand, for I am handing the city over to you.” So Joshua held out toward Ai the curved sword in his hand. When he held out his hand, the men waiting in ambush rose up quickly from their place and attacked. They entered the city, captured it, and immediately set it on fire. When the men of Ai turned around, they saw the smoke from the city ascending into the sky and were so shocked they were unable to flee in any direction. In the meantime the men who were retreating to the desert turned against their pursuers. When Joshua and all Israel saw that the men in ambush had captured the city and that the city was going up in smoke, they turned around and struck down the men of Ai. At the same time the men who had taken the city came out to fight, and the men of Ai were trapped in the middle. The Israelites struck them down, leaving no survivors or refugees. But they captured the king of Ai alive and brought him to Joshua.
When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai who had chased them toward the desert (they all fell by the sword), all Israel returned to Ai and put the sword to it. Twelve thousand men and women died that day, including all the men of Ai. Joshua kept holding out his curved sword until Israel had annihilated all who lived in Ai. But Israel did plunder the cattle and the goods of the city, in accordance with the Lord’s orders to Joshua. Joshua burned Ai and made it a permanently uninhabited mound (it remains that way to this very day). He hung the king of Ai on a tree, leaving him exposed until evening. At sunset Joshua ordered that his corpse be taken down from the tree. They threw it down at the entrance of the city gate and erected over it a large pile of stones (it remains to this very day).
Then Joshua built an altar for the Lord God of Israel on Mount Ebal, just as Moses the Lord’s servant had commanded the Israelites. As described in the law scroll of Moses, it was made with uncut stones untouched by an iron tool. They offered burnt sacrifices on it and sacrificed tokens of peace. There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua inscribed on the stones a duplicate of the law written by Moses. All the people, rulers, leaders, and judges were standing on either side of the ark, in front of the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord. Both resident foreigners and native Israelites were there. Half the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and the other half in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the Lord’s servant had previously instructed to them to do for the formal blessing ceremony. Then Joshua read aloud all the words of the law, including the blessings and the curses, just as they are written in the law scroll. Joshua read aloud every commandment Moses had given before the whole assembly of Israel, including the women, children, and resident foreigners who lived among them.