The Stoning of Achan by Gustave Dore
After the city of Jericho was defeated the Israelites were told not to take any spoils for themselves. Whenever God gave this command He was deadly serious about it being followed. And I do mean “deadly.”
There were plenty of valuable things to tempt the soldiers. Achan just couldn’t see letting it all be destroyed. So he collected about 5 pounds of silver (perhaps coins of some kind), and a wedge of gold that weighed over a pound. He also saw a beautiful robe that looked like it had been made in Babylon, and he decided he couldn’t live without it, too. He took these things, and buried them under the floor of his family’s tent.
Following the amazing conquest of Jericho, spies reported that it would be easy to take the small city of Ai. But the men of Ai routed Israel handily. Joshua knew something was wrong! He and the other leaders spent a day in prayer, and the Lord told them that someone had taken forbidden things.
By a dramatic and public separation of tribes, clans, and families, Achan’s guilt was revealed. When confronted, he confessed what he had done. It turned out that he couldn’t live with that beautiful robe, either.
In a display of justice that we, in the age of grace, can’t really comprehend, Achan, his entire family, and all his animals were taken to a nearby valley and stoned to death. His tents, possessions, and the things he had stolen were placed with the bodies and were burned. When it was all over, rocks were piled on the spot as a memorial. The place was named the valley of Achor, which sounds similar to Achan, and means “trouble.” (Hebrews liked word play.)
That is almost the last we hear of Achan. However, when the genealogies of the tribes are given in I Chronicles, it’s very interesting to note that Achan’s name has now permanently morphed to Achor– trouble.
Apart from inspiring gratitude that we are now offered forgiveness through Christ, we might take another lesson from Achan. Are we doing things that will cause our descendants to look back and say, “Oh yes, great grand-daddy (mother) was real trouble,” or will they say, “Our family serves God because of that person’s life?”
I Chronicles 2:7