Digging Up Buried Sin

The story of Achan in Joshua 7 reveals a sobering picture of how one man’s sin can affect those around him.

Joshua leads the people to invade the city of Ai fresh after the victory of Jericho.  Without consulting God concerning the plan of attack, the people pridefully devise a strategy.  After being defeated, God reveals that there is sin present in the camp and it is time for it to be exposed.

When Israel invaded Jericho, they were commanded not to take any of the plunder for themselves.  One man named Achan secretly disobeyed.  He took some of the treasure for himself and hid it in his tent.

After the defeat, Achan’s sin is exposed and his family, aware of the situation, and Achan are punished.  This narrative indicates the serious nature of following God’s commands closely.


  1. There is a danger in hearing warnings without heeding warnings.
  2. If the only warnings you hear from God are meant for other people, you aren’t listening close enough.
  3. Sin can be taking something meant for God and using it for yourself.
  4. God equated one man’s sin with “the people of Israel broke faith” (Josh. 7:1).  Never believe the lie that my sin doesn’t affect our condition.
  5. As a just God, he would not tolerate the sin of the Israelites while confronting the sin of the Canaanites.  Don’t expect God to tolerate your sin while hoping that he will confront another’s sin.
  6. Ai always appeared in Hebrew with a definite article.  Without the article usage, it means “a heap of ruins.”  The Israelites, fresh after the victory of mighty Jericho, did not think this battle would even be challenging (Josh. 7:3).
  7. When God’s strength granted the previous victory, don’t rely on your own strength for the next battle (Josh. 7:3; cf. 1 Cor. 4:7).
  8. Don’t expect God’s blessing when you have not sought God’s direction (Josh. 7:2-5).
  9. The hearts of the Israelites “melted and became as water” (Josh. 7:5) after their defeat.  When trusting in their own strength, the people who knew God felt the same as those who did not know God (Josh. 2:11).
  10. Prayer should focus on God’s reputation rather than on our circumstances (Josh. 7:7-9; cf. Ex. 32:12-13; Num. 14:13-16; Deut. 9:28).
  11. Until the sinner was identified, the company was punished (Josh. 7:11).
  12. Rahab’s name would be added to the people of God and Achan would be removed.
  13. Achan’s confession involved three actions: saw, coveted, took (Josh. 7:21).  These three steps are evident throughout Scripture (1 John 2:16; Gen. 3:6; 2 Sam. 11:2-4).
  14. Sin doesn’t begin with the glance, yet it isn’t postponed until the action. It begins in the heart.
  15. No matter how hard we try to cover up sin (Josh. 7:22), God knows exactly where to dig (1 Sam. 16:7; Ps. 51:6; Ps. 139:1-4).
  16. If you bring trouble upon God’s people, he will eventually bring trouble upon you (Josh. 7:25).
  17. Along their journey, they had two sets of memorial stones – one at the Jordan River reminding of God’s faithfulness (Josh. 4:6-7) and one outside of Ai reminding of Achan’s unfaithfulness (Josh. 7:26).
  18. God turned from his burning anger (Josh. 7:26) promising to turn the valley of trouble into a door of hope (Hos. 2:14-15) through the blood of Christ (Rom. 6:23; 2 Cor. 5:21).
  19. After defeat, Joshua reconsidered and consulted God for direction (Josh. 8:1-2).
  20. God encourages the people to take in Ai what he forbid them to take in Jericho (Josh. 8:2).
  21. Sin can come by having an acceptable desire at an unacceptable time in an unacceptable way.