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Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Achan

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("troubler"): Achar (1 Chronicles 2:7). Son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, of the tribe of Judah. When Jericho was cursed, with all that was in it, Achan alone, in defiance of the curse, "saw" (compare Job 31:7; Genesis 3:6; James 1:14-15), coveted, took, and hid (see Genesis 3:8; following the first sin in the same awful successive steps downward) "a Babylonian garment" (compare Revelation 17:4-5), "two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold, fifty shekels" (Joshua 7:21). His guilty presence alone brought from Jehovah defeat upon Israel at Ai (Ecclesiastes 9:18). Joshua, by Jehovah's direction, through lots detected the culprit, and having elicited his confession said, "Why hast thou troubled us?" (alluding to the meaning of Achar or Achan) "the Lord shall trouble thee this day." So all Israel stoned him, and burned with fire, after stoning with stones, his sons, daughters, cattle, and the stolen and personal effects.

The God who made has the power to destroy a whole family or nation for the guilt of one (2 Kings 23:25-27); for the individual members are not isolated atoms, but form one organic whole, and the good or the evil of one affects the whole and is laid to the charge of the whole, as constituting one moral unity, divinely constituted, not a mere civil institution, just as the whole body suffers by the sin or suffering of a single member. Achan fell under the ban by seizing what was banned, and incurred the same penalty as a town lapsing into idolatry (Deuteronomy 13:16-17). The whole family was involved in the guilt; indeed, the sons and daughters of an age of reason must have been privy to his hiding the spoil in the earth in his tent. Though the law (Deuteronomy 24:16) forbade the slaying of children for their fathers' sins, this did not apply to cases where, as here, Jehovah Himself commands execution. Achan's children were not taken to the valley (as some explain) as mere spectators, to take warning from their father's doom; for why then should Achan's cattle have been taken out along with him? On the other hand, Calmet argues:

(1) Had his family been stoned, would not the heap of stones have included THEM ALSO? Whereas it is raised over HIM.

(2) His sons and daughters who, in some degree at least, acted under his authority, were certainly not punished more rigorously (by burning AND stoning) than the principal criminal.

(3) Was not the burning applied to such things as might suffer by burning, tents, garments, etc., and the stoning to what fire would little affect, etc.? But to what effect could Achan's family be first burned, and then stoned?

"They raised over him a great heap of stones," as cairns are still in the East heaped over infamous persons. Every passer by shows his detestation of the crime by adding a stone to the cairn (Joshua 8:29; 2 Samuel 18:17). The valley of Achor (see Isaiah 65:10) is identified by some with that of the brook Cherith, before Jordan, now wady el Kelt (1 Kings 17:1-7). The Hebrew of 1 Kings 17:24, "they brought them up unto the valley of trouble," implies this was higher ground than Gilgal and Jericho. Thomson (The Land and the Book) on Hosea 2:15; "That valley runs up from Gilgal toward Bethel. By Achan's stoning the anger of the Lord was turned away from Israel, and the door of entrance to the promised inheritance thrown open. Thus the 'valley of Achor' (trouble), 'a door of hope,' is not a bad motto for those who through much tribulation must enter the promised land." A salutary warning to all Israel of the fatal effect of robbing God of His due through covetousness. (See ANANIAS.) Israel entered Canaan to take possession of land desecrated by its previous tenants, not as a mere selfish spoil, but for God's glory. The spoil of Jericho was the firstfruits of Canaan, sacred to Jehovah; Achan's sacrilegious covetousness in appropriating it needed to be checked at the outset, lest the sin spreading should mar the end for which Canaan was given to Israel.


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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Achan'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/fbd/a/achan.html. 1949.

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