Chapter 8, Verses 1-2
"And Hashem said to Yehoshua, "Do not fear or be broken hearted take with
you all the people of war and go up to Ay. Behold I delivered into your
hands the king of Ay, his people, city and land."
"And do unto Ay and her king as you did to Yericho and her king but, take
the spoils and animals to yourself; place an ambush behind the city."
The Jewish people repented in full over their remote involvement in Achan's
act of trespass and were now worthy of Hashem's favor and protection. We
would have expected things to revert to their original position with
Hashem leading their wars with open miracles. Yet, we discover a serious
shift in the program, and instead of supernatural feats Hashem ordered a
strategic ambush for Ay. All of Ay's warriors were ensnared in this trap
and the Jewish people conquered the entire city without difficulty. This
time they were rewarded the spoils of their conquest.
Surprisingly, Scriptures devote an entire chapter to the detailed account
of this ambush. This obviously indicates that Ay's ambush served a greater
purpose than a military maneuver. In addition we are troubled by the
suspense that permeates the air throughout this war. If Hashem promised
Ay's delivery, would we anticipate anything short of overwhelming success?
We begin approaching this subject by analyzing Hashem's opening words to
Yehoshua not to worry and not to fear. Here again we wonder why words of
encouragement were necessary after Hashem promised total success. Our
attention is also drawn to Hashem's order to bring into the battle all the
people of war. This seems to refer to all Jewish males between the ages of
twenty and sixty - a total of six hundred thousand men. Why were so many
people called to battle the small city of Ay whose population did not even
exceed twelve thousand?
Let us consider for a moment the broader picture. The Jewish people
recently captured the fortified city of Yericho by blowing their shofars
and encircling it. Yet they now resorted to capturing Ay through major
strategic moves. What image did this project amongst the nations? Is
Hashem forsaking His people during their time of need? Was He still
amongst them at all?
The apparent answer to these questions is that Hashem does not limit His
involvement to open miracles. On the contrary, Hashem generally prefers
not to interfere with His natural order of the world. Capturing the land
of Canaan, however, required somewhat of a different posture. The
original spies sent by Moshe Rabbeinu informed the Jewish people of the
Canaanite's towering stature. The forgone conclusion was that without
Hashem's ongoing assistance it would be virtually impossible to conquer the
land. Hashem therefore sent an unequivocal statement about His upcoming
conquest. He announced through His miracles at the Jordan and Yericho His
intent of reclaiming the land for His people. This produced a petrified
feeling amongst Canaan's inhabitants who felt helpless in defending
themselves from Hashem. If this feeling had continued there would have
been little difficulty capturing the land. Even the natural order of war
called for success when fighting against nations lacking any confidence or
However, Achan's grave offense significantly altered the picture. The
Jewish nation's unexpected defeat gave the Canaanites a feeling of
confidence and security. Although the casualties were limited and only one
small brigade retreated the Ay experience left its mark. The big question
now was what role, if any, would Hashem play in these wars? The Canaanites
followed their road signals and regained most of their confidence. This
changed the natural order of war and rendered the conquest of Canaan a much
more difficult process.
The Jewish people were nonetheless worthy of Hashem's assistance in full.
However, unlike the previous battles, the present climate called for a much
softer role. Hashem would undoubtedly lead His people to perfect success
but in a somewhat concealed fashion. This is where perfect faith in Hashem
was essential. Ay's upcoming victory had the potential to reveal Hashem's
total involvement in the Jewish people's wars. Although, it was cloaked
in military strategy its perfect results told the full truth. We will soon
discover the incredible degree of precision used throughout the maneuver.
Its results were that not one person remained behind to defend the city
and not one inhabitant defended himself against the full scale ambush.
This was undoubtedly the result of Hashem's involvement behind the scenes
securing a perfect victory for His people.
This form of assistance demanded tremendous levels of faith. It is one
thing to fight a mighty enemy with full anticipation of an open miracle.
But it is another thing to confront him face to face while retaining
perfect faith in Hashem. We can therefore suggest that this is why
Yehoshua received warm words of encouragement. Hashem expected Yehoshua
to conduct a natural war against the mighty enemy trusting at all times
that Hashem was fully involved behind the scenes. In this situation it was
essential to remember that all military strategy was but a disguise for
Hashem's involvement in their war. But, this involvement was totally
dependent on their attitude. If they gave serious value to their military
ability they would receive little assistance from Above. But, if got
beyond this and placed their trust in Hashem's concealed involvement He
would be there for them.
To be continued...
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