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Yehoshua Reflections

Chapter 8, Verses 1 - 4

(8:1) continued

"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."

(8:2) continued

"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."

Our recent lesson revealed a major shift in Hashem's approach to Eretz Yisroel's conquest. Hashem initially revealed His strength through a series of miracles thereby creating a petrified feeling amongst the natives. This would have sufficed to secure the Jewish nation's success as the natural order of war. However, Achan's serious trespass altered this and eventually removed this feeling from amongst the nations. It was now time to reveal to the nations a second dimension of Hashem's mastery. They were soon to learn that Hashem efficiently operates behind the scenes as well. This however demanded from the Jewish nation tremendous levels of faith. Although they would be engaged in a full strategic battle they must remember that their ultimate success was in Hashem's hands.

We can develop this thought one step further. We saw earlier that Yehoshua responded to the defeat at Ay with one pressing concern, Hashem's glory. We discovered that even Achan was preoccupied with this during his last moments of life as reflected in his moving prayer, Al Kein Nekave. Although, Hashem's present plan did not call for open revelations His glory could nonetheless be revealed in full. The absolute precision and perfect results of war could also serve as open expressions of His glory. This dimension became the Jewish people's total focus - to reveal Hashem's involvement in their natural victories. They sought to inform the entire world who truly deserved the credit for all their successes.

We now appreciate the entire nation's participation in this war. Although the war appeared to be only a strategic maneuver it was actually a full scale miracle in disguise. The unbelievable success of capturing and destroying an entire city's population without one causality reflected Hashem's glory in full. This miracle done for the Jewish people deserved their full involvement witnessing and sensing Hashem's unbelievable kindness every step of the way.

This also explains the tangible air of suspense throughout the war. The issue at hand was not how successful the war would be rather how miraculous it would be. If the Jewish people fully engaged themselves in this objective their results would be of miraculous nature. However, if they did not follow the program to precision the results would also be short of perfect. This war was, in essence, an opportunity to reestablish Hashem's glory amongst the nations but in a more developed way. There were soon to discover that Hashem's strength expresses itself in more ways than one. Hashem not only defies natural laws He even performs miracles within His natural order of the world. His strategy surpasses all military abilities and could efficiently ensnare the mighty city of Ay into total destruction.

We will discover later that only one nation read the fine print and recognized Hashem as the master mind of this operation. Metzudos explains that all the other nations mistakenly interpreted the Jewish people's success as a result of numbers and careful military strategy. This inticed the nations to respond with unprecedented unity replete with staggering numbers and brilliantly planned maneuvers. Their take on the situation should not surprise us because it is typical of their general mind set. They forever find difficulty relating to the concept of Divine Providence. Although they admit Hashem performs miracles from above they can not accept that He involves Himself down below. How could such a great power express Himself in basic earthly terms?

The Canaanite nations would soon learn this lesson well. Yehoshua would ultimately battle thirty-one united powers and miraculously defeat them. They would then understand, in retrospect, the master plan behind all these wars from its inception. It would then become clear to them that Hashem would and did involve Himself on behalf of His nation on all levels.


"And Yehoshua and all the people of war prepared to go up to Ay, and he chose thirty thousand mighty warriors and sent them at night."

The plans will soon reveal that the basic function of these people was to capture and torch the city. In truth this will only happen after every single native man leaves the city. However the warriors had a second function after that point. Their role was to immediately exit the city and chase after the enemy; thus, joining the rest of the nation in the actual combat. This is why thirty thousand warriors was necessary for the ambush of an empty city.


"And he commanded them stating, 'See that you are ambushing the city from behind do not go too far from the city and all of you should be prepared.'"

The words, "too far" suggest difficulty in the warrior's position which apparently calls for them to stand very far - yet not too far - away. We will soon learn that the nature of this ambush differed greatly from general military procedure. Their function was not to come from behind and attack the enemy rather to capture the open city by surprise and set it ablaze. This achievement is so essential for the war that without it the Jewish nation stands no physical chance in battle. Yehoshua therefore warned all thirty thousand of them to station themselves very far away. The entire success of this battle depended upon them. The war would be totally lost if they were, Heaven forbid, discovered. Yet, there existed a second - but even greater - concern. The precision of the war called for their immediate attack on the city. The entire Jewish nation's security depended on this fact. These warriors must rush into the city the moment they receive their signal. Yehoshua warned them to stay far from the city - yet not too far. Stand far enough away so that it is impossible to discover you, but do not permit yourself to stand any further than necessary. When you receive the signal you must be capable of immediately charging into the city. This is a sample of the absolute precision that was necessary for the Jewish people's victory. It also reminds us of the degree of assistance from above necessary to achieve a total victory. The Jewish people undoubtedly payed full attention to the finer details of the war and truly recognized Hashem's unbelievable assistance every step of the way. Although this war was masked in military strategy, for the trained eye it was truly an open miracle.

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