“And Hashem said to Yehoshua, “Do not fear or be broken hearted take withyou all the people of war and go up to Ay. Behold I delivered into yourhands 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, takethe spoils and animals to yourself; place an ambush behind the city.”
The Jewish people repented in full over their remote involvement in Achan’sact of trespass and were now worthy of Hashem’s favor and protection. Wewould have expected things to revert to their original position withHashem leading their wars with open miracles. Yet, we discover a seriousshift in the program, and instead of supernatural feats Hashem ordered astrategic ambush for Ay. All of Ay’s warriors were ensnared in this trapand the Jewish people conquered the entire city without difficulty. Thistime they were rewarded the spoils of their conquest.
Surprisingly, Scriptures devote an entire chapter to the detailed accountof this ambush. This obviously indicates that Ay’s ambush served a greaterpurpose than a military maneuver. In addition we are troubled by thesuspense that permeates the air throughout this war. If Hashem promisedAy’s delivery, would we anticipate anything short of overwhelming success?
We begin approaching this subject by analyzing Hashem’s opening words toYehoshua not to worry and not to fear. Here again we wonder why words ofencouragement were necessary after Hashem promised total success. Ourattention is also drawn to Hashem’s order to bring into the battle all thepeople of war. This seems to refer to all Jewish males between the ages oftwenty and sixty – a total of six hundred thousand men. Why were so manypeople called to battle the small city of Ay whose population did not evenexceed twelve thousand?
Let us consider for a moment the broader picture. The Jewish peoplerecently captured the fortified city of Yericho by blowing their shofarsand encircling it. Yet they now resorted to capturing Ay through majorstrategic moves. What image did this project amongst the nations? IsHashem forsaking His people during their time of need? Was He stillamongst them at all?
The apparent answer to these questions is that Hashem does not limit Hisinvolvement to open miracles. On the contrary, Hashem generally prefersnot to interfere with His natural order of the world. Capturing the landof Canaan, however, required somewhat of a different posture. Theoriginal spies sent by Moshe Rabbeinu informed the Jewish people of theCanaanite’s towering stature. The forgone conclusion was that withoutHashem’s ongoing assistance it would be virtually impossible to conquer theland. Hashem therefore sent an unequivocal statement about His upcomingconquest. He announced through His miracles at the Jordan and Yericho Hisintent of reclaiming the land for His people. This produced a petrifiedfeeling amongst Canaan’s inhabitants who felt helpless in defendingthemselves from Hashem. If this feeling had continued there would havebeen little difficulty capturing the land. Even the natural order of warcalled for success when fighting against nations lacking any confidence orcourage.
However, Achan’s grave offense significantly altered the picture. TheJewish nation’s unexpected defeat gave the Canaanites a feeling ofconfidence and security. Although the casualties were limited and only onesmall brigade retreated the Ay experience left its mark. The big questionnow was what role, if any, would Hashem play in these wars? The Canaanitesfollowed their road signals and regained most of their confidence. Thischanged the natural order of war and rendered the conquest of Canaan a muchmore 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 muchsofter role. Hashem would undoubtedly lead His people to perfect successbut in a somewhat concealed fashion. This is where perfect faith in Hashemwas essential. Ay’s upcoming victory had the potential to reveal Hashem’stotal involvement in the Jewish people’s wars. Although, it was cloakedin military strategy its perfect results told the full truth. We will soondiscover the incredible degree of precision used throughout the maneuver.Its results were that not one person remained behind to defend the cityand not one inhabitant defended himself against the full scale ambush.This was undoubtedly the result of Hashem’s involvement behind the scenessecuring a perfect victory for His people.
This form of assistance demanded tremendous levels of faith. It is onething to fight a mighty enemy with full anticipation of an open miracle.But it is another thing to confront him face to face while retainingperfect faith in Hashem. We can therefore suggest that this is whyYehoshua received warm words of encouragement. Hashem expected Yehoshuato conduct a natural war against the mighty enemy trusting at all timesthat Hashem was fully involved behind the scenes. In this situation it wasessential to remember that all military strategy was but a disguise forHashem’s involvement in their war. But, this involvement was totallydependent on their attitude. If they gave serious value to their militaryability they would receive little assistance from Above. But, if gotbeyond this and placed their trust in Hashem’s concealed involvement Hewould be there for them.
To be continued…
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