10 Joshua arose early in the morning and mustered the people and went up, he and the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai. 11 And all the fighting men who were with him went up and drew near before the city and encamped on the north side of Ai, with a ravine between them and Ai. 12 He took about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. 13 So they stationed the forces, the main encampment that was north of the city and its rear guard west of the city. But Joshua spent that night in the valley.
Verses 10-13: It took an entire day to muster and maneuver his troops to where they needed to be for the attack on Ai. They key here, though, is that Joshua executed his plans to take the city. Sometimes the best plans require some time to get them rolling into action, such as this one and the plan God had to conquer Jericho (remember, they marched around the city for seven days before a single skirmish was fought). If the plan calls for time, don’t get impatient. It would have been quicker to simply launch an attack on Ai, but it would not have held the same results. In today’s society we have so much information available at our fingertips. The answers to our questions are often a Google search away. We can access songs and movies with the click of a few buttons. We can order groceries at home and have them delivered, or at the very least brought out to our car. We can buy things on Amazon and have them arrive in two days, guaranteed. Drive thrus, frozen meals, and many other things center around doing things faster. Remember that God has laid plans for you, and that He does not operate on the same scale of time as we do. Remain patient in all things, seeking God’s counsel through prayer and reading through the Bible.
14 And as soon as the king of Ai saw this, he and all his people, the men of the city, hurried and went out early to the appointed place toward the Arabah to meet Israel in battle. But he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. 15 And Joshua and all Israel pretended to be beaten before them and fled in the direction of the wilderness. 16 So all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and as they pursued Joshua they were drawn away from the city. 17 Not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who did not go out after Israel. They left the city open and pursued Israel.
Verses 14-17: Here we see the King of Ai falling into the trap laid by Joshua. Confidence can be a great thing, but in some situations it can lead to a downfall. The King of Ai was confident that his men would defeat Joshua and the Israelites, just as they had done before. He never stopped to consider that there might be more than meets the eye in this second confrontation. He assumed it would play out just like the first one, and so he emptied his city of all the fighting men to chase after the Israelites. In their eagerness to crush the Israelites again, they left their own city open and defenseless. The higher our confidence level rises, the more likely we are to take risky gambles because we’re sure of the outcome. We need to make sure that we leave ourselves defended in case things don’t work out the way we expect, or we might find ourselves in a situation similar to where the King of Ai is going to find himself.
18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand.” And Joshua stretched out the javelin that was in his hand toward the city.
Verse 18: How remarkably familiar this command must have seemed to Joshua. After all, Joshua led a battle during the wilderness campaign where the victory hinged on Moses having his arms raised. It doesn’t seem like that was the requirement in this instance, but it is almost certain that Joshua would have made that connection at first and complied with haste.
19 And the men in the ambush rose quickly out of their place, and as soon as he had stretched out his hand, they ran and entered the city and captured it. And they hurried to set the city on fire. 20 So when the men of Ai looked back, behold, the smoke of the city went up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that, for the people who fled to the wilderness turned back against the pursuers. 21 And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had captured the city, and that the smoke of the city went up, then they turned back and struck down the men of Ai. 22 And the others came out from the city against them, so they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side, and some on that side. And Israel struck them down, until there was left none that survived or escaped. 23 But the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him near to Joshua.
Verses 19-23: The obedience of the Israelites has led to victory over Ai at last. The overconfidence of the King of Ai led to the destruction his his city and his people, and soon he will be paying the consequence himself. Yet had Joshua not been patient enough to see the smoke, there is a chance things might not have played out so smoothly. Ai may have fled back into their city and discovered the ambush, or they may have fought with greater ferocity. This passage leads the reader to understand that the men of Ai sought to flee but had no where to run to. They were broken and disheartened by the smoke, which allowed Joshua and his men to destroy them all.