Achan (Hebrew: עכן, ʻĀḵān; "Name means::troubler") or Achar (Hebrew: עכר, ʻĀḵār; "Name means::troublesome") (Born::2495 AM—Died::25 Abib 2553 AM) was an Israelite who violated a ban on goods dedicated to pagan gods. His action brought sin into the camp of Israel so that Israel failed to achieve a key military objective.
|descendant of::Judah||descendant of::Tamar|
Date of birth
The only clues the Bible gives to Achan's date of birth are indirect. Because most of Joshua's spies delivered a demoralizing report of the situation on the ground in Canaan, God decreed that no adult Israelite then alive would live to enter the Promised Land, except Joshua and Caleb the Kenizzite. Therefore Achan was born on 2495 AM or later, so that he was not an adult in that year. The year of the spies' report was one year after the Exodus of Israel.
On 15 Abib 2553 AM, the nation of Israel observed the first Passover in the new land. (Joshua 5:10 ) On the day after, they ate the first produce from the land, and the manna provision ceased. (Joshua 5:11-12 ) The Israelites spent the next seven days marching around the city of Jericho and finally capturing it and destroying it. (Joshua 6:1-16 )
God had specifically commanded that the Israelites not plunder the city. Instead, they were to place all the silver and gold and articles of brass and iron into the Tabernacle treasury, and destroy everything else in the city. They were also ordered to kill every man, woman, child, and beast in the city, except Rahab and those living in her house, because she had hidden the spies that Joshua had earlier sent to Jericho.
But Achan violated the ban. (Joshua 7:1 ) Specifically, he stole two hundred shekels of silver, a fifty-shekel bar of gold, and a mantle from Babylonia. He hid this contraband in his tent. (Joshua 7:20-21 )
The day after the battle of Jericho (23 Abib), Joshua sent spies to Ai. They reported that three thousand men could take the city easily; this was probably an overconfident assessment. So Joshua sent three thousand soldiers to attack Ai (24 Abib), and they ran in disorderly retreat after suffering only thirty-six casualties. (Joshua 7:2-5 )
Joshua tore his clothes and prostrated himself before the ark of the covenant. He prayed to God, not so much on account of Israel suffering a defeat, but rather on account of the damage to God's reputation. God then told Joshua that Israel had suffered a military reverse because someone had violated His orders concerning the banned goods from Jericho. God ordered Joshua to conduct an inquiry by lot the next day.
On the next day (25 Abib) Joshua summoned all the Israelites and began his investigation. The first lot indicated the tribe of Judah, and the second the clan of Zabdi. Joshua then examined each member of this clan, and the lots implicated Achan.
Joshua ordered Achan to confess, and Achan admitted to his theft. So Joshua took the contraband, and also took Achan and his entire household, to a nearby valley. There the Israelites stoned Achan, all the members of his household, and all his livestock, and burned the bodies and the contraband. The anger of God was appeased, and the valley was known thenceforth as the Valley of Achor, or literally the Valley of Trouble. (Joshua 7:22-26 )
Matthew Henry and Adam Clarke, in commenting on this story, identify a number of points that the story raises:
- The need to separate oneself from the world and its concerns and not to partake in its sins.
- The folly of expecting to keep anything secret from God.
- The futility of keeping an ill-gotten gain, a futility that results from the need to conceal it.
The execution of Achan's entire household is justified in that Achan could not have kept his trespass a secret from his family, and therefore everyone in his household must have been complicit in it. Clarke, however, doubts this, and cites Deuteronomy 24:16 to argue that Achan's children could not be punished unless they were definitely complicit.