The Sin of Achan

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Question
What was Achan's sin? Why was it so bad?
Answer
Sometimes people today accuse the book of Joshua of supporting genocide, of wiping out a people as if it were an ethnic cleansing, an ethnic war. But that's not the case at all. You have contrasted in the book of Joshua particularly two figures. You have Rahab who betrayed her people, betrayed Jericho, came over to the side of God's people. She hid the spies on her roof. In contrast with that you have Achan who betrayed God's people, taking the loot from Jericho. In contrast to hiding spies on his roof, he hid the loot under his tent. Rahab saved her whole family. Achan destroyed his whole family because, obviously, he couldn't have hid this under the tent without them knowing and participating in the subterfuge. So, the point is that it wasn't just a matter of ethnicity; it was a matter of loyalty to Israel's true God. Now, Achan becomes, in a sense, a model for what brings judgment among God's people. God's people were holy; they were devoted to the Lord, and when Achan took some of this loot that was spiritually polluted, he brought judgment and others died because of his sin. You see something in Acts 5 where Ananias and Sapphira do something similar and God cuts it off right there. God judges them right there for the sake of his people.

Answer by Dr. Craig Keener

Dr. Craig Keener teaches New Testament studies at Asbury Theological Seminary.