Some of the stories in Scripture bring us great joy as we enter into the triumphs and delights of those whose lives we have cause to celebrate. On other occasions we are gripped by agony as we read accounts where some go through times of tragedy, especially when the tragedy is self-inflicted. The story of Achan falls into the latter category.
Two things make Achan’s story especially sad. First, it occurred so suddenly on the heels of an incredible victory—the miraculous invasion of Jericho. And second, it resulted in a devastating toll on so many others. If ever Hosea’s words “sow the wind and reap the whirlwind” were ever enacted, it was in the Hebrews’ defeat at Ai. One man—a single, isolated individual—deliberately chose to disobey, yet numerous innocent victims fell in the wake of his sin, bringing calamity to a nation. As James later wrote, “See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire” (James 3:5).