Joshua 8:13

By Ian Potts

The book of Joshua is a book full of Christ. Its very name, “Joshua”, is the Hebrew form of the Greek name “Jesus”, meaning Saviour, and Joshua himself is a type, a picture, of Jesus. Hence Joshua and the events of his life point us in various ways to the person and work of Christ.

Joshua followed Moses, as Christ and His grace follow Moses and the law, in the work of God in a convicted sinner. It was Joshua who brought the children of Israel over the river Jordan into the promised land, and it is Christ who brings His people through the rivers of death into everlasting life in Him. Joshua fought many battles and, by the Lord’s strength, obtained many victories for the Israelites as they conquered the various cities in Canaan . Christ too fights battles on behalf of His people, and in the most momentous battle of all time which was waged at the cross He too was completely victorious, utterly destroying all His enemies, every foe, and all opposition, bringing in a perfect salvation, a complete justification and everlasting life for all those for whom He died and shed His blood.

In the siege of Jericho when the children of Israel marched silently around the city walls for seven days we see a wonderful picture of the power of God in the Gospel. The horns which the priests blew were ram’s horns pointing figuratively to the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, and the power of God, as symbolised by the horn, which is the Gospel. It was by the sounding of that Gospel, spiritually speaking, that the walls fell down flat. Israel used no carnal weapons of warfare to bring those great walls down - they had no need to. God’s power to save through the Gospel is greater than any power of man or of his making (2 Corinthians 10:4).

In the eighth chapter of Joshua however, we read of another battle, another siege, which although maybe not as well known as the siege of Jericho, nevertheless still powerfully pictures the cross of Christ, and the tremendous battle waged there between good and evil.

We read here how Joshua and his men were sent by God to ambush the city of Ai . Some of the men lay in wait outside the city on the west side (Joshua 8:2-12) whilst during the night Joshua descended into the midst of the valley (Joshua 8:13). When the king of Ai and his men saw this they arose early and went out to fight Joshua and his men. But Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten and fled into the wilderness causing the king of Ai and all his men to pursue after them. Not one man of Ai was left in the city! It was left wide open. On seeing Joshua raise his spear towards the city, the Israelites who lay in wait ambushed the city from behind and burnt it with fire (Joshua 8:14-19).

The men of Ai found themselves in the wilderness, outside the city, helplessly surrounded by Israelites on all sides. The Israelites slew them all, leaving not one man alive, except the king of Ai. Israel then returned to the city, slew all the remaining inhabitants, and took the cattle and all the spoils. Ai was destroyed – it was a total and an overwhelming victory (Joshua 8:20 -28).

Symbolically the king of Ai was then hung on a tree and buried under a great heap of stones (Joshua 8:29). Finally, Joshua built an altar to the LORD, offered up burnt offerings, sacrificed peace offerings, and wrote upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses which was then read out to all the congregation of Israel (Joshua 8:30-35).

In this article I’d like to draw attention to several points drawn from this siege of Ai and how it directs our gaze to the victory which Christ wrought on the cross, outside the city of Jerusalem , as He suffered and died in the place of sinners.

[I would also draw the reader’s attention to the twelfth chapter of Revelation which allegorically pictures many truths in a passage which has some parallels with what is shown spiritually and symbolically in Joshua chapter 8.]



There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18).

The chapter starts with these words of encouragement from the LORD to His servant Joshua: “Fear not, neither be dismayed”.

Faced with such fearsome enemies all around them in the land of Canaan , enemies which far outweighed them in number, this is just what Joshua and the Israelites needed to hear. Fear of the great forces arrayed against them could easily have overcome the children of Israel . But that the LORD was with them, that He loved His people, that He would fight for them, and that the victory would be theirs, was just what Joshua and Israel needed to know to cast out their fears. And it is just what all the people of God throughout history need to know – what encouragement there is in knowing that we have a God and a Saviour who has said “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5), who fights our battles for us, who is our strength in times of weakness. How the perfect love of God shed abroad in the hearts of his people casts out all fear. Surely, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

But Joshua, the battles he fought and the fears he felt, point us to another, a much greater “Saviour”, even Jesus Christ the Lord. What a battle there lay before Christ as He approached the hour when He would be betrayed and given up to be sentenced to death upon a cross. How terrible were the foes set against Him. Satan, the prince of this world, the prince of darkness, knew that his moment was come. Now he thought to destroy the Son of God, to bring all his forces of evil to bear upon the “Sun of Righteousness”, to pour out all his malice and fury against the Lord’s Anointed - to bring Him to nought.

But as Christ entered into His agonies of soul in the garden of Gethsemane He anticipated far greater sufferings than any which the Evil One could bring to bear upon Him. That which He feared most, which He knew lay before Him, was the drinking of the cup of God’s wrath against the sins of His people; being made sin on the cross in their stead, bearing their sins in His own body on the tree, being bruised, beaten and battered by His own Father under the outpouring of His righteous anger and wrath against sin. But most of all being forsaken of His Father, separated from the One in whose breast He had always laid, cast into an eternity of Hell within His own soul for the sins of all the elect. What a prospect! What a battle! What a cup to drink!

Yet in this most dark, this most fearsome of hours, Christ willingly submitted His will to the will of His Father (Luke 22:42). His love for His Father, His love for all those whom the Father had given unto Him and the love which He knew His Father had for Him, enabled Him to bear the agony, and to face the coming ordeal. For that love was no ordinary love - it was perfect love, “which casteth out fear”. The perfect trust which Jesus had in the Father’s will and His promise, His absolute faith that all the sins of the elect would be borne away by His sacrifice in death - and that on the third day He surely would be raised again from the dead, conquering every foe, every enemy, all opposition - caused Him to set His face like a flint towards the cross, not turning aside from the great task which lay before Him. Despite all outward appearances, despite the fact that His Father would forsake Him during those hours on the cross when He was made sin, Christ still knew that all would be accomplished according to the Father’s will; all would be finished, all would be perfected – a complete deliverance and salvation of all God’s people would be wrought - to the glory of His grace, for evermore!

And so in Christ’s great torments and fears, God comforted Him: “And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him” (Luke 22:43).

The help Jesus needed came from God, from heaven - not from man. The disciples slept whilst Jesus was in agony in Gethsemane , their tiredness, the weakness of their flesh overcoming them. But Jesus, like Joshua before Him, received the help He needed - direct from God.



“Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle (Psalm 24:8).

The LORD gave Israel a promise that victory would be theirs - “I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land” (Joshua 8:1) - and so it would turn out to be. The king and men of Ai were to be totally defeated and completely destroyed, Israel taking their cattle and the spoils, for the LORD was with them.

The Lord Jesus also knew that His death on the cross for His people would result in total victory over Satan and all his forces (Psalm 110). In dying in the place of sinners Christ would satisfy the full justice of God’s Law, yet at the same time show mercy to a great multitude. The Law with which Satan accused God’s people, which was the strength of sin, would be completely met and satisfied - not in them, but in another - the Substitute.

When Jesus died all His people had their sins justly punished and taken away - they were washed from head to toe in Christ’s blood, shed on their behalf. All Satan’s powers of accusation were stripped from him - he was utterly spoiled, totally defeated, completely destroyed. He had nothing in Christ with which to find fault, and nothing in God’s elect. Christ spoiled Satan, delivering all His people from his evil grasp. Christ’s victory was complete and triumphant (1 Corinthians 15:54 -57).

[See Revelation 12, especially verses 7-11.]

“When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace:
But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils”
(Luke 11:21 -22).


3. “THE MIDST OF THE VALLEY” Joshua 8:13.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

Outside the city, in the night, Joshua went into the midst of the valley. In this we see pictured the descent of Christ from the heights of glory into the darkness, the night of this world, made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death (Hebrews 2:9), taking the form of a servant, made in the likeness of men. Christ, the Son of God, humbled Himself by taking human nature into perfect union with His divine nature and person, so that He might suffer and die in the place of sinful men. He came as the light of men into the darkness of a fallen world to redeem a people, to deliver them from sin, death and the powers of darkness, that they might have life, eternal life, in Him, and be raised to glory with Him in the last day.

Christ came as the light which shone in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not (John 1:5). He came from such great heights of glory to such great depths of humility among dark, fallen, sinful mankind. Yet His greatest descent was yet to come. His pathway through His life in this world was always set towards one destination - the cross. At the cross Jesus, the Saviour, reached the lowest point of His descent into the valley. Here He would suffer in death for His people (Acts 8:33). Here He “who knew no sin was made sin” for them that they might be “made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). When Jesus was “made sin” and the earth became as night for three hours, the light of the Sun of Righteousness being veiled because of the sin which He bore, truly Jesus, Joshua, the Saviour “went that night into the midst of the valley”.

“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined” (Isaiah 9:2).

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).


4. “WITHOUT THE CAMP” Hebrews 13:13.

Notice where the battle of Ai was fought - not in the city; not in the camp; but outside the city, “without the camp”, in the valley - out in the wilderness. The men of Ai came out of the city to fight Joshua and his men. Why? Because Joshua’s appearance in the valley gave the impression of defeat and it drew the men of Ai out to pursue after him and his men.

Likewise we read in Hebrews that “Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate” as typified by the carcasses of the beasts, sacrificed under the Law of Moses, which were burnt without the camp. Jesus was crucified, not in the city of Jerusalem , but outside, with two malefactors. Just as lepers were considered unclean and kept outside the camp, so Christ was treated as unclean. Like a common criminal He was taken outside the city to be executed. Jerusalem, that great city centred upon the temple, in which the Jews practised their religion and prided themselves on being God’s chosen people, proud of their heritage, their law and their priesthood, had rejected Christ and handed Him over to the Roman authorities to crucify Him. That was where their enlightenment in religion in its merely outward form took them - “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11).

Outside the camp is where Jesus suffered. Outside the camp of man’s forms of religion, rejected and despised of men. This, like Joshua in the valley, gave the impression of defeat - yet resulted in the salvation of a countless multitude (1 Samuel 16:7). Christ died for a people who sought Him not, a people at enmity with God, who deserved nothing but condemnation, a people who were sinners - I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:13). He died for them while they were yet sinners (Romans 5:8-10) - while they were enemies He reconciled them (Colossians 1:21 -22). These people God draws by grace irresistibly to the Saviour, outside the camp. These died when He died, and these rose when He rose, victorious from the grave. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37), “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44).  

“Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come” (Hebrews 13:13 -14).

[Compare also Revelation 12, especially verses 4-6.]



Outside the camp, in the midst of battle, the men of Ai found they had Israelites on every side. Israel ’s enemies were surrounded, and come the end of the day not one was left alive. The victory over Ai was complete and overwhelming.  

Likewise Christ’s victory over sin and all the enemies of God and God’s people at the cross was total. Christ took away all the sins of His people in His body on the tree. Not one sin, not one blemish was left. It was a finished work. All the elect of God died with Christ when He died. Their flesh was crucified with Him - every sin was taken away - and having died they rose again with Christ in His resurrection, in the power of an everlasting life (Galatians 2:19-20, Galatians 6:14).

“I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee” (Isaiah 44:22).



The king of Ai is figurative of Satan, the Devil, the “prince of this world”. Since Satan as the Serpent deceived Eve and, by her, caused Adam and all mankind to fall into sin, the consequence of which was death, he has maintained a power and a dominion over this world. All men are sinners and all come under his dominion and deadly influence (Ephesians 2:1-3).

Yet there is one who is greater than Satan, who came in to this world to deliver His people from Satan’s grip. As the king of Ai and his men battled with Joshua and Israel, so spiritually Satan and his forces fought against Jesus and tried to overcome Him at the cross [compare Revelation 12:7]. But as Joshua defeated Ai and its king, hanging him on a tree, so too Jesus turned Satan’s opposition around, disarmed him, and ensured his ultimate defeat.

The hanging of the king of Ai on the tree graphically points us to the cross. Though Christ hung on the cross - on the tree - it was ultimately Satan’s downfall. The cross destroyed Satan. The cross sealed his fate. Satan, the Devil, like the handwriting of ordinances which he so ferociously used to accuse the saints day and night (Revelation 12:10), was effectively nailed to, and hung on, the cross and taken out of the way (Colossians 2:14 -15). Christ’s ‘heel’ was bruised - leaving five scars in His glorified body - but the Serpent’s head was crushed! (Genesis 3:15) Thus, Christ, victorious over all His foes, rose from the dead, having spoiled principalities and powers!

“Forasamuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through the fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14-15).



After hanging him on a tree, when the sun was down Joshua had the carcase of the king taken down, cast at the entering of the city and buried under a great heap of stones, which, it is written, “remaineth unto this day”.

What does this picture? Well, we have seen how the king is figurative of Satan, the Accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). Also, stones speak of the Law of God which was engraven in stones (2 Corinthians 3:7), and which often demanded the stoning of those who transgressed it (Numbers 15:32 -36). As the Accuser Satan stands, as it were, in the Court of God as the Prosecutor. He takes the Law of God and uses it to accuse God’s people of their sins. He seeks to cast stones of condemnation at them. And he is right - they have sinned, they have broken God’s law. What a prosecutor he is - he knows the law intimately. He knows what is required of man before a Holy God - a perfect and a continual righteousness.

But what Satan didn’t expect, what he didn’t reckon on, what utterly destroyed his case, was the work of Christ at the cross. What defeated him was the work of the Substitute. Here was God’s answer to Satan’s accusations. A lawful answer. A just answer. For God would be “just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). Christ stood in the place of sinners taking the just punishment against their sin in His own body. He met all the law’s penal demands against the sins of the elect, answered every charge, every sentence. The law demanded death and that is what it got. Christ died in the place of the sinner - the Just for the unjust. God’s law could require no more - all its demands had been met.

Jesus having paid the price for sin, having cast sin clean out of sight for all His people, had taken the accuser’s strongest weapon - the Law - and turned it right around against him.

Satan was destroyed. The stones of the very law he sought to hurl at God’s elect fell upon his own head, burying him in the earth, under a great heap “which remaineth unto this day”. Yes, the stone of the law buried Satan, yet that stone could not keep Christ in the tomb. The stone of Christ’s tomb (figurative of the law being answered) was rolled aside and Christ and all His people rose triumphant from the grave. The victory was “Joshua’s”.

Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:14-15).



Having defeated Ai, slain all its inhabitants, spoiled the city, and hung its king, after a magnificent victory, Joshua set up an altar to the LORD, made sacrifices upon it, wrote upon it all the words of the law of Moses and read that out in the hearing of all the congregation of Israel. Hence the people were reminded of the covenant made between God and His earthly people, symbolic of that New Covenant which would be established in Christ for His heavenly people.

So Christ having finished the work of redemption upon the cross, having destroyed Satan, sin, death and hell, having spoiled Satan’s city, throwing out the “prince of this world” to reassert Christ’s rights of absolute dominion over His creation and His people, having risen from the dead and ascended into glory to sit on the right hand of God the Father; Jesus, the Saviour, established the New Covenant, the everlasting covenant, in perfect righteousness, and took of His shed blood, sprinkling it upon the mercy seat in the Holiest of Holies in heaven above.

“But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises” (Hebrews 8:6).

“Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every high priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:

But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified (Hebrews 10:9-14).

What a Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ is! What a covenant He established! Jesus is the mediator of this covenant, the priest and the sacrifice. He offered Himself as the one, perfect, sacrifice for sins, never to be repeated. A sacrifice so complete, so acceptable to God the Father that it completely atoned for all the sins of God’s people, paid the ransom price, redeemed every one of the elect, made peace with God and brought in everlasting righteousness and eternal life. And it was all done out of free and sovereign grace, freely bestowed to undeserving sinners, at such a cost to the Saviour. Praise His Holy Name!

When we consider the wondrous work of salvation which the Saviour wrought on the cross for His people how thankful we should be that Jesus feared not to go “that night into the midst of the valley”!