Why Did Yahuah Judge The Sin Of Achan So Severely?
The story of Achan’s sin and Yahuah’s punishment is found in Joshua 7. Achan was an Yisraelite who fought the battle of Jericho with Yahusha (Joshua). Yahuah had commanded the Yisraelites to destroy the entire city of Jericho because of its great sin. Only Rahab the harlot and her household were spared because she had hidden the Yisraelite spies (Joshua 6:17). Yahuah further commanded that, unlike most victories when soldiers were allowed to take the spoils, the Yisraelites were to take nothing from Jericho. Everything in it was “accursed” or “devoted to destruction.” Yahuah warned that anyone taking spoils from Jericho would “make the camp of Yisrael liable to destruction and bring trouble on it” (Joshua 6:18-19). The Yisraelites obeyed, except for Achan, who stole a beautiful robe and some gold and silver and hid these things in his tent.
His sin was discovered, of course (Numbers 32:23). Yahuah commanded that Achan and his entire family and all his possessions be destroyed, a punishment that seems overly harsh to us today. How are we to understand this dire act of Yahuah? There are several reasons for the severe penalty Yahuah inflicted upon Achan. For one thing, Achan’s sin affected the entire nation of Yisrael. In Joshua 7:1 Yahuah says that “the Yisraelites” acted unfaithfully and that His anger burned “against Yisrael.” The nation as a whole was in a covenant relationship with Yahuah and, when one member transgressed that covenant, the entire nation’s relationship with Him was damaged. Achan’s sin defiled the other members of the community as well as himself. A similar situation is seen in the sin of Adam and Eve and its effect on the whole of mankind. Adam and Eve’s rebellion destroyed the perfect communion the human race would have enjoyed with Yahuah.
Further, Achan’s sin caused Yahuah’s blessing upon the Yisraelites to be withheld in their subsequent battle against the city of Ai, and the Yisraelites “were routed by the men of Ai, who killed about thirty-six of them” (Joshua 7:4-5). Thirty-six men who were not involved in Achan’s sin died because of Achan’s sin. He stole that which was “devoted to destruction” and so brought destruction on others. Yahuah explained to Yahusha (Joshua), “That is why the Yisraelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction” (Joshua 7:12; see also 22:20). We fool ourselves if we think that our sin affects only us. Disobedience brings ruin even upon the innocent. Sin’s effects go beyond the initial sinner.
Also, the gold and silver Achan stole was stolen from Yahuah Himself. The precious metals were to be added to the treasury of Yahuah, and, in stealing them, Achan robbed Yahuah directly. Achan’s disobedience was also an insult to Yahuah’s holiness and His right to command His people in the manner He sees fit. Even so, Yahuah gave Achan a night to consider his sin and come to Him in repentance (Joshua 7:13). Achan did not avail himself of Yahuah’s mercy and patience, however. The gold and silver Achan coveted had a stronger pull on his allegiance. Is it any wonder that, in the face of such insult, Yahuah would choose to destroy him?
But why, we might ask, did Yahuah destroy Achan’s family as well? The Scripture doesn’t give us Yahuah’s exact reasons for destroying Achan’s family, although Proverbs 15:27 does say that “a greedy man brings trouble to his family.” In the case of Achan, all we can do is speculate. Perhaps it was an object lesson to the rest of the nation, a lesson they learned after Korah’s rebellion (Numbers 16) but which needed to be reinforced. Perhaps Achan’s children had already begun to exhibit their father’s traits of covetousness, disobedience, and disrespect for Yahuah’s commands. Most likely, they had actually helped Achan hide the stuff and were, in fact, accomplices to the crime.
There is no way to know all of Yahuah’s reasons for what seems to us His harsh punishment of Achan and his family. He doesn’t always explain His reasoning to us, nor does He have to. The story of Achan and many other Scriptural narratives give us sufficient information to understand that Yahuah is Kodesh (holy) and that He is not to be disobeyed without risking dire consequences.