The History of the Valley of Achor

Title: The History of the Valley of Achor

Bible Book: Hosea 2 : 15

Author: David E. Owen

Subject: Trouble



Have you ever had trouble in your life? I would be shocked if anyone said, “No,” because as Job said, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). The English word “trouble” and its derivatives is used over 200 times in the King James version of the Bible.

I read a little story that said…

The photographer for a national magazine was assigned to get photos of a great forest fire. Smoke at the scene hampered him and he asked his home office to hire a plane. Arrangements were made and he was told to go at once to a nearby airport, where the plane would be waiting. When he arrived at the airport, a plane was warming up near the runway. He jumped in with his equipment and yelled, “Let’s go! Let’s go!” The pilot swung the plane into the wind, and they were soon in the air. “Fly over the north side of the fire,” yelled the photographer, “and make three or four low level passes.” “Why?” asked the pilot. “Because I’m going to take pictures,” cried the photographer. “I’m a photographer and photographers take pictures!” After a pause the pilot said, “You mean you’re not the instructor?”

I imagine at that moment, they both realized that they were in trouble.

This morning, it’s on my heart to preach the first in a series of sermons about a place in the Bible that many of you may have never heard of. The name of this place is literally, “The Valley of Trouble.”

In Hosea 2, after highlighting a message of judgment for wayward Israel, Almighty God gave this prophet a message of hope. And God’s message through Hosea included these words…

(Hosea 2:15) And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt.

In his commentary on the Minor Prophets, James Montgomery Boice wrote…

“Achor” means “troubling,” and the phrase that contains it (“the Valley of Achor”) means “the valley of troubling.” It occurs three times in the Bible. The first is in Joshua in connection with the story of Achan and his sin. When the people of Israel had conquered Jericho in the first wave of their invasion of the Promised Land, Achan had taken spoil of Jericho that the people had been told by God they were not to do. For this they lost the next battle at Ai. What was wrong? they asked. At last an investigation was made and the sin of Achan was discovered and judged. Achan and his family were stoned in the Valley of Achor, which took its name from this incident (Joshua 7:26). The second time this valley is mentioned is in Isaiah, when he speaks of a day when it will become a resting place for herds (Isaiah 65:10). The third time is in Hosea, and here the place of “troubling” is to become a place of hope for God’s people. How can a place of such swift judgment be hopeful? How can the destructive troubling be changed? We cannot change it certainly. But there is one who can and who does. God sets hope before us when all seems most lost. He does it by taking our trouble on himself.

In his study of the book of Hosea, Fred Wood wrote…

The Valley of Achor is on the northern boundary of Judah. It runs from ancient Jericho into the hills and forms a passage from the Jordan valley to the upper region. This valley is the normal entrance into Canaan.

Charles Simeon wrote that…

Achor was a very rich valley, so called from the circumstance of Achan being stoned there. It was the first portion of the promised land that came into the possession of the Israelites: and this was to them a door of hope. It was a ground of assurance, that they should in due time possess the whole land. It was, as it were, an earnest, whereby they were taught to expect the fulfillment of all the promises.

Easton’s Bible Dictionary says…

The expression “valley of Achor” probably became proverbial for that which caused trouble, and when Isaiah (Isaiah 65:10) refers to it he uses it in this sense: “The valley of Achor, a place for herds to lie down in;” i.e., that which had been a source of calamity would become a source of blessing. Hosea also (Hosea 2:15) uses the expression in the same sense: “The valley of Achor for a door of hope”; i.e., trouble would be turned into joy, despair into hope.

Later in the series, we’re going to look at the Hope of this Valley. But today, I want us to go back to the book of Joshua and discover the History of this Valley.

I. The History Of This Valley Involved A Situation Of Disobedience

(Joshua 6:16–19; 7:1)

A. Notice The Warning Of The Accursed Thing

(Joshua 6:18) And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it.

accursed – Hebrew 2764. cherem, khay'-rem; or (Zech. 14 : 11) cherem, kheh'-rem; from H2763; phys. (as shutting in) a net (either lit. or fig.); usually a doomed object; abstr. extermination:--(ac-)curse (-d, -d thing), dedicated thing, things which should have been utterly destroyed, (appointed to) utter destruction, devoted (thing), net.

The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament states…

Because the Lord had given Jericho into the hands of the Israelites, they were to consecrate it to Him as a ban (cherem), i.e., as a holy thing belonging to Jehovah, which was not to be touched by man, as being the first-fruits of the land of Canaan. (Cherem – that which had been dedicated to the Lord in an unredeemable manner, see Leviticus 27:28-29). Rahab alone was excepted from this ban, along with all that belonged to her, because she had hidden the spies. The inhabitants of an idolatrous town laid under the ban were to be put to death, together with their cattle, and all the property in the town to be burned, as Moses himself had enjoined on the basis of the law in Leviticus 27:29. The only exceptions were metals, gold, silver, and the vessels of brass and iron; these were to be brought into the treasury of the Lord, i.e., the treasury of the tabernacle, as being holy to the Lord (v. 19; vid., Numbers 31:54). Whoever took to himself anything that had been laid under the ban, exposed himself to the ban (curse), not only because he had brought an abomination into his house, as Moses observes in Deuteronomy 7:25, in relation to the gold and silver of idols, but because he had wickedly invaded the rights of the Lord, by appropriating that which had been laid under the ban, and had wantonly violated the ban itself.

B. Notice The Wickedness Of Achan

(Joshua 7:1) But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.

committed – Hebrew 4603. ma'al, maw-al'; a prim. root; prop. to cover up; used only fig. to act covertly, i.e. treacherously:--transgress, (commit, do a) tresspass (-ing).

trespass – Hebrew 4604. ma'al, mah'-al; from H4603; treachery, i.e. sin:--falsehood, grievously, sore, transgression, trespass, X very.

In other words, he acted deceitfully as he covertly disobeyed the command of God.

Albert Barnes wrote…

[Committed a trespass] (Perpetrates a wrong), “acted treacherously and committed a breach of faith.” This suitably describes the sin of Achan, who had purloined (stolen) and hidden away that which had been dedicated to God by the ban (Joshua 6:19). The “trespass” was the act of one man, yet is imputed to all Israel, who also share in the penalty of it (Joshua 7:5). This is not to be explained as though all the people participated in the covetousness which led to Achan’s sin (Joshua 7:21). The nation as a nation was in covenant with God, and is treated by Him not merely as a number of individuals living together for their own purposes under common institutions, but as a divinely-constituted organic whole. Hence, the sin of Achan defiled the other members of the community as well as himself; and (this) robbed the people collectively of holiness before God and acceptableness with Him. Israel had in the person of Achan broken the covenant (Joshua 7:11); God therefore would no more drive out the Canaanites before them.

[The accursed thing] Rather “in that which had been devoted or dedicated.” Achan in diverting any of these devoted things to his own purposes, committed the sin of sacrilege (the theft of something set apart to God), that of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:2-3).

C. Notice The Wrath Of Almighty God

(Joshua 7:1) But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.

anger – Hebrew 639. 'aph, af; from H599; prop. the nose or nostril; hence the face, and occasionally a person; also (from the rapid breathing in passion) ire (wrath, fury, indignation):--anger (-gry), + before, countenance, face, + forbearing, forehead, + [long-] suffering, nose, nostril, snout, X worthy, wrath.

kindled – Hebrew 2734. charah, khaw-raw'; a prim. root [comp. H2787]; to glow or grow warm; fig. (usually) to blaze up, of anger, zeal, jealousy:--be angry, burn, be displeased, X earnestly, fret self, grieve, be (wax) hot, be incensed, kindle, X very, be wroth.

The Pulpit Commentary says…

In order to understand Achan’s sin, we must bear in mind the absolute nature of the decree that everything belonging to Jericho should be devoted to the Lord - all living beings slain, and destructible materials consumed as a sacrifice to His offended Majesty; all indestructible materials - silver and gold, vessels of iron and brass - consecrated to the service of the sanctuary. The sin was, therefore, something more than an act of disobedience. It was a violation of the Divine covenant. It was sacrilege, a robbery of God, an impious seizure, for base, selfish purposes, of that which belonged to Him. And the secrecy with which the sin was committed was a defiance of the Divine Omniscience. Trifling as the offence may seem on a mere superficial view of it, it thus contained the essential elements of all transgression. The penalty was terrible; but the moral exigencies of the time demanded it. The sovereignty God was asserting so solemnly over the Canaanites could suffer no dishonour among His own people. “Judgment must begin at the house of God.”

II. The History Of This Valley Involved A Situation Of Defeat

(Joshua 7:2–9)

A. There Was A Viewing Of Ai

(Joshua 7:2-3) And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east side of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai. {3} And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few.

Ai – comes from a word that means “a ruin; as if overturned.”

Bethaven – means “house of vanity.”

Bethel – means “house of God.”

They were not initially able to overturn Ai because they were too close to the house of vanity and too far from the house of God.

Warren Wiersbe said…

Like every good commander, Joshua surveyed the situation before he planned his strategy. His mistake wasn’t in sending out the spies but in assuming that the Lord was pleased with His people and would give them victory over Ai. He and his officers were walking by sight and not by faith. Spiritual leaders must constantly seek the Lord’s face and determine what His will is for each new challenge. Had Joshua called a prayer meeting, the Lord would have informed him that there was sin in the camp; and Joshua could have dealt with it. This would have saved the lives of thirty-six soldiers and spared Israel a humiliating defeat.

It’s impossible for us to enter into Joshua’s mind and fully understand his thinking. No doubt the impressive victory at Jericho had given Joshua and his army a great deal of self-confidence; and self-confidence can lead to presumption. Since Ai was a smaller city than Jericho, victory seemed inevitable from the human point of view. But instead of seeking the mind of the Lord, Joshua accepted the counsel of his spies; and this led to defeat. … The spies said nothing about the Lord; their whole report focused on the army and their confidence that Israel would have victory. You don’t hear these men saying, “If the Lord will.” They were sure that the whole army wasn’t needed for the assault, but that wasn’t God’s strategy when He gave the orders for the second attack on Ai (Joshua 8:1). Since God’s thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9), we’d better take time to seek His direction. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18, NKJV). What Israel needed was God-confidence, not self-confidence.

B. There Was A Victory By Ai

(Joshua 7:4-5) So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai. {5} And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.

smote – Hebrew 5221. nakah, naw-kaw'; a prim. root; to strike (lightly or severely, lit. or fig.):-- beat, cast forth, clap, give [wounds], X go forward, X indeed, kill, make [slaughter], murderer, punish, slaughter, slay (-er, -ing), smite (-r, -ing), strike, be stricken, (give) stripes, X surely, wound.

melted – Hebrew 4549. macac, maw-sas'; a prim. root; to liquefy; fig. to waste (with disease), to faint (with fatigue, fear or grief):--discourage, faint, be loosed, melt (away), refuse, X utterly.

Adam Clarke said…

[They chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim] They seem to have presumed that the men of Ai would have immediately opened their gates to them, and therefore they marched up with confidence; but the enemy appearing, they were put to flight, their ranks utterly broken, and thirty-six of them killed. ‎Sh­baariym ‎signifies breaches or broken places, and may here apply to the ranks of the Israelites, which were broken by the men of Ai; for the people were totally routed, though there were but few slain. They were panic-struck, and fled in the utmost confusion.

[The hearts of the people melted] They were utterly discouraged, and by this gave an ample proof that without the supernatural assistance of God they could never have conquered the land.

C. There Was A Vexation Over Ai

(Joshua 7:6-9) And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. {7} And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord GOD, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan! {8} O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies! {9} For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?

Adam Clarke wrote…

[Put dust upon their heads.] Rending the clothes, beating the breast, tearing the hair, putting dust upon the head, and falling down prostrate, were the usual marks of deep affliction and distress.

[Alas, O Lord God] Particles of exclamations and distress, or what are called interjections, are nearly the same in all languages; and the reason is because they are the simple voice of nature. The Hebrew word which we translate “alas” is ‎°ahaah‎. The complaint of Joshua in this and the following verses seems principally to have arisen from his deep concern for the glory of God, and the affecting interest he took in behalf of the people: he felt for the thousands of Israel whom he considered as abandoned to destruction: and he felt for the glory of God, for he knew should Israel be destroyed God’s name would be blasphemed among the pagan; and his expostulations with his Maker, which have been too hastily blamed by some, as savouring of too great freedom and impatience, are founded on God’s own words, Deuteronomy 32:26-27, and on the practice of Moses himself, who had used similar expressions on a similar occasion; see Exodus 5:22-23; Numbers 14:13-18.

III. The History Of This Valley Involved A Situation Of Death

(Joshua 7:10–26)

A. We See How The Culprit Was Exposed

vs. 10-18

Albert Barnes wrote…

[The LORD taketh] i.e. by lot. The Hebrew word for lot suggests that small stones, probably white and black ones, were used. These were probably drawn from a chest (compare the expressions in Joshua 18:11; 19:1). The lot was regarded as directed in its result by God (margin reference); and hence, was used on many important occasions by the Jews.

The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament says…

Joshua was to take away this ban from the nation. To discover who had laid hands upon the ban, he was to direct the people to sanctify themselves for the following day (see at Josh 3:5), and then to cause them to come before God according to their tribes, families, households, and men, that the guilty men might be discovered by lot; and to burn whoever was found guilty, with all that he possessed. niq­rab, “to come near,” sc., to Jehovah, i.e., to come before His sanctuary. The tribes, families, households, and men, formed the four classes into which the people were organized. As the tribes were divided into families, so these again were subdivided into houses, commonly called fathers’ houses, and the fathers’ houses again into men, i.e., fathers of families. Each of these was represented by its natural head, so that we must picture the affair as conducted in the following manner: in order to discover the tribe, the twelve tribe princes came before the Lord; and in order to discover the family, the heads of families of the tribe that had been taken, and so on to the end, each one in turn being subjected to the lot.

B. We See How The Confession Was Expressed

(Joshua 7:19-21) And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me. {20} And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: {21} When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.

confession – Hebrew 8426. towdah, to-daw'; from H3034; prop. an extension of the hand, i.e. (by impl.) avowal, or (usually) adoration; spec. a choir of worshippers:--confession, (sacrifice of) praise, thanks (-giving, offering).

Often before we can experience the fullness of God's blessings and promises, we must pray as the Psalmist…

(Psalms 139:23-24) Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: {24} And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

C. We See How The Consequences Were Executed

Wiersbe said…

Since a law in Israel prohibited innocent family members from being punished for the sins of their relatives (Deuteronomy 24:16), Achan's family must have been guilty of assisting him in his sin.

How do we deal with sin in the camp or in our lives now? Certainly, we do not take up stones and slay the offending parties in our churches. But we do mortify the deeds of the body and crucify the affections and lusts of the flesh…

(Romans 6:11-13) Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. {12} Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. {13} Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

(Romans 8:13) For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

(Galatians 5:24) And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.


When I was in my first pastorate in south central Virginia, we were about an hour and a half from Appomattox where one of the last decisive battles of the Civil War took place and where Lee surrendered to Grant.

The online resource Wikipedia says…

The Battle of Appomattox Court House, fought on the morning of April 9, 1865, was the final engagement of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia before it surrendered to the Union Army under Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant near the end of the American Civil War. Lee, having abandoned Richmond after the Siege of Petersburg, retreated to the west, hoping to join his army with the Confederate forces in North Carolina. His final stand was at Appomattox Court House, where he launched an attack to break through the Union force to his front, which he assumed consisted entirely of cavalry. When he realized that the cavalry was backed up by two corps of Union infantry, he had no choice but to surrender.

The signing of the surrender documents occurred in the parlor of the house owned by Wilmer McLean on the afternoon of April 9. On April 12, a formal ceremony marked the disbandment of the Army of Northern Virginia and the parole of its officers and men, effectively ending the Civil War.

The defeat at Appomattox led to a new phase in American history.

The defeat at Ai led to a new phase in Hebrew history.

In his Great Texts of the Bible, editor James Hastings recorded…

Such was its physical formation that in a most literal sense the valley of Achor was a door of hope, for in front of the Israelites, as they wound through the pass, there lay at the far end of the vista the smiling vineyards and yellow cornfields and peaceful blue hills of the Promised Land. So does the Redeemer lead those to whose hearts He has spoken, assuring them of reconciliation and peace with Himself. Every winding in the avenue of life reveals a blessing that is richer than the blessings they at present enjoy. They are lured from grace unto grace, and from strength unto strength. Mercy joins hand with mercy. Each good thing received becomes the pledge and the foretaste of a better which God hath prepared for as many as love Him.

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