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Inductive Bible Study on Joshua 8 – Small Group Discussion Questions and Observations


I. The victory at Ai (1-29)
II. Joshua and the people worship the Lord (30-35)

I. The victory at Ai (1-29)

Discussion Questions

  • Did Joshua learn anything from what happened as a result of not counseling from the Lord before his first attack of Ai?
  • What was different this time?
  • Why should they not fear considering what had happened the last time?
  • What was Joshua’s plan? What do you think of his plan?
  • What did he command them to do when they took the city (8)?
  • What do you think it means that Joshua “spent that night among the people?” What can we learn from this about his leadership?
  • What command did the Lord give to Joshua? What can we see from this about how God was involved in the battle?
  • What did Israel do differently in this battle than in Jericho?
  • How was the outcome different than the first battle of Ai? Why?
  • What can we learn from this chapter about how to be successful in our own lives?


Psalms 119:67 – Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.

Psalm 119:71 – It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.

John 15:5 – I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Deuteronomy 12:21 – If the place where the Lord your God chooses to put his Name is too far away from you, you may slaughter animals from the herds and flocks the Lord has given you, as I have commanded you, and in your own towns you may eat as much of them as you want.

Deuteronomy 31:8 – The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Joshua 1:9 – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Sin must be dealt with to achieve true success – While sin remained in the camp, the people were defeated. It didn’t matter how many times they tried. Every time would have been a failure if they hadn’t dealt with the sin first. Victory wouldn’t come by strength of numbers. Victory wouldn’t come by will-power, strategy, boldness, or even perseverance. It only came from hand of God.

Application: When we fail, we should evaluate ourselves and see if it might be our own sin causing the failure. Jesus said in John 15:5 that apart from Him we can do nothing. It doesn’t mean we can’t accomplish anything in the world’s sight. But it means that we cannot accomplish anything that has real spiritual or eternal value. We cannot be successful in God’s sight by our own power. Therefore we must first deal with sin and then He can give us true success.

2. God’s relationship with the people was restored – He commanded Joshua “do not fear or be dismayed.” Just as we learned in Joshua 1, the knowledge that God was with them, should give them a supernatural boldness. God does not want us to be afraid either. Is there anything that you are sometimes afraid of?

Application: Fear is a normal human response. Maybe you are afraid of the future. Maybe you are afraid of losing your job. Maybe you are afraid of not getting married. Or some people are afraid of getting married. Maybe you are afraid of having children and the responsibility that comes with it. It is normal to feel afraid.

And yet God does not want us to. He wants us to be bold. He wants us to put our faith in Him. We should realize that He controls the future. A neighbor asked me if I felt pressure having four children. I told her that I did not feel pressure because I believed that God would take care of us in the future so I do not need to be worried about it. And this is true. I am not worried about taking care of my family, because I know that God is with me and will provide. Remember the command in 1 Peter 5:8 to cast your worries on Him because He cares for you.

3. Don’t make the same mistake twice – One mistake was not counseling the Lord. A secondary mistake was being overly confident in their own abilities by sending only a small number of troops in to the battle. It is bad to make a mistake, especially one that is easily avoidable. Do you know what is worse? It is worse to make the same mistake twice. A lot of people do not learn from their mistakes. They keep repeating the same mistakes over and over and over.

Someone once said that the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing again and again and expecting different results. Well, Joshua learned from his mistake. This time he counsels the Lord prior to attacking Ai.

Application: We all make mistakes. Another person once said to be human is to err. But if you do make a mistake, be sure to make it only once. Learn from that mistake and let God use it in your life to teach you a valuable lesson. Be humble and don’t compound that mistake.

4. Joshua and the people went back to the place of defeat – If we are defeated, we should not give up. We should not turn around and run away. We should ask ourselves why we failed. Then we need to turn to the Lord, correct the problem, and try again. We need to learn to persevere in the face of adversity.

5. The means of victory was the same as at Jericho, but the battle plan was completely different. – God would be with them. That is where the victory came from. But the strategy was different. Whereas Jericho was conquered through supernatural methods, Ai was conquered “normally.” God uses different ways to accomplish His purposes. Sometimes He uses miracles and sometimes He uses the boldness of His people.

Principle: Sometimes God heals people naturally. Sometimes He heals them miraculously. Sometimes He provides for His people through normal means like a job. Sometimes He provides miraculously. Sometimes He answers prayers through normal ways (like people meeting others people’s needs) and sometimes in supernatural ways (like the birds taking food to Elijah). The means of God’s work in our lives is different. The battle plans and strategies and methods might be different. But the constant is God is at work and we must look to Him.

6. God used the very means of defeat to bring about a victory the second time – The people of Ai were now overconfident and thought everything would be the same this time as the first time. Considering the Israelites as pushovers, Ai’s army thought this would be an easy victory. It was their victory the first time that caused them to become prideful and overconfident (much like the Israelites were overconfident after Jericho.)

Principle: God used Achan’s sin and the defeat of His people to bring about a great victory. Romans 8:28. He causes all things to work together for good. This is the miracle of God’s sovereignty. He uses even our sin to bring about good things in our lives.

Can you think of any examples in the Bible where God used people’s sin to bring about good in others’ lives?

II. Joshua and the people worship the Lord (30-35)

Discussion Questions

  • What did Joshua do after the battle?
  • What can we learn from this?
  • What should you do after a success? How about after a failure?
  • Why was it important for Joshua to review the law with the people?
  • Verse 34 says he read “all the words of the law.” What exactly does this phrase mean?
  • How long might it take to read all of that?
  • What do the “blessing and the curse” refer to?
  • Who was present for this event? What was the “main course” of this event? What can we learn from this about the importance of God’s Word in our own lives?


Deuteronomy 27-28 – Moses commanded the people to set up the alter on Mount Ebal and then tells the people a list of curses for disobedience and blessings for obedience.

It takes 7.5 hours to read Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy or 14 hours to read the entire Torah in English though it may be faster to read it in Hebrew.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Joshua and the people place priority on obedience instead of military victory – Normal rules of war would dictate that Joshua and the army follow up their victory with a quick military advance. But instead they take a thirty mile journey to worship God at Mt. Ebal. Why? It was commanded in Deuteronomy 27-28. For the last several chapters we see that (with the exception of Achan), the people were very obedient to the Lord’s commands.

Even when they didn’t understand them, they obeyed. Even when it was inconvenient, they obeyed. Even when it went against cultural wisdom, they obeyed. Even when it was dangerous, they obeyed. Obedience is one of the absolute most essential character traits God requires in His followers. Notice that even the method Joshua used in building the altar was “just as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded.” Joshua obeyed the spirit and the letter of the law. He took care to do exactly what was required.

2. This altar and the sacrifices on it commemorated their entry into the land – God had promised this land to Abraham over four hundred years before. In the time of Joseph, their ancestors had left the land only seventy strong. And now they were coming back as a full-fledged nation. It was only right to remember God’s leading and His promises and proclaim their devotion to Him.

Application: God is the witness watching over every important step in our lives. When you achieve one success, do you rush forward to do the next thing? Or do you stop to thank God and express your appreciation for bringing you to that point in your lives? We are all busy. We have many things pressing for our time. It is so easy to push from one thing to the next to the next without pausing. But here we can see how important it is to take a break from the routine aspects of every day life and just remember the Lord and what He has done. How and when will you do that?

3. The altar – There is some evidence that Joshua’s altar has been found at Mt. Ebal. Evidence includes:

  • A large stone structure. The inside has been packed with dirt/ash. A similar type of altar is found in Exodus 27:1-8.
  • This altar has ramps, not steps. See Exodus 20:26.
  • 2,862 bones of animals were found. The bones were all of clean animals (not working animals.) The animal bones included sheep, goats, deer, and cattle. These bones were of young animals as would be sacrificed and showed signs of slow burning.
  • Two stone hammers were found. Jews were not allowed to use any iron for making altars. The hammers were specially buried indicating that they had a special purpose in building the altar.
  • Another smaller stone structure was found, which was round. It appears that this was intentionally buried by the builders of the new altar.
  • The archaeologist who discovered this site was not a believer. Dr. Adam Zertal believed the Bible after coming to the conclusion that this was Joshua’s altar. He did not even now about Joshua’s altar before his expedition.
  • No evidence has been found that this was a settlement or permanent site since pottery from only one era has been found.
  • This altar may not be Joshua’s altar. But a lot of signs would indicate that it is quite likely it is!

4. The blessings and the curses – This ritual shows us a simple, but important, biblical truth. If you obey God, you will be blessed. If you disobey Him, you will be cursed. It is not complicated. We can choose to be on God’s side or we can choose to be against Him. The choice is simple. What will you choose?

5. Everyone gathered – The women and men and little ones and foreigners were all there. God’s Word was applicable to everyone. Everybody needed to hear it. No matter how old or young or what their station was in life, God’s Word was relevant to them and their own unique situations. God’s Word is also always relevant in our lives. We should give His Word the time and respect it deserves.

Application: How can you take a break from your normal routine this week to focus on God and what He has done in your life?

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