Achan's Deeds

“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.” (Joshua 7:21 KJV)

 
THE GOODLY BABYLONISH GARMENT

  • The word translated as “mantle” means a “cloak made of fur or fine material; a prophet's garment[1]
    • The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges states, “The word here translated “garment,” means a long robe, such as was worn by kings on state occasions and by prophets … Probably it was stuff embroidered, made in the loom with many colours, and wrought of gold and silk threads[2]
    • The Word Biblical Commentary states, “The first item which caught Achan’s eye was ‘one fine luxury mantle from Shinar.’ This could be a piece of clothing imported from lower Mesopotamia, the area of the city of Babylon[3]
    • A Critical and Expository Commentary of the Hebrew Text describes these as “smooth, and embroidered with pictures of men and animals[4]
  • John Gill wrote, “Pliny says Babylon was famous for garments interwoven with pictures of divers colours, and which gave name to them; and Plutarch relates, that Cato in his great modesty, and being an enemy to luxury, having a Babylonish garment that came to him by inheritance, ordered it immediately to be sold: the Vulgate Latin version calls it a scarlet robe; and in some Jewish writings it is interpreted, a garment of Babylonian purple, as if it only respected the colour; and purple and scarlet are sometimes promiscuously used and put for the same, see Matthew 27:28; Mark 15:17; and were the colour worn by kings: and Josephus here calls it a royal garment, wholly interwoven with gold; and some have thought it to be the garment of the king of Jericho, which is not unlikely[5]”  
  • The Pulpit Commentary states, “The Babylonish mantle was famed for its beauty, and was no doubt, worked artistically with figures of men and animals. ‘Of all Asiatic nations, the Babylonians were the most noted for the weaving of cloth of divers colours. Into these stuffs gold threads were introduced into the woof of many hues. Amongst those who traded in ‘blue clothes and embroidered work’ with Tyre were the merchants of Asshur, or Assyria; and that the garments of Babylon were brought into Syria and greatly esteemed at a very early period, we learn from their being classed amongst the most precious articles of spoil, even with gold, in the time of Joshua’ (Layard, ‘Nineveh,’ II. 413)[6].”

 

TWO HUNDRED SHEKELS OF SILVER

  • The word translated as “silver” means “money[7]” 
  • The UBS Handbook Series states, “two hundred shekels would be over two kilograms in the metric system and five pounds in the English system[8]” The Tyndale Old Testament Commentary states, “Two hundred shekels of silver comes to about 2.7 kg (6 lbs) of weight … Thus the whole inventory could have been transported and hidden with ease[9].”  
  • The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia indicates the usage of silver as money: “There was no system of coinage, but they had these metals cast in a convenient form for use in exchange, such as bars or rings, the latter being a common form and often represented or mentioned on the monuments of Egypt. In Babylonia the more common form seems to have been the former, such as the bar, or wedge, that Achan found in the sack of Jericho[10]”  
  • Fausset’s Bible Dictionary states, “It had become a recognized standard of value and medium of exchange. It probably was not coined, but bars of silver were probably formed in conventional shapes and marked with some sign to note their weight[11]
  • This was exactly half the amount that Abraham used to purchase the tomb for Sarah: “Abraham listened to Ephron, and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver that he had named in the hearing of the Hittites, four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weights current among the merchants.” (Genesis 23:16 ESV)

 

THE WEDGE OF GOLD

  • The word translated as “wedge” means “the tongue[12]”  
  • The New American Commentary states, “The fifty-shekel ‘wedge’ of gold (It probably was a gold bar. The Hebrew literally calls it a “tongue of gold) weighed about twenty ounces (The shekel was the basic unit of weight for coins, and it weighed slightly more than 0.4 ounces)[13].”
  • The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges states, “The name lingula was given by the Romans to a spoon, and to an oblong dagger made in the shape of a tongue. The weight of the wedge was 50 shekels = about 25 ounces[14].”
  • The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary states, “literally, an ingot or bar in the shape of a tongue[15]”  
  • The Tyndale Old Testament Commentary states, “The term ‘Shinar’ for Babylon and the peculiar description of the gold in the form of a wedge also suggest a second-millennium BC date for this list[16].”
  • The ancient historian Josephus indicates that not only was the wedge made of gold, but the two hundred shekels may also have been gold and not silver: “But there was one Achar, the son [of Charmi, the son] of Zebedias, of the tribe of Judah, who, finding a royal garment woven entirely of gold, and a piece of gold that weighted two hundred shekels[17]” 

 

PAGAN WORSHIP?

The items stolen may have been religious items dedicated to a pagan god. John Gill wrote regarding the items stolen by Achan: “according to some Jewish writers, these belonged to one of their idols; it is said, he saw the Teraphim and the silver they offered before it, and the garment which was spread before it, and the tongue or wedge of gold in its mouth; and he desired them in his heart, and went and took them, and hid them in the midst of his tent: and the Samaritan Chronicle makes him confess that he went into a temple in Jericho and found the above things there[18]

 

RESERVED OR ACCURSED

“But as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, so that you do not covet them and take some of the things under the ban, and make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it. But all the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.” (Joshua 6:18-19 NASU) “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.” (Joshua 7:1 KJV)