David’s adultery with Bathsheba was no private matter (see 2 Samuel 11–12). An individualistic culture such as ours might see only two consenting adults, but this transgression of God’s law affected many others. Uriah lost his life. Joab became an accomplice to murder. The royal court witnessed David’s sin and cover-up. And the name of the Lord was besmirched throughout the nation of Israel, over which David ruled as God’s anointed king.
The ripple effects of sin and its consequences are also seen in today’s narrative (vv. 11–12). Because Achan had taken spoils from Jericho that he should not have, since they were devoted to the Lord, the Israelites lost their next battle against the city of Ai (v. 1).
They responded to this defeat wisely, halting the military campaign to inquire of the Lord. They also acted obediently, punishing the guilty once the truth was revealed. In addition, they acted worshipfully, since Joshua’s main concern was the glory of God’s name (vv. 7–9).
Achan did not confess until he had already been identified as the culprit. In this context, his crime earned him and his family a death sentence. As Proverbs 15:27 reminds us: “The greedy bring ruin to their households.” After they were executed by stoning, the bodies were burned as a way to purify the community and land from the evil that had been done.
The Israelites named the place the Valley of Achor, meaning “trouble” or “disaster,” and set up a memorial (or warning) heap of stones (v. 26). In terms of spiritual geography, this valley was a place both where the sin of one member of the community resulted in defeat and where the nation responded to this situation wisely and faithfully.
Spend time in confession of sin. This is to be a regular spiritual discipline for us, as we are daily in need of the Lord’s forgiveness (see 1 John 1:9). Confession and repentance involve sorrow over sin and choosing to turn away from it and go in a different direction. You might be helped by reading Psalm 51, David’s psalm of confession.