Why did Israel get punished for Achan’ sin?


By BibleAsk Team

Achan’s and Israel

The account of Achan’s sin in the book of Joshua serves as a sobering reminder of the corporate nature of sin and its far-reaching consequences within a community. Achan’s transgression resulted in divine judgment upon the entire nation of Israel, highlighting the interconnectedness of individuals and the collective responsibility to uphold God’s commands. In this discourse, we will delve into the biblical narrative of Achan’s sin, stressing its corporate implications and the subsequent judgment upon Israel, with references from the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible.

Achan’s Sin

About Achan’s disobedience and greed, we read in Joshua 7:1 (NKJV): “But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel.”

Achan’s sin involved the violation of God’s explicit command regarding the spoils of war from the city of Jericho. He unlawfully took items devoted to destruction, contrary to God’s instructions, out of greed and disobedience. Achan’s transgression not only defied God’s covenant but also defiled the entire nation of Israel, leading to divine judgment upon the community as a whole.

The nation of Israel was in a covenant relationship with God. When this covenant was broken by Achan, Israel lost its promised protection from God (Joshua 7:4-5). Achan stole that which was “devoted to destruction” and so brought destruction on others (Joshua 7:12; 22:20). So, Joshua immediately removed this sin from the camp and God’s favor upon them was restored.

The Corporate Nature of Sin

Sin is not merely an individual act but can have collective repercussions, affecting an entire community or nation. Achan’s disobedience illustrates the concept of corporate sin, wherein the actions of one individual bring guilt and consequences upon the entire group. In the case of Israel, Achan’s sin brought divine judgment upon the entire nation, necessitating repentance and restitution.

In Joshua 7:11-12 (NKJV), we read: “Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you.”

God holds the community accountable for the sins committed within its midst, recognizing the interconnectedness of individuals and the collective responsibility to uphold His commands. The consequences of Achan’s sin extended beyond his own actions, impacting the entire nation and necessitating repentance and restitution.

Divine Judgment upon Israel

In response to Achan’s sin, God pronounced judgment upon Israel, withdrawing His divine presence and protection until the sin was addressed and removed from their midst. The nation was instructed to undergo a process of purification and restitution to restore their covenant relationship with God.

In Joshua 7:13 (NKJV), we read that God said to his servant: “Get up, sanctify the people, and say, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the Lord God of Israel: “There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you.'”

God’s judgment upon Israel served as a corrective measure, prompting them to confront and eradicate the sin that had defiled their community. Through repentance, confession, and obedience to God’s commands, Israel sought to reconcile with God and restore His favor and protection.

Lessons on Corporate Accountability

The story of Achan’s sin underscores the importance of corporate responsibility and accountability within a community of faith. While individuals are responsible for their own actions, they also bear a collective responsibility to uphold the values, principles, and commands of God.

In Joshua 22:20 (NKJV), we read: “Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? And that man did not perish alone in his iniquity.” Achan’s sin serves as a sobering reminder of the far-reaching consequences of disobedience and the need for communal accountability and discipline. The actions of one individual can impact the spiritual welfare and standing of the entire community, emphasizing the importance of integrity, transparency, and mutual support among believers.

Restoration and Renewal

Despite the severity of Israel’s judgment for Achan’s sin, God’s ultimate desire is for repentance, restoration, and renewal. Through sincere confession, repentance, and obedience, Israel sought to address the corporate sin that had brought divine judgment upon them, leading to reconciliation, restoration, and renewal of their covenant relationship with God.

In Joshua 7:25 (NKJV), we read: “And Joshua said, ‘Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.’ So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.” By confronting and removing the sin from their midst, Israel demonstrated their commitment to holiness and fidelity to God’s commands, thereby restoring their covenant relationship with Him and renewing His divine favor and protection upon their nation.

Consequently, God used this set back to give Israel added victory which in turn caused the nations around them to fear them even more than before. And the Lord gave Joshua a plan for defeating Ai. The Lord instructed Joshua to set an ambush behind the city. Then, he was to set a group of soldiers in front of the city and retreat as in the previous battle (Joshua 8).

When all the men of Ai saw the retreating Israelites, they thought that the Israelites were defeated as in the previous battle, and they all confidently followed the Israelites leaving the city unguarded. Those hiding in ambush then attacked the city, and sent a sign for the retreating Israelites to turn and fight. And Ai was utterly defeated and Israel had a great victory.

God used Israel’s first defeat to set the stage for a major victory, by making the defeat look intentional. God showed the Canaanites that Israel under His guidance possessed superior military strategy and power. And the fear of the Lord fell over all the surrounding nations.


The account of Achan’s sin and its consequences offers profound insights into the corporate nature of sin and judgment within a community of faith. Achan’s transgression serves as a poignant reminder of the interconnectedness of individuals within a community and the collective responsibility to uphold God’s commands.

Through repentance, confession, and obedience, Israel sought to address the corporate sin that had defiled their nation, leading to reconciliation, restoration, and renewal of their covenant relationship with God. As believers, may we heed the lessons of Achan’s sin and strive to uphold righteousness, integrity, and accountability within our communities, thereby ensuring our collective fidelity to God’s commands and His divine purposes.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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