Saturday, April 14, 2012

War Against The Benjamites (Judges 19-21)

The following quote is taken from

                "Rape is one of the most heinous crimes imaginable.  Yet few people know that the Bible often condones and even approves of rape.  How anyone can get their moral guidance from a book that allows rape escapes me.  Perhaps they have been lied to about the Bible and carefully detoured around all the nasty stuff in the Bible.
            So grab your Bibles and follow along as I show you all the nasty rapes that your priests and preachers don't want to tell you about.  Note that in many places in the Bible there are references to "taking a wife".  Don't be fooled into thinking that these were voluntary marriages.  This first quote clearly shows that murder and force were used to "take" these wives." 
                Before we begin this section, there are two claims which need to be examined.  The first is the claim, "the Bible often condones and even approves of rape".  This is not the case.  The Law forbid rape, and God does not approve of it.  Rape is a sin.  In the time that the Law was written, rape was a crime that was punishable by death (Deuteronomy 22:25-27).
            The second claim is that marriages in the Bible usually involved rape, since they were not voluntary.  By that definition, all marriage in the Bible would be classified as rape, since marriages were almost never voluntary in the Ancient Near East.  In that culture and time period (as in some Eastern cultures today), marriages were always arranged by the parents of the bride and groom [1].  Men and women often did not even meet their spouse until the wedding day.  Marriage then was very different from today, where men and women choose their spouses and marry for love.  In the time period and culture where the Bible was written, people had little to no choice who their spouse would be.  Marriage was mostly for family alliances, protection and continuation of family property/assets, and procreation.
            There are several Bible passages referred to in this section; this post will address the first one.

The following quote is taken from   
"Murder, rape, and pillage at Jabesh-gilead - So they sent twelve thousand warriors to Jabesh-gilead with orders to kill everyone there, including women and children.  "This is what you are to do," they said. "Completely destroy all the males and every woman who is not a virgin."  Among the residents of Jabesh-gilead they found four hundred young virgins who had never slept with a man, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan.
            The Israelite assembly sent a peace delegation to the little remnant of Benjamin who were living at the rock of Rimmon. Then the men of Benjamin returned to their homes, and the four hundred women of Jabesh-gilead who were spared were given to them as wives.  But there were not enough women for all of them.  The people felt sorry for Benjamin because the LORD had left this gap in the tribes of Israel.  So the Israelite leaders asked, "How can we find wives for the few who remain, since all the women of the tribe of Benjamin are dead?  There must be heirs for the survivors so that an entire tribe of Israel will not be lost forever.  But we cannot give them our own daughters in marriage because we have sworn with a solemn oath that anyone who does this will fall under God's curse."
            Then they thought of the annual festival of the LORD held in Shiloh, between Lebonah and Bethel, along the east side of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem.  They told the men of Benjamin who still needed wives, "Go and hide in the vineyards.  When the women of Shiloh come out for their dances, rush out from the vineyards, and each of you can take one of them home to be your wife!  And when their fathers and brothers come to us in protest, we will tell them, 'Please be understanding.  Let them have your daughters, for we didn't find enough wives for them when we destroyed Jabesh-gilead. And you are not guilty of breaking the vow since you did not give your daughters in marriage to them.'"  So the men of Benjamin did as they were told.  They kidnapped the women who took part in the celebration and carried them off to the land of their own inheritance.  Then they rebuilt their towns and lived in them.  So the assembly of Israel departed by tribes and families, and they returned to their own homes. (Judges 21:10-24, NLT)
            Obviously these women were repeatedly raped.  These sick b------s killed and raped an entire town and then wanted more virgins, so they hid beside the road to kidnap and rape some more.  How can anyone see this as anything but evil?"
            The book of Judges is a story of the breakdown of a society without God.  The book ends with this sentence: "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit" (Judges 21:25).  The Israelites had ceased following God after they entered the promised land of Canaan, and though judges ruled over them for a time, the conditions of the nation of Israel continued to get worse, culminating in the events of Judges chapters 19-21, arguably one of the most disturbing passages of the Bible.
You can read the full story here:

            The story begins with the rape and murder of a Levite man's concubine by a group of Benjamite men in the town of Gibeah.  In response to his concubine's murder (though in fact, he complacently allowed them to rape and murder her), the Levite man cut her body into pieces and sent the pieces into each tribe of Israel.  When the nation found out about the crime, it led to a bloody civil war with many casualties on both sides.  This leads us to the events of Judges chapter 21.
            First of all, we need to examine this passage in a historical context.  It is important to note that the Bible does not always approve everything that it records.  Just because there is an act of violence recorded in the Bible does not mean that God approves of that act of violence.  Some parts of the Bible, particularly the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament), are books of history.  The book of Judges is one such book, describing the nation of Israel during the period of the judges (circa 1380-1050 BCE).  The book of Judges is not part of the Law (Torah) given to the Israelites, and does not contain instructions on how to live a life that pleases God (such as Paul's letters in the New Testament).  It is a book of history.
            As stated before, this sad story is an example of what happens when people and nations turn their backs on God and live life however they want to.  None of the characters in this tragic story do anything that honors God.  First, the Benjamite men of Gibeah gang raped and murdered a woman, in defiance of the Law (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 22:25-27).  What is worse is that the woman's husband and the man that they were staying with allowed this to happen.  Not only did they not come to her defense, but they sent her out to the group of men.  In this respect, they were as guilty of the crime as the men who killed her.
            Instead of following the procedure the Law prescribed for dealing with murder (Numbers 35), the Levite man mutilated his concubine's body and stirred up the entire nation to war.  Only in chapter 20 do we see the Israelites actually asking God for counsel, when they went to punish the men of Gibeah and the Benjamite men who refused to surrender them.  In chapter 21, they stopped seeking God's counsel, and decided to solve their problem of wives for the remaining Benjamites themselves, through more bloodshed and kidnapping, which was also against the Law (Exodus 21:16).  In short, in every way the Israelites failed to do the right thing in this passage, and the book of Judges ends on a solemn note.

[1] Life In The Ancient Near East, Daniel C. Snell, 1997.  Pgs. 52-54.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus

I wanted to take a brief break from the discussion this week, since it's Easter weekend.  I'd like to share a brief quote:

"If our Lord said, frequently, with great definiteness and detail, that after He went up to Jerusalem He would be put to death, but on the third day He would rise again from the grave, and this prediction came to pass, then it has always seemed to me that everything else that our Lord ever said must also be true." - Wilbur M. Smith

Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Warning Against Idolatry (Deuteronomy 13:12-18)

The following quote is taken from 
            "Burn Nonbelievers - Suppose you hear in one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods.  In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully.  If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock.  Then you must pile all the plunder in the middle of the street and burn it.  Put the entire town to the torch as a burnt offering to the LORD your God.  That town must remain a ruin forever; it may never be rebuilt.  Keep none of the plunder that has been set apart for destruction.  Then the LORD will turn from his fierce anger and be merciful to you.  He will have compassion on you and make you a great nation, just as he solemnly promised your ancestors.  "The LORD your God will be merciful only if you obey him and keep all the commands I am giving you today, doing what is pleasing to him."  (Deuteronomy 13:12-18 NLT)

            This passage is another example of the term charam (see my earlier article on "Charam"), which means, "the complete consecration of things or people to the Lord, either by destroying them or by giving them as an offering" [1]. 
            In this instance, there are a few things which need to be considered.  First of all, the charge of idolatry is a very grievous sin, which God does not take lightly (see Exodus 20:3-6, 23; 23:13, 23-24; 34:17; Leviticus 19:4; 26:1; Deuteronomy 4:15-28; 5:7; 6:14-15; 8:19; 12:31; 17:2-7; 27:15; 29:17-18).  God warned the Israelites on several occasions that if they committed idolatry, it was a crime that warranted the death penalty.  The Israelites' covenant with God demanded that they worship and serve him only.  They were not supposed to worship other gods or fashion idols for themselves.  God had warned them that if they did these things, it would lead to their destruction: "If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed" (Deuteronomy 8:19, NIV). 
            Why is idolatry considered such a serious crime?  The severity of the judgment, capital punishment, is due to the severity of the sin.  God is the only God, the Lord and creator of all the universe.  When anyone bows down and worships or pays tribute to a false god or idol, they are taking credit away from God and giving it to something undeserving of that credit.  "I am the LORD; that is my name!  I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols" (Isaiah 42:8, NIV).  The crime of idolatry was so serious that it was often referred to as adultery against God (Ezekiel 6:9).
            A process was involved in determining whether or not someone was guilty of this crime.  First of all, the case had to be carefully investigated, and there had to be proof of guilt (Deuteronomy 13:14).  It could not be a baseless accusation.  The Law also stipulated that there had to be at least two witnesses to the crime before it could be investigated (Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15).  Finally, if there was proof that the crime had been committed and the inhabitants of the town were sentenced to death, they and all of their possessions were to be destroyed.  The people could not just kill those convicted of the crime and keep their property and possessions.
            A question that may arise here is, "Why was the entire town burned, including all of the people?"  In instances of charam, God designated certain persons, places, and things as objects of his special wrath and judgment because, in his omniscience, he knew them to be impure and hopelessly unrepentant [2].  An example was to be made of that town, so that those who observed it would be warned against ever committing the same crime themselves (Deuteronomy 13:11).
            It is also important to note that the town was burned after the inhabitants had been killed (verses 15-16).  The inhabitants of the town were not burned alive.

[1] Footnote in the Holy Bible, New Living Translation (NLT).  This term (charam) occurs in the following verses: Exodus 22:20; Leviticus 27:21, 28-29; Numbers 18:14; 21:2-3; Deuteronomy 2:34; 3:6; 7:2, 26; 13:15-17; 20:17; Joshua 2:10; 6:17-21; 7:1, 11-15; 8:26; 10:1, 28, 35, 37, 39-40; 11:11-12, 20-21; 22:20; 1 Samuel 15:3, 8-9, 15, 18-21.
[2] Footnote on, for Deuteronomy 2:34.               

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Prophecy Against The Ammonites (Ezekiel 21:28-32)

The following quote is taken from

 "Humans are Fuel for Fire - As for you, son of man, prophesy: Thus says the Lord GOD against the Ammonites and their insults: A sword, a sword is drawn for slaughter, burnished to consume and to flash lightning, because you planned with false visions and lying divinations to lay it on the necks of depraved and wicked men whose day has come when their crimes are at an end.  Return it to its sheath!  In the place where you were created, in the land of your origin, I will judge you.  I will pour out my indignation upon you, breathing my fiery wrath upon you, I will hand you over to ravaging men, artisans of destruction.  You shall be fuel for the fire, your blood shall flow throughout the land.  You shall not be remembered, for I, the LORD, have spoken.  (Ezekiel 21:28-32 NAB)"
           This passage is a prophecy against the Ammonites.  The Ammonites were an ancient nation who were descendants of Lot (Abraham's nephew) and one of his daughters (Genesis 19:30-38).  The Ammonites were constantly at war with the nation of Israel, and their relations were always hostile (Judges 3:13; 2 Chronicles 20; Nehemiah 4:7).  They even oppressed the Israelites for 18 years (Judges 10:6-9).  Again and again, their mission seemed to be not only to oppress Israel and take their land, but to humiliate and disgrace them: they threatened to gouge the right eyes out of every man of Jabesh Gilead (1 Samuel 11:1-2), and they humiliated a peaceful delegation of Israelite ambassadors by shaving their beards and cutting off their clothing, leading to a war (2 Samuel 10; 1 Chronicles 19).  They were also known for their cruelty in times of war:  "This is what the LORD says: 'For three sins of Ammon, even for four, I will not relent.  Because he ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead in order to extend his borders...'" (Amos 1:13, NIV).
            This particular passage in Ezekiel mirrors other passages in the books of prophecy of the Old Testament, stating that God would wipe out the nation of the Ammonites (Jeremiah 49:1-6; Ezekiel 25:1-7; Zephaniah 2:8-9).  God had given the Ammonites a chance to make peace with Israel during the reign of King David, but the Ammonites rejected the peaceful offer (2 Samuel 10; 1 Chronicles 19).  Eventually, God's patience ran out, and he determined to allow them to be conquered as they had conquered and oppressed other nations.  By the end of the Roman Empire, the  nation of Ammon was completely dissolved, absorbed into the Arabians [1].
            This is a prophecy of war, and like many of the prophecies, it describes what the conquerors will do to the nation that is being conquered.  The Bible does not record that the Ammonites were actually burned alive; "fuel for the fire" can be literally translated as "food for the fire" or "consumed by God's anger".  Fire and burning are used in Hebrew to designate any destruction, whether of humans or objects.  To be consumed by fire, in this context, means to be destroyed in war [2].  The meaning is not necessarily literal.  In any case, as another passage in Ezekiel notes, God does not take pleasure in the deaths of anyone (Ezekiel 18:23, 32; 33:11).

[1] Justin Martyr's Dialogue With Trypho, (originally written circa 160 CE) translated by Henry Brown, 1745.  Pg. 167.
An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, Thomas Hartwell Horne, 1836.  Pg. 405.
[2] Gesenius's Lexicon, Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius (translated by Samuel P. Tregelles), 1847

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Passages From "The Book Of The Wisdom Of Solomon"

The following quote is taken from

"Human Sacrifice -Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself.  As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.  In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble;  (Wisdom 3:5-7 NAB The Book of The Wisdom of Solomon is mostly in Catholic versions of the Bible.)
Child Sacrifice - And this became a hidden trap for mankind, because men, in bondage to misfortune or to royal authority, bestowed on objects of stone or wood the name that ought not to be shared.  Afterward it was not enough for them to err about the knowledge of God, but they live in great strife due to ignorance, and they call such great evils peace.  For whether they kill children in their initiations, or celebrate secret mysteries, or hold frenzied revels with strange customs…  (Wisdom 14:21-23 RSV)  The Book of The Wisdom of Solomon is mostly in Catholic versions of the Bible.  This passage condemns human sacrifice but acknowledges that it did happen by early God worshipers."

            I'm only briefly going to discuss this passage, since The Book of the Wisdom of Solomon is considered Apocrypha (non-canonical) in the Jewish scriptures and most standard Bibles.  It is interesting to note that it was not included in the canon by Catholics until the 15th century CE.
            First of all, neither passage promotes human sacrifice.  The first passage is merely symbolic, representing a person's total devotion to God.  The second passage clearly condemns the practice of child sacrifice to false gods and idols; the sacrifices being made are not to God, nor would they be approved by God.
            In any case, this book was not included in the Biblical canon, and is not authoritative.  One major reason for this is that it was written far too late to have been written by King Solomon (who ruled circa 971-931 BCE); scholars roughly place it as having been written between the 2nd century BCE-1st century CE.  It was rejected by the Jews as non-canonical in 90 CE, and was also rejected by several of the early church fathers.  It is not part of the Word of God.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

King Josiah's Reforms (2 Kings 23)

The following quote is taken from

"Josiah and Human Sacrifice - At the LORD's command, a man of God from Judah went to Bethel, and he arrived there just as Jeroboam was approaching the altar to offer a sacrifice.  Then at the LORD's command, he shouted, "O altar, altar!  This is what the LORD says: A child named Josiah will be born into the dynasty of David.  On you he will sacrifice the priests from the pagan shrines who come here to burn incense, and human bones will be burned on you."  (1 Kings 13:1-2 NLT)

    He [Josiah] executed the priests of the pagan shrines on their own altars, and he burned human bones on the altars to desecrate them.  Finally, he returned to Jerusalem.  King Josiah then issued this order to all the people: "You must celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God, as it is written in the Book of the Covenant."  There had not been a Passover celebration like that since the time when the judges ruled in Israel, throughout all the years of the kings of Israel and Judah.  This Passover was celebrated to the LORD in Jerusalem during the eighteenth year of King Josiah's reign.  Josiah also exterminated the mediums and psychics, the household gods, and every other kind of idol worship, both in Jerusalem and throughout the land of Judah.  He did this in obedience to all the laws written in the scroll that Hilkiah the priest had found in the LORD's Temple.  Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses.  And there has never been a king like him since.  (2 Kings 23:20-25 NLT)"

            In order to get a better sense of what is going on in this passage, we need to examine what was going on during the reign of King Josiah of Judah (circa 640-609 BCE).
            At this point in Israel's history, the northern kingdom of Israel had been conquered by the Assyrians, and those who had lived there were exiled and dispersed.  The kingdom of Judah remained, and had fallen into decline.  King Manasseh of Judah (circa 698-642 BCE), King Josiah's grandfather, was responsible for defiling the Temple of God by placing idols of Baal and Asherah inside of it (Deuteronomy 16:21; 2 Kings 21:2-9; 2 Chronicles 33:1-9).  He also practiced child sacrifice in defiance of the Law (Deuteronomy 18:10), by sacrificing his own sons in a fire (2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chronicles 33:6).  He also was responsible for the murder of many innocent people (2 Kings 21:16).  His son, Amon (Josiah's father) was no better when he became king, and he reigned only two years before being murdered by his officials as part of a conspiracy (2 Kings 21:19-24; 2 Chronicles 33:21-25).
            Josiah became king at age 8, after his father was murdered.  He was different than his father and grandfather in terms of his devotion to God, and he made plans to restore the Temple in Jerusalem.  During this restoration, the high priest, Hilkiah, found the book of the Law in the Temple, and presented it to Josiah.  After Josiah's secretary read it to him, he despairingly sent the high priest and some of his officials to a prophetess named Huldah to find out what God had to say regarding the book that had been found.  Huldah proclaimed a message from God that Judah would be destroyed because of the people's idolatry, but that Josiah would not live to see it.
            In response to this message, Josiah immediately began a series of reforms in his kingdom.  Determined to do everything he could to help his kingdom avoid the coming disaster, he committed himself to God's covenant, and the people did the same (2 Kings 23:1-3; 2 Chronicles 34:29-33).  He then began removing all of the idols and pagan priests from the kingdom, starting with the Temple. 
            The question that has been posed is this: Why did Josiah go to such extremes in his reforms?  What was going on at that time that posed such a threat to the kingdom of Judah?  We will attempt to examine some of the major issues that Josiah faced, and that he eliminated during his lifetime.
            First and foremost, there was the major issue of idolatry.  The Israelites' covenant with God demanded that they worship and serve him only.  They were not supposed to worship other gods or fashion idols for themselves.  During Josiah's lifetime, and partially due to the practices of his father and grandfather, the people of Judah worshipped Baal, Asherah, Molech, and a host of other idols, in addition to general worship of the stars and constellations.  This was in direct violation of God's Law, which forbade these practices on several occasions (Exodus 20:3-6, 23; 23:13, 23-24; 34:17; Leviticus 19:4; 26:1; Deuteronomy 4:15-28; 5:7; 6:14-15; 8:19; 12:31; 17:2-7; 27:15; 29:17-18).  God had warned them that if they did these things, it would lead to their destruction: "If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed" (Deuteronomy 8:19, NIV).  Idolatry is a sin that God does not take lightly.  This is why Josiah took careful measures to remove and destroy every idol set up in the Temple, as well as everywhere else in his kingdom.
            Another issue was that of cultic prostitution.  Many ancient cultures who engaged in pagan worship, particularly that of Baal, engaged in this kind of prostitution [1].  In some cultures, each man and woman were forced to participate in the ritual at least once, which was believed to stimulate the fertility of the crops, animals and humans [2].  The prostitutes (male or female) would engage in sexual intercourse on a public altar or in front of a shrine, with whomever would give them money in exchange.  The Canaanites would give their firstborn daughters to the local pagan temples for this purpose.  This was another practice that Josiah abolished during his reform; he "tore down the quarters of the male shrine prostitutes that were in the temple of the LORD, the quarters where women did weaving for Asherah. " (2 Kings 23:7, NIV).  Prostitution was forbidden in the Law (Leviticus 19:29; Deuteronomy 23:17-18).  
            Finally, there was the matter concerning the verse that quotes: the killing of the pagan priests on their own altars.  Why would Josiah do this?  To find out, we must examine what went on during worship at the pagan altars in the kingdom of Judah.  It is interesting that the author of does not mention this, since the website (and this section in particular) is focused on the condemnation of human sacrifice: human/child sacrifice was massively performed on the pagan altars in question.
            Worship of Baal and Molech frequently involved the sacrifice of infants, particularly firstborn sons [2] [3].  Sometimes the babies and children would be immediately burned to death in a fire, other times they would first be placed on an altar that had been heated by coals, and then rolled off of it into a burning fire as a sacrifice.  This practice was strongly condemned by God: "They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molek, though I never commanded—nor did it enter my mind—that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin" (Jeremiah 32:35, NIV; see also Leviticus 18:21; 20:2-5; Deuteronomy 18:10; 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 19:5).  (A common question in response is, "If God was against human/child sacrifice, then why did he command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?"  See my earlier article for a discussion of this topic.)  Baal worship, besides human sacrifice and cultic prostitution, also involved self-mutilation (1 Kings 18:28).
            With all of this in mind, we can conclude that Josiah executed the priests for violating God's commandments against idolatry and child sacrifice.  He was, in essence, doing to them what they had done to countless victims on their altars.   


[1] Daily Life In Ancient Mesopotamia, Karen Rhea Nemet-Nejat, 1998.  Pg. 193. 
[2] Exploring the World of the Bible Lands, Roberta L. Harris, 1995.  Pg. 53, 73, 89.
[3] A History of the Ancient World (Fourth Edition), Chester G. Starr, 1991.  Pg. 156.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Achan's Sin (Joshua 7)

The following quote is taken from

"God Commands Burning Humans - [The Lord speaking]  "The one who has stolen what was set apart for destruction will himself be burned with fire, along with everything he has, for he has broken the covenant of the LORD and has done a horrible thing in Israel."  (Joshua 7:15 NLT)

            Let's examine the story of Achan in Joshua chapter 7.  Since it always helps to examine a verse in context, you can read the full chapter here:

                Earlier, in the Law, God specifically had commanded that none of the plunder that had been set apart for destruction (see the earlier article on charam, things/people devoted to destruction) be kept by the Israelites (Deuteronomy 7:25-26, 13:17).  The items were a holy offering to God, and were not to be tampered with or stolen. 
            Just before this chapter, in Joshua chapter 6, the Israelites had destroyed the city of Jericho after God had caused the city walls to fall, and the city and everything in it was supposed to be destroyed as an offering to God.  Just before they conquered the city, Joshua reminded the Israelites not to take any of the items devoted to destruction; if they did, they themselves would be completely destroyed (Joshua 6:17-19).
            Achan, a man from the tribe of Judah, deliberately disobeyed this command, and stole some of the items devoted to destruction, then hid them among his possessions (verses 20-21).  Because of his crime, the Lord withdrew his protection from the Israelites, as he had warned them he would do if they violated the Law.  36 Israelite men were killed in battle because of what Achan had done (verse 5).
            The punishment that God sentenced on the one who took the items devoted for destruction was a very specific punishment for a specific crime.  It is important to note here that Achan did not voluntarily confess when all of the Israelites assembled before God.  If he had confessed immediately instead of waiting until all of the tribes and families had been narrowed down to him, there is a chance that he and his family might have been spared.  When David confessed his sin of adultery and murder (which was punishable by death), God had mercy on him, and let him live (2 Samuel chapters 11-12).  Likewise, when the city of Nineveh repented of their sins after a warning from God that he was about to destroy them, he had mercy and spared them (Jonah chapter 3).  If Achan had voluntarily confessed and repented instead of waiting until Joshua forced him to confess, he might have been spared as well.
            Unfortunately, that is not what happened.  Achan was forced to confess after he was singled out, and they found the evidence that he had stolen what was God's and lied about it.  The promised punishment was then carried out: he and his children, along with all of his livestock and possessions, were destroyed.  The Israelites stoned them to death and then burned the bodies (verse 25); they were not burned alive, as seems to suggest.
            One question that is commonly asked is, why were Achan's children killed as well?  After all, there is a verse in the Law that states that children should not be executed for their parents' sins (Deuteronomy 24:16).  The explanation here is that Achan's children knew exactly what was going on, and yet they said nothing.  If they had convinced their father to confess or told Joshua what had happened themselves, they would have been spared.  It is entirely possible that they were accomplices in their father's crime, assisting him in stealing and hiding the items.  This is why they were executed as well.