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Allow me to explain (12 of 439)

February 22, 2011

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12. Who was Achan’s father? Joshua 7:1 vs Joshua 7:24, 22:20

Sometimes Christians do things that embarrass me, as a Christian. I hope atheists are embarrassed by this poster.

Joshua 7:1
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.

Joshua 7:24
Then Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor.

Joshua 22:20
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.’ ”

You know the answer already, but since “belaboring” seems to be a theme I’ll keep with it.

Verse 1 says Achan is the son of Carmi. Verse 24 says he’s the son of Zerah. Verse 1 also says, however that Carmi was the son of Zabdi, who was the son of Zerah.

We discussed, in 6 of 439, that heritage was very important – perhaps it still is – to the Jewish people. Any relation, no matter how distant, would commonly be referred to as the “son” or “daughter” of an ancestor.


  • The name “Eve” means, “the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20).
  • Jesus is often called the “son” of David (Matthew 1:1, Mark 10:47)
  • Joseph – the carpenter from Bethlehem – is also called the “son of David” (Matthew 1:20).

Referring to an ancient ancestor was common when discussing important matters, for establishing lineage. And there’s a serious issue going on in Joshua 7.

The Israelites suffer a sudden and very unexpected defeat in battle, and we read that the “hearts of the people melted.” Suddenly the whole nation was unsure if God was with them anymore. That’s a serious blow.

Why? Because one guy took what was forbidden into his home, and brought that curse on the entire nation.

That’s a big deal. That’s a story you tell for generation after generation of arrogant young people who think their sin only affects them.

And because the Jewish people are scrupulous record-keepers, names are not forgotten. Who was that man whose disobedience brought “wrath” on, “all the congregation of Israel”? Achan.

That’s fine for the first generation, but after a few, there have been hundreds of Achans. Which one? Carmi led an uneventful life; no one remembers him. We remember Zerah, though, as one of Judah’s twin sons – the one who was almost born first (Genesis 38). When you say, “son of Zerah,” we know he was of the tribe of Judah. Heritage was/is important.

Short answer: Carmi … who was the son of Zerah, and not American.

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