One of the more memorable incidents in the Old Testament is the Israelites’ first defeat when attacking Ai. Shortly after annihilating Jericho, a few thousand Israelites go to take Ai and are routed, with 36 men killed. After a short investigation, Achan, the son of Zerah, took some of the devoted things. Thereby condemning all of Israel to failure. We read about the consequences of Achan’s sin here. 

Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold bar, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor. Joshua said, “Why have you brought this trouble on us? The Lord will bring trouble on you today.” Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them (emphasis added)

Joshua 7:24-25 (NIV)

Everyone in Achan’s immediate family was stoned to death and then burned, which brings to mind these two verses.

Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.

Deuteronomy 24:16 (NIV)

The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.

Ezekiel 18:20 (NIV)

This raises the question of why Achan’s “sons and daughters” were killed along with him. 

We must consider this verse where Achan “confesses” his sin to answer that question. 

“When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

Joshua 7:21 (NIV)

Unlike today where a family can live together and still have secrets, that was a challenging thing to do in those days since everyone congregated in the family tent. Therefore, everyone in the family would have known what Achan had done. That’s the first reason why everyone was executed. Everyone in the family knew what Achan had done.

In addition to everyone being complicit in the sin is this verse.

The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent (emphasis added).

Joshua 6:17 (NIV)

Joshua 6:17 is where we see Joshua’s command to destroy everything in the city. When Achan disobeyed this command, he sinned against God. Achan stole from God those things that were devoted to him. While such a sin is bad enough, I see more to it. Achan’s sin reminds me of an incident in Acts.

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Acts 5:1-2 (NIV)

Ananias and Sapphira sold a piece of property and conspired to lie about how much they sold it for. Likely because it would “improve” their image. However, when confronted by Peter about the lie, Peter points out that Ananias lied, not just to him, but to the Holy Spirit. Upon hearing this, Ananias drops down dead. Soon after, Sapphira comes in, lies, and drops dead. 

Achan, Ananias, and Sapphira have one thing in common. None of them really believed in God. If they had, they would have known God was omniscient and that they couldn’t pull one over on him. However, because of their unbelief, they all thought they could get away with something. This is the second reason Achan and his family were executed. Their unbelief outweighed their belief. 

Nowhere do we read that Achan’s sons and daughters were children. This is where Deuteronomy 24:16 and Ezekiel 18:20 come in. Those verses apply to children. Still, the concept should be the same. I shouldn’t be held responsible for someone else’s sin and be punished for it. Should I? Regardless, it’s unlikely that Achan’s children were not adults since 1 Chronicles 2:7 tells us that Achan was fifth in line to Judah. 

The son of Karmi: Achar, who brought trouble on Israel by violating the ban on taking devoted things.

1 Chronicles 2:7 (NIV)

Jewish commentators suggest that Achan was an “old man.” therefore, Achan could have been no older than 60 (since he didn’t die in the wilderness and everyone 20 years old and older died) and no younger than 40 since the Israelites wandered for 40 years. Therefore, his “children” were adults or, at the least, passed the age of accountability (8-13). 

Much like Adam and Eve, who brought a curse upon all of humanity, Achan brought a curse down upon his family. Thus, Achan and his family were complicit in Achan’s initial actions and condemned themselves by their silence. After all, if they believed the Lord to be all-knowing and powerful, why try and hide anything from him? 

We can learn from Achan that sin doesn’t care who it kills. His family and 36 Israelites lost their lives because of what Achan did.