The sin of Achan was ONE: He loved the finer things of life. And he just couldn’t help himself. So he stole some.
And what did he steal? A Wedge of Gold. And 200 Silver Coins. And a custom-made expensive and fashionable Babylonian clothing. Well, that’s something! And he got a secured safe and I buried them in the underground compartment of his apartment for later. Well planned and well executed.
In his statement, he confessed:
Joshua 7:21: “Among the plunder I saw a beautiful robe from Babylon, 200 silver coins, and a bar of gold weighing more than a pound. I wanted them so much that I took them. They are hidden in the ground beneath my tent, with the silver buried deeper than the rest.”
Background of The Story
The destruction of Jericho was one of the most dramatic events in the Old Testament and the Bible at large. The Israelites under Moses gained their independent from Egypt and Pharaoh. 2 million people headed for the Promised Land. Unfortunately, for some reasons such as disobedience and rebellion, they could not reach the Promised Land even though it was only 40 days journey. For forty years they wandered in the barren expanse of land until the older generations all died – everybody aged 20 and above at Exodus died, including Moses. Only Joshua and Caleb survived their generation.
Finally, the second generation of Israelites did what their parents couldn’t do: They reached the Promised Land. But there was one very serious problem: The Land was already inhabited. There were different towns, cities and even countries already living in that place. And for them to possess the promised land, there must be war.
The Israelites’ conquest of Canaan did not happen all at once. Rather, the military general named Joshua led Israel’s armies in an extended campaign in which he conquered the primary cities and people groups one at a time. 31 kings in all. Led by Joshua, the Battle of Jericho later became the first battle of the Israelites in their conquest of Canaan.
Overwhelmed by the task ahead, Joshua turned to God in prayers. How would they conquer Jericho? It was heavily fortified, with a virtually impregnable double wall. While waiting for the way forward, the entire nation of Israel underwent the process of circumcision. And as they were healing, God said “NOW!”. Men who were recovering from the cutting of foreskin marched around Jericho for 7 days, and on the seventh day, the walls fell. There are archaeological evidences to confirm this, but it is a story for another day. The wall collapsed inward – crashing on itself.
The Israelites army marched over the collapsed wall to conquer the city of Jericho. As they did Joshua gave a clear instruction: Destroy the city. Do not leave anything standing. Burn it down. And while at it, do not take any plunder for yourself. We only need the precious metals for the worship of our God!
Joshua 6: 18-19: “Do not take any of the things set apart for destruction, or you yourselves will be completely destroyed, and you will bring trouble on the camp of Israel. Everything made from silver, gold, bronze, or iron is sacred to the LORD and must be brought into his treasury.”
But a young Soldier named Achan had other plans.
ACHAN means TROUBLE
One might think that Achan was a total pagan, a bad man, someone who drank iniquity like water, always on the lookout for unattended property, quick to grab easy money, a common thief, even that he was a Canaanite. The fact is, Achan was nothing of the kind. He came from one of the prominent families of the noble tribe of Judah. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather (Carmi, Zimri and Zerah respectively) had lived in Egypt under the lash of cruel task-masters, had been rescued from slavery, and had all died in the Wilderness. Achan was part of the generation who survived the Wilderness, miraculously crossed River Jordan on dry ground, and entered into the territory of the Promised Land. Just recently, he had been circumcised with the other men and had witnessed the Walls of Jericho fall down flat. Yet he had conceived the thoughts in his mind to take the goodies for personal use, and he had followed through with his plan.
Achan literally meant “Trouble” and he did live up to that name. Like Judas Iscariot, he had coveted and take, and like Judas Iscariot, his greed led to the death of the innocent, this time 36 young soldiers! Achan took his place in history with the likes of Judas Iscariot and Ananias and Sapphira; and just like them, his judgment was instantaneous – both himself, his wife and children were immediately executed.
Could there have been a reason for taking those items he stole? Could there have been a justifiable reason for wanting for himself those beautiful things?
Remember that they were just coming out of an expanse of nothingness and have just arrived at a fertile lush and prosperous Promised Land.
AN EXPENSIVE BOOTY
What did Achan steal? Three items only. Beautiful Babylonian clothing, a gold bar and a few pieces of silver coins. Only that they were valuable then just like they are still valuable today. The precious gems must be reserved for building the temple and not for personal use. But greed wouldn’t make Achan great.
A BAR OF GOLD WEIGHING MORE THAN A POUND
Gold Price per Kilo as of today is $41,278.34. However, Gold is not priced by the pound. It is priced by the Troy ounce. As of today in 2017, a Troy ounce costs an approximate $1,283.90. A Troy ounce has 31.1 grams. (Note that 1 pound equals 454 g by simple SI unit conversion). Thus, 1 pound = 454 g = 14.6 Troy ounce. If one troy ounce costs $1,283.90, one pound of gold bar will be $18,700.
200 SILVER COINS
Both King James and New American Standard Bible (KJV&NASB – considered to be authentic interpretations) described this as two hundred shekels of silver.
The shekel weighed approximately 0.5 troy ounces and silver prices . While today’s silver coin prices closes at approximately $21, we can not compute the value without comparing it with what it could have been worth in Bible times:
50 Shekels of silver was equal to 200 days wages; Judas Iscariot took 30 shekels of silver, which translated to 120 days for a skilled laborer. Thus 200 silver pieces would be equal to 800 days wages. Now 800 days is approximately 3 years wages (if you deduct the weekends and long holidays).
Achan was set for life! Or at least for the next like 10 years.
LESSONS FROM ACHAN
The Old Testament story of Achan in the Book of Joshua in the Bible is both strange and disturbing. Achan’s story isn’t a pleasant one, and it can feel distasteful in today’s culture.
But Achan teaches us the danger of selling one’s soul for the ungodly Mammom. Jesus says: You cannot serve God and Man mom (the God of wealth through illicit means)
Proverbs 15:27(a): “He who profits illicitly troubles his own house.” (NASB). Achan was a testimony to that.
1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. By craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” (Emphasis mine).
All scriptures, unless otherwise stated, are from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation.