Listen to this episode of my podcast, Prepared To Answer, Why were Achan’s family killed if they were innocent? https://anchor.fm/simon-dinning/episodes/Why-were-Achans-family-killed-if-they-were-innocent-e3csne
Joshua 7 – Achan’s Sin
Joshua 7:25 NIV
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.
Why were Achan’s family killed for his sin?
The Bible tells us that Achan took items which were devoted to God, directly stealing from God himself (Joshua 7:11). As the Israelites operated as a community, this action had consequences for everyone, in this case they were defeated by their enemies, the people of Ai.
The Israelites were repeatedly told to “purge the evil from among them”, revealing the collective nature of sin (Deuteronomy 13:5, 17:7, 19:9, 21:21, 22:21, 22:24, 24:7). If one person sins, they were expected to deal with it immediately.
Before dealing with the specifics of the above question, there a few important things we must appreciate.
1) As this sin had a direct impact on many other people, there needed to be an immediate punishment for the perpetrators. Such a clear violation of God’s Word and subsequent authority could not be dealt with by a simple slap on the wrist, so to speak.
2) Achan had time to come clean for his actions, as v16 tells us, it was early the next morning that the perpetrator was to be identified. Achan seeing the consequences, had time to think about his actions and confess his wrongdoing, this would surely have spared him and his family their fate.
Here are a few specific points to help us understand why Achan’s family may also have been stoned alongside him.
3) Achan’s family were most likely complicit with his crime
But how do we know this?
It is very unlikely that Achan could have accomplished this deed and then have hidden the stolen materials in his families tent without their knowing anything about it. Remember all Israelites were commanded to speak up if they are aware of wrongdoing, or they would leave themselves open to guilt.
Their guilt is implied in their punishment.
God clearly stated elsewhere that he would not punish children for the action of their parents:
“He will not die for his father’s sin: he will surely live” (Ezekiel 18:17) &
“The soul who sins is the one who will die.” (Ezekiel 18:20)
God would in essence be violating his own word and law were he to punish Achan’s family, for sin they were not responsible for.
4) There is absolutely no reference to small children in Achan’s family. Even if there were and their parents were killed, there would be no-one to care for them.
They would possibly be left as orphans and this was at that time, a rather dangerous predicament to be in.
It would be more merciful for God to take them into his direct care. As we know children will automatically go into his presence when they die, as they are innocent and do not know right from wrong, as clearly described in scripture.