|Answer to a question regarding Joshua 7:11|
Does Joshua 7:11 not show that the sin of one person is imputed to all the people (to all Israel) and they are thereby defiled and found guilty? Does that not imply that if someone ina circle of fellowship commits a sin, thereby the whole circle is defiled and found guilty before God?
There are only three instances where God apparently punishes all the people for the sin of one person, but in all these cases there was a corporate guilt.
When David took a census (1Chr.21:1-17) it seems as if it concerns only David's sin; however in 2Sam24:1ff it appears that Israel roused God's anger. Therefore the people are found guilty before God for their own sins.
Another case is mentioned in 2Sam21:1-14. We notice in the first place that there is a famine in Israel because there is bloodguiltiness on the house of Saul who killed the Gibeonites. All the people of Israel had at the time made a covenant with the Gibeonites and sworn to them by the LORD (Josh.9:19) that they would not kill them. Saul broke that covenant and Israel had obviously not protested against it. David and all the people with
him have been slack to do penance for this evil. The famine serves as a chastisement from the LORD to awaken their conscience. Subsequently seven of Saul's grandsons are put to death to wipe out the blood guiltiness. These grandsons too put up with the act of their grandfather, instead of judging it. Here also it concerns a particular case, namely the breach of a promise.
Now we come to Joshua 7. This also is a particular case and one cannot lift verse 11 out of this chapter and explain it by itself without taking the whole context into account. Even though it is not explicitly mentioned, we might say, all the same, that the condition among the people was not good. Does it not appear from their words that their attitude was one of pride, in saying that they could easily conquer Ai with two or three thousand men?
Does the fact that they did not counsel the LORD show their unspiritual state?
Moreover we may ask ourselves whether they were really sufficiently watchful, so that no one would trespass the expressive command of the LORD to the whole of Israel.
Some have wanted to read the expression 'Israel has sinned' as 'There is sin in Israel'. There are expressions in the Bible that support this thought to some extend. I borrowed the following comments from my brother:
Ezekiel 14:13 (NAS) says: 'Son of man, if a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness,......'. This means, that people who live in the country, are sinning.
Compare also Ez.22:29,30 and Deut.24:4. Lam.1:8 says: 'Jerusalem sinned greatly'. That refers to the residents of Jerusalem. Furthermore,1Kings14:16 shows that the punishment mentioned there, did not come over Israel just because Jerobeam sinned, but also because Israel joined in it, same as in 1Kings16:2,19.
In other words, Israel has sinned can mean 'all Israel, (the people as a whole)', has trespassed, as in 1Kings14:16, but it can also mean 'people in Israel, people in the country' have sinned, as in Ez14:13. In this last instance, according to verse 14, the people as a whole, were trespassing.
Joshua 7:11 indicates, in my opinion, that God held all the people responsible for Achan's sin, but not apart from the guilty condition of the people, just as in the two other instances.
In the question that was asked, a conclusion is suggested which confronts us with the error of 'generalization', that is, from one particular case, we want to deduce a principle that can be applied generally. The error of generalization can easily be proved by looking at the consequences of a statement derived at in such a way. If the statement that is made would be correct, than the people of Israel would be defiled during its entire
existence and even more, guilty before God. Than, even in the glorious days of David, God could not have joined with the armies of Israel and they would have suffered one defeat after another, because there would certainly always have been somewhere an Israelite who had sinned and had not confessed.
This conclusion therefore cannot be correct and is moreover refuted by Rev.3:4, where the Lord testifies that there are some in Sardis who have not soiled their garments. God obviously does not hold these believers responsible for the sins of the assembly in Sardis!