The City of Ai

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City of Ai gate socketstone discovered in 2013 dig – Image by Associates for Biblical Research

Julia Waverley gazed in wonder at the ruins around her while her husband, Michael videotaped them. This year, they had opted not to travel to Europe as they were wont to do every summer but decided to visit the biblical city of Ai instead.

The name Ai means “heap of ruins” and it was situated east of Bethel and beside Bethaven near Jericho. It was the second city taken in the invasion of Canaan. It was also called Hai. Abraham pitched his tent on a mountain with Bethel on the west and Hai on the east. There he built an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD (Genesis 12:8).

“So, this is modern day Ai?”

“Yes. That’s what the tour guide says.”

“It’s called Khirbet el-Maqatir.”

“Yes.”

“I thought it was et-Tell.”

“No, et-Tell wasn’t the city of Ai which Joshua and the Israelites conquered. I read that it is Khirbet el-Maqatir because of the following reasons: it’s adjacent to Beth Aven; is east of and near to Bethel; has an ambush site between Bethel and Ai; has a military hill north of Ai where the Israelite army camped and is close to a shallow valley north where Joshua and the men who were the decoys could be seen by the king of Ai. Khirbet el-Maqatir is the only site which meets all of the biblical criteria. Excavations and findings there have proven conclusively that Khirbet el-Maqatir as the site of the city of Ai which Joshua defeated.”

“I’m trying to imagine Joshua and the children of Israel going up against the people of Ai.”

“It says that the men from Ai pursued Joshua, leaving their city unattended.”

“That was foolish because while they were running straight into a trap, the city was ambushed and then burned.”

“Yes. When the men from Ai looked behind them and saw the smoke of the city as it ascended to heaven. They were trapped. They had no where to flee and the Israelites whom they had been pursuing turned back on them.”

“When Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that the smoke of the city ascended, they turned back and struck down the men of Ai.”

“It all worked out as God had planned. He had told Joshua to lay an ambush for the city behind it.”

“Everyone in the city was struck down, except the king. He was taken to Joshua before they burned the city.”

“I can’t remember. What happened to the king?”

“He was hanged on a tree until evening and then his corpse was taken and cast at the entrance of the gate of the city. A great heap of stones were raised over it. And as for the city of Ai, it was made a heap made it a heap forever and a desolation to this day.”

“Wow. Being here and seeing this really makes the Bible come alive, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, it does. Any way, let’s keep up with the group.” He hit pause on the camcorder and started off towards the group. Julia followed him.

Sources: Blue Letter Bible; Bible Archeology Report

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