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Joshua 7:25: And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.

The above verse says that Achan was stoned alone (him). But there was a plural (them) when he/they were burned. How can we understand this - was Achan's family punished along with Achan? Or was Achan alone when punished?

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2 Answers 2

Hebrew in other places will use the singular when there is a group acting as one or being acted upon as one. From that, I would understand the "he" used in the first part to be "a group referred to in the singular." After that, the writer used the plural.

I answered a similar question about subject-verb agreement previously. Short answer, a reader would expect agreement throughout but that isn't always what happens.

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Frank, thanks for the response. But it is still not very clear as to why the text was made complicated for layman to understand. –  taurivalor Aug 3 '13 at 12:38
    
@taurivalor, it's a translation issue. The Hebrew reader would roll with it and not even blink. –  Frank Luke Dec 18 '13 at 19:40

Frank's textual answer seems very tenuous to me. Verb-subject disagreement is far more prevalent than the form here (inconsistent numeration within the same verse when referring to the same subject). So it seems irrelevant to invoke that to justify this construct. Moreover, verb-subject disagreement has literary function (emphasis) which is sorely lacking under that reading. That reading makes the text feel sloppy and redundant.

So while we seem to both agree that the family was burnt along with Achan (the vow in verse 15 clearly states that the perpetrator and all he has will be punished, and so too in verse 24 they clearly take Achan, his family and his possessions), it seems clear to me that the first "him" is a reference to Achan and Achan alone.

I see no necessity in wrapping the singularity in an abstract reference to the entire group as a single entity. Mentioning Achan's punishment first makes emphatic sense (precisely the same reason verb-subject disagreement makes literary sense). He was the perpetrator, so they mention him in his own right.

Moreover, it matches the wording of the vow itself, which mentioned that the person (singular) caught will burn (singular), him and all he owns (a reference to plural entities afterwards). It is more common a construct that two related verses (e.g. a vow and its fulfilment) have similar form, so it makes sense that when the vow is fulfilled it is reminiscent of the original verse.

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bjorne, Thanks your explanation is reasonable. –  taurivalor Aug 3 '13 at 12:33

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