After Achan's transgression of taking the accursed thing God apportions the blame in plural form to the israelites.

Joshua 7: KJV

10 And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? 11 Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. 12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.

Could it be some of the Israelites knew what Achan had done yet had not disclosed this information. God says they had "dissembled"/"lied" about it which seems to imply that they knew about this incident.

Could some of the Isrealites have known about this incident?

2 Answers 2


There are two possible answers:

  1. Since Joshua did not yet know who the sinner was, as this was only revealed much later in the chapter, the collective they is used. This is not to imply that the whole nation is held responsible for Achan's sin, only that someone of the nation of Israel has sinned and that purging needs to be done. Similarly in the English language the pronoun they can be either plural ("they are awesome") or singular ("When I tell somebody a joke, they laugh") depending on the context. The singular they is also gender neutral, which means it can be used for any person of unspecified gender. So perhaps the text just means, "some unknown Israelite has stolen from the herem". I think this option is worth considering.
  2. The Israelites are being punished for not purging the sin from their community. Since the sinner was left unpunished, and he was dwelling in their midst they were suffering for the sins of the sinner that was left unresolved. This is clearly the reason why 36 people died in the battle on that day, since Achan took from the herem and no penalty was given to him. This idea is actually oft-repeated in the bible. So perhaps this is the reason the plural they is used here to denote collective sin, not because they were to be blamed for Achan's sin, but because they didn't remove the sin from within their midst, thus the whole nation is in some way connected to this sin until it is removed.

However none of these can properly resolve v. 1 which states that the "children of Israel acted unfaithfully by taking from the herem", this is hard to justify either with the first or second solution. The language in v. 1 strongly suggests that the entire nation is indeed held responsible for Achan's sin.


No, I do not believe the bible is alluding to duplicity on part of others in Israel in verse 11. I believe the context of verse 1 helps to clarify.

Joshua 7:1 (KJV)

But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel.

The verse starts by saying that "the children of Israel" committed a trespass in the accured thing but then defines what that means. The verse defines that one person (Achan) took of the accursed thing. The verse then says that the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel. So, verse one states that the offense was with the action of one person, however, the Lord was holding the nation responsible.

When we get down to verse 11 and see the usage of the plural "they", we understand that this is a reference from verse 1 where God is holding the nation responsible even when the sin (including lying) was the action of just one person.

In addition, in verse 1, the singular noun "a trespass" supports the idea that there was one offense, not multiple.

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