In responding to a question in the previous post on the word “anathema” it occurred to me that Paul may have the Jericho/Achan story in mind when he applies the word to those who preach a false gospel.
1. As I note in my reply in the comments, the story is interesting for how the word “devoted” (anathema) is used. The city of Jericho is wholly devoted to the Lord (Josh. 6:17) which means it is to be utterly destroyed. However, the gold and silver and utensils are “devoted” to the Lord and this means that they are to be put into His treasury (Josh. 6:18-19). Of course Achan steals the “devoted” treasures and thus becomes “devoted” (Josh. 7:12-13), and he and his family are completely destroyed (like Jericho).
2. Given the fact that the word is not terribly common in the OT (used only 23 times) and it is used prominently in the story of Achan (eleven times in Joshua 6-7) and twice more in the OT to refer to Achan’s sin (Josh. 22:20, 1 Chr. 2:7), it would not be difficult to hear the story of Achan in the word “anathema.”
3. While it does seem to mean something like “cursed” in a more generic sense in some contexts in the NT, there may be some parallels between Galatians 1 and the Achan story that suggest Paul may have had this in mind. The “false gospel” being preached in Galatia is the Judaizing heresy, that Christians must become Jews, but Jesus has already declared the destruction of the temple, the complete destruction of Jerusalem. And God is building a new temple, a new Jerusalem out of His people where His Spirit now dwells. In this new temple, the people of God are the plunder, the devoted treasures that are to be taken into His treasury. But the Judaizers are trying to steal that plunder for themselves. They are acting like the original inhabitants of Jericho, defying the Lord God of Israel and greedily hording the treasures that rightfully belong to Jesus. Thus, Paul could see the preachers of this false gospel as acting like Achan, bringing sin into the camp, acting like the Jews/temple which are already “devoted” to destruction, and Paul therefore rightfully calls upon God to “devote” these false preachers to destruction. If they want to horde the people of God like the Jewish leaders, then they will be destroyed like the Jewish leaders.
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