The Battle Of Ai

I’ve long held that the Bible isn’t a stuffy set of rules, it’s one of the coolest action and adventure books every written.

There are epic battle, spies, wars, and even at least one dragon.

In Joshua 8, we are told of the Battle of Ai and how Joshua led his army to victory.  We’re going to analyze the tactics Joshua used and discuss how that Tactical Wisdom from the Bible can be applied today, and be just as effective as it was thousands of years ago.

On his first attempt, Joshua sent a small force, but they found the enemy entrenched behind well-prepared fortifications, so Joshua’s force was driven away and fled.

Rather than leave, Joshua prayed about the situation, and developed a plan, with a little help from God.  

Joshua decided to emplace an ambush behind the city, and draw the defenders away from their fortified positions, to level the playing field.  Joshua studied the terrain and found some restrictive terrain that he could lead the enemy into, but also from which they couldn’t see what happened to their fortifications.

The next night, Joshua dispatched a force to sneak around the city under cover of darkness and set up a concealed position behind the city.

In the morning, Joshua marched the rest of his forces in plain view right up to the city and camped near it.

The enemy, thinking they had another easy victory, came out and prepared to defend the city.  Rather than stand and fight, Joshua and his army pretended to flee, and led the defenders down a valley, away from the city.  The defenders fell for it and gave chase with nearly all their forces.

As Joshua passed the position where his ambush force was hiding, he raised his spear up as a signal to them.  They snuck out behind the pursuers and attacked the fort, quickly overcoming the small guard force left behind.  

The ambush force, once they had secured the town, lit a large fire to signal Joshua back, that they had secured the fortifications.

Joshua immediately spun around to offer battle.  The defenders, realizing that they had been tricked, turned to flee, only to find Joshua’s forces occupying their strong fortifications.  They were trapped.  

Joshua attacked and the battle was short and one-sided.

After the battle was won, Joshua took the captured King and impaled him on pole outside the city gate. (I told you it was a cool adventure story – any story that ends with a guy on a spike is cool).

That was an epic battle story and amazing tactics won the day, but can we apply the lessons learned and tactics used today?  ABSOLUTELY.  

Lets take a look at the Lessons Learned.


Conduct movement at night, to prevent enemy observation.  That’s 100% as valid today as it was thousands of years ago.  I know, we have night vision now, but darkness still offers more concealment than movement in daylight.

The temperature is also cooler than moving in daylight, and there is less human activity, and therefore less risk of accidental compromise of your movements.


Conduct a map study or ground recon to pick out the best terrain that offers you more advantages than it does the enemy.

In this case, Joshua picked terrain that would hide the ambush team and prevent the enemy from observing their movement back to the city.

Always analyze the ground you’re going to operate on, even if it is just a map study.


Attacking a well-prepared and fortified position is never a good idea and it requires major numerical superiority to make it work.

Whenever possible, draw the enemy out of the fortifications or bypass.  

During the Napoleonic Wars, forces frequently surrounded a fort, then moved on, cutting the supply lines, causing the fort to surrender without a fight.


Joshua had signals worked out in advance for each of elements to let the others know what was happening. In his day, he didn’t have radios and wire comms, but the idea is the same.

On the modern battlefield, having multiple signals and backup methods of communications is required.

Set up prearranged signals and keep them secret.

Have multiple methods of communications planned with your group. I recommend at a minimum radio, with a cell phone backup. Our group uses communications security measures that everyone is aware of, to ensure that even intercepted communications don’t give away information.

As you can see, the Tactical Wisdom from the Bible is exactly as valid today as it was when the Bible was written.  


Published by JD

I am the author of the Tactical Wisdom Series. I am a personal protection specialist and a veteran of the US Marine Corps. I conduct preparedness and self-defense training.

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