Similarities between Achan and Ananias and Sapphira

In my preparation for my sermon delivered Sunday morning, February 19, 2012, I came across an observation made by two different commentators.  They connected the sin of Achan in Joshua 7:1-26 to the sin of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11.  Here’s what they said:

The story of Ananias is to the book of Acts what the story of Achan is to the book of Joshua.  In both narratives an act of deceit interrupts the victorious progress of the people of God (F.F. Bruce, The Book of Acts, NICNT, 102).

And

Luke meant to draw a parallel between the sin of Achan as the Israelites begin their conquest of Canaan and the sin of Ananias and Sapphira as the church began its missions—both incidents coming under the immediate and drastic judgment of God and teaching a sobering lesson.  And this is very likely how the early church saw the incident as well (Richard Longenecker, Acts, EBC, 110).

This piqued my interest so I compared the two accounts.  I found six similarities between the sin of Achan and the sin of Ananias and Sapphira.

  1. Israel “broke faith” when Achan stole items devoted to destruction in Joshua 7:1.  Ananias and Sapphira’s act was an act of counterfeit faith.
  2. The Greek verb translated “kept back,” nosfizw, in Acts 5:3 is the same verb used in the LXX (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) to translate the Hebrew word translated “took,” laqach, in Joshua 7:1.
  3. The sin of Achan occurs early in the nation’s military progress in the Promised Land.  The sin of Ananias and Sapphira occurs early in the church’s gospel progress in Jerusalem.
  4. Achan stole and lied (Joshua 7:11).  Ananias and Sapphira kept back and lied (Acts 5:3).
  5. Joshua confronts Achan (Joshua 7:19).  Peter confronts Ananias (Acts 5:3) and Sapphira (Acts 5:8).
  6. All the people of Israel witnessed the judgment on Achan and his family (Joshua 7:23).  The entire church witnessed the judgment of God on Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:5, 11).
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2 thoughts on “Similarities between Achan and Ananias and Sapphira

  1. Dear Doug Roman,
    I came accross the same parallel and find it very challenging: Where there is revival and a proceeding of the Gospel, God is especially strict about sin, because the good things have to be protected.

    I find it also interesting that there are some remarkable differences that put some light on the difference between Old Testament and New Testament:
    Achan takes away from what Israel (according the command of God) should have completely destroyed. Ananias keeps back from his own possessions. Achan´s whole family is killed because of the man’s sin without even being asked. Ananias’ has the opportunity to respond herself (she fails – and so she is punished too). Achan and his family are killed be the people (as God then commands). Ananias and his wife are killed by God himself. None of the believers has to cast a stone…

    Wolfgang Haede

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