Posted by: mattcolvin | June 26, 2012

The Smoke Rises to Heaven

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Tuesday of the third week after Trinity: Joshua 8:10-23.

This is the story of the ambush of Ai. It’s an interesting story, but I want to focus on just one line, in verse 20:

And when the men of Ai looked behind them, they saw, and behold, the smoke of the city was going up to heaven.

Compare the description of Sodom after its destruction:

Then he (Abraham) looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace.

These cities are made into whole burnt offerings to the Lord. Their smoke goes up. Both the men of Ai and Lot’s wife “looked behind them”.

We get the same phrases and the same strategy used in Judges 20, the story of the battle between the tribe of Benjamin and the rest of Israel. Like Joshua at Ai, the tribes of Israel use an ambush and feigned retreat to trap Benjamin while the city is torched:

Now the appointed signal between the men of Israel and the men in ambush was that they would make a great cloud of smoke rise up from the city, 39 whereupon the men of Israel would turn in battle. Now Benjamin had begun to strike and kill about thirty of the men of Israel. For they said, “Surely they are defeated before us, as in the first battle.” 40 But when the cloud began to rise from the city in a column of smoke, the Benjamites looked behind them, and there was the whole city going up in smoke to heaven.

There is a disputed translation in Jeremiah 48:15, where the King James has:

“Moab is spoiled, and gone up out of her cities, and his chosen young men are gone down to the slaughter, saith the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts.”

But the right translation is more likely, “Moab is spoiled, and her cities have gone up”, sc. in smoke, like a holocaust. This gives a better poetic image, contrasting the city that ascends in smoke with its chosen young men that descend to the grave.

All these things should be in our minds when we read Revelation 19:3, where the saints rejoice over the destruction of Babylon-Jerusalem:

3 Again they said, “Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!”



  1. In the picture at the top, the two words magnified in the glass read: JESU DOOD – dood being Low Germanic (Dutch, Afrikaans) for “dead”. Just saying, like.

    • No, it’s “Door”, meaning “by”.

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