Topographic plan of Ai battle.

Ai, located about 10 miles north of Jerusalem, sits on a tell in a hilly region within the territory of Benjamin (see photograph). A wadi, or dry riverbed, winds down from Ai eastward to Jericho. In order to conquer the well-defended Canaanite city of Ai, the Israelites came up this wadi from Jericho.

The Israelite forces marched on Ai and then feigned a withdrawal in order to draw the defenders of Ai out of the city in pursuit; then a hidden ambush force of Israelites raced into the undefended city, burned it, and turned on the pursuing men of Ai who were caught in a pincer movement—between the Israelite ambush force and the main force of Israelites who suddenly stopped fleeing and turned to attack their pursuers.

This topographic map shows the movement of the various forces in relation to lines of elevation. (Each topographic line is identified by a number—the number of meters above sea level; the closer together the lines are, the steeper the slope is.) The numbers and colored arrows are explained in the key accompanying the schematic plan (see plan).