Vatican Library

The trials of Achan are recounted in word and image on this tenth-century scroll of the Book of Joshua, known as the Joshua Rotulus and owned by the Vatican’s Biblioteca Apostolica.

At left, two soldiers restrain Achan the Israelite, who stands accused of stealing booty from Jericho. With the tribe of Judah behind him, Achan raises his right hand in speech—a reference to Joshua 7:20–21, which is quoted, in part, below the scene. “It is true,” Achan confesses, “I am the one who sinned against the Lord God of Israel. This is what I did: when I saw among the spoil [from Jericho] a beautiful mantle from Shinar, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, then I coveted them and took them. They now lie hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” Achan’s misdeed inspires the wrath of Yahweh, who insists that the miscreant be destroyed.

At center, two soldiers drag Achan away by his hair. At right, the Israelites stone Achan and his family. Only then does Yahweh “turn from his burning anger” (Joshua 7:26) and allow Israel to conquer the Canaanite city of Ai.