They trespassed the “accursed” designation and instructions assigned to Jericho, and kept the spoils of Jericho. God consequently delivered many of Israel into the hands of the people in the first battle of Ai. Afterward, God forgave Israel for the “accursed” transgression, whereby Joshua led Israel in battle to utterly destroy to Ai city, in the same way Israel destroyed Jericho, but this time God permitted Israel to keep the plunder.
Archaeological excavations of a city with mighty fortifications of walls and gates burned by fire and left in ruins, believed by some archaeologists to be Ai city, were dated to circa 2000 BC or before. Ai/`Ay city is defined as a “heap of ruins,” which indicated it was either re-named posthumously after its destruction or was rebuilt after a previous destruction of the mighty city. Scripturally we know Ai was a city close to where Abraham camped, Bethel and Hai. Ai was the royal city of the Rephaim and Canaanites, but not as great as Gibeon city of the Gibeonim/Hivvim. Some theologians assert Avvim and Gaza/`Azzah were variants of `Ay indicating that Ai may have been an Avvim royal city. Avith is the plural of `Ay/Aya. Moreover, both Ai and Avith’s names mean “heap of ruins,” and both were in Jericho’s vicinity. Ai was rebuilt after Joshua’s destruction, based on references Ai that come later in the Bible.
Details captured in Israel’s siege strategy for Ai’s destruction presents an example for Christians to take heed when identifying gibborim as only giants. Joshua selected thirty thousand of his mighty/gibbowr men/‘iysh, whereby these “mighty men of valor,” were sent at night to take their position for the battle to follow. Israel’s men/champions/‘iysh were not Nephilim, Rephaim, or hybrid humans, nor were David’s “mighty men” whose description derives from the same words recorded in Joshua 8:3. However, this does not preclude that God preternaturally strengthened Joshua’s men of valor and David’s mighty men to defeat giant armies.