Was the city of Ai destroyed (Joshua 8:28) or not (Ezra 2:28; Nehemiah 7:32)? Is there a contradiction?
Was the city of Ai destroyed? The answer is yes. The book of Joshua records:
And Joshua burnt Ai, and made it a heap forever, a desolation to this day. (Joshua 8:28)
This destruction took place shortly after Joshua led the people of Israel into the land of Canaan. The book does not identify who the author is, but it is assumed by most scholars that Joshua the son of Nun himself recorded the majority of it, with someone else adding the last few verses, which speak of Joshua’s death.
In our text above, we’re told Ai remained “…a desolation to this day.” What day is referred to? It would be the time when the book was written. If we accept Joshua as the author, the city remained in a heap throughout his lifetime. If it was another who wrote the book, then the city remained destroyed to whatever time the writer was in.
When the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon (840 years after Joshua died), there were some who had been living in the area of Bethel and Ai (Ezra 2:28; Nehemiah 7:32). These were among those who went to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel. For some reason, the questioner believes this contradicts Joshua 8:28. If the book of Joshua was written at (or after) the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, then a contradiction is present. It wasn’t.
There is no contradiction.
EXTRA—I expected the questioner to point out the difference in the number of people spoken of by Ezra (223) and Nehemiah (123). Though this difference appears in English translations, it is not in the Hebrew. Both texts ought to read 123.
A response to 1001 Bible Contradictions.