Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible 
AI . 1 . A place between which and Bethel Abraham was stationed before ( Genesis 12:8 ) and after ( Genesis 13:3 ) his sojourn in Egypt. The repulse of the Israelite attempt on the city ( Joshua 7:2-5 ) led to the exposure of the crime of Achan; when that was expiated, the city was captured and destroyed ( Joshua 8:1-28 ) by a ruse. It never reappears in history, though it continued to be inhabited: it is the Aiath in Isaiah’s description of the march of the Assyrian ( Joshua 10:28 ), and the Aija of Nehemiah 11:31 . In 1 Chronicles 7:28 ‘Azzah , enumerated among the cities of Ephraim, is in many MSS ‘Ayyah , which is another form of the name. This, however, cannot in any case be the same place, which was within the tribe of Benjamin ( Joshua 18:23 , where Avvim is possibly a corruption for the name of this city). After the Exile, Ai and Bethel between them supplied a contingent of 223 to the number that returned ( Ezra 2:28 ), and the city was once more settled by Benjamites ( Nehemiah 11:31 ). That the city was insignificant is definitely stated in Joshua 7:3 , and indicated by the fact that in the list of captured cities it is almost the only one of which the situation is specified ( Joshua 12:9 ). Its capture, however, made a deep impression on the Canaanites ( Joshua 9:3; Joshua 10:1 ). As to its identification, the only indication to guide us is its proximity to Bethel (agreed by all to be Beitin ), on the east of that place (as follows from Genesis 12:8 ). Various sites have been proposed Turmus ‘Aya (which contains an element resembling the name, but the situation is impossible); Khurbet Hayan (which also has a similar name, but the antiquities of the place are not known to be old enough); Deir Diwan (which is in the right place, but also possibly not an old enough site); and et-Tell (a mound whose name has the same meaning as the word Ai [‘heap’]. Possibly this last is the most likely site.
2 . A wholly distinct place, mentioned in a prophecy against the Ammonites, Jeremiah 49:3 (perh. a clerical error for Ar ).
R. A. S. Macalister.
Holman Bible Dictionary 
Joshua 7:1-9 Joshua 7:16-26 Joshua 8:1-29 Genesis 12:8 Genesis 13:3 Isaiah 10:28 Jeremiah 49:3 Ezra 2:28
Although the existence of Ai is well documented, its exact location is debated. The general location of the city is known to be about 10-12 miles north of Jerusalem in the central hills of Palestine. This would be about the same distance from Jericho. William F. Albright identified Beitin as the city of Bethel and then concluded that et-Tell (a site one mile southeast of Beitin) was biblical Ai. Excavations conducted in the 1920s (John Garstang), 1930s (Judith Marquet-Krause and Samuel Yeivin), and 1960s and 1970s (Joseph Callaway), however, produced some disturbing evidence in light of Albright's 1939 proposal. It seems that et-Tell was first occupied as early as the fourth millennium (3200-3000 B.C.) and continued to thrive until the end of the third millennium (2200 B.C.). The problem is that the site has no evidence of being inhabited during the next 1000 years which includes the time of the Israelite invasion. Callaway found a small village without defense walls lasting from 1220 to 1050 B.C. This has resulted in some speculations concerning Albright's theory and the Bible story.
The suggestions for solving this problem are basically three: (1) the Bible contains an inaccurate or legendary story built on the earlier fame of the city; (2) the Israelites actually destroyed Bethel (not Ai), but the twin cities (see Ezra 2:28; and Nehemiah 7:32 ) were considered to be the same, or (3) further archaeological evidence will reveal a different site for Ai. Because of the Bible's historical accuracy, many scholars today dismiss the first idea. The second and third proposals, however, will require further archaeological evidence before this dilemma is solved.
Ai's meaning goes far beyond its mysterious location. At Ai, Israel learned they could not take a city known as the ruin if they disobeyed God. Victory did not lie in military strength or wise leadership. It lay in God's presence. Israel also learned they had hope after defeat. Confession of sin and punishment of offenders helped restore God's favor. The victory at Ai ( Joshua 8:1 ) frightened the other Canaanites ( Joshua 9:3; Joshua 10:2 ) and helped Israel to further victories. Israel learned to live with a punishing as well as a promising God.
Gary C. Huckaby
Fausset's Bible Dictionary 
("heap of rains".)
1. AI or HAI, i.e. the Ai ( Genesis 12:8); a royal city ( Joshua 7:2; Joshua 8:9; Joshua 8:23; Joshua 8:29; Joshua 10:1-2; Joshua 12:9); E. of Bethel, "beside Bethaven." The second Canaanite city taken by Israel and "utterly destroyed." The name AIATH still belonged to the locality when Sennacherib marched against Jerusalem ( Isaiah 10:28). "Men of Bethel and Ai," (223 according to Ezra 2:28, but 123 according to Nehemiah 7:32,) returned from Babylon with Zerubbzbel. Ezra's list was made in Babylon; Nehemiah's in Judaea long after. Death and change of purpose would make many in Ezra's list of intending returners not appear in Nehemiah's list of those actually arriving.
Aija is mentioned among the towns reoccupied by the Benjamites ( Nehemiah 11:31). Perhaps the site is at the head of Wary Harith. (See Bethel .) There is a hilltop E. of the church remains on the hill adjoining and E. of Bethel (Beitin); its Arab name, et Tel, means "the heap," and it doubtless is the site of Ai, or Hai (on the east of Abraham's encampment and altar, Genesis 12:8). In the valley behind Joshua placed his ambush. Across the intervening valley is the spot where Joshua stood when giving the preconcerted signal. The plain or ridge can be seen down which the men of Ai rushed after the retreating Israelites, so that the men in ambush rose and captured the city behind the pursuers, and made it. "a heap" or tel for ever.
2. A city of Ammon, near Heshbon ( Jeremiah 49:3).
Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary 
called by the LXX, Gai, by Josephus, Aina, and by others Ajah, a town of Palestine, situate west of Bethel, and at a small distance north-west of Jericho. The three thousand men, first sent by Joshua to reduce this city, were repulsed, on account of the sin of Achan, who had violated the anathema pronounced against Jericho, by appropriating a part of the spoil. After the expiation of this offence, the whole army of Israel marched against Ai, with orders to treat that city as Jericho had been treated, with this difference, that the plunder was to be given to the army. Joshua, having appointed an ambush of thirty thousand men, marched against the city, and by a feigned retreat, drew out the king of Ai with his troops; and upon on a signal given by elevating his shield on the top of a pike, the men in ambush entered the city and set fire to it. Thus the soldiers of Ai, placed between two divisions of Joshua's army, were all destroyed; the king alone being preserved for a more ignominious death on a gibbet, where he hung till sunset. The spoil of the place was afterward divided among the Israelites. The men appointed for ambush are, in one place, said to be thirty thousand, and in another five thousand. For reconciling this apparent contradiction, most commentators have generally supposed, that there were two bodies placed in ambuscade between Bethel and Ai, one of twenty-five thousand and the other of five thousand men; the latter being probably a detachment from the thirty thousand first sent, and ordered to lie as near to the city as possible. Masius allows only five thousand men for the ambuscade, and twenty-five thousand for the attack.
Easton's Bible Dictionary 
- One of the royal cities of the Canaanites ( Joshua 10:1; Genesis 12:8; 13:3 ). It was the scene of Joshua's defeat, and afterwards of his victory. It was the second Canaanite city taken by Israel ( Joshua 7:2-5; 8:1-29 ). It lay rebuilt and inhibited by the Benjamites ( Ezra 2:28; Nehemiah 7:32; 11:31 ). It lay to the east of Bethel, "beside Beth-aven." The spot which is most probably the site of this ancient city is Haiyan, 2 miles east from Bethel. It lay up the Wady Suweinit, a steep, rugged valley, extending from the Jordan valley to Bethel.
- A city in the Ammonite territory ( Jeremiah 49:3 ). Some have thought that the proper reading of the word is Ar ( Isaiah 15:1 ).
People's Dictionary of the Bible 
Ai ( Â'Î, Heap Of Ruins. 1. A city of the Canaanites, Genesis 13:3, where it is "Hai" in the Authorized Version, but Ai in the Revised Version. Taken by Joshua. Joshua 7:2-5; Joshua 8:1-29. Also called Aiath, Isaiah 10:28, and Aija in the A. V. and R. V., Nehemiah 11:31. Abraham pitched his tent between Hai and Bethel. Genesis 12:8. The city of Ai was east of Bethel, and about nine miles north of Jerusalem. It is named 38 times in the Bible. 2. A city of the Ammonites, not far from Heshbon. Jeremiah 49:3.
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary 
Called also Hai, Genesis 12:8; Aija, Nehemiah 11:31; and Aiath, Isaiah 10:28 . A royal city of the Canaanites, east of Bethel, near which Abraham once sojourned and built an altar, Genesis 12:8; 13:3 . It is memorable for Joshua's defeat on account of Achan, and his subsequent victory, Joshua 7:2-5; 8:1-29 . It was rebuilt, and is mentioned by Isaiah. Its ruins are spoken of by Eusebius and Jerome, but the exact site cannot now be fixed with certainty.
Smith's Bible Dictionary 
A'i. (Heap Of Ruins).
1. A city lying east of Bethel and "beside Bethaven." Joshua 7:2; Joshua 8:9. It was the second city taken by Israel after the passage of the Jordan, and was "utterly destroyed." Joshua 7:3-5; Joshua 8:1; Joshua 9:3; Joshua 10:1-2; Joshua 12:9.
2. A city of the Ammonites, apparently attached to Heshbon. Jeremiah 49:3.
Webster's Dictionary 
(n.) The three-toed sloth (Bradypus tridactylus) of South America. See Sloth.
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature 
(Hebrew Ay, עיְ , Ruin, perh. so called after its destruction, Genesis 12:8; Genesis 13:3; Joshua 7:2-5; Joshua 8:1-29; Joshua 9:3; Joshua 10:1-2; Joshua 12:9; Ezra 2:28; Nehemiah 7:32; Jeremiah 49:3; always with the art., הָעיְ , except in the passage last cited; Sept. Γαί in Joshua, Ἀγγαί in Genesis, Ἀϊἀ in Ezra, Ἀϊ v in Nehemiah, Γαϊ v in Jeremiah; Vulg. Hai; Auth. Vers. "Hai" in Genesis: also in the prolonged forms Aya', עִיְָּא , Nehemiah 11:31, Sept. Ἀίά , Vulg. Hai, Auth. Vers. "Aija;" Ayath', עיְָּה , Isaiah 10:28, Ἀγγαί , Ajath, "Aiath;" v. r. עִיר , text Joshua 8:16; עִיְנָה , Samar. Genesis 12:8, comp. Ἀίνά , Josephus, Ant. 5, 1, 12; Jerome Gai), the name of one or two places. See also AVIM.
1. A royal city of the Canaanites ( Joshua 10:1), the site of which (not necessarily then a city) is mentioned as early as the time of Abraham, who pitched his tent between it and Bethel ( Genesis 12:8; Genesis 13:3); but it is chiefly noted for its capture and destruction by Joshua ( Joshua 7:2-5; Joshua 8:1-29). (See Ambush). At a later period Ai appears to have been rebuilt, for it is mentioned by Isaiah ( Isaiah 10:28), and it was inhabited by the Benjamites after the captivity ( Ezra 2:28; Nehemiah 7:32; Nehemiah 11:31). The site was known, and some scanty ruins still existed in the time of Eusebius and Jerome (Onomast. s.v. Ἀγγαί ), but Dr. Robinson was unable to discover any certain traces of either. He remarks (Bib. Researches, 2, 313), however, that its situation with regard to Bethel may be well determined by the facts recorded in Scripture. That Ai lay to the east of Bethel is certain (comp. Joshua 12:9; "beside Bethaven," Joshua 7:2; Joshua 8:9); and the two cities were not so far distant from each other but that the men of Bethel mingled in the pursuit of the Israelites when they feigned to flee before the king of Ai, and thus both cities were left defenseless ( Joshua 8:17); yet they were not so near but that Joshua could place an ambuscade on the west (or south-west) of Ai, without its being observed by the men of Bethel, while he himself remained behind in a valley to the north of Ai ( Joshua 8:4; Joshua 8:11-13). A little to the south of a village called Deir Diwan, and one hour's journey from Bethel, the site of an ancient place is indicated by reservoirs hewn in the rock, excavated tombs, and foundations of hewn stone. This, Dr. Robinson inclines to think, may mark the site of Ai, as it agrees with all the intimations as to its position. Near it, on the north, is the deep Wady el-Mutyah, and toward the south-west other smaller wadys, in which the ambushed party of Israelites might easily have been concealed. According to Schwarz (Palest. p. 84), the ancient name is still preserved in some ruins called Khirbet Medinat Gai, near the edge of a valley, two English miles south-east of Bethel; a position which he thinks corresponds with a rabbinical notice of Ai (Shemoth Rabbah, c. 32) as lying three Roman miles from Bethel (erroneously written Jericho). Thenius, however (in Kauffer's Exeget. Studien, 2, 127 sq.), locates Ai at Turmus Aya, a small rocky mound east of Sinjil (Robinson's Researches, 3, 85), a position which is defended by Keil (Comment. on Joshua 7:2); but in which he has been influenced by an incorrect location of Bethel (q.v.). Stanley (Palest. p. 200 note) places it at the head of the Wady Harith. For Krafft's identification with Kirbet el-Haiyah, see Robinson (new ed. of Researches, 3, 288). Van de Velde, after a careful examination, concludes that no spot answers the conditions except Tell el- Hajar, about 40' E. by S. of Beitin, on the southern border of Wady el- Mutyah, with no remains but a broken cistern (Narrativiii. 278-282). This position essentially corresponds to that assigned by Robinson.
2. A city of the Ammonites, apparently opposite Heshbon, and devastated next to it by the Babylonians on their way to Jerusalem ( Jeremiah 49:3). Others, however, regard the name as an appellative here.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 
ā´ı̄ ( עי , ‛ay , written always with the definite article, העי , hā - ‛ay , probably meaning "the ruin," kindred root, עוה , 'awah ):
(1) A town of central Palestine, in the tribe of Benjamin, near and just east of Bethel ( Genesis 12:8 ). It is identified with the modern Haiyan, just south of the village Dêr Dı̂wân (Conder in HDB ; Delitzsch in Commentary on Genesis 12:8 ) or with a mound, El - Tell , to the north of the modern village (Davis, Dict. Biblical ). The name first appears in the earliest journey of Abraham through Palestine ( Genesis 12:8 ), where its location is given as east of Bethel, and near the altar which Abraham built between the two places. It is given similar mention as he returns from his sojourn in Egypt ( Genesis 13:3 ). In both of these occurrences the King James Version has the form Hai , including the article in transliterating. The most conspicuous mention of Ai is in the narrative of the Conquest. As a consequence of the sin of Achan in appropriating articles from the devoted spoil of Jericho, the Israelites were routed in the attack upon the town; but after confession and expiation, a second assault was successful, the city was taken and burned, and left a heap of ruins, the inhabitants, in number twelve thousand, were put to death, the king captured, hanged and buried under a heap of stones at the gate of the ruined city, only the cattle being kept as spoil by the people (Josh 7; 8). The town had not been rebuilt when Josh was written ( Joshua 8:28 ). The fall of Ai gave the Israelites entrance to the heart of Canaan, where at once they became established, Bethel and other towns in the vicinity seeming to have yielded without a struggle. Ai was rebuilt at some later period, and is mentioned by Isa ( Isaiah 10:28 ) in his vivid description of the approach of the Assyrian army, the feminine form (עיּת , 'ayyāth ) being used. Its place in the order of march, as just beyond Michmash from Jerusalem, corresponds with the identification given above. It is mentioned also in post-exilic times by Ezr ( Ezra 2:28 ) and Neh ( Nehemiah 7:32 , and in Nehemiah 11:31 as, עיּא , ‛ayyā' ), identified in each case by the grouping with Bethel.
(2) The Ai of Jeremiah 49:3 is an Ammonite town, the text probably being a corruption of ער , ‛ār ; or העיר , hā - ‛ı̄r , "the city" ( BDB ).
Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature 
Ai ( Joshua 7:2; Genesis 12:8; Nehemiah 11:31; Isaiah 10:28), a royal city of the Canaanites, which lay east of Bethel. It existed in the time of Abraham, who pitched his tent between the two cities ( Genesis 12:8; Genesis 13:3); but it is chiefly noted for its capture and destruction by Joshua ( Joshua 7:2-5; Joshua 8:1-29). At a later period Ai was rebuilt, and is mentioned by Isaiah ( Isaiah 10:28) and also after the Captivity. The site was known, and some scanty ruins still existed in the time of Eusebius and Jerome, but Dr. Robinson was unable to discover any certain traces of either.
- Ai from Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible
- Ai from Holman Bible Dictionary
- Ai from Fausset's Bible Dictionary
- Ai from Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary
- Ai from Easton's Bible Dictionary
- Ai from People's Dictionary of the Bible
- Ai from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary
- Ai from Smith's Bible Dictionary
- Ai from Webster's Dictionary
- Ai from Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
- Ai from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
- Ai from Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature