The Gibeonite Deception
9 As soon as all the kings who were beyond the Jordan in the hill country and in the lowland all along the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, heard of this, they gathered together as one to fight against Joshua and Israel.
But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they on their part acted with cunning and went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly. And they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us.” But the men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you live among us; then how can we make a covenant with you?” They said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” And Joshua said to them, “Who are you? And where do you come from?” They said to him, “From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God. For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon the king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth. So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country said to us, ‘Take provisions in your hand for the journey and go to meet them and say to them, “We are your servants. Come now, make a covenant with us.”’ Here is our bread. It was still warm when we took it from our houses as our food for the journey on the day we set out to come to you, but now, behold, it is dry and crumbly. These wineskins were new when we filled them, and behold, they have burst. And these garments and sandals of ours are worn out from the very long journey.” So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.
At the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, they heard that they were their neighbors and that they lived among them. And the people of Israel set out and reached their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim. But the people of Israel did not attack them, because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel. Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders. But all the leaders said to all the congregation, “We have sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel, and now we may not touch them. This we will do to them: let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath that we swore to them.” And the leaders said to them, “Let them live.” So they became cutters of wood and drawers of water for all the congregation, just as the leaders had said of them.
Joshua summoned them, and he said to them, “Why did you deceive us, saying, ‘We are very far from you,’ when you dwell among us? Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall never be anything but servants, cutters of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.” They answered Joshua, “Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the LORD your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you—so we feared greatly for our lives because of you and did this thing. And now, behold, we are in your hand. Whatever seems good and right in your sight to do to us, do it.” So he did this to them and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel, and they did not kill them. But Joshua made them that day cutters of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD, to this day, in the place that he should choose.
Joshua 9 Commentary
by Hank Workman
They were a people living in Canaan. As Israel had conquered two cities, news brought terror far and wide. Deception would be the tactic the people of Gibeon would save their own skin. Dressing the part of nomads who have been traveling from far, they pleaded with the Israelite’s to make a peace treaty with them. All the way down to their wine-skins, bread and sandals they looked as though they had been gone a long time from home and traveled to meet them.
The leaders of Israel, along with Joshua looked at their appearance, inspected their items and made a pact for their safety. It was only after the fact they discovered the Gibeonites were somewhat ‘right around the corner’. God’s law in Leviticus said all oaths made were to be honored and so they were stuck upholding what they promised, even if they had been deceived.
To me this story reflects our need to pray about everything. There are those who believe we don’t need to pray for things except the major. They state God already knows the outcome so we shouldn’t bother him with the small stuff. He’ll work it out.
For others, they believe we should voice our concerns and seek counsel on everything – down to the everyday. And although this story was ‘the small stuff’ compared to Israel’s wars, it turned out to be a big matter. They failed to seek His counsel and acted upon what the appearance was instead of seeking divine wisdom and insight.
We need to pray about everything. From the small decision and burdens to the larger than life we need to seek His counsel and wisdom. We must seek out His will in a situation. It will help us not make mistakes, enable us to walk boldly without worry, and be on the path of His will. He will direct our way and give us peace in the middle of such turmoil or decision. He will guard our hearts and mind when we bring everything before Him.
Joshua 9 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Israel made a huge blunder by not going to God with this decision. We see this so many times, especially in the Old Testament. A leader rushes into a decision without consulting with God, and it leads to their own demise.
God did not want pagan people coming into their presence and corrupting their ways. Historically, the decision to yoke themselves to pagan nations turned Israel’s people toward pagan gods and false religious practices. So we can understand why God did not permit Israel to make covenants with its neighbors (God allowed it for cities outside their land).
On the other hand, after we see the results of this bad choice, it’s a pretty amazing testimony of God’s grace. The Gibeonites end up being forced to serve Israel. Eventually, they integrated into God’s great story and plan. In fact, later on we will see how Gibeon becomes part of Benjamin’s land area, and in Nehemiah, they help with rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem!
The free will of man took the Gibeonites in a less than ideal direction as it applied to Israel. God allowed them to become integrated into His glorious plan through their service to Him. It could be said that, like Rahab, their lifestyle and methods were not morally approved. However, their hearts feared God and had faith in His power. This is a remarkable example of how gracious our God is.