Joshua 9


The Deception

‘Now when all the kings west of the Jordan heard about these things—the kings in the hill country, in the western foothills, and along the entire coast of the Mediterranean Sea as far as Lebanon (the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites)—they came together to wage war against Joshua and Israel. However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. They put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and mouldy. Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the Israelites, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.” The Israelites said to the Hivites, “But perhaps you live near us, so how can we make a treaty with you?” “We are your servants,” they said to Joshua. But Joshua asked, “Who are you and where do you come from?” They answered: “Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the LORD your God. For we have heard reports of him: all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan—Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth. And our elders and all those living in our country said to us, ‘Take provisions for your journey; go and meet them and say to them, “We are your servants; make a treaty with us.”’ This bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come to you. But now see how dry and mouldy it is. And these wineskins that we filled were new, but see how cracked they are. And our clothes and sandals are worn out by the very long journey.” The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.’ Joshua 9:1-15

Sometimes Satan attacks us when we least expect it, the same occurs to Israel. They had gotten themselves realigned with God and had taken Ai and following the defeat of Ai the people went on a type of spiritual pilgrimage. Joshua built an altar at Mount Ebal and sacrifices were offered, with half the people on Mount Gerizim and half on Mount Ebal, all the words of the law were read to the people.

With this law, fresh on their minds they still fell into the trap of the Gibeonite’s deception, though the people stumbled, God still turned it into a blessing. News of Israel’s victories was spreading quickly, the news had gotten to Canaan before Israel arrived and also the news of the victories over Jericho and Ai travelled quickly.

It seems that some kings decide to join together, which is interesting because normally these kings would have been warring against each other but here, they feel a common threat. Therefore ‘they gathered themselves together with one accord to fight with Joshua and with Israel’.

Evidently, this was not just an opportunity to fight against an invading army, but to defeat God as well. And so, the Gibeonites try something different, maybe, the Gibeonites had somehow gained knowledge of Israel’s law.

Cities outside Canaan could be offered terms of peace, Deuteronomy 20:10-12 and cities inside Canaan were to be utterly destroyed, Exodus 23:31-33. Maybe, the Gibeonites felt that it would do no good, no matter how large the army, to fight against these people called Israelites but whatever their reasoning, ‘they … acted craftily’.

This was their plan, they gathered up worn-out sacks and wineskins, they put on worn-out clothes and sandals, and they gathered up crumbly old bread. Their story would be that they had come from a far country and wanted to make peace and so, their plan was carried out.

They came to Joshua at Gilgal, Joshua and the people are at first sceptical but the Gibeonites lay it on thick, they say they have come from a very far country, they say they have heard of the fame of God, what He did in Egypt, what He did to the Amorite kings but notice, neither Jericho nor Ai is mentioned, which would have betrayed them. They say that because of this their people have sent them to make a covenant of peace with them.

They show the evidence to back up their story, their plan worked, and the men of Israel looked at their provisions, but the men of Israel didn’t consult God again just like they didn’t when they first went to take Ai.

The people had their Urim and Thummim, they could have gone directly to the high priest and gotten an answer, Numbers 27:18-21 and so, Joshua made a covenant with them to let them live.

‘Three days after they made the treaty with the Gibeonites, the Israelites heard that they were neighbours, living near them. So, the Israelites set out and on the third day came to their cities: Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath Jearim. But the Israelites did not attack them, because the leaders of the assembly had sworn an oath to them by the LORD, the God of Israel. The whole assembly grumbled against the leaders, but all the leaders answered, “We have given them our oath by the LORD, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now. This is what we will do to them: We will let them live, so that God’s wrath will not fall on us for breaking the oath we swore to them.” They continued, “Let them live, but let them be woodcutters and water carriers in the service of the whole assembly.” So, the leaders’ promise to them was kept. Then Joshua summoned the Gibeonites and said, “Why did you deceive us by saying, ‘We live a long way from you,’ while actually you live near us? You are now under a curse: You will never be released from service as woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God.” They answered Joshua, “Your servants were clearly told how the LORD your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you the whole land and to wipe out all its inhabitants from before you. So, we feared for our lives because of you, and that is why we did this. We are now in your hands. Do to us whatever seems good and right to you.” So Joshua saved them from the Israelites, and they did not kill them. That day he made the Gibeonites woodcutters and water carriers for the assembly, to provide for the needs of the altar of the LORD at the place the LORD would choose. And that is what they are to this day.’ Joshua 9:16-27

Three days later the deception is discovered, the Gibeonites are found to be neighbours, and their cities were Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath Jearim. Israel didn’t strike them because the oath had been made in the name of the Lord. Once again, Israel sinned in making the covenant, but to have broken it would have compounded the sin.

Several hundred years later, in the time of David, God sent a famine on the land because Saul had broken this covenant, 2 Samuel 21:1 / Psalm 15:1 / Psalm 15:4.

And so, Joshua calls for an explanation and asks why they deceived the Israelites and then pronounced a curse on them. The curse was that they would forever be slaves, their work was to be cutting wood and drawing water.

The Gibeonites explained that they knew of the commandment given to Moses and that they feared for their lives. However, the Israelites could do with them as they saw fit and so, Joshua let them be and the Gibeonites did become servants.

Though in all of this the men of Gibeon were deceptive, yet in all of their future associations with God’s people, they will be blessed. Their work was on behalf of the worship of God and one of their cities was given to the line of Aaron. David put the tabernacle in Gibeon and one of David’s mighty men was a Gibeonite.

When Solomon ascended the throne, he offered burnt offerings at Gibeon, Solomon had his vision at Gibeon. In the time of Zerubbabel, a list of the Gibeonites was included in the genealogies of those returning from captivity.

Some who claimed to be Jews, but whose names were not found in the registry, were not allowed to be a part of the Jewish nation. In the time of Nehemiah, the Gibeonites were among those who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem.

Go To Joshua 10