104-1010-Joshua Chapter 9
The Canaanite kings of the land had reason to fear with the news of how the Israelites had Jericho delivered to them by their God. Now that the Lord had given them Ai they had become afraid. They had all gathered together to fight against Joshua and the Israelites with one accord. They were not to wait until the Israelites came to their city but proposed to fight them in the field with a frontal attack.
The Gibeinites came from the plateau just North of Jerusalem about fifteen miles from where the Israelites were. In this day long distance travel was dangerous and difficult. Their plan was to be deceptive to Joshua and the Israelite nation. In order to do so they needed to look as though they have traveled a great distance. The goal was to have Israel make a peace treaty with them. But this would not be possible as the Israelites were forbidden to make peace with any of the tribes in the land of Canaan. (Exodus 23:23-24)
The Gibeinites were crafty in their deception as they displayed false evidence with the old and worn sacks, their old wineskins and worn out sandals. Also in their deception they lied stating that they had traveled from a far country and their appearance only strengthened their deception.
The Gibeinites lied to the Joshua and the Israelite elders but they also showed respect towards their God. They made aware that they had the mighty things that the God of the Israelites had done for them. The Israelites may have checked the physical evidence to see if the Gibeinites were lying but if they had paused to think they would have known that their story did not make sense. Why would a country from a far off place come to make a treaty of protection if the distance between them and the Israelites was too far for them to be a threat?
Joshua had now made the same mistake that he first took with the City of Ai. He failed to seek God’s council. The Gibeinites deception was clever and the leaders of Israel were taken in. They did not need the proof that man had to offer but only the wise council of their God. The Israelite nation had checked the evidence provided and in their own authority made a covenant with the Gibeinites swearing an oath in the name of their Lord. Joshua and the people of Israel were walking by sight and not be faith.
Israel made a peace treaty with the Gibeinites because they thought they were from a far country. It was against the will of God for them to make a treaty with anyone in the land of Canon. God would have allowed treaties with distant countries but this was not the case.
Now that the Israelite people had found out that the Gibeinites were not from far off but were in their land the people murmured against the leaders. Still Joshua and the leaders had to do what was right in the eyes of the Lord. They had sworn an oath in the name of the Lord that they would not attack them. To violate this oath would do dishonor to the name of their God. This was a wise decision on the leader’s part. To violate the oath would be a sinful act therefore they could not attack the Gibeinites, they had already sinned by making the oath without the council of God.
Not living up to their promise was not a possibility for the Israelite nation, this was a simple truth, and they could not touch them. Later in time King Saul did violate this oath and this sin brought famine to Israel. “Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David sought the presence of the LORD. And the LORD said, “It is for Saul and his bloody house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.” (2 Samuel 21:1)
For their deception against Israel Joshua made the Gibeinites become what they had said, servants to the Israelite people. Joshua made the Gibeinites to be woodcutters and water carriers. Joshua could not kill them but did put them in perpetual bondage to the Israelite nation.
The Gibeinites did not complain about this arrangement that they found themselves in with the Israelites. They simply said here we are, do that which seems right. The Gibeinites appeared to be happy to be incorporated into the Israelite culture and become servants of the God of the Israelite nation. The Gibeinites displayed the same heart as David in his Psalm, “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalms 84:10) Here the Gibeinites showed a proper fear of the Lord of Israel, and not out of weakness. It is written on the men of Gibeon, “That he feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were mighty.” (Joshua 10:2)
It was not that the Gibeinites were happy to be woodcutters and water carriers but they were happy to be doing this work for the Lord. Also they knew were they would be if they were not serving the Lord. It is a good lesson for us as well. Do we have the same heart? No matter what service we are in can we rejoice because we are accomplishing it for the glory of the Lord?
There are some comparisons here between Rahab and the Gibeinites to observe.
- Both Rahab and the Gibeonites came to the God of Israel as sinners, Rahab as a harlot, and the Gibeonites as liars.
- Both Rahab and the Gibeonites were willing at risk to forsake their former associations and be counted among God’s people.
- The risk of Gibeon is explained in Joshua 10:4, where they are a target of attack for their dealings with Israel.
- Both Rahab and the Gibeonites, after they found salvation through the God of Israel, had a rich history.
Other mentions of the Gibeinites in Scripture.
- The Gibeonites became servants at the tabernacle, just as Joshua had commanded.
- Gibeon becomes a priestly city; the Ark of the Covenant stayed at Gibeon often in the days of David and Solomon (1 Chronicles 16:39-40 and 1 Chronicles 21:29).
- At least one of David’s mighty men was a Gibeonite (1 Chronicles 12:4).
- God spoke to Solomon at Gibeon (1 Kings 3:4).
- These are examples of the great things God can do with people who are sinners, but come to Him in humility and love.