Trouble with the Gibeonites
Joshua 9:1-27; Joshua 10:1-43; Joshua 11:1-23
God had instructed Israel to destroy the Canaanites when they came into the land (Deuteronomy 7:1-6; Deuteronomy 20:16-17). Their failure to do so would lead to many troubles over the years of their existence. They would be tempted to join in the idol worship of the people who remained and thereby led to sin against the Lord. In the days of David, they suffered a famine for three years that was a result of the failure to kill or drive out the Gibeonites. The treaty that Israel made when they were deceived and did not consult the Lord was violated by King Saul. His actions resulted in the death of seven of his kinsmen to make restitution for his refusal to honor a foolish agreement made by Israel in Joshua"s day (2 Samuel 21:1-14).
A weapon often used against God"s people is deception. Kings from the three major regions of Israel, the hill country, lowlands and sea coast, decided to make an alliance and go up against Israel. While others were preparing to do battle, the Gibeonites were scheming to save their lives and gain protection from other enemies as well. They resolved to send ambassadors dressed in old clothes, patched shoes, with old sacks upon their beasts of burden, old wine skins that had been bound up and bread that was dry and mouldy. This made them appear to have come from a great distance though Gibeon was only about six miles northwest of Jerusalem (Joshua 9:1-5).
When they arrived at the camp of Israel, they introduced themselves to Joshua and the men of Israel as being from a distant land and asked them to agree to a treaty. Concerned with violating the Lord"s will (Exodus 23:31-33; Exodus 34:11-16), the men asked how they could make a covenant with them if they were from the surrounding region, so Joshua asked who they were and where they came from. They lied by saying they had come from a far country and had heard of the fame of the God of Israel as he helped them cross the Red Sea and defeat the two Amorite kings. Notice that they carefully omitted the more recent crossing of Jordan, defeat of Jericho and Ai since these likely could not have been reported a great distance off as yet. They offered their bread and wineskins as proof of the distance they had come.
Instead of consulting with God through the use of the Urim and Thummin of the high priest (Numbers 27:21), Joshua and the princes took of the Gibeonites" provisions and made a treaty with them. It should be noted that all treaties were not forbidden, as the laws governing warfare with nations outside of Canaan well illustrates (Deuteronomy 20:11). Within three days, Israel learned the four cities the Gibeonites represented were all within a ten mile radius of Jerusalem. The people murmured, perhaps because they were greedy for the spoil of these cities as some authors have suggested. However, the princes would not compound their error by violating their covenant with Gibeon. Instead, Joshua made the Gibeonites bearers of water and hewers of wood for use in the sanctuary of God (Joshua 9:6-27).
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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Joshua 9". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Lent