Joshua and Judges: The deception of the Gibeonites; Joshua fails to seek God's counsel. Jos 9.

Class Outline:

Title: Joshua and Judges: The deception of the Gibeonites; Joshua fails to seek God's counsel. Jos 9.  


Announcementsopening prayer:

Here they await their next step, or rather God’s next step. The surrounding kings of Canaan are naturally very concerned about Israel, imagining that their fate would be that of Jericho and Ai very soon. The spectacle in the valley of Shechem would also have become known, which would have revealed to the kings of Canaan that the Israelites were not content to remain around Jericho, but in what would seem to them as nationalist pride, the Jews would be hungry for more. Little did they know that the deal is already done and that God had promised this entire land to Israel over 400 years ago.


JOS 9:1 Now it came about when all the kings who were beyond the Jordan, in the hill country and in the lowland and on all the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, heard of it,


JOS 9:2 that they gathered themselves together with one accord to fight with Joshua and with Israel.


Verses one and two form an introduction to chapters 9-11.


It corresponds to 5:1:


JOS 5:1 Now it came about when all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard how the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed, that their hearts melted, and there was no spirit in them any longer, because of the sons of Israel.


It is likely that the first failure of Israel to take Ai bolstered their confidence and the resolved to band together to make war against Israel. Up to now they have no idea how futile this plan is. The list given in 9:1 shows us that it was everyone in Canaan, from the Mediterranean to the hill country in the east, the desert in the south, and the mountains in the north.  


But, as frequently happens, the many kings and lords of the towns and provinces of Canaan were not all united, so as to make a common and vigorous attack.


Gibeon, one of the largest towns in central Canaan, decides on another means of dealing with the Israelites - deception.


JOS 9:3 When the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai,


JOS 9:4 they also acted craftily and set out as envoys, and took worn-out sacks on their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended,


In the east wine-bottles of goat skin are temporarily repaired on a long journey.


JOS 9:5 and worn-out and patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and had become crumbled.


Gibeon was the capital of a republic which included several other smaller towns. It was a great, royal city and its men, Hivites, were renowned as mighty.


JOS 10:2 Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were mighty.


It was a city on a hill that overlooked a very fertile and well cultivated plain. It was identified as the modern city of Al-Jib in 1838 by the archeologist Edward Robinson. There are still remains there of massive ancient buildings.


JOS 9:6 And they went to Joshua to the camp at Gilgal, and said to him and to the men of Israel, "We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us."


This reveals that at least the Gibeonites knew of some of the covenant that God had made with Israel. They knew that the Jews were not to make covenants with any of the Canaanites. Of course, any of the people in Canaan could join Israel. There are already some foreigners among them. They would have to become circumcised as a pledge of faith in Jehovah and His covenant promises to Israel, which would also be a pledge to put themselves under the whole law, forsaking their own gods and idols. But to anyone who remained as an independent country in Canaan, the Jews were to make no deals or treaties with them.


JOS 9:7 And the men of Israel said to the Hivites, "Perhaps you are living within our land; how then shall we make a covenant with you?"


Joshua rightly hesitates since the express command of God was that they make no league with any of the tribes of Canaan.


It must have been felt that the story was improbable - at least to any who had learned to realize the essential enmity of heathenism against the kingdom of God, and who understood that so great a change from paganism that these men implied could not be brought about by only hearing about what the God of the Israelites had done. Rahab heard and believed, but that was one woman, these are claiming that an entire people heard and believed. Besides, what they propose is a league with Israel in which they get to keep their sovereignty of land and liberty and not a submission to Israel. This story certainly should have sounded very improbable.


DEU 7:1 "When the Lord  your God shall bring you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and shall clear away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you,


DEU 7:2 and when the Lord your God shall deliver them before you, and you shall defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.


DEU 7:3 Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons.


DEU 7:4 For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and He will quickly destroy you.


DEU 7:5 But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire.


DEU 7:6 "For you are a holy people to the Lord  your God; the Lord  your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.


DEU 7:7 The Lord  did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples,


 DEU 7:8 but because the Lord  loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord  brought you out by a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.


DEU 7:9 Know therefore that the Lord  your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;


DEU 7:10 but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face.


DEU 7:11 Therefore, you shall keep the commandment and the statutes and the judgments which I am commanding you today, to do them.


JOS 9:7 And the men of Israel said to the Hivites, "Perhaps you are living within our land; how then shall we make a covenant with you?"


JOS 9:8 But they said to Joshua, "We are your servants." Then Joshua said to them, "Who are you, and where do you come from?"


‎In reply to this the Gibeonites simply said, "We are thy servants" (v. 8), meaning, “we are at service,” which, according to the obsequious (compliance) language common in the East, was nothing more than a phrase intended to secure the favor of Joshua, and by no means implied a readiness on their part to submit to the Israelites and pay them tribute.


What they wished for was a friendly alliance, by which both their territory and also full liberty would be secured to themselves.


JOS 9:9 And they said to him, "Your servants have come from a very far country because of the fame of the Lord  your God; for we have heard the report of Him and all that He did in Egypt,


JOS 9:10 and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon and to Og king of Bashan who was at Ashtaroth.


JOS 9:11 So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us, saying, 'Take provisions in your hand for the journey, and go to meet them and say to them," We are your servants; now then, make a covenant with us."' 


The Gibeonites are shrewd. They wisely omit from the catalogue of events the miraculous passage across the Jordan and the fall of Jericho, since if they did come from a distant land, these events would have been too recent for them to have known.


JOS 9:12 "This our bread was warm when we took it for our provisions out of our houses on the day that we left to come to you; but now behold, it is dry and has become crumbled.


JOS 9:13 And these wineskins which we filled were new, and behold, they are torn; and these our clothes and our sandals are worn out because of the very long journey."


JOS 9:14 So the men of Israel took some of their provisions, and did not ask for the counsel of the Lord.


This was a common eastern tradition of eating bread and salt with a guest who is received as a friend.


JOS 9:15 And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live; and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them.


Before the league had been entered into, the inhabitants of Gibeon, one of the largest towns in the central part of Canaan, together with the smaller neighboring towns that were dependent upon it, attempted to anticipate the danger which threatened them by means of a stratagem, and to enter into a friendly alliance with the Israelites. And they succeeded, inasmuch as Joshua and the elders of the congregation of Israel fell into the snare that was laid for them by the ambassadors of the Gibeonites, who came to the camp at Gilgal, and made the desired treaty with them, without inquiring of the Lord.


All Joshua had to do was to inquire of the will of the Lord through the Urim and Thummim of the high priest, but he trusted in his own counsel and ended up being deceived.


Urim means light and Thummim perfection or completeness. The revelations of God sought by the king and high priest fit these meanings well. They were stored in the breast-piece of the high priest which was fastened to the ephod.


NUM 27:15 Then Moses spoke to the Lord, saying,


NUM 27:16 "May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation,


NUM 27:17 who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep which have no shepherd."


Going in and coming out refer a broad range of activity for which the leader would need guidance which could be brought to the Lord for revelation.


NUM 27:18 So the Lord said to Moses, "Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him;


NUM 27:19 and have him stand before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation; and commission him in their sight.


NUM 27:20 "And you shall put some of your authority on him, in order that all the congregation of the sons of Israel may obey him.


NUM 27:21 Moreover, he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the Lord. At his command they shall go out and at his command they shall come in, both he and the sons of Israel with him, even all the congregation."


Joshua was not only instructed but was given a dress rehearsal so that his authority would be finalized before the people and so that he would always know what to do when confronted with a matter of guidance. Since we, in the church age, are royal priests we need not inquire of another priest. Our High Priest sits at the right hand of God interceding for us and we go directly to the throne of God and confidently seek guidance in prayer.


I think there is a part of all of us that cheers for the Gibeonites who cunningly found a way to spare themselves. But the true way in which they should have done so was to become believers, but rather they will remain an independent nation that continues to worship false gods and commit evil against their true Creator. We must remember why God commanded against this. If the other nations continued to exist they would poison Israel with their demon worship and worldly ways; if not this generation, the next or the next. However, in the case of the Gibeonites, they did not betray this trust nor did they lead Israel into idolatry. Still, this is a leadership failure on the part of Joshua.


"This account is a warning to the Church of God of all ages against the cunning and dissimulation of the world, which often seeks for a peaceable recognition on the part of the kingdom of God, and even for a reception into it, whenever it may be its advantage to do so." [Gerlach]