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Chapter 9

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The Gibeonite Deception (ch. 9:1 - 27)  


In verses 1 and 2 we note that six nations form an alliance against Joshua and Israel.  For many prophecy students this reminds them of the future war of Ezekiel 38 and 39 when a similar alliance is formed against Israel at the end of this age.  Notice the alliance is against both Joshua and Israel.  For those same prophecy students, they note that in the end, at the end of this age, the nations of the world will not only fight against Israel but against Jesus as well, in which Joshua is a clear type. It's clear that one nation alone can't stand against Israel.  That too is the way it is in the last days.  It takes an alliance of nations to defeat Israel when they are walking with their God.  This is quite evident in the Six Day War of 1967 when Israel was under attack from all sides.  Yet, even when a coalition of nations attack Israel, when Israel is obeying their God, those nations lose the battle.    

In verses 3 to 6 we see one of the nations in Canaan called Gibeon.  When I say nations, these nations were actually tribal nations, more like cities or communities of people, not huge nations as we would think today.  Gibeon feared Israel so they attempted to trick Israel, and it worked.  They presented themselves to Joshua as a caravan of poor people from a distant land and asked Joshua to make a peace treaty with them.

At this point we need to point out something from the book of Deuteronomy.  There is an apparent conflict between Deuteronomy, chapter 7 and chapter 12.  In Deuteronomy 7:12 God specifically told Israel not to make any treaty with any of the seven nations in Canaan once they had defeated them.  They were to utterly destroy them so they would not come back to haunt them in future days.

In Deuteronomy 20:10 to 13 the Lord tells Israel that once in Canaan , when they approach a city, they can attempt to make a peace treaty.  If the city refuses, then Israel is to demolish the city, kill the men, spare the women, children and livestock, that they can keep for themselves.  So there appears to be a problem that needs to be solved here, which at the moment, I'm not sure how to solve.

In verse 7 Joshua wonders if these people are really who they say they are so in verses 8 through 13 the men proceed to convince Joshua that they are from a distant, land, although they never say what land that is.  They show Joshua the dry old moldy bread, the warn out wineskins, and their tattered clothes as proof.   They also flatter Joshua by saying that they have heard of Israel's God from where they lived and were so impressed that they wanted to come and be servants to Israel.  Consulting the Lord is obviously important for the Christian, but we are more often than not like Israel in this case.  We consult ourselves instead.

Verse 14 states that the men of Israel did not consult the Lord on this matter, so in verse 15 they made a peace treaty with Gibeon, a treaty that was made on false pretence.

In verses 16 and 17 we learn that Israel discovered within three days that they had been tricked and that Gibeon was really their neighbour in Canaan.

The people of Israel complained about this treaty that was based on trickery.  Obviously many Israelis felt that they should break the treaty, attack, and kill Gibeon, but the leaders of Israel said that was not possible.  They "had made an oath by the Lord".  Joshua was serious about making an oath before the Lord.  In modern days, this oath, or contract, would not stand in court.  It would and could easy be ripped up because it was based on a lie.  Joshua did not feel this way, and I believe he didn't feel this way because God Himself does not feel this way.  God honours covenants, even if made on the basis of a lie.  Israel stood on the side of God on this matter, even though these people did come to haunt them in future days. 

Some might argue that keeping this oath by Joshua was a matter of personal choice and so it has no relevance to us today.  I don't agree with this.  I think we just don't understand how God thinks and feels about many things, and the keeping of a promise is one such thing. 

In today's Christian world, we think more like the world when it comes to covenants, oaths, and contracts.  The divorce covenant is one real example.  Christians don't take the marriage covenant seriously any more.  They divorce as frequently as those in the world.  The Lord is not happy with this.

Note in verse 20 that Joshua and the leaders of Israel felt that if they broke the covenant with Gibeon , the wrath of God would fall on them.  For that reason they are afraid to break the oath.  I suggest that we should feel the same way today.  Few Christians study the Bible sufficiently enough to even realize the importance of oaths.  

In verse 21 Israel made the Gibeonites servants.  That was the best they could do under the circumstances.

In verses 22 and 23 Joshua places a curse on the Gibeonites.  They would be servants to Israel for as long as they were in existence.  Like the curse Joshua placed on anyone who would rebuild Jericho as seen in chapter 6, I believe this curse was prophetic and from the Lord.  Joshua was acting as God's representative to the nations of the world.

The Gibeonites explained their situation in verse 24 and 25.  They admitted, what they did, they did out of fear.  They would rather be servants of Israel than dead men.

Concerning the Gibeonites, once they became servants of Israel, they had a lasting legacy with Israel, even during the time when Nehemiah rebuilt the temple, after the exile of Israel to Babylon was over.  They helped build the temple as seen in Nehemiah 3:7.

King Saul seemed to have some kind of connection with the Gibeonites.  See 1 Chronicles 8:29-33 and 9:35 39.  They actually became workers in the Temple.

In 2 Samuel 20:8 to 13 Gibeon helped Sheba to fight against King David.  Again, you see that your undefeated enemies will come back to haunt you.

In 2 Samuel 21:1 to 9 David discovered that Saul had broken the covenant the Joshua made with Gibeon.  Saul killed some Gibeonites and for that, David gave seven of Saul's male descendents to the Gibeonites, which the Gibeonites also killed.  This shows you how powerful a godly man like King David feels about a covenant, even when it was instituted way back in times past.  Again, Christians today need to seriously think through their theology on covenants.


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