Understanding the Old Testament

The Gibeonites

(All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible translation)

Canaan (i.e., Palestine) in the time of Joshua consisted of independent city-states which were nominally beholden to Egypt—in the sense that they paid tribute to the Egyptians, but were otherwise pretty much left to themselves.

When the kings of the city-states in the southern portion of Canaan saw what had happened to Jericho and Ai, they banded together to fight the Israelite invasion. (Joshua 9:1-2) All, that is, except one.

Gibeon was a Hivite city (Joshua 11:19) located west of Jericho and Ai, and north of Jerusalem. Three other cities were apparently under Gibeon’s jurisdiction: Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim. (See Joshua 9:17.) The Gibeonites declined to ally themselves with the southern kings, but instead arranged a deception in order to make peace with the Israelites.

The Gibeonites sent a delegation to Gilgal, the site of the Israelite encampment west of the Jordan River, pretending to have come from a far distant place. To enhance the deception, they donned worn out shoes and clothing, and carried provisions which appeared to be old. (Joshua 9:4-6) Then they lied. They said they had traveled a long distance to make peace with the Israelites, and claimed that their clothing was new and their provisions were fresh when they had begun their journey. (Joshua 9:12-13)

The Israelites fell for it. Without waiting to consult the Lord, Joshua and the Israelites made a peace treaty and an alliance with the Gibeonites. (Joshua 9:14-15) Three days later the Israelites learned they had been tricked. But by then it was too late. They had already given their word and “sworn to them by the Lord the God of Israel.” (Joshua 9:18-20) So the Israelites let the Gibeonites live, but made them their servants. (Joshua 9:21-27)

However, that was not the end of the story. When the southern kings learned that Gibeon had betrayed them, they decided to attack the Gibeonites, who then called upon their ally new, the Israelites, for help. (Joshua 10:1-6) This set the stage for the Israelites' big battle at Gibeon against the southern alliance.

Questions to ponder or discuss
: James warns us that we should make all of our plans with the understanding that they are subject to the Lord’s will. (James 4:13-15) When Paul left Ephesus, he promised to return “if God’s wills.” (Acts 18:21) Yet like the Israelites' hasty peace treaty with the Gibeonites, we often make plans without considering what God’s will might be. Why do you believe we do this? What are the advantages and disadvantages of consulting God’s word before making important decisions?

.Copyright 2018 by Don Davidson

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