Chapter 9


The Gibeonite Deception

    • When all the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites living west of the Jordan in the hill country, in the western foothills, and all along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea as far north as Lebanon, heard about what happened at Jericho and Ai- they unified to form an alliance to fight against Joshua and Israel.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “The fertile region of lower hills between the highlands of Judah and the southern coastal plain was known as the western foothills. Although not all of the coastal plain of the Mediterranean Sea was occupied during this period, several important cities did exist. The kings of those small city-states as far north as Mount Carmel, joined the southern coalition to resist Israel’s advances.”

    • However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done in Jericho and Ai, they enacted a deceptive plan. They gathered together provisions, dry, crumbly bread, and loaded their donkeys with worn out sacks and old, patched wineskins. They dressed in worn out clothing and patched sandals. Then they went to the Israelite camp in Gilgal and told Joshua and the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant land; make a covenant with us.”

      • ESV Archaeology Study Bible writes, “The identification of the city of Gibeon with el-Jib, a site 6 miles northwest of Jerusalem, has been confirmed archaeologically by the discovery of numerous jar handles inscribed with the name Gibeon.”

“A wine jar handle with the archaic Hebrew letters GB’N provided the link between the narratives about Gibeon in the Bible and the ruins at el-Jib. The reading is from right to left: following the word Gibeon is GDR, “vineyard of…”” via source below
        • I recommend the article, The Bible Reports on Gibeon, by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology for individuals interested in additional information.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “The town of Gibeon was…not more than fifteen miles from Israel’s camp at Gilgal. Long-distance travel was difficult, dirty, and dangerous in those days. If they were to carry off their deception, the Gibeonite supplies, clothes, and even food had to look the part.”

    • The Israelite men responded to the Hivites, “Maybe you live among us. How can we make a covenant with you?”They said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” Joshua replied, “Who are you, and where do you come from?”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Israel’s leaders raised the possibility of deception. Joshua followed the Gibeonites’ evasive reply by asking two direct questions. However, Joshua could have received a direct answer by consulting the Lord (Joshua 9:14).”

    • They answered, “Your servants have come from a very distant land because we have heard about the name of the Lord your God. We have heard reports about all that He did in Egypt and what He did to the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River, Sihon of Heshbon and Og of Bashan (who lived in Ashtaroth). So, our elders and all the people who live in our land told us to pack provisions for the long journey, go to you and say, ‘We are your servants, please make a covenant with us.’ Look at our supplies. When we left our homes our bread was still warm, but now it’s dry and crumbly. Our wineskins were new when we filled them, but now they are old and cracked. Our clothes and sandals are also worn out from our long journey.”

      • Guzik points out, “Plainly, the Gibeonites lied to Israel. But despite their lies, they have a proper admiration and honor for the God of Israel. Because of the name of the LORD your God; for we have heard of His fame shows that it is because God fights for Israel, they know it would be useless to oppose the nation.”

    • The Israelite men looked at some of their supplies, but didn’t consult the Lord. Joshua made peace with them and established a covenant with them allowing them to live. The leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them.

      • Guzik writes, “The Gibeonite deception was clever, and therefore powerful. But the real problem was that Joshua and the leaders of Israel never sought the LORD…This shows that they trusted their senses instead of the LORD. ‘Look at this bread. Feel and taste how stale it is. Surely, they must have come a long way.’ They walked by sight, not by faith…Because they believed that the Gibeonites were from a distant land, they made the treaty with them. God allowed Israel to make treaties with distant nations, but not with the Canaanites.”

Deception of the Gibeonites Discovered

    • Three days after making the covenant with them, the Israelites heard that they were their neighbors and that they lived among them. So the Israelites set out for their land and arrived at the Gibeonite cities- Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim- on the third day of their journey. However, the Israelites didn’t attack them because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel, so they could not touch them.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “In Israel, a binding oath was sworn in the name of the Lord. Violating the oath invited the Lord’s judgment for swearing falsely (Exodus 20:7).”

      • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds, “If an oath was not kept, the invoked deity’s name was being held as worthless and powerless. In a culture where gods were active and powerful, treating them with contempt had serious consequences, which are demonstrated when this same oath is broken in 2 Samuel 21.”

    • The people of Israel grumbled against their leaders because of this covenant. But, their leaders said, “We have sworn an oath to them by the Lord, the God of Israel, so now we cannot touch them. This is how we will treat them: We will let them live so that wrath won’t be inflicted upon us for breaking our oath to them. Let them live.” So, the Gibeonites became woodcutters and water carriers for the Israelite community, as the Israelite leaders had instructed.

    • Joshua called the Gibeonites together and addressed them saying, “Why did you lie to us and tell us that you are from distant lands when you actually live among us? Because of this you are now cursed, and some of you will never be anything but servants- woodcutters and water carriers- for the house of my God.”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “The Gibeonites were cursed, meaning they were diminished to the status of servants. At that time, the house of…God was the Tabernacle; later, it was the Temple at Jerusalem.”

    • The Gibeonites answered, “We did this because it was clearly reported to us, your servants, that the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all of this land and destroy everyone who lived in it. We were afraid for our lives. Now we are in your hands. Do whatever you think is right to us.”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible says, “The response of the Gibeonites amounted to a statement of faith in the Lord: They acted deceptively because they believed that God would enable Israel to conquer Canaan.”

      • Guzik adds, “Essentially, they were happy with the prospect of being incorporated into Israel, and by being made servants of the LORD, even if it was in menial service…It is essential to see that they did this out of a love for the God of Israel, not out of weakness. Indeed, it was said of Gibeon that all its men were mighty (Joshua 10:2).”

    • So this is what Joshua did: he did not allow the people of Israel to kill them. That very day, he made them woodcutters and water carriers for the Israelite community and for the Lord’s altar- in the place the Lord would choose. This is what they do to this day.

      • Guzik ends his commentary on this chapter with the following:

      • The Gibeonites after Joshua 9: 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 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); Gibeonites were among those who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem with Nehemiah (Nehemiah 3:7 and 7:25); Prophets such as Hananiah the son of Azur came from Gibeon (Jeremiah 28:1). These are examples of the great things God can do with people who are sinners but come to Him in humility and love.”

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