All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17
069
(April 2017)
Deception
Based on Joshua 9 and 10

Joshua prays for the sun to stand still.
Image By John Martin

Israel has just recently returned to their encampment at Gilgal after hearing and agreeing to keep the whole Divine Covenant at the twin mountains of Ebal and Gerizim. There, Joshua builds an altar and offers sacrifices upon it. Then he writes a copy of the Law of Moses on the altar stones for both Israel and the surrounding nations to read. This location is strategic, because it is in the center of Canaan, located on the narrow strip of land connecting Mesopotamia and Egypt.

The inhabitants of Canaan are so angry and frightened by the reports of the destruction of Jericho and Ai that they begin uniting their armies to attack Israel, fearing their own destruction. However, the Gibeonites (also known as Hivites) decide to try a different approach. Instead of fighting, they develop a deceptive plot to enter into a treaty with Israel.

Gibeonite ambassadors go to Joshua and pretend to come a faraway country, seeking to enter into a peace treaty. They come with old sacks on their donkeys, old wineskins that are torn and mended, old and patched sandals on their feet, old garments, carrying provisions of dry and moldy bread. They say to Joshua and the Israelites, “We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us.”

The men of Israel respond, “Perhaps you dwell among us; so how can we make a covenant with you?”

“We are your servants,” they reply.

“Who are you,” Joshua inquires, “and where do you come from?”

Avoiding a direct answer, they say only that they are from a far country, and that have heard of his God, and all He has done to Egypt, and to the kings Sihon and Og.

“We want to be your servants; now therefore, make a covenant with us,” they repeat.

God had warned them not to enter into any accord with the idolaters of Canaan, so the leaders of Israel take some of the food and taste it to be certain of their decision. (Another possibility is that they taste it as part of the covenant ceremony in which the two parties generally eat together. For more on this, see Genesis 31:54). Then Joshua makes a covenant of peace with them and lets them live, and the rulers of the congregation confirm it with an oath.

All this is done without consulting the Lord, just as they did in the first battle for Ai. They could have used Urim and Thummin of the high priest’s garment to enquire of the Lord, but they did not.

Then, on the third day (which is always significant in biblical accounts), the Israelites discover the ruse. The ambassadors are their neighbors! As the Israelites approach the ambassadors’ cities, they do not attack them, because they have sworn an oath in the name of the Lord. It is important to note that such an oath carries a heavy penalty if it is not kept. In fact, the Lord will punish them for breaking it, because His reputation is on the line.

The people, however, complain against the rulers for being gullible, to which they respond by telling them that the Gibeonites will now be forced into servitude to do the menial tasks of cutting wood and carrying water for use by the sanctuary and for the people in general. Because they are foreigners, their slavery will continue in perpetuity.

The surrounding Canaanites learn of this treaty, and begin to attack Gibeon for joining with Israel. The Gibeonites then appeal to Joshua to rescue them. This time they get assurance from the Lord that as they defend the Gibeonites, they will be successful against their enemies. Joshua’s army marches all night from Gilgal and attacks the coalition the next day. During the battle, in which the Lord routed their enemies, Joshua pleads with Him in poetic form saying, “Sun, stand still over Gibeon; and moon in the valley of Aijalon.” God answers his prayer, and this supernatural incident is long remembered in Israel (see Habakkuk 3:11).

The Gibeonites appear to have remained faithful to their promise of being permanent woodcutters and water carriers for the sanctuary. They appear to have accepted Israel’s God, just as Rahab did. Even though they come from an idolatrous people, they are saved by accepting Israel’s God and remaining faithful to Him.

This story shows both success and failure. Failure in the form of an alliance made with the Gibeonites because Joshua did not consult the Lord; but success because the Israelites keep their oath in the name of the Lord. This story ends with success, however, since after they do consult with the Lord, they annihilate their enemies.

I strongly encourage you to read this fascinating account in Joshua 10. It’s a story filled with strange events like enormous hailstones, the sun and moon standing still for nearly a day, and many more amazing details that prove God’s power and faithfulness.


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