Introduction 1-2 The Enemy Gathers Themselves Together 3-5 The Trick of the Gibeonites 6-8 The Gibeonites Come in Gilgal 9-13 The Gibeonites Justify Themselves 14-15 Peace with the Gibeonites 16-20 The Trick Discovered 21-27 Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Water

After we have seen in Joshua 7-8 at Ai what is the result of relying on our own strength, we see in Joshua 9 at Gibeon what is the result of relying on our own wisdom. The lesson for us is not to trust in our own strength and wisdom, but in “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1Cor 1:24b24but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.).

The Gibeonites succeed with a trick to escape the judgment under which they fall. Why did the Israelites not discover this trick? The trick succeeds because they “did not ask for the counsel of the LORD” (verse 1414So the men [of Israel] took some of their provisions, and did not ask for the counsel of the LORD.). There is only one way for us to escape the tricks of the devil and that is by obedience to the command: “Put on the full armor of God” (Eph 6:11a11Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.).

The enemy uses two means to harm and cause damage to the people of God. One means is violence and the other is scheme. In the first case, we read about the devil as someone who “prowls around like a roaring lion” (1Pet 5:88Be of sober [spirit], be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.). In the other case he is called “an angel of light” (2Cor 11:1414No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.).

The Enemy Gathers Themselves Together

1Now 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, 2that they gathered themselves together with one accord to fight with Joshua and with Israel.

The enemies join forces. It is possible that the defeat suffered by Israel at Ai has encouraged them and given them an opportunity to resist this people.

These nations, who are always at war with each other, gather together “with one accord to fight with Joshua and with Israel”. This is always so with regard to what is of God. Hate against God and His truth is a means that unites all the enemies of God and makes them forget their disagreements and quarrels (Lk 23:1212Now Herod and Pilate became friends with one another that very day; for before they had been enemies with each other.; Acts 4:2727For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,). We must always remember that the kings of Canaan are a picture of the rulers of the spiritual world. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual [forces] of wickedness in the heavenly [places]” (Eph 6:1212For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual [forces] of wickedness in the heavenly [places].).

Pagan nations may conflict with each other on earth, but the demonic powers behind them are in complete agreement. They are controlled by satan, who always aims to kill as many people as possible. He is the murderer from the beginning (Jn 8:4444You are of [your] father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own [nature], for he is a liar and the father of lies.). He wants to kill all people, while his main goal is to harm God’s people as much as possible.

The Trick of the Gibeonites

3When the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, 4they also acted craftily and set out as envoys, and took worn-out sacks on their donkeys, and wineskins worn-out and torn and mended, 5and 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.

In the spiritual struggle we are particularly concerned with “the schemes of the devil” (Eph 6:1111Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.). The struggle in Ephesians 6 is not a struggle to conquer the land, but to defend it. Therefore, the description of the armor is also at the end of the letter, after all blessings have been described. It is about staying standing after the victory, which is only possible if we have put on the full armor of God. Only then we “will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Eph 6:1111Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.).

We also need the armor of God to “be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” (Eph 6:1313Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.). With his schemes, the enemy often has results in territories where his power is broken. His schemes are more to fear than his strength. With his schemes he seduces the people, but with his strength he meets the Lord.

The people of Gibeon have heard what Joshua did to Jericho and Ai. Therefore they do not seek the battle, but resort to deceit. They work with consideration to save their lives, which they know are in danger. To a certain extent, that is sensible. But there is a better method to save their lives than by trickery. Rahab saved her life and that of her family by faith. This we also see later with a Canaanite woman, so a woman originally belonging to this people under the curse, who asks for mercy (Mt 15:22-2822And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and [began] to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.”23But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.”24But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”25But she came and [began] to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”26And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”27But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”28Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.).

With these Gibeonites, however, there is no question of faith. They prefer their own method. They proceed with human caution and use beautiful, impressive language. They speak of the LORD and what He hath done. They present themselves as religious people. Thus they mislead the people of God and gain access to them, which is possible by the unfaithfulness of the people.

Their whole appearance is worn out; everything they have is old. The older something is, the better it is according to the traditionalists. The old church, the old way of doing things. But the old is not simply better because it is old. The old is only better when it comes from the Lord, He Himself is “what was from the beginning” (1Jn 1:1a1What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—). Thus, the old ‘speaking in tongues’ is something that comes to the fore again in Christianity. That is not only old, it is also worn out, it has had its time (1Cor 13:88Love never fails; but if [there are gifts of] prophecy, they will be done away; if [there are] tongues, they will cease; if [there is] knowledge, it will be done away.). These are things that impress the people. But what is worn out must be removed.

The Gibeonites Come in Gilgal

6They 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.” 7The men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you are living within our land; how then shall we make a covenant with you?” 8But they said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” Then Joshua said to them, “Who are you and where do you come from?”

Joshua is back in Gilgal, the right place. But he is not in the good mind to recognize the stratagem. These people come from a city in the land that needs to be destroyed, but they pretend they come from a far country. Unlike Joshua, the people express the assumption that they may not come from that distance anyway. There is suspicion in them. But why don’t they ask further? They fall into the trap of their own wisdom.

The request to make a covenant with these people sounds attractive. Israel is surrounded by enemies, who are united against them to fight them. A covenant with the Gibeonites will make them stronger, they think. Such a submission may seem sensible, but it leaves the LORD out of consideration. If God is their strength alone, allies can only set aside the necessary dependence on God. Israel does not need allies!

The Gibeonites Justify Themselves

9They 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, 10and 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. 11So 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.”‘ 12This 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. 13These 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.”

The Gibeonites use flattery. In the same way, there are nominal Christians who would like to join the believers of a local church and say pleasant things about God and the Lord Jesus. They talk as the believers like to hear it. Therefore, the church must be careful and always ask for the Lord’s will when people want to have fellowship. This will keep them from being misled on the one hand, and on the other hand, they will not painstakingly repel believers who belong to God’s people. All who meet the conditions of the Scriptures must be accepted in the community.

The Gibeonites do not speak about what happened to Jericho and Ai. They behave as if they know nothing about it. They only talk about what can be assumed to be known from people who come from far away. They pretend that they are not aware of what has happened recently. Their testimony of the long journey is supported by their worn out clothes and dried bread.

Joshua and the heads find their story plausible. The remarks about the LORD sound respectful. Their whole appearance seems to underline what they say of themselves. It is sufficient to give up the necessary vigilance and to receive this company.

Peace with the Gibeonites

14So the men [of Israel] took some of their provisions, and did not ask for the counsel of the LORD. 15Joshua 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.

The Israelites take their bread. By testing the ‘proofs’ themselves they come to the conclusion that the story of the Gibeonites is true. Their senses are the norm. That is the error. By taking their bread, they express their fellowship with them spiritually. Now they can’t go back. Where human senses and perceptions become the norm of assessment, the enemy has gained access. Then the LORD will not be consulted. He remains out of the picture. The remark of the Holy Spirit “and did not ask for the counsel of the LORD” speaks volumes.

Not asking for the counsel of the LORD, for a statement of Him, brings the people to a covenant and thus to something that is forbidden by an earlier statement of Him. If we take steps without having asked for the Lord’s will and thus without having received a clear answer from Him, the consequences of those steps will always haunt us. Joshua and the heads make this covenant. The most responsible take the lead in the error. Satan has succeeded in his stratagem.

Jericho is taken by faith. After an initial defeat with Ai, that city is also taken when the people have removed the ban from their midst. Both cities fall into the hands of the people because obedience to what the LORD has said has been acted upon. The third city, Gibeon, is not conquered because the people did not ask for the will of the LORD.

The Trick Discovered

16It came about at the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, that they heard that they were neighbors and that they were living within their land. 17Then the sons of Israel set out and came to their cities on the third day. Now their cities [were] Gibeon and Chephirah and Beeroth and Kiriath-jearim. 18The sons of Israel did not strike them because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD the God of Israel. And the whole congregation grumbled against the leaders. 19But all the leaders said to the whole congregation, “We have sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel, and now we cannot touch them. 20This we will do to them, even let them live, so that wrath will not be upon us for the oath which we swore to them.”

The deceit becomes public if the people want to destroy Gibeon and other cities. Now they have to face the consequences. They have to spare these men. They have sworn this to their loss: “He swears to his own hurt and does not change” (Psa 15:4c4In whose eyes a reprobate is despised,
But who honors those who fear the LORD;
He swears to his own hurt and does not change;
). A wrong deed must not be made worse by not wanting to bear the consequences. Later Saul’s house must be punished because Saul wanted to kill the Gibeonites (2Sam 21:1-91Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David sought the presence of the LORD. And the LORD said, “It is for Saul and his bloody house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.”2So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them (now the Gibeonites were not of the sons of Israel but of the remnant of the Amorites, and the sons of Israel made a covenant with them, but Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the sons of Israel and Judah).3Thus David said to the Gibeonites, “What should I do for you? And how can I make atonement that you may bless the inheritance of the LORD?”4Then the Gibeonites said to him, “We have no [concern] of silver or gold with Saul or his house, nor is it for us to put any man to death in Israel.” And he said, “I will do for you whatever you say.”5So they said to the king, “The man who consumed us and who planned to exterminate us from remaining within any border of Israel,6let seven men from his sons be given to us, and we will hang them before the LORD in Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the LORD.” And the king said, “I will give [them].”7But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, because of the oath of the LORD which was between them, between David and Saul’s son Jonathan.8So the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, Armoni and Mephibosheth whom she had borne to Saul, and the five sons of Merab the daughter of Saul, whom she had borne to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite.9Then he gave them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the mountain before the LORD, so that the seven of them fell together; and they were put to death in the first days of harvest at the beginning of barley harvest.).

We can apply this as follows. We cannot exclude persons who, because of our carelessness, have been received at the Lord’s Table although they actually should not have been received. As long as they do nothing that is considered sin by the Scriptures, we must tolerate them and bow under the Lord’s discipline because of our infidelity. Similarly, even if a believer is married to an unbeliever, this marriage cannot be undone by divorce. That the consequences of sin are not always taken away, we see in the life of the ex-drug addict who has destroyed his health by his drug use. The consequences remain. Yet the Lord will give the power to bear those consequences if there is sincere acknowledgement and confession of the sin. Sin is acting in self-will, acting without consulting Him first.

Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Water

21The leaders said to them, “Let them live.” So they became hewers of wood and drawers of water for the whole congregation, just as the leaders had spoken to them. 22Then Joshua called for them and spoke to them, saying, “Why have you deceived us, saying, ‘We are very far from you,’ when you are living within our land? 23Now therefore, you are cursed, and you shall never cease being slaves, both hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.” 24So they answered Joshua and said, “Because it was certainly told your servants that the LORD your God had commanded His servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land before you; therefore we feared greatly for our lives because of you, and have done this thing. 25Now behold, we are in your hands; do as it seems good and right in your sight to do to us.” 26Thus he did to them, and delivered them from the hands of the sons of Israel, and they did not kill them. 27But Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD, to this day, in the place which He would choose.

The Gibeonites are as slaves in the house of God, not as sons. Joshua curses them and condemns them to do the humblest work (cf. Deu 29:1111your little ones, your wives, and the alien who is within your camps, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water,). They fetch wood for the altar, but are not offerors themselves. They fetch water, but not to become clean by themselves. They are a plague to the people of God, because the people have given them access to the service to God without asking God. They serve, however, not out of love, but out of fear.

The Israelites want to kill them, but Joshua saves them (verse 2626Thus he did to them, and delivered them from the hands of the sons of Israel, and they did not kill them.). It is better to bow before the Lord than to eradicate the evil that has come in through our fault against God’s will. Sometimes He wants it to exist, to constantly remind us that we can only prevent evil if we consult Him before we do anything.

Later in the history of the Gibeonites in the midst of Israel, God’s grace also becomes visible. Ishmaiah, one of the heroes of David, is a Gibeonite (1Chr 12:44and Ishmaiah the Gibeonite, a mighty man among the thirty, and over the thirty. Then Jeremiah, Jahaziel, Johanan, Jozabad the Gederathite,). There is also a Gibeonite, Melatiah, and other men of Gibeon, who have returned with the people of God from captivity in Babylon and help to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem (Neh 3:77Next to them Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and of Mizpah, also made repairs for the official seat of the governor [of the province] beyond the River.).

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