When the conquest of Israel started on Canaan, the reports of the victories of Israel reached the Canaanites and frightened their kings – Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. So, they joint their military forces to war against God’s children.
The Gibeonites’ lie
But when the Gibeonites heard how Joshua had destroyed the cities of Jericho and Ai, they worked craftily, and pretended to be ambassadors. And they came to Joshua and asked him to make a peace treaty with them telling him that they came from a very far country that paused no threat to Israel. And to make their lies convincing they showed Joshua their “old sacks on their donkeys, old wineskins torn and mended, old and patched sandals on their feet, and old garments on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and moldy” (Joshua 9:4,5).
Joshua makes peace with the Gibeonites
Joshua and the elders believed their lies and made peace with the Gibeonites. “But they did not ask counsel of the LORD” (v. 14). Had they asked for God’s advise, He would have revealed to them that the Gibeonites were lying. To say the least, the Gibeonites’ purpose not to war with Israel exhibited some faith in the strength of the God of Israel. They were willing to enter into a covenant with Israel which included their promise to give up idolatry and to accept the worship of Jehovah.
After three days, the Israelites discovered that the Gibeonite cities were close by and that they had been deceived. And the children of Israel could not war against them, because the rulers of the congregation had sworn peace to them by the LORD. Therefore, all the congregation of Israel complained against the leaders’ hasty decision (v. 16-18).
The leaders of Israel got the whole camp of Israel in trouble because they didn’t ask the Lord for wisdom. This lesson teaches that the spiritual leaders in the church need to be very careful in their decisions lest, by their dependence on their own judgment rather than on God, they bring problems on their congregations.
The Gibeonites punished
But as a punishment for the Gibeonites “the rulers ordained that they would “be woodcutters and water carriers for all the congregation” (v. 21). The work of these lowly jobs was the penalty of the Gibeonites. Had they dealt honestly with Israel, their lives would still have been saved, and they would probably have been released from slavery. Yet, even a curse may turn to be a blessing. Through this service, they were able to learn about the true Creator.
In His service,