The Gibeonites were, in a general sense, Amorites (2 Samuel 21:2). But the term “Amorite” is often used in a broad sense, similar to “Canaanite,” to mean any of the inhabitants of Canaan (Genesis 15:16; Deuteronomy 1:27). In a specific sense, the Gibeonites, according to Joshua 9:7; 11:19, were Hivites, who in many listings of the native inhabitants of Palestine were listed apart from the Amorites (Genesis 10:16, 17; Joshua 9:1; 11:3; 12:8).
The Gibeonites’ Deception
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.
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).
The Peace Covenant
Joshua and the elders believed the Gibeonites’ lies and made peace with them. “But they did not ask counsel of the LORD” (Joshua 9: 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 (Joshua 9: 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 Christians need to be very careful in their decisions lest, by their dependence on their own judgment rather than on God, they bring problems on themselves.
As a punishment for the Gibeonites “the rulers ordained that they would “be woodcutters and water carriers for all the congregation” (Joshua 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.
Honoring the Covenant With the Gibeonites
Later on, King Saul broke the treaty that Joshua had signed and attacked the Gibeonites. And during the time of King David, a famine took place in Israel. When David inquired of the Lord as to why the famine happened, God said, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death” (2 Samuel 21:1). To bring an end to the famine and please the Gibeonites, seven of Saul offspring were given to them to be killed (2 Samuel 21:6). “And after that God heeded the prayer for the land” and ended the famine (2 Samuel 21:14). Thus, the Lord held the Israelites accountable to their covenant with the Gibeonites.
In His service,