Scripture: At the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, they heard that they were their neighbors and that they lived among them. And the people of Israel set out and reached their cities on the third day. So he did this to them and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel, and they did not kill them. But Joshua made them that day cutters of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD, to this day, in the place that he should choose. Joshua 9:16, 26-27 ESV
Observation: This chapter is larger than the main story of the Gibeonites deceiving Joshua and his leaders and subjugating themselves to servitude to avoid the destruction of their cities and lives. It sets the tone for Israel’s conquest. Indeed, the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites had heard the report of Jericho and Ai’s utter defeat and of how Israel was on a mission to destroy all the inhabitants of Canaan and their cities (v.24). So these kings band together to provide a resistance army (vv.1-2).
But the Gibeonites were wiser. Even though Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities (10:2), its leaders wanted none of Israel. So they dressed in tattered clothes and doctored their bread and wineskins to support their story of being emissaries from a distant kingdom who now seek a covenant of peace where they will serve Israel in exchange for protection (vv.4-15). Joshua and his leaders (perhaps flattered) agree on terms and ratify a covenant of peace, only to learn of the Gibeonites’ deception (v.16). Meanwhile, the rest of Israel, spoiling for war, murmur against the leadership for striking a peace accord (v.18). But because Israel’s leaders took an oath before Yahweh to spare the Gibeonites’ lives, all agree to let the Gibeonites live and serve as manual laborers (vv.26-27 above) lest God’s wrath fall upon them (v.20).
Takeaway: The parallels to the earlier story of Rahab are remarkable here. The Gibeonites and Rahab heard of Israel’s God’s favor over the Egyptians and the Amorite kings, Sihon and Og (vv.9-10). And they believed that Yahweh would continue to grant Israel victories throughout their conquest of Canaan. And they dwell with the Israelites “to this day” (v.27). But unlike Rahab, the Gibeonites’ deceit would cost them their freedom.
As for Israel’s leadership, they took a small step backward regarding following the Lord’s instructions. Their hasty decision to agree to a covenant of peace without discerning God’s will would soon require much of them to defend the Gibeonites when under attack by the Canaanite alliance for switching sides (tomorrow’s Daily Focus). And two centuries later, the wrath of God would fall on Israel for violating the covenant when Saul put the Gibeonites to death (2 Samuel 21:1-9).
So how does this story speak to us? When we make commitments, no matter how small or large, without discerning God’s will, we will almost always settle for second best. Israel would gain indentured servants but pay the price of defending the Gibeonaties at the loss of lives. And a future generation would encounter God’s wrath for failing to uphold the covenant. Nevertheless, regardless of our regrets for making ill-advised commitments, it is crucial to stand behind our word unless it violates God’s laws. Even better, patiently seeking God’s will ensure his best.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you that even when we hastily make commitments without taking the necessary time to discern your will, you still redeem the fallout when we turn to you and confess our sins. But we desire your best from the start. So would you please help us to lean on your Holy Spirit to grant us patience and humility in discerning your will before we make commitments? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
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