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4.9 Joshua -- the Gibeonites

The strategy of most of the Canaanites was predictable:

          The kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites ... came together to make war against Joshua and Israel (Josh 9:1-2).

The Gibeonites, however, from a city near Jerusalem, had a different plan.  Fearing that they would be next on the list of cities to be obliterated, they send a delegation to Joshua dressed as travellers from afar, seeking a peace treaty with Israel.  Joshua failed to ask for the Lord's instruction.  The Gibeonites played their role to the hilt:  old wineskins, moldy bread, worn sandals -- as if they had been on a long journey.  The result was that they gained the peace treaty they sought, and thus saved their lives.  When the deception was discovered, Joshua could not violate his oath of peace made in the Lord's Name.  The Gibeonites were set to forced labor.  "Noah's prediction that Canaan would someday 'be the slave of Shem' (Gen 9:25-26) has part of its fulfillment in this event" (NIV p. 304, footnote to Josh 9:23).  


This is a great story, and a brilliant tactic by the Gibeonites.  It was worthy of that master of deceit, Jacob himself.   Like Rahab, the Gibeonites made their peace with God by submitting to Israel instead of resisting her.  And God granted them mercy, and even favor.  As Matthew Henry pointed out, though the Gibeonites were condemned to lives of service, Joshua reserved them for "the altar of the Lord" (Josh 9:27).  "There cannot be a greater preferment," wrote Henry.  "David himself could wish to be a door-keeper there."


Almost 400 years later,  Saul made war upon the Gibeonites (2 Sam 21), violating the covenant made during the time of Joshua.  As we will see, there were serious consequences for Israel for breaking that agreement.   At about the same time, we also find that one of David's mighty men was a Gibeonite:


          Ishmaiah the Gibeonite, a mighty man among the Thirty, who was a leader of the Thirty (1 Chr 12:4).

When David became king, he brought up the Ark of the Covenant from Kiriath Jearim to Jerusalem (2 Sam 6:2), but the Tent of Meeting and the bronze altar were located in Gibeon (2 Chr 1:3-6).  Solomon offered sacrifices on that altar.  The last mention of the Gibeonites in the Bible is in the time of Nehemiah, when some returning exiles from Gibeon helped rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.


The point is:  "The Gibeonites had come in among the people of God, and hundreds of years later they were still there" (Schaeffer, p.151) -- another infusion of Gentile blood into the Israelite gene pool, and Canaanite at that.

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