Joshua 12 KJV, Stones, Jordan River, Devotional, Kings Defeated, Explanation

Alright. The land is Joshua’s. The strife is o’er, the battle done. Now we start approaching the second half of the book, which I might add contains very little action. But maybe action isn’t your thing. Maybe you’re more interested in geography and lists of kings, cities, and other things. Anyone like that here? Well whatever you’re interest, this is what the word of God presents us with. So let’s try to understand it as best we can. Chapter 12 is really something like a footnote for chapters 1 through 11. It kind of supplies the raw data for the narratives we saw in those first chapters. And I think this is how we’re going to do this. We’ll read the entire 12th chapter and I’ll just insert comments here and there that will hopefully help us understand the chapter. Basically, though, the 12th chapter is just a list of 33 kings that Israel killed. Two on the east of Jordan and 31 on the west. So, let’s start in 12:1.

Joshua 12:1

[12:1 ¶ Now these are the kings of the land, which the children of Israel smote, and possessed their land on the other side Jordan toward the rising of the sun, from the river Arnon unto mount Hermon, and all the plain on the east:]

OK, let me interrupt. We’re about to see the kings to the east of the Jordan River that Israel defeated. Verses 2 and 3 talk about Sihon. And verses 4 and 5 tell us about Og. Let’s continue.

Joshua 12:2-6

[2 Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt in Heshbon, and ruled from Aroer, which is upon the bank of the river Arnon, and from the middle of the river, and from half Gilead, even unto the river Jabbok, which is the border of the children of Ammon; 3 And from the plain to the sea of Chinneroth on the east, and unto the sea of the plain, even the salt sea on the east, the way to Bethjeshimoth; and from the south, under Ashdothpisgah:

4 And the coast of Og king of Bashan, which was of the remnant of the giants, that dwelt at Ashtaroth and at Edrei, 5 And reigned in mount Hermon, and in Salcah, and in all Bashan, unto the border of the Geshurites and the Maachathites, and half Gilead, the border of Sihon king of Heshbon.

6 Them did Moses the servant of the LORD and the children of Israel smite: and Moses the servant of the LORD gave it for a possession unto the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh.]

So to summarize verses 2 through 6, Israel destroyed Sihon and Og and then Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh took their land.

And now from verse 7 to the end of chapter 12 we’ll see the other 29 kings that Israel destroyed to the west of the Jordan River. We’re not given any of their names, by the way. Let’s read.

Joshua 12:7-16

[7 ¶ And these are the kings of the country which Joshua and the children of Israel smote on this side Jordan on the west, from Baalgad in the valley of Lebanon even unto the mount Halak, that goeth up to Seir; which Joshua gave unto the tribes of Israel for a possession according to their divisions; 8 In the mountains, and in the valleys, and in the plains, and in the springs, and in the wilderness, and in the south country; the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites:

9 The king of Jericho, one; the king of Ai, which is beside Bethel, one; 10 The king of Jerusalem, one; the king of Hebron, one; 11 The king of Jarmuth, one; the king of Lachish, one; 12 The king of Eglon, one; the king of Gezer, one; 13 The king of Debir, one; the king of Geder, one; 14 The king of Hormah, one; the king of Arad, one; 15 The king of Libnah, one; the king of Adullam, one; 16 The king of Makkedah, one; the king of Bethel, one;]

OK, so far we’ve seen cities either parallel to Bethel, which is in the middle of the country vertically, or south of that city. We recognize many of these from the last several weeks. Now in the last verses of this chapter we’re told of cities to the north of Bethel.

Joshua 12:17-24

[17 The king of Tappuah, one; the king of Hepher, one; 18 The king of Aphek, one; the king of Lasharon, one; 19 The king of Madon, one; the king of Hazor, one; 20 The king of Shimronmeron, one; the king of Achshaph, one; 21 The king of Taanach, one; the king of Megiddo, one; 22 The king of Kedesh, one; the king of Jokneam of Carmel, one; 23 The king of Dor in the coast of Dor, one; the king of the nations of Gilgal, one; 24 The king of Tirzah, one: all the kings thirty and one.]

Thus ends the first section of the book of Joshua. Next week, Lord-willing, we’ll see the land being divided up amongst the 9 and ½ tribes that have yet to receive their land.

Joshua 11 KJV, AMP, Explain, Message, Meaning, Study, Summary

Turn to the 11th chapter of the book of Joshua. Joshua chapter 11.

Can you believe it? We’ve been at this series in the book of Joshua for 9 lessons now. And we’re only half way through the book at this point. But never fear, the last half of the book – chapters 13 through 24 – deal mainly with dividing the land. And while that kind of content is very interesting and helpful to our overall understanding of Scripture, it’s not the kind of thing where I imagine we’ll be spending a whole lesson on one or two chapters. Maybe I’ll prove myself wrong. But that’s what I’m thinking right now.

We’ve been through a lot in these nine weeks in our study. Lots of battles. Some failures. Some encouragements. But the end of fighting is nearly over. The last verse of chapter 11 will tell us that the land had rest from war. I’m sure we’re all looking forward to that. So let’s make our way there.

I’m going to very briefly cover what we’ve seen so far in this series. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses charges Israel to love God and do what he commands. If they do this, they will be blessed. And then Moses passes off the scene leaving all Israel on the east of the Jordan River looking over to the land of Canaan.

The book of Joshua opens with God encouraging Joshua to be the strong and courageous leader that God’s people needed. The people themselves also encouraged their leader to be strong and courageous.

With that encouragement, Joshua led Israel through the Jordan River and on to Jericho. And this is where the conquest of the land really begins in earnest. Israel goes on to destroy Jericho, Ai, and Bethel. Rahab is saved from destruction by her faith. Achan is destroyed by his disobedience.

Then Gibeon comes and deceives Israel into a covenant, which God actually honors because the covenant was made in his name. And Israel is forced pretty soon to act on this covenant. Gibeon’s neighbors attack them. With God’s help, Joshua and Israel destroy the enemies of Gibeon and then they go on to take the rest of southern Canaan.

And now here we are. The central and southern parts of the land taken. All that’s left is the north. And it turns out there are quite a number of folks in Northern Canaan who would like to remain in their land. Let’s see what they do in 11:1-5.

Joshua 11:1-5

[KJV Joshua 11:1 ¶ And it came to pass, when Jabin king of Hazor had heard those things, that he sent to Jobab king of Madon, and to the king of Shimron, and to the king of Achshaph, 2 And to the kings that were on the north of the mountains, and of the plains south of Chinneroth, and in the valley, and in the borders of Dor on the west, 3 And to the Canaanite on the east and on the west, and to the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Jebusite in the mountains, and to the Hivite under Hermon in the land of Mizpeh. 4 And they went out, they and all their hosts with them, much people, even as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many. 5 And when all these kings were met together, they came and pitched together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel.]

This is a lot like what happened in chapter 10 last week. Last week we had one king organize opposition to Joshua. We have the same this week. Last week it was Adoni-Zedek, the king of Jerusalem. This week we have this man named Jabin and he’s the king of Hazor. Hazor is a city just north of the Sea of Galillee – or Chinneroth as we have it in verse 2.

What prompts this man, Jabin, to act? Verse 1 says he “heard”. Heard what? We could again rehearse all that we’ve seen in this book thus far but we won’t for the sake of your sanity. But the fact that we’re told that this king was moved to act because he heard something does solidify a pattern of this in the book of Joshua. Rahab heard about Israel’s exploits in Egypt and beyond the Jordan in chapter 2 and it caused both her heart and the hearts of the Canaanites to melt. In chapter 5 the kings of the Amorites and Canaanites heard about God drying up the Jordan River and their hearts melted. Gibeon in chapter 9 heard what Israel did to Jericho and Ai and so they deceived Israel into a military alliance. But here’s what we haven’t given much thought to yet. Let’s look back at chapter 9 verses 1 and 2. Let’s read that.

[KJV Joshua 9:1 ¶ And it came to pass, when all the kings which were on this side Jordan, in the hills, and in the valleys, and in all the coasts of the great sea over against Lebanon, the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, heard thereof; 2 That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord.]

This is one verse prior to the mention of the Gibeonites’ reaction to hearing about Israel. In contrast to Gibeon’s response of fear and subsequent deception, these folks in verses 1 and 2 actually gather together to fight. And that’s all we hear about them through the rest of chapters 9 and 10. And then we get to chapter 11 today and who do we see being recruited by Jabin, king of Hazor? Yes, the Hittite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivite, and Jebusite. They haven’t settled down or backed off. I suppose they’re now more determined than ever to defeat God’s people and their leader.

Why do I say that? Did you see all the people that gather against Israel? Not only these nations that we just saw. But a number of other cities were enlisted to fight – several cities are named, and then we expand out to a number of wide regions in Canaan, those nations are mentioned, and then to kind of round out our understanding we have verse 4: “And they went out, they and all their hosts with them, much people, even as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many”. Like the sand on the seashore. Horses and chariots – not a few, but very many. We don’t even get the impression from this book that Israel had any horses. Can you imagine the disadvantage they were at facing many horses and chariots? And the Israelites were surely outnumbered.

Now, let’s just think about the setting. We’re at the waters of Merom. We’re not real sure where this was exactly. But it seems it was probably slightly to the west of the Sea of Galilee. Where was Israel? The narrator says that all these folks gathered together to fight against Israel. But where did we last see Israel? They weren’t up north. They were down in the south and then returned to Gilgal. So how did they connect? I think it’s likely that Israel knew their work in the south was done. And the only place to go was north. The northern coalition, led by Jabin king of Hazor, knew Israel was coming and he called all of his partners together to fight. So there’s definitely an element of aggression in Jabin’s action. But there’s also somewhat of a pathetic futility in this. This is Canaan’s last stand, if you will. Israel and Joshua are coming to get them. And the best they can do is muster a ton of troops to try to resist the oncoming forces. And to the natural man, this should do it. I mean, walled cities haven’t stopped Israel. The main river in Canaan hasn’t stopped them. Even the southern coalition of 5 kings couldn’t stop Israel. Maybe myriads of soldiers, horses, and chariots can!

Let’s see how well Jabin’s plan works in verses 6 through 9.

Joshua 11:6-9

[6 ¶ And the LORD said unto Joshua, Be not afraid because of them: for to morrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel: thou shalt hough [hock] their horses, and burn their chariots with fire. 7 So Joshua came, and all the people of war with him, against them by the waters of Merom suddenly; and they fell upon them. 8 And the LORD delivered them into the hand of Israel, who smote them, and chased them unto great Zidon, and unto Misrephothmaim, and unto the valley of Mizpeh eastward; and they smote them, until they left them none remaining. 9 And Joshua did unto them as the LORD bade him: he houghed [hocked] their horses, and burnt their chariots with fire.]

Do you suppose Joshua maybe was afraid of the huge army that he was about to face? Joshua is portrayed in this book as a man of war and a man of courage. And yet, do you suppose that even the bravest of leaders might have second thoughts when so obviously outnumbered? And remember, it’s not as if the Israelites have the latest military technology. They weren’t the strongest or the largest, either. Again, we don’t even know if they had horses or chariots. They had one strategy in war – the Lord. And it just so happened that this one strategy was all they needed. So God comforts Joshua and tells him not to be afraid.

Then the Lord gives Joshua encouragement to not be afraid in the form of a promise. He promises to deliver the enemy slain before Israel. He commands Joshua to hock or hamstring their horses and burn their chariots. Hamstringing a horse would render that horse incapable of any sort of speed. It would be useless for pulling a chariot or conveying Israel’s enemies in or out of the battle.

Verse 7 then starts telling us the fulfillment of this promise. Joshua comes suddenly upon the northern coalition at Merom. How did that happen? Was the northern coalition not expecting Israel? They were gathered together to fight against Israel. How did Israel surprise these myriads of soldiers? I don’t know. We’re not told. But I imagine God had some part to play in it, don’t you?

And when Israel comes they chase the northern coalition north to Sidon, which is on the coast of the Mediterranean, north of Israel’s northern border. Israel chases them northeast to Misrephoth-Maim and east to Mizpeh. And Joshua did exactly what God said he would – he hamstrung the horses and burned the chariots. Wait, why do this? Why not keep the horses and chariots for themselves? Surely they would come in handy during future battles! But haven’t we noticed throughout this book that God isn’t concerned with equipping Israel with the most advanced weapons of war? He’s not interested in Israel trusting in princes or horses or the arm of flesh. The Lord God wants his people to trust in his mighty hand and outstretched arm. So burn those chariots! Lame the horses. Israel doesn’t need them. She needs the Lord.

So the tremendous army that gathered against Israel is scattered and destroyed. Those myriads of men are reduced to nothing. And with them out of the way, Joshua completes the conquest of northern Canaan in verses 10 through 15.

Joshua 11:10-15

[10 ¶ And Joshua at that time turned back, and took Hazor, and smote the king thereof with the sword: for Hazor beforetime was the head of all those kingdoms. 11 And they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them: there was not any left to breathe: and he burnt Hazor with fire. 12 And all the cities of those kings, and all the kings of them, did Joshua take, and smote them with the edge of the sword, and he utterly destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the LORD commanded. 13 But as for the cities that stood still in their strength [on their mounds – “tels”], Israel burned none of them, save Hazor only; that did Joshua burn. 14 And all the spoil of these cities, and the cattle, the children of Israel took for a prey unto themselves; but every man they smote with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, neither left they any to breathe. 15 As the LORD commanded Moses his servant, so did Moses command Joshua, and so did Joshua; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses.]

Apparently either the king of Hazor escaped the battle and made it back to his city or this was a new king that Joshua killed later in that city. And Joshua didn’t attack only Hazor. He attacked all the cities of the kings who came to make war with Israel. But Joshua burned only Hazor with fire, not the other cities that stood on their tels or mounds. And take notice of the pattern of obedience here again. Moses commanded. Joshua did it. God commanded Moses. Moses commanded Joshua. And Joshua did it. He did everything God commanded Moses. What more could God’s people expect of their leadership?

And you know what? The narrator starts wrapping up the first 11 chapters right here in verses 16 through 20.

Joshua 11:16-20

[16 ¶ So Joshua took all that land, the hills, and all the south country, and all the land of Goshen, and the valley, and the plain, and the mountain of Israel, and the valley of the same; 17 Even from the mount Halak, that goeth up to Seir, even unto Baalgad in the valley of Lebanon under mount Hermon: and all their kings he took, and smote them, and slew them. 18 Joshua made war a long time with all those kings. 19 There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon: all other they took in battle. 20 For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses.]

Israel took Mount Halak in the southeast all the way up to the valley of Lebanon which is far northeast. And from north to south Joshua destroyed all the cities and their kings. Only Gibeon made peace with Joshua. Boy, that’s pretty remarkable. Yeah, that’s what the narrator thinks, too. And that’s why he explains in verse 20 how this came about. Hundreds of years prior to the events we see here, God told Abraham that he would bring his descendants back to inherit the land of Canaan which God promised to Abraham and his seed. But God couldn’t and wouldn’t displace the Canaanites just yet, because, as God says, the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full. God patiently waited while the Amorites continued to sin against him. They sinned. He waited. They offered their children to their demon gods. The Lord waited, giving them time to repent. And finally about 500 hundred years later, God brings Israel into the land. It was of the Lord to be patient with them for so long. But now it was of the Lord to harden their hearts. Why? So that they would attack Israel and be destroyed. God was so patient with them. But ultimately he hardened their dark unrepentant hearts so that they would finally face the justice due them.

And the narrator wants to tell us one more thing about the conquest of the land in verses 21 through 23.

Joshua 11:21-23

[21 ¶ And at that time came Joshua, and cut off the Anakims from the mountains, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the mountains of Judah, and from all the mountains of Israel: Joshua destroyed them utterly with their cities. 22 There was none of the Anakims left in the land of the children of Israel: only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod, there remained. 23 So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war.]

This is amazing. Do you happen to remember what for forty years kept Israel out of the land God promised to Abraham? Their disobedience at Kadesh-Barnea with the bad report of the 10 spies, right? Do you remember what the spies mentioned that melted the peoples’ hearts? One of the things was that the Anakim were in the land. That was an excuse the people used to rebel against God. But now what happens to the Anakim? Joshua cuts them off and destroys them utterly. They only existed in the Philistine areas. Wow, that sounds easy. Well, I don’t know how easy it was. But what the faithless Israelites thought was reason to disbelieve God’s promises was actually taken care of relatively quickly with God’s help.

Now, Joshua is going to partition the land starting in chapter 13. That’s what verse 23 looks forward to. And then we get this wonderful statement to end verse 23. The land rested from war. Do you feel like you’re in a war? Well, you are, if you’re a Christian. We don’t wrestle against flesh and blood. No, our war is not carnal. It’s spiritual. You can’t see it. You can’t see the bullets. You can’t see the flaming arrows. You can’t see the roaring blood-thirsty adversary roaming around unhindered like a hungry lion. But that doesn’t mean all these aren’t the reality. They are and this is why we need to put on God’s full armor.

And finally someday we’ll have rest from this perpetual war. It’s not the rest that Joshua gave, according to Hebrews. If Joshua had given them rest, God wouldn’t have spoken of another day after that, like he does in the Psalms. There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. And with God’s help, as the song says, we’ll work ‘til Jesus comes and we’ll be gathered home.

Joshua 10 KJV, Sermons, Science, About, Bible Study, Questions, Lesson

Let’s turn to Joshua chapter 10. We’ll study the 10th chapter of the book of Joshua this morning. And in this 10th chapter we see the Conquest of Southern Canaan.

One major theme I hope we’ve been seeing in the book of Joshua is that God keeps his promises. In the book of Deuteronomy we saw God tell Moses that he was going to lead his people into the land he promised to them under the leadership of Joshua. Then in Joshua chapters 1 and 2 we see God encouraging Joshua to go ahead and enter that very land. God promised they would do it. But how were they going to enter the land anyway? There was a river separating them from it. Would they just walk right through the Jordan River? Yeah, actually. God stopped the waters of that river and they crossed over on dry ground. That was Joshua chapters 3 and 4.

God had promised to give all the inhabitants of Canaan into Israel’s hand. And we saw that promise starting to be fulfilled in Joshua chapters 5 and 6 with the conquest of Jericho. And God’s promise of victory would have continued unabated as Israel moved on to Ai and Bethel. Except that Achan disobeyed God’s rules. And because of that God needed to act on another promise he made – namely, if Israel disobeyed, God would need to give them over to their enemies. And so God kept that promise until Israel made things right. In this case, making things right involved killing the offender. Harsh? Maybe. Hasty? Not hasty, but it was done speedily. Bottom line, it’s what God called for. And so God’s people did it. That’s Joshua chapter 7.

With the sin problem dealt with, Joshua and Israel go on to defeat Ai and Bethel with God on their side. That’s chapter 8.

Then we got to our lesson last time. The men from the city of Gibeon were afraid of Israel. So they disguised themselves and pretended to be from a far distant country. How was Israel supposed to have known that these guys were lying to them? Well, the text makes a point that Joshua and Israel didn’t seek God about their decision. And so Israel enters into a covenant with Gibeon. When Israel realizes they’d been had by the Gibeonites they seek to destroy them. But the leaders of Israel call the people off. They need to leave Gibeon alone. The leaders made a covenant in the name of the Lord with these people. They needed to be men of their word and keep the covenant they made with Gibeon. The people grumbled, but ultimately Gibeon lived.

And Gibeon probably felt pretty secure at this point. I mean, they had escaped certain death at the hands of the Israelites. Despite any security Gibeon may have thought they had, though, the very existence of this city would soon be threatened – not from the Israelites, but from their neighbors. Let’s read 10:1-5.

Joshua 10:1-5

[KJV Joshua 10:1 ¶ Now it came to pass, when Adonizedek king of Jerusalem had heard how Joshua had taken Ai, and had utterly destroyed it; as he had done to Jericho and her king, so he had done to Ai and her king; and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel, and were among them; 2 That they feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, as one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all the men thereof were mighty. 3 Wherefore Adonizedek king of Jerusalem sent unto Hoham king of Hebron, and unto Piram king of Jarmuth, and unto Japhia king of Lachish, and unto Debir king of Eglon, saying, 4 Come up unto me, and help me, that we may smite Gibeon: for it hath made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel. 5 Therefore the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, the king of Eglon, gathered themselves together, and went up, they and all their hosts, and encamped before Gibeon, and made war against it.]

As you probably know, there are three basic components that make up a story like we have here in front of us. First, there’s a setting. That’s where and when the story happens and any other details the author wants us to know. And who’s the author in this case? God – indirectly so, but ultimately he’s the author. Then secondly there are the characters in the story. And thirdly the author gives us a plot – the actions the characters take in their setting.

So let’s just take a look at the characters in this story. So far we’ve heard of a few of them.

The main character thus far seems to be this man named Adoni-Zedek. His name is a combination of two Hebrew words – one meaning “lord” and the second meaning “righteousness”. Isn’t that a curious name for an unrighteous wicked Canaanite – lord of righteousness? Oh, are you wondering if he’s unrighteous? If so, consider a few things. First, he’s a member of one of the 7 wicked nations. And not just a member. He’s a king! Secondly, we’ll see later on in this story that he and his coalition are enemies of Israel – God’s people. This man dies at the hands of Joshua and all Israel. And his death is not painted by the narrator as a tragedy. It’s portrayed as a good thing. So, this man, the self-proclaimed pagan “lord of righteousness” is actually quite unrighteous, in God’s eyes. And those are the only eyes that count.

What else is said about this man that would add to our understanding of his character? Let me just mention that he feared Israel. Fear makes people do interesting things, doesn’t it? By fear the men of Jericho closed their gates tightly. By fear – and faith! – Rahab sought peace with Israel and its God. By fear the men of Ai attacked Israel head-on. By fear – and as I argued by faith as well – Gibeon deceived Israel into a treaty. And now by fear, Adoni-Zedek acts with regard to Israel.

We’ll talk about what actions he takes to contribute to the plot in a minute. But we’re still focusing on his character. So let’s ask this question. Why does he act? Yes, we’ve already said fear. But why did he fear? We’re told that he heard a few things. Like what?

Well, first, he heard how Joshua had destroyed the city of Ai. And not only that, but how does this sound to a king whose life is threatened by Joshua’s mere presence in the land? Joshua had done to Ai and her king what he had done to Jericho and her king. And now this king, the so-called “lord of righteousness” knows if he’s not next then his time is coming soon enough. His very life was in danger. So, Adoni-Zedek feared first because he feared that Israel would certainly kill him. His life was in danger.

Second, Adoni-Zedek feared this most recent turn-of-events we saw in our last lesson. Gibeon, a major city, a city filled with strong men, made peace with Israel. And obviously Israel was a de facto enemy of Jerusalem and her king. So, any friend of the enemy is their enemy. And so this is the second reason they fear. Even a very close and very important sister city has joined forces with the enemy.

So, now we can get to the plot or the action of the story. The king of Jerusalem sees that Israel has formed an alliance with Gibeon. And so he himself sets out to make his own alliance. He calls on the kings of four other cities in the hill country of Canaan. And he urges them to come and help him attack Gibeon. The four kings come and together this coalition of kings from Southern Canaan attacks Gibeon.

And before we move on, let’s just mention the setting of this story. We’re not given many specifics. But we are told of a few cities. And what part of Canaan are they in? The southern part. Israel already entered into the middle of Canaan, attacking Jericho, Ai, and Bethel. Now, by God’s providence they’re moving south. And in our lesson next week we’ll see them moving north to attack another coalition of enemy cities.

OK, now let me bring you back to our lesson last week. Joshua chapter 9. The Gibeonites got Israel to sign a treaty with them that Israel had no business signing. And if that made you a little angry, that’s alright. Israel felt the same way. If you were an Israelite, you might be tempted to want to see Gibeon destroyed somehow. I mean, God did command that all the inhabitants of Canaan be destroyed. That was God’s revealed will. And yet it was more important that the Israelites keep the covenant they made in the Lord’s name than to destroy the inhabitants of the land. Do you think some Israelites may have been wishing for a natural disaster to occur in Gibeon and wipe them out? Or maybe even better – an army to come and annihilate them? If so, then it seems like their wish had been granted. But let’s see if that’s what God wanted. Verses 6 through 11.

Joshua 10:6-11

[6 ¶ And the men of Gibeon sent unto Joshua to the camp to Gilgal, saying, Slack not thy hand from thy servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us: for all the kings of the Amorites that dwell in the mountains are gathered together against us. 7 So Joshua ascended from Gilgal, he, and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valour. 8 And the LORD said unto Joshua, Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee. 9 Joshua therefore came unto them suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night. 10 And the LORD discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goeth up to Bethhoron, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah. 11 And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Bethhoron, that the LORD cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.]

So now, who are the main characters in this section? The Gibeonites are prominent. They have a problem. Their neighbors, near and far, are attacking them. And even though this city was large and powerful in their neighbors’ estimation, yet these neighbors were threatening to destroy Gibeon. And that’s why they call on the second main character – Joshua.

Let’s talk about Joshua. What do we learn about him in this section? For one, he’s staying true to his word. And it might not have been apparent to us from chapter 9, but the covenant that Israel made with Gibeon involved not just promising to not attack one another, it also involved actively defending one another in case of attack on either party. And so Joshua goes to help his ally, Gibeon. You know, to me this seems really virtuous. Joshua could have pretended to have not received Gibeon’s cry of distress. But he didn’t. Before God he would keep that covenant he made with Gibeon.

But as long as we’re talking about characters, don’t forget the most important one – God. If there was any doubt as to how God viewed this covenant between Israel and Gibeon, this passage should end that. God promised to be with Joshua. And we discover that God would use this covenant, as ill-advised as it was at the time, to carry out his plans against the Canaanites.

And the plot here is truly incredible. It was amazing to see God stop and dry up the Jordan River. It was remarkable when he caused the walls of Jericho to collapse from seven horns and the shouting voices of men. We marveled at God’s plans for ambushing Ai. But this is unprecedented what we see here.

The coalition of five kings flee before Joshua. Joshua came from Gilgal by the Dead Sea up into the hill country. He came southwest to Gibeon and the kings fled that same direction – southwest to Makkedah. Joshua and his troops did march all night. But that’s not necessarily the incredible part. What begins to reveal how amazing this fight was starts in verse 11. God sends large hailstones down upon the Canaanite coalition. And these hailstones kill more Canaanites than the number killed by men. God is showing that he approves of Joshua upholding this covenant by slaying more men directly than his people did.

And that’s not all! God is going to do something even more amazing to show that he’s with his people in their battle to defend their new ally. Verses 12 through 15.

Joshua 10:12-15

[12 ¶ Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. 13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. 14 And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel. 15 ¶ And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp to Gilgal.]

You probably could have guessed that this is a passage that even some conservative scholars have a hard time seeing as literal history. I mean, the sun and moon don’t just stand still! Is there some other way to interpret this event?

Yes, according to some. Perhaps what happened is that the hailstones left the atmosphere in such a condition that the sun’s rays refracted and so it just looked like the sun stood still. Or how about this? Joshua is just using poetic language to described God’s awesome victory on his people’s behalf. So it just seemed like the day was longer because of the great victory God gave to his people, according to some.

I don’t think there’s any reason to doubt that this literally happened – that the sun stood still from earth’s vantage point for an extended period of time, allowing Israel to destroy their enemies. Some have advanced an idea that somehow we can tell scientifically that the earth is something like one day off its rotation. And so, they see that as evidence that we have a missing day in solar history. The commentaries I consulted – as well as various websites like Creation Ministries International – dismissed this as not really possible.

How did this happen? Our knowledge of the way things work in this galaxy is that the Earth moves around the Sun, not the Sun around the Earth. So if the Sun is to stand still in the sky somewhere over Israel then it would seem that the Earth would need to stop rotating. Could this have happened? Well, let me ask you, could a major river in Israel all-of-the-sudden dry up allowing just enough time for a whole nation to cross it? Can seven horns and the voices of men send a wall crashing down? As I’ve said before, in the book of Joshua we’re not being told of events that are completely explainable by science. We’re being told of what’s possible when God is with his people and doing battle for them. And with God, all things are possible. Therefore, yes, God could stop the Earth from rotating. He could have used other means that we’re not aware of. The narrator here doesn’t see fit to take 20 volumes and explain how God did this scientifically and mathematically. He just did it. Maybe the way that Joshua prayed to God is somewhat poetic and stylized. But then you have statements like “the sun stood still”, “the sun stood still in the midst of the sky”, “it didn’t go down for about a day”. If God wanted to communicate to us that the sun really truly actually stood still that day, how else could he have said it??

So, the sun stayed in its position in the sky from a human vantage point. And that fascinates us and captures our imaginations. But did you catch what really seemed to thrill the author? He’s thrilled that God listened to the voice of a man. He says that hadn’t happened before that day and it hasn’t happened since – from the perspective of whenever this book was written.

Do you believe that God hears prayer? Joshua prayed according to God’s will. And God heard him. And God answered. Does God promise to cause the sun to stand still when you pray? No. It’s his choice if he wants to do that. But when we pray for his will to be done, there’s really no limit as to what he can do. So if we’re convinced that God is able to answer prayers as large causing the sun to stand still, what about your small issues? What about your needs? What about your future? Do you have any doubt that the God who can choose to respond to a man and pause the course of solar history – that he’s able to meet your needs as you’re seeking first his kingdom and righteousness? Oh, we of little faith. Why do we doubt?

Alright, so Israel is attacking the enemies of its new friend, Gibeon. God is fighting for Israel, sending hailstones and stopping the Sun to give Israel more time to fight. What happens next? Verses 16 through 27.

Joshua 10:16-27

[16 ¶ But these five kings fled, and hid themselves in a cave at Makkedah. 17 And it was told Joshua, saying, The five kings are found hid in a cave at Makkedah. 18 And Joshua said, Roll great stones upon the mouth of the cave, and set men by it for to keep them: 19 And stay ye not, but pursue after your enemies, and smite the hindmost of them; suffer them not to enter into their cities: for the LORD your God hath delivered them into your hand. 20 And it came to pass, when Joshua and the children of Israel had made an end of slaying them with a very great slaughter, till they were consumed, that the rest which remained of them entered into fenced [with walls] cities. 21 And all the people returned to the camp to Joshua at Makkedah in peace: none moved his tongue against any of the children of Israel. 22 ¶ Then said Joshua, Open the mouth of the cave, and bring out those five kings unto me out of the cave. 23 And they did so, and brought forth those five kings unto him out of the cave, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon. 24 And it came to pass, when they brought out those kings unto Joshua, that Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said unto the captains of the men of war which went with him, Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings. And they came near, and put their feet upon the necks of them. 25 And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the LORD do to all your enemies against whom ye fight. 26 And afterward Joshua smote them, and slew them, and hanged them on five trees: and they were hanging upon the trees until the evening. 27 And it came to pass at the time of the going down of the sun, that Joshua commanded, and they took them down off the trees, and cast them into the cave wherein they had been hid, and laid great stones in the cave’s mouth, which remain until this very day.]

So the 5 kings go and hide in a cave in the city of Makkedah. This city was south of Gibeon – I believe over 30 miles south. Joshua hears that the kings are in this cave. He tells someone to put some stones against the mouth of the cave so the kings can’t escape. But the people shouldn’t waste their time on these kings. Not yet. The people need to go fight the Canaanite soldiers. Then Joshua returns with all the people to address these kings. He has the captains of the army come and put their foot on the neck of these kings. And then Joshua encourages them all that victory is theirs because the Lord is on their side. Then Joshua himself slays these kings, hangs them on a tree and then has them taken down before sundown – that’s right, the Sun did eventually go down that day!

And Joshua and Israel don’t stop there. They take the battle to the rest of Southern Canaan. We’ll read verses 28 through 39. I’ll warn you though that there’s a good bit of repetition in these verses. But it’s all profitable, so we’ll read it. I’m giving this section the label “The conquest of the 7 cities and/or kings of Southern Canaan”. Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?

Joshua 10:28-39

[28 ¶ And that day Joshua took Makkedah, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof he utterly destroyed, them, and all the souls that were therein; he let none remain: and he did to the king of Makkedah as he did unto the king of Jericho.

29 ¶ Then Joshua passed from Makkedah, and all Israel with him, unto Libnah, and fought against Libnah: 30 And the LORD delivered it also, and the king thereof, into the hand of Israel; and he smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein; he let none remain in it; but did unto the king thereof as he did unto the king of Jericho.

31 ¶ And Joshua passed from Libnah, and all Israel with him, unto Lachish, and encamped against it, and fought against it: 32 And the LORD delivered Lachish into the hand of Israel, which took it on the second day, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein, according to all that he had done to Libnah.

Let me just interrupt. Did you wonder why there was no mention of the king of Lachish? I’m guessing he’s not mentioned because their king was just killed and they apparently hadn’t appointed a new king by this time. And this also explains the next king mentioned in verse 33.

33 ¶ Then Horam king of Gezer came up to help Lachish; and Joshua smote him and his people, until he had left him none remaining.

34 ¶ And from Lachish Joshua passed unto Eglon, and all Israel with him; and they encamped against it, and fought against it: 35 And they took it on that day, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein he utterly destroyed that day, according to all that he had done to Lachish.

Just notice that here’s another city with no king mentioned. I would assume the reason he’s not mentioned is because Joshua killed him, just like he did with Lachish’s king. OK, let’s continue.

36 ¶ And Joshua went up from Eglon, and all Israel with him, unto Hebron; and they fought against it: 37 And they took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof, and all the cities thereof, and all the souls that were therein; he left none remaining, according to all that he had done to Eglon; but destroyed it utterly, and all the souls that were therein.

But wait! I thought Hebron’s king was killed by Joshua! But here a king is mentioned. Why? Could it be that this city in particular had an heir waiting in the wings who was ready to take possession of the throne? Very possibly. But we at least know for sure that this king in Hebron wasn’t the same one mentioned earlier. He’s dead. OK, now on to Debir.

38 ¶ And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to Debir; and fought against it: 39 And he took it, and the king thereof, and all the cities thereof; and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed all the souls that were therein; he left none remaining: as he had done to Hebron, so he did to Debir, and to the king thereof; as he had done also to Libnah, and to her king.]

And if all those details escape you, the author puts a helpful appendix on this section in verses 40 through 43.

Joshua 10:40-43

[40 ¶ So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel commanded. 41 And Joshua smote them from Kadeshbarnea even unto Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, even unto Gibeon. 42 And all these kings and their land did Joshua take at one time, because the LORD God of Israel fought for Israel. 43 And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp to Gilgal.]

Verse 42 tells us that Joshua took the land at one time. This obviously doesn’t mean that they took the land in one single day. We saw in the account of “the conquest of the 7 cities and/or kings of Southern Canaan” that there were multiple days involved in this process. That verse also tells us that this happened because the Lord fought for Israel. Why did he fight for them? Multiple reasons, but one big reason is that as we see in verse 40 Joshua and Israel were obeying the Lord and doing what he had commanded them to do even before they entered this promised land.

So, this week we saw the Conquest of Southern Canaan. And I already spoiled the surprise, but can you guess what next week’s lesson will be about? Yes, among a few other things, next week we’ll see the Conquest of Northern Canaan to finish up the conquest of Canaan, in general!

Joshua 9 KJV, Sermon, Bible Study, Commentary, Summary, Devotional, Gibeonites

Let’s turn to Joshua 9. And as we do for every lesson, we’ll again consider how we got to this point in the book of Joshua.

We started our series with an overview of the book of Deuteronomy. The message of that book, as I stated it, was “Success through obedience”. Moses was preaching that message to Joshua and all Israel. “Israel, you’re finally entering the land that God promised you. If you obey what God’s commanded, you will succeed. God promises it. But the opposite is true as well. If you disobey, you will be defeated in the land.”

Next we got to the first 2 chapters of Joshua where we saw Joshua being encouraged to take leadership and lead God’s people into the land of Canaan. And what could be more encouraging than – chapters 3 and 4 – the major river in Israel drying up right before their very eyes so that they could pass through on dry ground! I’ll tell you what! Following God’s commands to march around a city blowing trumpets and have the wall of that city fall down right in front of you.

And the Israelites were really on a roll, weren’t they! They were unstoppable, that is, when they were obeying the Lord. “Success through obedience”. But what happened at the end of the battle of Jericho? Achan took some of the spoil that God told them not to take. But as we saw, Israel was oblivious to this fact. And God wasn’t with them because of their disobedience. He was absolutely silent as Joshua devised the plans for attacking Ai. He let the 3,000 men go up and attack Ai. He let them be defeated before their enemies. He watched as Joshua fell before the Ark of the Covenant all day long, despairing that God had abandoned them. But God is so gracious. He pointed out the problem and the remedy that would allow God to give Israel success once more through obedience.

So Israel takes care of their sin problem and then last week we saw the destruction of Ai. There was an ambush. There was battle. Fire. Swords. Very exciting. And most exciting – God was with his people again, leading them in victory over their enemies.

And now this week. Israel is getting quite a reputation in the land of Canaan. I mean, they already had a reputation before they entered. Remember Rahab’s testimony to the spies? She heard about their victories in Egypt and across the Jordan. And news of those victories inspired fear in her. And not only her – but all of Jericho and really all of the men of the 7 wicked nations that inhabited Canaan. They all feared Israel. And this fear led people to manifest that emotion in a number of ways. Rahab, on the one hand, repented because of her fear. The rest of her city Jericho just closed itself completely up out of fear of the Israelites. Ai? Well, their fear led them to attack Israel head-on!

In today’s lesson we see two more groups who fear Israel with their two different responses. Let’s see the first group in 9:1-2.

Joshua 9:1-2

[KJV Joshua 9:1 ¶ And it came to pass, when all the kings which were on this side Jordan, in the hills, and in the valleys, and in all the coasts of the great sea over against Lebanon, the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, heard thereof; 2 That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord.]

Who is this group? It’s a pretty all-encompassing group. 6 of the 7 wicked nations mentioned in Deuteronomy are here. The Girgashites are the ones who are left out. That’s not uncommon. Sometimes the Girgashites don’t appear with the other 6 nations in the book of Joshua. Sometimes they do. Were they left out on purpose here? Perhaps. Maybe they weren’t involved with the other 6 in this case. But from what I can tell, their exclusion here isn’t significant to the story.

What is important is that these 6 nations heard. Heard what? Heard about the battle of Ai. Heard how Israel had destroyed the city of Ai. Heard of Israel’s going to Mount Gerizim and Ebal to recite the law and kind of rekindle in themselves a knowledge of God’s covenant with them. They probably heard about Jericho and the Jordan River as well. Had they heard about Achan and the initial defeat at Ai? Maybe. Maybe that’s what emboldened them to fight Israel rather than to flee. But they heard about Israel and what they had done.

And what’s their reaction? I said it already and we read it already. They gather together to fight against Joshua and Israel. Whatever differences these folks had with each other, they laid all that aside to confront a common enemy – God’s people.

Well, that’s one way to react to the fear induced in their hearts by the Israelites. But there’s another reaction by a small sub-set of these people. Let’s read verses 3 through 5.

Joshua 9:3-5

[3 ¶ And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai, 4 They did work wilily [craftily], and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks upon their asses [donkeys], and wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up; 5 And old shoes and clouted [patched] upon their feet, and old garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy.]

So here’s another way to deal with fear – deception. The men of Gibeon are identified later on as Hivites. They are a sub-set of the 7 nations that God commanded Israel to utterly destroy.

And how does their deception work itself out? What did we see? They pretended to be ambassadors. I can’t imagine what’s wrong with that. Then they brought all sorts of old stuff. They put old sacks on their donkeys. Their wine bottles were old and torn and patched. They had old shoes that were patched. All their clothing looked old. Even their bread was dry and moldy!

Now, why in the world would it benefit the Gibeonites to come to Israel pretending to be ambassadors with all sorts of old things on their persons? Do they think the Israelites are going to accept their offering of moldy old bread and not destroy them? Of course, we all know what’s going to happen, but I want to help us read this story as if we’d never heard it before – as if you’re telling it to your 5 year old. So, what are these Gibeonites up to? Let’s read verse 6.

Joshua 9:6

[6 And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal, and said unto him, and to the men of Israel, We be come from a far country: now therefore make ye a league with us.]

Ah, I see. They’re trying to make Israel think that they don’t live in their land. But why? Why not just be honest with Israel and tell them that indeed they do dwell in the land, but that they want peace with Israel? Why not be like Rahab? Just come clean and ask for mercy.

Well, God had told Israel that they could make peace with other nations outside of Canaan. But the nations in Canaan would not be allowed to make peace with Israel for fear that their idolatrous practices would infect Israel and influence them toward idolatry. By the way, the Gibeonites must have known that. Right? Otherwise, I imagine they would simply present themselves to Israel as they truly were – inhabitants of the land who wanted peace. But they knew Israel could not offer terms of peace to the 7 nations. So they deceived and pretended to be from afar.

And the Gibeonites met Israel where? Gilgal. Some think this is a different Gilgal than the camp the Israelites had near the Dead Sea. I don’t think that’s necessary. The Israelites after worshipping the Lord on Mount Ebal and Gerizim could very well have come back down to their base in Gilgal. And when they got there the Gibeonites approached them.

I wonder which direction the Gibeonites would have taken to reach Gilgal. Would that have signaled that these men were indeed from the land? Maybe. We don’t know. But we do know that somehow these men came to Gilgal to seek peace, deceptively.

And the men of Israel haven’t forgotten God’s command to not offer peace to the inhabitants of the land. Let’s see how they respond to the Gibeonites’ offer to make peace with Israel. Verse 7.

Joshua 9:7

[7 And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you?]

So the men of Israel are no dummies. They ask the Gibeonites – here they are referred to as Hivites – the men ask them how they would know if they were from the land of Canaan. If that was the case they certainly could not have made peace.

What’s the answer to that question – “how do we know if you’re from the land?” Who would have known? Who was on Israel’s side that knows and knew everything? Yeah, the Lord. Do they consult him? We’ll see.

So it seems like the Gibeonites were rebuffed in a way by the men of Israel. So they turn to the leader, Joshua. Verse 8.

Joshua 9:8

[8 And they said unto Joshua, We are thy servants. And Joshua said unto them, Who are ye? and from whence come ye?]

Can you imagine this scene? The Gibeonites in their old worn clothing, standing there. The Israelite leaders on the other side. Maybe one puts his hand on his chin in contemplation and says, “suppose you live in our land…” The Gibeonites maybe thought they were caught in their deception. Exasperated, they look around and see Joshua the leader. They blurt out, “we’re your servants!”

So Joshua instead of wondering if they live in the land, Joshua asks for more information about this strange looking group. Who are they and where indeed do they come from? Let’s see the Gibeonites’ response in verses 9 through 13.

Joshua 9:9-13

[9 And they said unto him, From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of the LORD thy God: for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt, 10 And all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, which was at Ashtaroth. 11 Wherefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spake to us, saying, Take victuals with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say unto them, We are your servants: therefore now make ye a league with us. 12 This our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and it is mouldy: 13 And these bottles of wine, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they be rent: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey.]

Joshua asked where they were from. Did they answer that? Sort of. They say they came from a far country. They don’t specify where. What else did Joshua ask? Who they were. Did they answer that? No. So, they barely answered one question and completely avoided the other. And yet they had a lot to say. What did most of their conversation consist of? They really focus on answering a question that Joshua didn’t ask, which is “why are you here?” They tell Joshua that they heard about what God did for Israel in Egypt. The plagues, the Red Sea, all of it. Remember, that was over 40 years ago by this point. Then more recently they heard about what Israel did to Sihon and Og… Actually, the Gibeonites don’t mention what Israel did to Sihon and Og. Their amazement came from what God himself did to those two kings. That’s what the Gibeonites said. The Gibeonites came because they heard about Israel’s God. And they’re terribly fearful of what he might do to them if they don’t make an alliance – a treaty – with Israel.

Did Joshua need any more proof of the veracity of the Gibeonites’ assertions? They point to their tattered old clothes and wine skins and everything else. Look at their moldy bread! Come on, how else do you explain this? “We’re from a long way away! Can’t you see?” Israel could see. They saw the evidence presented. And that’s really all they could see. Because there’s only one being who can see beyond appearances. And that’s the Lord, the God of the Israelites. So, surely Joshua and Israel learned their lesson from Achan and will promptly seek the Lord’s counsel. Let’s see. Verses 14 and 15.

Joshua 9:14-15

[14 And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD. 15 And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them.]

So the leaders of Israel make a huge mistake. A mistake that could have been avoided by seeking the counsel of the Lord. We’re led to believe that the Lord would have been happy to give his unfailing all-knowing counsel. But he allowed Israel to make its own decisions, just like he did at Ai with the Achan situation.

And I don’t know how I could pass this by without making some application to ourselves. Are you ever presented with confusing issues? Maybe you have a decision to make where the choice seems clear. And yet you feel some apprehension about it. This would be the time to seek the counsel of the Lord. Is he going to answer you audibly? No. That’s not his habit these days. But do we have any doubt that he’s able to providentially lead you to the right decision in the matter? I hope there’s no doubt about that. The Lord is able to direct you with his providence. But he does want us to seek his counsel in puzzling times – and really always.

So, the leaders of Israel didn’t do that. And they take of the Gibeonites’ victuals. What does that mean? There are two options. First, some have wondered if this was part of a covenant ceremony. The two parties of the covenant would exchange their goods with each other. But I don’t know about that. Really, would receiving moldy bread and tattered clothing really influence Israel any more to enter a covenant with these men? It seems like Israel would have no interest in their old stuff. The other option is that the leaders of Israel further used their own natural senses to inspect the Gibeonites’ claims to being from a distant country. Like maybe they sniffed the bread and verified that it indeed was moldy. Maybe they examined the cracks in the wine skins to verify that their own natural eyes weren’t playing tricks on them.

And once their own natural senses were satisfied and they came to the natural conclusion – apart from God’s counsel – that these folks – whomever they were anyway! – were from a far country – wherever that is anyway! – Joshua and the leaders made a covenant with them to let them live. This was lawful, assuming that these men were from a land outside of Canaan. To the best of their own knowledge, this was the case. But we see in verse 16 that the leaders’ own human knowledge apart from God’s counsel proved faulty. Let’s read.

Joshua 9:16

[16 ¶ And it came to pass at the end of three days after they had made a league with them, that they heard that they were their neighbours, and that they dwelt among them.]

How did the leaders of Israel hear that the Gibeonites were neighbors living in their own country? We’re not told. But it took only three days to discover this. Maybe Israel sent people after them to track where they went as they departed from Israel. At any rate, these Gibeonites lived in the area. And Israel wasn’t happy. They all get together and come against Gibeon. Let’s read about that in verses 17 and 18.

Joshua 9:17-18

[17 And the children of Israel journeyed, and came unto their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, and Chephirah, and Beeroth, and Kirjathjearim. 18 And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel. And all the congregation murmured against the princes.]

The Israelites were ready to destroy the Gibeonites. They were going by the Law. The Law said that the 7 wicked nations in the land needed to be utterly destroyed. No mercy for them. So here’s a very interesting conflict. Does anyone have any doubt here that God’s Law revealed God’s will? In other words, the Law stated what God wanted to have happen, right? He wanted people to not lie or steal or commit adultery. God wanted his people to destroy the inhabitants of Canaan. This was what he wanted. And yet we also have in the Law this command. Leviticus 19:12 – “You shall not swear falsely by my name, so as to profane the name of your God.” So, the Israelites swear to not destroy one of the 7 wicked nations. But destroying the nations was God’s will. Yes, but there was a greater commandment involved here. Once Israel swore by God to do something, they needed to carry through with it. Even when it involved going against God’s stated will in another situation. That almost sounds wrong, doesn’t it? But that’s exactly what we see here. And doesn’t this communicate to us something about God’s name and how he values his name above all else? Profaning God’s name was to be avoided at all costs. Breaking the Israelite leaders’ oath to the Gibeonites would have profaned God’s name. And that would have been unimaginable.

But the people still don’t like this. I specifically remember reading this story the first time and identifying with the people. I mean, come on, the rule was to kill the nations. Just do it! After all, the Gibeonites lied to get into this covenant. They ought not to live! Away with them. Isn’t there something in our American legal code that would nullify the making of a contract when it was made under false pretenses? And the people, understandably perhaps, they grumble against their leaders. But the leaders are going to give their ruling in verses 19 through 21 in greater detail.

Joshua 9:19-21

[19 But all the princes said unto all the congregation, We have sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel: now therefore we may not touch them. 20 This we will do to them; we will even let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath which we sware unto them. 21 And the princes said unto them, Let them live; but let them be hewers of wood and drawers of water unto all the congregation; as the princes had promised them.]

Isn’t that interesting? The leaders sense that wrath will be upon all Israel if they break their covenant with Gibeon. Do you think the rulers are mistaken? I’ll mention this then. King Saul a few hundred years later decided in his zeal to kill some Gibeonites. Do you happen to remember what God did as a result? King David and the people were experiencing a drought at the time. And when David asked the Lord why this was, he answered that the drought was a result of King Saul’s previously killing some Gibeonites. This oath was in force even hundreds of years after it was made. God took it seriously. And in fact, the leaders were right. Wrath would be upon Israel if they broke their covenant sworn in God’s own name.

So, the Gibeonites would live and not die. However, they were made slaves for Israel perpetually because of their deceit.

So, that’s the leaders’ word to the congregation. Now let’s see what Joshua says to the Gibeonites directly. Verses 22 through 25.

Joshua 9:22-25

[22 ¶ And Joshua called for them, and he spake unto them, saying, Wherefore have ye beguiled us, saying, We are very far from you; when ye dwell among us? 23 Now therefore ye are cursed, and there shall none of you be freed from being bondmen, and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God. 24 And they answered Joshua, and said, Because it was certainly told thy servants, how that the LORD thy God commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you, therefore we were sore afraid of our lives because of you, and have done this thing. 25 And now, behold, we are in thine hand: as it seemeth good and right unto thee to do unto us, do.]

I need to warn you — when I told my wife what I’m about to say now, she giggled at me. I told her that I think we’re supposed to have somewhat of a soft spot in our hearts for the Gibeonites. Really, they lied and that’s of course wrong. They entered into a covenant deceitfully. But listen to their reasoning that they give to Joshua. They recognize Moses as God’s servant. They believed that the command to destroy all the nations would certainly happen. That means they also believed that God was powerful and true and living. They were afraid. They give themselves up into the Israelites’ hands to do to them whatever they think is right. In fact, as far as I could tell, in the rest of the Scripture we never really see Gibeon acting out of line. They don’t rise up against Israel. They apparently don’t tempt Israel into idolatry – at least as far as we’re told. In fact, even in the book of Nehemiah we see Gibeonites returning to Israel with the Jews and even rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. These guys really became part of Israel.

And what was their curse that Joshua pronounced upon them as a result of their deceit? To be servants in the house of God. Isn’t that interesting? I’ve said this in a previous lesson, but I’ll restate it. It seems that the major reason God wanted to destroy the 7 nations in Canaan was because they were idolaters. And as such these people would cause Israel to commit idolatry as well. But is there any indication that Gibeon had a heart change like Rahab did? I mean, remember, they’re speaking of Moses as God’s true servant. They’re pointing to commands and promises that God made as if they truly believed they would surely come to pass. They believed God, in that sense. They believed that he was. Did they also believe that he was a rewarder of those who seek him? It’s possible. And even if they hadn’t truly repented and trusted the God if Israel, where did Joshua put them? In the service of God’s house – where they would learn of God and his ways. Where they would be reminded of their own sins by the continual sacrifices offered there. Where they would see firsthand that a man’s sin could be atoned for only with blood. They would see all of that and more. They would be in a position to hear the Law of God. Really, what Joshua describes as a curse really seems to me to be a blessing in disguise. Well, we can all agree that this is a better fate than being destroyed by Israel, right? Alright, let’s finish the chapter with verses 26 and 27.

Joshua 9:26-27

[26 And so did he unto them, and delivered them out of the hand of the children of Israel, that they slew them not. 27 And Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the altar of the LORD, even unto this day, in the place which he should choose.]

The narrator mentions “the place which [God] would choose.” That seems to get us ready for God finally establishing a place where his people would worship him. This doesn’t happen for a while, though, as you know.

So what do we learn from this chapter? What do we learn from the Gibeonites? We learn that we do always need to seek God in our decisions, especially major ones. We learn that God is all-knowing and wants to lead his people right if they’re open to his leading. We learn that God values his name above certain other commands that he’s given. And we learn that we need to keep our promises. As Christians in particular, our word should be our bond. By going back on promises we as Christians are in danger of profaning God’s name.

We’ll get to this next week, but in the next chapter this alliance that Israel made with Gibeon is tested. Some of Gibeon’s neighbors are angry at Gibeon for making this alliance with Israel. And so they actually start attacking Gibeon. The Gibeonites send a call for help to Joshua in Gilgal. Wow, is this a chance to get out of this poorly conceived covenant? All Joshua and Israel would need to do is to be a little late in arriving to the battle. Or they could pretend they didn’t receive the message of distress from Gibeon. They could be out of that oath forever. Is that what they do? We’ll find out next week.