Joshua 9: Seeking What is Right
Read: Joshua 9
The Gibeonites saw what God had done for Joshua and Israel when they attacked the cities of Ai and Jericho, and they feared them. To keep themselves from being annihilated, they deceived Israel and Joshua signed a pact with them. In all this, the book of Joshua notes that Joshua did not seek the counsel of the Lord. Joshua was not aware at the time that he was being deceived so apparently saw no harm in making a pact with people who he thought were not Canaanites. But later he found out that he had been deceived. Rather than break the pact that he had made with them, he upheld it. But Joshua cursed them, making them serve Israel as laborers. The Gibeonites were allowed to persist among the Israelites for some years to follow.
It is difficult to know what to make of the Gibeonites because their history with Israel is riddle colorful to say the least:
- Gibeon was the site of a major battle took place at Gibeon. The kings of the south formed a pact and went to war against Gibeon for making a pact with Israel. Israel came to their aid and saved them by the Lord’s help.
- Saul wanted to destroy Gibeon and sought to do so because of his “zeal” for Israel and Judah. God, however, upheld their plight later on: he cursed Israel with a three year famine because Saul was blood thirsty. David sought to end it, so he asked what they wanted. They wanted to hang the descendants of Saul, so David gave to them 7 of the descendants and the descendants were hanged in Gibeon “before the Lord” and kept the bodies there for some time even though the law said to cut hanged people down before sunset. Interestingly, David had asked them what he could do to “bless” the inheritance of the Lord – that is the land. The Gibeonites left the bodies up for sometimes after that which would “defile” the land (2 Samuel 21:1-10, Deuteronomy 21:22-23).
- Gibeon was named a Levitical town. The Levites did not receive a portion of land when the land was divided because they were responsible for priestly duties. Instead, they received several cities located throughout Canaan (Joshua 21:17).
- Gibeon became the location of the tabernacle before the construction of the temple during the reign of Solomon (1 Kings 3:1-15, 1 Chronicles 16:39, 1 Chronicles 21:29).
Gibeon was important because of its connection with the worship of God at the Tabernacle. They also had mercies of God on their side too at points with God upholding their plight after the misdeeds of Saul. At the same time, they deceived and made peace with them and when they hanged the sons of Saul they did so in what seems to be a vengeful way before God.
It is purely speculative, but the book of Joshua begs the question: what if Joshua would have sought the Lord? It is likely that God would have revealed to Joshua that they were being deceived and Joshua therefore would not have entered into a pact with some of the people Canaan. And rather than have a semi-rogue group of Canaanites living among them, they would have probably destroyed them just as they did the other cities in Canaan and the complications during the days of Saul and David would have never happened. It is important to seek God in all things and this cannot be emphasized enough. In any case, God’s concern is that even after his people make mistakes they attempt to pick of the pieces and make the best of the circumstances by upholding vows and justice – things found in the law – as in the cases of both David and Joshua.
Lord, help me to seek you for what is right and to make right what is wrong!