Joshua 9: The Bad Treaty

January 2, 2011 Series: Joshua: Lord's Army

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Joshua 9:1–9:27


Chpts. 1-8: Review of Rebellion

(Romans 15.4) The PREQUAL to Joshua can be summarized by reading Numbers 13 and 14, events that occurred 40 years earlier.  Having been redeemed from slavery in Egypt, Moses leads Israel through the wilderness toward the Promised Land of Canaan.  On the edge of entrance into the land, Moses sends in 12 spies, 10 of which return with a faithless report and 2 who return with a faithful one. Israel listens to the faithful report, grumbles against their God appointed leaders, some even suggesting they choose their own leader to return to Egypt.  And though Joshua and Caleb plead with Israel not to rebel against the LORD, the congregation responds by picking up stones to stone them, stopping only when the glory of the LORD appears.  And in the voice of what sounds like an exasperated parent God says, “How long will this people despise me?  And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of these signs that I have done among them…[He goes on to say]…none of theme who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have yet put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers.”  Israel remains wandering in the wilderness until everyone over the age of 21 dies as God had said.  After 40 years, Moses dies and Joshua leads a new generation into the Promised Land.  This is where the book of Joshua begins. 


As Joshua assumes leadership, God charges him to be strong and courageous, to be care not to turn to the left or the right of His Law, and to follow God’s Word though it will be tempting to listen to his own wisdom and fears.  Joshua does well.  Rivers are divided, Fortresses Fall, and God proves Himself to be a faithful commander and Joshua a faithful soldier.  Ironically, God given success can often cause us to forget our incompetence apart from Him.  This happens to Israel in chapter 7 where Israel experiences its first defeat because of one man’s sin.  In defeat, Joshua tears his clothes, falls on his face, and cries out the God who had told him he’d be successful wherever he led. God’s gracious response is, “Get up, get off of your face, and get to work dealing with sin.”  And, as all good leaders do, he confronts the sin, purges the evil, and restores purity and thus strength to the community.  They attack Ai again, this time inquiring of the Lord all the way. God prepares a clever battle plan resulting in the defeat of two cities Ai and Bethel.  After this great victory, Joshua follows Moses commands in Deuteronomy 27 and holds a huge worship service atop two mountains.  Joshua 8 ends with, 35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.    And after the entire law of God is read, with one voice the entire assembly yell out “AMEN” and affirm their commitment to live in God’s promises and his warnings. Their AMEN made some noise in Canaan.---chapter 9.


JOSHUA 9.1-2 Lasting Effects of Sin v. 1-2 

As soon as all the kings who were beyond the Jordan in the hill country and in the lowland all along the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, heard of this, 2 they gathered together as one to fight against Joshua and Israel.


It didn’t take long for the word to get out about what Israel had done to Jericho, Ai, and Bethel.  Every Canaanite in the land was twittering about their “mean spirited” worship service down at “Gorge in Shechem”,.  Reports about Israel’s accomplishments had been heard across the land before, when they had crossed the Jordan River.  Then, hearts melted; but not this time.  Incited by the news, FIVE KINGS unite together to take on Israel probably CONVINCED by the failure at Ai that these people, and their God, can be conquered.  And here we see the impact of OUR sin on the world.  What might have happened had Achan not sinned and Israel defeated Ai?  Have we ever considered how our faithfulness (or lack thereof) might influence other men’s hearts to melt or harden toward God or His people? 


v. 3-11 Initial Meeting

These first two verses are the background for chapters 9-12 and set the stage for the future conflicts.  Up to this point, Israel finds their battles and now the battles find them.  But before they meet these Kings in War, another city “attacks” Israel with deceptive diplomacy: 3 But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, 4 they on their part acted with cunning and went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, 5 with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly. 6 And they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us.” 7 But the men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you live among us; then how can we make a covenant with you?” 8 They said to Joshua, “We are your servants.” And Joshua said to them, “Who are you? And where do you come from?”


Acted with Cunning

The Gibeonite elders wisely decide to take a different approach than FIVE kings.  The writer of Joshua doesn’t fault them, commending their cunning—much like Rahab’s faith at Jericho.  And these men were SO CRAFT that we’re tempted to excuse Israel’s failure—give them a pass—because of the impossibly hard situation they’re in.   When we sin, screw up, make a bad choice, we are just as tempted to blame shift.  When I read this passage I can feel myself wanting to defend Israel:  If God hadn’t ALLOWED this situation or if God had STOPPED them from deceiving…they would have been faithful.  If that girl hadn’t dressed that way; if I hadn’t been offered that beer; if they hadn’t had said those things; if it wasn’t so easy to take the money…if the tree hadn’t of been there, if the serpent was not allow to come in, if God would have stepped in. Regardless of people or circumstances, we are responsible for our sin.


“Perhaps you live among us” - The Rules of War

It’s hard because the men of Israel appear to want to obey, and even though the Gibeonites say they come from a “distant country” they doubt their story.  They know that God clearly outlined the rules of warfare in the Law in Deut. 20.10-18 to protect Israel from Idolatry of the land.  These rules allowed for Israel to make treaties with peaceful cities outside the Promised Land, but they forbid Israel from making any treaties with those within it.  Gibeon was a nearby hill-city, “one of the royal cities in Canaan, greater than Ai.  Its inhabitants were Hivites, a people specifically condemned by God.  And though Gibeonites who are described as “mighty warriors” in Joshua 10, are so filled with fear they turn in their Military Awards for Academy Awards and put on a show at great risk, to save their lives. Suspicious, Joshua asks, who are you and where do you come from?

 Gibeon Map

V. 9-12  “Who are you?” – Asking the Right Questions

9 They said to him, “From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the Lord your God. For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt, 10 and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon the king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth. 11 So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country said to us, ‘Take provisions in your hand for the journey and go to meet them and say to them, “We are your servants. Come now, make a covenant with us.” ’ 12 Here is our bread. It was still warm when we took it from our houses as our food for the journey on the day we set out to come to you, but now, behold, it is dry and crumbly. 13 These wineskins were new when we filled them, and behold, they have burst. And these garments and sandals of ours are worn out from the very long journey.”


Reasons to believe the wrong thing

Apparently the Gibeonites knew the Mosaic Law enough to know that it permitted Israel to make peace with cities that were at a considerable distance.  Twice they make a point to assure Joshua that they are from a VERY DISTANT COUNTRY, even going so far as to mention Egypt and the battles that occurred on the other side of the Jordan and NOT mentioning Jericho or Ai.  They also give some evidence to strengthen their story.  They put intentional thought and preparation into their lies.  Their story plays on the EYES and EARS of the Israelites—they look legit and they woo with flattery and disarming words.   


The WRONG decision can often look like the RIGHT one.  The wrong decision can often be packaged in the right wrapping paper—with lots of pretty bows.  Do we realize that the “right” decision is not necessarily the one that looks best, easiest, or most obvious?  An open door doesn’t necessarily mean we’re supposed to walk through it.  The right decision is sometimes the hardest, ugliest, and least obvious one.  Do we remember what Peter’s response was to Jesus when he told him that “success” came through his death?   


The RIGHT decision can often look and feel like the WRONG one.  The right decision can often be in a plain paper sack, smelling and dripping go.  Not always, but the right decision can often be the most uncomfortable and inconvenient one.  It may require the most sacrifice, be the most unpopular, make the least amount of sense, and require the most amount of patience for it to produce a result.  The thing to remember is that DECISIONS matter—like Chess—they have consequences



It’s not that we should fear making decisions, but recognize that sometimes, the right decision and the wrong decision can look equally correct.  We simply cannot depend wholly on our own wisdom to figure it out. The story now shifts from being about the Gibeonites cunning to Israel’s failure.  14 So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord. 15 And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.


We ask the right questions, the wrong person

Joshua and the elders asked all the right questions and checked the evidence.  They examined their worn out sandals, clothes, wineskins, and even make young Shmuel take a nibble of the moldy bread.   Now sometimes we make rebellious high handed sinful decisions declaring, “I DON’T TRUST GOD or HIS WAY.”  More often, we make more subtle but equally destructive decisions by putting too much trust in ourselves.  This isn’t about asking the wrong questions, it’s about asking the WRONG PERSON.  Joshua asked the right questions so as not to be deceived, but he was…because he did not ask the counsel from the LORD.  Do you depend on God’s wisdom to make decisions—big and small?  WHY?  Because the sin in us often makes bad things look better than they are (LUST) and makes good things look worse than they are (PRIDE).  But the temptation begins with believing that we are wise, that sin hasn’t really affected my mind or my emotions…that my intellect or my mind is in fact trustworthy. 

We need to pray

Our problem is NOT that we don’t think; IT IS THAT WE DON’T PRAY.  Maybe you pray when “major” decisions or when tragedies come, but most of our prayers are in response to when the poop hits the proverbial fan and not before.  We don’t ask God for wisdom because We don’t think we need to, it’s not important enough, I already know the answer.  We don’t want to wait for an answer.  We already know what God has said and we don’t like it.  We don’t think he speaks. The implication here seems to be, if Joshua had asked, God would have spoken. God’s direction is available but it is ignored.  ****Let’s commit to not using the “God hasn’t spoken” statement to avoid actually making a decision.  God speaks where more than He is silent.  But I guarantee you that most of our bad decision-making is not rooted in knowing spending too much time searching God’s Word or praying too much.


v. 16-21 A Leader’s Mistake 

By God’s grace, it takes three days for their UH-OH moment.  I say God’s grace, but sometimes it takes three years or more for us to realize it: 16 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. 17 And the people of Israel set out and reached their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim. 18 But the people of Israel did not attack them, because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel. Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders. 19 But all the leaders said to all the congregation, “We have sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel, and now we may not touch them. 20 This we will do to them: let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath that we swore to them.” 21 And the leaders said to them, “Let them live.” So they became cutters of wood and drawers of water for all the congregation, just as the leaders had said of them.


Leader’s make mistakes

They quickly discover that Gibeonites are neighbors and the people of Israel want to kill them immediately.  And though they screwed up, the leaders REFUSE to break their OATH to the Gibeonites.  The people are ticked at their leaders.  Leaders make mistakes.  There are different kinds of leaders and different kinds of mistakes.  But it is a guarantee that leaders will make mistakes—and they should be allowed to.  For some that is showing grace to who is leading you, for others, that is show grace to yourself as you lead.   There is a lot of pressure being a pastor because people expect perfection.  Perfect sermons.  Perfect theology.  Perfect counseling.  Perfect ministries.  Perfect marriage.  Perfect parenting. The pastor is simply the most imperfect one in the church, imperfectly calling imperfect people to be perfect through confessing their own imperfection and accepting Christ’s perfection.  And I am pretty sure that can be said about every man, woman, husband, wife, and parent.  ****The greatness of a leader is not measured by whether they make mistakes, but by how they respond to them when they do. ***


Leader’s keep their word

The mark of a good leader is one that can admit he makes a mistake and lead THROUGH the consequences.   He does not run and he does not fight—those are cowardly; he leads with strength and courage by standing for the WORD of God even when doing so condemns his own actions.  Commitment with God’s Word does not change when the situation changes, and though humiliated, Joshua will not bring further disgrace on God and His people by breaking his word.  Two wrongs don’t make a right…it makes it twice as wrong.  And many of us would argue that, “THEY didn’t keep their commitment…the commitment wasn’t valid.”  People have pretty wacked out views of commitment.  Many wrong believe that commitment is predicated on what the person we have committed to does.  Fulfilling our promises has nothing to do with how well someone else keeps theirs.  It’s tempting to point the finger at a person or group who failed to keep their word as an excuse to not keep ours. Wrong.


Inconvenient Commitment

Joshua knew they were obligated to keep their word even if they were tricked into giving it.  What might this be teaching us about how we are to live faithfully within twisted situations, relationships, or commitments we’ve made and have turned sour?  Good is honored, his glory upheld, by our keeping of our word.  God is NOT honored by our happiness if it means breaking our word. And of course, everyone has their legal defense team circling to defend their own exception to the rule, their biblical right to break their promise.  My point is not to convince you of the rightness or wrongness of ever promise you’ve kept or broken, but simply to declare that your word means something to God, and that breaking oaths is serious.  


Conclusion:  Why they did what they did v.22-27 

22 Joshua summoned them, and he said to them, “Why did you deceive us, saying, ‘We are very far from you,’ when you dwell among us? 23 Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall never be anything but servants, cutters of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.” 24 They answered Joshua, “Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you—so we feared greatly for our lives because of you and did this thing. 25 And now, behold, we are in your hand. Whatever seems good and right in your sight to do to us, do it.” 26 So he did this to them and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel, and they did not kill them. 27 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.


Cursed not blessed

And what happens to the Gibeonites?  Do they get off “scott free” like my son Fischer likes to say when he gets in trouble and no one else does?  Not exactly; even though Joshua refused to break relationship with them, that didn’t mean he didn’t have the right and responsibility to dictate the terms of that relationship—there are consequences.  That day, the Gibeonites became servants to the congregation and for the altar of the LORD.  The very thing the Gibeonites hoped to attain they lost—their freedom.


Ultimately Blessed

This entire chapter, especially the end, demonstrates not only the power of Sin and its consequences, but the greater power of God’s grace to save in spite of our sin.  The godly Israelites sin “unintentionally” (meaning, they didn’t intend not to) because they believed they could trust their sinful eyes and their sinful gut to make a godly decisions apart from God—they were wrong.  The godless Gibeonites sin intentionally, believing their sin would ensure their freedom and lead to their happiness—it led to their slavery.  But through a major mistake and through the resulting slavery, comes the means through which God brings more men closer to His glory.  The Gibeonites were made slaves who served in the courts of God the rest of their lives.


In other words, God is bigger than my sinful mistakes, than your sinful screw-ups, bigger than any sin that has been committed against you.  We know that, because of the cross proves how in some mysterious awesome incredible way, God uses sinful choices of men (he really has no other kinds to use) to bring about his plan of redemption. Consider Peter’s own sermon, a leader whose mistake it was to deny Jesus while Jesus watched: Acts 2.22-24 22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.


Whether you are an ISRAELITE or a GIBEONITE, the decieved or the deciever, the perp or the victim, we all need the same thing--the truth.  The truth is not advice on how to not to sin or to avoid being deceived ever again, the truth is a person named Jesus who is ready to forgive and powerful enough to transform.  This is not to say that it doesn't matter how we make decisions, only that there is really ONE decision that matters—faith in Jesus.  By faith, then we to trust Jesus, depend on Jesus, appeal to Jesus, talk with Jesus, and in all ways deny ourselves, walk after Jesus KNOWING THAT if we find ourselves in the midst of a mess we created, by faith in Jesus, God can not only forgive but overrule our mistakes and bring blessings out of sins and past failures. 



Philippians 3.12-14 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

More in Joshua: Lord's Army

April 3, 2011

Joshua 24: The Choice

March 27, 2011

Joshua 23: The Charge

March 20, 2011

Joshua 22: The Breach