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After we have seen in Joshua 7-8 at Ai what is the result of relying on our own strength, we see in Joshua 9 at Gibeon what is the result of relying on our own wisdom. The lesson for us is not to trust in our own strength and wisdom, but in “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24).
The Gibeonites succeed with a trick to escape the judgment under which they fall. Why did the Israelites not discover this trick? The trick succeeds because they “did not ask for the counsel of the LORD” (Joshua 9:14). There is only one way for us to escape the tricks of the devil and that is by obedience to the command: “Put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11).
The enemy uses two means to harm and cause damage to the people of God. One means is violence and the other is scheme. In the first case, we read about the devil as someone who “prowls around like a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8). In the other case he is called “an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
The Enemy Gathers Themselves Together
The enemies join forces. It is possible that the defeat suffered by Israel at Ai has encouraged them and given them an opportunity to resist this people.
These nations, who are always at war with each other, gather together “with one accord to fight with Joshua and with Israel”. This is always so with regard to what is of God. Hate against God and His truth is a means that unites all the enemies of God and makes them forget their disagreements and quarrels (Luke 23:12; Acts 4:27). We must always remember that the kings of Canaan are a picture of the rulers of the spiritual world. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual [forces] of wickedness in the heavenly [places]” (Ephesians 6:12).
Pagan nations may conflict with each other on earth, but the demonic powers behind them are in complete agreement. They are controlled by satan, who always aims to kill as many people as possible. He is the murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). He wants to kill all people, while his main goal is to harm God’s people as much as possible.
The Trick of the Gibeonites
In the spiritual struggle we are particularly concerned with “the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). The struggle in Ephesians 6 is not a struggle to conquer the land, but to defend it. Therefore, the description of the armor is also at the end of the letter, after all blessings have been described. It is about staying standing after the victory, which is only possible if we have put on the full armor of God. Only then we “will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).
We also need the armor of God to “be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13). With his schemes, the enemy often has results in territories where his power is broken. His schemes are more to fear than his strength. With his schemes he seduces the people, but with his strength he meets the Lord.
The people of Gibeon have heard what Joshua did to Jericho and Ai. Therefore they do not seek a battle, but resort to deceit. They work with consideration to save their lives, which they know are in danger. To a certain extent, that is sensible. But there is a better method to save their lives than by trickery. Rahab saved her life and that of her family by faith. This we also see later with a Canaanite woman, so a woman originally belonging to this people under the curse, who asks for mercy (Matthew 15:22-Hosea :).
With these Gibeonites, however, there is no question of faith. They prefer their own method. They proceed with human caution and use beautiful, impressive language. They speak of the LORD and what He hath done. They present themselves as religious people. Thus they mislead the people of God and gain access to them, which is possible by the unfaithfulness of the people.
Their whole appearance is worn out; everything they have is old. The older something is, the better it is according to the traditionalists. The old church, the old way of doing things. But the old is not simply better because it is old. The old is only better when it comes from the Lord, He Himself is “what was from the beginning” (1 John 1:1). Thus, the old ‘speaking in tongues’ is something that comes to the fore again in Christianity. That is not only old, but also worn out, it has had its time (1 Corinthians 13:8). These are things that impress the people. But what is worn out must be removed.
The Gibeonites Come in Gilgal
Joshua is back in Gilgal, the right place. But he is not in the good mind to recognize the stratagem. These people come from a city in the land that needs to be destroyed, but they pretend they come from a far country. Unlike Joshua, the people express the assumption that they may not come from that distance anyway. There is suspicion in them. But why don’t they ask further? They fall into the trap of their own wisdom.
The request to make a covenant with these people sounds attractive. Israel is surrounded by enemies, who are united against them to fight them. A covenant with the Gibeonites will make them stronger, they think. Such a submission may seem sensible, but it leaves the LORD out of consideration. If God is their strength alone, allies can only set aside the necessary dependence on God. Israel does not need allies!
The Gibeonites Justify Themselves
The Gibeonites use flattery. In the same way, there are nominal Christians who would like to join the believers of a local church and say pleasant things about God and the Lord Jesus. They talk as the believers like to hear it. Therefore, the church must be careful and always ask for the Lord’s will when people want to have fellowship. This will keep them from being misled on the one hand, and on the other hand, they will not painstakingly repel believers who belong to God’s people. All who meet the conditions of the Scriptures must be accepted in the community.
The Gibeonites do not speak about what happened to Jericho and Ai. They behave as if they know nothing about it. They only talk about what can be assumed to be known from people who come from far away. They pretend that they are not aware of what has happened recently. Their testimony of the long journey is supported by their worn out clothes and dried bread.
Joshua and the heads find their story plausible. The remarks about the LORD sound respectful. Their whole appearance seems to underline what they say of themselves. It is sufficient to give up the necessary vigilance and to receive this company.
Peace With the Gibeonites
The Israelites take their bread. By testing the ‘proofs’ themselves they come to the conclusion that the story of the Gibeonites is true. Their senses are the norm. That is the error. By taking their bread, they express their fellowship with them spiritually. Now they can’t go back. Where human senses and perceptions become the norm of assessment, the enemy has gained access. Then the LORD will not be consulted. He remains out of the picture. The remark of the Holy Spirit “and did not ask for the counsel of the LORD” speaks volumes.
Not asking for the counsel of the LORD, for a statement of Him, brings the people to a covenant and thus to something that is forbidden by an earlier statement of Him. If we take steps without having asked for the Lord’s will and thus without having received a clear answer from Him, the consequences of those steps will always haunt us. Joshua and the heads make this covenant. The most responsible take the lead in the error. Satan has succeeded in his stratagem.
Jericho is taken by faith. After an initial defeat with Ai, that city is also taken when the people have removed the ban from their midst. Both cities fall into the hands of the people because obedience to what the LORD has said has been acted upon. The third city, Gibeon, is not conquered because the people did not ask for the will of the LORD.
The Trick Discovered
The deceit becomes public if the people want to destroy Gibeon and other cities. Now they have to face the consequences. They have to spare these men. They have sworn this to their loss: “He swears to his own hurt and does not change” (Psalms 15:4). A wrong deed must not be made worse by not wanting to bear the consequences. Later Saul’s house must be punished because Saul wanted to kill the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:1-1 Samuel :).
We can apply this as follows. We cannot exclude persons who, because of our carelessness, have been received at the Lord’s Table although they actually should not have been received. As long as they do nothing that is considered sin by the Scriptures, we must tolerate them and bow under the Lord’s discipline because of our infidelity. Similarly, even if a believer is married to an unbeliever, this marriage cannot be undone by divorce. That the consequences of sin are not always taken away, we see in the life of the ex-drug addict who has destroyed his health by his drug use. The consequences remain. Yet the Lord will give the power to bear those consequences if there is sincere acknowledgement and confession of the sin. Sin is acting in self-will, acting without consulting Him first.
Hewers of Wood and Drawers of Water
The Gibeonites are as slaves in the house of God, not as sons. Joshua curses them and condemns them to do the humblest work (cf. Deuteronomy 29:11). They fetch wood for the altar, but are not offerors themselves. They fetch water, but not to become clean by themselves. They are a plague to the people of God because the people have given them access to the service to God without asking God. They serve, however, not out of love, but out of fear.
The Israelites want to kill them, but Joshua saves them (Joshua 9:26). It is better to bow before the Lord than to eradicate the evil that has come in through our fault against God’s will. Sometimes He wants it to exist, to constantly remind us that we can only prevent evil if we consult Him before we do anything.
Later in the history of the Gibeonites in the midst of Israel, God’s grace also becomes visible. Ishmaiah, one of the heroes of David, is a Gibeonite (1 Chronicles 12:4). There is also a Gibeonite, Melatiah, and other men of Gibeon, who have returned with the people of God from captivity in Babylon and help to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem (Nehemiah 3:7).
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Joshua 9". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany