Joshua 9: League with the Gibeonites
For this lesson and the next, we need the map of the southern part of the land. The league with Gibeon led the children of Israel directly into the heart of the country. Then one battle and the campaign following gave them possession of the south; and one battle at Hazor near Lake Merom gave them possession of the north; and they were ready for the division of the land among the tribes. If you can, show a skin bottle, such as was used in Bible days, and still is used in Palestine.
While the children of Israel were camping at Gilgal in the plain of Jordan, there came travelers, who asked the children of Israel to be their friends and not fight against them. They said that they lived very far away and had come a very long journey. As they said this they showed old sacks upon their asses, and skins which were used for carrying wine, old and torn and bound up. They showed, too, their old shoes with patches, and their other old clothes. Their bread was dry and moldy, and they said that they took it hot from the oven when they left home.
The people of Israel were afraid at first that all this might not be true, and that the visitors really lived near by in the country which they were to conquer. But they were persuaded and Joshua and the leaders made a league with them; they promised to be their friends, and not to fight with them.
After the visitors had gone, they learned that they did live near by, in Gibeon and other towns near Gibeon, only a day's journey away. Joshua and the people went up and saw their cities. They had deceived the children of Israel, but Joshua and the leaders had made a league with them, had promised to be their friends. See Joshua 11:19. They would not fight with them; but they would make them servants, to cut wood and carry water.
In my sketch book is a little drawing to which I like to turn once in a while. It is of a graceful double-topped hill with a green meadow about it, and this shut in by higher hills. The little town on the hill is el-Jib, the old Gibeon, lying a little to the northwest of Jerusalem. The people of Gibeon and some neighboring towns were Hivites, remnants of a very ancient people, keeping some goodness from the old days, which made them, like the Hittites, among the better people of Canaan.
What did these Gibeonites do after the children of Israel had gained victories east of Jordan and had now taken Jericho and Ai, and it was known that they had come to conquer the whole land? What did the Gibeonites ask the children of Israel to do? Why did they say that they had come on a long journey, when really their home was only 25 or 30 miles away, a journey that they might make in a single day? Compare Joshua 10:9. What did they show to make the children of Israel believe that they had come a long way? Verse 14 seems to mean that they ate together, which with the Eastern people is a firm pledge of friendship. What did Joshua and the leaders of Israel do? But three days later they learned who these Gibeonites were, and went and saw where they lived. Would they now destroy them and their cities? No, for they had made a league with them, and promised to be their friends; but they made them servants, hewers of wood and drawers of water; and they should do this service for the Lord's temple by and by when the temple was built. Look on the map, and see how this league with Gibeon led the children of Israel up into the heart of the land. Remember a beautiful association with Gibeon in 1 Kings 3:5.
1. What is meant by "the great sea"?
2. Who came to Joshua and the children of Israel at Gilgal asking a league of friendship? Why did the children of Israel make a league with them?
3. When the Israelites found out who the Gibeonites were, did they destroy them?
4. What service was required of them?
Was it right for the Gibeonites to tell the children of Israel that they came from a far country when they did not? No, it was wrong; but there was still something good about these people, handed down from long ago, and for that reason the Lord permitted them to be saved and to live as neighbors to the children of Israel. In Joshua 9:7 the Gibeonites are called Hivites. This was an ancient race; in fact they were remnants of the Most Ancient Church. The Hittites also, who were friendly to Abraham in Hebron, were remnants of an early and more innocent time, as were the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem until the time of David. Because these people preserved some elements of truth and goodness, they were allowed to live for a good while among the children of Israel. (A. 6860, 4431, 4447)
The humble use, which the remnants of truth and goodness preserved from ancient days might serve, is represented by the position of servants given to the Hivites, making them hewers of wood and drawers of water for the children of Israel and for the house of the Lord. What spiritual services are represented by these natural services, hewing of wood and drawing of water?
Do you see a certain truth contained within the falsehood which the Gibeonites told the children of Israel? They had come on a long journey in the sense that they were remnants of an ancient church. They had preserved and brought with them from distant days some little amount of goodness and truth, but much perverted, represented by their worn, patched garments and their dry and moldy food. These remnants of an earlier church should be saved and should strengthen the Jewish Church in its service of the Lord's altar. There is this deeper and beautiful meaning in the league made by Joshua with Gibeon.
In ourselves, we may think of the Gibeonites as representing something of external and natural goodness which has been preserved from the days of childhood and youth. It is not so fresh as it once was; it is moldy and torn. It is lacking much of the freshness and beauty of heaven, but the Lord in His tenderness will not reject even this poor kind of goodness, but makes it a servant in our spiritual life. (A. 1097, 1110)