In our weekly Sunday evening Bible study, we’re examining the book of Joshua. While looking at chapter nine, I learned something I didn’t know before which blessed me. I want to share it with you, hoping it blesses you too.
In Joshua 5:1 (NLT) it says, “When all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings who lived along the Mediterranean coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan River so the people of Israel could cross, they lost heart and were paralyzed with fear because of them.”
During the conquest of the Promised Land, God had told His people in Deuteronomy 20 that when they approached a town to attack it, they must first offer the people terms for peace. If they accepted the terms of peace, they were to serve the Israelites with forced labour. If they refused the terms, the Israelites were to attack, killing every man, but keeping the women, children, livestock, and other plunder for themselves.
God told the Israelites the above instructions applied only to distant towns, “not to the towns of the nations in the land you will enter” (Deuteronomy 20:15 NLT).
In nearby towns, every living thing was to be destroyed. God’s reason for doing this was that it would “prevent the people of the land from teaching (the Israelites) to imitate their detestable customs in the worship of their gods, which would cause (the Israelites) to sin deeply against the Lord...” (Deuteronomy 20:18 NLT). “When the Lord your God hands these nations over to you and you conquer them, you must completely destroy them. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy” (Deuteronomy 7:2 NLT).
The Gibeonites came up with a ruse so they wouldn’t be destroyed. “But when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to deception to save themselves” (Joshua 9:3-4 NLT).
They dressed in old clothing and sandals, brought moldy bread and wineskins, told the Israelites they had come from a long distance, and asked Israel to make a treaty with them and they would be Israel’s servants.
The truth was the Gibeonites did not live far away but nearby. A very sad verse is in Joshua 9:14: “So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the Lord” (italics mine). Therefore, they made a treaty with the Gibeonites in spite of what God had told them.
Three days later Joshua learned they had been deceived. When he called together the Gibeonites he said, “Why did you lie to us? Why did you say that you live in a distant land when you live right here among us? May you be cursed. From now on you will always be servants who cut wood and carry water for the house of my God” (Joshua 9:22-23 NLT).
The Gibeonites had to work hard. The Israelites used a lot of wood and water. Just the daily offerings in the tabernacle required huge amounts for burning and cleaning up. The Gibeonites weren’t dead but they were cursed to be menial slaves.
However, our God is a merciful God. And this is the part that blessed me. Because the Gibeonites cut the wood and carried the water for the Lord’s service, they were brought close to the Lord. In Joshua 21:17 (NLT), it says, “From the tribe of Benjamin the priests were given the following towns with their pasturelands: Gibeon, Geba, Anathoth, and Almon...” Gibeon became a centre for training in the Word of God and worship.
Under King Solomon, before he built the first temple, the tabernacle was at Gibeon. “Then he (Solomon) led the entire assembly to the place of worship in Gibeon, for God’s Tabernacle was located there” (2 Chronicles 1:3 NLT).
When the Israelites returned from captivity in Babylon, the list of those who could prove Jewish heritage included the Gibeonites. Nehemiah 7:5,25 (NLT) says, “So my God gave me the idea to call together all the nobles and leaders of the city, along with the ordinary citizens, for registration... The family of Gibbar” (Gibeon).
And lastly, the Gibeonites helped to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. “The Old City Gate was repaired by Joiada...and Meshullam... They laid the beams, set up its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. Next to them were Melatiah from Gibeon, Jadon from Meronoth, people from Gibeon... (Nehemiah 3:6-7 NLT, italics mine).
Thus is appears that God in His mercy allowed the Gibeonites to be absorbed into the covenant people. Like Rahab, who hid the spies, they transferred their allegiance from pagan gods to the true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
This is an Old Testament example of God’s mercy and grace. In the New Testament, God’s mercy and grace has abounded to us in the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit...” (Titus 3:5 ESV).
When we miss the mark, if we repent, He will forgive us (1 John 1:9). Today, whatever you’ve done, turn to your heavenly Father, repent, and receive His mercy and grace.
In this Blog, I want to share with you some of the things I've learned from many years of following Jesus.