Joshua – Week 7: The Gibeonites deceive Israel

Chapter 9 – The Gibeonites deceive Israel

Literary context

What is the general outline of the story?

What precedes this story; what follows after this story? Is there a link between this story and the preceding story? Is there a link with the following story?

Do you notice the similarity between Josh 2:10 and 5:1? Does that tell you anything? Also compare 10:1 and 11:1 – these are all narratives that involve “hearing” what the Israelites did.

There seems to be a shift in emphasis at this point. In the preceding narratives the Israelites defined the target or object of battle, but from this point onwards the Israelite effort is mostly a reaction. There are no more melting hearts, but rather a coalition that forms to fight against the Israelites.

What has caused this sudden change in attitude from the Canaanites? The only event that could have caused this is what Joshua predicted in 7:9 following the first defeat by Ai. That defeat gave the Canaanite kings confidence that they do in fact stand a chance against the Israelites. Achan’s sin did in fact open a wide door into the whole community of Israel.

Hess says that “the following chapters introduce the transition from a victorious people of God whose occupation of the land could have been the relatively simple matter of defeating those already discouraged to an unending history of battle, bloodshed and idolatry that would haunt Israel throughout history.”

Focussing on the Gibeonite deception, do you see any parallel with the story of Rahab? Do you notice that after the purification ceremony Achan (and Israel unknowingly) sinned. In the same way, Israel (unknowingly) sinned again after the covenant renewal.

The conversation of the Gibeonites is as follows:

  1. We have come from a distant land
  2. Scepticism of the Israelites
  3. We are your servants
  4. Who are you
  5. We have heard what the Lord your God did and we decided to make a treaty (compare Rahab’s confession)
  6. The Israelites examined but did not consult the Lord and made a peace treaty

Historical context

Gibeon is associated with the Palestinian town el-Jib. Only a small part of the town has been excavated, but the parts that have been excavated are consistent with the time period of Joshua. Wine jar handles have been found with the name Gibeon stamped on them and tombs from this period was also found.

It is odd that the Gibeonites meet with Israel at Gilgal. The Israelites camped at Gilgal just before the fall of Jericho. Why would they go all the way back after the defeat of Bethel and Ai? An explanation is that this could be a different Gilgal

The Gibeonites are referred to in 2 Sam 21:1-9 (reference made to Saul and his family murdering the Gibeonites, but not elsewhere recorded) and in Nehemiah 7:25 they are listed among the families returning from exile (Gibbar/Gibeon).

Analysing narrative

What kind of narrative is this? It does not quite fit into a drama scheme and could be analysed as a report.

Reports are brief records of things such as battles, building projects, dreams or the reign of a minor king. They present a few facts or simple events, lack lively characters, a plot or dramatic tension. Reports often do not tell us much by itself, but do allude to or help to develop important themes in larger texts. One way of finding out the meaning of a report is to compare the report to other reports within the larger narrative. As an example, when we are told about the resources used by Solomon in building his own palace, we inevitably compare it to the resources used in the construction of the temple. We can then make our own conclusions regarding Solomon’s motives and heart condition.

If this is viewed as a report, what is it contrasted against? There are several possibilities.

One is that Israel made entered into a covenant with other people on their own accord – without checking with the Lord. The passage just before this describes the renewal of the covenant with the Lord.

The passage also contrasts with the other kings/cities that chose to fight against the Israelites as opposed to the Gibeonites who surrendered voluntarily without bloodshed.

There are also several similarities with the story of Rahab’s salvation.

Reflection

The most powerful contrast for me is the covenant renewal with God and then the immediate reversal of events when a covenant is made with Gibeon.

Application

There seems to be a parallel between the story of the Gibeonite deception and the prudent steward of Luke 16:1-9.

The “flattering” of the Gibeonites made the Israelites consider themselves invincible.

The Israelites rely on their own perceptions rather than divine direction

The rash/hasty decision by the leadership placed the whole nation in jeopardy

The oath that the Israelite leadership made before God had no conditions attached to it such as the truthfulness of the Gibeonites

The servanthood of the Gibeonites also meant that they became the responsibility of the Israelites

Christian business principles, based on Biblical Truth