Bible Studies in Book of Joshua
Joshua Chapter 9: Discernment and the deception of the Gibeonites
by F Gordon
There are two scriptures I would like to look at before going into Joshua
9. One is 2 Corinthians 11:2-4. I really want to emphasize verse 3, because
in our passage today we are going to be looking at one of the attempts of
the enemy to hinder our going on to obtain all that God has for us.
2 Corinthians 11:2-4 I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I
promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as
a pure virgin to him. (3)
But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's
cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and
pure devotion to Christ.
(4) For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the
Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one
you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put
up with it easily enough.
The second scripture is Ephesians 6:10-13
Eph 6:10-13 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
(11) Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand
against the devil's schemes. (12) For our struggle is not against flesh
and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the
powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in
the heavenly realms. (13) Therefore put on the full armor of God, so
that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything, to stand.
So again, in that passage Paul is saying 'You are to put on these things so
that you are able to stand against the wiles of the devil'. So whether we
know it or not, we are in a battle. Whether you see it or whether you don't
see it, the battle is going on. Whether you are experiencing it or not, the
enemy is continually hindering us, or attempting to hinder us, from
inheriting all that God actually has for us.
So when you look at the book of Joshua, it is all about walking in all that
God has obtained for them. Do they obtain everything? No they don't. They
get a lot of what God has for them but they never fully get everything, and
it will be like that for us in our Christian experience. We have been given
fullness in a risen Savior. Do we experience all of that fullness? The
answer is 'actually, no we don't.' Do we have the ability to experience all
of that fullness? The answer is yes...but with our fallen humanity we only
get glimpses a lot of the time but we are urged to keep pressing on to know
all that God has for us.
So the last few things we have looked at are the fall of Jericho, and
Satan's first real attempt to thwart the nation. That was with Achan when
he coveted those treasures, do you remember that?
That brought ruin upon the nation and they were defeated at the very next
little city they tried to take. They didn't ask God about it, they didn't
realize there was sin in the camp and they were defeated. Then they went
through the whole process of going through the tribes to the family heads,
and to individual households and down to Achan himself to know what had
caused their defeat. God sees absolutely everything and in the end Achan
was brought out and sin was cast out from the camp and then they could go
forward again. So from there they go on and God once more gave them
directions to take Ai and this time He gave them the booty. He actually
said 'you can take the treasures this time.' Unlike Jericho, where they
were not allowed to touch anything, now they were allowed to take the
spoils from Ai.
So now we get to chapter 9 and this is Satan's second attempt to hinder the
nation from going forward.
The enemy has one common enemy - Israel
Jos 9:1-2 Now when all the kings west of the Jordan heard about these
things--those in the hill country, in the western foothills, and along the
entire coast of the Great Sea as far as Lebanon (the kings of the Hittites,
Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites)-- (2) they came
together to make war against Joshua and Israel.
It is amazing how you can have nations that fight amongst each other but
they all have one common enemy and that is Israel. It was the same then;
they would all come together with one accord when it came to the nation of
Israel. And it's the same today. You can have all of these Arab nations
that are fighting among themselves, but they have got one common enemy and
that is the Jewish race. They will always come together with one accord
when it comes to the nation of Israel and their right to exist and their
right to be in the land; nothing has changed.
So here you have two aspects of Satan's advancement. The first is straight
out open war. He is pictured in the bible as a roaring lion and that is one
aspect of his nature. A roaring lion is one who loves to persecute, to
kill, maim and devour. What you see at the moment with ISIS is probably a
really good picture of the roaring lion. I read some emails the other week
and couldn't really read them without holding back the tears as to what is
happening to the Christians in Iraq. The persecution and heartache for
those families; the beheading of children because they will not renounce
Christianity; it is out and out satanic. The second aspect of Satan which
you see in the scriptures is his appearance as an angel of light. This is
not so easy to recognize. It is deception and Ephesians talks about this
and calls it 'the wiles of the devil'. It is all about subtle, deceptive,
and cunning ways. He came to Eve in this way; it is all designed to move
you in a way that you think you are not going to go. This is his second
mode of attack, and we fail many times. This chapter is talking about this
kind of attack.
The subtle trickery of the Gibeonites
Jos 9:3-14 However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to
Jericho and Ai, (4) they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation
whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked
and mended. (5) The men put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore
old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. (6) Then
they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the men of
Israel, "We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us." (7)
The men of Israel said to the Hivites, "But perhaps you live near us. How
then can we make a treaty with you?" (8) We are your servants, they said to
Joshua. But Joshua asked, "Who are you and where do you come from?" (9)
They answered: "Your servants have come from a very distant country because
of the fame of the LORD your God. For we have heard reports of him: all
that he did in Egypt, (10) and all that he did to the two kings of the
Amorites east of the Jordan--Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan,
who reigned in Ashtaroth. (11) And our elders and all those living in our
country said to us, 'Take provisions for your journey; go and meet them and
say to them, "We are your servants; make a treaty with us." ' (12) This
bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come
to you. But now see how dry and moldy it is. (13) And these wineskins that
we filled were new, but see how cracked they are. And our clothes and
sandals are worn out by the very long journey." (14) The men of Israel
sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD.
What an incredible, cunning plan the Gibeonites had hatched to save their
skin. They must have wondered if Israel was going to fall for this. So in
verse 4 we read 'They worked craftily and they pretended to be
ambassadors.' How did they really approach Israel? In verse 9 it says they
said 'We have come from a very far country, because of the name of the Lord
your God. We have heard of His fame and all that He did in Egypt' They came
with flattery. That is the first thing I noticed when I looked at it.
Beware of people who pretend to be believers saying 'We have heard about
this great God of yours that has done all these miracles. We have heard of
His fame.' So they come and they are appealing to what you already know
about God but in a flattering way and because of this you think they are on
your side. However, remember that these are Canaanites in disguise. Way
back, God had commanded that they were to drive out these people. Now,
these same people have come up with an incredibly cunning plan, and you
have got to give it to them for that, but the nation of Israel was to have
no part with them.
So they come in with flattery. 'We have heard of all your fame. We have
heard of all that God did to those two kings.' Notice that they don't say
they had heard about Jericho and Ai which were their neighbors. Had they
said that it would have given away the fact that they didn't come from a
far country. They talked about 'on the other side of the Jordan' and not
their neighbors. They talked to them as believers and they also came to
them really as people in need, needs that had to be met. We need to think
about these things carefully for they can be deceptive modes. People that
you think are in the same camp as you, people that talk about the same God,
but actually are not. People that have needs and come and try to join
themselves to you in some way; this can be one of Satan's deceptions.
Joshua 9:14 The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire
of the LORD.
I am not sure what the Israelites took but they took some of their
provisions. However, whatever it was they took they were completely sucked
in and deceived. In verse 6 it says that the Gibeonites came to them at the
camp Gilgal. I have been emphasizing the importance of Gilgal because it
was there that everything was really made new to Israel. They came across
the Jordan. They set up two monuments, one stood for death and one stood
for resurrection. One monument in the river stood for them being buried in
Christ. They get out the other side and there is a monument saying that
they have come through death and into life. They have circumcision in
Gilgal, a self -judgment of their ways. They start to partake of the good
fruit of the land and manna ceased. So Gilgal was camp base for the nation.
It is also the place for us as Christians to go back to because it is the
centrality of the fact that we have died and have been buried and have
risen in a risen Savior. That is where we always go back to. And this enemy
came to them right in that place. They came to them right there. On
thinking about that, I thought, you can be in the right place but you can
still be deceived. You can be centered on the centrality of the cross, the
risen Lord Jesus Christ but yet you can still be deceived. And why were
they deceived? It says 'because they did not ask counsel of the Lord.' They
did not ask God about this new need that had presented itself to them. They
were doing everything right except that they didn't bring God into the
scenario of what was happening to them. They had no discernment. There was
no prayer. They had no counsel from God at all.
This is what I love about the Bible because you get all these great men of
God like Joshua, but he has weaknesses and failings exactly the same as we
do. He did many wonderful things but we have seen two blunders which he
made. After Jericho he went off in self pride straight into the next battle
without asking counsel and you have the same thing here, he should have
asked counsel of God regarding what was presented to him but he doesn't. As
the leader he is responsible really for not asking counsel. So he is
deceived. There is no discernment from him. So how do we bring God into the
things that are facing us? Proverbs 3 is a really well known verse.
Pro 3:5-7 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your
own understanding; (6) in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will
make your paths straight. (7) Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the
LORD and shun evil.
When it comes to the wiles of the enemy we are actually not up to the task.
This is why we need the word of God and close communion with God. Of all
the gifts that are probably lacking today in the church, discernment is the
first. It is the most neglected gift that is not often talked about, but it
comes through communion with God and through prayer.
So here we see the lack of discernment within the nation. Everything
happens really quickly here, they don't take time to stop and ask God. I
have always wondered why, when things are presented to us, we are most
often like them-- in too much of a hurry to make a decision! What Satan is
trying to do here is to bring a nation into their midst which is not
supposed to be there. He is trying to join Israel with the Gibeonites whom
they were supposed to drive out. It pictures the world coming into the
Christian's experience, to be joined in union with you on your walk and to
cause you to slip, to hinder, and to cause you difficulties. The world has
now entered into the nation. In the same way we are also defeated due to
lack of prayer and lack of discernment; Satan does come as an angel of
light. In the Bible it mentions the foolish virgins; they looked pretty
much like the wise ones. The tares look exactly the same as the wheat. The
voice of the hireling sounds similar to the voice of the Shepherd. In the
great book Pilgrims Progress, 'Bypath Meadow' ran right alongside the
King's highway John Bunyan was right, the King's highway, or the true path,
is there but there is always a path right next door. Our deceptive foe
wants to bring about small alliances in our walk that cause us to be
One example is what happened to the church under the Emperor Nero. The
first century church flourished under attack from him. Yes, Satan's mode
was persecution, but the church grew and it flourished. Then came Emperor
Constantine, and the church became acceptable and popular with the world
under his regime. The influence of the world came upon them with all its
crazy religions and all that went with that. This was Satan's second mode
So we have to be very careful about making alliances with people or our
walk can be hindered. Covenants are made that later on turn out to be
disastrous and it can take years for some people to recover. Never be in
too much of a hurry when entering into marriage or a business opportunity.
So here again in the problem as mentioned in verse 14 - they don't ask
counsel of the Lord.
When the world enters in...
Jos 9:15-18 Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live,
and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath. Three days after they
made the treaty with the Gibeonites, the Israelites heard that they were
neighbors, living near them. (17) So the Israelites set out and on the
third day came to their cities: Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath
Jearim. (18) But the Israelites did not attack them, because the leaders of
the assembly had sworn an oath to them by the LORD, the God of Israel. The
whole assembly grumbled against the leaders,
So the world is in among them and they have made a covenant with them.
Nehemiah is a good picture of this when the enemies of Israel tried to stop
him building the wall of Jerusalem, they used beguiling words to get him to
stop. However he prayed to the Lord and he said 'I discerned that they
actually meant me harm, not good.' So he never went anywhere near them.
This was a rulers issue and Joshua was held accountable. After three days
it was all brought out into the open as to who these people were. The
nation with whom they have entered into a covenant with is a bad one and
not who they thought them to be. The bible is just so consistent in its
types. This is going to happen to Israel again. In the last days they are
going to enter into a covenant with the anti-christ and midway through that
covenant he is going to be revealed for who he is. And I thought things
just keep happening in the same way until it all reaches its fullness. They
are going to enter into a covenant and it will not be revealed until
midway, (three and a half years into the 7 year covenant) that what they
have actually done is tragic.
We will read on, because even though Satan has a way to hinder and bring us
down God can actually use what is meant for harm to bring about good.
Jos 9:19-27 but all the leaders answered, "We have given them our oath by
the LORD, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now. (20) This is
what we will do to them: We will let them live, so that wrath will not fall
on us for breaking the oath we swore to them." (21) They continued, "Let
them live, but let them be woodcutters and water carriers for the entire
community." So the leaders' promise to them was kept. (22) Then Joshua
summoned the Gibeonites and said, "Why did you deceive us by saying, 'We
live a long way from you,' while actually you live near us? (23) You are
now under a curse: You will never cease to serve as woodcutters and water
carriers for the house of my God." (24) They answered Joshua, "Your
servants were clearly told how the LORD your God had commanded his servant
Moses to give you the whole land and to wipe out all its inhabitants from
before you. So we feared for our lives because of you, and that is why we
did this. (25) We are now in your hands. Do to us whatever seems good and
right to you." (26) So Joshua saved them from the Israelites, and they did
not kill them. (27) That day he made the Gibeonites woodcutters and water
carriers for the community and for the altar of the LORD at the place the
LORD would choose. And that is what they are to this day.
The picture that I get here is that the Gibeonites were given a task to
serve Israel. Verse 27 says 'The Gibeonites were used for wood cutters and
water carriers for the congregation and for the altar.' In other words they
were used to be the means by which Israel could worship God. When I thought
about that, I thought that many times you may enter into a wrong covenant,
or join yourself to things you shouldn't join yourself to. Not always, but
it is possible for God to use this to cause you to actually search after
him. For the marriage that has gone wrong, it can be the very means by
which you enter into a deeper relationship in prayer and in worship with
the Father. The Gibeonites were there to serve Israel and to enable the
nation pray and worship God. So God can turn things around so that the very
thing that we shouldn't have done can actually cause us to come to Him.
Yes, there are always consequences for the wrong decisions that we make but
God can override those things and cause us to come before Him.
So the Gibeonites have wormed themselves into the mist of Israel, and there
they had to stay. Israel could not do anything about it because the elders
of Israel had sworn an oath before the God of Israel, so there were
Finally, I have also read that Gibeon was positioned in the center of
Canaan; they actually caused the northern and the southern tribes to be
isolated from each other. They lived right in the midst of Israel and
caused the division between the north and the south later on. And that too
is a picture of the results of the work of the enemy. Let us be on guard.
Let us enquire of the Lord before making important decisions. Let us learn
from the error of Joshua in this episode with the Gibeonites!