We read in Joshua chapters 8 and 9 that while Israel was at Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, reaffirming their commitment to the Lord, the kings in Canaan were getting ready to attack. They had heard about the defeat of Jericho and Ai and were not about to give up without a fight. But Israel’s greatest danger wasn’t the confederation of the armies of Canaan. It was a group of men from Gibeon who were about to enter the camp and deceive Joshua and the princes of Israel.
What the Gibeonites Did
Gibeon was located only twenty-five miles from the camp of Israel at Gilgal and was on Joshua’s list to be destroyed. In Deuteronomy 20:10–20, God’s law stated that Israel must destroy all the cities in Canaan. If after the conquest Israel was involved in other wars, they could offer peace to cities that were outside the land (see also 7:1–11). Somehow the Gibeonites knew about this law and decided to use it for their own protection.
The Gibeonites assembled a group of men and equipped them to look like an official delegation from a foreign city. Their clothing, food, and equipment were all designed to give the impression that they had been on a long and difficult journey from a distant city.
Why they Succeeded
The reason is simple: Joshua and the princes of Israel were impetuous and didn’t take time to consult the Lord. They walked by sight and not by faith. After listening to the strangers’ speech and examining the evidence, Joshua and his leaders concluded that the men were telling the truth. They depended on their own senses, examined the “facts,” discussed the matter, and agreed in their conclusion. It was all very logical and convincing, but it was all wrong.
Moses had told the Jews, “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you” (Exodus 34:12 NIV). But in their haste Joshua and the Jewish leaders broke God’s law and made a covenant with the enemy. Since their oath was sworn in the name of the Lord (Joshua 9:18), it could not be broken. Joshua and the princes of Israel had sworn to their own hurt (Psalm 15:4; Ecclesiastes 5:1–7), and there was no way to revoke their oath or be released from their promise.
How to Be on Guard
Satan sometimes comes as a devouring lion (1 Peter 5:8), and sometimes as a deceiving serpent (2 Corinthians 11:3). We must be alert and protected by the spiritual armor God has provided for us (Ephesians 6:10–18). Since the enemy even knows how to use the word of God for their own purposes, God’s people must keep alert (Matthew 4:5–7).
The will of God comes from the heart of God (Psalm 33:11), and He delights to make it known to His children when He knows they are humble and willing to obey. “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know” (John 7:17) is a basic principle for victorious Christian living.
Like Joshua and the nation of Israel, God’s people today are living in enemy territory and must constantly exercise caution. When you believe the enemy instead of seeking the mind of the Lord, you can expect to get into trouble.
—Warren W. Wiersbe, adapted from Be Strong