Joshua 9: Shrewd Little Buggers

I see what you did there.

Oh, you Gibeonites! So crafty. So wily. So clever.

Honestly, I gotta hand it to you. You managed to find a loophole in God’s law. And not only did you find it, you exploited that sucker for all it was worth.

You knew that the Israelites were coming to destroy you. You also knew that the LORD had given your land, cities, and people into their hands. You knew you couldn’t beat them because the LORD was far stronger than you were. You were basically dead men walking.

And maybe you also knew that Israel was not supposed to enter into treaties with your people. You are on the “no treaty” list.

So what did you do?

You tricked them into believing you were another nation so they would make a treaty with you and have to hold to it. Israel’s law holds them accountable to any oath they make. So you fooled them into making an oath with you.

Honestly, that’s amazing. I’m not even mad.

Now, you are protected by their law. Now, you live in their midst. Sure, you are stuck being wood gatherers and water bearers. But surely that is better than being dead, right?

However, your trickery and the events surrounding it raise some questions in my mind.

1) What would have happened if Israel had consulted the LORD first?

Would the event have been different? Would their people have been killed? Would God have tipped them off?

2) Does an oath trump a direct order from God?

Israel breaks the law by making a treaty with the Hivites (Gibeon). But they do it under a false pretense. They are not required to obey the part about killing the Hivites but they are required to hold to the oath they made. Not sure what to do with that but it is totally interesting.

3) Is Joshua’s curse legal?

Israel is supposed to show kindness to aliens residing in their midst. Sure, they are allowed to live, but Joshua forces the Gibeonites into generations of slave labor (cutting wood and gathering water). How does this jive with Leviticus 25?

4) How does Israel feel about becoming so multi-cultural?

Rahab’s entire family has been rescued and now they live with Israel. Now the Gibeonites live with them. If you ask me, this whole “slaughter everyone in the land” thingy isn’t going so well.


I have never heard this story before.

And I love it.

I love that they get away with it!

And I love that even with the law so clearly spelled out for Israel, they have problems almost immediately in figuring out how to apply it. It is good to know that they had trouble with that too.

And I love that they choose to uphold their oath rather than slaughtering the Gibeonites.

If there is any principle here about God, he would rather you keep the oath you made accidentally than go back on it so you could kill some people.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this story!

3 responses

  1. I find it interesting that what happens in the present supercedes earlier precedent. My question is what was God trying to teach Israel through this? He knew it was going to happen. He wasn’t surprised by it. He didn’t show up and warn them ahead of time.

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