Beginning of the End


A Canaanite Tribe Deceives Israel

This chapter is based on Joshua 9 and 10.

From Shechem the Israelites returned to their camp at Gilgal. Here a strange delegation visited them, claiming that they had come from a distant country. This seemed to be confirmed by the way they looked. Their clothing was old and worn, their sandals patched, their food moldy, and the skins that they used for wine bottles were torn and patched, as if hastily repaired on the journey. BOE 251.1

In their “far off” home—supposedly a long way from Palestine—they had heard of the wonders that God had performed and had sent to make a treaty with Israel. The Hebrews had been specially warned against entering into any treaty with the idolaters of Canaan, and a doubt arose in the minds of the leaders about the truth of the strangers’ words. BOE 251.2

“Perhaps you dwell among us,” they said. To this the ambassadors replied, “We are your servants.” But when Joshua directly demanded of them, “Who are you, and where do you come from?” they added, “This bread of ours we took hot for our provision from our houses on the day we departed to come to you. But now look, it is dry and moldy. And these wineskins which we filled were new, and see, they are torn; and these our garments and our sandals have become old because of the very long journey.” BOE 251.3

The Hebrews “did not ask counsel of the Lord. So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live, and the rulers of the congregation swore to them.” So the treaty was ratified. Three days afterward Israel discovered the truth. “They heard that they were their neighbors who dwelt near them.” The Gibeonites had turned to trickery in order to preserve their lives. BOE 251.4

The Israelites became more displeased when, after three days’ journey, they reached the cities of the Gibeonites near the center of the land. But the princes refused to break the treaty, even though it was gained by deceit, because they had “sworn to them by the Lord God of Israel.” “The children of Israel did not attack them.” The Gibeonites had pledged themselves to give up idolatry and accept the worship of Jehovah, and preserving their lives was not a violation of God’s command to destroy the idolatrous Canaanites. Although the oath had been secured by deception, it was not to be ignored. No consideration of reward, of revenge, or self-interest can in any way change the binding nature of an oath or pledge. He that “may ascend into the hill of the Lord,” and “stand in His holy place,” is “he who swears to his own hurt and does not change” (Psalm 24:3; 15:4). BOE 251.5