From Eternity Past


Chapter 47—A Canaanite Tribe Deceives Israel

This chapter is based on Joshua 9 and 10.

From Shechem the Israelites returned to their encampment at Gilgal. Here a strange deputation represented that they had come from a distant country. This seemed to be confirmed by their appearance. Their clothing was old and worn, their sandals patched, their provisions moldy, and the skins that served them for wine bottles were rent and bound up as if hastily repaired on the journey. EP 358.1

In their “far off” home—professedly beyond the limits of Palestine—they had heard of the wonders which God had wrought, and had sent to make a league with Israel. The Hebrews had been specially warned against entering into any league with the idolaters of Canaan, and a doubt as to the truth of the strangers’ words arose in the minds of the leaders. EP 358.2

“Peradventure ye dwell among us,” they said. To this the ambassadors replied, “We are thy servants.” But when Joshua directly demanded of them, “Who are ye? and from whence come ye?” they added, “This our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and it is moldy: and these bottles of wine, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they be rent: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey.” EP 358.3

The Hebrews “asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord. And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them.” Thus the treaty was entered into. Three days afterward the truth was discovered. “They heard that they were their neighbors, and that they dwelt among them.” The Gibeonites had resorted to stratagem to preserve their lives. EP 358.4

The indignation of the Israelites heightened 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, though secured by fraud, because they had “sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel.” “And the children of Israel smote them not.” The Gibeonites had pledged themselves to renounce idolatry and accept the worship of Jehovah, and the preservation of their lives was not a violation of God's command to destroy the idolatrous Canaanites. Though the oath had been secured by deception, it was not to be disregarded. No consideration of gain, of revenge, or self-interest can in any way affect the inviolability of an oath or pledge. He that “shall ascend into the hill of the Lord,” and “stand in His holy place,” is “he that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.” Psalm 24:3; 15:4. EP 359.1