Bible Commentary: Joshua 9

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Joshua 9

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Perpetual Servitude for the Gibeonites

Gibeon was a powerful city in the region (Joshua 10:2 Joshua 10:2That they feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, as one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all the men thereof were mighty.
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), possibly due in part to the shrewdness of its people (Joshua 9:4 Joshua 9:4They did work wilily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks on their asses, and wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up;
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). While their scheme for saving themselves involved deceit, it is amazing to see the extraordinary measures they were willing to take for peace and survival. Their deceit resulted in perpetual servitude for their people (verses 22-27), and perhaps there would have been better ways to escape death by submitting to God or agreeing to peacefully leave the territory. But once the agreement was made, they seem to have held to their part of it. And when Saul later broke the agreement, God Himself punished the Israelites on their behalf (2 Samuel 21:1-14 2 Samuel 21:1-14 [1] Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David inquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites. [2] And the king called the Gibeonites, and said to them; (now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; and the children of Israel had sworn to them: and Saul sought to slay them in his zeal to the children of Israel and Judah.) [3] Why David said to the Gibeonites, What shall I do for you? and with which shall I make the atonement, that you may bless the inheritance of the LORD? [4] And the Gibeonites said to him, We will have no silver nor gold of Saul, nor of his house; neither for us shall you kill any man in Israel. And he said, What you shall say, that will I do for you. [5] And they answered the king, The man that consumed us, and that devised against us that we should be destroyed from remaining in any of the coasts of Israel, [6] Let seven men of his sons be delivered to us, and we will hang them up to the LORD in Gibeah of Saul, whom the LORD did choose. And the king said, I will give them. [7] But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, because of the LORD’s oath that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul. [8] But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite: [9] And he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the LORD: and they fell all seven together, and were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley harvest. [10] And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her on the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped on them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night. [11] And it was told David what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done. [12] And David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from the men of Jabeshgilead, which had stolen them from the street of Bethshan, where the Philistines had hanged them, when the Philistines had slain Saul in Gilboa: [13] And he brought up from there the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son; and they gathered the bones of them that were hanged. [14] And the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son buried they in the country of Benjamin in Zelah, in the sepulcher of Kish his father: and they performed all that the king commanded. And after that God was entreated for the land.
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).

This whole situation would have gone differently for Israel if its leaders had done what they should have in the first place. Even though they were initially suspicious of the Gibeonite ambassadors (Joshua 9:7 Joshua 9:7And the men of Israel said to the Hivites, Peradventure you dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you?
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), the Israelites relied on their own intellect to determine whether or not they were being truthful. This was a big mistake. Joshua, the most likely author of this book bearing his name, had evidently learned his lesson by the time he wrote down the words in verse 14: “But they did not ask counsel of the Lord.” Indeed, this is the crux of the whole chapter. The omnipotent God was there to provide answers, if Joshua had only sought them as he had been instructed (Numbers 27:21 Numbers 27:21And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.
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).

We can make the same mistake. Many times, we rush to a major decision without seeking counsel from God. No, we cannot seek His answers in the Urim and Thummim anymore. But there are other means available to us when it comes to discerning God’s will. We can pray, with fasting if need be, asking for direct inspiration from Him through His Holy Spirit. We can seek His answers in the laws and principles found in His Word. And we can counsel with other brethren in whom His Spirit dwells, particularly the ministry that He has specially ordained. Indeed, we should avail ourselves of all of these means. For no major decision in our lives should be made without seeking God’s will. As Proverbs 3:5-6 Proverbs 3:5-6 [5] Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding. [6] In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.
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states so eloquently, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

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