Verses 1-15: Many kings and nations on this side of the Jordan heard what Joshua and the Israelites did to Jericho and Ai. They prepared to fight them. But the people of Gibeon had a different idea. They sought to become allies of Israel through deceit. They wanted an agreement from Joshua that he would not attack them, but they knew that Joshua would probably not agree if he knew that they dwelt close by. So they made themselves appear road weary and disheveled, as if they had traveled from afar. Despite their appearance, Joshua still asked for an explanation when they asked for the agreement. The people from Gibson explained their torn clothes and moldy bread as evidence of a long journey, and Joshua believed and agreed not to harm them. The most telling verse in this section is verse 14, where it says: ” . . . but they did not ask counsel of the Lord.”
Verses 15-27: Somehow Joshua and the rulers came to know that these men were not really from afar, but were living in the land not far from the Israelites. Before they knew this, Joshua could have/would have conquered them as they had the other kingdoms. However, Joshua stuck to the agreement and did not harm them. But they were made water carriers and woodcutters, slaves of Israel. The people of Gibeon did not resist this fate, for they were more fearful of experiencing the same fate as Jericho and Ai.
The people of Gibeon lied for advantage, but the consequences were not as great as they would have been if they had tried to fight or resist Israel. They were (lucky? blessed?) that Joshua kept his agreement. To live as a slave was, in this case, preferable to death at least for the people of Gibeon. It makes one wonder, too, if Joshua sought the Lord’s counsel before agreeing, what would the Lord have advised? It reminds me of the words of Jesus from Matthew 5:33-37: ““Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”
The fact that others have sinned does not give us permission to cut moral corners or to be less watchful. When people that I know or work with sin, it should cause me to be more watchful of my thoughts and actions, lest I fall into a trap set by temptation or pride.