The Gibeonites devised a ruse to trick Joshua into making a treaty with them. They sent a contingent with donkeys, old wineskins, moldy bread, and sold the Israelites on their story, “Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the Lord your God.” (Joshua 9:9)
It took three days before the deception was revealed and the people gave their leaders a hard time about their hasty decision. The key problem, “The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord.” (Joshua 9:14
Joshua’s response is to let them live, but curse them to serve as woodcutters and water carriers for the Israelites. They were simply trying to survive. Israel’s reputation was clear: wipe out the land for which they are occupying. They would rather live as servants than die as foes.
The Sun Stands Still
Five kings of neighboring lands joined forces to attack Gibeon because of their treaty with Joshua. They sent word to Joshua and he responded (with the Lord’s assurance) by attacking the kings and repelling their advance on Gibeon.
Joshua said the the Lord in the presence of Israel: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. Joshua 10:12-13
The NIV Study Bible notes indicate there is confusion over this:
Some believe that God extended the hours of daylight for the Israelites to defeat their enemies. Others suggest that the sun remained cool (perhaps as the result of an overcast sky) for an entire day, allowing the fighting to continue through the afternoon. The fact is that we do not know what happened, except that it involved divine intervention.
The five kings were found hiding in a cave and were subsequently put to death then thrown back into the cave, sealed by a large stone. So the reputation of Joshua and the Israelites continues to spread. “No survivors” is the theme for the rest of Chapter 10. Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, Debir, Negev — the southern cities from
Kadesh Barnea to Gaza and from the whole region of Goshen to Gibeon. All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel. Joshua 10:41
Kings from the northern regions decided to attack Israel (bad idea), so…”he captured all their kings and put them to death.” (Joshua 11:17)
So Joshua took the entire land, just as the Lord had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war. Joshua 11:23
Chapter 12 lists the defeated kings…a long list. Chapters 13 through 19 provide details of how the land was allotted to Caleb, the tribes and finally to Joshua himself.
God’s faithfulness is revealed through Joshua and the Israelite occupation of The Promised Land. The battles are harsh and difficult to appreciate from a peace-loving perspective. One day I hope to understand and appreciate the need for such violence. My biggest prayer is this doesn’t become a stumbling block (or excuse) for those who are far from God; rather, it shows a time of war, of bloodshed, that is in our history and as such in the past. If it’s any consolation, it’s better to lose a few compared to flooding the entire planet!
We must learn. This is no license to repeat the days of Joshua, only to see God’s hand at work in planting the seeds of a nation that would ultimately give birth to Jesus.