1As soon as all the kings who were beyond the Jordan(CV) in the hill country and in the lowland all along the coast(CW) of the Great Sea toward Lebanon,(CX) the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, heard of this, 2they gathered together as one to fight against Joshua and Israel.
The events of verses 1-2 find a direct parallel in Psalm 2 – the joining together of evil as a wicked council against Christ (Psalm 2:2). These nations gather to bully this corporate hermit nation, listed in the first verse – all the kings in the hill country and in the lowland all along the coast of the “Great Sea”, no doubt a Hebrew wordplay on insolent and haughty things.
However, all of them but one gathered against Yeshua – the Gibeonites who are part of the Hivites, hailing from one of the sons of Canaan.
Before we move on to meditate on the Gibeonites, we should consider the weight of what is mentioned in the opening two verses. Israel is, indeed, by no means a small nation. However, for what reason do these nations gather together to fight? Israel’s purpose is not to simply destroy and conquer – but to supplant mercy, as indicated in Deuteronomy 20:10.
Not only this, but these nations should have already heard the gospel – they have enough information from this priestly nation to have faith in the Star, the Messiah to reign from the line of Judah. We are revealed just as much from the words of the nation Gibeon:
3But when the inhabitants of(CY) Gibeon heard what Joshua had done(CZ) to Jericho and(DA) to Ai, 4they on their part acted with cunning and went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, 5with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly. 6And they went to Joshua in(DB) the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us.” 7But the men of Israel said to(DC) the Hivites, “Perhaps you live among us; then(DD) how can we make a covenant with you?” 8They said to Joshua,(DE) “We are your servants.” And Joshua said to them, “Who are you? And where do you come from?” 9They said to him,(DF) “From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God.(DG) For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt, 10(DH) and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon the king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who lived in(DI) Ashtaroth. 11So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country said to us, ‘Take provisions in your hand for the journey and go to meet them and say to them, “We are your servants. Come now, make a covenant with us.”‘ 12Here is our bread. It was still warm when we took it from our houses as our food for the journey on the day we set out to come to you, but now, behold, it is dry and crumbly. 13These wineskins were new when we filled them, and behold, they have burst. And these garments and sandals of ours are worn out from the very long journey.” 14So the men took some of their provisions, but(DJ) did not ask counsel from the LORD. 15And Joshua(DK) made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.
From v.3-15 we read about the deception concerning the Gibeonites; yet, in the midst of their deception, they speak much truth in v.9-10 indicating the clarity in which they understand the gospel of Yahweh’s faithfulness to Israel as chosen nation. However, the focus of the chapter should not be on the Gibeonite deception; it should be on the very fact that Gibeon even planned to deceive! In Joshua 10 we find out that Gibeon is a nation more magnificent and powerful than Ai; yet Ai stood her ground despite the righteousness of Israel, Yahweh. Why did Gibeon decide to deceive and betray the nations of Canaan? What is furthermore interesting is that they somehow believed that Joshua’s vow is as good as gold; and they attempted to straddle both the proverbial boats of Israel and God’s enemy as they deceive Joshua and yet decided not to directly fight Israel – both for the reason stated in v.9-10 – because of the greatness of their God.
The Hebrew in v.6 in particular can be translated as “cut the covenant sacrifice with us” (כרתו לנו ברית). Adam Clarke believes that these words from Gibeon indicate that the heathen culture has adopted the terminology of ‘cutting the covenant’ and incorporated into their own pagan worship; however, I beg to differ. There is nothing to imply that the Gibeonites practiced this covenant-cutting in their pagan worship; contrarily, Gibeon is asking Israel to do the honours of cutting a covenant with them, on the further basis of what the true God has done in the land of Israel in v.9-10. There is no reason for Gibeon to impose their own religious traditions on Israel, because Gibeon is submitting herself to Israel’s successful witness and tradition set down by Yahweh. One can only imagine how much they understand in the mystery of the actual cutting of the covenant, but that would be digressing too far from the text.
Thus, neither a full submission to Jesus, nor an enjoining to the council of wickedness; and from the following verses we will come to understand the role of Gibeon’s half-lie on an eschatological plane:
16At the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, they heard that they were their neighbors(DL) and that they lived among them. 17And the people of Israel set out and reached their cities on the third day.(DM) Now their cities were Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim. 18But the people of Israel did not attack them, because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel. Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders. 19But all the leaders said to all the congregation, “We have sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel, and now we may not touch them. 20This we will do to them: let them live, lest(DN) wrath be upon us,(DO) because of the oath that we swore to them.” 21And the leaders said to them, “Let them live.” So they became(DP) cutters of wood and drawers of water for all the congregation, just as the leaders(DQ) had said of them.
The revelation of the lie comes three days after the making of the covenant when the Gibeonites were revealed as liars. This theme of the third day again amplifies the idea of the works of the evil one being revealed once the work on the cross is accomplished on the 8th day of the week, 1st day after the Sabbath, 3rd day after he was crucified, until Christ’s ascension which has yet to happen (1 Corinthians 3:13). V.17 furthermore emphasises on this third day (akin to the detail Moses gave to Abraham’s visit of Moriah on the third day in Genesis 22) the realisation of this deception.
From v.19-20 we learn that these nations are not attacked because of the faithfulness of the oath made, a commandment which Joshua seeks to obey (details concerning the law of different types of vows in Numbers 30). The oath between Israel and the Gibeonites in fact teaches us about the spirit behind the letter of this oath: how Christ established the oath between the church and the Trinity in his mediatory role. Unlike Israel who has no knowledge of Gibeon’s alternate agenda, Christ consciously knows that he is making an oath with his Father to become the head of all creation and the church who submits to Him (Romans 5:8).
Also, unlike the oath made between Gibeon and Joshua, Christ’s oath to submit to the Father’s will and the Father’s pre-election of Christ before creation describes the perfect promise of the redemption of His creation. The covenant made between Gibeon and Joshua is akin to the covenant made between a prostitute and Christ, but this covenant and oath pales in comparison to the promise between Christ and the Father. Nonetheless, the allegory of Gibeon and Yeshua is no different from the allegory of Hosea and his prostitute-wife – the irony being that Gibeon deliberately dressed herself in rags when in reality, her spiritual state before Yeshua is that of rags. Nonetheless, she is willing to be coated by the robe of righteousness which Yeshua, the representative head of Israel, is to provide Gibeon as opposed to the destruction of the council of nations who stand against the LORD. To paraphrase John Calvin’s opinion of this tragic obligation between Gibeon and Israel, it was a foolish oath which the Israelites made – an oath which could have been prevented if they only travelled within three days distance to the neighbouring nations to find out about this deceptive nation and her scheme.
Despite the consequential cursing of Gibeon in v.23, this covenant is not entirely bitter – but actually bittersweet. The Gibeonites shall be servants, but they are cutters of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God. Like the Levites, they are given a privileged position to enter, to touch, to be in the presence of the tabernacle (Psalm 65:4; 84:10). The Gibeonites, with their understanding of Israel’s relationship with the LORD, truly feared Him that they would rather deceive and join them rather than fight and realise an inevitable death. If only they were honest in coming to Yeshua’s feet, then they would partake in greater rewards and greater glory; however Gibeon is an example of a feeble church who does not come to God with clean hands (Psalm 24). The reality of the allegory is that we, the church, are wearing rags of a prostitute but are now clothed with His righteous robes – whereas Gibeon is merely mock-playing this representation. Despite Gibeon’s deceiving role, the underlying motivation is pure – they do not want to be devoted to destruction, because in their hearts they truly believe that Yahweh is the true LORD. Even their under-handed approach to peace is neutralised by that oath between Yeshua and Gibeon.
The question does not apply simply to Gibeon but to every Christian as well. How many of us approach our LORD with clean hands? We may be disciplined and punished for our initially impure approaches and motivations, but the fact that we want to enter into Christ’s oath with his Father in the salvation of the world means that even our impure motives are washed away by the Son’s blood.
This is because our Christ thankfully has the clean hands necessary to propitiate our sins from His and His Father’s judgment. Yeshua’s understanding of that enables him to re-enact God’s love for the church in his love for Gibeon. V.22-27 entails how the bloodthirsty Israelites would rather disobey God’s commandment to keep one’s oath, indirectly blaspheming the oath within the Trinity before creation, than love Gibeon and place her in a place of exalted privilege in the house of the LORD. This is why even Gibeon can walk before and serve the altar of the LORD (V.27) in His house (v.23) as well as the rest of the congregation, a duty that we should all partake in (Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 4:10 – servant of the altar, 1 Corinthians 9:13). Matthew Henry remarked:
“…this curse is turned into a blessing; they must be servants, but it shall be for the house of my God. The princes would have them slaves unto all the congregation (Jos_9:21), at least they chose to express themselves so, for the pacifying of the people that were discontented; but Joshua mitigates the sentence, both in honour to God and in favour to the Gibeonites: it would be too hard upon them to make them every man’s drudge; if they must be hewers of wood and drawers of water, than which there cannot be a greater disparagement, especially to those who are citizens of a royal city, and all mighty men (Jos_10:2), yet they shall be so to the house of my God, than which there cannot be a greater preferment: David himself could have wished to be a door-keeper there. Even servile work becomes honourable when it is done for the house of our God and the offices thereof.”
The humility of this service can hardly be a curse in light of the other curses made on other nations (list of curses in Deuteronomy 27). Adam Clarke notes this carefully, concerning the fundamental mercy underlining the attitude Israel should have to the Gentiles:
“That their conduct in this respect was highly pleasing to God is evident from this, that Joshua is nowhere reprehended for making this covenant, and sparing the Gibeonites; and that Saul, who four hundred years after this thought himself and the Israelites loosed from this obligation, and in consequence oppressed and destroyed the Gibeonites, was punished for the breach of this treaty, being considered as the violator of a most solemn oath and covenant engagement. See 2Sa_21:2-9, and Eze_17:18, Eze_17:19. All these circumstances laid together, prove that the command to destroy the Canaanites was not so absolute as is generally supposed: and should be understood as rather referring to the destruction of the political existence of the Canaanitish nations, than to the destruction of their lives. See the notes on Deu_20:10, Deu_20:17.”
22Joshua summoned them, and he said to them, “Why did you deceive us, saying,(DR) ‘We are very far from you,’ when(DS) you dwell among us? 23Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall never be anything but servants,(DT) cutters of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.” 24They answered Joshua, “Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the LORD your God had(DU) commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you—so(DV) we feared greatly for our lives because of you and did this thing. 25And now, behold, we are in your hand. Whatever seems good and right in your sight to do to us, do it.” 26So he did this to them and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel, and they did not kill them. 27But Joshua made them that day(DW) cutters of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD, to this day,(DX) in the place that he should choose.
If only we can truly understand the deepest mystery of this episode – that even the “meanest office in God’s service will entitle us to a dwelling in the house of the LORD all the days of our life” (Matthew Henry). This bitter-sweet covenant has purified the deceptive rags of Gibeon on whom the LORD had mercy, for they survived in the holy courts as opposed to complete destruction which befalls the other nations in following chapters. Gibeon grasped the gospel; Gibeon cherished the gospel; Gibeon approached the gospel warily, but unashamedly; and Gibeon is made the lowest in the LORD’s bosom but far higher than anything she could have achieved in all of her lifetime. Israel’s centrifugal, outward-looking, witness has begun to bear its fruit – from Rahab, to an entire nation. However, like those who take the fruit from the true vine, there will always be those whose head is Satan, and who will continue to take fruit from the vine of Sodom and Gomorrah as listed in the coming chapters.
1As soon as Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard how Joshua had captured Ai and had devoted it to destruction,[l](DY) doing to Ai and its king(DZ) as he had done to Jericho and its king, and(EA) how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them, 2(EB) he[m] feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were warriors. 3So Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem sent to Hoham king of Hebron, to Piram king of Jarmuth, to Japhia king of Lachish, and to Debir king of Eglon, saying, 4“Come up to me and help me, and let us strike Gibeon. For(EC) it has made peace with Joshua and with the people of Israel.” 5Then the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon,(ED) gathered their forces and went up with all their armies and encamped against Gibeon and made war against it.
The mystery of the gospel is hidden in the name Adoni-zedek (v.1) – why would this king be called “my Lord is righteous”? Because this is the king of Jerusalem, the centre of attention where Christ will be crucified; Jerusalem, which means teaching of peace, intimating the rulership of Melchizedek, the King of Salem, the king of “righteousness” and “peace”). However, this Adoni-zedek is but a false portrayal of the true King of righteousness, Jesus.
It is interesting that the ESV has a footnote which notes the alternate translation which I personally prefer – the devotion of these nations as an offering (c.f. v.28, 35, 37, 39, 40). For Joshua to mention once more that Gibeon is a great city, greater than Ai and all its warriors is to imply how much greater Yahweh is; as if Gibeon was a cowardly nation, we need only imagine one of the mightiest nations dressing themselves in rags and humble themselves before the true LORD. Yet, these nations like Ai, whose might is weaker than that of Gibeon, arrogantly attempts to destroy Israel when they not only have heard of Israel’s witness as the temporarily chosen nation of priests, but also that Gibeon has entered into an everlasting covenant with them. This only adds to Ai’s guilt and ignorance for turning away from Jesus Christ.
The beauty of this chapter is that there is much parallel here found in Genesis 14 – where Abram saved Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, from the warring nations (four kings against five, Genesis 14:9). The enemies there may bear different names with different meanings, but there is not disputing their spiritual allegiance: and what is found in this story of Genesis is a correlation between Abram and Israel; Lot and Gideon; the warring nations and the mentioned warring nations here.
It is no mistake that Abram in Genesis 13:18 is recorded as having settled by the oaks of Mamre, at Hebron, where he built an altar to the LORD. This battleground is exactly where Joshua is saving Gibeon, a parallel of Abram saving Lot:
6And the men of Gibeon sent to Joshua(EE) at the camp in Gilgal, saying, “Do not relax your hand from your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us and help us, for all the kings of the Amorites who dwell in the hill country are gathered against us.” 7So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he and(EF) all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valor. 8And the LORD said to Joshua,(EG) “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands.(EH) Not a man of them shall stand before you.” 9So Joshua came upon them suddenly, having marched up all night from Gilgal. 10(EI) And the LORD threw them into a panic before Israel, who[n] struck them with a great blow at Gibeon and chased them by the way of(EJ) the ascent of Beth-horon and struck them as far as Azekah and Makkedah. 11And as they fled before Israel, while they were(EK) going down the ascent of Beth-horon,(EL) the LORD threw down large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died because of the hailstones than the sons of Israel killed with the sword.
We see here even more fulfillment of what is spoken of in the final chapters of Deuteronomy. The LORD expressly, in v.8, says that He is with Yeshua – and as such, any nation standing against Israel will fail, manifested in the hailstones which were more fatal than the Israelites’ swordplay. This symbolically occurs Beth-horon, the house of hollowness, and how empty indeed is the pursuit of Gibeon’s enemies when Abram had equally only taken a small amount of men, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan to save Lot. Such is the unlikelihood of the victory of God’s children, but His will accomplished nonetheless! The ironic imagery of the five kings running away from Israel akin to the picture of Abram’s victory over the massive scale of the feudal war of the nine kings settled by one Christian and his allies.
12At that time Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel,
(EM) “Sun, stand still at Gibeon,
and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.”
13And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,
until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.
Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. 14(EN) There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded the voice of a man, for(EO) the LORD fought for Israel.
15So(EP) Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal.
16These five kings fled and hid themselves in the cave at(EQ) Makkedah. 17And it was told to Joshua, “The five kings have been found, hidden in the cave at Makkedah.” 18And Joshua said, “Roll large stones against the mouth of the cave and set men by it to guard them, 19but do not stay there yourselves. Pursue your enemies;(ER) attack their rear guard. Do not let them enter their cities, for the LORD your God has given them into your hand.” 20When Joshua and the sons of Israel had finished striking them with a great blow(ES) until they were wiped out, and when the remnant that remained of them had entered into the fortified cities, 21then all the people returned safe to Joshua in the camp at Makkedah.(ET) Not a man moved his tongue against any of the people of Israel.
And thus the poetic stanza in v.12-13 sees the sun is being still at Gibeon, a symbolism of the victory for Gibeon; the moon in the valley of Aijalon, the field of deers, an encouraging Hebrew implication where one can refer to 2 Samuel 22:34 (“my feet like a deer and set me on secure heights…”). Where the sun stands victorious over Gibeon, where the moon stopped over the deer-fields, is where Christ and the church is victorious over her enemies, this supernatural standstill of the sun and moon’s pathways once more repeated at the cross, and once more to happen on the Resurrection Day. This is no metaphorical miracle (v.13-14), and this theme of Genesis 14 is repeated here and will once more be repeated in Revelation 6:15 when the stone over the cave represents the shelter of these pagans turning into their own prison.
The subsequent return of Joshua to Gilgal in v.15 is to remind the Israelites of the symbolic representation of the land; the place of the rolling away of their reproach.
22Then Joshua said, “Open the mouth of the cave and bring those five kings out to me from the cave.” 23And they did so, and brought those five kings out to him from the cave, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon. 24And when they brought those kings out to Joshua, Joshua summoned all the men of Israel and said to the chiefs of the men of war who had gone with him, “Come near; put your feet on the necks of these kings.” Then they came near and put their feet on their necks. 25And Joshua said to them,(EU) “Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and courageous.(EV) For thus the LORD will do to all your enemies against whom you fight.” 26And afterward Joshua struck them and put them to death, and he hanged them on five trees. And(EW) they hung on the trees until evening. 27But at the time of the going down of the sun, Joshua commanded, and(EX) they took them down from the trees and threw them into the cave where they had hidden themselves, and they set large stones against the mouth of the cave, which remain to this very day.
From v.22-27 we see the cave as symbolic of the best of the land of Canaan rushing to their own deaths unwittingly; the same story told of all non-Christians in this world, running to their impending doom. All 5 kings were eventually killed with feet on their neck, an allusion to Jesus’ feet on kings’ neck as His enemies are made His footstool (Psalm 110:1).
Not only this, but we see the cursed judgment of the cross enacted in v.26-27. There is nothing glorious about the death of these kings; there is nothing mighty about their war. They were pitifully, ashamedly, and quickly destroyed. There is no glory in their death; there is no-one to mourn for them. Yet, this is the very death which Christ experienced, these accounts amplifying our understanding of what Christ had done for us on the tree and the depth of Him exclaiming “Eli Eli, lema sabachthani”. There can be no other people in this world, save these once-glorious kings, who can also proclaim these words – but they have no eternal glorious future of them; they have no Spirit dwelling in them to redeem them from the gates of Hades. As if the Spirit need not spend more time on these inglorious heathens, v.28 is a brief momentary tribute to one more of these kings. Indeed, the written word testifies to Christ, not to leave these kings any space in the Bible for glory. What had happened to the king of Jericho has, in domino effect, displayed the power of the Spirit in redeeming the Promised Land for the church just as the outpouring of the Spirit had done so in the international evangelism of the apostles from the book of Acts onwards.
28As for(EY) Makkedah, Joshua captured it on that day and struck it, and its king, with the edge of the sword. He devoted to destruction every person in it; he left none remaining. And he did to the king of Makkedah(EZ) just as he had done to the king of Jericho. 29Then Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Makkedah to(FA) Libnah and fought against Libnah. 30And the LORD gave it also and its king into the hand of Israel. And he struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it; he left none remaining in it. And he did to its king(FB) as he had done to the king of Jericho.
There is thus a common refrain after conquering each nation… “30And the LORD gave it also and its king into the hand of Israel. And he struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it; he left none remaining in it. And he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho (C.f. v.32, 35, 37, 39, 40)”, this refrain charted below:
Makkedah to Libnah
Libnah to Lachish
Lachish (aided by Horam king of Gezer) to Eglon
Eglon to Hebron
Hebron to Debir
Thus, we end this chapter on v.40-42, from Debir to Negeb – to the whole land, hill country, lowland, slopes and to the kings: a general statement of Joshua’s conquerings. From Kadesh-barnea (desert of fugitive/wilderness of wandering) as far as Gaza (strong), all the country of Goshen (drawing near) as far as Gibeon: the meaning of the names detailing the procession of Israel from the wilderness to strength; drawing nearer and nearer to the sun which stood still over Gibeon – a huge comparison between the blessings of Deuteronomy against the failures of Numbers, now that we see Israel through Yeshua capturing these powerful nations in one go, reflecting the power of the LORD in the time of Abram, because the LORD fought for Israel. And at the end of all this, Joshua returns to Gilgal (c.f. Joshua 5:10; 10:15; 10:43), never forgetting that it is Yahweh who rolled away, who cleansed, who imputed Christ’s righteousness onto reproach-worthy Israel.