Joshua 9&10: The Gibeonites

The Gibeonites deceived the Israelites to save themselves from destruction.


By the end of Israel's battle with Ai, the Canaanites knew Israel was mounting a campaign for them. The first time I read Joshua 9, I kept asking myself how the Canaanites knew so much about Israel's plan. As I thought about it, I realized that while modern inventions like the internet didn't exist, news of God's miracles still traveled quickly. When Israel started their invasion there was no reason for them to stop—most empires spread as far as they could until the kingdom collapsed. It makes sense that once cities began to fall the cities nearby would brace for attack as well. They didn't need to know the specifics of God's plan to infer they were next on Israel's hit list.

Forming an Alliance

Photocredit: Akbar
As fear swept across the people of Canaan, the kings of Canaan formed an alliance against Israel. The first alliance to be made was between the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. Alliances can be particularly dangerous (as demonstrated in World War I and World War II), especially when the people allying themselves are on the side of evil.

Contrastingly, we see the Gibeonites approach the Israelites to join them. They offer themselves as servants to Israel, and present themselves as strangers from a far off land. The Gibeonites present them with moldy bread and worn clothing as evidence of their "long" journey. Declaring God's works as their motivation, the Gibeonites ask for a treaty of peace. Before consulting Joshua, the Israelites accept, and when the matter reaches Joshua, he grants the Gibeonites asylum without speaking to God. Though the text doesn't immediately reveal the deception, we know that just like the absence of God in the decision on the first attack of Ai, the absence of God from this decision spells trouble.

It only takes 3 days for the Israelites to discover that the Gibeonites have lied to them and another 3 days for the Israelites to reach the Gibeonites' cities. The people of Israel were not happy about the situation and wanted to kill the Gibeonites—perhaps this was out of shame for being deceived, or a willingness to carry out God's command to destroy all the people in the land of Canaan. However, the princes and elders who had made the treaty, knew that they were not to break their oath.


They were in a tough spot, because they had been commanded to kill the Gibeonites, since they dwelled in the land of Canaan, but they had signed an oath of peace with the same Gibeonites. To break the oath and kill the Gibeonites would have been a violation of the law (see Numbers 30:2), but to leave them alive would have been a violation of God's command. In taking the oath, the Israelites had unknowingly sinned, but in breaking the oath, they would knowingly be sinning, which is likely why the Israelites decided to uphold the treaty—the first sin could be forgiven with repentance, but the second would be a deliberate stand against God and His law.

To quiet the murmurs of the unhappy Israelite public, Joshua and the princes make it clear that while they will uphold the treaty, the Gibeonites will be demoted to servants (slaves, essentially). Joshua curses them for their deceit and the Gibeonites admit they lied out of fear. They even agree to become slaves. This was a common practice during Joshua's era; nations often offered themselves as slaves rather than face annihilation.

Israel Protects Gibeon

When the allied kings in Canaan heard that Gibeon had made peace with Israel, they were furious. Gibeon had been considered a great city, even more-so than Ai. The cities of Gibeon would have also acted as a buffer for Jerusalem had they been united; with Gibeon aiding Isreal, it left Jerusalem more vulnerable to attack (and gave Israel a great vantage point).[1] Jerusalem's king, Adonizedek, is the one who called for the alliance; I am not certain whether this alliance is formed before Gibeon joins Israel (as it is mentioned briefly in Joshua 9 before the passage on Gibeon joining Israel) or after (as Gibeon's unification with Israel seems to be motivation). It is also possible that the alliance was in talks and Gibeon's actions merely sealed the deal. Nonetheless, Adonizedek, along with Hoham of Hebron, Piram of Jarmuth, Japhia of Lachish, and Debir of Eglon join forces with the intent to stand against Israel. Their first mission, however, was to punish Gibeon for their betrayal.

World War I basically started when Austria declared war on Serbia. It could have been contained to Austria and Serbia, but due to an alliance, once Austria declared war, Serbia's ally, Russia, was obligated to come to her aid.[3] As alliances drew countries into war one by one, the war spread across Europe. Similarly, Israel was now allied to Gibeon and Isael was the stronger power, the protector. As such, the Gibeonites seek Israel's aid and protection when they learn the 5 kings are preparing to war with them.

Israel obliges the Gibeonites and God promises Joshua that He will still stand in battle with them. When Gibeon surrendered to Israel, they also surrendered to God. This action and the treaty, qualified them for God's protection. During the battle, God even smites the opposing armies with hailstones, once again sending the message that He stands with the Israelites. Needless to say, Israel wins the battle and pushes the troops further back and away form the cities of Gibeon.

The Sun Stops

We aren't told what time the battle begins or how long the battle took, but considering the scale, I'd wager it was quite a long and intense fight. At some point in the battle, Joshua asks God for permission to control the Sun and moon—basically, he asks to control time. God allows this and Joshua addresses the Sun and moon, using his new authority to halt them in their places. The Bible doesn't specify why Joshua did this, but I think there are several possibilities. For one, Joshua could have been making a show of God's power. Would it not strike fear in the hearts of the opposing army and all who heard, that Israel could control time? Another possibility is that daylight was ending and Joshua wished to prolong the day so they might finish the battle. It is also possible that Joshua wanted to make sure the Sun was in an advantageous position for Israel. This would have eliminated the Sun in their eyes or possibly even direct sunlight causing uncomfortableness in battle. What we are told, however, is that true to His Word, God's granted power allows Joshua to halt the Sun in its place for a whole day.

The Book of Jasher

In Joshua 10:13, while discussing the stopping of the sun, The Book of Jasher is mentioned. It is also mentioned in 2 Samuel 1:18. Based on context, The Book of Jasher must have been written before Joshua was written, but after this battle had taken place. Scholars believe it was a book of songs and hymns meant to praise the heroes of Israel. Do not be confused by today's counterfeit book called The Book of Jasher, it was created in the 18th century and is not the book mentioned in scripture. The real book did not survive to modern times. If it was merely songs praising Israel's heroes, it makes sense that God would not have wasted the effort to preserve this book as it would not have furthered His message. There may have been countless people writing about God, and some of their accounts may have been 100% accurate, however, since they did nothing to further God's message, He didn't preserve them for us today. Other books, such as the Book of the Wars of the Lord are also mentioned in the Bible, furthering this possibility.[2]

Death of the Kings

The kings not only run from the battle, but separate from their armies to hide in a cave. How cowardly is that? Remember, only when our confidence is backed by God is it lasting!

Josha has no trouble discovering their hide out and the Israelites capture them easily. Like the king of Ai, each of the 5 kings is hung. Their bodies are left handing until evening, then they were tossed back into the cave.


  1. Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible. pg. 378. 2014
  2. "What is the Book of Jasher and should it be in the Bible?". 2016
  3. "WWI Timeline: 1914. PBS. 2004


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