chapter is based on Joshua 9 and 10.]
Shechem the Israelites returned to their encampment at Gilgal. Here they
were soon after visited by a strange deputation, who desired to enter into
treaty with them. The ambassadors represented that they had come from a
distant country, and this seemed to be confirmed by their appearance.
Their clothing was old and worn, their sandals were patched, their
provisions moldy, and the skins that served them for wine bottles were
rent and bound up, as if hastily repaired on the journey.
far-off home--professedly beyond the limits of Palestine-- their fellow
countrymen, they said, had heard of the wonders which God had wrought for
His people, and had sent them to make a league with Israel. The Hebrews
had been specially warned against entering into any league with the
idolaters of Canaan, and a doubt as to the truth of the strangers' words
arose in the minds of the leaders. "Peradventure ye dwell among
us," they said. To this the ambassadors only replied, "We are
thy servants." But when Joshua directly demanded of them, "Who
are ye? and from whence come ye?" they reiterated their former
statement, and added, in proof of their sincerity, "This our bread we
took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to
go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and it is moldy: and these
bottles of wine, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they be rent: and
these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long
representations prevailed. The Hebrews "asked not counsel at the
mouth of the Lord. And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with
them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto
them." Thus the treaty was entered into. Three days afterward the
truth was discovered. "They heard that they were their neighbors, and
that they dwelt
among them." Knowing that it was impossible to resist
the Hebrews, the Gibeonites had resorted to stratagem to preserve their
Great was the
indignation of the Israelites as they learned the deception that had been
practiced upon them. And this was heightened when, after three days'
journey, they reached the cities of the Gibeonites, near the center of the
land. "All the congregation murmured against the princes;" but
the latter refused to break the treaty, though secured by fraud, because
they had "sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel." "And
the children of Israel smote them not." The Gibeonites had pledged
themselves to renounce idolatry, and accept the worship of Jehovah; and
the preservation of their lives was not a violation of God's command to
destroy the idolatrous Canaanites. Hence the Hebrews had not by their oath
pledged themselves to commit sin. And though the oath had been secured by
deception, it was not to be disregarded. The obligation to which one's
word is pledged--if it do not bind him to perform a wrong act--should be
held sacred. No consideration of gain, of revenge, or of self-interest can
in any way affect the inviolability of an oath or pledge. "Lying lips
are abomination to the Lord." Proverbs 12:22. He that "shall
ascend into the hill of the Lord," and "stand in His holy
place," is "he that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth
not." Psalms 24:3; 15:4.
Gibeonites were permitted to live, but were attached as bondmen to the
sanctuary, to perform all menial services. "Joshua made them that day
hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the
altar of the Lord." These conditions they gratefully accepted,
conscious that they had been at fault, and glad to purchase life on any
terms. "Behold, we are in thine hand," they said to Joshua;
"as it seemeth good and right unto thee to do unto us, do." For
centuries their descendants were connected with the service of the
of the Gibeonites comprised four cities. The people were not under the
rule of a king, but were governed by elders, or senators. Gibeon, the most
important of their towns, "was a great city, as one of the royal
cities," "and all the men thereof were mighty." It is a
striking evidence of the terror with which the Israelites had inspired the
inhabitants of Canaan, that the people of such a city should have resorted
to so humiliating an expedient to save their lives.
But it would
have fared better with the Gibeonites had they dealt honestly with Israel.
While their submission to Jehovah secured the preservation of their lives,
their deception brought them only disgrace and servitude. God had made
provision that all who would renounce heathenism, and connect themselves
with Israel, should share the blessings of the covenant. They were
included under the term, "the stranger that sojourneth among
you," and with few exceptions this class were to enjoy equal favors
and privileges with Israel. The Lord's direction was--
stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the
stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you,
and thou shalt love him as thyself." Leviticus 19:33, 34. Concerning
the Passover and the offering of sacrifices it was commanded, "One
ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the
stranger that sojourneth with you: . . . as ye are, so shall the stranger
be before the Lord." Numbers 15:15.
Such was the
footing on which the Gibeonites might have been received, but for the
deception to which they had resorted. It was no light humiliation to those
citizens of a "royal city," "all the men whereof were
mighty," to be made hewers of wood and drawers of water throughout
their generations. But they had adopted the garb of poverty for the
purpose of deception, and it was fastened upon them as a badge of
perpetual servitude. Thus through all their generations their servile
condition would testify to God's hatred of falsehood.
submission of Gibeon to the Israelites filled the kings of Canaan with
dismay. Steps were at once taken for revenge upon those who had made peace
with the invaders. Under the leadership of Adonizedek, king of Jerusalem,
five of the Canaanite kings entered into a confederacy against Gibeon.
Their movements were rapid. The Gibeonites were unprepared for defense,
and they sent a message to Joshua at Gilgal: "Slack not thy hand from
thy servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us: for all the
kings of the Amorites that dwell in the mountains are gathered together
against us." The danger threatened not the people of Gibeon alone,
but also Israel. This city commanded the passes to central and southern
Palestine, and it must be held if the country was to be conquered.
prepared to go at once to the relief of Gibeon. The inhabitants of the
besieged city had feared that he would reject
their appeal, because of the
fraud which they had practiced; but since they had submitted to the
control of Israel, and had accepted the worship of God, he felt himself
under obligation to protect them. He did not this time move without divine
counsel, and the Lord encouraged him in the undertaking. "Fear them
not," was the divine message; "for I have delivered them into
thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee."
"So Joshua ascended from Gilgal, he, and all the people of war with
him, and all the mighty men of valor."
all night he brought his forces before Gibeon in the morning. Scarcely had
the confederate princes mustered their armies about the city when Joshua
was upon them. The attack resulted in the utter discomfiture of the
assailants. The immense host fled before Joshua up the mountain pass to
Beth-horon; and having gained the height, they rushed down the precipitous
descent upon the other side. Here a fierce hailstorm burst upon them.
"The Lord cast down great stones from heaven: . . . they were more
which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with
Amorites were continuing their headlong flight, intent on finding refuge
in the mountain strongholds, Joshua, looking down from the ridge above,
saw that the day would be too short for the accomplishment of his work. If
not fully routed, their enemies would again rally, and renew the struggle.
"Then spake Joshua to the Lord, . . . and he said in the sight of
Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley
of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people
had avenged themselves upon their enemies. . . . The sun stood still in
the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day."
evening fell, God's promise to Joshua had been fulfilled. The entire host
of the enemy had been given into his hand. Long were the events of that
day to remain in the memory of Israel. "There was no day like that
before it or after it, that Jehovah hearkened unto the voice of a man: for
the Lord fought for Israel." "The sun and moon stood still in
their habitation: at the light of Thine arrows they went, and at the
shining of Thy glittering spear. Thou didst march through the land in
indignation, Thou didst thresh the heathen in anger. Thou wentest forth
for the salvation of Thy people." Habakkuk 3:11-13.
The Spirit of
God inspired Joshua's prayer, that evidence might again be given of the
power of Israel's God. Hence the request did not show presumption on the
part of the great leader. Joshua had received the promise that God would
surely overthrow these enemies of Israel, yet he put forth as earnest
effort as though success depended upon the armies of Israel alone. He did
all that human energy could do, and then he cried in faith for divine aid.
The secret of success is the union of divine power with human effort.
Those who achieve the greatest results are those who rely most implicitly
upon the Almighty Arm. The man who commanded, "Sun, stand thou still
upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon," is the man who
for hours lay prostrate upon the earth in prayer in the camp of Gilgal.
The men of prayer are the men of power.
miracle testifies that the creation is under the control of the Creator.
Satan seeks to conceal from men the divine agency in the physical
world--to keep out of sight the unwearied working of the first great
cause. In this miracle all who exalt nature above the God of nature stand
At His own
will God summons the forces of nature to overthrow the might of His
enemies--"fire, and hail; snow, and vapor; stormy wind fulfilling His
word." Psalm 148:8. When the heathen Amorites had set themselves to
resist His purposes, God interposed, casting down "great stones from
heaven" upon the enemies of Israel. We are told of a greater battle
to take place in the closing scenes of earth's history, when "Jehovah
hath opened His armory, and hath brought forth the weapons of His
indignation." Jeremiah 50:25. "Hast thou," he inquires,
"entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the
treasures of the hail, which I have reserved against the time of trouble,
against the day of battle and war?" Job 38:22, 23.
describes the destruction that is to take place when the "great voice
out of the temple of heaven" announces, "It is done." He
says, "There fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone
about the weight of a talent." Revelation 16:17, 21.