Israel’s failure to seek the Lord’s advice concerning the battle plans for their first attack on Ai was overshadowed by Achan’s sin. Now, with the arrival of the Gibeonites Israel will have another opportunity to seek the Lord’s insight and place it alongside their own logic and natural observation. The Gibeonites were Hivites (Joshua 9:7) from a Canaanite town of Gibeon a mere 20 miles from Ai. The Gibeonites realized the hopelessness of their position against Joshua, because the fear of the Lord had affected them as it had Rahab. The Gibeonites planned to deceive Joshua with half-truths in order to secure a covenant with Israel that would m.
These Gibeonites were listed among the people and nations to be destroyed in the land of Canaan (3:10), but when they arrived in Israel’s camp they gave both the appearance and the report that they were from far away. Even the verb they used in Joshua 9:6 to indicate they had “arrived from a distant country” was misinterpreted by Joshua when he understood it to mean they were “passing by” on their way to a further destination since Joshua says, “from where are you coming as you pass by here?” (9:8)
The Gibeonites report to Joshua that they had heard of the fame of the Lord your God and they mention the events in Egypt forty years earlier and the more recent events on the east side of the Jordan against the Kings of the Amorites – Shihon and Og. For some reason the Israelites want to believe the Gibeonites and trust their story and sampled their provisions which included dry, crumbling bread and cracked wineskins that were supposedly fresh when the men began their journey. The Israeli leaders “sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord.” Literally Joshua 9:14 says, “But the mouth of the Lord they did not ask (or, consult).”
Joshua had several ways that were commonly used to inquire of the Lord including the Urim and Thummim worn by the High Priest, or the casting of the lot as used to discover Achan’s sin, or the presence of the Lord at the Ark of the Covenant. Joshua would not have had to depend on the mystical, untested inner voice of some unknown source like Christians often do today, but he could have received a tangible answer from the Lord to confirm or challenge his decision to trust the Gibeonites. Instead, Joshua “did not inquire of the Lord” and Israel was deceived. The Gibeonites were given a treaty and offered salom, “peace.”
When the deception was discovered Joshua kept the vow he had rashly agreed to and the Gibeonites were allowed to live, but likewise, the Gibeonites were forced to adhere to the Suzerain/Vassal covenant relationship they had entered into with Israel which recognized Joshua and Israel as the masters, protectors and providers for the Gibeonite vassals who would serve their suzerain lord Israel in exchange for the provisions of the treaty. Because of this Suzerain/Vassal covenant the Gibeonites were allowed to live, but were reduced to the role of servants among the Israelites as water carriers and wood cutters to keep Israel supplied with these basic daily necessities. (Joshua 9:26-27)