Joshua 9
Joshua 9
Probably the tidings of Israel taking formal possession of the land at Ebal and Gerizim stirred up the antagonism of their enemies afresh. We well know how the enmity of the world is roused when God’s people assert the authority of His Word, and their title to all that it promises.
When our spiritual foes oppose us, we are thrown upon the Lord for strength, and this is well; but if they approach us guised as angels of light, and greet us with Scripture, we stand in peril of being deceived. Israel proved this in their dealings with the inhabitants of Gibeon, who having heard of the overthrow of Jericho and Ai “did work wilily.” They belonged to the enemies who were fighting against Israel, but they chose guile as their weapon instead of open antagonism.
The Gibeonitish ambassadors introduced themselves with religious flattery, complimenting Israel upon the name of their God. This temptation is hard to withstand, for it is natural to man to relish this kind of honor. The princes should have immediately cast themselves upon the Lord, and have sought His guidance; but they began parleying with evil, which always opens the door to sorrow, for when Satan has so far succeeded with God’s people as to be allowed a hearing, he has gained the vantage ground. Eve unfallen proved such to be the case, and so do all her fallen children. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:77Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)). The ambassadors, by talking of the victories on the other side Jordan, evaded the application of God’s Word to themselves, yet without altogether denying His authority. They used the truth entirely for their own ends; they only told a portion of the truth, and put that forward to cover the lie of their having come from a far country. This is Satan’s way of handling God’s Word, and his servants are not slow to assume the semblance of devotion, and to talk in religious strains; but none of them submit to the authority of the divine word, or bring forward all the truth.
The testimonials of these Gibeonites were moldy bread, wine bottles rent and empty, old sacks, tattered garments, and old shoes clouted upon their feet. These were their means of deception; and characteristic signs these worn-out things are of false ambassadors.
An alliance was the object of the Gibeonites, “Make ye a league with us.” The temptation was great; Israel were in the enemy’s land, an alliance looked like strength, and it was a relief to meet with friends when foes surrounded: but alliance, in Israel’s position, would be trusting in human help, and therefore was more dangerous than the opposition of all the united forces of the powers of the land. They were victorious over the hosts of the enemy so long as they resolutely contended with them, but the introduction of the foe into their camp was the commencement of that leavening process which in time corrupted the whole people.
Satan as often endeavors to form alliances between God’s people and the world, as he does to overturn them by open opposition, indeed, in our day evil association is his chief snare. By this means he has gained advantage over many. He has lured them from their integrity and watchful dependence upon the Lord to this quicksand, where they have presently sunk, dragged down into the treacherous mire. Let the Christian, desirous after the glory of the holy name of his Master, look around and inquire, Where is the church? Where is the world? Is it not now an alliance? (Read James 4:44Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. (James 4:4).)
When the Gibeonites addressed themselves to the people of Israel, they occupied a holy place. Their camp had been purged by discipline because God was there, and their responsibility was to maintain the character of the camp. The light of God’s holy word had just shone brightly in their midst in the presence of the sacrifice, and it defined expressly their conduct towards the people of Canaan. God’s moral requirements demanded that His people should utterly destroy all idolaters from His land; being holy, He required holiness in His people. God dwelt among them, could they, then, with impunity ally themselves with darkness? Could such as believed in God have fellowship with infidels? Alliance with the men of Canaan was practically a denial of God’s holy name, and was not keeping His word. It was treachery to the holy trust which Jehovah had committed to them, and they eventually proved that by allying themselves with the Canaanites, they forfeited Jehovah’s protection. The princes indeed made peace, but it was peace with evil, and not God’s, peace.
If the princes were deceived into the alliance, it was because they were not subject to God, and this made the case only the worse. “They took of their victuals, and asked not counsel of the mouth of the Lord.” If we commit errors in judgment, it is much more likely to be because our own wisdom misleads us than because we feel we have none. Had they who, guided the affairs of God’s people subjected themselves to the Lord, He would have opened their eyes and ears, so that the lies of the moldy bread and of the religious flattery would have been apparent.
As the self-reliance of the people cost them defeat at Ai, so the self-confidence of the princes brought about the alliance with Gibeon. Israel failed “utterly to destroy” the nations, who consequently taught them “to do after all their abominations.” All the wisdom of Solomon availed him not against the evil in his own house; his heart was turned from the Lord, and he became an idolator. Knowledge will not be their safeguard who tamper with God’s moral requirements. In a day like our own, when we are beset with the spirit of compromise and of so-called liberality, what is more incumbent upon the Christian than obeying the exhortation, “Keep thyself pure” (1 Tim. 5:2222Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure. (1 Timothy 5:22)), than keeping rigidly to the precepts of God’s Word, and shutting the door of his heart to all invitations of alliance with evil? It might have appeared very unfriendly for the princes of Israel to question the ambassadors who came so peaceably; but “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable” (James 3:1717But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. (James 3:17)).
After a three days’ journey the eyes of Israel were opened, and the result of the affiance was seen to be loss. But it was too late to recover their lost ground – too late to extricate themselves from the position into which their compromising spirit had brought them. The cities which would have fallen to Israel they could not conquer – the Gibeonites they could not thrust out. “And all the congregation murmured against the princes.” How many blessings have believers forfeited by their alliance with evil! How often have they had to mourn the continual presence of that which they have proved to be weakness instead of strength – to be an occasion leading them to stray from the Lord, instead of a help in His way. Also, centuries later, Israel reaped bitter fruits from this alliance: for Saul, in “his zeal for the children of Israel,” sought to exterminate the Gibeonites – sought with his own hand to remove the punishment which the carelessness and self-sufficiency of the princes had brought upon Israel, and God was displeased, and sent year after year a famine on the land. “God is not mocked; what a man soweth, that also shall he reap.”