Deception works both ways, Josh.

Joshua 9 (3)

So they said to him: “From a very far country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God; for we have heard of His fame, and all that He did in Egypt, and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan—to Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who was at Ashtaroth. Therefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us, saying, ‘Take provisions with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say to them, “We areyour servants; now therefore, make a covenant with us.”’ This bread of ours we took hot forour provision from our houses on the day we departed to come to you. But now look, it is dry and moldy. And these wineskins which we filled werenew, and see, they are torn; and these our garments and our sandals have become old because of the very long journey.” Joshua 9.9-13

1.  These people went to considerable lengths to lie to Joshua. Why did they do that? Why do people lie, anyway? 

2.   Which part of this story do you suppose Joshua would have found most convincing? Why?

Think about it.
Are Joshua and the men of Israel feeling overconfident again? The Gibeonites spin their well-rehearsed narrative, which could not have been more artfully crafted. They begin by flattering the God of Israel. They had “heard of His fame” and all that. Not that they feared Him, mind you; they were just really impressed.

Then, notice the appeal to elders. They undoubtedly knew that Israel, like most peoples in those days, showed great respect to their elders, especially when they were supported by “all the inhabitants of our country.” Maybe it’s just me, but that bit of hyperbole would have got me to wondering, “Now how did they accomplish that?”

Then, what they must have hoped would be the coup de grace: “We are your servants.” Who could fault that? The whole nation, giving itself over to serve us? Sounds like a pretty good deal.

But the Gibeonites go further. They insist that Israel “make a covenant” with them. Covenant-making was a formal process of entering into a pact of mutual support, defense, and benefit. In those days, parties in a covenant were bound to one another in perpetuity, and this is precisely what the Gibeonites were seeking, and what God had forbidden His people to do with any of the people of Canaan.

The moldy bread, worn out clothing, and empty and torn wine skins were just icing on the cake. A nice touch to seal the deal, but only window-dressing. The flattery and offer of servitude were all Joshua needed to hear.

Meditate and discuss.
1.  Flattery, seniority, majority, and personal advantage: The devil uses all these tactics to draw us off the path God has chosen for us. Can you give some examples? For example, “Yeah, well mostpeople think it’s OK to…”

2.  If you had been Joshua, what follow-up questions might you have asked the Gibeonites, having heard their story?

3.  How might Joshua and the men of Israel have kept from falling into this trap?

“Then the Gibeonites, fearing his strong hand, came with guile, pretending that they were from a land very far away, and by traveling so long had rent their shoes and worn out their clothing, of which they showed proofs that it was growing old. They said, too, that their reason for undergoing so much labor was their desire to obtain peace and to form friendship with the Hebrews, and [they] began to ask Joshua to form an alliance with them. And he, being as yet ignorant of localities and not knowing anything of the inhabitants, did not see through their deceit, nor did he enquire of God but readily believed them.”Ambrose of Milan (333-397 AD)

Lord, I know that deception and flattery are the devil’s tools to lead me away from following You. Help me to be alert to these, so that I…

Pray Psalm 12.

What lies, deceit, or flattery do you expect to encounter today? Take shelter in the Word and promises of God, and keep in communication with Him through prayer.

Psalm 12 (Hamburg: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross)
Help, Lord! The godly cease to be; they who believe in Christ are few.
Falsely the wicked confidently flatter, deceive, and mock Your truth.

Stop, Lord, the lips that utter lies, all those who speak with boasting tongue!
See how Your holy Word they despise, while their own praises they have sung.

Rise up, O Lord, and rescue all Your precious children sore distressed.
Save those who faithfully on You call; grant them deliv’rance, peace, and rest.

Your words are pure and proven true, like silver seven times refined;
You will preserve Your Word ever new, and keep the heart to You inclined.

Proudly the wicked strut and stand; Your indignation builds on high;
Men may exalt their wicked plans, but You will judge them by and by.

T. M. Moore

Where does the book of Joshua fit in the ongoing story of God’s covenant? Our workbook, God’s Covenant, can help you discover the place in God’s work of redemption not only of Joshua but of all the books of the Bible. God’s Covenant is a valuable resource to guide you in all your studies in God’s Word. To order your copy, click here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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