Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

source unknown, circa 1400

And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai, They did work wilily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks upon their asses, and wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up; And old shoes and clouted upon their feet, and old garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy. And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal, and said unto him, and to the men of Israel, We be come from a far country: now therefore make ye a league with us.
Joshua 9:3-6

God had commanded that Joshua and the Israelites show no mercy to the dwellers of Canaanite.1 The battle of Ai, although initially a failure was ultimately, after the Achan incident,2 a wipe out. The kings and leaders of the remaining tribes gather forces to attack Israel, all except one nation, the Gibeonites, who realising they could not win against Israel, and knowing no peace deals will be made with neighbouring nations, trick the Israelites into believing they were ambassadors from a far away land, and wished to be allies. Joshua, without consulting God, accepts their stories and makes a treaty with them. On discovering the trick, no vengeance is taken, but the Gibeonites are condemned to always be servants to the nation of Israel.3

It's curious that nowhere is there mention of a king of the Gibeonites, as there is with all the other nations.4 We hear only of 'the inhabitants'. There is a sense of a people's collective here, guided by joint decision-making. Cunning is used, rather than violence. Kings declare war often to stoke their egos. Winning makes a king look good, garner respect, become fearsome, and the losses of individual citizens a small price to pay for such triumph. When no king there is no ego, and the lives of the individuals becomes paramount. Better to make peace and live than to make war and risk death. The story tells us of the perils of kingship, expanded upon in much more detail in the first book of Samual.5 When we take our lives into our own hands, when the decision making is left to the people, not to a leader, different choices are made. When ego is removed, common sense prevails. The Gibeonites survived whereas many of their neighbours, kings and all, were wiped out. Too much trust in a leader can be fatal.

1 However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God. — Deuteronomy 20:16-18
2 Joshua 7
3 This incident may be seen as a specific incident of the general curse which Noah inflicted on all of Canaan: Then he (Noah) said: "Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brethren". — Genesis 9:25
4 This was brought to my attention by Matthew Henry in his commentary on this episode in Blue Letter Bible. Further recommended reading on Joshua 9: The Peril of Walking by Sight.
5 1 Samuel 8:10-22