Joshua and the people of Israel no sooner recover from Achan’s deception than they fall for another deception. The Gibeonites hear about the defeat of the people of Jericho and Ai and devise a plan to save themselves from the same destruction by deceiving Israel into making a treaty with them. This story alerts the reader to seven conditions that make a person vulnerable to deception:
Exhaustion—Israel has just finished fighting the people of Ai, “And they struck them down, so that they let none of them remain or escape” (Josh. 8:22). They have also carried off for themselves the livestock and plunder of the city, burning Ai to the ground. Exhaustion may weaken a person’s defenses against deception.
Euphoria of victory and celebration—Israel successfully ambushes a sleeping Ai from all sides and experiences great victory. Joshua builds an altar to the LORD and copies the law of Moses on to two large stones, so the people can see it. The entire nation recites the blessings and the cursings. Euphoria may dull a person’s sensitivity to deception.
Empathy—The Gibeonites present themselves as hungry and poor, “They worked craftily, and went and pretended to be ambassadors. And they took old sacks on their donkeys, old wineskins torn and mended, old and patched sandals on their feet, and old garments on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and moldy” (9:4-5). Israel responds with fleshly empathy instead of discernment. Worldly compassion may impair a person’s discernment to deception.
Expediency and ease—A battle with all the kings west of the Jordan is imminent. The Gibeonites appear and request a treaty with Israel, “Make a covenant with us” (9:6). The Gibeonites come not to war with Israel but to offer themselves as servants (9:8). Israel sees the Gibeonites as one less people they must fight. Expediency may prompt a person to ignore warnings of deception.
Dismissing reservations—Israel questions the Gibeonites, “Perhaps you dwell among us” (9:7); “Who are you and where do you come from?” (9:8). Raising questions without obtaining satisfying answers allows a person to fall for “trumped up evidence” and be deceived.
Prayerlessness—“The men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask the counsel of the LORD” (9:14). Prayerlessness dulls a person’s heart so that he cannot recognize deception.
Ignoring Scripture—Moses clearly warned Israel against making treaties with the people in Canaan, “And when the LORD you God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. Your shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them” (Deut. 7:2). Ignoring Scripture sets people up for deception.
This scene reveals three truths about deception:
What does the congregation of Israel learn about God through the defeat of Ai?
What had the LORD commanded of Joshua and Israel in Deuteronomy 31:9-13?
What does Joshua’s obedience and leadership do for Israel?
What do Joshua and Israel learn about God and themselves as result of the fiasco with the Gibeonites?
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