The Gibeonites Trick Joshua
1 All the kings west of the Jordan River heard about these things. They were the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. They lived in the hill country and in the plains. They also lived along the seacoast of the Mediterranean Sea as far as Lebanon. 2 All these kings came together and made plans to fight against Joshua and the Israelites.
3 The people from the city of Gibeon heard about the way Joshua had defeated Jericho and Ai. 4 So they decided to try to trick the Israelites. This was their plan: They gathered together old wineskins that were cracked and broken. They put these old wineskins on the backs of their animals. They put old pieces of cloth on their animals to look as if they had traveled from far away. 5 The men put old sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. They found some old bread that was dry and moldy. 6 Then they went to the camp of the Israelites. This camp was near Gilgal.
The men went to Joshua and said to him, “We have traveled from a faraway country. We want to make a peace agreement with you.”
7 The men of Israel said to these Hivite men, “Maybe you are trying to trick us. Maybe you live near us. We cannot make a peace agreement with you until we know where you are from.”
8 The Hivite men said to Joshua, “We are your servants.”
But Joshua asked, “Who are you? Where do you come from?”
9 The men answered, “We are your servants. We have come from a faraway country. We came because we heard of the great power of the LORD your God. We heard about what he has done and about everything he did in Egypt. 10 And we heard that he defeated the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan River. This was King Sihon of Heshbon and King Og of Bashan in the land of Ashtaroth. 11 So our elders and our people said to us, ‘Take enough food for your journey. Go and meet with the Israelites.’ Tell them, ‘We are your servants. Make a peace agreement with us.’
12 “Look at our bread. When we left home, it was warm and fresh. But now you can see that it is dry and old. 13 Look at our wineskins. When we left home, they were new and filled with wine. But now you can see that they are cracked and old. Look at our clothes and sandals. You can see that the long journey has almost destroyed the things we wear.”
14 The men of Israel wanted to know if these men were telling the truth. So they tasted the bread—but they did not ask the LORD what they should do. 15 Joshua agreed to make peace with them. He agreed to let them live. The leaders of Israel agreed with this promise of Joshua.
16 Three days later the Israelites learned that these men lived very near their camp. 17 So the Israelites went to the place where they lived. On the third day the Israelites came to the cities of Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath Jearim. 18 But the army of Israel did not try to fight against those cities. They had made a peace agreement with them. They had made a promise to them before the LORD, the God of Israel.
All the people complained against the leaders who made the agreement. 19 But the leaders answered, “We have given our promise. We promised before the LORD, the God of Israel. We cannot fight against them now. 20 This is what we must do. We must let them live. We cannot hurt them or God will be angry with us because we broke the promise we made to them. 21 So let them live, but they will be our servants. They will cut wood for us and carry water for all our people.” So the leaders did not break their promise of peace to them.
22 Joshua called the Gibeonites together. He said, “Why did you lie to us? Your land was near our camp. But you told us you were from a faraway country. 23 Now, your people will have many troubles. All of your people will be slaves—they will have to cut wood and carry water for the house of God.* house of God This might mean the “family of God” (Israel), “the Holy Tent,” or “the Temple.””
24 The Gibeonites answered, “We lied to you because we were afraid you would kill us. We heard that God commanded his servant Moses to give you all this land. And God told you to kill all the people who lived in this land. That is why we lied to you. 25 Now we are your servants. You can do whatever you think is right.”
26 So the Gibeonites became slaves, but Joshua let them live. He did not allow the Israelites to kill them. 27 He made them slaves of the Israelites. They cut wood and carried water for the Israelites and for the altar of the LORD—wherever the LORD chose it to be. They are still slaves today.
*9:23 house of God This might mean the “family of God” (Israel), “the Holy Tent,” or “the Temple.”