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the cost of disobedience

Joshua 9 is not often found in prophetic discussion venues, because it doesn’t predict a future event. What it does do is provide us with an illustration of the consequences of disobedience to God, consequences that can manifest thousands of years after the act of disobedience. Let’s set the scene:  The Israelites have been delivered out of Egypt by God. Due to disobedience, they’ve wandered the desert for decades. Now the conquest of the Promised Land is finally underway. Joshua is in charge of the military campaign to take the land and he’s gotten some pretty clear instructions from God on how to do it:

I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. 32 You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”
The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ex 23:31–33). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

…when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them.
The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Dt 7:2). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

In both the above passages, God’s instructions were clear. Brutal, yes, but clear. For the most part, Joshua followed these instructions. The one notable exception took place at a place called Gibeon. The native Gibeonites had been watching what was going on with the Israelites.

But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, 4 they on their part acted with cunning
The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Jos 9:3–4). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

They saw that the Israelite military campaign was meeting with great success. They knew that the original inhabitants were being decimated, either killed or driven completely away. And rather than join the other peoples who were banding together against Israel and chance meeting the same fate, the Gibeonites decided it would be smarter to cook up a scheme that would allow them to stay where they were and not be killed by the conquering Israelites.

Knowing that the Israelites were not making deals to allow the original inhabitants to stay if their land was in the region, they pretended to be from a region far away.

…went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, 5 with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly.
The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Jos 9:4–5). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Even though Gibeon was a short distance away (and definitely in the area given to Israel by God), the Gibeonites showed up at Joshua’s camp looking like they had come from the other side of the world, and acting that way, as well. Their offer was something like, “Gee, even though we’re from a distant land that you’re probably not interested in, we’d like to show our good faith and let you know that we won’t be any trouble to you. We’ll be good neighbors if you’ll just allow us to stay.” Rather than consulting God through prayer, Joshua decided all on his own that it couldn’t hurt to make a deal with these distant people and gave his word that they could stay. Then he found out the truth, that he’d been had. Although he essentially enslaved them to Israel, he did honor his word and let the Gibeonites stay. It seemed to be a minor mistake, since the land involved was small and the Gibeonites ended up subjugated to the Israelites. But was it really? Thanks to the excellent resource BibleAtlas.org, here’s a biblical-era map showing the location of Gibeon:

If we transpose the latitude and longitude from the biblical-era map above into Google maps, the map shown below shows us exactly where ancient Gibeon lies on a current map. See anything important around that location?

The region of ancient Gibeon is the area known today as the West Bank, and it has been “a snare” for Israel since its capture in 1967’s Six Day War. It has been and remains a bitter point of contention and source of continual bloodshed. God said to show no mercy and to not allow any of the original inhabitants to stay in the Promised Land. Joshua decided to act on his own and allowed the people to stay. Who thinks it’s a coincidence that this tiny parcel of land sits exactly on the spot that marks Joshua’s disobedience to God thousands of years ago? I do not.

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