« PreviousContinue »
which Joshua returned with the Israelites to their encampment in Gilgal.
About this time, the kings of the countries on the west side of Jordan, having heard of the destruction of Jericho and Ai by the Israelites, and of their great numbers and strength, resolved to make a common cause against so powerful an enemy. Alarmed for the safety of their respective dominions, which they feared, if resisting singly, would be easily subdued, one after another, by these terrible invaders, they entered into a confederacy to unite their force, and attack the Israelites. In doing this they had very sanguine hopes of success. They could bring large armies into the field; their territories stretching over the hills and the valleys, and all the coasts of the great sea, and embracing the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, the Jebusites, and not improbably the Phenicians, Tyrians, Sidonians, and Philistines. It was some time, however, before they actually attempted to carry their design into effect.
In the meanwhile, the inhabitants of Gibeon, (a city of the Hivites,) who had declined joining the confederacy, resolved, with the rest of their countrymen, if possible, to make peace with the Israelites, and come under their protection. Their city was only about twenty miles from the encampment at Gilgal, and this made them the more fearful of its being the next object of attack. They trembled lest the fate of Jericho and of Ai should soon be their own; and, while anxious to send a deputation in person to the Israelites to enter into a league of some kind with them, they dreaded to let them know the nearness of Gibeon to Gilgal, lest it should lead them to disregard all other considerations, and rush immediately forward to the destruction of the city, and the seizure of the booty which it would afford. A resort to stratagem seemed to them to be their only resource.
For this purpose a select number of the inhabitants were
sen to visit Gilgal, and to be so disguised as to wear the appearance of ambassadors from far-distant regions. The sacks to hold their food and other necessary articles, bore the marks of great age and hard usage ; as did, also, the bottles, made of the skins of animals, in which the wine and water were carried; being rent in many places, and mended again, as is still customary in eastern countries. Their sandals, formed of skins also, were old and covered with patches; and their provision was dry and mouldy.
In this plight they reached the camp at Gilgal, and were brought before Joshua and the elders of the people. On being asked the object of
their visit, they said, they had come from a far country, to make a league with the Israelites.
" Peradventure ye dwell among us,” reply-in our very neighborhood, and in the country which the Lord hath given us as our
and how shall we make a league with you,” since we are expressly forbidden to form one, of any kind, with the inhabitants of the land.
"We are thy servants," said the Hivites, addressing Joshua, ready to become thy tributaries, and to comply with any conditions thou mayest see fit to impose, if thou wilt but take us and our people under thy protection.
On Joshua's demanding peremptorily, who they were, and whence they came, they replied: "From a very far country thy servants are come, because of the name of the Lord thy God : for we have heard of the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt: and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, which was in Ashtaroth. Wherefore our elders, and all the inhabitants of our country spake to us saying, Take victuals with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say unto them, We are your servants: therefore now make ye a league with us. This our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the
day we came forth to go
but hold, it is dry, and it is mouldy: and these bottles of wine which we filled, were new,
and behold they be rent: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey."
In making this statement, the Gibeonites took a course which was wholly unjustifiable. They ought to have come to the Israelites with an honest avowal of who they were, as well as of the object of their mission. They would, in that case, have as effectually propitiated the goodwill which they sought, as by the utterance of falsehoods, and probably more so. They would have shown that confidence could be placed in them; and this would have been worth a great deal to them in their subsequent intercourse with the Israelites.
The maintenance of a character of undeviating adherence to truth, is valuable almost beyond calculation, even in the concerns of this world how much more so in the light of eternity.
The league with the Gibeonites. Their city is attacked,
and Joshua, with the Israelites, goes to its defence. The assailants are routed.
The appearance of the provisions which the Gibeonites brought with them, together with the other circumstances of their condition, succeeded, at length, in procuring them a favorable reception from the Israelites. It was granted without seeking counsel of the Lord. This was a great breach of duty. The divine direction ought to have been obtained in the matter, by applying to the high priest; to whom it would, doubtless, have been given, on his consulting the Urim and Thummim in the way which was prescribed.
The result was, that Joshua entered into a friendly league with the Gibeonites, by which their lives and property were made secure; while the princes of the congregation confirmed the transaction by a solemn oath. This being done, the ambassadors returned home, to communicate the joyful intelligence to their countrymen.
Three days after this, the Israelites, to their great surprise, found out the imposition which