The Gibeonite Vow (Joshua 9:14-15)

Joshua 9:14-15 – So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them..

This passage in Joshua 9 has always been one of great interest to me. Joshua and the nation of Israel had been commanded by God to go into the land and drive out all of the peoples who lived there. They were not to make any truce with any of them. They were to totally take the land, and to not allow foreign nations to live among them in order that they not mingle the worship of God with the worship of the false gods of the nations.

The Gibeonites, who lived in the land, heard of the command of God and the success he was giving to Israel. So, they devised a plan. They came to Joshua, and pretended to be from far off. They sought peace with Israel, pretending not to be people of the land.

The people of Israel, in the verses above, make a terrible mistake. They make a covenant with the Gibeonites without first seeking counsel from the Lord. They take the false evidence given to them by the Gibeonites, and never ask God to lead them to the truth.

This event has terrible consequences for Israel years later, as we see in . . .

2 Samuel 21:1-2 – Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David sought the presence of the LORD. And the LORD said, “It is for Saul and his bloody house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.” So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them (now the Gibeonites were not of the sons of Israel but of the remnant of the Amorites, and the sons of Israel made a covenant with them, but Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the sons of Israel and Judah).

In 2 Samuel 21, we find that a king of Israel, Saul, attempts to destroy the Gibeonites, and brings punishment from God on Israel. Though Israel should have wiped out the Gibeonites during the days of Joshua, they promised not to. So, when Saul tried to get rid of this people group who was a thorn in Israel’s side, God punished Israel with three years of famine for Saul’s disobedience to the covenant made by the people under Joshua.

There are at least two major lessons for us to learn in this passage. One is that we need to be very careful to seek God’s wisdom in making important decisions. Had Israel sought the wisdom of God, they would have found out that the Gibeonites were tricking them. Their failure to seek God’s counsel on their decision led to great heartache. Let us learn to seek God’s counsel, and to not always trust in our own human understanding. We need to check the scriptures to see what God has commanded regarding what we want to do, and be sure to follow his commands—even if those commands do not make sense to the world.

The other lesson that we need to see here is just how much weight our words have. Israel made a vow to a people who tricked them. This vow was rash, foolish, and against the will of God. However, once the vow was made, God intended that Israel keep it. The famine of 2 Samuel 21 is proof that God takes our promises very seriously, even if we do not. Though the world around us breaks its promises and vows—especially marriage vows—very easily, the people of God must not. If we want to be like Jesus, we must be people who keep our vows, because God takes them very, very seriously.