Joshua chapter nine presents us with somewhat of a dilemma. Several in fact.
First for the Gibeonites. The territory includes neighboring cities of Kephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath Jearim (9:17). The law of God required they be put to the sword or simply leave Canaan. Their choices were simple: stay and die, or leave. The Gibeonites sought another way and revealed an understanding of God similar to that of Rahab. She knew of the Lord’s great power, and of His kindness. The Gibeonites understand how He feels about His word. The Gibeonites tricked Israel into taking an oath on the name of the Lord not to harm them. Though the oath was exacted under false pretenses, it was an oath none-the-less, and the God of Israel was a party to it.
Second, there is the dilemma for Israel. Was she obligated to keep such an oath? Non-Israelites might excuse going back on their word, but God’s people never can. The leaders of Israel refuse to break their promise. Centuries later, King Saul will kill many of the Gibeonites, taking the view that they should have been killed long before. But God disagreed.
Then, there is the dilemma for us. How shall we take this story? Is it okay to lie to save your skin?
The Gibeonites depict a people who are desperate for salvation, and they are willing to make themselves slaves to receive it. In fact, to be servants of the Lord will be their heritage. Centuries later, when Judah is carried captive to Babylon, the Gibeonites, though nationally distinct from the Jews, go with them. They have aligned their fate with God’s people. When they return from captivity, they return to their old tasks of serving the Lord.
The Gibeonites were not the people of God. They had no way to become the people of God. But they would live with, act like, and and accept the lot of the people of God because they knew it was the only hope they had.
Shall we, who are God’s people, act with any less devotion?