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The People of Gibeon Trick the Leaders of Israel

1-2 The kings west of the Jordan River heard about Joshua’s victories, and so they got together and decided to attack Joshua and Israel. These kings were from the hill country and from the foothills to the west, as well as from the Mediterranean seacoast as far north as the Lebanon Mountains. Some of them were Hittites, others were Amorites or Canaanites, and still others were Perizzites, Hivites, or Jebusites.

The people of Gibeon had also heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai. So they decided that some of their men should pretend to be messengers to Israel from a faraway country.[a] The men put worn-out bags on their donkeys and found some old wineskins that had cracked and had been sewn back together. Their sandals were old and patched, and their clothes were worn out. They even took along some dry and crumbly bread. Then they went to the Israelite camp at Gilgal, where they said to Joshua and the men of Israel, “We have come from a country that is far from here. Please make a peace treaty with us.”

7-8 The Israelites replied, “But maybe you really live near us. We can’t make a peace treaty with you if you live nearby.”[b]

The Gibeonites[c] said, “If you make a peace treaty with us, we will be your servants.”

“Who are you?” Joshua asked. “Where do you come from?”

They answered:

We are your servants, and we live far from here. We came because the Lord your God is so famous. We heard what the Lord did in Egypt 10 and what he did to those two Amorite kings on the other side of the Jordan: King Og of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth, and King Sihon of Heshbon.

11 Our leaders and everyone who lives in our country told us to meet with you and tell you that all of us are your servants. They said to ask you to make a peace treaty with our people. They told us to be sure and take along enough food for our journey. 12 See this dry, crumbly bread of ours? It was hot out of the oven when we packed the food on the day we left our homes. 13 These cracked wineskins were new when we filled them, and our clothes and sandals are worn out because we have traveled so far.

14 The Israelites tried some of the food,[d] but they did not ask the Lord if he wanted them to make a treaty. 15 So Joshua made a peace treaty with the messengers and promised that Israel would not kill their people. Israel’s leaders swore that Israel would keep this promise.

16-17 A couple of days later,[e] the Israelites found out that these people actually lived in the nearby towns of Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-Jearim.[f] So the Israelites left the place where they had camped and arrived at the four towns two days later.[g] 18 But they did not attack the towns, because the Israelite leaders had sworn in the name of the Lord that they would let these people live.

The Israelites complained about their leaders' decision not to attack, 19-21 but the leaders reminded them, “We promised these people in the name of the Lord God of Israel that we would let them live, so we must not harm them. If we break our promise, God will punish us. We’ll let them live, but we’ll make them cut wood and carry water for our people.”

22 Joshua told some of his soldiers, “I want to meet with the Gibeonite leaders. Bring them here.”

When the Gibeonites came, Joshua said, “You live close to us. Why did you lie by claiming you lived far away? 23 Now you are under a curse, and your people will have to send workers to cut wood and carry water for the place of worship.”[h]

24 The Gibeonites answered, “The Lord your God told his servant Moses that you were to kill everyone who lives here and take their land for yourselves. We were afraid you would kill us, and so we tricked you into making a peace treaty. But we agreed to be your servants, 25 and you are strong enough to do anything to us that you want. We just ask you to do what seems right.”

26 Joshua did not let the Israelites kill the Gibeonites, 27 but he did tell the Gibeonites that they would have to be servants of the nation of Israel. They would have to cut firewood and bring it for the priests to use for burning sacrifices on the Lord’s altar, wherever the Lord decided the altar would be. The Gibeonites would also have to carry water for the priests. And that is still the work of the Gibeonites.

Joshua Commands the Sun To Stand Still

10 King Adonizedek of Jerusalem[i] heard that Joshua had captured and destroyed the town of Ai, and then killed its king as he had done at Jericho. He also learned that the Gibeonites had signed a peace treaty with Israel. This frightened Adonizedek and his people. They knew that Gibeon was a large town, as big as the towns that had kings, and even bigger than the town of Ai had been. And all of the men of Gibeon were warriors. So Adonizedek sent messages to the kings of four other towns: King Hoham of Hebron, King Piram of Jarmuth, King Japhia of Lachish, and King Debir of Eglon. The messages said, “The Gibeonites have signed a peace treaty with Joshua and the Israelites. Come and help me attack Gibeon!”

When these five Amorite kings called their armies together and attacked Gibeon, the Gibeonites sent a message to the Israelite camp at Gilgal: “Joshua, please come and rescue us! The Amorite kings from the hill country have joined together and are attacking us. We are your servants, so don’t let us down. Please hurry!”

Joshua and his army, including his best warriors, left Gilgal. “Joshua,” the Lord said, “don’t be afraid of the Amorites. They will run away when you attack, and I will help you defeat them.”

Joshua marched all night from Gilgal to Gibeon and made a surprise attack on the Amorite camp. 10 The Lord made the enemy panic, and the Israelites started killing them right and left. They[j] chased the Amorite troops up the road to Beth-Horon and kept on killing them, until they reached the towns of Azekah and Makkedah.[k] 11 And while these troops were going down through Beth-Horon Pass,[l] the Lord made huge hailstones fall on them all the way to Azekah. More of the enemy soldiers died from the hail than from the Israelite weapons.

12-13 The Lord was helping the Israelites defeat the Amorites that day. So about noon, Joshua prayed to the Lord loud enough for the Israelites to hear:

“Our Lord, make the sun stop
    in the sky over Gibeon,
and the moon stand still
    over Aijalon Valley.”[m]
So the sun and the moon
    stopped and stood still
until Israel defeated its enemies.

This poem can be found in The Book of Jashar.[n] The sun stood still and didn’t go down for about a whole day. 14 Never before and never since has the Lord done anything like that for someone who prayed. The Lord was really fighting for Israel.

15 After the battle, Joshua and the Israelites went back to their camp at Gilgal.

Joshua Kills the Five Enemy Kings

16 While the enemy soldiers were running from the Israelites, the five enemy kings ran away and hid in a cave near Makkedah. 17 Joshua’s soldiers told him, “The five kings have been found in a cave near Makkedah.”

18 Joshua answered, “Roll some big stones over the mouth of the cave and leave a few soldiers to guard it. 19 But you and everyone else must keep after the enemy troops, because they will be safe if they reach their walled towns. Don’t let them get away! The Lord our God is helping us get rid of them.” 20 So Joshua and the Israelites almost wiped out the enemy soldiers. Only a few safely reached their walled towns.

21 The Israelite army returned to their camp at Makkedah, where Joshua was waiting for them. No one around there dared say anything bad about the Israelites. 22 Joshua told his soldiers, “Now, move the rocks from the entrance to the cave and bring those five kings to me.”

23 The soldiers opened the entrance to the cave and brought out the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon. 24 After Joshua had called the army together, he forced the five kings to lie down on the ground. Then he called his officers forward and told them, “You fought these kings along with me, so put your feet on their necks.” The officers did, 25 and Joshua continued, “Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged. Be brave and strong. This is what the Lord will do to all your enemies.”

26 Joshua killed the five kings and told his men to hang each body on a tree. Then at sunset 27 he told some of his troops, “Take the bodies down and throw them into the cave where the kings were found. Cover the entrance to the cave with big rocks.”

Joshua’s troops obeyed his orders, and those rocks are still there.

Joshua Continues the Fighting

28 Later that day, Joshua captured Makkedah and killed its king and everyone else in the town, just as he had done at Jericho.

29 Joshua and his army left Makkedah and attacked the town of Libnah. 30 The Lord let them capture the town and its king, and they killed the king and everyone else, just as they had done at Jericho.

31 Joshua then led his army to Lachish, and they set up camp around the town. They attacked, 32 and the next day the Lord let them capture the town. They killed everyone, as they had done at Libnah. 33 King Horam of Gezer arrived to help Lachish, but Joshua and his troops attacked and destroyed him and his army.

34 From Lachish, Joshua took his troops to Eglon, where they set up camp surrounding the town. They attacked, 35 captured it that same day, then killed everyone, as they had done at Lachish.

36 Joshua and his army left Eglon and attacked Hebron. 37 They captured the town and the nearby villages, then killed everyone, including the king. They destroyed Hebron in the same way they had destroyed Eglon.

38 Joshua and the Israelite army turned and attacked Debir. 39 They captured the town, and its nearby villages. Then they destroyed Debir and killed its king, together with everyone else, just as they had done with Hebron and Libnah.

40 Joshua captured towns everywhere in the land: In the central hill country and the foothills to the west, in the Southern Desert and the region that slopes down toward the Dead Sea. Whenever he captured a town, he would kill the king and everyone else, as the Lord God of Israel had commanded. 41 Joshua wiped out towns from Kadesh-Barnea to Gaza, everywhere in the region of Goshen,[o] and as far north as Gibeon. 42-43 The Lord fought on Israel’s side, so Joshua and the Israelite army were able to capture these kings and take their land. They fought one battle after another, then they went back to their camp at Gilgal after capturing all that land.

Joshua Captures Towns in the North

11 King Jabin of Hazor heard about Joshua’s victories, so he sent messages to many nearby kings and asked them to join him in fighting Israel. He sent these messages to King Jobab of Madon, the kings of Shimron and Achshaph, the kings in the northern hill country and in the Jordan River valley south of Lake Galilee,[p] and the kings in the foothills and in Naphath-Dor to the west. He sent messages to the Canaanite kings in the east and the west, to the Amorite, Hittite, Perizzite, and Jebusite kings in the hill country, and to the Hivite kings in the region of Mizpah, near the foot of Mount Hermon.[q]

4-5 The kings and their armies went to Merom Pond,[r] where they set up camp, and got ready to fight Israel. It seemed as though there were more soldiers and horses and chariots than there are grains of sand on a beach.

The Lord told Joshua:

Don’t let them frighten you! I’ll help you defeat them, and by this time tomorrow they will be dead.

When you attack, the first thing you have to do is to cripple their horses. Then after the battle is over,[s] burn their chariots.

Joshua and his army made a surprise attack against the enemy camp at Merom Pond[t] 8-9 and crippled the enemies' horses.[u] Joshua followed the Lord’s instructions, and the Lord helped Israel defeat the enemy. The Israelite army even chased enemy soldiers as far as Misrephoth-Maim to the northwest,[v] the city of Sidon to the north, and Mizpeh Valley to the northeast.[w] None of the enemy soldiers escaped alive. The Israelites came back after the battle and burned the enemy’s chariots.

10 Up to this time, the king of Hazor had controlled the kingdoms that had joined together to attack Israel, so Joshua led his army back and captured Hazor. They killed its king 11 and everyone else, then they set the town on fire.

12-15 Joshua captured all the towns where the enemy kings had ruled. These towns were built on small hills,[x] and Joshua did not set fire to any of these towns, except Hazor. The Israelites kept the animals and everything of value from these towns, but they killed everyone who lived in them, including their kings. That’s what the Lord had told his servant Moses to do, that’s what Moses had told Joshua to do, and that’s exactly what Joshua did.

16 Joshua and his army took control of the northern and southern hill country, the foothills to the west, the Southern Desert, the whole region of Goshen,[y] and the Jordan River valley. 17-18 They took control of the land from Mount Halak near the country of Edom in the south to Baal-Gad in Lebanon Valley at the foot of Mount Hermon in the north. Joshua and his army were at war with the kings in this region for a long time, but finally they captured and put to death the last king.

19-20 The Lord had told Moses that he wanted the towns in this region destroyed and their people killed without mercy. That’s why the Lord made the people in the towns stubborn and determined to fight Israel. The only town that signed a peace treaty with Israel was the Hivite town of Gibeon. The Israelite army captured the rest of the towns in battle.

21 During this same time, Joshua and his army killed the Anakim[z] from the northern and southern hill country. They also destroyed the towns where the Anakim had lived, including Hebron, Debir, and Anab. 22 There were not any Anakim left in the regions where the Israelites lived, although there were still some in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod.[aa]

23 That’s how Joshua captured the land, just as the Lord had commanded Moses, and Joshua divided it up among the tribes.

Finally, there was peace in the land.

Footnotes

  1. 9.4 So. . . country: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  2. 9.7,8 nearby: See Deuteronomy 20.10-18.
  3. 9.7,8 Gibeonites: Hebrew “Hivites.”
  4. 9.14 tried. . . food: Probably to see if it really was old or to show that they wanted peace.
  5. 9.16,17 A couple. . . later: The Hebrew text has “At the end of three days,” meaning two days after the day the treaty was made.
  6. 9.16,17 Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-Jearim: These towns were twenty to thirty miles west of the Israelite camp at Gilgal.
  7. 9.16,17 A couple of days. . . later: Or “A couple of days later, the Israelites moved their camp to the area near the towns of Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-Jearim. When they arrived, they realized that they had made a peace treaty with the people of these nearby towns!”
  8. 9.23 the place of worship: The Hebrew text has “God’s house,” which at that time was the sacred tent.
  9. 10.1 Jerusalem: Jerusalem was not an Israelite city at this time.
  10. 10.10 They: Or “The Lord.”
  11. 10.10 Makkedah: A total distance of about twenty-five miles.
  12. 10.11 Beth-Horon Pass: A two-mile long, steeply-sloping valley between the towns of Upper Beth-Horon and Lower Beth-Horon.
  13. 10.12,13 Aijalon Valley: A valley southwest of Beth-Horon Pass.
  14. 10.12,13 Book of Jashar: This book may have been a collection of ancient war songs.
  15. 10.41 Goshen: A region between the hill country of Judah and the desert further south. Not the same Goshen as in Genesis 47.4-6.
  16. 11.2 Lake Galilee: The Hebrew text has “Lake Chinnereth,” an earlier name.
  17. 11.3 Mizpah, near the foot of Mount Hermon: Probably the same region as Mizpeh Valley in verses 8,9, but different from the two other places named Mizpeh in 15.37-41; 18.25-28, and also different from the Mizpah mentioned in Genesis 31.49 and Judges 10.17.
  18. 11.4,5 Pond: Or “Gorge.”
  19. 11.6 When. . . over: Or “After the battle is over, cripple their horses and burn their chariots.”
  20. 11.7 Pond: See the note at 11.4,5.
  21. 11.8,9 and crippled the enemies' horses: It is also possible that the Israelites crippled the enemies' horses after the battle at the same time they burned the enemies' chariots; see the note at 11.6.
  22. 11.8,9 Misrephoth-Maim. . . northwest: Or “the town of Misrephoth to the northwest” or “the Misrephoth River.”
  23. 11.8,9 northeast: These three areas were twenty to thirty-five miles north of Merom.
  24. 11.12-15 small hills: Towns were often built on top of the ruins of a previous town that had been destroyed. When this happened many times at one place, a hill was formed.
  25. 11.16 Goshen: See the note at 10.41.
  26. 11.21 Anakim: Perhaps a group of very large people that lived in Palestine before the Israelites (see Numbers 13.33 and Deuteronomy 2.10,11,20,21).
  27. 11.22 Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod: Towns in Philistia.

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