Gibeon was one of the Canaanite cities that God commanded to be destroyed. They feared Israel and devised a plan to ensure their survival. They knew that Israel was allowed to make treaties with cities outside of the Promised Land.
The Gibeonites put together a group of men and disguised them to look like ambassadors from a distant city. They were equipped with worn clothing and shoes and carried moldy bread and cracked wine skins to give the impression that they had been on a long journey from a far-off land. Joshua and the nation of Israel were tricked into a treaty that was in violation of God’s commands.
Joshua and the leaders of Israel did not sin deliberately. They carefully inspected the evidence presented by the Gibeonites and found it to support the story. The Bible tells us that their failure was in neglecting to consult God before making a decision.
When Joshua discovered that he had been deceived, he declared that the Gibeonites would be tasked to chop wood and carry water in support of the Tabernacle worship. The Gibeonites never gave Israel any trouble and came to be called the Nethinim (given ones) and labored as servants in the temple (1 Chron. 9:2; Ezra 2:43, 58; Neh. 3:26).
When the other five Canaanite cities in the region heard of Gibeon’s plan to allay with Israel, they gathered to destroy Gibeon. The five armies, now out in the open, were easy prey to Israel.
We can learn some important lessons from this story. First, Satan sometimes comes as a devouring lion (1 Peter 5:8) and sometimes as a deceiving serpent (2 Cor. 11:3). Our senses can be deceived so we must seek God as we make decisions.
Second, we should make the best of our circumstances. The Gibeonites served the Tabernacle and, later the Temple until the Babylonian captivity.
Third, God can use our mistakes to fulfill his plans. They five kings that gathered to destroy Gibeon were marked by God for destruction. Their gathering in one place, out in the open made it easier for Israel to defeat them.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NKJV)