The Wiles of the Gibeonites
December 13th, 1959 @ 8:15 AM
THE WILES OF THE GIBEONITES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-13-59 8:15 a.m.
You who listen on the radio are sharing with us the early services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message from the ninth chapter of the Book of Joshua [Joshua 9]. And the whole chapter concerns the Wiles of the Gibeonites. And if we were to apply it to us today, we would title it “The Wiles of the Devil.”
The eighth chapter of the Book of Joshua described for us the great religious convocation in Shechem [Joshua 8:33]. When Israel was on the other side of the Jordan River, and when Moses, the great lawgiver, was leading them through the wilderness, he said, when you cross over the Jordan into the land of promise, you shall make a journey to Shechem, and there between those twin peaks you shall take the land for God [Deuteronomy 27:11-13]. And Mount Ebal on the north was to be the mount of cursing [Deuteronomy 27:13]. “Cursed be every one that continueth not in all things in the law to do them” [Deuteronomy 27:26]. Mount Gerizim, the southern peak, was to be the mount of blessing [Deuteronomy 27:12]. Blessed are ye when you lie down, when you rise up; blessed are ye when you continue in all things in the law to do them [Deuteronomy 28:1-14].
So after that great religious convocation [Joshua 8:30-35], the congregation of the Lord returned back to the camp at Gilgal [Joshua 4:19-20, 5:9-10], which was near the banks of the Jordan River, between Jericho and the Jordan. And as I have told you, the camp at Gilgal was the central camping place of Israel all during the years of the conquest. Throughout the seven years when they were possessing their inheritance, the camp was at Gilgal on the banks of the Jordan River, and it was only after the land was possessed and divided up by allotment that they broke up the camp and went to their separate homes. So from Shechem, this religious pilgrimage, they have returned now to Gilgal [Joshua 5:9-10].
Now the ninth chapter of Joshua:
And it came to pass, when all the kings which were on this side of Jordan—
on the western side—
in the hills, and in the valleys, in all the coasts of the Great Sea—
the Mediterranean Sea—
over against Lebanon, the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, the Jebusite, heard thereof;
They gathered themselves together, to fight Joshua and with Israel, with one accord.
[Joshua 9:1, 2]
However the Hivite, and the Jebusite, and the Perizzite, and the Canaanite, and the Amorite might have personal differences and tribal wars between themselves, they all banded together against this one common enemy, Israel. The whole land was aflame. The whole country was in arms. So Joshua now faces a great coalition of most of, practically all of the kings of the central part of Canaan. Now, when that happened, this incident occurred which is recounted at great length in the ninth chapter of the Book of Joshua:
And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai,
They did work wilily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors—
Now remember, these Gibeonites and their cities are within twenty miles of Gilgal. They are just right over there on the other side of the ridge. When those Gibeonites—
heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, They did work wilily, and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks . . . and wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up;
And old shoes and clouted upon their feet, and old garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy—
they are a smart bunch—
And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal, and said unto him, and to the men of Israel, We be come from a far country: now therefore make ye a league with us.
And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites—
Peradventure you dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you?
And they said unto Joshua, We are thy servants. And Joshua said unto them, Who are ye? and from whence come ye?
And they said unto him, From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of the Lord thy God—
what deference and reverence—
for we have heard 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 and Heshbon and to Og king of Bashan, which were as the Ashtaroth—
that is, their goddesses.
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 thee 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 unto you; but, now, behold, it is dry and mouldy;
And these bottles of wine, which we filled, were new—
and, behold, they be rent: and these our garments and our shoes are to become old by reason of a very long journey.
And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord.
And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them.
And it came to pass at the end of three days after they had made a league with them, that they heard that they were their neighbors, and that they dwelt among with them.
Wasn’t that a slick trick? Oh, he’s smart. He’s smart. He’s an angel of light, Satan is [2 Corinthians 11:14].
Now I would like, in the time allotted to us this morning, I would like to see if I can present for us a little summary of the land of Canaan. And then we shall follow this particular tribe of Canaanites, the Hivites. It is an unusual thing that the Promised Land took its name from the Philistines, from Philistia. It is called Palestine, from the Philistines. The other name is Canaan. Canaan is from a Hebrew word which means “belonging to the purple.” And it got that name “belonging to the purple,” a designation for all of the land and people of Canaan, means “belonging to the purple.” It got that name because the people who dwelt in Palestine pressed against the shores of the Mediterranean Sea; the people found a mollusk—a shellfish, on the shores of the Mediterranean—called a murex, murex shellfish. And from it, they extracted a very beautiful dye, a rich, red-purple dye. And the people learned to manufacture cloth, and they dyed it in that beautiful, rich purple of the murex fish. So in the trading—and Canaan, as you know, is that ridge of land between the great empire to the south, Egypt, and the great empires to the north and east, Assyria and Babylonia. And the only bridge between those two great ancient civilizations lay through Canaan—so the Canaanites were inveterate and born traders. All the caravans from east to west, from north to south, passed through their land. They traded, they commercialized in this beautiful, purple cloth. So the land came to be called Canaan; that is, “the land of the purple cloth.”
Now in the days of the Hittite empire, Canaan, with its cities and its people; Canaan was a great and strong and prosperous land. But Thutmose, a pharaoh in Egypt who now lies a mummy with the text from the Book of the Dead on his breast—Thutmose went to war with the Hittites. And in the Battle of Megiddo, which is one of the famous decisive battles of that ancient day—in the Battle of Megiddo between Thutmose, the king of Egypt, and the Hittites, Thutmose was victor. And he reduced all the princes and cities and people of Canaan to vassalage.
You can get some idea of the wealth of Canaan from the list of spoils that Thutmose says that he took back to Egypt after he defeated the king of the Hittites. He says that he took back chariots of solid silver with great iron wheels. He took back, he says, tent poles cover with gold. He took back wagons and wagons of round rings made out of silver and gold, which was the money in Canaan. He took back armor wrought in iron and all kinds of copper vessels and pottery, decorated with carnelian and amber—just from a list of the things that Thutmose says he took back from Canaan gives you an idea of the wealth of the land. And then, for the years that followed the victory of Thutmose at Megiddo, all Canaan paid tribute to their absentee masters. And through the years of course, that greatly impoverished Canaan and greatly enriched the coffers of Egypt.
But even at that, the country still had a great resourcefulness and a great amount of prosperity and affluence. The cities, some of them, were mighty. Joshua was going to find out, for example, that the wall around the city of Megiddo was twenty-six feet through. He was going to find in those cities beautiful, ornamented, lavishly-embellished temples after the Babylonian pattern. And he was going to find in the population from its trading with the caravans that came from north to south and east to west, he was going to find a great spoil.
There were three things in Canaan that contributed to the easy conquest of the land. First and foremost, Egypt had impoverished Canaan, as I have just described, with the victory of Thutmose and with the tribute through the years. Then the second thing was the country was divided up into little principalities; and the topography of the land contributed to that. The land is the roughest that you could describe, cut through again and again and across and back and forth with deep valleys and high ridges and hills and mountains. And communication was difficult. So the land naturally fell into the little pockets of civilization around cities and tribal groups.
Then the other thing, of course, that contributed to the downfall of Canaan and the easy conquest by Joshua lay in the debauchery, the unspeakable, indescribable, religious immorality of the worshippers. For they took the fertility of the human race and made of it god and goddess and worshipped it in an indescribable manner. You could not even translate, nor has it ever been translated, the language that describes the orgies of worship in those ancient days; so much so that God said, “It is to be destroyed”; or, as the Book of Leviticus says: “The land itself vomiteth out its inhabitants” [Leviticus 18:25]. No nation can ultimately live in gross iniquity and debauchery. It cannot survive. And Canaan was ripe for conquest.
Now as Joshua leads his armies and as they destroyed Jericho [Joshua 6], then Ai, and Bethel [Joshua 8:9-26], the next thrust was to be toward Gibeah. It lay in the path of the great road from north to south, from Jerusalem to Samaria; modern Nablus, ancient Sychar, between the mountains there at Shechem. And the Gibeonites heard and saw the greatness of the power that lay in Joshua and the children of Israel [Joshua 9:3]. So rather than wait for the conquest of their own cities and the destruction of their own people, why, they worked out a ruse whereby they could preserve themselves alive. And this was it: upon a day after Israel had returned from Shechem and were at peace in the camp at Gilgal—the barley harvest was over; every tent was bursting with the bags full of the golden grain—and before they were lead into their next great thrust by Joshua; while they were there in the camp at Gilgal, word spread through the throng and the host, “there are strangers in the camp.” Not since Israel had crossed over the Jordan River, had there been anybody come to see them. Can you imagine, therefore, the excitement when word was scattered around that visitors from afar had come to see them? And as these visitors walked through the camp asking to be taken to their leader, we can see the throngs of God’s people gather on either side, making a great corridor through which these visitors walked on the way to see Joshua, the leader. Everything about them is strange. And everything about these visitors from afar lends to the air of interest and unusualness.
For example, they speak the language in the land of the Canaanites, and yet they come from afar. Isn’t that strange they all say to one another? And another thing, you would think as traveling men, merchantmen, they would be rich traveling thus. But no, they are ragged and poor and hungry and worn. And they are not spies; they come in broad open daylight, asking to be taken to the leader of the army of God. And when they were presented to Joshua, they spake with such reverence of Jehovah, of such deference before the Lord. And they know all about Egypt and what God has done. They know all about Sihon and Og on the other side of the Jordan River; and they speak with such grace and such deference. They are so amicable and personable and likeable; and they have come on a mission of friendship. “We want to be friends. We have heard of you and how God has blessed you and the favor of heaven upon you. We want to make a league with you, and you to be for us and we will be for you” [Joshua 9:3-13].
Law me, they never dreamed that they had a band of Canaanites in the camp. They never supposed that those Hivites were just right on the other side of the ridge. And there they are, people whom God has said are cursed and to be destroyed, there they are in the camp of the people of God. And Joshua makes a league with them [Joshua 9:14-16]. And the princes of Israel swear that we will be your friends and protect you; and you be our friends and protect us; and the league was made. And the Canaanites and the Israelites are now bosom friends. They are in the same covenant together. They are in the same league together. They belong to the same fraternity. They are fighting for each other, the Canaanites and the Israelites.
Man, man, man, that is the most repeated of all of the developments that I know in the Christian story. As long as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ was pilgrimaging through the years of the ten great Roman persecutions, the saints of God walked in white in this earth. But, after the days of the emperor Constantine, who saw that in the church of Jesus Christ he had an opportunity to make a great ally, Constantine made a league with the saints of God. And the Roman emperor said, “You be friends to me and I will be friends to you.” So the church and the world married. All those nuptials, they were the grandest in the world. And the church and the world became one. They blotted out the difference between a Christian and a pagan. They blotted out the demarcation between truth and falsehood. And the church and the empire became one and the same. A pilgrim came to Rome and visited the Roman prelate, and the Roman prelate showed the pilgrim the wealth of the church—gold and silver and the riches of an empire. And the prelate said, “No longer can it be said of the church, ‘Silver and gold have I none’ [Acts 3:6].” And the poor pilgrim replied, “But, sir, also no longer can the church say, ‘In the name of the Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise and walk’” [Acts 3:6].
Gibeonites are always around, and Gibeonites are always with us, always! I would never hear for our people—if we lived in days of persecution and privation and hardship; if we had to meet clandestinely in the middle of the dead of the night underneath a cellar door, or behind some barricaded entrance, or in some den, or some cave; the saints of God would walk worthy of the Lamb that suffered and died [1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:18-19]. But, oh my soul, when the church and its people and the world and its compromise get together, make a league with us; and you cannot tell the difference between a Christian and a pagan, a materialist. They are all alike. They take the Lord’s Day and do with it just about the same. The materialist and the pagan will go to church on Sunday morning, very respectable. And the Christian will go with the pagan and the materialist, on Sunday night or Sunday afternoon. They are just the same. They look alike. You cannot tell the difference. And the habits of one are the habits of the other. And when Christmas time comes, for example, and we are supposed to celebrate the glorious advent and nativity of our Lord, there the pagan is with his bottle, celebrating Christmas. And there the church member and the Christian doing the same thing.
These Gibeonites, they are smart. They are shrewd. Let us make a league, and you be friends to me and I will be friends to you. And arm in arm, God’s people and the devil will walk along together, liking the same thing, walking in the same way, loving the same things, striving for the same things, living the same kind of a life—couldn’t tell which is which if your life depended upon it.
Well, look at this. Why did they fall into that? Why? This just rings like a death knell in this chapter. The men took not counsel at the mouth of the Lord [Joshua 9:14-15]. They never asked God about that. Why, this is an obvious thing. We ought to be friends with them. This is an undebatable issue. Why, certainly there is nothing wrong in this. These people from afar want to make a league with us; doesn’t know that underneath that lamb’s wool, there is a wolf; beneath that light, there is Satan [2 Corinthians 11:14]. Why, it is just obvious. They never asked counsel of the Lord[Joshua 9:14-15]. You know what God had said to him? Maybe I ought to refresh your mind what God had said:
And the Lord said to Moses…
You speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When you are passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan;
Ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and you shall destroy their pictures and destroy their molten images, and ye shall cut down their high places:
And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land. . . .
And if you do not drive them out . . . they shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.
Moreover it should come to pass, that I shall do unto you, as I thought to do unto them.
That’s what God had said between Israel and the Canaanites. All right, let me show you how it came out. I’ve just read from the last part of the thirty-third chapter of Numbers. Now I am going to read from the second chapter of the Book of Judges, the first chapter:
And the Angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal . . . and said, I said unto you . . .
And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of the land; ye shall throw down their altars: but you have not obeyed My voice . . .
Wherefore also I said . . . they shall be thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.
And it came to pass, when the Angel of the Lord spake these words . . . that Israel lifted up their voice, and wept.
God says, “You are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers” [2 Corinthians 6:14]. There is no fellowship between Belial and Christ [2 Corinthians 2:15]. There is no fellowship between light and darkness. God says a Christian is to live a different life; and they are to be a different kind of a creation; a difference. They asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord [Joshua 9:14]. They never prayed about it. They never asked God about it. Why should we ask counsel at the mouth of the Lord about these things in life? I mean little things. I mean big things. I mean all things. Why should we? I will tell you why. The difference between the wise virgin and the foolish virgin was not very much. The difference between the wheat and the tares was not very much—not to begin with. And the difference between the voice of the hireling and the voice of the shepherd was not very much—not to begin with. And the difference between Satan and an angel of life is not very much—to begin with. They look pretty much alike. It is only as it develops that the great difference is in evidence.
I am just trying to say that a whole lot of things that lead to unspirituality, and a denial of the Christian faith and the Christian life; a great many of those things leave in little old things that you say, “Why, there is not any particular harm in that. There is not any particular difference there. They are just about alike, whether I do this or whether I do that. This foolish virgin looks about like the wise one to me. This hireling’s voice sounds like the shepherd’s voice to me. And this Satan, here in an angel’s light, looks like Michael the archangel to me.”
And it isn’t long until we are following the wrong pattern, and thinking the wrong thoughts, and loving the wrong thing and going in the wrong direction, they didn’t ask counsel the Lord [Joshua 9:14]; ask Him. Ask Him, what about this? What about this? What about this? Should I do this? Should a Christian do this? Do I magnify the Lord doing this? Does this please God? Is this honoring to Thee, O my Savior? Ask Him. And my, my, what things God will whisper in our hearts; what things when we ask counsel at the mouth of the Lord.
I must close. Let me just say this word. They found they had made a mistake. What did they do? Well, they got together, and they said, “We have solemnly promised, and we have sworn by the Lord our God. Let us do this: we will let them live according to our league and our covenant, but they are to be hewers of wood and drawers of water unto the house of our Lord” [Joshua 9:19-27]. So all the rest of the story of the Gibeonites, the Gibeonites are cutting wood for the altar of God, and they are drawing water for the labor and the oblations of the Lord. They made them servants of the household of the faith. Now, just this little application to our hearts; what do I do when I make a mistake? What do I do when I fall into the wiles of the devil? What do I do when I find that I’ve been tricked, that I have been led into places I should not go, and into ways I should not follow, and into habits that I ought to break? What do I do? What do I do? Well, this is what you do. See the mistake and make it serve you, not rule you. When you see the mistake, make it an occasion to be truer and finer and better in the household of faith and in the work of the Lord.
Why, I don’t exaggerate at all when I tell you, you who have been in places and in ways of this world, who have seen the mistake of it and have come out of it and are close to God in following the Lord, there is a wonderful ableness in you to help other people for one thing. Take a child, “Fellow, I have been down that road. It is no good, son. It is no good—break your heart, ruin your life, dark in every vision of your soul, son. I have been down that road. It is no good.” Oh, and how many ways can the mistakes that we have made be used to serve God—make of us finer, devoted servants, more sympathetic to others who fall and get into error and follow the wiles of the angel of light, Satan [2 Corinthians 11:14]—and then to encourage them, encourage them. I know. I understand. I got fooled. I went down the wrong road. I made that leap one time. I know it leads to hurt and heartache and disaster.
Now, we must close. And as we sing our song, somebody this morning to give his heart to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13]; somebody this morning to put his life with us in the fellowship of the church [Hebrews 10:24-25]; a family you, or one somebody you; while we sing this hymn, on the first note of the first stanza, would you come and stand by me; while all of us stand and sing?
THE WILES OF THE GIBEONITES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Israel returned from Shechem to Gilgal
1. Once part of the
great Hittite empire
2. Egypt conquered
Canaan, Canaan paid tribute to Egypt
Three things attributed to easy conquest by Israel
2. Divided into
principalities, poor topography
3. Sin and evil
1. Heard and saw
2. Feared their own
3. Plan to fool
4. Israel fooled,
Gibeonites not destroyed as God intended
became paid servants of Israel
Church makes similar bad agreements