As verse one says “the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, heard of this, they gathered together as one to fight against Joshua and Israel.” The word “this” refers to the complete destruction of Ai. Word of Jericho’s fall would have already reached them; and as verses 9-10 tell us, all had already heard of the defeat of King Sihon of Heshbon (Num 21:21-26) and Og of Basham (Num 21:31-35). Indeed, they had been given more than 40 years to dread the Israelites, as verse 9 also acknowledges all that God did for them in Egypt. But the Gibeonites had a different strategy.
The Lord warned that leaving Canaanites to dwell among the people would be a mistake, and specifically commanded them to make no covenant with any of them. They were commanded not to do this more than once, as in Deuteronomy 7:1-5, where they are told that the Canaanites “would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods.” Once again, Joshua failed to consult with God when he made the covenant with the Gibeonites. Their deception (verses 4-6) was well planned and convincing, however, and Joshua and the elders believed they truly were from another land far away. They would spend the rest of their days serving the Israelites, but the damage was done, and the vow would not be rescinded. The Gibeonite cities of Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim were not attacked.
(Side note: The city of Gibeon was positively identified with el-Jib by archaeologist James Pritchard for the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, whose excavations found numerous inscribed jar handles there over 50 years ago. More information on that, as well as a recent discovery there can be found in this article at Ferrell’s Travel Blog)
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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