“And it came to pass, when all the kings which were on this side Jordan, in the hills, and in the valleys, and in all the coasts of the great sea over against Lebanon, the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, heard thereof; That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord.” (Joshua 9:1-2)
Even before Israel crossed Jordan, the peoples of the land of Canaan were convinced God would give Israel victory over them. After seeing how easily they crossed Jordan, and defeated Jericho and Ai, they were convinced no single city or local area could stand against them and began to form alliances even among traditional enemies to withstand God‘s power.
“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, and took old sacks upon their asses, 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.
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.” (Joshua 9:3-6)
Gibeon was a Hivite city only a few miles southwest of Ai and Bethel, and they had heard all the same reports the other groups had heard. Like Rahab, they concluded that God would be more powerful than any army the others could raise, so they took a different approach. Dressing in badly worn clothing and shoes and taking stale, moldy and rancid food supplies to give the impression of people who had spent much time traveling. Claiming to be from a distant country, they asked for a treaty between themselves and Israel.
“And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, Peradventure ye 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: 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 king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, which was at Ashtaroth.
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 ye 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 it is mouldy: And these bottles of wine, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they be rent: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey.” (Joshua 9:8-13)
Suspicious, the Israelite leaders questioned the men of Gibeon at length. They responded that they were from a very distant country and that the food and clothing had been fresh and new when they started. Further they stated that they had heard about how God was blessing Israel even in that far off land and their leaders were offering to be Israels servants if they would just make a treaty.
“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.” (Joshua 9:14-15)
During the depression, people learned to distinguish between professional beggars and people who were really down on their luck by the shoes they wore. Professional beggars would get comfortable shoes, while those who were really struggling couldn’t afford them. While it wasn’t always accurate, it gave at least an indication whether their story was true. Joshua and the leaders of Israel samples the food and examined the clothing, shoes and packs. Seeing nothing indicated otherwise, they concluded the people’s calaim was true. Trusting their own judgment, they didn’t bother to consult the Lord, making a treaty, agreeing not to kill their people.
In Deuteronomy 20:10-11, God had commanded, “When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee.” Believing that the Gibeonites were from a far country, Israel’s leaders didn’t hesitate to make the treaty.
God had warned them not make any treaties with the local people in Deuteronomy 20:16-18. “But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee: That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God.”
Groups that did not have regular contact would have far less effect on their attitudes and actions than those with whom they had daily contact. It is the principle described in II Corinthians 6:14-18. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
It is not our business to destroy those who disagree with us, but is our responsibility to keep ourselves from getting caught up in sin. Avoiding too close association with those of different beliefs and standards minimizes the risk. While the principle is most often applied to marriage, often in contradiction to other scripture, it has far broader scope. Even though we share the same opinions about homosexuality or abortion as other religious groups, we should not affiliate ourselves with them in our opposition, implying that our beliefs are the same. We can work for the same goal independently. God does not depend on the size of our organization to accomplish his purpose.