Joshua 9:1ff—Why did Israel honor their contract with the Gibeonites once they discovered they had been deceived?

Problem: Joshua 9 records how the Gibeonites deceived Israel into thinking that they were not actually people from the land which God had commanded Israel to destroy, but were from a far country. Thus, Joshua and all Israel entered into a contract not to destroy them. However, when they discovered that the Gibeonites had deceived them and were actually people whom God had commanded Israel to destroy, why did Israel not ignore this contract and exterminate the Gibeonites as God had originally commanded?

Solution: Perhaps under different circumstances the contract which Joshua and Israel had made would have been nullified by the discovery of fraud. However, this contract had been entered into on the basis of a solemn oath sworn in the name of the Lord God of Israel (v. 18). This unfortunate situation befell Israel because “they did not ask counsel of the Lord” (v. 14). Because they had bound themselves by their oath in the name of the Lord, they could not break the covenant they had made with the Gibeonites. Although the Gibeonites did become the servants of the people of Israel, they were also a constant source of trouble throughout Israel’s history.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.