The Devil in Disguise

Joshua 9

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
October 2019

One of Satan’s greatest ministries today is deception.  He is a master deceiver.  He is good at it.  He specializes in deception.  He is a master of deceit.  He can take a total lie and make it sound very appealing and people believe it. Jesus called him “the father of lies.”

The Bible says that Satan deceives nations (Revelation 12:9).  Satan deceives word religions.  Entire religions are based on deception.  Can he deceive churches?   I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. (Revelation 3:9 NIV).

There was a synagogue of Satan in Revelation.  Are there any churches of Satan?  Are there people today who claim to be Christians but are not?  The Apostle Paul said that he has his own ministers who transform themselves into ministers of righteousness.  He transforms himself into an angel of light (II Corinthians 11:13-15).

Can he deceive God’s people?  Yes.  Satan deceived Ananias and Sapphira.  They were two members of the church of Jerusalem.  They had been baptized.   They were Spirit-filled and were well-respected members of the church and yet Peter said to them, “Why has Satan filled your heart that you lied to the Holy Spirit?” (Acts 5:3)

Today, we come to another example of God’s people being deceived in Joshua 9.  It is a favorite SS story for children about how the Canaanites play a trick on the Israelites.  The Gibeonites deceive them.  They lie to them.  They trick them and that trick actually saves their lives.  They were supposed to be killed but their lie saves their lives.  It was a clever trick.

The Jews were actually tricked into disobedience.  They saved the lives of some people that they were supposed to kill.  They made peace with people they were supposed to go to war with.  That was exactly how Eve sinned.  She was tricked into disobedience.  That was how the first sin took place.  It still happens today.  Have you ever been tricked into sin?

This chapter shows that it is very easy to be deceived.  Some of us may have been tricked.  We may have been scammed or ripped off by some con artist. It raises this question: Could we be deceived?  God does not want us to be deceived.  The Bible tells Christians, “do not be deceived.”  Let’s read a few of them.

DO NOT BE DECEIVED: “Bad company ruins good morals.” (I Corinthians 15:34 ESV)

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? DO NOT BE DECEIVED: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (I Corinthians 6:9-10 NIV)

DO NOT BE DECEIVED: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.  (Galatians 6:7-10 NIV)

Let’s take a look at this chapter.  Let’s look at this deception.  Who were the Gibeonites?  Why did the Gibeonites do what they did? How was Joshua deceived by them?  What can we learn from it?

Who were the Gibeonites?

What do we know about them?  The Gibeonites were a group of Canaanites called Hivites (Joshua 9:7).  The Hivites had four cities, according to Joshua 9:17.  Those cities were Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath Jearim.  They lived in the territory of Benjamin.  Their city was about twenty miles from Gigal, not a far country.  The Book of Joshua says that they were mighty warriors (Joshua 10:2).   They were good fighters.  We also know from Deuteronomy that they worshipped idols.

The Hivites were one of the cities that were under the judgment of God. They were under judgment for sin.  God actually gave them hundreds of years to repent.  He did not have to give them that time but He did.  They did not repent and now judgment is coming.   This was not just a conquest but an execution.

When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, HIVITES and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— 2 and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you MUST destroy them TOTALLY.

Make NO TREATY with them, and show them NO MERCY. 3 Do NOT intermarry with them. Do NOT give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4 for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.\

5 This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. 6 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. (Deuteronomy 7:1-6 NIV)

God’s instructions were clear.  He tells the Jews exactly what they were to do to the seven nations living in the land of Canaan. They were not to make a covenant with them.  They were not to intermarry with them.  The demon-inspired Canaanites were to be utterly destroyed.  They were to be treated without mercy

There was one group of people they could make a covenant with.  Deuteronomy 20 says that they could make a covenant with people outside the land of Canaan.  OUTSIDE the land they could make peace treaties.  INSIDE the land, there were to be NO peace treaties. They were to kill them.

Rahab and the Gibeonites

1) Both were pagans

Both were Canaanites.  The both came from a background of idolatry.  they were religious but they were idol-worshipers and they were immoral.

2) Both heard about the power of God

They heard about what happened at Jericho and Ai (Joshua 10:3).  they heard what happened to King Sihon and King Og (Joshua 10:9-10).  They heard reports of what God did supernaturally.  It was all common knowledge.  Rahab heard about this as well.  They both heard about some incredible miracles.

3) Both were completely terrified

We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in FEAR and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. (Joshua 2:10-11 NIV)

Joshua confronted the Gibeonites and asked them why they deceived him.  They answered Joshua, “Your servants were clearly told how the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you the whole land and to wipe out all its inhabitants from before you. So WE FEARED FOR OUR LIVES because of you, and that is why we did this. (Joshua 9:24)

The Israelites already conquered Jericho.  They conquered Ai.  The Gibeonites knew that they were on the hit list in Deuteronomy 7.  Jericho fell.  Ai fell and they knew that they were next on the list.  They were next in line for destruction. They knew that they could not beat them.  They won every battle.  If they fought them, they would lose and they were terrified

4) Both were allowed to live

Both were saved when they were supposed to be destroyed. Rahab and her family survived when everyone else died and Joshua said to the Gibeonites, “Let them live” (Joshua 9:21).  So Joshua saved them from the Israelites, and they did not kill them. (Joshua 9:26 NIV). Both took an oath that they would be preserved.

5) Both accepted the outcome

They accepted their fate.  Rahab also said, “Let it be as you say” (Joshua 2:21 NIV).  Joshua told the Gibeonites that because of what they did, they would be servants.  Joshua said, “You are now under a curse: You will never be released from service as woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God.” (Joshua 9:23 NIV).  They would be wood cutters and drawers of water.  They did not complain or argue with him.

Notice their response.  They answered Joshua, “Your servants were clearly told how the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you the whole land and to wipe out all its inhabitants from before you. So we feared for our lives because of you, and that is why we did this. 25 We are now in your hands. Do to us whatever seems good and right to you.” (Joshua 9:24-25 NIV).

It is better to be a slave than to be dead.  Anything is better than complete annihilation.  They end up providing for the needs of the altar of the Lord (Joshua 9:27). Eventually, they held an honored place in the temple ministry (I Chronicles 9:2; Ezra 8:20; Nehemiah 7:60).  They were a special group of people that worked in the Temple.  They cut wood to keep the fire burning in the altar.  It was to be always burning.  God actually brought good out of evil.

6) Both used deception

Both used deception but there is a huge difference between them. Rahab used deception on her own people.  The Gibeonites used deception on God’s people.  Rahab used deception on her own people.  The Gibeonites used deception on God’s people. Rahab was completely open and honest to the spies.  The Gibeonites were dishonest to the Israelites.  They lied to their face.

Two Canaanite Responses

In Joshua 9, we see the reaction of the other kings in Canaan.  There were two reactions.  We will see later that these are two reactions that Satan always has to the people of God.  The first reaction was to fight them.  If one nation cannot defeat them, then they will join forces with many other nations and fight them militarily.

Now when all the kings west of the Jordan heard about these things—the kings in the hill country, in the western foothills, and along the entire coast of the Mediterranean Sea as far as Lebanon (the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites)— 2 they came together to wage war against Joshua and Israel.

The Canaanites formed a military alliance to defeat the Israelites.  Six kings come together with their six armies, because there is strength in numbers.  The plan was for Canaanite kings to join together to fight a common enemy It is hard enough to defeat two kings.  It is even harder to defeat six but there was another approach.  It was the approach of the Gibeonites.

The Gibeonites did not try to fight the Israelites militarily, even though they were great warriors.  Why?  The heard about what the Israelites had done.  They knew that God was with them.  It is hard to deny it when you look at the walls of Jericho.  They knew that they would not stand a chance against them, even if they combined forces with other Canaanites.

The Gibeonite Plan

The Gibeonites were not very moral.  They were not very honest but they were very smart.  They come up with a clever plan.  They could not beat the Israelites and they could not make peace with them because they lived within the Promise Land, so they pretended to live outside the Promise Land.  They not only knew about Deuteronomy 7 but somehow they must have heard about Deuteronomy 20. They studied their enemy.

This plan was creative.  It was original.  It was brilliant.  If you cannot outfight your enemy, you outsmart them. They were good actors.  They were convincing.  They were persuasive.

What is interesting is that about five hundred years earlier the Israelites deceived the Gibeonites.  Genesis records a story about Jacob’s daughter Dinah.  This story took place about four thousand years ago.  She went to a pagan town alone.  It was a wicked town.  She was young and a little naïve.  While she is there, she is kidnapped and raped.

Who raped her?  She was raped by a man named Shechem.  Who was Shechem?  He was the son of Hamor the Hivite (Genesis 34:2).  Hamor was not just anyone.  He was the ruler.  He was like the king of that area.  Hivites were alive during the time of the Patriarch Jacob.  This Hivite was not like the Hivites in Joshua’s day.  They were smart.  This Hivite was not too smart.  He rapes a woman who has twelve brothers.

After he rapes her, he falls in love with her and decides that he wants to marry her.  He never apologizes for what he has done.  His dad talks to Jacob and is wiling to pay any price.  Her brothers say that you can marry here only if everyone in the city gets circumcised, because we cannot let her marry someone who is uncircumcised and no other Hivite can either.

They agreed with the plan and convinced all of the other males to get circumcised.  Three days later, Levi and Simeon in a fit of rage went and killed them all (Genesis 34:15), when they were still recovering from their surgery.  They attacked them when they were still in pain (Genesis 34:25) and too weak to fight back.

They not only kill them but take their wives and kids (Genesis 34:27-29).  It was overkill.  One person rapes someone so you wipe out the whole town.  Now, hundreds of years later, the Hivites are tricking the Israelites but they are not do it to hurt them but to save their own lives.

How We are Deceived

Let’s look at how this applies to us.  Like in Joshua 9, Satan uses many different tactics.  One tactic is to appear as a lion.  I Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (NIV).  Satan acts like a hungry lion who attacks, persecutes and kills God’s people.  He fights God’s people and uses brute force.  Lions are terrifying creatures.  They are predators.  They are killing machines.

The other way he appears in serpent, not the repulsive snake we see today but as a beautiful animal in the garden.  He did that to trick Eve.  This tactic is to NOT be your enemy but to try to be your friend.  The goal is peace, not war.

The Gibeonites came seeking a peace treaty.  They played on people’s emotions (moldy bread, cracked wineskins, worn-out shoes and old clothes).  They played on people’s sympathies and got you to feel sorry for them.

We think it is much worse to face a hungry lion, but it is much more dangerous when he appears as a serpent.  When he comes as a serpent, he attacks when our guard is down and when we do not expect it.

What did the Israelites do that was wrong?  Why were they do easily duped?  Why were they deceived?  What did they do wrong?  How are we deceived?  We are deceived when we do two things, the same two things that Joshua did here.

1) We are deceived when we judge based on appearances

Stop judging by outward appearances, and start judging justly. (John 7:24 BSB).  The Israelites judged based on appearances (the moldy bread, the cracked wineskins, the worn-out clothes).  We do the same thing the Israelites did all the time.

We make judgments about people based on how they look.  When we see people with lots of tattoos, ugly ear rings, and green hair, we sometimes make assumptions about them. We make judgments all of the time based on their income level.  Some people judge people based on the color of their skin.  We judge based on appearances.  We do it around election time.  Certain people just do not look presidential.

When God said that he was going to give them a new king in the OT and people looked around for one, He specifically said, “Don’t judge based on how the person looks. Don’t judge based on appearances or how tall he is.”  Then we are told, “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7 NIV)

Sometimes we make decisions based on appearances. How many young people think the most important thing to look for in a mate is physical beauty?  That is what they look for.  That is what they think is important and go after.  They make a decision just based on outward appearances.  Do we judge based on appearances?

2) We are deceived when we do not pray

Joshua made a decision without praying about it.  The Israelites sampled their provisions but did NOT inquire of the Lord (Joshua 9:14).  He probably thought that he didn’t need to pray about it because they could see it and it was obvious.  The evidence seemed to be right in front of them.  All he had to do was look at the moldy bread and  cracked wineskins.  Do we inquire of the Lord about things?

The Integrity Test

The Israelites did sin.  They were tricked into sin but, after they sinned, they did something amazing.  Joshua keeps his word.  He made a promise to the Gibeonites. He made an oath by the Lord and even though it was a bad oath, he kept it.  Are you a person of real integrity?  This is the test of true integrity.

If anyone had the right to get out of this oath, it would have been Joshua.  He could have argued that it was not a legal oath.  It was an oath based on deception and lies.  It was all based on a fraud and should not count but Joshua does not say that.  He could have said that the command of God said that the Hivites were to be killed and that command takes precedent over the agreement we made.  He does not do that.

We can learn a lot here from Joshua’s integrity.  Joshua sinned once but he did not want to sin twice.  He knew that two wrongs do not make a right.  He said, “We will let them live, so that God’s wrath will not fall on us for breaking the oath we swore to them” (Joshua 10:20 NIV).  We can learn from what Joshua did when he sinned.  We do not do this today many times.  Many people get married, think they have made a mistake and get a divorce.

There are biblical grounds for divorced but most people who get divorced do not have biblical grounds.  They made a promise, a vow before God when they got married but they married a moron and now want to get out of it and often do.  How common is that?  We need to be people of integrity, like Joshua.

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? 2 The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous,who speaks the truth from their heart; 3 whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others; 4 who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the Lord; who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; (Psalm 15:1-4 NIV)

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