So a group of people approach Israel looking ragged and worn out, begging for a covenant of protection. Without consulting God, Israel agrees, and Joshua makes peace with them.
There’s a couple things here: Joshua makes a covenant in the name of the Lord without consulting him first, the act of deception does not nullify the covenant, and the motivation for the deception was fear of God.
Gotta say, failure to consult God is a pretty big deal. I mean, they’re in that land not just because it’s been promised but also to deliver judgment on the inhabitants. So why doesn’t God seem that upset about it? Typically, this kind of error results in some sort of calling out at least. Aside from a pretty stark record of this lapse, Joshua doesn’t even get a scolding.
And part of me is sitting here stuck on the idea that the conditions of an oath really should effect the legitamacy of the oath, right? I mean, on one hand, yeah, you swore on the name of the Lord that you would protect them, but they aren’t who they said their were, so they aren’t really who you swore you’d protect, right?
But okay, I get it. God wants to make the point to the world that an oath in his name is binding. That’s about as big of a deal as we can enter into.
I’m also wondering, though, whether this would have worked out for other motives. Think about it. These people are surrendering. They are offering themselves as servants, submitting to the authority of the Israelites because they fear their God. They are recognizing the might and authority of God.
I’m not necessarily suggesting that God would have been willing to negate the oath for another motivation. I suppose I’m more suggesting that the Gibeonites wouldn’t have been content accepting the terms of their own surrender. Maybe I’m just wondering if the whole thing would have fallen apart one way or another.
I don’t think deception is the appropriate way to surrender to God, but they didn’t know any other way. They didn’t know God. They had no reason to believe he would be merciful. How many have found their way to an altar through fear? I wonder, in the years that followed, how did this people develop? How were they affected by their position within Israel?