One of the royal cities of the Hivites (Joshua 9:7). It was a greater city than Ai; and its inhabitants were reputed mighty men (Joshua 10:2). It fell within the territory allotted to Benjamin (Joshua 18:25), and was one of the cities given to the Levites (Joshua 21:17).
1. The Gibeonites:
By a stratagem the Gibeonites secured for themselves and their allies in Chephirah, Beeroth and Kirjath-jearim immunity from attack by the Israelites. Terrified by the fate of Jericho and Ai, a company disguised as ambassadors from a far country, their garments and shoes worn, and their provisions moldy as from the length of their journey, went to Joshua at Gilgal, and persuaded him and the princes of Israel to make a covenant with them. Three days later the deception was discovered and the wrath of the congregation of Israel aroused. In virtue of the covenant their lives were secured; but for their duplicity Joshua cursed them, and condemned them to be bondsmen, "hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God" (Joshua 9:23), "for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord" (Joshua 9:27 the King James Version). This points to their employment in the sanctuary; and possibly may shed some light on the massacre of the Gibeonites by Saul (2 Samuel 21:1). The rest of the Canaanites resented the defection of the Hivites which so greatly weakened the forces for defense, and, headed by Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem, they assembled to wreak vengeance on Gibeon. The threatened city appealed to Joshua, who made a swift night march, fell suddenly upon the confederates, routed them, and "chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah" (Joshua 10:1).
A three years' famine in the days of David was attributed to God's anger at the unexpiated crime of Saul in slaying the Gibeonites. He did this "in his zeal for .... Israel and Judah," who may have fretted at the inconvenience of having the Gibeonites among them. The latter believed that Saul's desire was to destroy them utterly. When David tried to arrange matters with them they stood upon their ancient rights, claiming life for life. They would take no rights blood money:
they demanded blood from the family of the slayer of their people. This demand David could not resist, and handed over to them seven sons of Saul (2 Samuel 21:1).
2. The Champions:
The army of Ishbosheth under Abner, and that of David under Joab, met at the pool of Gibeon. An attempt to settle the quarrel, by means of 12 champions on either side, failed, as each man slew his fellow, and the 24 perished side by side. A "sore battle" ensued in which Abner was beaten; he was pursued by the fleet-footed Asahel, brother of Joab, whom he slew.
Possibly we should read "Gibeon" instead of "Geba" in 2 Samuel 5:25, as in the parallel passage, 1 Chronicles 14:16 (HDB, under the word) From Baal-perazim David was to make a circuit and fall upon the Philistines who were encamped in the plan of Rephaim West of Jerusalem. Perhaps, however, we should read "Gibeah" in both places. Cheyne (EB, under the word) thinks the hill town of Baal-perazim may be intended.
3. Murder of Amasa:
When, after the death of Absalom and the suppression of his rebellion, Bichri raised the standard of revolt, Amasa was sent to call out the men of Judah against him. Tarrying longer than the time appointed, there was danger lest Bichri might have opportunity to strengthen his position; so David dispatched Abishai and the troops that were with him to attack Bichri at once. Joab went with this expedition. Obviously he could never be content with a second place. The force of Amasa was met at "the great stone of Gibeon." There Joab treacherously slew that unsuspecting general, and, himself assuming command, stamped out the rebellion with his accustomed thoroughness (2 Samuel 20:4). "The great stone" appears to have been well known, and may have possessed some religious character.
4. The Sanctuary:
Gibeon was the seat of an ancient sanctuary, called in 1 Kings 3:4 "the great high place." Here, according to 2 Chronicles 1:3, was the tabernacle made in the wilderness--but see 1 Kings 8:4. It was the scene of Solomon's great sacrifice after which he slept in the sanctuary and dreamed his famous dream (1 Kings 3:4; 9:2; 2 Chronicles 1:3,13, etc.).
By "the great waters that are in Gibeon" Johanan overtook Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and freed the captives he had taken from Mizpah (Jeremiah 41:11). Among those who returned with Zerubbabel were 95 "children of Gibeon" (Nehemiah 7:25; compare Nehemiah 3:7). At Gibeon Cestius Gallus ancamped when marching against Jerusalem from Antipatris (BJ, II, xix, 1).
5. Identification and Description:
The ancient city is represented by the modern village el-Jib. It is fully 5 miles Northwest of Jerusalem, and about a mile North of Neby Samwil on a double knoll, with terraced slopes, but rocky and precipitous to the East. The village stands amid striking remains of antiquity. About a hundred paces from the village to the East is a large reservoir with a spring. Lower down, among the olives, are the remains of another and larger reservoir, which collected the overflow from the first. This is probably the "pool" of 2 Samuel 2:13, and "the great waters" of Jeremiah 41:12. El-Jib stands in the midst of a rich upland plain not far South of the great pass which goes down by way of the Beth-horons into the vale of Aijalon.
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