All the kings west of the Jordan in the hills and foothills and along the Mediterranean seacoast north toward Lebanon - the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, Girgashites, and Jebusites - got the news.
They came together in a coalition to fight against Joshua and Israel under a single command.
The people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai
and cooked up a ruse. They posed as travelers: their donkeys loaded with patched sacks and mended wineskins,
threadbare sandals on their feet, tattered clothes on their bodies, nothing but dry crusts and crumbs for food.
They came to Joshua at Gilgal and spoke to the men of Israel, "We've come from a far-off country; make a covenant with us."
The men of Israel said to these Hivites, "How do we know you aren't local people? How could we then make a covenant with you?"
They said to Joshua, "We'll be your servants." Joshua said, "Who are you now? Where did you come from?"
They said, "From a far-off country, very far away. Your servants came because we'd heard such great things about God, your God - all those things he did in Egypt!
And the two Amorite kings across the Jordan, King Sihon of Heshbon and King Og of Bashan, who ruled in Ashtaroth!
Our leaders and everybody else in our country told us, 'Pack up some food for the road and go meet them. Tell them, We're your servants; make a covenant with us.'
"This bread was warm from the oven when we packed it and left to come and see you. Now look at it - crusts and crumbs.
And our cracked and mended wineskins, good as new when we filled them. And our clothes and sandals, in tatters from the long, hard traveling."
The men of Israel looked them over and accepted the evidence. But they didn't ask God about it.
So Joshua made peace with them and formalized it with a covenant to guarantee their lives. The leaders of the congregation swore to it.
And then, three days after making this covenant, they learned that they were next-door neighbors who had been living there all along!
The People of Israel broke camp and set out; three days later they reached their towns - Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath Jearim.
But the People of Israel didn't attack them; the leaders of the congregation had given their word before the God of Israel. But the congregation was up in arms over their leaders.
The leaders were united in their response to the congregation: "We promised them in the presence of the God of Israel. We can't lay a hand on them now.
But we can do this: We will let them live so we don't get blamed for breaking our promise."
Then the leaders continued, "We'll let them live, but they will be woodcutters and water carriers for the entire congregation." And that's what happened; the leaders' promise was kept.
But Joshua called the Gibeonites together and said, "Why did you lie to us, telling us, 'We live far, far away from you,' when you're our next-door neighbors?
For that you are cursed. From now on it's menial labor for you - woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God."
They answered Joshua, "We got the message loud and clear that God, your God, commanded through his servant Moses: to give you the whole country and destroy everyone living in it. We were terrified because of you; that's why we did this.
That's it. We're at your mercy. Whatever you decide is right for us, do it."
And that's what they did. Joshua delivered them from the power of the People of Israel so they didn't kill them.
But he made them woodcutters and water carriers for the congregation and for the Altar of God at the place God chooses. They still are.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)