Now all the kings west of the Jordan heard about what had happened. (These were the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, who lived in the hill country, in the western foothills, a and along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea b as far north as the Lebanon mountains.)
These kings quickly combined their armies to fight against Joshua and the Israelites.
But when the people of Gibeon heard what had happened to Jericho and Ai,
they resorted to deception to save themselves. They sent ambassadors to Joshua, loading their donkeys with weathered saddlebags and old patched wineskins.
They put on ragged clothes and worn-out, patched sandals. And they took along dry, moldy bread for provisions.
When they arrived at the camp of Israel at Gilgal, they told Joshua and the men of Israel, "We have come from a distant land to ask you to make a peace treaty with us."
The Israelites replied to these Hivites, "How do we know you don't live nearby? For if you do, we cannot make a treaty with you."
They replied, "We will be your servants." "But who are you?" Joshua demanded. "Where do you come from?"
They answered, "We are from a very distant country. We have heard of the might of the LORD your God and of all he did in Egypt.
We have also heard what he did to the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River -- King Sihon of Heshbon and King Og of Bashan (who lived in Ashtaroth).
So our leaders and our people instructed us, 'Prepare for a long journey. Go meet with the people of Israel and declare our people to be their servants, and ask for peace.'
"This bread was hot from the ovens when we left. But now, as you can see, it is dry and moldy.
These wineskins were new when we filled them, but now they are old and cracked. And our clothing and sandals are worn out from our long, hard trip."
So the Israelite leaders examined their bread, but they did not consult the LORD.
Then Joshua went ahead and signed a peace treaty with them, and the leaders of Israel ratified their agreement with a binding oath.
Three days later, the facts came out -- these people of Gibeon lived nearby!
The Israelites set out at once to investigate and reached their towns in three days. The names of these towns were Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim.
But the Israelites did not attack the towns, for their leaders had made a vow to the LORD, the God of Israel.The people of Israel grumbled against their leaders because of the treaty.
But the leaders replied, "We have sworn an oath in the presence of the LORD, the God of Israel. We cannot touch them.
We must let them live, for God would be angry with us if we broke our oath.
Let them live. But we will make them chop the wood and carry the water for the entire community." So the Israelites kept their promise to the Gibeonites.
But Joshua called together the Gibeonite leaders and said, "Why did you lie to us? Why did you say that you live in a distant land when you live right here among us?
May you be cursed! From now on you will chop wood and carry water for the house of my God."
They replied, "We did it because we were told that the LORD your God instructed his servant Moses to conquer this entire land and destroy all the people living in it. So we feared for our lives because of you. That is why we have done it.
Now we are at your mercy -- do whatever you think is right."
Joshua did not allow the people of Israel to kill them.
But that day he made the Gibeonites the woodchoppers and water carriers for the people of Israel and for the altar of the LORD -- wherever the LORD would choose to build it. That arrangement continues to this day.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)