Tricked!By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
When the people of Gibeon heard about what happened in Jericho and Ai, they got scared. They decided to use subterfuge to seal a pact with Joshua. They dressed up in worn out clothes and took old, dried out supplies so that they would look as if they had just come from a long journey. They told Joshua that they represented a kingdom far away and that they wished to forge a covenant. Joshua was suspicious that they might actually be a Canaanite people, but they showed him the dried bread and the cracked wineskins, as well as their worn out clothes and shoes. Joshua therefore agreed to the treaty with the Givonim (Gibeonites).
Three days later, the Jews discovered that they had been tricked. A party of Israelites traveled to the surprisingly close Gibeonite cities. The people complained, but the leaders insisted that the deal be kept despite the deception. The Gibeonites had sworn themselves as servants to Israel, so they became wood choppers and water carriers for the nation. Joshua cursed them that that’s all they would ever be. The Nesinim of the Talmud are descended from the Gibeonites.
A word about conquest: the Canaanite nations had three choices during Israel’s invasion. They could evacuate the land in peace, they could agree to accept Israel’s rule (including observing the Seven Universal Laws for all mankind), or they could fight. The Gibeonites effectively chose “none of the above.”