CLAIM: The Gibeonites had heard about how Israel was taking down each and every one of their cities (Josh. 9:3). They banned together and deceived the Israelites by pretending that they had come from a “far country” (Josh. 9:9) –even though Gibeon is only about a day’s journey away. However, after finding out that they were enemies (Josh. 9:16), the Jews did not attack them (Josh. 9:18). Why would they honor an oath with these deceivers that became such a problem down the road in their history (see 2 Sam. 21:1ff)?
RESPONSE: When we make contracts, we need official legal contracts, signatures, and notaries, because we know that our word doesn’t mean anything. Perhaps, in God’s economy, truth matters more. Keeping our word means more. The problem with this story is not the fact that Joshua kept his word. In fact, this is a virtue. Instead, the problem here is the fact that we should consider God before we make promises (Josh. 9:14). Like entering into marriage, we should be cautious before we make commitments that we cannot carry out. The OT is filled with many foolish vows that should have never been made in the first place (Judg. 11:29ff; 21:5; 1 Sam. 14:24).