The Gibeonite Trick

Scripture Reference: Joshua 9:1-10:15

Story Overview: God was keeping His promise that the land would belong to His people. People in the land began to fear Israel because the Lord was helping them win all of their battles. The people in the town of Gibeon knew the army was close and were afraid that Israel would attack them, so they played a trick. They made themselves appear to have travelled a long way. They asked Joshua to make a treaty with them and promise to protect them. Joshua did not ask the Lord’s advice but simply agreed to the treaty. When the Israelites later heard that the Gibeonites were neighbours they knew they had been tricked. Even so, they knew they had to honour the treaty. When enemies attacked Gibeon, Joshua took his army and protected Gibeon. The battle lasted a long time because the Lord caused the sun to stand still. Joshua should have inquired of the Lord in the first place.

Suggested Emphasis: We should ask God to help us make wise decisions.

Memory Verse: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, Who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

Background Study
Way to Introduce the Story
The Story
Review Questions
Craft and Activity Ideas
Online Resources

Background Study:
The Amorites lived in the hill country of the Promised Land and had a king over each major city and the area surrounding it. Israel had split the land into two sections and gained control of a large portion of central Canaan by conquering Jericho and Ai. What God had done for the Israelites made everyone in Canaan fearful. They had heard that God told Moses to conquer everyone in the land. So some joined forces to fight against Israel (Joshua 9:1-2). But the Gibeonites decided to trick Israel into making a treaty with them.

A Gibeonite delegation tried to make Israel think they had come on a journey of hundreds of miles. In reality, Gibeon was probably not more than twenty miles away from the Israelite camp at Gilgal. The ruse was elaborate, even down to carrying dry, mouldy bread. And it worked.

The key factor, and a sad one, is found in Joshua 9:14. The leaders looked at the evidence and trusted their own judgment—without asking the Lord what to do. The treaty the Gibeonites requested offered that they be servants of the Israelites (9:11). Perhaps they were aware of the Israelite law concerning peace treaties (Deuteronomy 20:10-11). They knew that Israel, with God’s help, could wipe them out, and they preferred slavery to death.

The result of Israel’s hasty decision was that they couldn’t fulfil God’s command concerning all the inhabitants of the land. When we fail to seek God’s guidance, we can end up making bad decisions, just as Israel did. But when we seek him and study his word, we can be thankful that he guides us every step of the way.

Gibeon was now a traitor in the eyes of its neighbours. Now it would be easier for Israel to attack them. The neighbouring kings were very angry with Gibeon and had to try to stop this treaty from working. So Adoni-Zedik, king of Jerusalem, brought together all the Amorite kings in the southern area and attacked the Gibeonites, who called on Israel for help.

This time Joshua must have inquired of the Lord because the Lord directs the Israelites in battle (Joshua 10:8). The Amorite alliance was powerless against Israel’s powerful God.

Because of an all night march, Israel took the enemy by surprise (10:9). This and the hailstorm that the Lord provided caused mass confusion among the enemy and gave Joshua the advantage.

The Lord answered Joshua’s request and caused the sun to stand still. This long day, aided by a hailstorm (10:11), would have added to the confusion of Joshua’s surprise attack. We don’t know exactly what happened when the sun stood still in the sky (10:13). Any disruption in the laws of creation concerning the sun’s movement would disrupt a huge number of other laws. Some parts of the globe would burn while others would freeze. Whatever happened, it was a miracle performed by God to gain victory for Israel. It is good to remember that a miracle always does interrupt a law of the universe. That is why it is called a miracle! Only the Lord can do that. Read Psalm 74:16;   Jeremiah 32:17, 27.
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Way to Introduce the Story:
Before class prepare two pieces of plain white paper: Write the word “Gibeon” on both sheets of paper and then set one aside. Crumple and then iron the other sheet a few times until it looks ‘old’. In class, place the “old” paper and a normal piece of paper side by side in front of the children. Let them guess how old each one is. Ask which they think came from far away. Ask how they can tell. After you discuss this for a few minutes then reveal the “trick”. “One time someone tricked Joshua in this same way. They didn’t trick him with paper but they tricked him with their clothes and food.”
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The Story:
God took care of His people. Over and over He helped them fight their enemies. People who did not believe in the Lord used to own the land of Canaan but God’s people were now beginning to win more and more of the land. This was just as God had promised long ago.

Many people from Canaanite cities began to be afraid of the Israelites. They did not want the Israelites to hurt them. One of the cities that were afraid of Israel was called Gibeon. Their neighbours wanted them join them and fight Israel but the people of Gibeon decided to try a trick instead. They sent men on donkeys to meet with Joshua. Gibeon was very close to Israel’s camp but the Gibeonites made it look like they had travelled a long way. They put their supplies in very old sacks that were patched up. They put old mouldy bread in the sacks and put this and all the other supplies on donkeys. Then they put old clothes and sandals on their feet. After everything was ready, they walked the short distance to the Israelite camp at Gilgal.

When the Gibeonites arrived at Gilgal they pretended to be very tired. They told Joshua and his men that they had travelled a long distance and that they just wanted to help the Israelites and be their servants. They only asked that the Israelites make a treaty with them. That would mean that Israel would protect them and not fight them.

Joshua thought this might be a trick. God would know what they should do. Maybe they should pray and ask the Lord to help them make a wise decision. Then they looked at the very old clothes and the old mouldy bread and tired men and they decided that they would make a treaty. They wouldn’t bother praying for the Lord’s help. They promised the Gibeonites that they would not fight them and that they would protect them from any enemies.

Three days after the Israelites made the treaty with the Gibeonites; they found out that it had all been a trick. The Gibeonites did not live far away. They lived very close! The Israelites were very angry. They did not like to be tricked. Some Israelites wanted to kill the Gibeonites but they remembered they had promised to never fight them. It was finally decided that the Gibeonites would be servants to the Israelites but they would be kept safe. They would do things like carry water and cut wood for the Israelites.
Soon other neighbours heard that Gibeon had made a treaty with Israel. They were angry too because they wanted Gibeon to be on their side. They were so angry that they attacked Gibeon and tried to take over their city. The Gibeonites quickly sent a message to Joshua. “Remember you promised to protect us. Our enemies are attacking us. Come help us!”

Joshua had learned his lesson. This time he prayed to the Lord and asked Him to help him make a good decision. The Lord told Joshua to fight the enemies because He would help them win the battle. Joshua marched all night with all of the soldiers.

This was not a normal battle! First the Lord made the enemy very confused. They were so mixed up that they stopped fighting and started running away. Then, the Lord caused giant hailstones to fall on the enemy.

The Israelites fought all day but Joshua knew that the day would end before the battle could finish. Then the most amazing thing happened. Joshua asked the Lord to make the sun stand still so that there would be enough time to finish the battle. The Lord answered Joshua’s prayer and the sun stood still in the sky. The Israelites finished the battle and protected the Gibeonites.

Not only did they win that battle but they won even more land that day. They learned that the Lord helps His people when they pray to Him.
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Review Questions:

  1. How did the Gibeonites trick Joshua and his men? They dressed in old clothes and used old supplies to make it look as if they had travelled a great distance.
  2. Did Joshua ask the Lord to help him make a good decision about the Gibeonite treaty? No
  3. When Joshua found out he had been tricked, what happened to the Gibeonites? They became servants to the Israelites
  4. What unusual things happened when the Israelite army fought Gibeon’s enemies? The enemies were confused, hailstones fell on them, and the sun stood still in the sky
  5. What should we do before we make an important decision? Pray to God so that he will help us make the right one
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Craft and Activity ideas for the class (choose age appropriate ones):

  • Kids will love dressing up and acting this one out!
  • Be sure and have the children look the memory verse up in the bible. This can be a good time to make sure they understand what books, chapters, and verses are.
  • Write the words of the memory verse on a chalkboard/white board. Have the children read the verse as a group a number of times. Erase one word and have them read the verse. Erase another word and have them say it. Keep erasing a word until the children can say the verse without any words on the board.
  • Place a few drops of yellow paint in the centre of a paper. Children can blow the paint through a straw to make a starburst. Do this or any other “sun craft’ and discuss the fact that God caused the sun to stand still.
  • Eat ice-cubes and discuss the hail in the story.
  • See ideas from other teacher(s) in the comments below.
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Online Resources:

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5 Responses to The Gibeonite Trick

  1. Debbie Ferguson says:

    Activity – Use thin paper plates for a test. Let the kids try to carry some heavy items across the room on a paper plate. Stack the paper plate up high (overloading it), so it will collapse under the weight as it is carried. Now, give them a metal (or something strong and unbreakable) tray to try to carry the same amount of items. Ask the children which plate they would prefer to use to carry all of those items. Draw a comparison. The metal tray is like God’s wisdom and the paper plate is like man’s wisdom. Man’s wisdom will never hold up to the test and will always fail us. As the memory verse (James 1:5) says, we just need to ask!

  2. Pingback: Pouring God’s Word into your Kids: Act it Out | Adventures in MommydomAdventures in Mommydom

  3. Pingback: The Day the Sun Stood Still – Children's Church

  4. Thank you again for this terrific resource! Love the paper bag movie!

    Lindsey @ GrowingKidsMinistry.com

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