Gibeon was the head of the four towns Joshua 9:17 occupied by the Hivites Joshua 11:19. The inhabitants were Amorites 2 Samuel 21:2; the name “Amorites” being used as a general name for the Canaanite population (Deuteronomy 1:44 note). The Hivites seem to have had a non-monarchical form of government (compare Joshua 9:3, Joshua 9:11), but their city was Joshua 10:2 in size and importance equal to those cities which the kings of the country made their capitals. Gibeon signifies “pertaining to a hill,” i. e. built on a hill (compare Gibeah and Geba, towns in the same neighborhood), and describes the site, which is on two of the rounded hills unique to this district. It is still known as El-Jib, and lies about five miles north of Jerusalem by the most direct route. It stands at the head of the pass of Beth-horon, through which lies the main route from Jerusalem and the lower Jordan valley to Joppa and the sea coast. Thus from its position, no less than from the number and valor of its people Joshua 10:2, it was one of the most important cities of southern Canaan. Gibeon fell within the lot of Benjamin Joshua 18:25, and was one of the cities assigned to the priests Joshua 21:17. In later times it was famous as the scene of various events (2 Samuel 2:12-17; 2 Samuel 20:4-13; 1 Kings 2:28-29, compare with 1 Chronicles 16:39). It was for a long time the spot where the tabernacle of Moses, together with the brass altar of burnt offering 1 Chronicles 21:29 and other portions of the sacred furniture, were placed. It was the scene of the magnificent ceremonial with which Solomon inaugurated his reign 1 Kings 3, but no doubt lost much of its importance after the tabernacle and its accompaniments were removed to the temple of Solomon.
From Shechem the Israelites returned to their encampment at Gilgal. Here they were soon after visited by a strange deputation, who desired to enter into treaty with them. The ambassadors represented that they had come from a distant country, and this seemed to be confirmed by their appearance. Their clothing was old and worn, their sandals were patched, their provisions moldy, and the skins that served them for wine bottles were rent and bound up, as if hastily repaired on the journey. PP 505.1
In their far-off home—professedly beyond the limits of Palestine—their fellow countrymen, they said, had heard of the wonders which God had wrought for His people, and had sent them to make a league with Israel. The Hebrews had been specially warned against entering into any league with the idolaters of Canaan, and a doubt as to the truth of the strangers’ words arose in the minds of the leaders. “Peradventure ye dwell among us,” they said. To this the ambassadors only replied, “We are thy servants.” But when Joshua directly demanded of them, “Who are ye? and from whence come ye?” they reiterated their former statement, and added, in proof of their sincerity, “This our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and it is moldy: and these bottles of wine, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they be rent: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey.” PP 505.2
These representations prevailed. The Hebrews “asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord. And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them.” Thus the treaty was entered into. Three days afterward the truth was discovered. “They heard that they were their neighbors, and that they dwelt among them.” Knowing that it was impossible to resist the Hebrews, the Gibeonites had resorted to stratagem to preserve their lives. PP 505.3Read in context »