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Inductive Bible Study on Joshua 9 – Discussion Questions and Lesson Plan


I. The Gibeonites make a covenant with the people of Israel (1-16)
II. Joshua and the leaders realize their mistake (17-27)

I. The Gibeonites make a covenant with the people of Israel (1-16)

Discussion Questions

  • How did the people of the land react when they heard about Joshua’s victory at Ai?
  • What did the people of Gibeon do?
  • What can we learn about people from the Gibeonites?
  • How did Joshua and the leaders respond?
  • How should they have responded?
  • Whose fault was this mistake?
  • Can you give any biblical examples of people who asked the Lord before making important decisions? How about any examples of people who did not ask the Lord before making important decisions?
  • What can we learn from this passage?
  • How can you know when to believe people and when not to?
  • Should we doubt other people’s word or just believe what they say?
  • What should we do before making decisions?
  • How can we be careful not to rely too much on our own intelligence?
  • What form does asking counsel from the Lord take today?

On Making Decisions:

Genesis 24:14-15 – May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”
Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor.

2 Corinthians 5:7 – For we live by faith, not by sight.

James 1:5 – If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Proverbs 14:12 – There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.

Psalm 25:4 – Make me to know your ways O Lord.

1 Corinthians 10:12 – So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

Proverbs 12:15 – The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.

Proverbs 11:15 – Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer, but whoever refuses to shake hands in pledge is safe.

Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Case Study: Genesis 12:10-20 – Abraham and Sarai go to Egypt without asking counsel from the Lord. What can you learn from their story?

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Review of the people’s spiritual high followed by a spiritual low – In chapter 6 the people had a great victory over Jericho. God did a miracle and gave them a victory in spectacular fashion. The people faithfully obeyed what God told them to do, and did so with faith that God would grant the victory even though they didn’t see how. This spiritual high was followed by a spiritual low in chapter 7, the defeat at Ai. Whereas in chapter 6 they defeated an enemy that was tactically much stronger, in chapter 7 they were defeated against an enemy that was much weaker. It was because of the sin of Achan and also the lack of counseling the Lord by the leaders.

We have seen that they repented and dealt with the sin. When their relationship with the Lord was restored, God once again gave them victory. After the victory they trekked thirty miles to Mt. Ebal in order to build an altar and perform a religious ceremony. All the people listened to the whole law of Moses and verbally expressed the blessings of obeying God and the curse of disobedience. The people were once again victorious, excited, and feeling close the Lord. That brings us to this chapter and we see that the people once again become presumptuous, failing to look to the Lord and instead relying on their own insight. The result is another defeat. We can see 1 Corinthians 10:12 for a key lesson we should take to heart from this chapter.

Application: There will be times of victory in your lives. There will be times when everything seems to be going well. Perhaps you have just gone through a difficult trial or obstacle. Perhaps you just made an important commitment to the Lord. Perhaps you just returned from a spiritual retreat where you felt close to the Lord. It is at these times that Satan will likely step up his attacks against you. If you become prideful, complacent, or self-reliant, you will fall. We should never think we are immune to any sin. There is no sin that you are immune to if you try to face the temptation on your own strength.

2. There were two forms of attack against the people of Israel. One was obvious and visible. One was sneaky and subtle. – In verses 1-2 we see the visible attack against God’s people. The people of the land unite together to fight. But in the following verses we see a much sneakier form of attack. That attack would be based on deception. It is not hard to see Satan’s strategy. His plan is that while the Israelites focus on the visible threat the invisible threat flies under their radar and ensnares them when they weren’t looking.

While the short-term threat was posed to them by the enemies who were preparing to do them battle, the long-term threat was that the Gibeonites would slowly turn them away from the Lord from within their midst after making a covenant with them.

Application: Some temptations we face are very visible, but others are not so visible. Some are from outside the church or the fellowship. Others are within. Can anyone share examples? We need to follow the command in Ephesians 6 to put on the full spiritual armor so that we can be ready to stand against either kind.

3. It is common for enemies to unite together against the banner of the Lord – The people of the land were not naturally friends or even allies. Civil war, mistrust, and self-interest would have ruled the land. But they united together with “one accord” to fight against the Israelites and the banner of the Lord. It should not be surprising to us when the world unites together against believers or the church. We know that we don’t fight against physical forces, but against spiritual forces of wickedness. Satan is their master. And as such he will stir them up to unite against God’s work. Our hope is to align ourselves with the Lord because greater is He who is in us than He who is in the world.

4. The Gibeonites are very crafty – Their ruse was very clever. They showed themselves to be cunning in a worldly dishonest sort of way. It is easy to understand why they acted as they did. Naturally they were scared for their lives and saw this as the way out. However, it wasn’t the only way they could have avoided destruction. Instead they could have left the land and fled to a far away place. Or they could have genuinely turned to the Lord. Instead they used deception for the same reasons most people deceive, and that is to avoid pain and gain benefits.

The Israelites seemed to exercise due caution. Joshua questioned them carefully. And they looked at their clothes and food to see if they really had been on a long journey. But in so doing, they saw only what the Gibeonites wanted them to see. Even though they tried to exercise caution, they put their own wit against the wit of the Gibeonites. If you do this, sometimes you will win, but sometimes you will lose. You may be smarter than some people, but there are some people who are also smarter than you.

Application: There are lots of clever people in the world, people who can be very persuasive. We should be careful not to be easily swayed by others. And we should be careful not to rely on ourselves.

5. The Gibeonites play on their emotions by praise and/or flattery – We see this in verse 9. The Gibeonites express their knowledge of what had happened and indicate their fear of the people and YHWH. However, unlike Rahab, they do not express a willingness to align themselves with God. Their confession does not seem to indicate genuine belief and/or repentance. Therefore it is likely that they were exercising flattery to “butter them up” so that the Israelite leaders would be more likely to make a covenant with them. The Gibeonites were making an appeal that sounded like, “You are strong and noble and powerful. We know no one can stand before you. We are weak and a lowly people. Please take us under your wing.”

Application: Be careful not to be susceptible to flattery.

6. Be careful not to trust in past spiritual experiences or victories – Past victories can tend to make us overly confident. We saw it with the people of Ai in chapter 8. They believed they would cruise to an easy victory. We saw it with the Israelites in chapter 7. They believed they would cruise to an easy victory. But victory in the past is not a guarantee of victory in the future. Making a good decision in the past doesn’t guarantee making a good decision in the future. In the past few chapters the Israelites plans and strategies had mostly been very effective. But they forget that these decisions and strategies were effective because they came from God. They presume that they know what they are doing.

7. Do not repeat the same mistakes again and again – What should the Israelites have done before making a covenant with the Gibeonites? Why did not they first consult the Lord? In chapter 7 we saw the grave consequences of not consulting the Lord before launching an assault against Ai and here we see again the people take action without consulting the Lord. The Israelites acted rashly and presumptuously by believing in them. The Israelites did not make proper use of the two offensive weapons we have, which is the Word of God and prayer. The Word was clear that they should not make a covenant with people in the land. They actually did know this. But they did not pray to God for wisdom.

Application: Discuss what we can learn from the Israelites’ failure. Discuss how we can avoid similar presumptions. Besides praying to the Lord, where else we can seek heavenly wisdom?

II. Joshua and the leaders realize their mistake (17-27)

Discussion Questions

  • How did the congregation respond when they heard about the mistake?
  • Was the congregation’s response right or wrong? Why?
  • Was the leaders’ decision in verse 19 right or wrong? Why?
  • What principle can we learn from this?

On Making Promises:

Matthew 5:33-37 – Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 – Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. A dream comes when there are many cares and many words mark the speech of a fool. When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.

Numbers 23:19 – God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

Psalms 15:4 – He keeps his word even to his own disadvantage and does not change it.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. They kept their promise. – The Israelite leaders made a foolish deal. It was a mistake caused by their failure to step back and pray. The people began to complain. It seems that they wanted the leaders to go back on their promise and destroy the Gibeonites. But the leaders were unwilling to do so. What do you think of their decision to honor the agreement? The leaders were men of integrity. They had given their word and they planned to keep it. Going back on their word would have been to compound their first sin by adding more sins. Saul later did this very thing in 2 Samuel 21.

Application: From this passage we can see the importance of keeping our word. Sometimes we may give our word to do something and then later regret it. Perhaps you tell a friend that you will help him with a project, but then another friend invites you to do something fun (like playing ball). What do you do? Do you bail on the first friend because there is something more fun to do? Perhaps you agree to serve at church at a specific time. Then you have a long week and catch a cold. You would prefer to rest at home. What do you do? Perhaps you make a verbal deal to rent a house. Before you can sign a contract another house at a much cheaper rate opens up. What do you do? Perhaps you agree to sell a product at a certain price. Later you find out it will cost much more time and money to make the product. The price you offered means you will lose money on the deal. What do you do?

2. They had to live with the consequences of their sin for generations. – There was no “easy fix” to this problem. It could not be undone. Generations of Israelites would face the consequences of this sin. Many sins are like this. If you marry the wrong person, you will still wake up to them the next day and the next day after that. At that point you can’t get out of it (without sinning even more.) If you allow your flesh to take over and commit fornication or adultery, the consequences will plague you the rest of your life. A momentary lapse while driving a car could have disastrous consequences. An angry outburst to a spouse or a child could have long term consequences. What is the solution?

Application: We need to rely on the Lord and His grace each moment. We must not be presumptuous. We must be hasty to make decisions or give our word. We should pray and think carefully before making a promise, a commitment, a decision or a deal. Once you make it, keep it.

3. Joshua makes them become workers at the tabernacle, perhaps hoping to influence them to become believers in the true God (instead of the other way around.)

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