The Gibeonite Deception: Things Are Not Always What They Seem

All the Kings West of the Jordan River heard about how Joshua had defeated the Kings of Ai and Jericho so combined their armies to fight as one against Joshua and the Israelites (see Conquering the West)

But the people of Gibeon had a different strategy, they resorted to deception to save themselves. They sent ambassadors to Joshua, loading their donkeys with weathered saddlebags and old patched wineskins. They put on worn-out, patched sandals and ragged clothes. And the bread they took with them was dry and mouldy. When they arrived at the camp of Israel at Gilgal, they told Joshua and the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant land to ask you to make a peace treaty with us”

The Gibeonite Deception is an elaborate one and can be found in the Book of Joshua chapter 9.

‘Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden’ – Phaedrus

These are the ways the people of Gibeon deceived Joshua and the people of Israel…

1. Loaded Donkeys

Donkeys are beasts of burden that help us travel; getting from one place to another. The Gibeonite Deception here was that they had travelled from a very distant country, however, it turned out they lived right there among them. Gibeonite deception causes us and others to believe we are further along the journey than we actually are in reality. We need to have an honest evaluation of ourselves measuring ourselves by the faith we actually have, not the faith we think we have, this often comes through the feedback of others on a committed team. Faith is measured by what we do and not simply by what we say. Faith without the requisite action is dead.

It’s important not to take people at their word- what I mean by that is- you have people who say they are something great and make all sorts of promises and self-assured statements, but on the ground in practice it’s very different. It’s really in the evidence of what people do that you see where they are really at. As Jesus says, ‘you will know them by their fruits’

2. Weathered Saddlebags 

Represents lack and poverty; lack of provision or old provisions that are no longer fit for purpose. The Gibeonite Deception here is that they pretend they had plenty of resources and provision to bring to help resource the work. They promise much but deliver little. I’ve had many come to me saying they will bring this or that, and offered to give this or that and have then not fulfilled their promise. They end up taking more than they give. Jesus is saying; to conquer the land, first you have to know what it means to ‘Take no purse’ (Luke 10:4), an act of faith that those who are sent by Jesus need to take in obedience to him on the first journeys. Then you need to know what it means to ‘Now take a purse’ (see more on this here: Resourcing Pioneer Movements)

3. Old Patched-up Wineskins 

Notice that these were old wineskins that they tried to patch-up. New Wine needs to be put in new wineskins. A patched up job will just not cut it! The people of Israel were entering their Promise Land, a land flowing with milk and honey and new wine. They didn’t need old solutions but new ones. See here for more on The Issue of Wineskins

4. Ragged Clothes

Clothing often speaks spiritually of our standing with God and with others. The New Testament speaks of putting off the old clothing and putting on the new. The Gibeonite Deception is that the clothes they were wearing were brand new, but really, the clothing was ragged from the beginning. Their righteousness was like filthy rags. The Gibeonites (old patch) were joining themselves to Israel (new patch) so they wouldn’t be destroyed. But Jesus speaks of the futility of trying to patch the old with the new- the tear is evident to all. (see Matt 9:16)

5. Worn-Out Patched Sandals

Sandals often represents messengers whose feet are ready to go share the gospel. When 70 disciples were sent out in 2’s they were told; ‘Don’t take any more with you, or a traveler’s bag, nor an extra pair of sandals. And don’t stop to greet anyone on the road’ (Luke 10:4)

The message The 70 took was the Gospel of the Kingdom that brought life and healing to the Households of Peace that received them. However, the message the Gibeonites brought was not good news at all, it was worn-out; representing an ineffective gospel and an ineffective walk. These messengers were worn-out/burnt-out and fearful for their lives. This is the spiritual condition of those who are hearers but not doers of the word and under this condition, As James says, ‘we deceive ourselves’ (James 1:22-25)

6. Mouldy, Dry Bread. 

During The Days in the Desert– the Israelites had learnt the principle of fresh bread– manna that came down from heaven was not to be stored but used the same day. Jesus reveals that he is the bread that comes down from heaven and his food was to do the will of the Father and to finish his work. We are to feed on Jesus daily, listening to him and doing the Father’s bidding on earth as it is in heaven

However, when Jesus’ disciples ran out of bread, they grumbled and complained amongst themselves. In response Jesus said to them; ‘watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees.’ For more on the bread of wickedness and The Yeast of the Pharisees see here.

7. Far off Ambassadors. 

‘We are Ambassadors from afar!’ They said they were from a Distant Land and had come to make a Peace Treaty but were actually from a town the Israelites were soon to conquer.

They said they ‘took these supplies for their long journey’. They said, ‘we are your servants.’ However, what they said was a lie. They had not come in peace or as ambassadors, but because of fear. They only want a peace treaty for their own self-preservation. Their motives are not right. They only said what their people and elders told them to say. There was not true conviction coming from themselves but from others and due to fear. These were false ambassadors…

In stark contrast, 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 shows us what it means to be true Ambassadors for Christ;

‘Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too. Are we commending ourselves to you again? No, we are giving you a reason to be proud of us, so you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart. If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Either way, Christ’s love urges us on and controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for heist when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we can be made right with God through Christ’



When Joshua found out that he’d been deceived by the Gibeonites he said to them,

‘Why did you lie to us? Why did you say that you live in a distant land when you live right here among us? May you be cursed! From now on you will always be servants who cut wood and carry water for the house of my God’

So because of the oath and treaty Israel had made with the Gibeonites, Joshua did not allow the people of Israel to kill them as they had done with all their enemies in other battles. But that day he made the Gibeonites the woodcutters and water carriers for the community of Israel and for the altar of the LORD…

The Gibeonite Deception: One thing is clear, things are not what they appear

Conquering the Land (Campaign 2: The West)

JOSHUA: The Type of Commander Required for Conquering Land and Gaining Ground

‘Moses my servant is dead. Therefore the time has come for you to lead these people into the Promise Land’ -Joshua 1

Moses type leadership will not lead us into the Promise Land, but Joshua-types will! This is one of the issues I’ve encountered as I’ve travelled. There are Moses types who will prophesy about what needs to be done, but they do so from the position of having been in Egypt and fitted for the desert as Desert Guides. They call people out of worldly systems and into the desert but are not the type of leaders that can take the next generation of warriors to conquer new ground…

The next generation are looking for Joshua-types…

‘They answered Joshua, “We will do whatever you command us, and we will go wherever you send us. We will obey you just as we obeyed Moses. And may the LORD your God be with you as he was with Moses. Anyone who rebels against your orders and does not obey your words and everything you command will be put to death. Be strong and courageous!’ (Joshua 1:16-18)


ACACIA GROVE: Courage is the Condition for Conquest

The first place the Israelites camped under Joshua was Acacia Grove. They camped here BEFORE they crossed the Jordan to conquer territory! Acacia means ‘thorny’ and was the type of wood Noah’s Ark and the fittings of the Tabernacle were made from. It’s at Acacia that we have the opportunity to turn our ‘thorny’ ground into focused and courageous ground (see Mark 4 and the Parable of the Soils). Thorny Soil disciples cannot conquer the Promise Land as the seed of the Kingdom that’s necessary to conquer gets choked out by the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of wealth. Our comfort has to be chopped down and made into a vessel that can rescue others…


GILGAL: The Mission Base for Conquering the Land

Gilgal was the first place Israel camped after crossing the River Jordan (a symbol of baptism) and became the strategic Mission Base for their operation in the conquest of the Promise Land. Gilgal means ‘rolled away’ as the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.’ (Joshua 5:8-9). It was at this place that Joshua circumcised all the sons of Israel (‘rolled away’).  This 2nd generation did not die in the wilderness for their disobedience like their parents had done. This was a new generation and their shame and reproach had been rolled away! They were now ready to be the fighting force necessary to conquer the land!


JERICHO: The Luke 10 Prototype

Before engaging the first major battle for the West, Joshua sent out two spies ahead to the area surrounding Jericho to Spy the Land (reminiscent of Luke 10)

They found the House of Peace in the Walls of Jericho belonging to Rahab the Prostitute. She welcomed them and even hid them when the King of Jericho came looking for them. Rahab’s oikos included her mother and father, brothers and sisters, their families and all her relatives. In the ensuing battle of Jericho- all of her family were to be saved whilst the rest of the city and it’s inhabitants were to be destroyed! She just needed to keep her word and not betray the spies and hang a scarlet rope out of her window so the armies of Israel would know not to touch her household! Her statement to the spies from Israel is interesting: ‘I know the LORD has given you this land,’ she told them

The spies returned to the base with a good report; ‘The LORD has given us the whole land for all the people in the land are terrified of us’

When the armies of Israel arrived outside Jericho, the gates of the city were tightly shut- everyone was afraid of Israel. But the LORD said to Joshua;

‘I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors’. God gives Joshua a strategy for defeating the strongholds of that fortified city. They marched around the town once a day for six days and on the seventh day, march around the walls 7 times blowing rams horns. On the last long blast of the horns the walls would collapse and the people could charge straight into the town.

However, The LORD also commanded them, ‘Do not take any of the things set apart for destruction, or you will be completely destroyed and you will bring trouble on the camp of Israel. Everything made from silver, gold, bronze or iron is sacred to the LORD and must be brought into his treasury. Everything else must be destroyed’

As they followed the LORD’s unusual battle strategy, they were able to conquer Jericho and ‘So the LORD was with Joshua, and his reputation spread throughout the land’ (Joshua 6:27)


AI: A Warning for Pioneer Mission Team Members

FIRST TROUBLE- After the victory in Jericho they must have been elated! However, in their next battle at Ai they hit some major trouble! During the battle for Jericho where everything was supposed to be burnt except the gold, silver, bronze and iron that was meant to be set apart for the Lord’s house, a man named Achan (meaning trouble) stole stuff that didn’t belong to him.

Ai means three-toed sloth…be careful the kind of people you admit onto a Pioneer Mission Team…There will always be Achan-types looking for position and power. They are trouble. They promise much but deliver little. They not only take what doesn’t belong to them, they also lie about it…[see Joshua 7:11-12]. The result of this betrayal: the whole household was condemned to death in the Valley of Achor (Joshua 7:26)

THEN VICTORY- after the first defeat in the Battle of Ai due to the sin of Achan the Lord spoke to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged. Take all the fighting men and attack Ai and you shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king’ (Joshua 8:2)

They now did EVERYTHING the Lord had instructed and ‘So the entire population of Ai, including men and women, was wiped out that day- 12,000 in all. For Joshua kept holding out his spear until everyone who had lived in Ai was completely destroyed’ (Joshua 8:25-26)

‘Joshua buried Ai and made it forever a heap of ruins, as it is to this day. And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening. And at sunset Joshua commanded, and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the gate of the city and raised over it a great heap of stones, which stands there to this day’ (Joshua 8:28-29)


COVENANT+KINGDOM: After Trouble Causers are Removed, The Covenant is Renewed

Before they could move on to conquer the next territory (Gibeon), due to the disobedience of Achan and his family, the Israelites had to pause to renew the LORD’s covenant.

Mike Breen writes of this dual dynamic in his book Covenant+Kingdom, the double-helix that runs throughout the Bible of Relationship+Responsibility. Israel had taken responsibility for attacking Ai (Kingdom) but reneged on the relational aspect- disobeying God and lying about it to others (Covenant)

In renewing the covenant, Joshua built an altar to the LORD on Mount Ebal and divided the whole of Israel into 2 groups with 2 miles distance running between them. Half the people stood on Mount Ebal (curses) and Half the people stood on Mount Gerazim (blessings). The priests stood in the middle and Joshua recited all the blessings and curses Moses had written in his Book of Instruction and so the Covenant was renewed. (Joshua 8:30-35).

This is a reminder that in catalysing Church Planting Movements it’s not only a matter of strategic plans and tools (kingdom) it’s also a matter of right relationships between God and each other. It’s not just what we do, it’s a matter of who we are. What type of people are we?


STRONGHOLDS: All the Kings of the West of the Jordan River

Every king Joshua fought in his conquest of the Promise Land is a picture of the principalities, powers, rulers, spiritual forces of this dark age in the heavenly places that we are now to wage war against.

After the battle of Ai, 5 kings came together to attack Israel. But Joshua defeated them all. The 5 kings fled and hid in a cave, Joshua instructed his forces to ‘Roll large stones against the mouth of the cave and set men by it to guard them,’ and afterward Joshua struck them down and put them to death hanging them on 5 trees.

Next Joshua fought against the king of Libnah ‘and he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho’ (Joshua 10:30). Then Joshua and Israel attacked more kings, ‘Just as he had done to Hebron and to Libnah and its king, so he did to Debir and its king’

So every king that Joshua defeated he hung on a tree, took him down at evening, and then buried him under stones that are there to this day.

Does this remind you of anyone?

Jesus, the King, hung on a tree, taken down in the evening, buried in a cave, but the stone was rolled away (Galatians 3:3)

Like all the kings in Joshua, Jesus was hung on a tree, taken down in the evening and buried behind a stone (Matt 27:57-58, Mark 15:45, Luke 24:1-3). Unlike every other king, Jesus triumphed over his enemies. Now, all of his enemies have been placed under his feet. (Romans 6:4-11)

To Discover How Joshua Conquered the South READ HERE

To Discover How Joshua Conquered the North READ HERE

To Discover How Moses Conquered the East READ HERE

May this help you fight the LORD’s battles as we progress together in Mission Britain

Conquering the Land (Campaign 4: The North)

We’ve already looked at how to conquer The East: Conquering the Land (Campaign 1: The East)

And conquering The South: Conquering the Land (Campaign 3: The South)

To conquer the Northern Territories we look again to how Joshua and the tribes of Israel conquered the Promise Land (Joshua 11)

King Jabin of Hazor was the strongman for the entire Northern region. As we saw in the previous articles, Biblical names are embedded with meaning…

Jabin means ‘God has built’ or ‘one who is intelligent has built’ and also means ‘discerning’ and ‘the wise’ whilst Hazor means ‘enclosed, fortified’ ‘enclosed settlement’

So the full name Jabin of Hazor means, ‘one who is intelligent, discerning and wise has built an enclosed settlement’

As we conquer The North we need wisdom to build. As King Solomon says, ‘wisdom builds a house…’ and ‘unless the Lord builds the house the workers labour in vain’ (Proverbs 24:3, Psalm 127:1). But we also need to ‘be careful how we build’ (1 Corinthians 3:10)

King Jabin rallied together the following kings and their towns and armies, taken together there is much meaning behind these names that indicate the way in which we need to conquer the land for Kingdom Movements as we wrestle with these principalities and powers in our day…

King Jobab of Madon

Jobab means ‘sorrowful, hated’ but also ‘celestial jubilation’, ‘fullness of joy,’ ‘welling up shouts of rejoicing’ ‘trumpet call of victory’ and Madon means ‘a chiding, a garment, his measure’

Those who begin to build on solid foundations usually endure constant chiding due to the hatred of their enemies. Take for example the governor Nehemiah who set about the rebuilding of the broken-down city walls of his home city (see the book of Nehemiah). The sorrow caused by the constant derision can turn into an opportunity for great rejoicing that brings victory as joy wells up within us. Nehemiah called for focus as the people built with one hand and held the sword with another. Up until this time the focus of Joshua’s war had been on conquest, but here the focus shifts to a duel purpose- fight and build, fight and build.

King Shimron means ‘thorns, dregs.’ Jesus described this stronghold in his most important parable of the Kingdom (see Matthew 13). On overcoming hardship due to obedience to Jesus and his Kingdom (soil 2), the next soil to overcome is the thorns of this life that produce dregs- that which is worthless and fruitless (soil 3). After hardship, it’s easy to settle into comfort, but the apostle Paul prepares us by warning us that ‘through many hardships we enter the kingdom of heaven’

When the enemy can’t stop us from advancing the kingdom through sending hardship because of the Word (Jobab) or through the distractions of this life (Shimron), he attempts to destroy everything around us. In this regard, the next king mentioned is King of Acshaph which means ‘place of sorcery’ or ‘destruction’

These four principle kings of the North could well represent four great oppositions to the building of the kingdom represented by Jesus’ parable of the soils. King Jabin (stoney soil), King Jobab (shallow soil), King Shimron (thorny soil), King Acshaph (attempts to destroy the fruit of the good soil)

These principal Kings of the North are then joined by all the kings of the northern hill country, plus the kings of the Jordan Valley south of Galilee, the kings in the Galilean foothills/the Sheplelah [lowland] and the kings of Naphoth-dor on the West meaning ‘the heights or reigns of habitation’ That’s some formidable force! Spiritual wickedness in both high and low places!

Interestingly Galilee means ‘the circuit’, ‘district’ ‘circle’ ‘band’, ‘a chapel or porch at entrance of a church associated with the laity’ and ‘county of the Gentiles’ 

There are so many kings and territories to overcome mentioned here that circuits and travelling bands are needed. These travelling teams also include the ‘laity’, an army of ordinary people travelling in teams as we go to the Gentiles. That’s what Jesus did in that territory! He chose 12 and they travelled with him and then sent out a further 72!

Next in the list of foes, five of the seven mortal enemies of the Israelites are mentioned, these are the kings of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites and the kings of the Hivites [we will look closer at these 7 enemy nations on another occasion]

But for now, know this, in this Northern battle there’s a hell of a lot of kings to defeat, but we read ‘[…] Joshua killed all the kings of those territories, waging war for a long time to accomplish this’ (Joshua 11:17-18)

The race is not for the swift, nor the battle for the strong but for those who endure to the end

‘So Joshua took control of the entire land, just as the LORD had instructed Moses. He gave it to the people of Israel as their special possession, dividing the land among the tribes. So the land finally had rest from war.’ (Joshua 11:23)

Joshua’s war on the Northern Territories prefigures what Jesus does as he begins his campaign in Galilee of the North

And we continue to endure opposition as we move forward the vision of Mission Britain to see 1000 churches planted amongst the Gentiles across the 12 Regions of Britain and Ireland…

But the Lord of Heaven Armies is with us

So, onwards to battle together, as we conquer the North in our day…