1 As soon as Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard how Joshua had captured Ai and had devoted it to destruction, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them, 2 he feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were warriors. 3 So Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem sent to Hoham king of Hebron, to Piram king of Jarmuth, to Japhia king of Lachish, and to Debir king of Eglon, saying, 4 “Come up to me and help me, and let us strike Gibeon. For it has made peace with Joshua and with the people of Israel.” 5 Then the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon, gathered their forces and went up with all their armies and encamped against Gibeon and made war against it.
6 And the men of Gibeon sent to Joshua at the camp in Gilgal, saying, “Do not relax your hand from your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us and help us, for all the kings of the Amorites who dwell in the hill country are gathered against us.” 7 So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valor. 8 And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands. Not a man of them shall stand before you.” 9 So Joshua came upon them suddenly, having marched up all night from Gilgal. 10 And the Lord threw them into a panic before Israel, who struck them with a great blow at Gibeon and chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon and struck them as far as Azekah and Makkedah. (Joshua 10:1–10 ESV)
This is where the sun stood still, where stones fell from heaven and obliterated the fleeing army of the five Amorite kings as the birds destroyed Abraha’s army as it laid siege to Makka in Surah 90 of the Qur’an.
This is a battle Israel fought not on behalf of itself, but of its newfound Gibeonite allies — Hivites who signed a covenant with Israel, who sought Israel’s protection because they feared Israel’s God, who lied about who they were, and how far they came, in order to make that covenant with Israel.
A covenant Israel had no business making. A covenant forbidden in the Torah because the people of Gibeon are Canaanites.
Israel did not have to wage this battle, to fight this fight, as the five Amorite kings lay siege to Gibeon. Joshua did not have to take his mighty men of valor up from Gilgal to save this people who lied their way into a covenant with Israel. And God, who had forbidden even the idea of Israel cutting covenants with Canaanites, did not have to favor Israel in this battle.
But Joshua leads the army to Gibeon. And Israel’s God is there too, fighting for Israel, in a battle on behalf of a people Israel was absolutely forbidden from cutting a covenant with! God, who gave the law and said no mercy and no covenant with the Canaanites, now telling Joshua “do not fear!” as Israel prepares to do battle on behalf of dishonestly acquired Canaanite allies.
So much for the law. I’m not saying it isn’t important. But it isn’t all there is. God meets Israel in its situation — a situation that has careened completely out of control, if obeying the law were all that mattered. And God meets Israel in that situation, where Israel is, in what Israel has done, and fights for Israel.
God is fighting for Canaanites here. The very Canaanites God commanded merciless war against.
I wrote yesterday that it seems, at least here, that the words of God’s people are at least as important as the words of God given to God’s people. The author of Joshua, in speaking of the sun standing still over Gibeon that day, said it this way:
There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded the voice of a man, for the Lord fought for Israel. (Joshua 10:14)
Except that there have been many such days since. Not when the sun sat still in the sky. But when the Lord heeded the voice of a man, and fought for his people.