The children of Israel were in the early stages of their campaign to take the land of Canaan, a land promised to them from the Lord, they were taking the land from a people who lived in evil ways. The Lord moved them off the land, but there was one people who acted in a crafty manner. They were known as the Gibeonites (Joshua 9). The Gibeonites knew well the history of Israel that was before them. They did not have to know particular details of their history, only that two cites fell before them (Jericho and Ai), and this says nothing about that which they heard relative to Egypt and their time in the desert wilderness.
The Gibeonites knew they had to implement a plan for their survival, so they feigned a situation of a people coming to Joshua and the Israelites from a far country. If Joshua accepted this ploy, then the Gibeonites would remove a significant threat from their lives. Joshua and the elders of Israelites did accept this—only to learn better a short time later that the representative of Gibeon lied. What happened?
The Scriptures speaks to the problem directly. “…but they did not ask counsel of the Lord” (Joshua 9:14).
When Joshua came to the realization of his failure in leadership, to the Gibeonites he went calling into question their integrity (9:22). They responded the way they did because they feared for their lives. Interestingly enough, as far as the Record is concerned, Joshua did not appeal to the Lord for counsel in this matter either.
There are some lessons to glean from this. First, the obvious one is prayer. Seek the Lord’s counsel and guidance in all matters relative to life. Second, a frightened people might well will do anything to preserve their own well-being. Third, notice that in spite of the harm done to them (the Israelites), the leaders of Israel honored their word to the Gibeonites. If they were to have appealed to the Lord, with the Lord having given them guidance, what would the lesson be?