Is God Partial?

Joshua 9 14 a

Q. Achan took some of the things under the ban and God punished Israel (Josh 7:1). The men of Israel did not ask for the counsel of the Lord and made a covenant with the Gibeonites (Josh 9:14), but God did not punish them. Is God playing favorites?

A. No. There is no partiality with God (Rom 2:11). In Achan’s case, the Israelites were specifically warned right before they conquered Jericho:

Josh 6:17-18 The city shall be under the ban, it and all that is in it belongs to the LORD; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in the house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. But as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, so that you do not covet them and take some of the things under the ban, and make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it.

Achan coveted and took the mantle from Shinar, the silver and the gold (Josh 7:21). He sinned defiantly and must be punished, which affected the whole community.

In Joshua’s case the rules were different. Cities of nearby nations are to be utterly destroyed, while cities of faraway nations are to be offered terms of peace and subjected to forced labor:

Deut 20:10-11, 15-16 When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace. If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you. … Thus you shall do to all the cities that are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these nations nearby. Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes.

The Gibeonites somehow knew of and took advantage of this law to deceive the Israelites. They lied about being from a far country, and provided dry bread, old wineskins, worn clothing and sandals as fake evidence. The Israelites did not ask for the Lord’s counsel and were deceived. This is a classic example of:
Prov 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.
which the Israelites failed miserably.

Since this is not a case of willful defiance but unintentional sin, the Lord did not punish them for their disobedience, but allowed them to suffer the natural consequences of their folly. Apparently they learned their lesson well, as:
Josh 11:19 There was not a city which made peace with the sons of Israel except the Hivites living in Gibeon; they took them all in battle.

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