BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 134
Copyright © 2000 Biblical Horizons
Back in Biblical Horizons 132 I discussed the horrible abuse of the converted men of Salem/Shechem in Genesis 34. These Hivites had joined the covenant by circumcision and then were slaughtered by Simeon and Levi. That, however, is not the end of their story.
In Joshua 9 we find the only other story about Hivites in the Bible. Apart from these two places, the name Hivite appears only in the lists of nations Israel was to displace in Canaan. These Hivites, from Gibeon, came to the army of Joshua in rags and pretended to be from a faraway land. They asked Israel to make a covenant with them. When Joshua was uncertain, they said that they would be Israel’s slaves (Joshua 9:6, 8). They also said that they had heard of the fame of Yahweh and wanted to be part of His kingdom, to join His covenant (vv. 9-11). Joshua and the army listened to them and did not seek Yahweh’s counsel. As a result, Joshua made a covenant of peace with these Hivites.
(It is often assumed that Yahweh would have told Joshua not to covenant with the Gibeonites but to exterminate them. But would He have? He might have enlightened Joshua about who they really were, but also welcomed them as He welcomed Rahab.)
After three days, Joshua and the army learned that these Hivites were their neighbors in the land, but because of the covenant they had sworn to them, they did not attack them. Joshua said that they would continue in the covenant, but as “hewers of wood and drawers of water in the house of Yahweh” (vv. 23, 27). The Hivites replied that they would do whatever Joshua said, provided that they might live with Israel and not die, because they feared Yahweh.
God’s covenant is everlasting. An earlier group Hivites had joined the covenant people, and God brought it about in His providence that the descendants of their relatives were included in the covenant people.
It is more than interesting to read the false story told by the Hivites of Gibeon. They claimed that they had made an exodus from a far country. They had left with fresh bread, as Israel had left Egypt with unleavened bread on their backs. Now they had finally arrived. Though this story was a lie, in a sense these men were identifying with Israel in her story. By joining Israel, they moved into Israel’s history, a history of leaving a far country and wandering for a long time before reaching the land of promise.
It is also noteworthy that these men became assistants to the Levites, who served at Yahweh’s house. The earlier Hivites had made a covenant specifically with Levi and Simeon, and now these later Hivites are linked again with Levi. Levi has been restored, and the Hivites are joined to that restoration.
When the Canaanite kings attacked Gibeon, Joshua and his army rose to defend them (Joshua 10). No longer would Israel mistreat her Hivite covenant-brothers.
God continued His covenant with these people. One of the four Gibeonite/Hivite cities was Kiriath-jearim (Joshua 9:17). When the Ark of the Covenant was returned from Philistia, it went initially to Beth-Shemesh, where the Israelites treated it without respect, and then to Kiriath-jearim. There it remained under the supervision of Levites and their Hivite servants (1 Samuel 6:10 – 7:2a) until David brought it to Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, separated from the Ark, the rest of the Tabernacle was taken to another Hivite city, Gibeon itself, and there it remained until Solomon built the Temple (1 Chronicles 16:39; 1 Kings 3). With the Ark at Kiriath-jearim and the Tabernacle at Gibeon, it appears that these Hivites were more faithful and trustworthy custodians of God’s palace than were the Israelites!
We learn from 2 Samuel 21 that King Saul, in his folly trying to earn the favor of God and of the people, tried to exterminate the Gibeonites. In this, he was acting like Simeon and Levi of old.
It is interesting to read in Jeremiah 26:20 that the faithful prophet Uriah was from Kiriath-jearim, while in Jeremiah 28:1 the false prophet Hananiah was from Gibeon. These men might have been Levites living among the Gibeonites, but they might have been Hivites. Either way, the Hivite place names continue to be associated with the service of Yahweh, either true or false.
After the restoration from Babylonian exile, we find Gibeonites involved in rebuilding the city (Nehemiah 3:7), and the other three Hivite cities are listed as part of Israel in Nehemiah 7:29.
God’s covenant is everlasting.