The people of Givon knew what happened to the people and city of Ai and realized they would suffer the same fate unless they could someway make a peace treaty with them. They knew all to well that to try to defeat the Jews would be impossible and thought of a clever plan. They sent a delegation of people who were dressed up in old torn and tattered clothes, along with wine flasks that were cracked and broken. Their shoes were all rubbed out and their bread all moldy.
They made their way to Yehoshuah who was now camped in Gilgol and fabricated a story that they came from a far away land and wished to make a peace treaty with them. When Yehoshuah questioned them, he found their story very convincing.
“We’re from a far away land and we’ve heard all about your great G-d and the great miracles He has preformed, they claimed. We want to be your servants and live at peace with you. Our elders have sent us to you so that we can live in peace with one another. Just take a look at us. This is the bread that we have taken along with us. It was fresh when we left but now it is all dried out and moldy. Have a look at these once new flasks of wine that are now all cracked and look at our tattered clothing and worn out shoes from our long journey. Do we need more proof that we speak only the full and honest truth?”
Their act was so convincing and they were such smooth talkers that Yehoshuah didn’t even bother checking it out with Hashem. He was sure they were speaking the truth. The elders therefore decided to go ahead and make a peace treaty with them. The heads of the people swore that they would not kill them and live in peace and harmony with them.
It was only three days later when the Jews arrived to the city of Givon that they realized that they had been taken for a ride and been totally deceived. But a shevuahremained a shvuah and they didn’t want to retract it even if obtained through deception. They felt that some may perceive it as a chilul Hashem. They were now in a terrible bind. They had made a fatal error by being too sure of themselves and not asking Hashem what to do. Even the greatest of the great cannot always rely on his own wisdom. A good scam artist can pull a fast one on just about anyone. The elders decided that they would put them to work and give them the difficult job of chopping their wood and carrying the water. These two tasks were the most difficult ones and therefore they would now be required to provide this service for them.