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Joshua - Chapter 9
Canaanite League, vs. 1-2
The reference to the Canaanite tribes having "heard thereof" apparently is to the fall of Jericho and the destruction of Ai. The worship exercise at mounts Ebal and Gerizim would also have emphasized the intent and ease with which Israel moves about the land as though it is already theirs. The hills refer to the inland area from the Jordan on the east and the Mediterranean on the west; the valleys are the numerous watersheds of the small rivers and streams flowing down from the hills both east and west; the coasts of the great sea are the coastlands of the Mediterranean; "over against Lebanon" means the Mediterranean opposite the Lebanese range of mountains in the north. The five tribes mentioned are not all those in the land, but the most prominent. The kings of these people united in an effort to successfully resist the Israelites.
Gibeonites Deceive, vs. 3-15
Later on it appears that Gibeon was one of the cities of the Hivites, a strong contingent of the league formed to oppose Joshua and Israel. So the united front was not unanimous against the Israelites. To "work wilily" is to engage in guile and trickery to gain an intended end which could not be otherwise gotten.
They did this by choosing shrewd messengers, who took stale and moldy bread, patched wine bottles, ragged clothes and shoes, and agreed on a cunning tale to deceive the Israelites. Thus they appeared in Israel’s camp at Gilgal, requesting that Israel make a league of peace with them.
The Israelites must have suspected them for they suggested that if they were of Canaan they could not make peace with them. When they insisted that they were servants of Israel, seeking peace, Joshua even went so far as to inquire of their citizenship and country.
The deceivers gave an evasive answer, seemingly calculated to suggest that their land was so far away that Joshua and the elders of Israel had never heard of it, so there was no need to state the name of their country.
Joshua and the elders almost appear naive in the exchange, in not insisting on the name of the strangers’ country. The Gibeonite deceivers stressed their previous story with a tale how the bread was fresh, the wine bags and clothing new when they started on their journey to meet the Israelites, but a long, hard journey had rendered them old. They very shrewdly insisted that their sole reason for coming was out of respect for the great God, whose deeds in Egypt and across the Jordan they had heard. They were very careful not to mention the dry ground crossing of Jordan, the fall of Jericho’s walls, and the destruction of Ai, for these events were so recent that they should not have heard of them had they come from so far away place as they contended.
It is most astounding that Joshua fell into another serious mistake so quickly following his humiliation regarding Ai. In their overconfidence he and the elders made their inspection of the Gibeonite evidence and reached agreement concerning the requested league without consulting the Lord, (cf; Philippians 3:3). Thus the Gibeonites received the oath of Israel not to harm them.
Deceit Discovered, vs. 16-21
This second great error of Joshua actually put him into a dilemma, in which he may well have been dismayed. If he had remembered to always abide by the charge he had received there would have been no cause for dismay. Very shortly after concluding the pact with the Gibeonites the Israelites discovered that they lived just three days ahead of their line of march in their conquest. Actually Gibeon, the chief of their towns, lay a scant thirty straight-line miles from the camp at Gilgal In going up to Ebal and Gerizim for the uttering of the blessings and curses they passed much nearer the place. When it was learned how they had been tricked the congregation of Israel was very much displeased with their elders, but these stuck by their oath in fear of the wrath of God if they should fail to keep it. However, to honor their foolish oath was to dishonor the original command of the Lord to exterminate the pagan inhabitants of the land, so that it is questionable whether they were bound under God to honor the oath they had made to the Gibeonites. The eventual settlement of the problem was to leave them alive, but to make them servants of the congregation in hewing the wood and drawing the water to be used in the service of the tabernacle.
Disposition of the Case, vs. 22-27
These verses record the formal pronouncement of the judgment on the Gibeonites by Joshua. He asked them why they had so deceived Israel, although the answer was certainly obvious, and tells them they are to serve the house of God as drawers of water and hewers of wood. They are actually bondslaves, but they are happy to have escaped with their lives.
They had been convinced of God’s judgment against Canaan, but had not turned to Him as did Rahab Yet, in the end they were assigned a position where they might have had great exposure to the true God and come to truly accept Him, as they surely did in some number.
From chapter 9 we may learn these lessons: 1) Men of the world seek to escape judgment by ways of their own devising; 2) man’s decisions without the will of the Lord will never succeed; 3) one’s judgments without seeking God’s will always come back to humiliate him; 4) it is hard to undo a wrong decision.
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Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Joshua 9". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany