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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Joshua 9

Verses 1-27

Joshua 9:1-2 . All the kings to fight with Joshua. They realized the ancient proverb, Quem Deus vult perdere, primum dementat. He whom God destroys is first mad.

Joshua 9:4 . Wine bottles, old and rent, and bound up. Bruce, our Abyssinian traveller, calls these girbashes. They are made of strong leather, and so sewed as not to ooze. Glass was not discovered till fifty years before the christian era. With regard to the moral character of this mission, the remark of our Saviour applies pertinently: “The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.”

Joshua 9:14 . Asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord. It was an ancient maxim of heathen priests, that nothing of importance was to be undertaken without consulting the gods. Joshua, in the throng of war, had omitted it in this case.

Joshua 9:17 . Gibeon, and the three dependent cities seem to have been under one wise king. Gibeon was but a stage west-south-west of Jerusalem.

Joshua 9:20 . Let them live because of the oath. They enjoyed their cities, but having deceived the Israelites, a proportion of them did the laborious service of the sanctuary. But the phrase, “hewers of wood,” designates a prohibition of bearing arms. Here is a laudable example to christians, and particularly so to christian courts, concerning the faith of treaties. Here also the papists are at issue among themselves. Some of the fathers, and after them Cardinal Cajetan, maintain that this covenant was binding on Joshua, because, as Calvin judiciously says, “it was made in the name of the Lord of the whole earth,” and he cites David’s words. Psalms 15:4. Against Calvin, Tirinus the Jesuit contends, that it was not binding, because it was obtained by imposture. The jesuit has in his eye the favourite doctrine of Rome, that no faith is to be kept with heretics! So Rome is Rome still.


From the artifice of the four cities which surprized Joshua and the elders of Israel into a league, we see that the Canaanites were not destroyed in total ignorance. They perfectly understood that God was with the Israelites; they also understood the extent of their commission, to destroy the seven nations only. They were fully persuaded that an oath of the Lord’s people would be inviolably observed, though it was given in ignorance, and even to a deceitful people. Surely it is not for the want of light that the wicked perish, but for want of fidelity to it.

Religion is often made use of as a pretence, where secular interest is only intended. The Gibeonites pretended great regard for God, and desired to join his people to become servants of him who had such power and wrought such miracles; but they only wanted to save their lives, and secure their possessions. This is too common a case. Men talk much of God and religion, to augment their secular interests: but God cannot be deceived, though men may. He desireth truth in the inward parts; and the hypocrisy of the heart is an abomination unto him.

Let us learn to avoid rash judgments. The Israelites hastily made a league, without consulting the Lord, which might easily have been done; and then they would have acted wisely and safely. Let us guard against too hasty a temper, especially in such solemn affairs as vows and engagements. Remembering Solomon’s advice, Be not rash with thy mouth, or hasty to utter any thing before God, in the way of vows or promises. Consult his word by diligent search, his providence by earnest prayer. Bishop Hall, and after him Mr. Henry, caution us from this story against taking up any sentiments rashly, because they have the appearance of antiquity. Many good men have done this, and been strangely obstinate: but errors are never the better for being patched and seemingly old. When persons judge of men or things rashly, it is a sign that they have not deliberated, nor duly weighed the evidence and reasons for them, nor consulted God. Let it teach us in all our ways to acknowledge him, and he will direct our paths.

Let us learn to reverence an oath, and to keep close to our solemn engagements. We ought to stand by our word, and be punctual to our bargain, though it should be to our loss. The Israelites did so, they observed their oath, and it was well they did; for the Lord punished the breach, as we find in 2 Samuel 21:1. There was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year, for Saul and his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites. It is an undoubted maxim, that men lose more by making God their enemy, than they can possibly gain by any fraudulent methods. Therefore, let integrity and uprightness guide and preserve us; remembering it is the character of one that shall inhabit God’s holy hill, that he walketh uprightly, speaketh the truth in his heart; and though he sweareth to his own hurt, yet he changeth not. Psalms 15:0.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Joshua 9". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.