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Bible Commentaries

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the Bible

Joshua 9

Verses 1-15

The Gibeonites Deceive Joshua and the Princes

v. 1. And it came to pass, when all the kings which were on this side Jordan, on the west side, in the hills, in the entire mountain country of Canaan, and in the valleys, the lowland toward the south and west, and in all the coasts of the great sea, the Mediterranean Sea, over against Lebanon, in the entire strip of open coast, from the neighborhood of Joppa well into Phenicia, the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, Joshua 3:10, heard thereof, namely, of all the deeds which Israel had undertaken till now,

v. 2. that they gathered themselves together, they formed a league, to fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord, there being only one opinion expressed among them, namely, that they must maintain an alliance in order to overcome the invaders.

v. 3. And when the inhabitants of Gibeon, the capital of a small independent state in the mountains northwest of Jerusalem, the principality containing a number of smaller cities as well,

v. 17. heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and Ai,

v. 4. they did work wilily, they made use of a stratagem, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, or, they provided themselves with victuals, and took old sacks upon their asses and wine-bottles, specially prepared skins, as they were used for transporting liquids, old, and rent, and bound up,

v. 5. and old shoes and clouted upon their feet, sandals worn and patched, and old garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and moldy, the mold having eaten spots into the bread.

v. 6. And they went to Joshua, unto the camp at Gilgal, either that near Jericho, or, more probably, that in Mount Ephraim, about midway between Jerusalem and Shechem, and said unto him and to the men of Israel, We be come from a far country; now, therefore, make ye a league with us.

v. 7. And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, for that is what the Gibeonites were, as the Israelites later found out, Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you? This question was prompted by the suspicious aspect of the entire matter, which made it seem probable that the ambassadors were members of some Canaanitish nation.

v. 8. And they said unto Joshua, We are thy servants, which was really a meaningless form of courtesy and not at all satisfactory. And Joshua, not satisfied with this evasive attitude, said unto them, Who are ye, and from whence come ye? It was a direct and definite inquiry.

v. 9. And they said unto him, From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of the Lord, thy God; for, as they add in explanation, we have heard the fame of Him, and all that He did in Egypt,

v. 10. and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites that were beyond Jordan, to Sihon, king of Heshbon, and to Og, king of Bashan, which was at Ashtaroth. They wisely make no mention of the miraculous passage of Jordan and of the taking of Jericho, in order not to contradict their statement of having been on the way a long time.

v. 11. Wherefore our elders, the officials of their republic, and all the inhabitants of our country spake to us, saying, Take victuals with you for the journey, and go to meet them, the Israelites, and say unto them, We are your servants; therefore, now, make ye a league with us.

v. 12. T his our bread we took hot, straight from the oven, for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you, but now, behold, it is dry, and it is moldy;

v. 13. and these bottles, skins, of wine, which we filled, were new, and, behold, they be rent; and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey. It was a bold stroke by which the messengers pointed to their provisions and to their clothing in corroboration of their story.

v. 14. And the men, the princes of Israel, took of their victuals, either to convince themselves of the truth of the statements presented to them, or in an act implying readiness to make a league with the Gibeonites, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord, thus transgressing an explicit command of the Lord, Numbers 27:21; for that was one of the functions of the high priest, to ask advice of the Lord in all difficult questions by means of Urim and Thummim.

v. 15. And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to their advantage, to let them live; and the princes of the congregation sware unto them. In the entire transaction Joshua and the heads of Israel acted very foolishly, and the result was a transgression of God's command, who had made the strict rule that no covenants were to be made with the nations of Canaan, Exodus 23:32; Exodus 34:12. The neglect to consult the Word of God in important questions has plunged many a Christian into severe sins.

Verses 16-27

The Deception Discovered and Punished.

v. 16. And it came to pass at the end of three days, after they had made a league with them, that they, the Israelites, heard that they, the Gibeonites, were their neighbors, and that they dwelt among them, almost in the center of Canaan.

v. 17. And the children of Israel journeyed, and came unto their cities on the third day. Now, their cities were Gibeon, and Chephirah, and Beeroth, and Kirjath-jearim, the location of all of which is pretty definitely known, west and northwest of Jerusalem.

v. 18. And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel, namely, to spare their lives, and they felt themselves bound in conscience, by their reverence of the oath in itself, Leviticus 19:12, although, strictly speaking, the condition of the ambassadors' having come from a distant country was attached to the oath and rendered it invalid. and all the congregation murmured against the princes.

v. 19. But all the princes said unto all the congregation, We have sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel; now, therefore, we may not touch them.

v. 20. This we will do to them: we will even let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath which we sware unto them. The punishment of God did strike Israel later, at the time of David, because Saul, not paying any attention to this oath and the subsequent provision, had tried to exterminate the Gibeonites, 2 Samuel 21.

v. 21. And the princes said unto them, Let them live, but let them be hewers of wood and drawers of water unto all the congregation; as the princes had promised them. So their lives were spared, but they were given the most menial position in Israel; they were made slaves of the Sanctuary, being obliged to perform the lowest tasks there, as servants of the entire congregation. In this way the danger of their attempting to lead Israel into idolatry was also removed. Thus the matter was decided upon and adjusted.

v. 22. And Joshua called for them, and he spake unto them, saying, "Wherefore have ye beguiled us, saying, We are very far from you, when ye dwell among us? It was a just rebuke of the lying craftiness of the Gibeonites.

v. 23. Now, therefore, ye are cursed, and there shall none of you be freed from being bondmen, they were never to cease being slaves, that was to be their social status in Israel forever, and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God, reckoned among the lowest class of the people, Deuteronomy 29:10-11. Together with captives taken in war and devoted for like purposes to the Sanctuary, they bore, at a later period, the name Nethinim, 1 Chronicles 9:2; Nehemiah 7:43-46.

v. 24. And they answered Joshua, in attempting to justify their action, and said, Because it was certainly told thy servants how that the Lord, thy God, commanded His servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you, therefore we were sore afraid of our lives because of you, and have done this thing.

v. 25. And now, behold, we are in thine hand; as it seemeth good and right unto thee to do unto us, do. It was an unconditional submission, by which they left their fate entirely in the hands of Joshua.

v. 26. And so he did unto them, as had been decided upon, and delivered them out of the hand of the children of Israel, that they slew them not, which they, in their warlike zeal, would have been only too willing to do.

v. 27. And Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord even unto this day, at the Tabernacle, in the place which He should choose, this note proving that the book was written before the building of Solomon's Temple. Yet the Gibeonites, condemned to everlasting servitude as they were, were received into the fellowship of the blessings of Jehovah. There are always some souls, even among the outcasts of the world, who hear of the mercy of the Lord and are moved to accept His invitation in the Gospel. Mark: An oath in uncertain things may be the cause of much trouble and unpleasantness, if it does not lead to severe transgressions of the will of God.

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Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Joshua 9". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". 1921-23.