And it came to pass, when all the kings which were on this side Jordan, in the hills, and in the valleys, and in all the coasts of the great sea over against Lebanon, the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, heard thereof;Joshua 9:1-2. In all the coasts of the great sea, &c. — Some versions render this, And those along all the coasts of the great sea, and those about Lebanon. Heard thereof — That is, of the taking of Jericho and Ai, for what immediately precedes, namely, about writing the law on stones in mount Ebal, did not concern these nations. They gathered themselves together to fight, &c. — They entered into a league to do this. Though they were many kings of different nations, and doubtless of different interests, often at variance with each other, yet they are all determined to unite against Israel. O that Israel would learn this of Canaanites, to sacrifice private interests to the public good, and to lay aside all animosities among themselves, that they may cordially unite against the common enemy!
That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord.
And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai,Joshua 9:3-4. And when — Rather, but when; the inhabitants of Gibeon — A great and royal city of the Hivites. They made as if they had been ambassadors — Sent from a far country. Wine-bottles, old and rent, and bound up — This seems scarce sense to us; but will appear clear enough when we recollect that glass bottles were not then known, but that bottles made of leather or skins were then used; and the Gibeonites, to make show of being come from a far country, brought with them such as were torn and rent, and bound about with strings or cords to keep them together.
They did work wilily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks upon their asses, and wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up;
And old shoes and clouted upon their feet, and old garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy.
And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal, 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.Joshua 9:6. Unto the camp to Gilgal — Joshua’s headquarters. And said to the men of Israel — To those that used to meet in council with Joshua, to whom it belonged to make leagues, namely, the princes of the congregation. Now therefore make a league with us — Because we are not of this people, whom, as we are informed, you are obliged utterly to destroy.
And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you?Joshua 9:7-8. The men of Israel said to the Hivites — That is, the Gibeonites, who were Hivites, Joshua 11:19. Peradventure you dwell among us — That is, in this land, and so are of that people with whom we are forbidden to make any league or covenant. They said — We are thy servants — We desire a league with you upon your own terms; we are ready to accept of any conditions. Joshua said, From whence come ye? — For this free and general concession gave him cause to suspect that they were Canaanites.
And they said unto Joshua, We are thy servants. And Joshua said unto them, Who are ye? and from whence come ye?
And they said unto him, From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of the LORD thy God: for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt,Joshua 9:9. Because of the Lord thy God — Being moved thereunto by the report of his great and glorious nature and works. Thus they gave them hopes that they would embrace their religion. In Egypt — They cunningly mention those things only which were done some time ago, and say nothing of dividing Jordan, or the destruction of Jericho and Ai, as if they lived so far off that the fame of those things had not yet reached them.
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.
Wherefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spake to us, saying, Take victuals with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say unto them, We are your servants: therefore now make ye a league with us.
This our bread we took hot 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 mouldy:
And these bottles 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.
And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD.Joshua 9:14. The men — That is, the princes. Their victuals — That they might examine the truth of what they said. Asked not at the mouth of the Lord — As they ought to have done upon all such weighty occasions. So they are accused of rashness and neglect of their duty. For though it is probable, if God had been consulted, he would have consented to the sparing of the Gibeonites; yet it should have been done with more caution, and an obligation upon them to embrace the true religion. In every business of importance we should take God along with us, and by his word and prayer consult him. Many a time our affairs miscarry, because we ask not counsel at the mouth of the Lord. Did we acknowledge him in all our ways, they would be more safe, easy, and successful.
And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them.Joshua 9:15. Joshua made a league with them to let them live — Not merely, it seems, to spare their lives, which, supposing them to belong to a far country, they had no warrant to take away, but to let them continue in the enjoyment of their effects; the word life in Scripture being frequently of equal signification with prosperity. That this league was lawful and obliging, appears, 1st, Because Joshua and all the princes, upon the review, concluded it so to be, and spared them accordingly. 2d, Because God punished the violation of it long after, 2 Samuel 21:1. 3d, Because God is said to have hardened the hearts of all other cities, not to seek peace with Israel, that so he might utterly destroy them, (Joshua 11:19-20,) which seems to imply that their utter destruction did not necessarily come upon them by virtue of any peremptory command of God, but by their own obstinate hardness, whereby they refused to make peace with the Israelites.
And it came to pass at the end of three days after they had made a league with them, that they heard that they were their neighbours, and that they dwelt among them.
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 Kirjathjearim.
And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel. And all the congregation murmured against the princes.Joshua 9:18. All the congregation murmured against the princes — Both from that proneness which is in people to censure the actions of their rulers, and from the desire of the spoil of these cities.
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.
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.
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.Joshua 9:21. Unto all the congregation — That is, let them be public servants, and employed in the meanest offices (one kind being put for all the rest) for the use of the congregation; doing these things partly for the sacrifices and services of the house of God, which otherwise the Israelites themselves must have done; partly for the services of the camp or body of people; and sometimes even for particular Israelites.
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?Joshua 9:22-23. Called for them — Probably not only the messengers, but the elders of Gibeon were now present. Therefore ye are cursed — You shall not escape the curse of God, which, by divine sentence, belongs to all the Canaanites; but only change the quality of it. You shall feel that curse of bondage, which is proper to your race by virtue of that ancient decree, Genesis 9:25. Bondmen — The slavery which is upon you shall be entailed on your posterity. The house of my God — This only service they mention here, because it was their durable servitude, being first in the tabernacle, and then in the temple, whence they were called Nethinim, 1
Chronicles Joshua 9:2; Ezra 2:43; whereas their servitude to the whole congregation, in a great measure, ceased when the Israelites were dispersed to their several habitations.
Now therefore ye are cursed, and there shall none of you be freed from being bondmen, and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.
And they answered Joshua, 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.
And now, behold, we are in thine hand: as it seemeth good and right unto thee to do unto us, do.Joshua 9:25. We are in thy hand, &c. — In thy power to use us as thou wilt. We refer ourselves to thee and thy own piety, probity, and faithfulness, to fulfil thy word and oath; if thou wilt destroy thy humble supplicants, we submit. Let us, in like manner, submit to our Lord Jesus, and refer ourselves to him, saying, We are in thy hand, do unto us as it seemeth right unto thee. Only save our souls: give us our lives for a prey, and let us serve thee just as thou wilt!
And so did he unto them, and delivered them out of the hand of the children of Israel, that they slew them not.
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, in the place which he should choose.Joshua 9:27. And for the altar of the Lord — By which it appears, that they were not only to do this service in God’s house, but upon all other occasions, as the congregation needed their help.