Joshua 9
Pulpit Commentary
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;
Verse 1. - And it came to pass, when all the kings. According to the explanation given above (Joshua 6:5, 15) of the particle כ with the infinitive, this must mean immediately. We must therefore suppose that the distance at which they lived from the scene of the events had prevented them from comprehending their astounding character so clearly as those who lived in the immediate neighbourhood (see Joshua 2:11; Joshua 5:1; Joshua 6:1). The kings (see Introduction). In the hills. "The land is classified under three heads: the hills (or mountain district), the plain, and the sea coast over against Lebanon" (Keil). The hills are not the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon range, the operations against which are detailed in ch. 11, but the mountains of Ephraim and Judah. The word translated "valleys" here is neither עֲרָבָה nor כִּכַּר (see above note on Joshua 3:16), but ְשפֵלָה or low country, i.e., the great plain from Joppa, or Carmel, to Gaza. The חופor sea coast probably refers to the coast between Type and Joppa. The Hittite. The Girgashites are the only tribe omitted here from the list in Joshua 3:10.
That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord.
Verse 2. - With one accord. One mouth, according to the Hebrew, referring not merely to their opinions, but to the expression of them. "O that Israel would learn this of Canaanites, to sacrifice private interests to the public welfare, and to lay aside all animosities among themselves, that they may cordially unite against the common enemies of God's kingdom" (Matthew Henry).
And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai,
Verse 3. - The inhabitants of Gibeon. That is, of a confederation of cities (see ver. 17), of which Gibeon was the head. Gibeon was a city of some importance (Joshua 10:2). Though it was for size and importance "as one of the royal cities," we hear nothing of a king there. Hengstenberg, in his history, describes it (p. 227) as "eine freie Stadt," with daughter cities dependent on it. In fact, the Phoenician cities (see Introduction) seem to have had as great a variety of constitution as those of ancient Greece. Its inhabitants were Hivites (ver. 7, and Joshua 11:19). Its name (compare Gibeah and גִבְעָה a hill) signifies hill city, like the termination dunum in Latin, as Lugdunum, or Lyons; dune in Anglo-Saxon, as Ethandune. Compare also Dunkirk. Robinson, in his 'Biblical Researches,' 2:135-9, identifies it with el-Jib, a village on an eminence in the midst of a fertile plain, where the remains of large buildings may still be seen. (So Vandevelde and Condor.) "Onely the Hivites are wiser than their fellowes, and will rather yeeld and live. Their intelligence was not diverse from the rest; all had equally heard of the miraculous conduct and successe of Israel; but their resolution was diverse. As Rahab saved her family in the midst of Jericho, so these foure cities preserved themselves in the midst of Canaan; and both of them by beleeving what God would do. The efficacie of God's marvellous works is not in the acts themselves, but in our apprehension" (Bp. Hall).
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;
Verse 4. - They did work wilily. Rather, and they worked - they also - with craft. The reference, no doubt, is to the confederacy of the other kings. The Gibeonites also acted upon what they had heard, but they preferred an accommodation to war. So Calvin and Rosenmuller; also Drusius. And they felt that they could only effect their purpose by craft. Other explanations are given, such as that a reference is made to Joshua's stratagem at Ai. Keil rejects both, and proposes an explanation of his own, which is unintelligible. Origen's interpretation here is interesting as a specimen of the theology of the third century. He regards the Gibeonites as the type of men who, though they are enrolled in the Church as believers and have faith in God, and acquiesce in all the Divine precepts, and are ready enough to take part in all the external duties of religion, are yet involved in vices and foulnesses, like the Gibeonites in their old garments and clouted shoes. They display no signs of improvement or alteration, yet Jesus our Lord concedes to them salvation, even though that salvation does not escape a certain stigma of disgrace. That there may be some persons in a condition somewhat resembling this described by Origen may be admitted, but it is difficult to see how any one in a state of salvation can display no signs of improvement whatever. There are many who do not improve as they might, whom we should yet hesitate to pronounce altogether reprobate from God. But surely the entire absence of all improvement is a manifest sign of reprobation. This passage is one of many among the voluminous works of Origen in which that holy and learned man has not sufficiently weighed what he was saying (see below, ver. 23). Made as if they had been ambassadors. "Sent an embassy" (Luther). If we take this reading, we must suppose, with Grotius and others, the word to be the Hithpahel of צִיר to go, to revolve. But the form is rare, and the word is elsewhere unknown, at least in Hebrew, though an Arabic form of it is found. It is therefore better to read יֹצְטַיָּדוּ "they prepared themselves provisions." This is the reading of the LXX., the Vulgate, the Chaldee, the Syriac, and of most modern editors. It is rendered still more probable by the occurrence of the same word in ver. 12. Old sacks. Rather, worn out, and so throughout the passage. The usual mode of conveyance still in the East is in sackcloth bags on the backs of horses, mules, camels, and asses. Such bags are apt to meet with rough usage in a long journey. Wine bottles. Rather, wine skins, the wine then being kept in skins, not in vessels of glass. This explains how they could be burst open (מְבֻקָּעִים) and tied up. These skins were hung up frequently in the smoke (Psalm 119:83), which gave them a shrivelled appearance. The first bottles were made of such skins, as Herodotus tells us. The Egyptian monuments confirm his statements, displaying as they do skins of animals so used, with the legs or the neck forming what we still term the "neck" of the bottle (cf. Homer, Iliad, 4:247, ἀσκῷ ἐν αἰγείῳ). Similar bottles are depicted on the walls of Herculaneum and Pompeii, and the like may be seen still in Italian villages. They were pitched over at the seams to prevent leakage (cf. Job 32:19; Matthew 9:17; Mark 2:22; Luke 5:37, 38. See also Kitto's 'Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature '). Bound up. The usual mode of mending in the East, except when a patch is inserted, is to tie or sew up the hole.
And old shoes and clouted upon their feet, and old garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy.
Verse 5. - Shoes. Literally, things tied on; i.e., sandals, attached with straps to the sole of the foot. Clouted, i.e., patched. The intensive Pual suggests that they were very much patched. The participle Kal is translated "spotted" in Genesis 30:32, 33, 35. Mouldy. נִקֻּדִים literally, marked with points, i.e., mildewed, Provision צֵידָם. "Proprie vendtionem" (Vatablus). "Panis enim mucidus punctis respersus est albis viridibus et nigris" (Rabbi David, in libro Radicum). So the LXX., Theodotion, and Luther. This gives a better sense and more according to the derivation than the interpretation crumbs of bread, given by Gesenius and Keil, after Aquila, Symmachus, and the Vulgate, which has "in fustra comminuti." The cracknels (the same word in Hebrew as here) in 1 Kings 14:3 were probably biscuits marked with points by a sharp pointed instrument, in the same way as the Jewish passover cakes are at the present day.
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.
Verse 6. - To the camp at Gilgal. Many commentators, among whom we may number Vandevelde and the recent Palestine Exploration Expedition, suppose that the Gilgal mentioned here is another Gilgal, and certainly the supposition derives great force from the fact that there is a place the modern name of which is Jiljilia, situated near the oaks of Moreh, whose situation would be far more central, and would fall in better with the rest of the history (see notes on Joshua 8:30), than the original Gilgal. That such a second Gilgal is known to Jewish history would appear from Deuteronomy 11:30, where its situation is clearly pointed out as that of the modern Jiljilia, near the oaks of Moreh, and near theArabah (champaign, Authorised Version), which runs in that direction. Jiljulieh, in the plain of Sharon, is supposed by Vandevelde and the Palestine explorers (see 'Quarterly Statement,' Jan., 1879) to be a third Gilgal, and Jerome, in his 'Onomasticon,' has identified it (see note on Joshua 12:23). The Gilgal in 1 Samuel 13:4-12 seems to require a central position like that of Jiljilia, rather than a place near the fords of Jordan. As Ewald reminds us, the earlier Gilgal lay out of the road from Jericho to Bethel (see also 2 Kings 2:1-6). The only argument against such a second Gilgal is the improbability of a removal of the camp without any mention of such removal by the historian (see Hengstenberg, 'Geschichte des Reiches Gottes,' p. 207), and the improbability of there having been a second Gilgal as the place of encampment of the Israelites. It is possible, however, that the second great place of encampment received the memorable name of the first, from the keen sense that the Israelitish encampment was the abode of a people from which the "reproach of Egypt" was forever rolled away. Another explanation is suggested by a comparison of Joshua 15:7 with Joshua 18:17 (see note on the former passage). The second Gilgal, if it really existed, was well suited for its purpose. "It was in the centre of the country, situated upon a steep hill, with a good table land at the top, and commanded a most extensive prospect of the large plain in the west, and also towards the north and east" (Keil) - precisely the place which an able general would be likely to select. Though "in a high position" (Vandevelde), it was "lower than Gibeon," and was "an hour west of Sinjil on the Jerusalem Shechem road." Its situation enabled Joshua to strike a decisive blow without delay (Joshua 10:7, 9). It is clear that this suggestion entirely obviates the difficulty of the concluding verses of ch. 8. And as the name implies a circular form as well as motion, and early camps were usually circular, it may have been the ordinary name for an encampment among the Hebrews.
And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you?
Verse 7. - And the men of Israel said. The Keri here has the singular number instead of the Chethibh plural, in consequence of Israel speaking of itself collectively in the word בְּקִרְבִּי and of the singular אִישׁ. But this last with a plural verb, as a noun of multitude, occurs in the historical books in places too numerous to mention. See, for instance, 1 Samuel 14:22, just as עַם in many passages, e.g., 2 Samuel 18:7, is the nominative to a plural verb. The Hivites (see note on ver. 3). Peradventure ye dwell among us, and how can we make a league with you? This was strictly forbidden in Exodus 23:32; Exodus 34:12; Deuteronomy 7:2, in reference to neighbouring nations, on account of the polluting influence their example had exercised (Numbers 25:1-3), and was sure to exercise, as the subsequent history of the Israelites from Judges 2 onwards, proves.
And they said unto Joshua, We are thy servants. And Joshua said unto them, Who are ye? and from whence come ye?
Verse 8. - We are thy servants. This does not mean altogether, as ver. 9 shows, that the Gibeonites intended by this embassy to reduce themselves to servitude. Their object, as Grotius remarks, was rather to form an alliance on terms of something like equality. The phrase was one common in the East as a token of respect (e.g., Genesis 32:4, 18; Genesis 50:18; 2 Kings 10:5; 2 Kings 16:7). But no doubt the Gibeonites (see ver. 11) expected to have a tribute laid on them. And they would willingly accept such an impost, for, as Ewald remarks ( 'History of Israel,' 4:3), their object was "to secure the peace which a mercantile inland city especially requires" (see also note on Joshua 3:10). From whence come ye? Joshua uses the imperfect, not the perfect, tense here. Commentators are divided about its meaning. Some suppose that the perfect, "from whence have ye come?" is mere direct and abrupt than "from whence may you have come?" or, "from whence were you coming?" and certainly an indirect question is in most languages considered more respectful than a direct one (see Genesis 42:7). But perhaps with Ewald we may regard it simply as implying that their mission was still in progress.
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,
Verse 9. - And they said unto him. "I commend their wisdom in seeking peace; I do not commend their falsehood in the manner of seeking it. Who can looke for any better in pagans?" (Bp. Hall.) It is worthy of the craft of the Gibeonites that they evade the first question, and as it is of vital importance to the success of their mission, they throw their whole force upon the second. The course of conduct enjoined on Joshua had reached the ears of the Canaanitish peoples, as we learn from ver. 24. They also take good care to say nothing of the more recent successes of the Israelites. With consummate astuteness they confine themselves to the successes "beyond Jordan." No wonder such mastery of the arts of deceit should have imposed on the Israelites. But inasmuch as the historian lacked the stimulus of that "necessity" which is proverbially "the mother of invention," we must recognise here a sign of the genuineness of the narrative.
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.
Verse 10. - Sihon, king of Heshbon, and Og, the king of Bashan (see Numbers 21:21, 35). Ashtaroth (see Joshua 12:4; Joshua 13:31; also Deuteronomy 1:4). In Numbers 21. Edrei only is mentioned. This is not the Ashtaroth-Karnaim of Genesis 14:5, which is so called from the worship of the horned Astarte, or crescent (see below), to distinguish it from this Ashtaroth. The two cities were close together. Eusebius and Jerome state that they were only nine miles apart. The site of this city has been identified with Tel Ashtereh, in a wide plain on the east of Jordan. It appears as Astaratu in the Karnak list of cities captured by Thothines III. The name has been identified with the Assyrian Ishtar, the Persian, Greek, and Latin aster and our star. So Gesenius, 'Thesaurus,' s.v. Whence Lucian seems to have been wrong in his idea that the worship of Astarte, like that of Artemis at Ephesus, was that of the moon. But Rawlinson, in his 'Ancient Monarchies,' decides against this identification. The last mention of this city in Jewish history is in the bold and successful expedition of Judas Maccabaeus into Gilead, in which he penetrated as far as this city (called Kar-naim), and brought the Jews residing there and in the neighbourhood to Jerusalem (1 Macc. 6.). Kuenen, in his 'History of the Religion of Israel,' makes a distinction between the worship of Ashtaroth and of Asherah. The former he regards as the worship of the moon, and a pure worship; the latter of Venus, and an impure one. But though Asherah and Ashtaroth, or Ashtoreth, are undoubtedly distinct, yet both worships may have been impure, as the worship of Artemis of the Ephesians (the Diana Multimamma, or the image of fecundity) unquestionably was. "It is probable," says Mr. G. Smith, "that the first intention in the mythology was only to represent love as heaven born, but in time a more sensual view prevailed, and the worship of Ishtar became one of the darkest features in Babylonian mythology." The Babylonian Mylitta, or Venus, was worshipped under a crescent form, as Babylonian sculptures prove. A Syrian altar with the crescent on it is now in the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge. It has a female figure on one side, with the crescent, and a male figure - of Baal, no doubt - on the other. Another is mentioned in a late able article in the Times, as having been found in Carehemish, the Hittite capital. The Chaldaean astronomers had, no doubt, discovered the use of telescopes (though in the translucent sky of Chaldaea perhaps the crescent Venus might be seen without them), for we find Saturn represented on their monuments with a ring (see Proctor, 'Saturn and his System,' p. 197). Consequently the worship of the crescent Venus involves no anachronism. Asherah, often wrongly translated "grove" in our version (see Judges 6:25), is probably the goddess Fortune, derived from אֶֶשר, happiness. Ashtaroth is spelt not with Aleph, but with Ain.
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.
Verse 11. - Our elders. Gibeon and its allied cities did not possess a regal government (see note on ver. 3).
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.
Verse 14. - And the men took of their victuals. Most commentators prefer this rendering to that of the margin, "and they received the men because of their victuals." The natural explanation - though several others are given, for which see Keil in loc. - would seem to be that the Israelites relied on the evidence of their senses, instead of upon the counsel of God. They could see the condition of the garments, sacks, and wine skins of the Gibeonites. They tasted of their victuals to convince themselves of the truth of those statements of which the sight was insufficient to take cognisance. And asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord. Even in the most obvious matter it is well not to trust too implicitly to our own judgment. Nothing could seem more clear or satisfactory than the account given of themselves by the Gibeonites - nothing more easy for the unassisted intellect to decide. And yet Joshua and the congregation were deceived. It is perhaps too much to say, with some commentators - Maurer, for instance - that Joshua disobeyed a plain command in acting thus. The passage in which Joshua is instructed to "stand up before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him at the judgment of Urim before the Lord" (Numbers 27:18-23), does not require him to do so in all cases. But it was clearly "an act of gross carelessness" (Calvin). And the inference may safely be drawn that in no case whatever is it wise to trust to ourselves. However obvious our course may be, we shall do well to take counsel with God by prayer.
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.
Verse 15. - The princes of the congregation. Literally, the exalted ones, נְשִׂיאֵי of the congregation, "Die obersten der gemeine" (Luther); that is, the heads of the various tribes (see Numbers 1:44; and note on Joshua 7:14).
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.
Verse 17. - On the third day. After the trick was discovered. Keil remarks that we need not suppose that the three days were consumed on the march. Not only did Joshua, when celerity was necessary, perform the journey in a single night, but the whole distance was not more than eighteen or twenty miles, if we accept the hypothesis of a second Gilgal. Now their cities were. Beeroth still exists, we are told, as el-Bireh (Robinson 2:132. So also Vaudcvelde and Conder). Jerome identified it with a place only seven miles from Jerusalem, which is an obvious error. It contains nearly 700 inhabitants, and is only about twenty minutes' walk from el-Jib, or Gibeon. Kirjath-jearim (the name means the city of forests) is well known in the history of Israel (e.g., Judges 18:12). But it is, chiefly remarkable for the twenty years sojourn of the ark there (1 Samuel 7:2). It was also known by the name of Baalah, Kirjath-Baal (Joshua 15:9, 60; 2 Samuel 6:2). The Hivites seem to have been removed thence (probably to Gibeon), for there is no trace of any non-Jewish element in the population in the account of the reception of the ark among them (see 1 Samuel 6.). It is called Baale of Judah in 2 Samuel 6:2 (cf. Joshua 18:15). The Jewish population seems to be due to one of the posterity of Caleb (see 1 Chronicles 2:50-53). Modern explorers, with the exception of Lieut. Conder, have identified Kirjath-jearim with Kuriet-el-Enab, "the city of the grape," about four miles from el-Jib, or Gibeon. This is the opinion of Robinson and Vandevelde. Supposing it to be near Beth-shemesh, on the authority of Josephus, Lieut. Conder places it at 'Arma, west of Bethlehem, and identifies the waters of Nepbtoah with a fountain nearly due south of the valley of giants or Rephaim (see Joshua 15:9). But this is too far from Gibeon. He identifies Kuriet-el-Enab with Kirjath in Joshua 18:28, and regards this as one of the cities of Benjamin within the border. But this Kirjath may be Kirjath-jearim, and may as reasonably, standing on the border, be accounted to belong to both tribes, as Zorah, Eshtaol (mentioned in the boundaries of Judah and Dan), Beth-arahah, possibly Gibeah or Gibeath (belonging to Judah and Benjamin), and even Jerusalem itself (see Joshua 15:53). The identification of Kirjath-jearim with Kuriet-el-Enab, of the waters of Nephtoah with Ain Lifta, giving a line running northwestward from the valley of Rephaim, seems more probable as the border of Judah and Benjamin, and the word "compassed," or rather deflected, adds probability to this interpretation (see Joshua 15:9, 10, and notes).
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.
Verse 18. - And the children of Israel smote them not. There is great difference of opinion among the commentators as to whether this oath were binding off the Israelites or not. This difference is to be found among Roman Catholics as well as Protestants, and Cornelius a Lapide gives the ingenious and subtle arguments used on both sides by the Jesuit commentators. Many contend that as it was obtained by fraud, and especially by a representation that the Gibeonites did not belong to the tribes which Joshua was specially commanded to destroy (see Deuteronomy 20:10-18, with which compare the passages cited in note on ver. 7), it was null and void, ab initio. But the Israelites had sworn by the sacred name of Jehovah to spare the Gibeonites. It would have been to degrade that sacred name, and possibly (ver. 20) to bring trouble on themselves, to break that oath under any pretence whatever. If they had been deceived the fault was their own. The Jehovah by whom they swore had provided them with a ready mode of detecting such deceit, had they chosen to use it. Calvin, though he thinks the princes of the congregation were unnecessarily scrupulous, remarks on the superiority of Israelitish to Roman morals. It would have been easy enough for the congregation to argue, as the Romans did after the disaster at the Candine Forks, that the agreement was of no effect, because it was not made with the whole people. Cicero, however, had no sympathy with such morality. He writes ('De Officiis,' 1:13), "Atque etiam si quid singuli temporibus adducti, hosti promiserunt, est in eo ipso tides conservanda." And not a few instances of similar perfidy since the promulgation of Christianity may lead us to the conclusion that the example of Israel trader Joshua is not yet superfluous. As instances of such perfidy, we may adduce the battle of Varna, in 1444, in which Ladislaus, king of Hungary, was induced by the exhortations of Cardinal Julian to break the truce he bad entered into with Amurath, sultan of the Turks. It is said in this case that Amurath, in his distress, invoked Jesus Christ to punish the perfidy of His disciples. Be that as it may, a signal defeat fitly rewarded their disregard of truth. Later instances may be drawn from the conflict between Spain and the Netherlands in the latter part of the sixteenth century, in which the Spaniards frequently and wantonly, in the supposed interests of religion, violated the articles of capitulation formally entered into with the insurgents. These breakers of their plighted word also found that "wrath was upon them;" that God would not prosper the arms of those who, professedly for His sake, were false to their solemn obligations. Both the princes, in the narrative before us, in withstanding the wrath of the congregation, and the congregation in yielding to their representations, present a spectacle of moral principle which few nations have surpassed. Cornelius a Lapide, after giving the opinions of others, as we have seen, and remarking on the opinion here followed as "probabilior," sums up in the following noble and manly words: "Disce hic quam sancte fides, praesertim jurata, sit servanda hosti, etiam impio et infideli. Fide enim sublata, evertitur omnis hominum contractus et societas, quae fidei quasi basi innititur, ut homines jam non homines, sed leones, tygrides, et ferae esse videantur." Would that his Church had always acted upon these insatiable principles of justice and morality! In after years a terrible famine visited the Israelites as a chastisement for the infringement of this agreement (see 2 Samuel 21:1-9). Murmured. Literally, were stubborn.
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.
Verse 20. - Lest wrath be upon us. The original is not quite so strong: "and wrath will not be upon us (καὶ οὐκ ἔσται καθ ἡμῶν ὀργή, LXX.).
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.
Verse 21. - Said unto them, i.e., to the Israelites. But let them be. Rather, and they were, with Rosenmuller and Keil. See Keil in loc. for the force of the Vau conversive. The LXX. and Vulgate render as our version. Hewers of wood and drawers of water. Some amount of casuistry has been displayed upon this passage. But the fairness of the proceeding seems clear enough. The Gibeonites had escaped death by a fraud. For that fraud they deserved punishment. Their lives were spared by virtue of a solemn oath. But equality of rights had never been promised them. They might think themselves well off if they escaped destruction, even though they might be condemned permanently to occupy a servile condition. They appear to have assisted at the tabernacle worship, since they were condemned to serve, not individual Israelites, but the congregation. Such was the office of the נְתִינִים (Nethinhim i.e., the given or devoted) in the later history of Judah (see 1 Chronicles 9:2; Ezra 2:43-54, 58, 70; and Ezra 8:20. See also Drusius and Masius in loc.). The latter discusses the question whether the Nethinim were really the Gibeonites, or whether David, as stated in Ezra 8:20, instituted a new order of persons to take their place. If the latter were the case, then we have a proof that the Book of Joshua was written anterior to the time of David. It seems quite possible that Saul (2 Samuel 21:6) had all but exterminated the Gibeonites, and that David was compelled to institute a new order in their stead. If this suggestion be correct, and it is far from improbable, we have here an undesigned coincidence strongly supporting the credit of the narrative, in the place of Knobel's insinuation, contained in the words, that "the Elohist in Saul's time gives no hint of this, although he took the greatest interest in the persons engaged in God's service." As the princes had promised them. These words as they stand are unintelligible. No such promise had been given. The literal rendering is "as the princes" (see note on ver. 15) "said to them," by the mouth of Joshua, as recorded in ver. 23. The Syriac Version supplies some words here to make up for a supposed deficiency in the text. But this is not necessary. The repetition in vers. 23 and 27 is quite in the manner of the historian. Nor are the words "as the princes said to them" explicable on the supposition that the words after, "let them live," are the words of the princes (see note above).
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?
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.
Verse 23. - There shall none of you be freed from being bondmen. Literally, as margin, there shall not be cut off from you a servant, as in 2 Samuel 3:29, and 1 Kings 2:4. The sense is, "you shall not cease to be servants." The term "bondmen" is somewhat too strong. The עֶבֶד was usually a bondman among the Hebrews, but not always (see 1 Samuel 29:3; 1 Kings 11:26, etc.). But the Gibeonites were to be employed forever in servile work. Hewing of wood and drawing of water was a task frequently imposed on the strangers (probably captives) dwelling among the Israelites, as we learn from Deuteronomy 29:11. We are not directly told that, as Keil and others have stated, the "lowest of the people" had to perform this office. It is, however, implied that the stranger who performed it occupied the lowest social station in the community. "Si qui tales sunt in nobis, quorum tides tantummodo habet ut ad Ecclesiam veniant, et inclinent caput suum sacerdotibus, officia exhibeant, servos Dei honorent, ad ornatum quoque altaris vel Ecclesiae aliquid conferant, non tamen adhibeant studium ut etiam mores suos excolant, actus emendent, vitia deponant, castitatem colant, iracundiam mitigent, avaritiam reprirnant, rapacitatem refrenant, maleloquia et stultiloquia, vel scurrilitatem et obtrectationum venena ex ore suo non adimant, sciant sibi, qui tales sunt, qui emendare se nolunt, sed in his usque in senectutem ultimam perseverant, partem sortemque at Jesu Domino cum Gabaonitis esse tribuendam" (Orig., Horn. 10 on Joshua).
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.
Verse 24. - The Lord thy God Commanded (see Exodus 23:32; Deuteronomy 7:1, 2). The prophecies of Moses during their sojourn in "the plains of Jordan by Jericho" (see Numbers 22. sqq.). We were sore afraid. Prophesied in Exodus 15:14.
And now, behold, we are in thine hand: as it seemeth good and right unto thee to do unto us, do.
And so did he unto them, and delivered them out of the hand of the children of Israel, that they slew them not.
Verse 26. - That they slew them not. See ver. 18, which attributes the preservation of the Gibeonites to the action of the heads of tribes. Perhaps this should be rendered, and 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.
Verse 27. - And for the altar (see note on ver. 21). In the place which he should choose. This phrase, and especially the use of the imperfect tense, implies that Solomon's temple was not yet built. The ark of God, and the tabernacle which contained it, had several resting places before its final deposition in the temple (see note on Joshua 24:1). And the grammatical construction just referred to also implies that there was more than one place. It is also clear, from the language of 2 Samuel 21:1-6, that this narrative was already in existence when that chapter was penned. It is equally clear that the author of this passage knew nothing of that (see Introduction).

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