And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation swore to them.…
The manner in which Joshua dealt with the Gibeonites shows how inflexible is the respect God requires for truth. That respect is exemplified in two ways in tiffs narrative. First, in the fulfilment of the oath made to the Gibeonites, that their lives should be saved; and second, in the punishment with which they are visited for their falsehood. They deceived Joshua by their miserable subterfuge of mouldy bread and way-worn garments, and thus passed themselves off as the inhabitants of some distant region instead of a neighbouring city. Therefore, while their lives were spared, they were reduced to a state of slavery (ver. 23).
I. NOTHING IS MORE HATEFUL TO THE HOLY GOD THAN A LIE. He is in His very essence light (1 John 1:5). Falsehood and cunning pervert all the relationships of life. Lying breaks the social bond, since a man's word is the only medium of moral exchange between men; and when mutual confidence is lost, the foundations of the social edifice are undermined. Therefore St. Paul says, "Lie not one to another... for ye are members one of another." In the direct education which God gave to His people Israel, He has given unmistakable demonstration of His horror of all deceit. Hence the punishment of the Gibeonites.
II. THE PUNISHMENT which these unhappy men brought upon themselves rested not only upon them as individuals, but upon their whole nation. God thus showed that evil is not transformed into good by being made to subserve a public cause. There are not two codes of morality - one for private and another for national life. Polities ought to be as scrupulously governed by the law of God as the life of the individual. Although since the abolition of the theocracy, the sphere of religion and of the civil power ought to be kept altogether distinct, it is no less incumbent on the State to adhere to the plain principles of morality. In spite of all that may seem to argue the contrary, every violation of these principles brings its own punishment. History is in its essence one long judgment of God.
III. By not allowing the Israelites to break their oath to the Gibeonites, even though they had been deceived by them, GOD TEACHES US THAT WRONG DONE BY OUR NEIGHBOUR DOES NOT AT ALL VINDICATE US IN BEING GUILTY OF A LIKE WRONG. One sin never justifies another. We are to "overcome evil with good," and it is this which distinguishes the people of God from all other people. It is by not being conformed to this world we triumph over it. If the people of God were to act in the same way as the Canaanites, there would be no reason for giving them the ascendancy. When the Church becomes worldly it falls under the condemnation of the world. Let us be, then, everywhere and always men the rule of whose life is the law of God. The only retaliation we must ever allow ourselves is rendering good for evil. "Be not overcome of evil," says St. Paul, "but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21). - E. DE P.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.