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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Joshua 9

 

 

Verse 1

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;

All the kings which were on this side - i:e., the western side of Jordan.

In the hills, and in the valleys, and in all the coasts of the great sea. This threefold distinction marks out very clearly a large portion of Canaan. The first designates the hill country, which belonged afterward to the tribes of Judah and Ephraim; the second, all the low country from Carmel to Gaza; and the third, the shores of the Mediterranean from the isthmus of Tyre to the plain of Joppa. This designation, "the great sea," is in several other passages applied to that part of the Mediterranean which washed the coast of Canaan (Numbers 34:6; Joshua 1:4; Joshua 15:12; Ezekiel 47:20). As for the tribes mentioned, see the note at Joshua 3:10.

Heard thereof - that is, of the sacking of Jericho and Ai, as well as the rapid advance of the Israelites into the interior of the country.


Verse 2

That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord.

They gathered themselves together to fight ... with one accord. Although divided by separate interests, and often at war with each other, a sense of common danger prompted them to suspend their mutual animosities, that by their united forces they might prevent the land From falling into the hands of foreign masters.


Verse 3

And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai,

When the inhabitants of Gibeon heard. This town, as its name imports, was situated on a rocky eminence about six miles northwest from Jerusalem, where the modern village of El-Jib now stands. It was the capital of the Hivites, and a large, important city (Joshua 10:2). It seems to have formed, in union with three other towns in the neighbourhood, a free, independent tetrapolis (Joshua 9:17), and to have enjoyed a republican government (Joshua 9:11). 'The situation and character of Gibeon placed it in an exceptional position. Planted at the head of the pass of Beth-heron, and immediately opposite the opening of the pass of Ai, it would have been the next prey on which the Israelite host would have sprung' (Stanley, 'Lectures on the Jewish Church,'

p. 236).


Verse 4

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;

They did work wilily - They acted with dexterous policy, seeking the means of self-preservation, not by force, which, they were convinced, would be unavailing, but by artful diplomacy.

Took old sacks upon their asses. Travellers in the East transport their luggage on beasts of burden. The poorer sort stow all their necessaries, food, clothes, utensils, together, in a woollen or haircloth sack, laid across the shoulders of the beast they ride upon.

Wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up - goat-skins, which are better adapted for carrying liquor of any kind, fresh and good, than either earthenware, which is porous, or metallic vessels, which are soon heated by the sun. These skin bottles are liable to be rent when old and much used; and there are various ways of mending them, by inserting a new piece of leather, of by gathering together the edges of the rent and sewing them in the form of a purse, or by putting in a round flat splinter of wood into the hole.


Verse 5

And old shoes and clouted upon their feet, and old garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy.

Old shoes and clouted. Those who have only one donkey or mule for themselves and baggage frequently dismount and walk-a circumstance which may account for the worn shoes of the pretended travelers.

Bread ... dry and mouldy. This must have been that commonly used by travelers-a sort of biscuit made in the form of large rings, about an inch thick and four or five inches in diameter. Not being so well baked as our biscuits, it becomes hard and mouldy, from the moisture left in the dough. It is usually soaked in water previous to being used.


Verse 6

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.

They went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal. Arrived at the Israelite headquarters, the strangers obtained an interview with Joshua and the elders, or princes, to whom they opened their business.


Verse 7

And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you?

Peradventure ye dwell among us. The answer of the Israelites implied that they had no discretion, that their orders were imperative, and that if the strangers belonged to any of the native tribes, the idea of an alliance with them was unlawful, since God had forbidden it (Exodus 23:32; Exodus 34:12; Deuteronomy 7:2).


Verse 8

And they said unto Joshua, We are thy servants. And Joshua said unto them, Who are ye? and from whence come ye?

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 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 we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt,

From a very far country ... because of the name of the Lord thy God. They pretended to be actuated by religious motives in seeking to be allied with His people. But their studied address is worthy of notice in appealing to instances of God's miraculous doings at a distance, while they pass by those done in Canaan, as if the report of these had not yet reached their ears. It has been supposed that they had a deep impelling motive for taking a course which they alone of all the Canaanite tribes adopted, and to which they would not, but for a very powerful reason, have resorted. That reason was, that having been expelled from mount Seir, to make way for the tribe of Esau, and having obtained a settlement in the four cities of Canaan, they foresaw the certainty of their being again dispossessed by the descendants of Jacob, Esau's brother.


Verses 10-13

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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 14

And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD.

The men took of their victuals. The mouldy appearance of their bread was, after examination, accepted as guaranteeing the truth of the story; and in this precipitate conclusion the Israelites were guilty of excessive credulity and culpable negligence, in not asking by the high priest's Urim and Thummim the mind of God before entering into the alliance. It is not clear, however, that, had they applied for divine direction, they would have been forbidden to spare and connect themselves with any of the Canaanite tribes who renounced idolatry and embraced the worship of the true God. At least, no fault was found with them for making a covenant with the Gibeonites; while, on the other hand, the violation of it was severely punished (2 Samuel 21:1; Joshua 11:19-20).


Verse 15

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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 16

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.

At the end of three days ... they heard that they were their neighbours. This information was obtained in their further progress through the country; for, as Joshua 9:17 should be rendered, 'When the children of Israel journeyed, they came to their cities.' Gibeon was about 18 or 20 miles from Gilgal.


Verse 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-je'arim.

Chephirah , [ K


Verse 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. And all the congregation murmured against the princes.

The children of Israel smote them not. The moral character of the Gibeonites' stratagem was bad. The princes of the congregation did not vindicate either the expediency or the lawfulness of the connection they had formed, but they felt the solemn obligations of their oath; and, although the popular clamour was loud against them, caused by disappointment, perhaps, at losing the spoils of Gibeon, but especially by displeasure at the apparent breach of the divine commandment, they determined, to adhere to their pledge, because they had "sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel." The people demanded the dissolution of the league, but the princes would not comply. The oath was in their eyes a momentous fact; and it may be remarked, that so much was the old ecclesiastical theology impressed with the sanctity of an oath, that it declared the oath which had been made even to a robber inviolate. The Israelite princes acted conscientiously: they felt themselves bound by their solemn promise; but, to prevent the disastrous consequences of their imprudent haste, they resolved, as a species of atonement for their error, to degrade the Gibeonites to a servile condition, as a means of preventing the Hebrew people from being ensnared into idolatry, and thus acted up, as they thought, to the true spirit and end of the law.


Verse 19-20

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. No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 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.

Hewers of wood and drawers of water (see the note at Deuteronomy 29:11) - the menials who performed the lowest offices and drudgery in the sanctuary; whence they were called Nethinims (1 Chronicles 9:2; Ezra 2:43; Ezra 8:20) -

i.e., given, appropriated, delivered over (to the sanctuary) - a name first given to the Levites; as hereditarily devoted to the service of the sanctuary; but afterward exclusively applied to the Gibeonites, who were separated from all others, dwelling in their own quarters (Nehemiah 7:46). [The Septuagint has: xulokopoi kai hudroforoi tou thusiasteeriou tou Theou, hewers of wood and drawers of water for the altar of God; leaving out the congregation, to whose private or personal convenience the Gibeonites were not to minister.] Their chastisement thus brought them into the possession of great religious privileges (Psalms 84:10); and their continued preservation in their special office, after the extermination of the other native tribes of Canaan, affords a remarkable confirmation of the truth of the preceding history (see the note at 2 Samuel 21:1-2).


Verse 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?

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 23

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.

Now therefore ye are cursed. The sentence pronounced on Canaan was literally fulfilled on this Canaanite tribe (see the note at Genesis 9:25). [The word is 'aarar (Hebrew #779), not charam, to doom to destruction.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 9:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/joshua-9.html. 1871-8.

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