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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Joshua 9

 

 

Introduction

Commentary on Joshua Chapters 9-12. Defeat of the Southern And Northern Confederacies. Israel are Established in the Land.

Having won their initial battles Israel were now free to settle in the central hill country while maintaining Gilgal in the Jordan Rift Valley as their fighting base. The central hill country was relatively sparsely populated because of its lack of water, and the Israelites would have made plentiful use of cisterns for storing rain water. They had learned through their wilderness experiences how to preserve water. It was also heavily forested, as indeed were large parts of Canaan, which gave them further protection. Indeed when some complained to Joshua of having no land his reply was that they could clear land for themselves, advice which they then successfully followed. Meanwhile Canaan was populated mainly by peoples who lived in a multitude of small independent city states which were surrounded by such forests. But these city states had become alarmed at this large group of migrant people who had come among them and had to decide what to do about them, and that in most cases resulted in their seeking to prevent Israelite occupation, although at least one important city decided to obtain a treaty with Israel by subterfuge..

This section commences then with the mistaken treaty made with the powerful city of Gibeon as a result of the deceitful and false approach of their leaders, who pretended not to be Canaanites. This is then followed by Joshua’s defeat of a confederacy of five major Canaanite kings who came from the southern hill country and the lowlands, and this was accompanied by the smiting of a number of their cities, (although not Jerusalem itself in spite of his defeat of its king), with many of their inhabitants fleeing into the widespread forests. He was probably not, however, able to leave men in these cities to take possession of them and occupy them because he did not have enough men for the purpose, thus many of them would be repossessed by returning ‘refugees’ and would later have to be retaken. His initial intention was rather to draw the teeth of all opposition and stop their constant incursions against his people so that Israel could settle in the land. Then he returned with his forces to Gilgal.

Meanwhile the Canaanite kings of northern Palestine had heard of what had happened in the south and had raised up a further confederacy under the King of Hazor, a powerful city state. But they also fell before Joshua, with the large city of Hazor being taken and put to the sword, although once again it had to be left so that it could be repossessed. Joshua then proceeded with a slow aggressive warfare against many other kings of other cities who raised armies against him. It was not an easy task, nor one that could be accomplished quickly. ‘Joshua made war a long time with all those kings’ (Joshua 11:18). But he defeated them all with the result that in the end they ceased to oppose Israel and accepted their presence in the land, and ‘the land had rest from war’ (Joshua 11:23). This was not, however, to suggest that Israel now possessed the land. While the Canaanites were bruised and battered they still returned and repossessed many of their broken down cities and continued life as before, although in a much weaker state, having learned to leave Israel alone. Meanwhile Israel were initially permanently settling the relatively sparsely inhabited hill country by using lime plaster cisterns, with Ephraim and Manasseh settling the hill country in the middle of the land, and Judah commencing the clearing of the more populated hills in the south. This was preparatory to the tribes moving out to take possession of other parts of the land. Joshua 12 sums up Joshua’s successes up to that point. It will be noted that Joshua’s success is rated in terms of kings defeated, not in terms of cities permanently possessed. That would take longer once the land had been divided up among the tribes, and each had taken responsibility for a section (see Judges chapter 1 in respect of this). But at least his victories enabled Israelites to get a foothold in many parts of the land, often initially by clearing forest land, without their needing to fear constant attacks from belligerent enemies. The Canaanites learned to treat Israelites with respect, lest Joshua took note of their lack of such respect.

Chapter 9 The Treaty with Gibeon.

This chapter describes the fear of the various kings of Canaan when they learned of all that was happening, and the craftiness of the Gibeonites, who pretended that they were ambassadors from a far country, who desired to enter into a treaty with Israel. This they obtained because Joshua believed them, but then Israel discovered who they really were. As a result the princes of Israel then declared that they must abide by the treaty but that from then on the Gibeonites must be hewers of wood and drawers of water. On this being agreed Joshua summoned the men before him, and chided them for deceiving him, and once they had made their excuses, he ordered them to the service that the princes had proposed.


Verse 1-2

The General Fear Of Israel (Joshua 9:1-2).

As a result of the news getting around of the presence of the Israelites, and of what they had already done, the independent Canaanite cities became very much afraid and began to plot what they could do in order to oust these ‘strangers’. Each began to muster its forces with the intention of resisting Israel’s presence in the land, for they were quite well aware that in the end it could spell disaster for themselves. And some even began to get together in confederacies.

Joshua 9:1

And so it was that when all the kings who were Beyond Jordan, in the hill country and in the lowland, and on all the shore of the Great Sea in front of Lebanon, the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, heard of it.’

Note here the use of Beyond Jordan (compare ‘Beyond Jordan westward’ - Joshua 5:1). It would seem that the name could apply to land on both sides of the River regardless of where the speaker was. It was a region on either side of the Jordan, especially the land in the Jordan Rift, the Arabah. The point of the whole description here is to include the whole of Canaan. The Arabah, the hill country (central mountain range), the lowlands (the Shephelah - the lower slopes to the south and the south west), the coastal plain, right to the Mediterranean (the Great Sea) and up to the Lebanon Range (compare Deuteronomy 1:7).

The kings of all these people heard ‘about it’. Was this about the children of Israel and their arrival? Or was it about the covenant ceremony and the absorption of a Shechem which was already somewhat feared because of its previous activities? Or was it about the writing of the Law of YHWH on the stones, a sign of taking possession of the land for their warlike God. Or was it about the defeat of Ai and Bethel? Or was it about all four? ‘It’ does in fact probably mean ‘all that was happening’.

For the idea compare Joshua 5:1. These six nations are also mentioned in Joshua 11:3; Joshua 12:8 compare Exodus 3:8; Exodus 3:17; Exodus 23:23; Exodus 33:2; Exodus 34:11; Deuteronomy 20:17; Judges 3:5 but given in differing orders. In Joshua 3:10; Joshua 24:11; Deuteronomy 7:1, the Girgashites are added. They reveal something of the mixed nature of the ‘Canaanite’ population.

Joshua 9:2

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

This was not intended to indicate that they formed a huge alliance, although some did form alliances, but that each in his own way gathered his forces ready to meet this new threat and consulted with neighbours, while also making wider contact with others. They were all of one mind, acting at the same time, although semi-independently. The whole country was stirred by what it was hearing. It is, however, quite possible that messengers gradually passed between them all, in spite of the difficulty of travel, so that there was specific spoken general agreement between them.

Their aim was to fight ‘Joshua and Israel’, Joshua as the great general and leader and Israel as the people of God (and in their eyes as the intruders). The mention of both brings out that the latter is being stressed. A nation would normally be assumed without mention when its leader was mentioned. But the reason for it was partly because Israel had to be faced on two fronts, on the one hand as a large army under Joshua, and on the other as a people as a whole gradually encroaching and settling in different areas.


Verses 3-6

The Gibeonite Conspiracy (Joshua 9:3-27).

The next shock that shook Canaan was that with Jericho, Ai and Bethel defeated, and a way into Canaan having been obtained, and with the covenant having been made by Israel with the ‘foreign’ people of Shechem, the large and powerful Canaanite city of Gibeon capitulated and sought a treaty with the newcomers. The Israelite power base was growing. It is this capitulation of Gibeon who obtained a treaty through deceit that the remainder of this chapter is about.

Joshua 9:3

‘And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai.’

The inhabitants of Gibeon may well have felt that they were next on the list to be attacked. Messengers would have raced in to give them warning to prepare themselves and have described in vivid detail the total destruction of Jericho and Ai and the decimation of the army of Bethel.

Gibeon was a fairly important ‘city’ over a small confederation of smaller ‘cities’ (as shown by its description as ‘as one of the royal cities’ - Joshua 10:2 and see Joshua 9:17) inhabited by the Hivites/Horites (Joshua 10:7 - compare Genesis 26:2 with Genesis 26:20) and ruled over by a council of elders (Joshua 9:11). It was what we now know as El-Jib, nine kilometres (five to six miles) north of Jerusalem. This is one case where we have actual evidence as the handles of storage jars were found at the site, stamped with a royal seal or inscribed with the owners’ names and the name Gibeon. In the time of David the Tabernacle was set up there (1 Chronicles 16:39; 1 Chronicles 21:29 see also 1 Kings 3:4-5)

The site has not yet revealed traces of a late bronze age settlement but burials at the time do indicate that it was then occupied. Thus it was probably not then a large city or one with a good defensive capability. It is described as ‘greater than Ai’ (Joshua 10:2). But we must remember that they were described as ‘but few’. They clearly had little confidence in being able to defend themselves against a nation the size of Israel whose God could do such wonders as those that they had heard of. God’s ‘hornet’ of fear and doubt was doing its work.

Joshua 9:4

They also did work subtly, and went and made as if they were ambassadors, and took old sacks on their asses and wine containers, old and torn and bound up.’

It was clearly well known that Israel were set to destroy all Canaanites. Their probable alliance with Shechem was also well known. These two factors explain the Gibeonite approach. If they could pretend to be non-Canaanite YHWH admirers (Joshua 9:9) like Shechem they might be able to unite with these fierce and uncompromising people.

The ‘also’ refers to the many different ways in which peoples were preparing themselves to battle with Israel as they sought to work out ways to deal with the Israelite menace. It may also have in mind the cunning of the king of Ai in secretly introducing troops from Bethel without the Israelites knowing about it, and the act of the inhabitants of Jericho in shutting themselves up in their city. Alternately it may refer to the subtle cleverness shown by Israel in capturing Jericho and Ai (stories had no doubt begun to circulate which demonstrated this).

“Went and made as if they were ambassadors.” The word is tsayar in the hithpael (reflexive - ‘made themselves ambassadors’), a unique usage in the Old Testament. Its root is related to the word translated ‘ambassador’ in Isaiah 18:2; Isaiah 57:9; Isaiah 59:19. The versions translate it as ‘took for themselves provisions’ which requires a small change in the Hebrew text (tsyd - see Joshua 9:5 and Joshua 9:12 - instead of tsyr - ‘d’ and ‘r’ are very similar in Hebrew) but that may have resulted from the fact that they did not recognise the original word. It is a good principle not to alter the Hebrew text without extremely good cause. Thus the idea here is that they wanted Israel to think that they were ambassadors from a non-Canaanite country.

“Took old sacks on their asses and wine containers, old and torn and bound up.” They wanted to give the impression of having come on a long journey (see Joshua 9:9; Joshua 9:13). The ‘binding up’ indicated the use of cord or similar to give the impression of trying to keep the old skins together.

Joshua 9:5

And old shoes and patched on their feet, and old clothing on them and all the bread of their provision was dry and had become mouldy.’

They wore shoes that were clearly in bad condition and had had to be patched and otherwise held together. Their clothing was old and ragged. Their bread was crumbling and spotted and therefore mouldy. They gave all the appearance of having come on a long and arduous journey.

Joshua 9:6

And they went to Joshua, to the camp at Gilgal, and said to him, and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a far country. Now therefore make yourselves a covenant-treaty with us.” ’

The covenant was to be between people and people so that emphasis is placed on ‘to him and to the men of Israel’. The ‘men of Israel’ would be the leaders and elders of the people. If Joshua and Israel had just concluded a similar covenant with the men of Shechem which had had the approval of YHWH we can understand why Joshua felt no harm in it. He had grown complacent and so did not consult YHWH. He probably saw them almost in terms of Shechem. One step led to another, but God should have been consulted all the way. The same failure to consult had happened at Ai.

Once the covenant was entered into it would involve mutual protection and mutual responsibility. Such a covenant was looked on as inviolable and sacred. Even when it was discovered that it had been obtained by false pretences it could not be changed or cancelled. And it was binding through the centuries. When Saul slew some Gibeonites without good reason, punishment had to be exacted (2 Samuel 21:1-9).

“We have come from a far country.” This was a direct lie, but necessary for the purpose that they hoped to achieve. They were denying that they were Canaanites. It made the elders of Israel think that they were simply protecting their future.


Verse 7

And the men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps it may be that you dwell among us, and how shall we make a covenant-treaty with you?”

The elders of Israel were not fools. They were suspicious. They wanted proof that these men were what they said they were and not inhabitants of the land. But they did not know that they were Hivites. The fact is pointed out to bring out the folly of what they did. A covenant-treaty with the Hivites was forbidden (Deuteronomy 7:1-2). The Bible tells us that we must be as wise as serpents, and that the elders of Israel in this case were not.


Verse 8

Joshua 9:8 a

‘And they said to Joshua, “We are your servants.”

In the face of such an objection silence was the wisest precaution. They simply responded humbly and awaited further events. The idea of ‘servant’ was not literal. It was a typical Near Eastern show of humility that was not intended to be taken too literally. Perhaps this should have alerted Joshua. If they had been genuine they would have protested vigorously. But Joshua, perhaps elated at the success in Shechem, was not thinking clearly. Even godly men can drop their guard at times, and they can tend to assume honesty in others. But we must remember that we live in a deceitful world.

Joshua 9:8 b

‘And Joshua said, “Who are you? And from where have you come?”

Both were necessary questions. Their descent and present whereabouts were of supreme importance. The problem was that he believed their answers. It is not spiritual to be naive.


Verse 9-10

And they said to him, “Your servants are come from a very far country because of the name of YHWH your God, for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites, who were in Beyond Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, which was at Ashtaroth . ” ’

Their claim was that they lived in a far country and had come because they knew the reputation of YHWH and wanted to be in alliance with His people. The suggestion was that they too wanted to know YHWH. Joshua knew that Israel was to be a kingdom of priests ministering to the nations (Exodus 19:6). We can therefore understand why he found the idea here tempting. We can often be so eager to do spiritual service that we forego caution.

Compare on this verse Rahab’s description of the same incidents in Joshua 2:10. For Ashtaroth see Joshua 12:4. For Egypt see Exodus 1-15. For the defeat of the two kings mentioned see Numbers 21:21-35. Their subtlety comes out in that they made no mention of Jericho or Ai. That would not have had time to filter through to a far country.


Verse 11

That is why our elders, and all the inhabitants of our country, spoke to us saying, “Take provisions in your hand for the journey, and go to meet them, and say to them, ‘We are your servants’. And now make yourselves a covenant-treaty with us.” ’

The non-mention of a king may suggest that Gibeon were ruled by a council of elders and not a king, but alternately it may have been part of the subterfuge. When men are taken in a lie you can believe nothing that they say. They were concerned to establish that all their people were behind them, a country seeking YHWH! Again the reference to servants is Near Eastern hyperbole, but there is in the writer’s mind the fact that they did indeed become slaves to Israel.

The idea that they wanted to present was that they feared that once Israel had conquered Canaan they would look for further conquests, and they wanted to prevent it by a treaty alliance.


Verse 12-13

This our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came out to go to you, but now, behold, it is dry, and has become mouldy. And these wineskins, which we filled, were new, and look they are torn, and these our clothes, and our shoes, have become old by reason of the very long journey.”

They then presented their masterstroke, the condition of their bread, wine and clothing. They pointed out how old it was and how long they must have been on their journey for it to become so. Worn out shoes, clothes showing signs of wear, mouldy food, torn wineskins. What more proof did they need?


Verse 14

‘And the men took of their provisions and did not ask counsel of YHWH.’

O how foolish we are when we do not consult God. Convinced by the false evidence the food was accepted by the elders of Israel, Joshua among them. It would only be a token participation to demonstrate acceptance in view of the condition of the food, although they were more used to eating mouldy food than we are. But it was specifically done without consulting YHWH (see Numbers 27:21). How careful we should be before we come to decisions, especially decisions which bind us to alliance and working together, without giving time for full consultation with God.


Verse 15

And Joshua made peace with them, and made a treaty-covenant with them, to let them live. And the princes of the congregation swore to them.’

Following up the token eating of their food to indicate acceptance (compare Genesis 31:54; Exodus 18:12; Exodus 24:11) a treaty-covenant was drawn up. Peace and non-belligerence was promised. ‘To let them live’ indicates the practical effect as described in Joshua 9:24. Once these oaths were made it would not be possible to destroy these people as God had commanded. And the oaths were taken by all the princes of the congregation, the leaders of the whole of Israel. It is noticeable in all this that Joshua does not act as a dictator but in consultation with the elders and princes of Israel. When in battle he was in command, but for day by day affairs of government responsibility was shared.

“The princes of the congregation” is a regular Mosaic expression (Exodus 16:22; Exodus 34:31; Numbers 4:34; Numbers 16:2; Numbers 31:13; Numbers 32:2). Israel was seen as ‘the congregation’ because they gathered together as one to worship YHWH. There are no good grounds for not seeing the expression as Mosaic. There was a regular ‘congregation’ and there were ‘princes’.


Verse 16

And so it was that at the end of three days, after they had made a treaty-covenant with them, that they heard that they were their neighbours and that they dwelt among them.’

Then after a few days had passed (the regular ‘three days’) the Israelites learned that the Gibeonites in fact ‘lived in the neighbourhood’ and ‘were dwellers in the land’. Note the parallel descriptions of their status which would ensure the point got over to the hearers. It was not the kind of secret that could be kept for long. Soon everyone would know about it. People would be gloating and laughing at the way that the Israelites had been duped. It was too good a story not to pass on.


Verse 17

And the children of Israel journeyed, and came to their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon and Chephirah, and Beeroth and Kiriath-jearim.’

Once they heard the news and realised how they had been cheated the Israelites moved in force to the area where they were to be found. It was a four city confederacy. Chephirah was a Hivite fortress on a spur eight kilometres (five miles) west of Gibeon, now modern Khirbet Kefireh, dominating the Wadi Qatneh that leads down to Aijalon. Ezra 2:25; Nehemiah 7:29 link it with Kiriath-jearim. It became a Benjamite city. Kiriath-jearim (city of the forests) was on the Judah-Benjamite border. It first belonged to Judah (Joshua 15:60) but then to Benjamin (Joshua 18:28). Its alternative name Kiriath-baal (Joshua 15:60) suggests that it was an old Canaanite high place. It is possibly to be identified with modern Kuriet el-‘Enab (Abu Ghosh). Beeroth means ‘wells’. This may be el-Bireh where there are several wells and ruins. It is eight kilometres (five miles) north east of Gibeon. And then, of course, there was great Gibeon itself.

“On the third day.” Basically after a day’s travel. They made the covenant, learned of the deceit, set off on the next day and arrived the following morning.


Verse 18

And the children of Israel did not smite them, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by YHWH the God of Israel. And all the congregation murmured against the princes.’

True to their treaty-covenant the Gibeonites were spared. Such a treaty was totally binding and unbreakable. But the people themselves were not happy. They wanted to get their own back on these Gibeonites who had made such fools of them, but the princes would not let them.


Verse 19-20

But all the princes said to all the congregation, “We have sworn to them by YHWH, the God of Israel. Now therefore we may not touch them. This we will do to them and let them live, lest wrath be on us because of the oath which we have sworn to them.’

The princes explained their reasons. A solemn oath had been sworn, a solemn covenant made. Therefore it had to be kept otherwise the wrath of God would come on Israel (see 2 Samuel 21:1-9). They were inviolate. They could not be touched.

“This we will do to them.” Then would follow the details found in Joshua 9:21. (The words hanging in suspense would also keep the listeners in suspense for a few moments).


Verse 21

And the princes said to them, “Let them live, so they become hewers of wood, and drawers of water to all the congregation”, as the princes had spoken to them.’

Now the explanation was given of what would be done to them. They would become slaves to Israel. No Israelite could be made a slave. But these were not Israelites. Thus slavery was to be their lot. ‘Hewers of wood and drawers of water’ were the lowest of the low (Deuteronomy 29:11). Their slavery would involve the most menial service in the sanctuary (Joshua 9:23), and also the fulfilling of meeting the general and continual need for wood and water throughout the tribes of Israel.


Verse 22-23

‘And Joshua called for them, and he spoke to them, saying, “Why have you deceived us, saying ‘we are very far from you’, when you dwell among us? Now therefore you are cursed, and you will never cease to provide bondmen (literally ‘there shall not be cut off from you a bondman’), both hewers of wood and drawers of water, for the house of my God.” ’

Up to now the conversation had been between the princes and their tribespeople. The initial decision to make the treaty-covenant had been the work of all the leaders (Joshua 9:14) acting on behalf of their people. Now they had had to justify themselves to the people. But the final decision was then left for Joshua to pass on as their general and spokesman. The whole process brings out the tribal nature of their society. They were a confederacy of twelve tribes with each tribe self-governed but responsible to the centre, here Joshua, later the priests at the central sanctuary.

Joshua informed the Gibeonites that their deceit had brought them under a curse. They were to be permanent bondmen, serving Israel and serving the sanctuary in all menial tasks. Their cities were to be taken from them and would presumably be taken over by Israelites.

“For the house of my God.” Compare Genesis 28:17; Numbers 12:7. In Numbers 12:7 ‘My house’ surely refers to Israel. Thus God saw Israel as ‘His house’. Joshua may thus have been speaking of the whole ‘house of Israel’ (Exodus 16:31; Exodus 40:38; Leviticus 10:6; Leviticus 17:3 compare Exodus 19:3) as ‘the house of my God’. The word ‘house’ is used regularly to describe a group of people connected to a common head, e.g. ‘the house of Israel’ and ‘the houses of their fathers’. Or it may be that he saw Canaan in that way in contrast with Egypt, not the house of bondage but the house of God, in view of the wonderful things that were to happen there. Egypt was constantly described as ‘the house of bondage’ (Joshua 24:17; Exodus 13:3; Exodus 13:14; Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 5:6; Deuteronomy 6:12; Deuteronomy 8:14; Deuteronomy 13:5; Deuteronomy 13:10). Jacob had acknowledged Bethel as ‘the house of God’ because of wonders observed there, how much more could the whole of Canaan (seen prophetically as completely controlled by Israel once the final conquest had been achieved) be seen as ‘the house of my God’.

But the Tabernacle could also be described as ‘the house of YHWH your God’ or ‘the house of God’ (Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26; Judges 20:18; Judges 20:26; Judges 20:31; Judges 21:2) for it was where God ‘abided’ with them. Compare for the full phrase 1 Chronicles 29:2-3; Nehemiah 13:14; Psalms 84:10, although these were much later and referred to the Temple. (The equivalence of a tent and a house in Israelite minds comes out in that going home was regularly described as returning ‘to their tents’ even when they lived in houses. A house was a tent, and vice versa).


Verse 24

And they answered Joshua, and said, “Because it was assuredly told your servants, how that YHWH your 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.” ’

At this stage the reputation of YHWH and the great prophet Moses were at their highest among the nations. They were afraid of Him and His servants. That was what would be lost through the failure of His people later to be obedient. The word had got around that YHWH had given Canaan to Israel (compare Joshua 2:9) and had commanded destruction of the Canaanites, and the peoples were afraid that He would be able to do it, and were terrified.


Verse 25

And now, behold, we are in your hand. As it seems good and right to you to do to us, do.”

Having admitted their reasons they acknowledged that, apart from disobeying the strict treaty-covenant conditions, Joshua was within his rights to do whatever he wished with them. There seems little doubt that one requirement was submission to the tribal covenant, although not as full members but as resident aliens (2 Samuel 21:2). They would be required to abjure their own religion and worship YHWH and submit to His Law. Their presence is referred to in the future and there is never any suggestion that they led Israel astray. They appear to have genuinely become Yahwists. Indeed as slaves they could be required to.


Verse 26-27

And so did he to 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 YHWH, to this day, in the place which he should choose.’

It is quite clear that the people of Israel as a whole were incensed at the way in which they had been tricked and probably wished to carry out The Ban on Gibeon, destroying the people and their cities. But Joshua’s move was enough to assuage their anger somewhat so that they were willing to allow them to live. They would grudgingly recognise the force of the treaty-covenant.

Thus the Gibeonites were granted the position as bondmen in the lowest position in society. They would ‘be hewers of wood and drawers of water’ (i.e. would do all menial tasks) to the whole of Israel, losing their cities and their possessions and accepting drudgery. Within this they would also be hewers of wood and drawers of water ‘for the altar of YHWH’. That does not mean that they entered the Tabernacle, only that they did the necessary menial work with regard to it (actually caring for the Tabernacle itself was not seen as menial work. It was seen as a huge privilege).

“To this day, in the place which he should choose.” When this was written this was still their task. They served as servants to the servants of the Tabernacle wherever YHWH chose for it to be set up (Deuteronomy 12:5).

One problem for the future will be in knowing when the term Gibeonite means one of these people, or one of those who took over Gibeon from them. Gibeonite may not always refer to a member of the original Canaanite group, who lost their rights to Gibeon. It was in fact set apart as a Levitical city (Joshua 21:7). It is an interesting question as to whether Gibeonites became, and were included in, the Nethinim (‘those given’). In 1 Chronicles 9:2 the priests, the Levites and the Nethinim are described as placed in their inheritance. Thus the Nethinim were seen as lower levels of Temple servants.

(The term Nethinim probably means more than the Gibeonites, and is to be seen as including all slaves separated to this service. They were described as given by David and the princes for the service of the Levites - Ezra 8:20 - as the Levites had been given by God (‘as a gift’ - Nethunim) for the service of the priests (Numbers 3:9; Numbers 8:19). Thus David presumably added to their number from prisoners-of-war, as did Solomon - Ezra 2:43-58. Note their foreign names. This being so their presence is full explained without needing to invent such an account as that of the Gibeonites. That account is described because it happened. Who indeed would invent an account which made such fools of Israel?).

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 9:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/joshua-9.html. 2013.

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