Joshua 9


All the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites,

Hivites, and Jebusites, unite them forces against Joshua, 1, 2.

The inhabitants of Gibeon, hearing what Joshua had done to Ai,

sent ambassadors to him, feigning themselves to come from a

very distant tribe, requesting a friendly alliance with him,


Their address to Joshua, and the means they used to deceive the

Israelites, 6-13.

The Israelitish elders are deceived, and make a league with

them, which they confirm with an oath, 14, 15.

After three day they are informed that the Gibeonites belong to

the seven Canaanitish nations, yet they spare their cities,

16, 17.

The congregation murmuring because of this, the elders excuse

themselves because of their oath, 18, 19.

They purpose to make the Gibeonites slaves to the congregation,

20, 21.

Joshua calls them, and pronounces this sentence against them,

22, 23.

They vindicate themselves, and submit to their lot, 24, 25.

They are spared, and made hewers of wood and drawers of water to

the congregation and to the altar, 26, 27.


Verse 1. And it came to pass, when all the kings-heard thereof]

From this account it appears that the capture and destruction of

Jericho and Ai had been heard of to the remotest parts of the

land, that a general fear of the Israelitish arms prevailed, and

that the different dynasties or petty governments into which the

land was divided, felt all their interests at stake, and

determined to make the defence of their country a common cause.

This was the most prudent step they could take in their

circumstances, and therefore they entered into a confederation in

order to arrest the progress of the Israelites. The Great Sea

mentioned here is the Mediterranean Sea, the coasts of which were

inhabited by the Phoenicians, Syrians, Sidonians, and Philistines.

It is very likely that all these united with the Canaanites for

their common safety.

Verse 3. The inhabitants of Gibeon heard] These alone did not

join the confederation. Gibeon is supposed to have been the

capital of the Hivites. In the division of the land it fell to the

lot of Benjamin, Jos 18:25, and was afterwards given to the

priests, Jos 21:17. See Clarke on Jos 10:2.

Verse 4. They did work wilily] Finesse of this kind is allowed

by the conduct of all nations; and stratagems in war are all

considered as legal. Nine tenths of the victories gained are

attributable to stratagem; all sides practise them, and therefore

none can condemn them. Much time and labour have been lost in the

inquiry, "Did not the Gibeonites tell lies?" Certainly they did,

and what is that to us? Does the word of God commend them for it?

It does not. Are they held up to us as examples! Surely no. They

did what any other nation would have done in their circumstances,

and we have nothing to do with their example. Had they come to the

Israelites, and simply submitted themselves without opposition and

without fraud, they had certainly fared much better. Lying and

hypocrisy always defeat their own purpose, and at best can

succeed only for a short season. Truth and honesty never wear out.

Old sacks-and wine bottles, old, &c.] They pretended to have

come from a very distant country, and that their sacks and the

goat-skins that served them for carrying their wine and water

in, were worn out by the length of the journey.

Verse 5. Old shoes and clouted] Their sandals, they pretended

had been worn out by long and difficult travelling, and they had

been obliged to have them frequently patched during the way; their

garments also were worn thin; and what remained of their bread was

mouldy-spotted with age, or, as our old version has it,

bored-pierced with many holes by the vermin which had bred in

it, through the length of the time it had been in their sacks; and

this is the most literal meaning of the original nikkudim,

which means spotted or pierced with many holes.

The old and clouted shoes have been a subject of some

controversy: the Hebrew word baloth signifies worn out,

from balah, to wear away; and metullaoth,

from tala, to spot or patch, i.e., spotted with

patches. Our word clouted, in the Anglo-Saxon [A.S.] signifies

seamed up, patched; from [A.S.] clout, rag, or small piece of

cloth, used for piecing or patching. But some suppose the word

here comes from clouet, the diminutive of clou, a small nail,

with which the Gibeonites had fortified the soles of their shoes,

to prevent them from wearing out in so long a journey; but this

seems very unlikely; and our old English term clouted-seamed or

patched-expresses the spirit of the Hebrew word.

Verse 6. Make ye a league with us.] kirethu lanu

berith, cut, or divide, the covenant sacrifice with us. From this

it appears that heathenism at this time had its sacrifices, and

covenants were ratified by sacrificing to and invoking the objects

of their adoration.

Verse 7. Peradventure ye dwell among us] It is strange they

should have had such a suspicion, as the Gibeonites had acted so

artfully; and it is as strange that, having such a suspicion, they

acted with so little caution.

Verse 8. We are thy servants.] This appears to have been the

only answer they gave to the question of the Israelitish elders,

and this they gave to Joshua, not to them, as they saw that Joshua

was commander-in-chief of the host.

Who are ye? and from whence come ye?] To these questions, from

such an authority, they felt themselves obliged to give an

explicit answer; and they do it very artfully by a mixture of

truth, falsehood, and hypocrisy.

Verse 9. Because of the name of the Lord thy God] They pretend

that they had undertaken this journey on a religious account; and

seem to intimate that they had the highest respect for Jehovah,

the object of the Israelites' worship; this was hypocrisy.

We have heard the fame of him] This was true: the wonders which

God did in Egypt, and the discomfiture of Sihon and Og, had

reached the whole land of Canaan, and it was on this account that

the inhabitants of it were panic-struck. The Gibeonites, knowing

that they could not stand where such mighty forces had fallen,

wished to make the Israelites their friends. This part of their

relation was strictly true.

Verse 11. Wherefore our elders, &c.] All this, and what follows

to the end of verse 13, was false, contrived merely for the

purpose of deceiving the Israelites, and this they did to save

their own lives; as they expected all the inhabitants of Canaan to

be put to the sword.

Verse 14. The men took of their victuals] This was done in all

probability in the way of friendship; for, from time immemorial to

the present day, eating together, in the Asiatic countries, is

considered a token of unalterable friendship; and those who eat

even salt together, feel themselves bound thereby in a perpetual

covenant. But the marginal reading of this clause should not be

hastily rejected.

And asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord.] They made the

covenant with the Gibeonites without consulting God by Urim and

Thummim, which was highly reprehensible in them, as it was a

state transaction in which the interests and honour of God their

king were intimately concerned.

Verse 15. Joshua made peace with them] Joshua agreed to receive

them into a friendly connection with the Israelites, and to

respect their lives and properties; and the elders of Israel bound

themselves to the observance of it, and confirmed it with an oath.

As the same words are used here as in Jos 9:6, we may suppose

that the covenant was made in the ordinary way, a sacrifice being

offered on the occasion, and its blood poured out before the Lord.

See Clarke on Ge 15:10, &c.

Verse 16. At the end of three days] Gibeon is reputed to be only

about eight leagues distant from Gilgal, and on this account the

fraud might be easily discovered in the time mentioned above.

Verse 17. The children of Israel-came unto their cities]

Probably when the fraud was discovered, Joshua sent out a

detachment to examine their country, and to see what use could be

made of it in the prosecution of their war with the Canaanites.

Some of the cities mentioned here were afterwards in great repute

among the Israelites: and God chose to make one of them,

Kirjath-jearim, the residence of the ark of the covenant for

twenty years, in the reigns of Saul and David. There is no

evidence that the preservation of the Gibeonites was displeasing

to Jehovah.

Verse 18. All the congregation murmured] Merely because they

were deprived of the spoils of the Gibeonites. They had now got

under the full influence of a predatory spirit; God saw their

proneness to this, and therefore, at particular times, totally

interdicted the spoils of conquered cities, as in the case of


Verse 19. We have sworn unto them] Although the Israelites were

deceived in this business, and the covenant was made on a

certain supposition which was afterwards proved to have had no

foundation in truth, and consequently the whole engagement on the

part of the deceived was hereby vitiated and rendered null and

void; yet, because the elders had eaten with them, offered a

covenant sacrifice, and sworn by Jehovah, they did not consider

themselves at liberty to break the terms of the agreement, as far

as the lives of the Gibeonites were concerned. That their conduct

in this respect was highly pleasing to God is evident from this,

that Joshua is nowhere reprehended for making this covenant, and

sparing the Gibeonites; and that Saul, who four hundred years

after this thought himself and the Israelites loosed from this

obligation, and in consequence oppressed and destroyed the

Gibeonites, was punished for the breach of this treaty, being

considered as the violator of a most solemn oath and covenant

engagement. See 2Sa 21:2-9, and Eze 17:18, 19.

All these circumstances laid together, prove that the command to

destroy the Canaanites was not so absolute as is generally

supposed: and should be understood as rather referring to the

destruction of the political existence of the Canaanitish nations,

than to the destruction of their lives. See the notes on

De 20:10, 17.

Verse 21. Hewers of wood and drawers of water] Perhaps this is a

sort of proverbial expression, signifying the lowest state of

servitude, though it may also be understood literally. See below.

Verse 23. Now therefore ye are cursed] Does not this refer to

what was pronounced by Noah, Ge 9:26, against Ham and his

posterity? Did not the curse of Ham imply slavery, and nothing

else? Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be; and

does it not sufficiently appear that nothing else than perpetual

slavery is implied in the curse of the Gibeonites? They were

brought, no doubt, under tribute; performed the meanest offices

for the Israelites, being in the same circumstances with the

servile class of Hindoos called the Chetrees; had their national

importance annihilated, and yet were never permitted to

incorporate themselves with the Israelites. And we may

reasonably suppose that this was the purpose of God relative to

all the Canaanitish nations: those who would not renounce their

idolatry, &c., were to be extirpated; those who did were to be

preserved alive, on condition of becoming tributary, and serving

as slaves. See Clarke on De 20:17.

Hewers of wood and drawers of water] The disgrace of this state

lay not in the laboriousness of it, but in its being the common

employment of the females; if the ancient customs among the same

people were such as prevail now. The most intelligent travellers

in those countries represent collecting wood for fuel, and

carrying water, as the peculiar employment of the females. The

Arab women of Barbary do so, according to Dr. Shaw. The daughters

of the Turcomans in Palestine are employed, according to

D'Arvieux, in fetching wood and water for the accommodation of

their respective families. From these circumstances Mr. Harmer

reasons thus: "The bitterness of the doom of the Gibeonites does

not seem to have consisted in the laboriousness of the service

enjoined them, for it was usual for women and children to perform

what was required of them; but its degrading them from the

characteristic employment of men, that of bearing arms; and

condemning them and their posterity for ever to the employment of

females. The not receiving them as allies was bitter; the

disarming them who had been warriors, and condemning them to the

employment of females, was worse; but the extending this

degradation to their posterity, was bitterest of all. It is no

wonder that in these circumstances they are said to have been

cursed."-Obs., vol. iv., p. 297.

Verse 24. We were sore afraid of our lives] Self-preservation,

which is the most powerful law of nature, dictated to them those

measures which they adopted; and they plead this as the motive of

their conduct.

Verse 25. We are in thine hand] Entirely in thy power.

As it seemeth good and right unto thee-do.] Whatever justice and

mercy dictate to thee to do to us, that perform. They expect

justice, because they deceived the Israelites; but they expect

mercy also, because they were driven to use this expedient for

fear of losing their lives. The appeal to Joshua is full of

delicacy and cogent argument.

Verse 26. And so did he unto them] That is, he acted according

to justice and mercy: he delivered them out of the hands of the

people, so that they slew them not-here was mercy; and he made

them hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and

to the altar of God-here was justice. Thus Joshua did nothing but

what was good and right, not only in his own eyes, but also in the

eyes of the Lord.

How long the Gibeonites were preserved as a distinct people

after this, we know not. That they existed in the time of David,

is evident from the circumstance mentioned on Jos 9:19. They are

not mentioned after the captivity; and it is probable that they

were nearly annihilated by the persecution raised up against them

by Saul. Some suppose that the Gibeonites existed under the

appellation of Nethinim; but of this there is no decisive proof;

the Nethinim were probably slaves of a different race.

ON what we meet with in this chapter, we may make the following


1. The Gibeonites told lies, in order to save their lives. No

expediency can justify this, nor are we called to attempt it. The

Gibeonites were heathens, and we can expect nothing better from

them. See Clarke on Jos 2:24.

2. They did not profit by their falsity: had they come in

fairly, sought peace, and renounced their idolatry, they would

have had life on honourable terms. As it was, they barely escaped

with their lives, and were utterly deprived of their political

liberty. Even the good that is sought by unlawful means has God's

curse on it.

3. We need not be solicitous for the character of the Gibeonites

here; they are neither our models, nor believers in the true God,

and therefore pure religion is not concerned in their

prevarication and falsity.

4. We see here of what solemn importance an oath was considered

among the people of God; they swore to their own hurt, and changed

not. When once they had bound themselves to their Maker, they did

not believe that any changing circumstances could justify a

departure from so awful an obligation. Thus, reader, shouldst thou

fear a lie, and tremble at an oath.

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