Joshua 9:22, 23: The Censure of the Gibeonites, Part 2

Verse 22:[1] And Joshua called for them, and he spake unto them, saying, Wherefore have ye beguiled us, saying, (Josh. 9:6, 9) We are very far from you; when (Josh. 9:16) ye dwell among us?

[Joshua called the Gibeonites] Hitherto the deliberation of the Israelites was among themselves, neither was anything done with the Gibeonites: but what things were decided by the common counsel of the Princes and also the assent of the people, these are only now declared by Joshua before the guilty (Masius).


Verse 23:[2] Now therefore ye are (Gen. 9:25) cursed, and there shall none of you be freed from being (Heb. not be cut off from you[3]) bondmen, and (Josh. 9:21, 27) hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.

[Under a curse] Ye are cursed (Junius and Tremellius). We have discovered that ye are of the number of those nations that God cursed (Junius). Onerous servitude is a certain sort of curse, that is, of evil-doing and punishment (Lapide). Under a curse, that is, of servitude, doomed to vile employment (Menochius).

Ye are cursed; you shall not escape the curse of God, which by Divine sentence belongs to all the Canaanites, who are a people devoted by God to ruin, but only change the quality of it; you shall feel that curse of bondage and servitude, which is proper to your race by virtue of that ancient decree, Genesis 9:25; you shall live indeed, but in a poor, vile, and miserable condition.

[There shall not fail, etc., (thus the Septuagint, Syriac, Arabic, Junius and Tremellius), וְלֹֽא־יִכָּרֵ֙ת מִכֶּ֜ם עֶ֗בֶד] Not shall be cut off (or, shall be blotted out [Vatablus]) from you a servant (Montanus, Vatablus), that is, servants (Jonathan, Vatablus); that is to say, Ye shall always be servants, etc., that is, before the division of the Holy Land (Vatablus). The right belongs to the victor to punish those surrendered, as having become subjects. On account of their deceit they are sentenced to servile works, as formerly the Bruttii were by the Romans (after whose similitude those that were performing servile duties for Magistrates were called Brutiani), because the Bruttii had surrendered themselves to Hannibal, and had continued with him right until he withdrew from Italy.[4] To carry water is servile, as Athenæus testifies (Grotius).

There shall none of you be freed from being bondmen; the slavery which is upon you shall be entailed to your posterity.

[For the house of my God] But of this there was no mention in the deliberation, but, of the whole assembly. But it is likely that those most holy Princes had regard to the holy house especially (for they were not able to serve the assembly, after the people were separated unto their possessions); but, when they applied that speech to them to quiet the souls of the people, they were prudently setting forth that servitude that was going to be useful and advantageous to the people (Masius).

Hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God: this only service they mention here, because it was their principal and most durable servitude, being first in the tabernacle, and then in the temple, whence they were called Nethinims, 1 Chronicles 9:2; Ezra 2:43; whereas their servitude to the whole congregation would in a great measure cease when the Israelites were dispersed to their several habitations.

[1] Hebrew: וַיִּקְרָ֤א לָהֶם֙ יְהוֹשֻׁ֔עַ וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר אֲלֵיהֶ֖ם לֵאמֹ֑ר לָמָּה֩ רִמִּיתֶ֙ם אֹתָ֜נוּ לֵאמֹ֗ר רְחוֹקִ֙ים אֲנַ֤חְנוּ מִכֶּם֙ מְאֹ֔ד וְאַתֶּ֖ם בְּקִרְבֵּ֥נוּ יֹשְׁבִֽים׃

[2] Hebrew: וְעַתָּ֖ה אֲרוּרִ֣ים אַתֶּ֑ם וְלֹֽא־יִכָּרֵ֙ת מִכֶּ֜ם עֶ֗בֶד וְחֹטְבֵ֥י עֵצִ֛ים וְשֹֽׁאֲבֵי־מַ֖יִם לְבֵ֥ית אֱלֹהָֽי׃

[3] Hebrew: וְלֹֽא־יִכָּרֵ֙ת מִכֶּ֜ם.

[4] During the Second Punic War (218-201 BC), the Bruttii of southern Italy allied themselves with Hannibal.  After Hannibal was forced to withdraw, for their treachery the Bruttii were reduced by the Romans to a state bordering on servitude.

Joshua 9:21: The Censure of the Gibeonites, Part 1

Verse 21:[1] And the princes said unto them, Let them live; but let them be (Deut. 29:11) hewers of wood and drawers of water unto all the congregation; as the princes had (Josh. 9:15) promised them.

[But let them live in such a way that they might hew wood and draw water for the use of the entire multitude. While they were speaking these things,וַיֹּאמְר֧וּ אֲלֵיהֶ֛ם הַנְּשִׂיאִ֖ים יִֽחְי֑וּ וַ֠יִּֽהְיוּ חֹטְבֵ֙י עֵצִ֤ים וְשֹֽׁאֲבֵי־מַ֙יִם֙ לְכָל־הָ֣עֵדָ֔ה כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר דִּבְּר֥וּ לָהֶ֖ם הַנְּשִׂיאִֽים׃] This verse is able to be interpreted in a variety of ways, because the very structure of the words has not been sufficiently explained (Masius). Some supply many things. The Hebrews say here that it is מִקְרָא קוֹצֶר, an abbreviated reading (Munster). And the chief men said to them (unto the sons of Israel [Syriac]), Let them live. [Here they supply, and let them be wood- and water-bearers for the whole assembly (thus Kimchi in Masius, Syriac, Arabic).] And they were made gatherers of wood and drawers of water for the whole assembly, just as the chief men had said (Syriac, Arabic, Kimchi in Masius). This does not satisfy; it is inconsistent with the chronological order to say here, they were, or, were made, wood-bearers, etc. For that shall be done only when the Commander-in-Chief pronounced sentence, as we shall hear[2] (Masius). Others thus: And the princes said to them, Let them live, and let them be, or they shall be, etc., just as the princes (or, the preeminent [Montanus]) spoke to them (Jonathan, similarly Tigurinus). And the princes said to them, Let them live, and let them hew, etc. And they did just as the princes spoke to them (Munster). Therefore, when those princes had said to them, They shall be allowed to live (that is, by this law, so that they might be pruners, etc., βραχυλογία, curtailed speech, or synecdoche of member [Piscator]), they were (I prefer, were made [Piscator]) pruners (hewers, or cutters [Piscator]) of wood, and drawers of water, just as the princes said to them (Junius and Tremellius). They (namely, the assembly of Israelites [Malvenda]) said in addition to those princes, Let them live, and let them hew…just as the princes spoke to us (Pagnine). In addition the princes said to them (that is, to the sons of Israel), Let them live, and let them be…just as the princes (that is, we) said to them (that is, the Gibeonites) (Dutch). But if you take them of the Gibeonites, it is necessary that you say that the Princes treated with the Gibeonites separately concerning that hard servitude, before Joshua said those things which are in verse 22, etc., which is uncertain, although not absurd (Masius). Who would believe that the Princes in treating with them had gotten ahead of the censure of Joshua? We do not anywhere that the Princes spoke previously with the Gibeonites (Bonfrerius). And the princes said unto them, Let them live (but let them be hewers of wood…unto all the congregation), as the princes had promised them (English). Let them live, but let them be gatherers of wood, etc. Accordingly the citizenry [he understands the multitude of soldiers] conceded to the nobles (Castalio). They were saying, I say, the princes were saying to them, Let them live, and let them be hewers…just as the princes had spoken among themselves (Masius). The ו/Vav/and in וַיִּהְיוּ[3] does not covert in this place the future/imperfect into the perfect. The לָהֶם, to them, I take αὐτοπαθῶς or reflexively, for among themselves, or with themselves, just as it is taken in Ecclesiastes 3:18.[4] Those words, כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר דִּבְּר֥וּ לָהֶ֖ם הַנְּשִׂיאִֽים׃, just as the princes had spoken among themselves, unless you refer them to that consulatation in which the Princes had deliberated among themselves as to how they might be able to keep their oath, shall appear to be altogether superfluous. Now, the Latin relates this little clause to the following verse [While they were speaking these things, verse 22, Joshua called the Gibeonites], and it supposes that כַּאֲשֶׁר/as signifies here, not similitude, but time, and that the pronoun points to the soldiers of the Israelites; with that sense agreeable indeed, but not sufficiently agreeing with the pointing which is now in the books of the Hebrews.[5] There are also those that would interpret in such a way that it might give the signification of the assent and approbation of the soldiers, who had previously murmured. [Thus Castalio understands it.] But certainly that speech would be too truncated and curtailed, and this is to divine rather than to interpret (Masius). As the princes spoke to them. Repetitions of this sort wonderfully serve for augmentation of the sense: that is to say, Indeed, the Princes certainly decided, affirmed again and again to the assembly, that the Gibeonites were going to be camp-servants and -followers (Malvenda).

[They said—some translate it, and the princes added, that is to say, they said to them these things also: דִּבְּר֥וּ לָהֶ֖ם[6]] And they said to them, or, concerning them (Vatablus). This last clause I thus translate, while, or when (כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר often signifies this), they spoke concerning them. Thus ל is taken in Genesis 20:13, אִמְרִי־לִי, say of me, and elsewhere (Bonfrerius).

[For the use of the entire multitude, לְכָל־הָעֵדָה] For all the assembly (Arabic, Junius and Tremellius): [all interpreters in a similar manner:] that is, public servants, in the name of the assembly of the people of God, attending upon public services in the house of God, verse 23 and Ezra 8:20. Wherefore they are also called Nethinims, that is, those surrendered,[7] in Ezra and Nehemiah[8] (Junius). In the stead and place of the entire assembly of Israelites, who otherwise were expected to provide wood and water for the house of God (Malvenda). Others maintain that those were obliged to be water-bearers and wood-gatherers for whatever Israelite of the common people that had accosted them concerning this duty; thus Nahmanides (Masius, thus Tostatus and Menochius); and that all the way to the division of the land (Tostatus in Menochius); or even when the possession had been divided: although not completely without recompense, but hired for a little pay (Nahmanides in Masius). Indeed, at first they were bound to bear wood and water for the entire people and all the camps, even after the division of the land; whence they were also called δημόσιοι, public or camp servants, by Josephus. Afterwards only for the Tabernacle and Temple; thence they were called Nethinims, that is, those given, namely, to the Levites, so that they might be to them as subdeacons. Thus Ribera,[9] Sigonius,[10] Masius, and Tostatus (Tirinus). This was a just punishment, both on account of the fraud, and because they were Canaanites (Lapide). Moreover, that the place of wood-gatherers and water-bearers was meanest and lowest is evident from Deuteronomy 29:11 (Masius on verse 22).

Hewers of wood and drawers of water: that is, Let them be public servants, and employed in the meanest offices and drudgeries, (such as this was, this one kind being put for all the rest, as it is Deuteronomy 29:11) for the use and benefit of the congregation; to do this partly for the sacrifices and services of the house of God, as it is expressed, Joshua 9:23, which otherwise the Israelites themselves must have done, partly for the service of the camp or body of the people, and sometimes upon occasion even to particular Israelites; whence they are made bond-men, which is mentioned as a thing distinct from their service in the house of God, verse 23. And so they are in effect stripped of all their possessions, whereby the main ground of the people’s quarrel was taken away. As the princes had promised them; or, because or seeing that (as the Hebrew word sometimes signifies) the princes (that is, we ourselves; they speak of themselves in the third person, which is very frequent in the Hebrew language) had promised it to them, to wit, that they should live, and confirmed their promise by an oath. So the princes speaking here to the people allege the promise or oath of the princes when they met among themselves, and apart from the people. And this change of persons may possibly arise from hence, because some of the princes who were present in the assembly of the princes might now be absent upon some occasion. And this clause relates not to the next words, which are fitly enclosed within a parenthesis, but to the foregoing clause, let them live, because the princes have promised them their lives.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּאמְר֧וּ אֲלֵיהֶ֛ם הַנְּשִׂיאִ֖ים יִֽחְי֑וּ וַ֠יִּֽהְיוּ חֹטְבֵ֙י עֵצִ֤ים וְשֹֽׁאֲבֵי־מַ֙יִם֙ לְכָל־הָ֣עֵדָ֔ה כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר דִּבְּר֥וּ לָהֶ֖ם הַנְּשִׂיאִֽים׃

[2] Verse 23.

[3] Joshua 9:21:  “And the princes said unto them, Let them live; but let them beיִֽחְי֑וּ) וַ֠יִּֽהְיוּ) hewers of wood and drawers of water unto all the congregation; as the princes had promised them (לָהֶם).”

[4] Ecclesiastes 3:18:  “I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts (שְׁהֶם־בְּהֵמָ֥ה הֵ֖מָּה לָהֶֽם׃).”

[5] The Silluq (ֽ׃) is the strongest disjunctive accent, separating verses.  The Vulgate reads past the Silluq.

[6] Joshua 9:21:  “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 (כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר דִּבְּר֥וּ לָהֶ֖ם הַנְּשִׂיאִֽים׃).”

[7] נְתִינִים/Nethinims apparently is related to the verbal root נָתַן, to give.

[8] For example, Ezra 2:43, 58, 70; 7:7; 8:17; Nehemiah 3:26, 31; 7:46, 60; 10:28.

[9] Francis Ribera (1537-1591) was a Spanish Jesuit scholar, most remembered for his commentary on Revelation in which he advances the Futurist scheme of interpretation.  He also wrote De Templo et de iis ad Templum Pertinent.  Ribera’s Commentarius in Epistolam ad Hebræos was interrupted by death; it was finished by other hands.

[10] Carlo Sigonio (c. 1524-1584) was an Italian humanist, specializing in Greek and Roman antiquities.  He also wrote De Republica Ebræorum.

Joshua 9:20: The Keeping of the Oath; the Grumbling of the People, Part 3

Verse 20:[1] This we will do to them; we will even let them live, lest (see 2 Sam. 21:1, 2, 6; Ezek. 17:13, 15, 18, 19; Zech. 5:3, 4; Mal. 3:5) wrath be upon us, because of the oath which we sware unto them.

[Let them be spared, that they might live, וְהַחֲיֵה[2]] And by causing to live (Montanus). An infinitive in the place of the future/imperfect of the finite mode (Masius). By causing to live (Septuagint); we will cause to live (Jonathan, similarly Junius and Tremllius). The ו/and ought not to be translated in וְהַחֲיֵה (Vatablus).

[Lest the anger of the Lord, etc.] Even if it was not strictly according to the letter, nevertheless the men, simple and of old-fashioned honesty, although they were not at all judging the point of that sort of law with refinement, but were regarding among themselves the third precept of the Decalogue, not without reason feared the anger of God. From which let us learn that whatever we have promised with such surety (provided it be not contrary to the Law of God), even if we realize that we have been tricked, we should nevertheless fulfill; even if what thence to us happens to be loss, we should rather make it good with other honest reasons than seek some reason for breaking faith (Masius).

[1] Hebrew: זֹ֛את נַעֲשֶׂ֥ה לָהֶ֖ם וְהַחֲיֵ֣ה אוֹתָ֑ם וְלֹֽא־יִֽהְיֶ֤ה עָלֵ֙ינוּ֙ קֶ֔צֶף עַל־הַשְּׁבוּעָ֖ה אֲשֶׁר־נִשְׁבַּ֥עְנוּ לָהֶֽם׃

[2] The Hiphil conjugation frequently conveys a causative sense.

Joshua 9:19: The Keeping of the Oath; the Grumbling of the People, Part 2

Verse 19:[1] 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.

[Who answered them] Hebrew: And all the princes said,[2] etc. Here the concord of the Princes is to be observed. Thereby it happened that they kept their authority. In this way they also overcome the fury of the people, while they decree that nothing is to be conceded, and openly pronounce that they are not able to do what they are demanding. A good man shall suffer himself to be moved from what is right and honest neither by the fear nor by the favor of any multitude (Masius).

We have sworn, etc.: They plead not the lawfulness or the prudence of the action, but only the obligation of an oath; of which, though it was procured by fraud, they perceived the people sufficiently sensible.

[Of the Lord God of Israel] That is to say, the God, whom ye worship, has been given as the surety of safety (Masius).

[We are not able to touch them[3] (thus Montanus, Septuagint)] Or, to hurt (Jonathan, similarly the Syriac). נָגַע signifies to inflict a wound, to sanction, etc., as it appears from the noun נֶגַע, to which wound, ulcer,[4] injury,[5] etc., are joined (Masius).

We may not touch them, that is, not hurt them, as that word is oft used, as Genesis 26:11;[6] Psalm 105:15;[7] 144:5;[8] or not smite them, as is said, Joshua 9:18.[9]

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּאמְר֤וּ כָל־הַנְּשִׂיאִים֙ אֶל־כָּל־הָ֣עֵדָ֔ה אֲנַ֙חְנוּ֙ נִשְׁבַּ֣עְנוּ לָהֶ֔ם בַּֽיהוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְעַתָּ֕ה לֹ֥א נוּכַ֖ל לִנְגֹּ֥עַ בָּהֶֽם׃

[2] Hebrew: וַיֹּאמְר֤וּ כָל־הַנְּשִׂיאִים֙.

[3] Hebrew: לֹ֥א נוּכַ֖ל לִנְגֹּ֥עַ בָּהֶֽם׃.

[4] For example, Leviticus 13:44:  “He is a leprous man, he is unclean:  the priest shall pronounce him utterly unclean; his plague (נִגְעוֹ) is in his head.”

[5] For example, Deuteronomy 17:8a:  “If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke (וּבֵ֥ין נֶ֙גַע֙ לָנֶ֔גַע), being matters of controversy within thy gates…”

[6] Genesis 26:11:  “And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth (הַנֹּגֵעַ) this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.”

[7] Psalm 105:15:  “Saying, Touch not (אַל־תִּגְּעוּ) mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.”

[8] Psalm 144:5:  “Bow thy heavens, O Lord, and come down:  touch (גַּע) the mountains, and they shall smoke.”

[9] Joshua 9:18a:  “And the children of Israel smote them (הִכּוּם) not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel….”

Joshua 9:18: The Keeping of the Oath; the Grumbling of the People

Verse 18:[1] And the children of Israel smote them not, (Eccles. 5:2; Ps. 15:4) because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel. And all the congregation murmured against the princes.

[Because the princes had sworn] Eleazar μετὰ γερουσίας, with the Eldership, as Josephus says here, with Joshua as the originator, of course, verse 15, who may alone have had the right of obligating the people in such things (Grotius). It is uncertain whether Joshua was present for that deliberation, or indeed he himself approved their decisions at Gilgal, although there was a relation of the entire matter to him, and he even summoned the Gibeonites there: nevertheless, it is likely that the soldiers were not so insolently going to murmur against their Commander-in-Chief while he is present (Masius). The Hebrews would have been able here to mock to some extent; but, if I might make use of the words of Livy, History of Rome 3, that heedlessness of God, which prevails in the present age, had not yet arrived; nor did every one, by his own interpretation, accommodate the oath and laws to himself, but rather adapted his conduct to them (Grotius). Question 1: If they had not sworn, would it have been lawful to fall upon men voluntarily seeking peace and surrendering themselves? Response: This is answered in the negative, that is, if they had given up their name to God [as it was said]. But if that peace had been illicit, for example, so that they, as foreigners, with their superstitions preserved, might be able to live at hom, they would have been obliged to take back that peace, as offered contrary to the Law of God (Masius). Question 2: Whether this oath was valid, and obligated the Israelites? Response: Some deny this (thus Masius and Serarius and Tostatus and Augustine in Bonfrerius, Menochius). Their arguments are: 1. Because the oath was concerning a matter unlawful and prohibited. Response: But this was proven false in the comments on verse 15. 2. Because this condition appears to have been introduced into the covenant, if ye are foreigners. Response: Even if mention of this matter is made in verse 6, nevertheless this condition ought not to be supposed as thereby inserted into the contract, neither is any such thing indicated in the words in which the contract is reported (Bonfrerius). 3. Because there was a substantial error concerning a party (certain interpreters in Lapide). They were no more obligated to the Gibeonites, who feigned themselves to be foreigners, than if one erroneously promises that he is going to calculate for him that sold him nothing the value of the item sold (Masius). Response: They know that they were contracting with these, whom they had present, and the condition of one’s fatherland does not recoil upon the person; for example, if marriage is entered into with a woman that is present, which I think to be French, although she is actually Spanish, the marriage stands (Bonfrerius). 4. Because deceit invalidated it. Response: This deceit was not concerning the substance of the matter, but concerning the accidents. For, since they bestowed upon them their estates, and desire to embrace the true religion, they fulfill the substance of the covenant permitted by God, indeed, commanded by God. Therefore, there was no error of person here, but of a circumstance of the person, inasmuch as they were thinking that they lived at a distance, not near (Lapide). Nevertheless, these authors add that this oath, although it did not bind, was kept, either, 1. because God approved of its keeping. Thus Augustine, Masius, and Magalianus. But they do not show when or how this was done (Bonfrerius). Or, 2. so that they might demonstrate how important is the performance of the obligation of an oath, since they judge that that in which there is merely the appearance of an oath is not to be violated (Masius and Serarius in Bonfrerius). Those of old, as they swore sparingly, so they thought that they were obliged to keep their oaths in every respect. That in some respects both the Israelites and the Gibeonites judge that this oath is vicious is hence evident, that the former punish the deceit, the latter beg relief with respect to the deserved punishment. To me it appears that some such thing befell the Princes as what happened to Isaac when he was deceived by Jacob:[2] For, although the request for blessing was made both in the name and person of Esau, yet neither the fraud of the one making the request nor the error of the one blessing prevented that less auspicious supplication from being esteemed both by God and Isaac as ratified and from being valid. Evidently the soul of Isaac was led by some hidden sense of Divine approbation. Likewise also in this place God so guided the spirits of the Princes that, although perhaps unintentionally, they followed God’s plan.[3] But Divine Approbation is sufficiently evident from 2 Samuel 21:1, concerning which there has been discussion previously (Masius). Or, 3. because out of an erring conscience they thought themselves to be bound by this oath (Tostatus out of Bonfrerius). But who would believe that there was no one, not even Joshua or Eleazar, who might be able to judge concerning the obligation of the oath? or that, if they were in doubt, they would not consult God? or, how were they able to judge that there was an obligation to keep the oath, if it was against the Divine Law (Bonfrerius)? Or, 4. because, if they had broken this first covenant and oath, this would have resulted in a great scandal of the people, and in irreverence and blasphemy of God; and so to avoid these this was to be kept (Lyra). They kept the oath because they judged it to be thus expedient (certain interpreters in Bonfrerius). But the Princes assign a different reason, namely, only the obligation of the oath (Bonfrerius). Notice the we have sworn, verse 19, in the past tense;[4] therefore, they speak of the oath, not as renewed after the deceit was acknowledged, but as originally made (Lapide). Response 2: Others affirm that this oath was valid (thus Lyra, Lapide, Bonfrerius, Suarez[5] and Gratian[6] in Bonfrerius). Because the substance was lawful, as was proven in the comments on verse 15. Neither does the deceit or error hinder, as was proven (Bonfrerius).

[All the common people murmured] Eager either for spoil or for vengeance, they grumble out of a desire to invade that nation (Masius). It says, all the commons; for, although among them there are many men of better character, yet by the protests of others, like bellows, they are easily inflamed unto temerity (Masius on verse 19).

All the congregation murmured against the princes: Partly, from that proneness which is in people to censure the actions of their rulers; partly, because they might think the princes by their rashness had brought them into a snare, that they could neither kill them for fear of the oath, nor spare them for fear of God’s command to the contrary; and partly, for their desire of the possession and spoil of these cities, of which they thought themselves hereby deprived.

[1] Hebrew: וְלֹ֤א הִכּוּם֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל כִּֽי־נִשְׁבְּע֤וּ לָהֶם֙ נְשִׂיאֵ֣י הָֽעֵדָ֔ה בַּֽיהוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיִּלֹּ֥נוּ כָל־הָעֵדָ֖ה עַל־הַנְּשִׂיאִֽים׃

[2] See Genesis 27.

[3] See Proverbs 21:1.

[4] Joshua 9:19:  “But all the princes said unto all the congregation, We have sworn (נִשְׁבַּעְנוּ, in the perfect tense) unto them by the Lord God of Israel:  now therefore we may not touch them.”

[5] Francisco Suárez (1548-1617) was a Spanish Jesuit, esteemed by some as the greatest scholastic philosopher-theologian since Thomas Aquinas.  Suárez’s interests included international law, metaphysics, and theology.  In the field of international law, he was a forerunner of Grotius, who speaks of him with the highest respect.

[6] Johannes Gratian was a theologian and canon lawyer from Bologna.  He composed his Concordia discordantium canonum, commonly called Decretum Gratiani (circa 1150), to aid in the study of canon law.

Joshua 9:17: Israel’s March to Gibeon

Verse 17:[1] And the children of Israel journeyed, and came unto their cities on the third day. Now their cities were (Josh. 18:25, 26, 28; Ezra 2:25) Gibeon, and Chephirah, and Beeroth, and Kirjath-jearim.

[On the third day] From which it was discovered that they were Canaanites (Masius). Otherwise it was distant from Gilgal only by the journey of a day and a night, as he shows in the following chapter (Masius on verse 16).

Their cities: Cities which were subject to Gibeon, which was the royal city, Joshua 10:2.

[1] Hebrew: וַיִּסְע֣וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל וַיָּבֹ֛אוּ אֶל־עָרֵיהֶ֖ם בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֑י וְעָרֵיהֶם֙ גִּבְע֣וֹן וְהַכְּפִירָ֔ה וּבְאֵר֖וֹת וְקִרְיַ֥ת יְעָרִֽים׃

Joshua 9:16: The Gibeonite Deception Discovered

Verse 16:[1] 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.

[After three days (thus the Septuagint, similarly the Syriac, Arabic), מִקְצֵה֙ וגו״] At the end (or, after the end [Masius]) of three days (Montanus), that is, on the third day, as it is evident from verse 17. For μετὰ/after[2] sometimes is taken for within; it does not always signify that the last portion of a period of time that it indicates is past. See Deuteronomy 14:28;[3] 31:10[4] (Glassius’ “Grammar” 544). On the third day afterwards (Junius and Tremellius, Piscator).

At the end of three days, that is, at the last of them, or upon the third day, as it is said verse 17; so this phrase is elsewhere used, as Deuteronomy 14:28; 31:10. Or it may be properly understood, that after three days they heard this; and on the day after they heard this, they came to their cities, as is said, verse 17.

[They heard] From what messenger it matters not. It is likely that the Israelites spied out the neighboring regions with regular excursions, both for foraging and seeking provisions, and for becoming acquainted with the region (Masius).

[In the vicinity] It appears that Gibeon was about two hundred and ten stadia from Gilgal, or twenty-six miles (Masius).

[1] Hebrew: וַיְהִ֗י מִקְצֵה֙ שְׁלֹ֣שֶׁת יָמִ֔ים אַחֲרֵ֕י אֲשֶׁר־כָּרְת֥וּ לָהֶ֖ם בְּרִ֑ית וַֽיִּשְׁמְע֗וּ כִּי־קְרֹבִ֥ים הֵם֙ אֵלָ֔יו וּבְקִרְבּ֖וֹ הֵ֥ם יֹשְׁבִֽים׃

[2] Thus the Septuagint.

[3] Deuteronomy 14:28:  “At the end of three years (מִקְצֵ֣ה׀ שָׁלֹ֣שׁ שָׁנִ֗ים; μετὰ τρία ἔτη, in the Septuagint) thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates…”

[4] Deuteronomy 31:10, 11:  “And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years (מִקֵּ֣ץ׀ שֶׁ֣בַע שָׁנִ֗ים; μετὰ ἑπτὰ ἔτη, in the Septuagint), in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, when all Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing.”

Joshua 9:15: Was the Covenant with the Gibeonites Lawful?

Verse 15:[1] And Joshua (Josh. 11:19; 2 Sam. 21:2) made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them.

[And he made peace with them (thus Montanus, Jonathan, Syriac, Junius and Tremellius)] He furnished security for them (Arabic). To make peace pertains to the laying aside of an hostile will and resentment; but to strike a covenant has regard to the very agreements, laws, and conditions of peace, as was written by Nahmanides (Masius).

[That they would not be killed (thus Vatablus), לְחַיּוֹתָם[2]] To make them live (Montanus, Jonathan); concerning preserving them in life (Junius and Tremellius). The active signification is often to be understood of permission or concession only (Glassius’ “Grammar” 322). Question: Whether this covenant was able to entered into rightly? Response 1: Some deny (Calvin and Tostatus in Serarius): Whose reasons follow. 1. God prohibited to the Hebrews a covenant with the Canaanites, and He commanded that they all be killed, Exodus 23:32; 34:15; Deuteronomy 7:2 (certain interpreters in Masius). Others, nevertheless, think otherwise. 1. I know that it was said that there was to be no sparing of any of them; but this was done because there were going to be exceedingly few that would repent of their sins (Masius on verses 18 and 27). 2. At the same time, this law, as happens in the case of almost all laws, is to be interpreted with a certain equity, so that it might be consistent with the eternal mercy of God (Masius on verse 18). 3. This covenant was lawful, but with conditions different than with those of another country (Bonfrerius, Lapide, Masius). These were two: 1. if they would concede their lands to the Israelites, for they were given to them by God (Lapide, Bonfrerius); 2. if they would become proselytes (Lapide, Bonfrerius, Masius, Serarius). Now, the reason of the law is the spirit of the law. But the intention of God in that bloody law was to prevent them from drawing the Hebrews unto their idols and sins, if they should dwell together. For God gives this reason, Exodus 23:32; Deuteronomy 7:4. But, with this danger of contagion ceasing, there was no place for that sanction (Masius on verse 27, Lapide, Bonfrerius). Moreover, the Gibeonites either now embraced the true religion, as Lyra, the English, Calvin, and Nahmanides maintain, because they say that they have come in the name of the Lord, verse 9, which was addressed previously; or were prepared to undertake it (Serarius, Bonfrerius). Indeed, there is no clear mention of their religion in the words of Scripture, because they had already embraced it, as some maintain; according as he appears to be sufficiently settled concerning religion, when he names the house of God in which they would serve perpetually, and so they ought to have been complete strangers to the worship of demons (Masius on verse 23). 2. On behalf of the negative position it is able to be urged that all the people murmured against the Princes on account of this oath, verse 18. Responses: 1. The multitude is always presumptuous, and judges rashly, and is all too ready to disparage Magistracy (Masius on verse 19). 2. Perhaps the covenant was made with them, either with their ancestral religion preserved, or as with tribute-bearing allies; neither of which was permitted to them (Masius on verse 15). 3. Those, as ignorant men, did not know a more just interpretation of that harsh law (Masius on verse 18). 3. Why were they feigning themselves to be foreigners, if it was lawful for them as natives to be kept safe? Response: It is not strange that with respect to the Gibeonites, barbarous men, that more just interpretation of the law did not come into mind (Masius on verse 27). [In the end, concerning this opinion Masius thus pronounces that by a great many it is not so much defended as held (Masius on verse 27).] Response 2: To others this covenant appears lawful (thus Masius, Serarius, Lapide, Bonfrerius, Grotius, Junius, Lyra). Thus all the Rabbis and Augustine (Serarius). Their reasons follow. 1. They urge Deuteronomy 20:10, in which they are commanded before the siege of a city to offer peace to their enemies, and, if they accept it, to enter into covenant with them. Which law all the Hebrews think to pertain to the Canaanites equally with foreigners (Masius on verses 15 and 27). But the distinction, which is stated in what follows, between the natives and foreigners they only understand of those that refuse the offered peace: Namely, that among the Canaanites all, among foreigners the males alone, were to be killed (Masius on verse 15). Indeed, equity itself dictates this for all nations, that no war was just apart from due warning. And the Jews relate that Joshua by public letters, as soon as he had reached Canaan, advised all cities everywhere to surrender. They think that thereafter no nation, besides the Moabites and the Ammonites (concerning whom singular commands are on record[3]), is to be invited to peace (Masius on verse 27). It was commanded, Deuteronomy 20:10 and following, that, after they approached to conquer places intended for them by God, they not allow any to live: But these asked for life before they approached them (Junius, similarly Malvenda). 2. They urge Joshua 11:19, in which they are said to have been destroyed, because no others besides the Gibeonites made peace with the Israelites (Masius on verse 27, Lapide, Bonfrerius). 3. That this covenant was approved by God the example of Saul shows, in whom He avenged with severity the violation of this covenant, 2 Samuel 21:1 (Masius on verse 18, Lapide, Bonfrerius), where the reason for the punishment is related, (not that God had afterwards approved, but) that the Israelites had sworn to them (Bonfrerius). 4. Who would believe that King Solomon, so flourishing in piety, power, and resources, was unwilling to kill the remaining Canaanites (whom he reduced to servitude), if he had not understood that God commanded this (Masius)? 5. Joshua refrained from them after he knew them to be Canaanites, which he would not have done if his promise had been contrary to the law of God (Lapide). For Sacred Scripture bears witness that Joshua failed in nothing of all that Moses had commanded[4] (certain interpreters). 6. The Canaanites, according to the prophesy of Noah, Genesis 9:25, were going to serve the posterity of Noah: therefore, it was not agreeable that all should be cut off (Masius on verse 27).

[They swore] That is, that they were going to keep the covenant entered into with them (Vatablus).

To let them live, that is, that they would not destroy them. Some question whether this league was lawful and obliging, because it is contrary to a positive and precedent law of God, by which they were enjoined to make no peace with them, but utterly to destroy them, Exodus 23:32; 34:12; etc. But this law seems to admit of some exception and favourable interpretation, and that taken from the reason and soul of that law; which was this, that the Israelites might not be tainted with their idolatry and other abominations by cohabitation with them; and therefore when that reason ceased, that is, if they were willing to relinquish their possessions and idolatry, and other wickedness, and to embrace the true religion, they might be spared. And though this law was delivered in general terms, because God foresaw that the Israelites would be most prone to err on that hand, by sparing those whom they should destroy; yet that it was to be understood with an exception of penitents and true converts might easily be gathered, both from the example of Rahab, and from the tenor of Divine threatenings, which, though absolutely delivered, allow of this exception; as appears from Jeremiah 18:7, 8; Jonah 3; 4, and from the great kindness and favour which God hath manifested unto all true penitents, in delivering them from evils threatened to them, and inflicted upon others; which kindness of God we also are obliged to imitate by virtue of that natural and moral law of God implanted in us, and revealed to us, to which such positive commands as this of killing the Canaanites must give place. And that this league was lawful and obliging, may seem probable, 1. Because Joshua and all the princes upon the review concluded it so to be, and spared them accordingly, Joshua 9:19, 20, 22, 23. 2. Because God punished the violation of it long after, 2 Samuel 21:1. 3. Because God is said to have hardened the hearts of all other cities not to seek peace with Israel, that so he might utterly destroy them, Joshua 11:19, 20, which seems to imply that their utter destruction did not necessarily come upon them by virtue of any absolute and peremptory command of God to destroy them, but by their own obstinate hardness, whereby they neglected and refused to make peace with the Israelites. Objection. This league was grounded upon a deceit and error of the persons, which also they had entered a caution against, Joshua 9:7. Answer. Their supposition that they were Canaanites was indeed a part of the foregoing discourse, verse 7, and the Israelites rested satisfied with their answer, and believed they were not, and so entered into the league; but that league was absolute, not suspended upon that or any other condition; and the error was not about the persons, but about the country and people to which they belonged, which was not material to this contract, no more than it is to a contract of marriage, that the one person believed the other to be of another country or family than indeed they were.

[1] Hebrew: וַיַּ֙עַשׂ לָהֶ֤ם יְהוֹשֻׁ֙עַ֙ שָׁל֔וֹם וַיִּכְרֹ֥ת לָהֶ֛ם בְּרִ֖ית לְחַיּוֹתָ֑ם וַיִּשָּׁבְע֣וּ לָהֶ֔ם נְשִׂיאֵ֖י הָעֵדָֽה׃

[2] חָיָה, to live, is in the Piel conjugation, which sometimes conveys a causative sense.

[3] See Deuteronomy 2:9, 19.

[4] See Joshua 11:15.

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