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.

1 thought on “Joshua 9:20: The Keeping of the Oath; the Grumbling of the People, Part 3

  1. Matthew Henry: “The oath being lawful, both the princes and the people for whom they transacted were bound by it, bound in conscience, bound in honour to the God of Israel, by whom they had sworn, and whose name would have been blasphemed by the Canaanites if they had violated this oath. They speak as those that feared an oath (Ecclesiastes 9:2), when they argued thus: We will let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath which we swore, Joshua 9:20. He that ratifies a promise with an oath imprecates the divine vengeance if he wilfully break his promise, and has reason to expect that divine justice will take him at his word. God is not mocked, and therefore oaths are not to be jested with. The princes would keep their word, [1.] Though they lost by it. A citizen of Zion swears to his own hurt and changes not, Psalm 15:4. Joshua and the princes, when they found it was to their prejudice that they had thus bound themselves, did not apply to Eleazar for a dispensation, much less did they pretend that no faith is to be kept with heretics, with Canaanites; no, they were strangers to the modern artifices of the Romish church to elude the most sacred bonds, and even to sanctify perjuries. [2.] Though the people were uneasy at it, and their discontent might have ended in a mutiny, yet the princes would not violate their engagement to the Gibeonites; we must never be overawed, either by majesty or multitude, to do a sinful thing, and go against our consciences. [3.] Though they were drawn into this league by a wile, and might have had a very plausible pretence to declare it null and void, yet they adhered to it. They might have pleaded that though those were the men with whom they exchanged the ratifications, yet these were not the cities intended in the league; they had promised to spare certain cities, without names, that were very far off, and upon the express consideration of their being so; but these were very near, and therefore not the cities that they covenanted with. And many learned men have thought that they were so grossly imposed upon by the Gibeonites that it would have been lawful for them to have recalled their promise, but to preserve their reputation, and to keep up in Israel a veneration of an oath, they would stand to it; but it is plain that they thought themselves indispensably obliged by it, and were apprehensive that the wrath of God would fall upon them if they broke it. And, however their adherence to it might be displeasing to the congregation, it is plain that it was acceptable to God; for when, in pursuance of this league, they undertook the protection of the Gibeonites, God gave them the most glorious victory that ever they had in all their wars (Joshua 10), and long afterwards severely avenged the wrong Saul did to the Gibeonites in violation of this league, 2 Samuel 21:1. Let this convince us all how religiously we ought to perform our promises, and make good our bargains; and what conscience we ought to make of our words when they are once given. If a covenant obtained by so many lies and deceits might not be broken, shall we think to evade the obligation of those that have been made with all possible honesty and fairness? If the fraud of others will not justify or excuse our falsehood, certainly the honesty of others in dealing with us will aggravate and condemn our dishonesty in dealing with them.”

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