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.

1 thought on “Joshua 9:22, 23: The Censure of the Gibeonites, Part 2

  1. Matthew Henry: “Joshua reproves them for their fraud, Joshua 9:22…. Joshua gives the reproof very mildly: Wherefore have you beguiled us? He does not load them with any ill names, does not give them any harsh provoking language, does not call them, as they deserved to be called, base liars, but only asks them, Why have you beguiled us? Under the greatest provocations, it is our wisdom and duty to keep our temper, and to bridle our passion; a just cause needs not anger to defend it, and a bad one is made never the better by it….

    Joshua condemns them to servitude, as a punishment of their fraud (Joshua 9:23)…. Joshua pronounces them perpetual bondmen. They had purchased their lives with a lie, but, that being no good consideration, he obliges them to hold their lives under the rent and reservation of their continual labours, in hewing wood and drawing water, the meanest and most toilsome employments. Thus their lie was punished; had they dealt fairly and plainly with Israel, perhaps they would have had more honourable conditions granted them, but now, since they gain their lives with ragged clothes and clouted shoes, the badges of servitude, they are condemned for ever to wear such, so must their doom be. And thus the ransom of their lives is paid; dominion is acquired by the preservation of a life that lies at mercy (servus dicitur a servando—a servant is so called from the act of saving); they owe their service to those to whom they owe their lives. Observe how the judgment is given against them. (1.) Their servitude is made a curse to them. “Now you are cursed with the ancient curse of Canaan,” from whom these Hivites descended, a servant of servants shalt thou be, Genesis 9:25. What shall be done to the false tongue but this? Cursed shall it be. (2.) Yet this curse is turned into a blessing; they must be servants, but it shall be for the house of my God. The princes would have them slaves unto all the congregation (Joshua 9:21), at least they chose to express themselves so, for the pacifying of the people that were discontented; but Joshua mitigates the sentence, both in honour to God and in favour to the Gibeonites: it would be too hard upon them to make them every man’s drudge; if they must be hewers of wood and drawers of water, than which there cannot be a greater disparagement, especially to those who are citizens of a royal city, and all mighty men (Joshua 10:2), yet they shall be so to the house of my God, than which there cannot be a greater preferment: David himself could have wished to be a doorkeeper there. Even servile work becomes honourable when it is done for the house of our God and the offices thereof. [1.] They were hereby excluded from the liberties and privileges of trueborn Israelites, and a remaining mark of distinction was put upon their posterity throughout all their generations. [2.] They were hereby employed in such services as required their personal attendance upon the altar of God in the place which he should choose (Joshua 9:27), which would bring them to the knowledge of the law of God, keep them strictly to that holy religion to which they were proselyted, and prevent their revolt to the idolatries of their fathers. [3.] T his would be a great advantage to the priests and Levites to have so many, and those mighty men, constant attendants upon them, and engaged by office to do all the drudgery of the tabernacle. A great deal of wood must be hewed for fuel for God’s house, not only to keep the fire burning continually upon the altar, but to boil the flesh of the peace-offerings, etc. And a great deal of water must be drawn for the divers washings which the law prescribed. These and other such servile works, such as washing the vessels, carrying out ashes, sweeping the courts, etc., which otherwise the Levites must have done themselves, these Gibeonites were appointed to do. [4.] They were herein servants to the congregation too; for whatever promotes and helps forward the worship of God is real service to the commonwealth. It is the interest of every Israelite that the altar of God be well attended. Hereby also the congregation was excused from much of that servile work which perhaps would otherwise have been expected from some of them. God had made a law that the Israelites should never make any of their brethren bondmen; if they had slaves, they must be of the heathen that were round about them, Leviticus 25:44. Now in honour of this law, and of Israel that was honoured by it, God would not have the drudgery, no, not of the tabernacle itself, to be done by Israelites, but by Gibeonites, who were afterwards called Nethinims, men given to the Levites, as the Levites were to the priests (Numbers 3:9), to minister to them in the service of God. [5.] This may be looked upon as typifying the admission of the Gentiles into the gospel church. Now they were taken in upon their submission to be under-officers, but afterwards God promises that he will take of them for priests and Levites, Isaiah 66:21.”

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