Joshua 9:3, 4: The Gibeonite Deception, Part 1

Verse 3:[1] And when the inhabitants of (Josh. 10:2; 2 Sam. 21:1, 2) Gibeon (Josh. 6:27) heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai…

And when the inhabitants: Or, but when the inhabitants; for he shows that these took another and a wiser course. Gibeon; a great and royal city of the Hivites, Joshua 10:2; 11:19.


Verse 4:[2] They did work wilily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks upon their asses, and wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up…

[And thinking craftily, וַיַּעֲשׂ֤וּ גַם־הֵ֙מָּה֙ בְּעָרְמָ֔ה] They also wrought craftily (Pagnine). Question: Why is this גַּם/also here? Responses: 1. They also made use of a stratagem, as did Joshua in the assault upon Ai (Vatablus). 2. As the rest of the Canaanites were taking counsel, etc., so these, not indeed with plans of fighting, as those, but with prudence and cunning (Masius, similarly Junius, Piscator, Malvenda, Lapide). They translate בְּעָרְמָה, in, or with cunning (Septuagint, Ainsworth,[3] Junius and Tremellius, Montanus, similarly the Syriac), in wisdom (Jonathan). This word signifies both honest prudence, and crafty cunning (Masius).

Ambassadors, sent from a far country, as they say, verse 6.

[They brought for themselves provisions, וַיִּצְטַיָּרוּ] [They render it variously.] They prepared for themselves food, or provisions for a journey (Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic. The Greeks have ἐπεσιτίσαντο, they prepared provisions. For the Syriac imitates this out of the Greek book, which by the hand of Eusebius had been emended out of Origen’s Hexapla[4] (Masius). Therefore, these maintain that this passage has been corrupted, and is to be read וַיִּצְטַיָּדוּ, and they supplied themselves with provisions,[5] a ד/d in the place of the ר/r (thus Masius and Schindler[6]). But others translate it, and they made themselves ambassadors (Munster, Vatablus), that is, they feigned (Pagnine, Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, Glassius, Vatablus, similarly Tigurinus). Thus all the Hebrews, and Cajetan, and Forster, and others (in Malvenda, Pagnine). For sometimes the action in itself is to be explained by simulation or declaration in the Hithpael conjugation (Glassius’ “Grammar” 325). צִיר denotes an ambassador, upon which as a hinge (which צִיר elsewhere also denotes[7]) business turns, out of Proverbs 13:17;[8] 25:13;[9] Isaiah 18:2;[10] Jeremiah 49:14;[11] Obadiah 1; etc. Thence ἀναλόγως, by analogy, the word is formed in the Hithpael (although that be of τῶν ἅπαξ λεγομένων, hapax legomena,[12] just as also the other הִצְטַיֵּד in verse 12[13]). Then, the entire history most evidently manifests the simulation of a legation. The Masorah does not note that it is to be otherwise read, but only this, that word is not extant anywhere else. Now, הִצְטַיַּדְנוּ, we took our provisions, in verse 12 does not correspond to this verb in verse 4, but to צֵידָם, their provisions, in verse 5 (Glassius’ Sacred Philology 1:1:14:59).

[Putting old sacks upon their asses, שַׂקִּ֤ים בָּלִים֙ לַחֲמ֣וֹרֵיהֶ֔ם[14]] Old sacks on their asses (Munster, Tigurinus); rotten, of great age (Vatablus).

[Torn and stitched, וּמְבֻקָּעִ֖ים וּמְצֹרָרִֽים׃] Both torn (burst [Septuagint, Jonathan, Junius and Tremellius]) and bound together (Vatablus, Drusius, Montanus, Syriac, Junius and Tremellius). Both burst, that is, because of age, and bound together because broken (Vatablus).

[1] Hebrew: וְיֹשְׁבֵ֙י גִבְע֜וֹן שָׁמְע֗וּ אֵת֩ אֲשֶׁ֙ר עָשָׂ֧ה יְהוֹשֻׁ֛עַ לִֽירִיח֖וֹ וְלָעָֽי׃

[2] Hebrew: וַיַּעֲשׂ֤וּ גַם־הֵ֙מָּה֙ בְּעָרְמָ֔ה וַיֵּלְכ֖וּ וַיִּצְטַיָּ֑רוּ וַיִּקְח֞וּ שַׂקִּ֤ים בָּלִים֙ לַחֲמ֣וֹרֵיהֶ֔ם וְנֹאד֥וֹת יַ֙יִן֙ בָּלִ֔ים וּמְבֻקָּעִ֖ים וּמְצֹרָרִֽים׃

[3] Henry Ainsworth (1571-1622) was an English Nonconformist, Separatist, and early Congregationalist.  Ainsworth served a group of English Nonconformists in Amsterdam; he held the office of Doctor.  He was one of the great Hebraists of his age, and his annotations upon the Pentateuch, Psalms, and the Song of Solomon demonstrate his command of the Hebrew language and Rabbinical learning and lore.

[4] Origen’s Hexapla (circa 240) was an early foray into Old Testament textual criticism.  In six parallel columns Origen placed:  1.  the Hebrew text; 2.  a transliteration of the Hebrew in Greek characters; 3.  Aquila; 4.  Symmachus; 5.  a recension of the Septuagint; 6.  Theodotion.  It survives only in fragments.

[5] צִיד in the Hithpael signifies to supply oneself with provisions.

[6] Valentine Schindler (died 1604) was a Lutheran Hebraist.  He was Professor of Oriental Languages at Wittenberg and at Helmstadt, and he published Lexicon Pentaglotton: Hebraicum, Chaldicum, Syriacum, Talmudico-Rabbinicum, et Arabicum.

[7] Proverbs 26:14:  “As the door turneth upon his hinges (צִירָהּ), so doth the slothful upon his bed.”

[8] Proverbs 13:17:  “A wicked messenger (מַלְאָ֣ךְ רָ֭שָׁע) falleth into mischief: but a faithful ambassador (וְצִ֖יר אֱמוּנִ֣ים) is health.”

[9] Proverbs 25:13:  “As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger (צִיר) to them that send him:  for he refresheth the soul of his masters.”

[10] Isaiah 18:2:  “That sendeth ambassadors (צִירִים) by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters, saying, Go, ye swift messengers (מַלְאָכִים), to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled!”

[11] Jeremiah 49:14:  “I have heard a rumour from the Lord, and an ambassador (וְצִיר) is sent unto the heathen, saying, Gather ye together, and come against her, and rise up to the battle.”  Thus also Obadiah 1.

[12] That is, words occurring only one time.

[13] Joshua 9:12:  “This our bread we took hot for our provision (זֶ֣ה׀ לַחְמֵ֗נוּ חָ֞ם הִצְטַיַּ֤דְנוּ אֹתוֹ֙) out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and it is mouldy…”

[14] בָּלֶה signifies worn out.

1 thought on “Joshua 9:3, 4: The Gibeonite Deception, Part 1

  1. Matthew Henry: “Here…[t]he Gibeonites desire to make peace with Israel, being alarmed by the tidings they heard of the destruction of Jericho, Joshua 9:3. Other people heard those tidings, and were irritated thereby to make war upon Israel; but the Gibeonites heard them and were induced to make peace with them. Thus the discovery of the glory and grace of God in the gospel is to some a savour of life unto life, but to others a savour of death unto death, 2 Corinthians 2:16. The same sun softens wax and hardens clay. I do not remember that we read any where of a king of Gibeon. Had their government been at this time in a single person, perhaps his heart would have been too high to yield to Israel, and he would have joined with the rest of the kings against Israel. But these four united cities (mentioned Joshua 9:17) seem to have been governed by elders, or senators (Joshua 9:11), who consulted the common safety more than their own personal dignity. The inhabitants of Gibeon did well for themselves.

    We have…[t]he method they took to compass it. They knew that all the inhabitants of the land of Canaan were to be cut off; perhaps they had some spies in the congregation at Ebal, when the law was read, who observed and brought them notice of the command given to Israel (Deuteronomy 7:1-3), that they should show no mercy to the Canaanites, give them no quarter in battle, which made them afraid of fighting them, and that they should make no covenant with them, which made them despair of gaining any advantage by treating with them; and therefore there was no way of saving their lives from the sword of Israel unless they could, by disguising themselves, make Joshua believe that they came from some very country, which the Israelites were not commanded to make war upon nor forbidden to make peace with, but were particularly appointed to offer peace to, Deuteronomy 20:10, 15. Unless they could be admitted under this notion, they saw there was but one way with them: they must submit to the fate of Jericho and Ai. Though the neighbouring princes knew that all the men thereof were mighty (Joshua 10:2), and they knew it themselves, yet they durst not contend with Israel, who had an Almighty God on their side. This therefore is the only game they have to play, and observe…[t]hey play it very artfully and successfully. Never was any such thing more craftily managed…. They come under the character of ambassadors from a foreign state, which they thought would please the princes of Israel, and make them proud of the honour of being courted by distant countries: we find Hezekiah fond of those that came to him from a far country (Isaiah 39:3); they were not used to be thus courted.”

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