King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Joshua 9

The kings combine against Israel. (1,2) The Gibeonites apply for peace. (3-13) They obtain peace, but are soon detected. (14-21) The Gibeonites are to be bondmen. (22-27)

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The kings combine against Israel

1 And it came to pass, when all the kings which were on this side Jordan, in the hills, and in the valleys, and in all the coasts of the great sea over against Lebanon, the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, heard thereof;

2 That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord.

The Gibeonites apply for peace

3 And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai,

4 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;

5 And old shoes and clouted upon their feet, and old garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy.

6 And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal, and said unto him, and to the men of Israel, We be come from a far country: now therefore make ye a league with us.

7 And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you?

8 And they said unto Joshua, We are thy servants. And Joshua said unto them, Who are ye? and from whence come ye?

9 And they said unto him, From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of the LORD thy God: for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt,

10 And all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, which was at Ashtaroth.

11 Wherefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spake to us, saying, Take victuals with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say unto them, We are your servants: therefore now make ye a league with us.

12 This our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and it is mouldy:

13 And these bottles of wine, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they be rent: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey.

They obtain peace, but are soon detected

14 And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD.

15 And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them.

16 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.

17 And the children of Israel journeyed, and came unto their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, and Chephirah, and Beeroth, and Kirjathjearim.

18 And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel. And all the congregation murmured against the princes.

19 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.

20 This we will do to them; we will even let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath which we sware unto them.

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.

The Gibeonites are to be bondmen

22 And Joshua called for them, and he spake unto them, saying, Wherefore have ye beguiled us, saying, We are very far from you; when ye dwell among us?

23 Now therefore ye are cursed, and there shall none of you be freed from being bondmen, and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.

24 And they answered Joshua, and said, Because it was certainly told thy servants, how that the LORD thy God commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you, therefore we were sore afraid of our lives because of you, and have done this thing.

25 And now, behold, we are in thine hand: as it seemeth good and right unto thee to do unto us, do.

26 And so did he unto them, and delivered them out of the hand of the children of Israel, that they slew them not.

27 And Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the altar of the LORD, even unto this day, in the place which he should choose.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. These things. The solemn covenant by which the Israelites took possession of Chanaan, (H.) and the destruction of two cities of Jericho and Hai. C. — The kings on that side of the Jordan, and in all the neighbourhood, perceiving that, if the Israelites were suffered to attack them singly, in this manner, they would all presently lose their dominions and their lives. They resolved, therefore, to form a general league, offensive and defensive. H. — Beyond. Heb. “on the side of.” — Mountains, on the south of Judea. — Sea. All the nations of Phoenicia, and the country of the Philistines, (C.) who had seized a part of the country, which belonged to the Israelites. Josue divided their territory among the people, though he did not live to make the conquest of it. H. — Libanus. Heb. “and in all the coasts of the great sea, over-against Libanus,” as if the Phœnicians were alone meant. C.

Ver. 4. Provisions. By the alteration of a single letter, Heb. means, “they feigned themselves to be ambassadors.” But the Chal. Syr. and Sept. agree with the Vulgate. C. — The Gabaonites were Hevites, though they are called by the more general name of Amhorrites, 2 K. xxi. 2. S. Jerom says that their city stood in the tribe of Benjamin; according to Josephus, 40 or 50 stadia north of Jerusalem. M. — They alone had the prudence to submit, (C.) being terrified and converted by the miracles of God. H. — Again. In the East, goat skins with the hair inwards, are used to carry wine.

Ver. 5. Patches. Heb. “spotted,” or of different colours, like shoes worn out and spoiled with dirt. — Pieces. Heb, is translated, “dry, burnt, eaten, mouldy,” &c. But it means fine thin bread, or wafers, (3 K. xiv. 3,) full of holes. The Israelites partook of this bread, which they would hardly have done if it had been mouldy. C.

Ver. 7. You. The Gabaonites addressed themselves to the first whom they met in the camp; and these made this remark to them before they were brought into the presence of Josue. The Israelites could make no league with the Chanaanites, as with equals, but only on condition that the latter should embrace the true religion, and acknowledge the dominion of the former. Grot. Ex. xxiii. 32. Deut. vii. 2.

Ver. 8. Servants. They did not mean to submit to servitude, but to make a league; otherwise they would not have needed to have recourse to such artifices. C. — But finding that no other terms could be procured, they were willing, at any rate, to save their lives. H.

Ver. 9. God. So the queen Saba came to Solomon, 3 K. x. The people of Gabaon being convinced that the God of Israel was the only true God, came to join themselves to his people, and to worship him. Serarius.

Ver. 10. Astaroth. They take care not to mention what had happened so recently at Jericho, lest they might be detected. C.

Ver. 13. And almost. This is added by way of farther explanation of the Heb. “are become old.” H.

Ver. 14. Victuals, to examine whether they were as old as they pretended; or they eat of them in sign of friendship. M. — Thus we find a feast generally accompanied the making of a league. Gen. xxvi. 30. and xxxi. 54. To betray a guest was deemed a heinous injury. Ps. liv. 15. Euripides. — Lord. By the high priest, clothed with the Urim and Thummim. C. — This remark shews that the Israelites had been guilty of some negligence. H. — Hence they were so easily deceived, being perhaps overjoyed that their friendship should be courted by so distant a nation. M. — The high priest was ordered to consult the Lord for Josue, at the door of the tabernacle. Ex. xxix. 42. Num. xxvii. 21. W.

Ver 15. Them. Were they bound to keep this promise? Some maintain the negative, as it was obtained by fraud, and therefore the Gabaonites leave themselves to the mercy of Josue, (v. 25,) who condemns them to perpetual servitude in the house of the Lord. He could not, however, have taken away their lives after what had passed. The error was not essential, but the people might have obtained the same conditions, if they had frankly told the truth. If we make a contract with a person who pretends to be of a nation to which he does not belong, the contract will hold good. The deceit of the Gabaonites was punished as it deserved. But God required that the conditions which were granted to them, should be diligently observed; and the family of Saul was severely punished, because he had slain some of them. 3 K. xxi. If the rest of the Chanaanites had changed their religion, and submitted to the Israelites, they might have been preserved, as Rahab, and so many others were, with whom the pious kings scrupled not to form alliances. C. xi. 19. Deut. xx. 10, &c. Masius. Bonfrere. C. — They were, however, obliged to yield possession of the land to the Israelites, and to renounce idolatry. The Gabaonites were willing to accede to these conditions, and therefore Josue might justly make a peace with them. M.

Ver. 16. Now. The five kings coming to attack the Gabaonites, these were forced to confess the truth, and to implore the assistance of the Israelites; (C.) or perhaps Rahab had given information who they really were. M. — Josue flew to their assistance in the night, and arrived the day following. C. x. 9.

Ver. 18. Israel. This is one reason why their lives were spared. But we have seen that they could not, with justice, have treated them as enemies, on their submitting to the conditions required, even if they had not engaged themselves by oath. The Gabaonites knew with what respect oaths were then kept by the Hebrews, even when they might have some specious pretext for dispensing themselves from their obligation. “People had not yet begun to neglect God, as they do in the present age; nor did they allow themselves the liberty of interpreting an oath, and accommodating the laws to their own humour, but they rather regulated their morals by their prescription.” Nondum hæc quæ nunc tenet sæculum, negligentia Dei venerat, &c. Livy iii.

Ver. 21. Multitude. The common people, only considering their own private advantage, murmured at the conduct of their leaders, as they supposed that they were thus deprived of the plunder (C.) of many cities, and engaged in a dangerous war, with the five confederate kings. But this war was in no degree detrimental to them, as they knew they had to subdue the whole country; and as for the Gabaonites, they eased the people of Israel of a great burden, by doing the drudgery of the tabernacle, which otherwise must have fallen upon them. H. — These people were dispersed through the country, particularly in the cities of the priests and Levites, whose servants they were forced to be. Gabaon was allotted to the priests. In latter ages, many of these poor people being slain by Saul, &c. David was obliged to select some others, called Nathineans, or “people given,” to supply their place, (C.) unless these were all the remnants of the Gabaonites. M. — Josephus (Bel. ii. 17,) speaks of the feast of Xylophoria, or “wood carrying,” for the uses of the temple; and we read, (2 Esd. x. 34,) that lots were cast among the priests and the Levites, and the people, for the offering of wood, &c. which seems to insinuate that the ancient institution was then altered. Many authors speak of a fountain which furnished the temple with water, after the captivity, so that the service of the Gabaonites was not much wanted. We find no mention of them after that time.

Ver. 23. Curse. Heb. “you are cursed, and there shall be none of you freed from being bondmen;” (H.) you are a part of those nations which are under an anathema, and you deserve to be severely punished. C. — But we shall fulfil our engagements with you, only in punishment for your craftiness: (H.) you must submit to change your religion, (C.) which will be your greatest blessing, (H.) and to perform the meanest offices, which may be considered as a sort of curse. It is thought that some recompense was allowed the Gabaonites for their labour. Serarius, q. 17. — This sentence was probably pronounced at Galgal, (C.) though we might as well conclude that Josue would wait till he came to Gabaon, before he arraigned the people, as no doubt they would make the best of their way out of the camp, as soon as they had obtained their request. H. — Water. Slaves of the meanest condition were employed in these offices. Deut. xxix. 11. Athen. x. 22.

Ver. 24. Thereof. It seems they know not that any conditions would be admitted; and many interpreters have supposed, that none could be offered by the Israelites. See Deut. xx. 15.

Ver. 25. Thee. They acknowledge not only that Josue is too strong for them, but also that he has a right to punish them for their deceit. They accept, therefore, of whatever terms he is pleased to allow them. C.

Ver. 27. Chosen in the tabernacle and temple. M. — In these Gabaonites, of the race of Chanaan, the prediction of Noe, that he should serve Sem, was fulfilled. Gen. ix. W.