Joshua 9

Listen to Joshua 9

The Gibeonite Deception

1 As soon as all the kings who were beyond the Jordan 1in the hill country and in the lowland all along the coast 2of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, 3the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, heard of this,
2 they gathered together as one to fight against Joshua and Israel.
3 But when the inhabitants of 4Gibeon heard what Joshua had done 5to Jericho and 6to Ai,
4 they on their part acted with cunning and went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended,
5 with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly.
6 And they went to Joshua in 7the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, "We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us."
7 But the men of Israel said to 8the Hivites, "Perhaps you live among us; then 9how can we make a covenant with you?"
8 They said to Joshua, 10"We are your servants." And Joshua said to them, "Who are you? And where do you come from?"
9 They said to him, 11"From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God. 12For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt,
10 13and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon the king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who lived in 14Ashtaroth.
11 So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country said to us, 'Take provisions in your hand for the journey and go to meet them and say to them, "We are your servants. Come now, make a covenant with us."'
12 Here is our bread. It was still warm when we took it from our houses as our food for the journey on the day we set out to come to you, but now, behold, it is dry and crumbly.
13 These wineskins were new when we filled them, and behold, they have burst. And these garments and sandals of ours are worn out from the very long journey."
14 So the men took some of their provisions, but 15did not ask counsel from the LORD.
15 And Joshua 16made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.
16 At the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, they heard that they were their neighbors 17and that they lived among them.
17 And the people of Israel set out and reached their cities on the third day. 18Now their cities were Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim.
18 But the people of Israel did not attack them, because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel. Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders.
19 But all the leaders said to all the congregation, "We have sworn to them by the LORD, the God of Israel, and now we may not touch them.
20 This we will do to them: let them live, lest 19wrath be upon us, 20because of the oath that we swore to them."
21 And the leaders said to them, "Let them live." So they became 21cutters of wood and drawers of water for all the congregation, just as the leaders 22had said of them.
22 Joshua summoned them, and he said to them, "Why did you deceive us, saying, 23'We are very far from you,' when 24you dwell among us?
23 Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall never be anything but servants, 25cutters of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God."
24 They answered Joshua, "Because it was told to your servants for a certainty that the LORD your God had 26commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you--so 27we feared greatly for our lives because of you and did this thing.
25 And now, behold, we are in your hand. Whatever seems good and right in your sight to do to us, do it."
26 So he did this to them and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel, and they did not kill them.
27 But Joshua made them that day 28cutters of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD, to this day, 29in the place that he should choose.

Joshua 9 Commentary

Chapter 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)

Verses 1-2 Hitherto the Canaanites had defended themselves, but here they consult to attack Israel. Their minds were blinded, and their hearts hardened to their destruction. Though often at enmity with each other, yet they united against Israel. Oh that Israel would learn of Canaanites, to sacrifice private interests to the public welfare, and to lay aside all quarrels among themselves, that they may unite against the enemies of God's kingdom!

Verses 3-13 Other people heard these tidings, and were driven thereby to make war upon Israel; but the Gibeonites were led to make peace with them. Thus the discovery of the glory and the grace of God in the gospel, is to some a savour of life unto life, but ( 2 Corinthians. 2:16 ) softens wax and hardens clay. The falsehood of the Gibeonites cannot be justified. We must not do evil that good may themselves to the God of Israel, we have reason to think Joshua would have been directed by the oracle of God to spare their lives. But when they had once said, "We are come from a far country," they were led to say it made of skins, and their clothes: one lie brings on another, and that a third, and so on. The way of that sin is especially down-hill. Yet their faith and prudence are to be commended. In submitting to Israel they submitted to the God of Israel, which implied forsaking their idolatries. And how can we do better than cast ourselves upon the mercy of a God of all goodness? The way to avoid judgment is to meet it by repentance. Let us do like these Gibeonites, seek peace with God in the rags of abasement, and godly sorrow; so our sin shall not be our ruin. Let us be servants to Jesus, our blessed Joshua, and we shall live.

Verses 14-21 The Israelites, having examined the provisions of the Gibeonites, hastily concluded that they confirmed their account. We make more haste than good speed, when we stay not to take God with us, and do not consult him by the word and prayer. The fraud was soon found out. A lying tongue is but for a moment. Had the oath been in itself unlawful, it would not have been binding; for no obligation can render it our duty to commit a sin. But it was not unlawful to spare the Canaanites who submitted, and left idolatry, desiring only that their lives might be spared. A citizen of Zion swears to his own hurt, and changes not, ( Psalms 15:4 ) . Joshua and the princes, when they found that they had been deceived, did not apply to Eleazar the high priest to be freed from their engagement, much less did they pretend that no faith is to be kept with those to whom they had sworn. Let this convince us how we ought to keep our promises, and make good our bargains; and what conscience we ought to make of our words.

Verses 22-27 The Gibeonites do not justify their lie, but plead that they did it to save their lives. And the fear was not merely of the power of man; one might flee from that to the Divine protection; but of the power of God himself, which they saw engaged against them. Joshua sentences them to perpetual bondage. They must be servants, but any work becomes honourable, when it is done for the house of the Lord, and the offices thereof. Let us, in like manner, submit to our Lord Jesus, saying, We are in thy hand, do unto us as seemeth good and right unto thee, only save our souls; and we shall not repent it. If He appoints us to bear his cross, and serve him, that shall be neither shame nor grief to us, while the meanest office in God's service will entitle us to a dwelling in the house of the Lord all the days of our life. And in coming to the Saviour, we do not proceed upon a peradventure. We are invited to draw nigh, and are assured that him that cometh to Him, he will in nowise cast out. Even those things which sound harsh, and are humbling, and form sharp trials of our sincerity, will prove of real advantage.

Cross References 29

  • 1. Deuteronomy 1:7
  • 2. Numbers 34:6
  • 3. Joshua 3:10; Joshua 12:8
  • 4. Joshua 10:2, 10, 12; 2 Samuel 21:1, 2; 1 Kings 3:4, 5; 1 Kings 9:2
  • 5. Joshua 6:21, 24
  • 6. Joshua 8:26, 28
  • 7. Joshua 5:10
  • 8. Joshua 11:19
  • 9. Exodus 23:32; Deuteronomy 7:2; Judges 2:2
  • 10. ver. 11
  • 11. Deuteronomy 20:15
  • 12. Joshua 2:10; Joshua 6:27
  • 13. See Numbers 21:21-35
  • 14. Joshua 12:4; Deuteronomy 1:4
  • 15. Numbers 27:21
  • 16. Joshua 11:19
  • 17. ver. 22
  • 18. [Joshua 18:25-28; Ezra 2:25]
  • 19. [Numbers 1:53]
  • 20. 2 Samuel 21:2
  • 21. ver. 23, 27; Deuteronomy 29:11
  • 22. ver. 15
  • 23. ver. 6, 9
  • 24. ver. 16
  • 25. ver. 21, 27
  • 26. Deuteronomy 7:1, 2
  • 27. Exodus 15:14
  • 28. ver. 21, 23; [1 Chronicles 9:2; Ezra 2:43; Ezra 8:20; Nehemiah 7:60; Nehemiah 11:3]
  • 29. Deuteronomy 12:5

Chapter Summary


This chapter gives an account of the combination of the several kings of Canaan against Israel, Jos 9:1,2; and of the craftiness of the Gibeonites, pretending they were ambassadors from a far country, and desired to enter into a league with Israel, which they obtained, Jos 9:3-15; but when it was discovered who they were, it occasioned a murmuring among the people, Jos 9:16-18; which the princes quelled by proposing to make them hewers of wood, and drawers of water, Jos 9:19-21; in order to which Joshua summoned them before him, and chided them for beguiling them; and after they had made their excuse, he ordered them to the service the princes proposed, and so peace in the congregation of Israel was preserved, Jos 9:21-27.

Joshua 9 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.