Josh 9:1 Now when all the kings west of the Jordan heard about these things—those in the hill country, in the western foothills, and along the entire coast of the Great Sea as far as Lebanon (the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites)—

‘The treaty with the Gibeonites was an obvious exception to the rule of holy war. This account shows that Israel was able to determine that under certain circumstances an exception could and must be made to the law. Compromising situations often arise, as here (14) and e.g. in divorce cases because the word of God was not sought in the first place. In the time of the Judges, Israel so entangled itself with covenants of peace with the condemned nations, violating the herem (see on 6:15-21), that the Lord no longer drove out the Canaanites (Jdg. 2:1-5). Many in the church today are opting for peaceful co-existence with the world and losing their spiritual power.’ (NBC)

Josh 9:2 they came together to make war against Joshua and Israel.

‘The exceptional diplomacy of Gibeon is presented against the background of the decision of other Canaanite confederacies to wage war against Israel (10:1-11:23). The Gibeonites risked peace, not war. Unfortunately, though they feared God, they did not opt for a third solution, full vassalage within God’s covenant, as Rahab had done (see 2:8-14). Confronted with Christ and his gospel, people can likewise opt for one of these three postures: fight against him, peaceful co-existence without submission to him, or full membership in the new covenant through his blood and spiritual rebirth.’ (NBC)

Josh 9:3 However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai,

Josh 9:4 they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended.

‘The Gibeonites staked their hope for a peace treaty on Israel’s policy of making peace with compliant cities that were far removed from Israel, and not a part of the condemned nations who might pollute them (Dt. 20:10-15). The Gibeonites therefore pretended to come from a great distance.

Whereas deception is a recognized necessity in war, deception in making treaties is unacceptable, and so Joshua cursed them (23). In truth, Joshua and the elders were also in the wrong for depending on their senses rather than enquiring of the Lord (14). The church must not substitute its own understanding, however attractive, for the word of God.’ (NBC)

Josh 9:5 The men put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy.

Josh 9:6 Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.”

Josh 9:7 The men of Israel said to the Hivites, “But perhaps you live near us. How then can we make a treaty with you?”

Josh 9:8 “We are your servants,” they said to Joshua. But Joshua asked, “Who are you and where do you come from?”

Josh 9:9 They answered: “Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the LORD your God. For we have heard reports of him: all that he did in Egypt,

Josh 9:10 and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan—Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth.

Josh 9:11 And our elders and all those living in our country said to us, ‘Take provisions for your journey; go and meet them and say to them, “We are your servants; make a treaty with us.”’

Josh 9:12 This bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come to you. But now see how dry and moldy it is.

Josh 9:13 And these wineskins that we filled were new, but see how cracked they are. And our clothes and sandals are worn out by the very long journey.”

Josh 9:14 The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD.

Josh 9:15 Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.

Josh 9:16 Three days after they made the treaty with the Gibeonites, the Israelites heard that they were neighbors, living near them.

Josh 9:17 So the Israelites set out and on the third day came to their cities: Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath Jearim.

Josh 9:18 But the Israelites did not attack them, because the leaders of the assembly had sworn an oath to them by the LORD, the God of Israel. The whole assembly grumbled against the leaders,

‘Three times in successive verses (18, 19, 20) the point is made emphatically that Israel must not break an oath, even though made under false colours, and so misuse God’s name (cf. Ex. 20:7; 2 Sa. 21:1-14; Mt. 5:33-37). This is a truth that needs to be re-asserted in an age of broken marriage vows and of broken business contracts. The elders resolved the problem of securing an irrevocable treaty under false pretences by interpreting the treaty’s term, ‘servant’, in the most onerous way – the Gibeonites were to become wood cutters and water carriers for all the congregation. Joshua added cultic service to the non-cultic duties demanded by the elders.’ (NBC)

Josh 9:19 but all the leaders answered, “We have given them our oath by the LORD, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now.

Josh 9:20 This is what we will do to them: We will let them live, so that wrath will not fall on us for breaking the oath we swore to them.”

Josh 9:21 They continued, “Let them live, but let them be woodcutters and water carriers for the entire community.” So the leaders’ promise to them was kept.

Josh 9:22 Then Joshua summoned the Gibeonites and said, “Why did you deceive us by saying, ‘We live a long way from you,’ while actually you live near us?

Josh 9:23 You are now under a curse: You will never cease to serve as woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God.”

Josh 9:24 They answered Joshua, “Your servants were clearly told how the LORD your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you the whole land and to wipe out all its inhabitants from before you. So we feared for our lives because of you, and that is why we did this.

Josh 9:25 We are now in your hands. Do to us whatever seems good and right to you.”

Josh 9:26 So Joshua saved them from the Israelites, and they did not kill them.

Josh 9:27 That day he made the Gibeonites woodcutters and water carriers for the community and for the altar of the LORD at the place the LORD would choose. And that is what they are to this day.