|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
9:14-21 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, Ps 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.
Verse 14. - And the men took of their victuals. Most commentators prefer this rendering to that of the margin, "and they received the men because of their victuals." The natural explanation - though several others are given, for which see Keil in loc. - would seem to be that the Israelites relied on the evidence of their senses, instead of upon the counsel of God. They could see the condition of the garments, sacks, and wine skins of the Gibeonites. They tasted of their victuals to convince themselves of the truth of those statements of which the sight was insufficient to take cognisance. And asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord. Even in the most obvious matter it is well not to trust too implicitly to our own judgment. Nothing could seem more clear or satisfactory than the account given of themselves by the Gibeonites - nothing more easy for the unassisted intellect to decide. And yet Joshua and the congregation were deceived. It is perhaps too much to say, with some commentators - Maurer, for instance - that Joshua disobeyed a plain command in acting thus. The passage in which Joshua is instructed to "stand up before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him at the judgment of Urim before the Lord" (Numbers 27:18-23), does not require him to do so in all cases. But it was clearly "an act of gross carelessness" (Calvin). And the inference may safely be drawn that in no case whatever is it wise to trust to ourselves. However obvious our course may be, we shall do well to take counsel with God by prayer.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the men took of their victuals,.... That is, the princes of Israel took thereof; not to eat of them, for it cannot be thought that such personages would eat of such dry and mouldy bread, and especially as they were now in a plentiful country, and possessed of the fruits of it; but to see whether it was in such a plight and condition as they said, whereby they might judge of the truth of what they said; and they learned and knew, as R. Jonah observes, from the dryness of their food, that it was truth they said; and so the Targum, the men hearkened to their words; and so Jarchi, they believed what they said on sight of their provisions; but, according to Kimchi and Ben Melech, they ate with them, to confirm the covenant they made with them; but had this been the case, as it sometimes was a custom to eat together at making covenants, see Genesis 26:30; the princes would doubtless have provided a better entertainment for such a purpose: the "margin" of our Bibles leads to the other sense,"they received the men by reason of their victuals:"
and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord; as they might and should have done, by desiring the high priest to inquire of the Lord by Urim and Thummim; but this they neglected, which, had they attended to, the fraud would have been discovered; or however, they would have had the mind of God about making peace with the Gibeonites, which in all likelihood he would not have disapproved of, they becoming proselytes, and giving up their possessions to Israel; but this did not excuse their neglect.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
14, 15. the men took of their victuals and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord—The mouldy appearance of their bread was, after examination, accepted as guaranteeing the truth of the story. In this precipitate conclusion the Israelites were guilty of excessive credulity and culpable negligence, in not asking by the high priest's Urim and Thummim the mind of God, before entering into the alliance. It is not clear, however, that had they applied for divine direction they would have been forbidden to spare and connect themselves with any of the Canaanite tribes who renounced idolatry and embraced and worshipped the true God. At least, no fault was found with them for making a covenant with the Gibeonites; while, on the other hand, the violation of it was severely punished (2Sa 21:1; and Jos 11:19, 20).
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