James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
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;Joshua 9:1-10:43
CONQUEST OF THE SOUTH
THE COMPACT WITH THE GIBEONITES (Joshua 9)
Joshua 9:1-2 are a general statement telling how the kings of the surrounding nations felt in view of Israel’s victories, and what they planned to do about it. The narrative then ends in order to describe the method of the Gibeonites, which differed from the others. We must again refer the student to the map in the back of his Bible for details as to the location of these nations.
Gibeon will be discovered a little to the west, perhaps southwest, of Jericho. It was of the Hivites (Joshua 9:7), and seemed to represent a democracy more than a monarchical form of government (Joshua 9:11).
“They did work wilily” and caught Joshua and his associates by guile, Joshua 9:4-15. “Wine bottles” is in the RV “wine skins,” for bottles were made of the skins of animals, goats for example, and when they were old or much used they were liable to be rent.
Notice in verse 7 that the Israelites were a little on their guard. “Suppose you really dwell here in Canaan,” they said, “we are not at liberty to enter into a covenant with you” (compare Exodus 23:34; 34:12; Deuteronomy 7:2). One would have thought they would have asked counsel of the Lord, but this they disobediently failed to do (Joshua 9:14).
Joshua now comes into the colloquy (Joshua 9:8), but even he is guilty of the same oversight. And yet, as another suggests, if they had sought divine guidance, perhaps “they would not have been forbidden to connect themselves with any Canaanites who renounced idolatry and worshipped the true God.” Rahab is in point. “At least no fault was found with them for making this league with the Gibeonites: while the violation of it later was punished” (2 Samuel 21).
“Hewers of wood and drawers of water” (Joshua 9:21) were the menials who performed the lowest offices in the sanctuary (called Nethinim in 1 Chronicles 9:2 and Ezra 2:43). But notwithstanding the chastisement of the Gibeonites in this respect, their relationship to Israel brought them into the possession of great religious privileges (see Psalm 84:10).
THE GREAT BATTLE WITH THE KINGS (Joshua 10)
The story now seems to return to the opening of chapter 9. The kings are exercised by the compact between Israel and Gibeon, for the latter is a strong power. To be opposed by Israel was serious, but Israel and Gibeon united were a greater menace (Joshua 10:1-5).
Gibeon’s extremity is Joshua’s opportunity (Joshua 10:6-7), but he receives new encouragement from God for this, the heaviest undertaking in which he has engaged. Everything about this conflict is supernatural, which if we keep in mind will remove the strangeness of the miracle in verses 12-14. For example, observe verses 10 and 11.
“Beth-horon” (Joshua 10:10) means the “house of caves.” There were two contiguous villages of that name, upper and nether. Upper Beth-horon was nearer Gibeon, about ten miles distant, and approached by a gradual ascent through a long and precipitous ravine. This was the first stage of the flight. The fugitives had crossed the high ridge of upper Beth-horon, and were in flight down the descent to Beth-horon the nether. The road between the two is so rocky that there is a path made by steps cut into the rock.
Down this path Joshua continued his rout. Here the Lord interposed, assisting by means of a storm, which burst with such fury that “they were more which died with hailstones, than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.”
The oriental hailstorm is a terrific agent; the hailstones are masses of ice, large as walnuts, and sometimes as two fists; their size, and the violence with which they fall, make them injurious to property, and often fatal to life. The miraculous feature of this tempest, which fell on the Amorite army, was the preservation of the Israelites from its destructive ravages.
SUN AND MOON STAND STILL
In the New Testament we are taught to pray in the Holy Ghost, and that the Holy Ghost prays in us (Judges 1:20; Romans 8:26). “The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man” of which James speaks (5:16), would seem to be the prayer “energized” in the believer by the Holy Ghost himself, the prayer He prays in the man according to the will of God. May we explain Joshua’s prayer in verse 12 this way?
The inspired author here breaks off the thread of his history of this miraculous victory to introduce a quotation from an ancient poem, which is parenthetical, contains a poetical description of the victory miraculously gained by the help of God, and forms an extract from “the book of Jasher,” i.e., “the upright” an anthology, or collection of national songs, in honor of renowned and pious heroes.
The language of a poem is not to be literally interpreted, and therefore, when the sun and moon are personified, and represented as standing still, the explanation is that the light of the sun and moon was supernaturally prolonged by the laws of refraction and reflection that ordinarily cause the sun to appear above the horizon, when it is in reality below it. Gibeon (a hill) was now at the back of the Israelites, and the height would soon have intercepted the rays of the setting sun. The valley of Ajalon (stags) was before them, and so near that it was sometimes called “the valley of Gibeon” (Isaiah 28:21).
It would seem from verse 14 that the command of Joshua was in reality a prayer to God for this miracle; and that, although the prayers of men like Moses often prevailed with God, never was there so astonishing a display of divine power in behalf of his people as in answer to the prayer of Joshua. Verse 15 is the end of the quotation from Jasher; and it is necessary to notice this, as the fact described in it is recorded in due course, and the same words, by the sacred historian, verse 43.
1. What geographical relation did Gibeon bear to .Jericho?
2. How does Joshua 9:11 indicate that Gibeon may not have been a petty kingdom like the other cities?
3. Are you familiar with the story in 2 Samuel 21?
4. Name the supernatural phenomena occurring at the battle of Beth- horon.
5. Can you quote Romans 8:26?
6. What do you know about the book of Jasher?