Joshua 9:15
And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation swore to them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Joshua 9:15. Joshua made a league with them to let them live — Not merely, it seems, to spare their lives, which, supposing them to belong to a far country, they had no warrant to take away, but to let them continue in the enjoyment of their effects; the word life in Scripture being frequently of equal signification with prosperity. That this league was lawful and obliging, appears, 1st, Because Joshua and all the princes, upon the review, concluded it so to be, and spared them accordingly. 2d, Because God punished the violation of it long after, 2 Samuel 21:1. 3d, Because God is said to have hardened the hearts of all other cities, not to seek peace with Israel, that so he might utterly destroy them, (Joshua 11:19-20,) which seems to imply that their utter destruction did not necessarily come upon them by virtue of any peremptory command of God, but by their own obstinate hardness, whereby they refused to make peace with the Israelites.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.The elders of Israel Joshua 9:18, tasting what was offered them by the Gibeonites, pledged themselves according to the usage of Eastern nations to peace and friendship with them. They credited the story at once, instead of seeking the direction of God in the matter. The rendering of the margin is not to be preferred to that of the text.

At the mouth of the Lord - i. e. by the Urim and Thummim Exodus 28:30.

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). To let them live, i.e. that they would not destroy them. Some question whether this league was lawful and obliging, because it is contrary to a positive and precedent law of God, by which they were enjoined to make no peace with them, but utterly to destroy them, Exodus 23:32 Exo 34 &c. But this law seems to admit of some exception and favourable interpretation, and that taken from the reason and soul of that law; which was this, that the Israelites might not be tainted with their idolatry and other abominations by cohabitation with them; and therefore when that reason ceased, i.e. if they were willing to relinquish their possessions and idolatry, and other wickedness, and to embrace the true religion, they might be spared. And though this law was delivered in general terms, because God foresaw that the Israelites would be most prone to err on that hand, by sparing those whom they should destroy; yet that it was to be understood with an exception of penitents and true converts might easily be gathered, both from the example of Rahab, and from the tenor of Divine threatenings, which, though absolutely delivered, allow of this exception; as appears from Jeremiah 18:7,8 Jon 3 Jon 4, and from the great kindness and favour which God hath manifested unto all true penitents, in delivering them from evils threatened to them, and inflicted upon others; which kindness of God we also are obliged to imitate by virtue of that natural and moral law of God implanted in us, and revealed to us, to which such positive commands as this of killing the Canaanites must give place. And that this league was lawful and obliging, may seem probable,

1. Because Joshua and all the princes upon the review concluded it so to be, and spared them accordingly, Joshua 9:19,20,22,23.

2. Because God punished the violation of it long after, 2 Samuel 21:1.

3. Because God is said to have hardened the hearts of all other cities not to seek peace with Israel, that so he might utterly destroy them, Joshua 11:19,20, which seems to imply that their utter destruction did not necessarily come upon them by virtue of any absolute and peremptory command of God to destroy them, but by their own obstinate hardness, whereby they neglected and refused to make peace with the Israelites.

Object. This league was grounded upon a deceit and error of the persons, which also they had entered a caution against, Joshua 9:7.

Answ. Their supposition that they were Canaanites was indeed a part of the foregoing discourse, Joshua 9:7, and the Israelites rested satisfied with their answer, and believed they were not, and so entered into the league; but that league was absolute, not suspended upon that or any other condition; and the error was not about the persons, but about the country and people to which they belonged, which was not material to this contract, no more than it is to a contract of marriage, that the one person believed the other to be of another country or family than indeed they were. And Joshua made peace with them,.... Upon the report the princes made of having examined what they had said, and which they found to be true, particularly concerning their victuals:

and made a league with them, to let them live; and not destroy them as he did the Canaanites, and was ordered to do; they being supposed not to belong to them by the representation of things they had made:

and the princes of the congregation sware unto them; that they would keep the league and covenant they had made with them inviolable; they ratified it by an oath, which was a sacred solemn thing.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 15. - The princes of the congregation. Literally, the exalted ones, נְשִׂיאֵי of the congregation, "Die obersten der gemeine" (Luther); that is, the heads of the various tribes (see Numbers 1:44; and note on Joshua 7:14). To the further question put by Joshua, where they had come from, the Gibeonites replied, "From a very distant land have thy servants come, because of the name of Jehovah thy God," or as they themselves proceed at once to explain: "for we have heard the fame (fama) of Him, and all that He did in Egypt, and to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites." They very wisely say nothing about the miracles connected with the crossing of the Jordan and the taking of Jericho, since, "as the inhabitants of a very far distant region, they could not have heard anything about things that had occurred so lately, even by report" (Masius).
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