Joshua 9:18
And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel. And all the congregation murmured against the princes.
Jump to: BarnesBensonBICalvinCambridgeClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsJFBKDKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWParkerPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBWESTSK
Joshua 9:18. All the congregation murmured against the princes — Both from that proneness which is in people to censure the actions of their rulers, and from the desire of the spoil of these cities.

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.Chephirah (Kefir) is situated eight or nine miles west of Gibeon, and was an inhabited city in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah Ezr 2:25; Nehemiah 7:29.

Beeroth (Birch), about eight miles north of Jerusalem. Kirjath-jearim, i. e. "city of woods," is identified by Robinson with the modern Kuriet el Enab, nine miles from Jerusalem on the road to Jaffa (and by Conder with Soba). The town was numbered among those belonging to Judah, and was in the northern boundary of that tribe. Beyond this city the six hundred Danites encamped on their famous expedition to Laish Judges 18:12. Kirjath-jearim was also, and probably before the Israelite conquests exclusively, called Baalah and Kirjath-baal Joshua 15:9, Joshua 15:60, names which seem to point to its early sanctity as a special seat of Baal-worship. To this place also the ark was brought from Beth-shemesh after it was sent back by the Philistines, and here it remained for twenty years 1 Samuel 6:20-21; 1 Samuel 7:2. It was fetched thence by David and deposited in the house of Obed-edom 2 Samuel 6:2. Hence, the allusion, Psalm 132:6, where David is said to have found the ark "in the fields of the wood."

18-27. the children of Israel smote them not—The moral character of the Gibeonites' stratagem was bad. The princes of the congregation did not vindicate either the expediency or the lawfulness of the connection they had formed; but they felt the solemn obligations of their oath; and, although the popular clamor was loud against them, caused either by disappointment at losing the spoils of Gibeon, or by displeasure at the apparent breach of the divine commandment, they determined to adhere to their pledge, "because they had sworn by the Lord God of Israel." The Israelitish princes acted conscientiously; they felt themselves bound by their solemn promise; but to prevent the disastrous consequences of their imprudent haste, they resolved to degrade the Gibeonites to a servile condition as a means of preventing their people from being ensnared into idolatry, and thus acted up, as they thought, to the true spirit and end of the law. Partly, from that proneness which is in people to censure the actions of their rulers; partly, because they might think the princes by their rashness had brought them into a snare, that they could neither kill them for fear of the oath, nor spare them for fear of God’s command to the contrary; and partly, for their desire of the possession and spoil of these cities, of which they thought themselves hereby deprived.

And the children of Israel smote them not,.... The inhabitants of the four cities, when they came to them, though they found it to be a true report that was brought them of their being neighbours, and that they were imposed upon by them:

because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel; by the Word of the Lord God of Israel, as the Targum, and therefore they restrained the people from smiting and plundering them; for it was not the oath of the princes the people so much regarded, or had such an influence on them as to abstain from seizing on them, but the princes, by reason of their oath, would not suffer them to touch them:

and all the congregation murmured against the princes; not only for taking such an oath, but chiefly because they restrained them from smiting the Gibeonites, and taking their substance for a prey; their eager desire of revenge, and of seizing their goods, and inhabiting their cities, raised a murmur in them against the princes. This is to be understood not of the whole body of the people at Gilgal, but of all that party that was sent to Gibeon, and of the princes that went with them.

And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel. And all the congregation {l} murmured against the princes.

(l) Fearing lest for their sin the plague of God would have come on them all.

18. had sworn unto them] The remembrance of the league was kept up through the whole course of the subsequent history. A terrible trial befell the nation because Saul had massacred certain of the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:1-2; 1 Samuel 22:18-19), and David remained faithful to the vow which Joshua had made.

Verse 18. - And the children of Israel smote them not. There is great difference of opinion among the commentators as to whether this oath were binding off the Israelites or not. This difference is to be found among Roman Catholics as well as Protestants, and Cornelius a Lapide gives the ingenious and subtle arguments used on both sides by the Jesuit commentators. Many contend that as it was obtained by fraud, and especially by a representation that the Gibeonites did not belong to the tribes which Joshua was specially commanded to destroy (see Deuteronomy 20:10-18, with which compare the passages cited in note on ver. 7), it was null and void, ab initio. But the Israelites had sworn by the sacred name of Jehovah to spare the Gibeonites. It would have been to degrade that sacred name, and possibly (ver. 20) to bring trouble on themselves, to break that oath under any pretence whatever. If they had been deceived the fault was their own. The Jehovah by whom they swore had provided them with a ready mode of detecting such deceit, had they chosen to use it. Calvin, though he thinks the princes of the congregation were unnecessarily scrupulous, remarks on the superiority of Israelitish to Roman morals. It would have been easy enough for the congregation to argue, as the Romans did after the disaster at the Candine Forks, that the agreement was of no effect, because it was not made with the whole people. Cicero, however, had no sympathy with such morality. He writes ('De Officiis,' 1:13), "Atque etiam si quid singuli temporibus adducti, hosti promiserunt, est in eo ipso tides conservanda." And not a few instances of similar perfidy since the promulgation of Christianity may lead us to the conclusion that the example of Israel trader Joshua is not yet superfluous. As instances of such perfidy, we may adduce the battle of Varna, in 1444, in which Ladislaus, king of Hungary, was induced by the exhortations of Cardinal Julian to break the truce he bad entered into with Amurath, sultan of the Turks. It is said in this case that Amurath, in his distress, invoked Jesus Christ to punish the perfidy of His disciples. Be that as it may, a signal defeat fitly rewarded their disregard of truth. Later instances may be drawn from the conflict between Spain and the Netherlands in the latter part of the sixteenth century, in which the Spaniards frequently and wantonly, in the supposed interests of religion, violated the articles of capitulation formally entered into with the insurgents. These breakers of their plighted word also found that "wrath was upon them;" that God would not prosper the arms of those who, professedly for His sake, were false to their solemn obligations. Both the princes, in the narrative before us, in withstanding the wrath of the congregation, and the congregation in yielding to their representations, present a spectacle of moral principle which few nations have surpassed. Cornelius a Lapide, after giving the opinions of others, as we have seen, and remarking on the opinion here followed as "probabilior," sums up in the following noble and manly words: "Disce hic quam sancte fides, praesertim jurata, sit servanda hosti, etiam impio et infideli. Fide enim sublata, evertitur omnis hominum contractus et societas, quae fidei quasi basi innititur, ut homines jam non homines, sed leones, tygrides, et ferae esse videantur." Would that his Church had always acted upon these insatiable principles of justice and morality! In after years a terrible famine visited the Israelites as a chastisement for the infringement of this agreement (see 2 Samuel 21:1-9). Murmured. Literally, were stubborn. Joshua 9:18"The Israelites smote them not," sc., with the edge of the sword, "because the princes of the congregation had sworn to them," sc., to let them live (Joshua 9:15); but, notwithstanding the murmuring of the congregation, they declared that they might not touch them because of their oath. "This (sc., what we have sworn) we will do to them, and let them live (החיה, inf. abs. with special emphasis instead of the finite verb), lest wrath come upon us because of the oath." Wrath (sc., of God), a judgment such as fell upon Israel in the time of David, because Saul disregarded this oath and sought to destroy the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:1.).

But how could the elders of Israel consider themselves bound by their oath to grant to the Gibeonites the preservation of life which had been secured to them by the treaty they had made, when the very supposition upon which the treaty was made, viz., that the Gibeonites did not belong to the tribes of Canaan, was proved to be false, and the Gibeonites had studiously deceived them by pretending that they had come from a very distant land? As they had been absolutely forbidden to make any treaties with the Canaanites, it might be supposed that, after the discovery of the deception which had been practised upon them, the Israelitish rulers would be under no obligation to observe the treaty which they had made with the Gibeonites in full faith in the truth of their word. And no doubt from the stand-point of strict justice this view appears to be a right one. But the princes of Israel shrank back from breaking the oath which, as is emphatically stated in Joshua 9:19, they had sworn by Jehovah the God of Israel, not because they assumed, as Hauff supposes, "that an oath simply regarded as an outward and holy transaction had an absolutely binding force," but because they were afraid of bringing the name of the God of Israel into contempt among the Canaanites, which they would have done if they had broken the oath which they had sworn by this God, and had destroyed the Gibeonites. They were bound to observe the oath which they had once sworn, if only to prevent the sincerity of the God by whom they had sworn from being rendered doubtful in the eyes of the Gibeonites; but they were not justified in taking the oath. They had done this without asking the mouth of Jehovah (Joshua 9:14), and thus had sinned against the Lord their God. But they could not repair this fault by breaking the oath which they had thus imprudently taken, i.e., by committing a fresh sin; for the violation of an oath is always sin, even when the oath has been taken inconsiderately, and it is afterwards discovered that what was sworn to was not in accordance with the will of God, and that an observance of the oath will certainly be hurtful (vid., Psalm 15:4).

(Note: "The binding power of an oath ought to be held so sacred among us, that we should not swerve from our bond under any pretence of error, even though we had been deceived: since the sacred name of God is of greater worth than all the riches of the world. Even though a person should have sworn therefore without sufficient consideration, no injury or loss will release him from his oath." This is the opinion expressed by Calvin with reference to Psalm 15:4; yet for all that he regards the observance of their oath on the part of the princes of Israel as a sin, because he limits this golden rule in the most arbitrary manner to private affairs alone, and therefore concludes that the Israelites were not bound to observe this "wily treaty.")

By taking an oath to the ambassadors that they would let the Gibeonites live, the princes of Israel had acted unconsciously in violation of the command of God that they were to destroy the Canaanites. As soon therefore as they discovered their error or their oversight, they were bound to do all in their power to ward off from the congregation the danger which might arise of their being drawn away to idolatry-the very thing which the Lord had intended to avert by giving that command. If this could by any possibility be done without violating their oath, they were bound to do it for the sake of the name of the Lord by which they swore; that is to say, while letting the Gibeonites live, it was their duty to put them in such a position, that they could not possibly seduce the Israelites to idolatry. And this the princes of Israel proposed to do, by granting to the Gibeonites on the one hand the preservation of their lives according to the oath they had taken, and on the other hand by making them slaves of the sanctuary. That they acted rightly in this respect, is evident from the fact that their conduct is never blamed either by the historian or by the history, inasmuch as it is not stated anywhere that the Gibeonites, after being made into temple slaves, held out any inducement to the Israelites to join in idolatrous worship, and still more from the fact, that at a future period God himself reckoned the attempt of Saul to destroy the Gibeonites, in his false zeal for the children of Israel, as an act of blood-guiltiness on the part of the nation of Israel for which expiation must be made (2 Samuel 21:1.), and consequently approved of the observance of the oath which had been sworn to them, though without thereby sanctioning the treaty itself.

Joshua 9:18 Interlinear
Joshua 9:18 Parallel Texts

Joshua 9:18 NIV
Joshua 9:18 NLT
Joshua 9:18 ESV
Joshua 9:18 NASB
Joshua 9:18 KJV

Joshua 9:18 Bible Apps
Joshua 9:18 Parallel
Joshua 9:18 Biblia Paralela
Joshua 9:18 Chinese Bible
Joshua 9:18 French Bible
Joshua 9:18 German Bible

Bible Hub

Joshua 9:17
Top of Page
Top of Page