Joshua 9:19
But all the princes said to all the congregation, We have sworn to them by the LORD God of Israel: now therefore we may not touch them.
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(19) We have sworn unto them . . . therefore we may not touch them.—Although the covenant was obtained from the Israelites by false pretences, yet, being made in the name of Jehovah, it could not be broken; it was His covenant. “He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not,” is commended in Psalm 15:4. We should notice that the law of Jehovah had raised the tone of morality in this particular. There are many Christians who would not hesitate to repudiate an agreement concluded under false pretences.

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. They plead not the lawfulness or the prudence of the action, but only the obligation of an oath; of which, though it was procured by fraud, they perceived the people sufficiently sensible.

We may not touch them, i.e. not hurt them, as that word is oft used, as Genesis 26:11 Psalm 105:15 Psalm 144:5; or not smite them, as is said, Joshua 9:18. But all the princes said to all the congregation,.... That is, all the princes that went to Gibeon addressed all the Israelites that were there:

we have sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel; by the Word of the Lord God, as the Targum; an oath is a solemn sacred thing, and not to be broken, and a good man will make conscience of it, and keep it, though he has sworn to his own hurt: and

now therefore we may not touch them; neither take away their lives nor their substance.

But all the princes said unto all the congregation, We have sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel: now therefore we may not touch them.
When these tidings reached them, they were sent off by the elders (the leaders of the republic) and the inhabitants of the land to meet the Israelites, that they might offer them their service, and form an alliance with them. In confirmation of this, they point to their dried provisions, and their torn and mended skins and clothes.
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