Joshua 9:23
Now therefore ye are cursed, and there shall none of you be freed from being bondmen, and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.
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(23) Bondmen, and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.—The precedent established in regard to the Gibeonites appears to have been followed by Solomon in his dealings with all the remnant of the doomed nations of Canaan who were not destroyed. (See 1Kings 9:20-21; 2Chronicles 8:7-8.) It is thought that they are to be recognised in the Nethinim of Ezra and Nehemiah, who come after the Levites, singers, and porters in the enumeration of the restored captives (Ezra 2:43). Compare also the mention of Solomon’s servants (Ezra 2:58), whose children are coupled with the Nethinim. The existence of this large body of Canaanites should be remembered in considering the edict of the law of Moses, that the seven nations were to be destroyed. The sentence was clearly not executed on the mass of the non-resisting population.

9:22-27 The Gibeonites do not justify their lie, but plead that they did it to save their lives. And the fear was not merely of the power of man; one might flee from that to the Divine protection; but of the power of God himself, which they saw engaged against them. Joshua sentences them to perpetual bondage. They must be servants, but any work becomes honourable, when it is done for the house of the Lord, and the offices thereof. Let us, in like manner, submit to our Lord Jesus, saying, We are in thy hand, do unto us as seemeth good and right unto thee, only save our souls; and we shall not repent it. If He appoints us to bear his cross, and serve him, that shall be neither shame nor grief to us, while the meanest office in God's service will entitle us to a dwelling in the house of the Lord all the days of our life. And in coming to the Saviour, we do not proceed upon a peradventure. We are invited to draw nigh, and are assured that him that cometh to Him, he will in nowise cast out. Even those things which sound harsh, and are humbling, and form sharp trials of our sincerity, will prove of real advantage.Were the Israelites bound to respect an oath thus procured by fraud? Were they right in doing so? Dr. Sanderson ("Works," vol. iv. 4 pp. 269, 300, Oxford edition), determines these questions in the affirmative; and rightly, since the oath, though unlawfully taken, was not an oath taken to do an unlawful thing, i. e. a thing in itself unlawful. It was the carelessness of the Israelites themselves which betrayed them into this league. It was therefore their duty when they found themselves entrapped into this unlawful covenant, to devise means by which they might respect both their own oath and God's purposes as intimated in His injunctions Deuteronomy 7:2 against sparing the Canaanites. This was accomplished by granting their lives to the Gibeonites, but reducing them to a servile condition, which might be expected to disable them from influencing the Israelites to do wrong. It may be added, that had the Israelites broken their oath, taken solemnly in the Name of the Lord, they would have brought that Name into contempt among the pagan; and, while punishing perfidy in others, would have themselves, the Lord's people, incurred the reproach of perjury. The result showed that Joshua and the princes judged rightly in this matter. God gave to Israel a notable victory, crowned with special miracles, over the kings who were confederated against Gibeon, because of the treaty made with Israel Joshua 10:4, Joshua 10:8,Joshua 10:13; and God punished as a national act of blood-guiltiness the slaughter of the Gibeonites by Saul, which was a distinct violation of the covenant here before us (compare 2 Samuel 21:1). This sparing of the Gibeonites, as well as the previous sparing of Rahab and her household, must be borne in mind when the massacre of the Canaanites by Joshua and the Israelites is discussed. 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. Ye are cursed; you shall not escape the curse of God, which by Divine sentence belongs to all the Canaanites, who are a people devoted by God to ruin, but only change the quality of it; you shall feel that curse of bondage and servitude, which is proper to your race by virtue of that ancient decree, Genesis 9:25; you shall live indeed, but in a poor, vile, and miserable condition.

There shall none of you be freed from being bond-men; the slavery which is upon you shall be entailed to your posterity.

Hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God: this only service they mention here, because it was their principal and most durable servitude, being first in the tabernacle, and then in the temple, whence they were called Nethinims, 1 Chronicles 9:2 Ezra 2:43; whereas their servitude to the whole congregation would in a great measure cease when the Israelites were dispersed to their several habitations.

Now therefore ye are cursed,.... Appear to be the posterity of cursed Canaan, and, notwithstanding the artifice used, should not be exempted from the curse denounced on Canaan: "a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren", Genesis 9:25; as these Gibeonites were; they became the servants of the Levites, who were servants to the priests; and they seemed to be spared in Providence, that that part of the curse on Canaan might be fulfilled: "and Canaan shall be his servant"; the servant of Shem, from whom the Israelites sprang, Genesis 9:25; though the curse was turned into a blessing to the Gibeonites, since though their post and office was mean, yet they had a place in the sanctuary of the Lord, and opportunity of learning the law of God, and understanding the true religion, worship, and knowledge of God, and were an emblem and pledge of the reception of the Gentiles into the church of God:

and there shall none of you be freed from being bondmen; which the oath taken did not oblige Joshua, and the princes, to exempt them from, only to let them live, Joshua 9:15,

and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God; which explains what is meant by the "congregation", and who might purposely choose that phrase, to make the people more easy; but their work, as assigned them by Joshua, was not to hew wood and draw water for every one's private use, only for the service of the sanctuary, which in some sense was the service of the congregation; and a great deal of work there was to be done of this kind, much wood to hew for keeping the fire of the altar continually burning, and for boiling the flesh of the peace offerings, and the like, and much water to draw for various uses, for the washing of the priests and the sacrifices, and various other things.

Now therefore ye are cursed, and there shall none of you be freed from being bondmen, and hewers of wood and drawers of water for {l} the house of my God.

(l) For the use of the tabernacle and the temple when it will be built.

23. ye are cursed] Comp. Genesis 9:25.

Verse 23. - There shall none of you be freed from being bondmen. Literally, as margin, there shall not be cut off from you a servant, as in 2 Samuel 3:29, and 1 Kings 2:4. The sense is, "you shall not cease to be servants." The term "bondmen" is somewhat too strong. The עֶבֶד was usually a bondman among the Hebrews, but not always (see 1 Samuel 29:3; 1 Kings 11:26, etc.). But the Gibeonites were to be employed forever in servile work. Hewing of wood and drawing of water was a task frequently imposed on the strangers (probably captives) dwelling among the Israelites, as we learn from Deuteronomy 29:11. We are not directly told that, as Keil and others have stated, the "lowest of the people" had to perform this office. It is, however, implied that the stranger who performed it occupied the lowest social station in the community. "Si qui tales sunt in nobis, quorum tides tantummodo habet ut ad Ecclesiam veniant, et inclinent caput suum sacerdotibus, officia exhibeant, servos Dei honorent, ad ornatum quoque altaris vel Ecclesiae aliquid conferant, non tamen adhibeant studium ut etiam mores suos excolant, actus emendent, vitia deponant, castitatem colant, iracundiam mitigent, avaritiam reprirnant, rapacitatem refrenant, maleloquia et stultiloquia, vel scurrilitatem et obtrectationum venena ex ore suo non adimant, sciant sibi, qui tales sunt, qui emendare se nolunt, sed in his usque in senectutem ultimam perseverant, partem sortemque at Jesu Domino cum Gabaonitis esse tribuendam" (Orig., Horn. 10 on Joshua). Joshua 9:23Joshua then summoned the Gibeonites, charged them with their deceit, and pronounced upon them the curse of eternal servitude: "There shall not be cut off from you a servant," i.e., ye shall never cease to be servants, ye shall remain servants for ever (vid., 2 Samuel 3:29; 1 Kings 2:4), "and that as hewers of wood and drawers of waters for our God's house." This is a fuller definition of the expression "for all the congregation" in Joshua 9:21. The Gibeonites were to perform for the congregation the slaves' labour of hewing wood and drawing water for the worship of the sanctuary-a duty which was performed, according to Deuteronomy 29:10, by the lowest classes of people. In this way the curse of Noah upon Canaan (Genesis 9:25) was literally fulfilled upon the Hivites of the Gibeonitish republic.
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