An Oath Observed
Joshua 9:18, 19
And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD God of Israel…

Recapitulate the chief circumstances: The embassage from Gibeon. Described in chap. 10. as "a great city," and "all the men thereof mighty." Not because they were inferior to the other inhabitants of the land did they seek to make a compromise with Israel. The surprise of the Israelites on discovering the nearness of Gibeon. "Those old shoes had easily held to carry them back to their home."


1. Their mortification at being outwitted. Pride had been honoured by the arrival of such an apparently distant deputation. The evidences were incontestable. All the stronger would be the consequent revulsion when the trickery was discovered. Each man thinks himself as wise as his neighbor, and cannot endure to be triumphed over in any transaction. If we did not rate ourselves so highly, we should not be troubled with such pangs of shame.

2. The natural hatred of deception. One of the proofs of the existence of a moral sense, and therefore of the moral constitution and government of the world, is found in the condemnation universally pronounced upon underhanded dealing. Commerce and intercourse must cease where no bond of good faith is observed. The Gibeonites perjured themselves by words and deeds. The fiercest reproofs of our Lord were administered to the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees. He called them "whited sepulchres;" they "made clean the outside of the cup and platter, but within were full of extortion and excess."

3. A mingled remembrance of God's commandment and their own desire for plunder. The craft of the Gibeonites could not fail to make them regarded as enemies of God; and if this wholesome sentiment was sometimes feeble in operation, it was certainly strengthened on this occasion by the sight of the rich booty which the Israelites would have enjoyed but for the league entered into under such false pretences. Moral indignation is vastly swelled by a sense of personal injury. Interest quickens resentment and action. Not so with the Almighty. Raised far above all our petty interests, His wrath against sin is pure, a bright flame that has no base admixture to sully its awful grandeur.


1. Regarded the sacredness of their word. Like Jephthah, they had given their word, and could not go back. They were prepared to face the opposition of the populace. In this they showed themselves worthy of their position as heads of the people. On all leaders a great responsibility rests; it is sometimes necessary to check as well as to urge forward their followers. They must be ready to resist the clamours of the multitude. To think weightily of a spoken word, a promise, is an all-important matter. Words are in the truest sense deeds. "By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." Language is not meant to conceal but to express our thoughts, and a spoken should be as binding as a written speech. Here should Christians be well to the front. In business their every utterance should be capable of being trusted, and they should risk much rather than excuse themselves from the performance of their contracts.

2. Respected the inviolableness of an oath. When Jesus Christ prohibited all swearing, He did but, in the paradoxical method of statement He adopted, interdict all useless, vain, needless interlarding of conversation and business and legal declarations with the introduction of holy names and things. He Himself used the most solemn formulas in His public teaching and before the high priest; the apostles invoked the witness of God to the truth of their statements; and the Lord God is said to have "sworn with an oath." An oath is therefore permissible, but ought not to be lightly taken; it implies solemnity and deliberation. Only, therefore, under exceptional circumstances can it be considered right to break an oath. Doubtless a promise made upon the strength of the promisee's false statements is not always obligatory, but the case cannot be generally determined. Few will doubt that in the instance before us the princes acted wisely. They attributed special importance to the fact that they "had sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel," and they looked to the evil effects that would be produced if the name of Israel's God should be dishonoured. It was their own fault, their heedless hurry, that they had committed themselves to the rash oath. Note, too, that the narrative, by not condemning the resolve of the princes, seem to sanction it. And in after years the Israelites incurred the grievous displeasure of the Almighty, because Saul had, in his mad zeal, sought to slay the Gibeonites in contravention of this agreement (2 Samuel 21:1-11). In the result these Hivites gained their life, but were reduced to servitude. The curse pronounced upon Canaan (Genesis 9:25) was fulfilled; these men were "cursed" (per. 23), and became a "servant of servants" unto the Israelites. This incident reminds us of - THE SAFETY OF RELIANCE UPON THE WORD OF GOD. "He is not a man that he should lie." He cannot contradict Himself. If He does seem to "repent," it is because His promise was conditional; and if we seek His favour and do His will, His "repenting" will be only for our good, it will mean the removal of some threatened punishment. On the other hand, if we observe not the terms of the covenant, we cannot complain if God withdraws His promised blessings. God has confirmed His word to His people with an oath. "The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent." This indicates that what is said is irrevocable. Note the argument in Hebrews 6:17-19, and the rock grasping anchor which makes stable the Christian's hope among all the waves and winds of life's stormiest sea. He is acquainted with all the circumstances of the case; He cannot be deceived. To Him the dateless past and the endless future are an ever present now. He bids us receive in Christ life forevermore. Who would not build on this unshakable foundation, the "word and oath" of the living God? - A.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: The children of Israel didn't strike them, because the princes of the congregation had sworn to them by Yahweh, the God of Israel. All the congregation murmured against the princes.

The Gibeonites
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