Joshua 9:3, 4
And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai,…
The Canaanite kings are at last roused to united action against Joshua and the host of Israel. But their confederation is not complete. The inhabitants of Gibson, on the principle that "discretion is the better part of valour," endeavour, in something like selfish treachery to the common cause, to make peace with the invaders. A suggestive example of the spirit that animates the corrupt social life of the world. When men are bent on saving them. selves they care little for the ties that bind them to others. Self interest is a very insecure bond of social unity. It was natural, however, that these men should seek to save themselves, and their suit for a treaty of peace would have had no wrong in it but that it took the form of deceit.
I. THE STRATAGEM. It was cleverly devised and skilfully carried out. It was both an acted and a spoken lie. Their profession of reverent submission to the God of Israel ("Because of the name of the Lord thy God," ver. 9) was a hollow pretence. Their whole behaviour forbids our attributing to them the honesty of purpose that Rahab manifested. Base, slavish fear was their real motive (ver. 24). Observe
(1) how one sin leads on to another, perhaps a greater. The path of transgression is a downward way. Every fraud needs a falsehood to cover it. When men have once placed themselves in a false position they know not in what meanness and shame it may involve them.
(2) If half the ingenuity men show in the pursuit of their own carnal ends were spent in the service of truth and righteousness, how much bettor and happier the world would be. The followers of Christ may learn many a lesson in this respect from the facts of secular life around them, and even from their adversaries. "The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light" (Luke 16:8).
II. ITS SUCCESS. They gained their end so far as this - that their lives were spared, secured to them by a treaty and a solemn oath (ver. 15). They gained it through the too easy credulity of Joshua and the princes, who supposed that things were as they seemed to be, and through the unaccountable omission of Joshua to "ask counsel of the Lord" (ver. 14).
(1) Trickery often seems to prosper in this world. It trades upon the generous trustfulness of men. But its success is short lived. It carries with it its own condemnation. Better always be the deceived than the deceiver.
(2) We must expect to fall into practical error when we fail to seek Divine direction. The wisest and best need something higher than their own judgment to guide them in the serious businesses of life. "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he will direct thy steps" (Proverbs 3:6).
III. ITS PENALTY. They saved their lives at the cost of liberty and honour (ver. 21). The servile condition to which they were reduced fulfilled the curse pronounced by Noah on the children of Ham (Genesis 9:25). Joshua and the princes did right in regarding their oath as sacred and binding, even though it had been won by deceit. The people would have had them violate it. "All the congregation murmured against the princes." Popular impulses may as a rule be trusted; but are sometimes very blind and false. Vox populi not always Vox Dei. Happy the people whose rulers are able wisely to curb their impetuosity and present before them an example of inflexible rectitude. If the oath of Joshua and the princes had pledged them to a thing essentially wrong, they might have used the fact that they were beguiled into it by fraud as an argument for disregarding it; but not so seeing that, while it bound them to nothing absolutely unlawful, they were involved in it by their own neglect. That God approved of its observance is seen in the fact that, when the Canaanite kings sought to inflict vengeance on Gideon for the clandestine treaty, He gave Joshua a signal victory over them (Joshua 10:8-12); and also in the fact that the curse of blood-guiltiness came upon the land in after days because Saul broke this covenant with the Gibeonitos and slew some of them (2 Samuel 21:1, 2). These men, however, must pay the penalty of their deceit. The decision of Joshua respecting them is of the nature of a just and prudent compromise. It avoids the dishonour that would be done to the name of God by the violation of the oath; but saves Israel from the disgrace of a dangerous alliance with the Canaanites by reducing them to a state of absolute subjection. Learn
(1) the sanctity of an oath. A righteous man is one who "sweareth to his own hurt, andchangeth not" (Psalm 15:4). He who "reverences his conscience as his king" will never treat lightly any verbal pledges he may have given, or endeavour sophistically to rid himself of their responsibility. His "word will be as good as his bond." However false others may be, let him at least be true.
(2) The need of a spirit of wisdom to determine aright the practical problems of life. The path of duty is often the resultant of different moral forces. The most difficult points of casuistry are those at which impulses equally good (fear of God, self respect, humanity, etc.) seem to be at variance. Let every right motive have due weight. "Of two evils choose the least."
(3) How men sometimes disqualify themselves for any high and noble position in the Church of God by their former infatuation in the service of sin. These Gibeonites are delivered from destruction, but their perpetual servitude is a perpetual disgrace. So do saved men often bear with them, as long as life lasts (in moral disability, or social distrust, etc.), the marks of what they once have been. They may well be thankful when their past transgressions, for Christ's sake, are forgiven, and they are permitted to take any place in His kingdom, even "as slaves beneath the throne" - "hewers of wood and drawers of water unto all the congregation." - W.
Parallel VersesKJV: And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai,