Notes on Joshua chapter 9

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

Jos 9:1-2, KJV 1 And it came to pass, when all the kings which (were) on this side Jordan, in the hills, and in the valleys, and in all the coasts of the great sea over against Lebanon, the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, heard (thereof); 2 That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord.


“This side Jordan” refers to the west side or the land of Canaan, the Promised Land. The tribes or nations listed are those whom God had promised to drive out (see Exodus 34:11). They gathered themselves together for a combined attack against Israel.

3 And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai,

Gibeon was located close enough to Bethel, Ai, and Jericho to know clearly what had happened.

4 They did work wilily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks upon their asses, and wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up; 5 And old shoes and clouted upon their feet, and old garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry (and) mouldy.

Notice how the Gibeonites resort to lying and subterfuge to preserve their lives. They knew that the God of Israel was the reason for Israel’s victories (see verse 24), but refused to become believers in the God of Israel. Rahab and her family were spared because they believed in the True God but it is not for certain how many of the Gibeonites ever did so.

6 And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal, and said unto him, and to the men of Israel, We be come from a far country: now therefore make ye a league with us.

This was lie number 1, misstating their location and never revealing their identities. Credit should be given to those who volunteered for a mission like this, which could have cost them their lives! But lying is not something which God ever condoned.

7 And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you?

The Hivites seem to take the lead with “Operation Gibeon”. Does this mean all the Gibeonites were also Hivites? Regardless, the men of Israel were suspicious of these “ambassadors” (see verse 4). Also, give these men of Israel credit for trying—here, at least—to get to the truth of the matter.

8 And they said unto Joshua, We (are) thy servants. And Joshua said unto them, Who (are) ye? and from whence come ye?

The Hivites never answered the question! Now, Joshua himself asks two very blunt questions; who are you, and where are you from? Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what each party was thinking or planning at this time?

When “ambassadors” do not cite their home country, suspicion may indeed be warranted!

9 And they said unto him, From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of the LORD thy God: for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt,

Now they tell lie number 2, saying they had come from “a very far country”, when they were only a few miles away from Israel at this time. They may have heard of all that the Lord had done, even though the events in Egypt had happened over 40 years before. Those of Jericho—Rahab in particular—had heard of all the Lord had done but, incredibly, most of them refused to repent and submit to the True God.

10 And all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites, that (were) beyond Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, which (was) at Ashtaroth.

Perhaps by mentioning these two events, they might establish the distance of their (alleged) location. Bashan was on the east side of Jordan, a good ways north of this area, and was part of the land given to Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.

11 Wherefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spake to us, saying, Take victuals with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say unto them, We (are) your servants: therefore now make ye a league with us.

Probably true, as far as the words mean—but it was all part of the act, to deceive the Israelites.

12 This our bread we took hot (for) our provision

out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and it is mouldy: 13 And these bottles of wine, which we filled, (were) new; and, behold, they be rent: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey.

This is lie number 3. Who keeps moldy (updated spelling) bread in their possession? “Bottles” is actually “wineskins” and they could indeed have been spoiled or ruined due to heat or some other means—but again, who keeps materials that literally won’t hold liquid? Wouldn’t they have tried to patch or fix the wineskins? Also, shoes would probably not wear out unless the journey was indeed a very long one.

At the least, this is what the Gibeonites/Hivites used to trick the Israelites into believing their story.

14 And the men took of their victuals, and asked not (counsel) at the mouth of the LORD.

This is the greatest mistake the Israelites made in this event.

15 And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them.

The Israelites—Joshua, as commander in chief—made peace and a “league” with the Gibeonites/Hivites to let them live.

16 And it came to pass at the end of three days after they had made a league with them, that they heard that they (were) their neighbours, and (that) they dwelt among them.

This had to be a surprise to the people of Israel! The Gibeonites had led Israel to believe they were from a “far country” but were only a three days’ journey, or less, from the land Israel occupied.

[17 And the children of Israel journeyed, and came unto their[[ cities on the third day. Now their cities (were) Gibeon, and Chephirah, and Beeroth, and Kirjathjearim.

Some of these cities (Gibeon, in particular) are mentioned several times in the Scriptures. Gibeon means “hill city”; Chephirah, “lioness”; Beeroth, “wells”; Kiriath-Jearim means “city of forests” (according to Strong’s Concordance).

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.

Understandable, because the people knew that they were supposed to eliminate the pagans from the land. Many times people suffer because their leadership does not follow God’s commands. Such is evident in this one incident alone.

19 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.

The princes gave their explanation to the people.

20 This we will do to them; we will even let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath which we sware unto them. 21 And the princes said unto them, Let them live; but let them be hewers of wood and drawers of water unto all the congregation; as the princes had promised them.

There was a tremendous amount of wood and water required for the tabernacle alone. Wood had to be arranged on the bronze (brasen) altar for various offerings and the priests were required to wash themselves frequently.

22 And Joshua called for them, and he spake unto them, saying, Wherefore have ye beguiled us, saying, We (are) very far from you; when ye dwell among us? 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.

Joshua asks another question and places a curse upon the Gibeonites.

24 And they answered Joshua, and said, Because it was certainly told thy servants, how that the LORD thy God commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you, therefore we were sore afraid of our lives because of you, and have done this thing. 25 And now, behold, we (are) in thine hand: as it seemeth good and right unto thee to do unto us, do. 26 And so did he unto them, and delivered them out of the hand of the children of Israel, that they slew them not. 27 And Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the altar of the LORD, even unto this day, in the place which he should choose.

Their response to Joshua’s sentence upon them.

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