Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: Joshua
Book: Joshua
Chapter: 9

The Kings combine against Israel. (1,2) The Gibeonites apply
for peace. (3-13) They obtain peace, but are soon detected.
(14-21) The Gibeonites are to be bondmen. (22-27)

1,2 Hitherto the Canaanites had defended themselves, but here
they consult to attack Israel. Their minds were blinded, and
their hearts hardened to their Destruction. Though often at
Enmity with each other, yet they united against Israel. Oh that
Israel would learn of Canaanites, to Sacrifice private interests
to the public welfare, and to lay aside all quarrels among
themselves, that they may unite against the enemies of God's

3-13 Other people heard these tidings, and were driven thereby
to make War upon Israel; but the Gibeonites were led to make
peace with them. Thus the discovery of the Glory and the Grace
of God in the Gospel, is to some a savour of Life unto Life, but
to others a savour of Death unto Death, 2Co 2:16. The same Sun
softens Wax and hardens Clay. The falsehood of the Gibeonites
cannot be justified. We must not do evil that good may come. Had
they owned their country, but left its idolatries, giving up
themselves to the God of Israel, we have reason to think Joshua
would have been directed By the Oracle of God to spare their
lives. But when they had once said, "We are come from a far
country," they were led to say it again; and to say what was utterly
false concerning their Bread, their bottles made of skins, and their
clothes: one Lie brings On another, and that a third, and So On.
The way of that Sin is especially down-Hill. Yet their Faith and
prudence are to be commended. In submitting to Israel they
submitted to the God of Israel, which implied forsaking their
idolatries. And how can we do better than cast ourselves upon
the Mercy of a God of all Goodness? The way to avoid Judgment is
to meet it By Repentance. Let us do like these Gibeonites, seek
peace with God in the rags of abasement, and godly sorrow; So
our Sin shall not be our ruin. Let us be servants to Jesus, our
blessed Joshua, and we shall live.

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.

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 No Wise
cast out. Even those things which sound harsh, and are humbling,
and form sharp trials of our sincerity, will prove of real