[Yehoshua 9 Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB)]
1 And it came to pass, when all the kings [kol hamelachim] which were on this side Jordan [beyond the Yarden], in the hills [har], and in the valleys [Shefelah], and in all the coasts of the great sea [Yam Hagadol (the Mediterranean)] over against Lebanon [Levanon], the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, [ Chitti, and HaEmori, the Kena'ani, the Perizzi, the Chivi, and the Yevusi] heard thereof;
2 That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua [Yehoshua] and with Israel [Yisroel], with one accord [with one peh (mouth, i.e., one accord).
The Canaanites Prepare for War (Vv.1-2)
A confrontation between the Israelites and the inhabitants on the west of Jordan was imminent. Having driven a wedge deep into the land towards the west, two further major military campaigns were before the Israelites: first, they would neutralise the power of the
peoples in the southern region, then they would march to meet the Canaanites in the north.
Israel's invasion of the land had been a whirlwind affair, from the time they had crossed Jordan. It is not difficult to imagine the fear and political chaos which would have been created "from Dan to Beersheba".
During this brief but hectic interlude "all the kings'' of the southern region had not been inactive. They had been feverishly conniving to make mutual alliances in preparation for warfare with the Israelites.
Those who dwelt "in the hills" and in the "lowlands" (J.B.) became confederated in a defence pact. There was no avoiding the inevitable: the Israelites had to be faced and fought. Hence these Canaanites "formed an alliance to fight together against Joshua and Israel" (J.B.).
Their union caused them to come together with "one mouth" (see marg.). This does not mean that they spoke the same language, but that they were united against a common enemy, and spoke the same things against Israel. This is, and always has been, a basis for unity among Gentiles: a mutual hatred of Israel.
Constantly throughout the book of Joshua the Canaanitish nations typify the Gentile powers which will arraign themselves against the Greater Joshua, when he comes to lead his disciples and his nation into their inheritance (cp. Ps. 2, etc.). *
3 And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua [Yehoshua] had done unto Jericho [Yericho] and to Ai,
The Gibeonites were Hivites. They were a confederation of four cities, of which Gibeon was the chief. It was termed a "great city" (v.7, 17; 10:2).
After the division of the land among the Israelites, Gibeon belonged in the canton of Benjamin and also became a city of the Levites. Like Jericho and Ai, Gibeon was of considerable strategic importance. Situated about seven miles north-west of Jerusalem, on the main route to the coast at Joppa, it presented a most commanding appearance.
Set on a hill two hundred feet above the surrounding plain, the city provided a formidable target to any invading army.
The city boasted industrial and commercial areas. Archaeological discoveries have revealed that the Gibeonites were also traders in imported merchandise. This is not surprising, since the city was so close to numerous major trade routes, leading east and west, north and south.
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;
The prosperity of the Gibeonites adds emphasis to the extraordinary guile they manifested when they presented themselves to Joshua as a ragged bunch of down-and-out peasants, totally destitute and close to starvation. At this hour of crisis the ''inhabitants of Gibeon" acted quite differently from their fellow-Canaanites. Whereas the others were busy
politicking and furiously preparing for war, the cunning Gibeonites purposed to make a study of the Israelites.*
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.
6 And they went to Joshua [Yehoshua] 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.
They learned of "the name of Yahweh" (v.9). And by some means they managed to discover some of the contents of the Law. They ascertained that the Israelites would show no mercy to the inhabitants of the Land of Promise, and that all such were to be destroyed (Deut.
7:1-2). But they also learned that "cities" which were "very far" away from the Promised Land would be treated differently. If such cities were disposed to accept "peace" with Israel, they would be spared death and become "tributaries" to the Israelites (Deut. 20:10-18).
The Gibeonites were not honest. They cared nothing for the morality of the situation. However, they were clever... With great subtlety and earnest endeavour they made their preparations.*
*Bro John Ullman - Joshua His Life and Times
14 And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of Yahweh.
The Israelites Deluded (Vv. 14-21)
Joshua and the men of Israel were finally persuaded. In their estimation of the situation, they implemented the instruction recorded in Deut. 20:10-18. And had the case of the Gibeonites been an honest one, this action on Israel's part would have been correct. It has
sometimes been suggested that Joshua totally disregarded, or even defied, the teaching of the Law upon this question; but such was not the case.
The Israelites consulted the Law and applied the instruction which they genuinely believed related to these circumstances. The fact that their judgment was wrong, and that they failed to seek counsel "at the mouth of Yahweh" does not mean that they intentionally perverted the requirements of the Law.
Their decision made, the men of Israel "partook of the provisions they (the Gibeonites) offered. . ." This was a communal meal which celebrated the solemnity of sealing a covenant.
Failure to seek the wise counsel of Yahweh and act accordingly, can become a weakness which may well lead the people of God to disaster.
"Woe to the rebellious children, saith Yahweh, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin: that walk to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth. . ." (Isa. 30:1-2).
"In all thy ways acknowledge Him"
is a wise guiding principle, to cover all the affairs of life(Prov. 3:6).
Thus Joshua "made peace" with the Gibeonites who went on their way rejoicing that they had avoided warfare with Israel, smugly satisfied that they had succeeded in deceiving the men of Israel so thoroughly.
Three days later the Israelites received a rude awakening. To their amazement and chagrin, they learned that the Gibeonites came from a city only six miles south-west of Ai.
What could the men of Israel do? The damage was done. Having become bound by a covenant there was no way whereby the Israelites could rectify the situation.
"Three days after the treaty had been made it became known that they were a neighbouring people whose home was in the midst of Israel. . ." (J.B.).
Thus, though clever deception might be practised, "the truth will out". "The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment. . ." (Prov. 12:19).
Appalled to discover the magnitude of their blunder, the Israelites came to the four Gibeonites cities. There they were met by the smilingleaders of the Gibeonites, who extended the "right hand of fellowship" and said beatifically: "Why! Here are our brethren, the people of Israel!"
Doubtless the Israelites had spent the "three days" preparing for a major military campaign against the cities of the south. The cities of the Gibeonites were probably scheduled for destruction first. But now the Israelites could not touch them.
This state of affairs was not readily accepted by the rank and file in Israel. "The community grumbled at the leaders" (J.B.)
...Having acted without sufficient caution and prudence, and having failed to consult Yahweh for special instructions, Joshua and the Elders had only themselves to blame for this reaction among the people. The word rendered "murmured" in the A.V. means "to complain in an obstinate manner". This means that the people did not readily accept the decision to preserve peace with the Gibeonites. They argued with their leaders about the matter. But what could be done?
According to the Law, the Gibeonites should have been destroyed. Quite rightly, the people were striving to have this point of the Law upheld. But it was too late. Deeply chastened, the princes answered the people, and said:
"We have sworn unto them by Yahweh Elohim of Israel: now therefore we may not touch them".
It was Yahweh's reputation which was at stake, and Joshua and the Elders understood this.
There is something to be said for the leaders, in this matter: they remained strictly men of their word. They may have reasoned that there were "extenuating circumstances" and that it would be in order for them to repudiate their covenant with the Gibeonites. That they did
not do so is to their credit. One of the qualities of character which will gain men and women an eternal inheritance in God's kingdom is that of swearing to their own hurt and changing not (Ps. 15:4).
To true servants of Yahweh, covenants are sacred. Such are men and women of their word, whose integrity remains unimpeachable. Commitments to God and man are not taken lightly; and trustworthiness is regarded as indispensable to a Godly way of life. After all, absolute fidelity is one of the basic attributes of Yahweh's own character. Should it not also
be so with His sons and daughters? (Ex. 24:7; Deut. 7:8-11; Rev. 3:14, etc.).
Since they had already judged wrongly in making their covenant with the Gibeonites, the leaders knew that by breaking their oath they would only be adding folly to folly; and such action on their part could have resulted in divine judgment coming upon them. Hence, they insisted that the Gibeonites should "live".
Nevertheless, having practised such a reprehensible deception upon the Israelites, it was agreed that the Gibeonites be treated accordingly. They had come fawning over the men of Israel, declaring that they were "servants" to Israel (Heb., ebed, "bond-slaves"). Four times
they stressed their humble station. Thus, bondmen they would become.