So the elders and inhabitants of our land told us, 'Take provisions for your journey; go to meet them and say to them: We are your servants. Please make a treaty with us.'
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.
The kings... on this side Jordan... gathered themselves together.I. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS LEAGUE.
1. It was very wide, embracing every tribe in Canaan, those of the hills as well as those of the plain, and those of the sea coast as well as those inland. Even so has it been in all ages. Men of all ranks and occupations can be found to sneer at, condemn, and crush if they could, the pure gospel
2. It was very singular. Strange elements were brought together on this occasion. A common danger, a common enemy, a common hate, makes them forget old feuds, bury the war-hatchet, and unite on common ground for a common object. Who ever hated each other more cordially than Pharisee and Sadducee? yet they united in crying, "Crucify Him," and in compassing His death. Pilate and Herod cemented their broken friendship with His blood.
3. It was spontaneous. No pressure was employed to gather the clans together; none was needed. On every side there sprang up a desire to take united action. It is a sad and a terrible fact that the deepest thing in the natural heart is enmity against God. Every sinner is potentially a Deicide.
4. It was crafty. The wisest heads in Canaan were here drawn together, and engaged in strengthening this league. Their most skilful diplomatists, their most wily warriors, would give their advice, and seek to help the league in every way. The rich would give of their substance, the poor would give their strength, the wise would use their wits in discussing and arranging plans; and thus by their united energy all might yet be well. Thus again and again has all man's wisdom been brought to bear against the purposes of God.
5. And who could deny that such a league was powerful? It was powerful because of all the accumulated experience and wisdom that could be brought to bear upon the work; because of the minute knowledge of the country which the common people as well as the leaders possessed; and because of the immense resources they could fall back upon.
6. And it is also very plain that this league was heartily, yea, even enthusiastically, entered into. Like the great sea billows they rage against this bark, and with implacable wrath would smite and overwhelm it. Alas, frail bark! Alas, poor Israel! what canst thou do against such a league, so wild, so strange, so spontaneous, so crafty, so powerful, so zealous?
II. THE OCCASION OF THIS LEAGUE. No doubt many things contributed to bring it about, but one thing is specially singled out and mentioned by the Holy Ghost in this connection. When they heard of that strange march and the solemn ceremony in the vale of Shechem, then they gathered themselves together to fight with Joshua and with Israel with one accord. This shows that these Canaanites understood something of the significance of this action. They interpreted it rightly as an act of dispossession, so far as they were concerned. How often does the pious devotion of God's people provoke and exasperate the unrighteous above everything else! The sinner hates above all things the holiness of the saint, because it is his most emphatic condemnation. Perfect surrender to God's will always brings the enmity of the world to a head. Would you learn the true spirit of the world? March to Ebal and Gerizim, and pitch your tent in that sacred and fruitful vale Of utter consecration. But if such a life as this stirs up of necessity the evil which reigns in the heart of man, it is also to be remembered that such a life alone is powerful to do good to man or bring glory to God. Who can measure the strength of such consecrated souls? John Wesley knew something of this when he said, "Give me ten men who hate sin only and love God only, and I will shake the gates of hell." Its enmity will be roused, even as that of the Canaanites by the consecration of Israel; but it will be roused, only like theirs, to be utterly broken.
III. THE PURPOSE OF THIS LEAGUE. They banded themselves together "to fight against Joshua and against Israel." Though great wonders have been wrought before their very eyes, they will oppose this people. Therefore their action cannot for a moment be classed with the resistance which, e.g., the Britons offered to the invading Romans under Caesar. The position of these Canaanites was altogether different. In fighting against Israel they deliberately set themselves against Israel's God, Jehovah. They knowingly pit the strength of their idols against that of the Lord of hosts. At Him they aim their shafts through His people. Earth loves not its rightful Monarch. It rebels against His edicts, it cleaves to the great usurper's sway. What daring rebellion have we here! men plotting under God's very eyes. Conspirators usually meet in secret, in the darkness of night, screened from the eye and sheltered from the hand of the power outraged; but here these sinners gather together openly, to take counsel against Him who is marching through their land in awful majesty. Oh, hardened soul, remember the only alternatives. Bend or break; turn or burn. What utter futility have we here? Could we conceive anything more useless, more inefficient, more foolish, more powerless, than this league? The only consequence to these leaguers will be their own ruin. For this they plot, and not in vain. It comes upon them as a whirlwind, certain, irresistible, terrible, complete, irretrievable.
IV. THE LESSONS OF THIS LEAGUE. Surely, to begin with, we are very plainly taught that the people of God in carrying out the purposes of God may count upon opposition. It always has been so; and it will be so to the very end, for we read that even the glorious millennium is ushered in with a terrible struggle. We are apt to get downhearted when we see the hosts of evil mustering on every side. We exclaim, "What can the poor Church of God do?" If she can do nothing more, she can look up. She can see a sight which can calm all her fears, and make her laugh to scorn her loudest foes. Look up, then! look up! See Him who sitteth on the circle of the heavens, and before whom the nations are as grasshoppers. God is keeping silence. God is having them in derision. The attacks which to us may seem formidable are to Him despicable. Let us therefore have good hope. The systems of corruption and error and oppression, however well compacted and widely organised, must in the long run be destroyed, and he who expects and prays and works for their downfall will not be disappointed. Let us look back when we are despondent and faint-hearted, and remember how often God has restrained the wrath of the enemy; how often, when iniquity was coming in as a flood, He has raised up a standard against it. Yea, look around, and see what God has wrought. Think of the diffusion of Christianity, and of its mighty influence, whether direct or indirect. But we may learn another lesson from this league. We may learn as the host of God to unite our forces more and more in prosecuting the work set before us.
(A. B. Mackay.)
PeopleAmorites, Canaanites, Gibeon, Gibeonites, Hittites, Hivite, Hivites, Israelites, Jebusites, Joshua, Og, Perizzites, Sihon
PlacesAi, Ashtaroth, Bashan, Beeroth, Egypt, Gibeon, Gilgal, Great Sea, Heshbon, Jericho, Jordan River, Kiriath-jearim, Lebanon
TopicsAgreement, Covenant, Elders, Inhabitants, Journey, League, Meet, Provision, Provisions, Responsible, Saying, Servants, Spake, Speak, Spoke, Treaty, Victuals, Wherefore
Outline1. The kings combine against Israel
3. The Gibeonites by craft obtain a league
22. They are condemned to perpetual bondage
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJoshua 9:3-13
LibraryOf a Good Government in External Things, and of Having Recourse to God in Dangers
"My Son, for this thou must diligently make thy endeavour, that in every place and outward action or occupation thou mayest be free within, and have power over thyself; and that all things be under thee, not thou under them; that thou be master and ruler of thy actions, not a slave or hireling, but rather a free and true Hebrew, entering into the lot and the liberty of the children of God, who stand above the present and look upon the eternal, who with the left eye behold things transitory, and with …
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