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Joshua 9


The Stratagem of Gibeon The Treaty with the Gibeonites The Stratagem of the Gibbonites The Gibeonites Deceive Joshua A Coalition Against Israel
9:1-2 9:1-2 9:1-2 9:1-2 9:1-2
        The Ruse of the Gibeonites
9:3-15 9:3-15 9:3-15 9:3-6 9:3-5
      9:14-15 9:14-15
9:16-21 9:16-21 9:16-21 9:16-21 9:16-18
        The Gibeonites' Place in the Community
Peace Between Peoples        
9:22-27 9:22-27 9:22-27 9:22-23  

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



 1Now it came about when all the kings who were beyond the Jordan, in the hill country and in the lowland and on all the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, heard of it, 2that they gathered themselves together with one accord to fight with Joshua and with Israel.

9:1 "Now it came about when all the kings" Verses 1 and 2 form a general introduction to this entire section of Joshua 9-12. The phrase "all the kings" seems to imply that the majority of the Canaanites were organized into city states, much like ancient Greece. However, the fact that Gibeon is identified with several other cities (cf. Jos. 9:17) implies that it was a confederation, not a single city state.

This united Canaanite army never came together to fight Israel.

▣ "beyond the Jordan" This phrase is used several times in the book of Joshua in two different senses: (1) sometimes it refers to the east bank of the Jordan (cf. Jos. 1:14; 2:10; 9:10; 14:3) and (2) sometimes it is used of the west bank (cf. Jos. 5:1; 9:1; 12:7; 22:7). It is possible that the seeming discrepancy is due to the author/editor/ compiler being with the group of Israelites who were on the plains of Moab but later moved into Canaan.

▣ "in the hill country" There seems to be three distinct geographical and topological sections of the Promised Land mentioned in verse 1: (1) the southern hill country (BDB 249); (2) the low, rolling hills which are often called the shephelah (BDB 1050); and (3) the coastal plains (BDB 342). Numbers 2 and 3 are often seen as one.

▣ "the Hittite" There are three groups of Hittites (BDB 366) mentioned in the Bible: (1) we find one group of them early in the book of Genesis, which seems to be in the area of Mesopotamia; (2) later on we find another group in the Promised Land; and (3) there was a large developed civilization of Hittites (Anatolia) in central Turkey. See SPECIAL TOPIC: PRE-ISRAELITE INHABITANTS OF PALESTINE at Jos. 3:10.

▣ "Amorite" The term "Amorite" seems to have the implication of "highlander" (BDB 57). It is sometimes used as a collective term for all of the tribes of Canaan (cf. Gen. 15:16). See Special Topic at Jos. 3:10.

▣ "the Canaanite" The term seems to be used in the sense of "lowlander" (BDB 489). It is also used to denote the collective tribes of Canaan. The geographical name for the Promised Land was "Canaan," derived from this collective use. See Special Topic at Jos. 3:10.

▣ "Jebusite" Jebusites (BDB 101) are the ancient inhabitants of the city of Jebus which was called Salem in Gen. 14:8, and later, Jerusalem (cf. Jdgs. 19:10). Sometimes these native tribal listings of Canaan have one, three, seven, or ten groups. We see another list of these tribes in Jos. 3:10, but there the Girgashites are omitted. See Special Topic at Jos. 3:10.

9:2 "that they gathered themselves together with one accord to fight with Joshua and with Israel"

There are two verbs in this phrase.

1. "gathered together," BDB 867, KB 1062, Hithpael imperfect, cf. Jdgs. 9:47; 1 Sam. 7:7; 8:4; 22:2

2. "to fight," BDB 535, KB 526, Niphal infinitive construct, cf. Deut. 20:4; 2 Kgs. 13:12; 14:15; 2 Chr. 11:1; 17:10; 27:5; Dan. 10:20; 11:11

Because these city states had heard what Joshua had done to the Amorite kings of the eastern side of Jordan they decided to attempt a coalition, at least in the south, to thwart Israel's invasion.

The phrase translated "with one accord" is literally, "with one mouth." Mouth (BDB 804) is used idiomatically in several ways:

1. "ask his mouth," meaning "to ask personally" (cf. Gen. 24:57)

2. "mouth of the sword," meaning "the cutting edge of a sword" (cf. Gen. 34:26)

3. "mouth to mouth," meaning "face to face" (cf. Num. 12:8; 2 Kgs. 10:21; 21:16; Jer. 32:4; 34:3)


 3When the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, 4they also acted craftily and set out as envoys, and took worn-out sacks on their donkeys, and wineskins worn-out and torn and mended, 5and worn-out and patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and had become crumbled. 6They went to Joshua to the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, "We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us." 7The men of Israel said to the Hivites, "Perhaps you are living within our land; how then shall we make a covenant with you?" 8But they said to Joshua, "We are your servants." Then Joshua said to them, "Who are you and where do you come from?" 9They said to him, "Your servants have come from a very far country because of the fame of the Lord your God; for we have heard the report of Him and all that He did in Egypt, 10and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon and to Og king of Bashan who was at Ashtaroth. 11So our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us, saying, 'Take provisions in your hand for the journey, and go to meet them and say to them, "We are your servants; now then, make a covenant with us.' 12This our bread was warm when we took it for our provisions out of our houses on the day that we left to come to you; but now behold, it is dry and has become crumbled. 13These wineskins which we filled were new, and behold, they are torn; and these our clothes and our sandals are worn out because of the very long journey." 14So the men of Israel took some of their provisions, and did not ask for the counsel of the Lord. 15Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live; and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them.

9:3 "when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai" Gibeon was a well fortified, raised site about six miles north of Jerusalem. We learn from verse 17 that it was apparently in a league of cities. It later became a Levitical city (cf. Jos. 21:17) and was located in the tribal allocation of Benjamin (cf. Jos. 18:25). It was very significant because it was on the major road between Joppa and the Mediterranean. It later became a temporary home for the Ark of the Covenant (cf. 1 Chr. 16:39).


NASB"they also acted craftily"
NKJV"they worked craftily"
NRSV"they on their part acted with cunning"
TEV"they decided to deceive him"
NJB"they had recourse to a ruse"

This adjective (BDB 115) is used in Jos. 9:4 and 5 four times. The verb (BDB 115) is used of the miraculous garments that did not wear out during the wilderness wandering period in Deut. 8:4; 29:5; Neh. 9:21.

NASB"and set out as envoys"
NKJV"and went and pretended to be ambassadors"
NRSV"they went and prepared provisions"
TEV"They went out and got some food"
NJB"They provided themselves with supplies"

The phrase "set out as envoys" appears only here in the OT (Masoretic Text). However, the Septuagint, the Peshitta, and the Vulgate (cf. REV, NJ, NAB, NRSV) have "they prepared provisions" (BDB 845, KB 1020, Hithpael perfect in Jos. 9:12). This translation variation may be due to similar Hebrew roots.

▣ "and took worn-out sacks on their donkeys" These sacks (BDB 974) were used to carry provisions. They were usually woven from animal hair.

The adjective "worn out" (BDB 115) is used three times.

1. sacks (BDB 974)

2. wineskins (BDB 609)

3. sandals (BDB 653)


▣ "wineskins worn-out and torn and mended" Wineskins were usually made from the skin of an animal, with the hair shaved off, turned inside out and the neck became the place from which the liquid was poured. We still say the "neck" of a bottle. When wineskins are new, they are relatively elastic and can accommodate the expansion of fermenting wine. When the skins are old, they cannot expand and they will break. These wineskins were made to look like they had been in use for a long time (possibly patched).

9:5 "worn-out and patched sandals on their feet" We learn from ancient literature and archaeology that sandals were made of leather and palm leaves, or papyrus reeds. "Patched" (BDB 378, KB 375, Pual participle) is found only here in the OT. Its verbal form meant "spotted" or "variegated."

▣ "and all the bread of their provision was dry and had become crumbled" Literally the word "crumbled" (BDB 666, cf. NASB, NJB) means "dotted over" in Hebrew which implies mildew (cf. NKJV, NRSV, TEV). In the ancient world people baked bread every day and it was edible for several days.

9:6 "they went to Joshua. . .and said to him and to the men of Israel" It seems to be that in Jos. 9:6-8 and 15 we see the three main types of authority among the people of God: (1) the central God-called leader, Joshua (cf. Jos. 9:6,8,15); (2) the elders of Israel (cf. Jos. 9:15,21); and (3) the entire congregation (cf. Jos. 9:18,19). This same threefold type of polity structure can be seen in the New Testament: episcopal, presbyterian, and congregational (cf. Acts 15).

"to the camp at Gilgal" This could refer to

1. the initial camp site between the Jordan and Jericho, 4:19-20; 5:9-10

2. a city farther north closer to Shechem, Deut. 11:30; 2 Kgs. 2:1

3. a city in the allotment of Judah, 15:7

The texts that are uncertain are 9:6; 10:7,9.

▣ "make a covenant with us" This verb (BDB 503, KB 500, Qal imperative, cf. v.11) literally meant "to cut off" or "cut down." Here it is used in the sense of "cut a covenant" (BDB 136), which originally involved a sacrifice (e.g., Gen. 15:10,17-18; Jer. 34:18). See Special Topic below.


9:7 "the Hivites" Hivites (BDB 295) seem to be identified with Horites (cf. Gen. 36:2,20-21 and the Septuagint). We are not sure of their exact relationship to the Hurrians, but it is obvious that they are a non-Semitic group living within the Promised Land. See Special Topic at Jos. 3:10.

▣ "how then shall we make a covenant with you" The reason for this question was the specific guidelines of Moses about not sparing the life of any of the peoples of the land (cf. Exod. 23:32; 34:12; Deut. 7:2).

9:9 The confession of the Gibeonite representatives (which reflected the discussions of all of the leadership) is similar to Rahab's confession (cf. Jos. 2:9-11). It involves

1. an affirmation of YHWH's greatness and power

2. knowledge of Israel's supernatural victories with YHWH's presence and help

3. an element of fear and self preservation

This is also true of Rahab and all conversions

NASB"the fame of the Lord your God"
NKJV, NRSV"the name of the Lord your God"
TEV"we have heard of the Lord your God"
NJB"the fame of Yahweh your God"

This term "fame" (BDB 1027, cf. Jos. 7:9) is literally "name" and is used in the sense of reputation (cf. Deut. 10:8; 1 Sam. 17:45; 2 Sam. 6:18; 2 Kgs. 2:24).

9:10 "Ashtaroth" This is a city in the eastern Jordan area which was in the tribal allotment of Manasseh. It was named after the female fertility goddess of the Canaanite pantheon called Ashterah or Astarte (BDB 800). It is interesting that in Jos. 9:9 and 10 these Canaanites mention nothing of the victories of Joshua at Jericho and Ai. If they had, Joshua would have known that they lived closer than they claimed. See Special Topic: Fertility Worship at Jdgs. 1:33.

9:11 The Gibeonite's representatives spin an elaborate lie (three Qal imperatives) about the instructions given them by their elders and people.

1. "take provisions," BDB 542, KB 534, cf. Jos. 9:12-13

2. "go to meet," BDB 229, KB 246 (plus Qal infinitive construct, BDB 55, KB 65)

3. "make a covenant," BDB 503, KB 500, cf. Jos. 9:6


9:14 "so the men of Israel took some of their provisions, and did not ask the counsel of the Lord" In the MT the phrase "of Israel" is missing. The implication is that we are not sure which men took these provisions. Some say it was the Gibeonites, who showed the Israelites their provisions to prove their point. Others say it was the men of Israel who took these provisions. Possibly, the reason that Israel took these provisions was (1) to eat the bread, which would have signified a covenant (e.g., Gen. 31:54) or (2) to sample them (NJB) to see if they were old. It is interesting that they based their decision on physical evidence without asking the Lord (usually by Urim and Thummim, cf. Num. 27:21; also note the verb is a technical term for counseling with YHWH, cf. Isa. 30:2; 65:).

9:15 "swore an oath to them" For the Israelites to swear an oath in YHWH's name, even if under false pretenses, was a binding obligation (cf. Jos. 9:19,20; Gen. 25:27-34; 27:30-40; Lev. 19:12; Num. 30:2; Deut. 23:21-23). Notice that Joshua's covenant had to be ratified by the leaders of the congregation.

 16It came about at the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, that they heard that they were neighbors and that they were living within their land. 17Then the sons of Israel set out and came to their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon and Chephirah and Beeroth and Kiriath-jearim. 18The sons of Israel did not strike them because the leaders of the congregation had sworn to them by the Lord the God of Israel. And the whole congregation grumbled against the leaders. 19But all the leaders said to the whole congregation, "We have sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel, and now we cannot touch them. 20This we will do to them, even let them live, so that wrath will not be upon us for the oath which we swore to them." 9:21 The leaders said to them, "Let them live." So they became hewers of wood and drawers of water for the whole congregation, just as the leaders had spoken to them.

9:16 "at the end of three days" This does not necessarily involve three full days (cf. Jos. 9:17) because Gibeon was only about nineteen miles from where the Hebrews were camped.

9:17 This verse lists the names of the Gibeonite confederation.

9:18 "and the whole congregation grumbled against the leaders" The basic attitude of the people of God toward her leaders had not changed from the wilderness wandering period (BDB 534, KB 524, Niphal imperfect, cf. Exod. 15:24; 16:2; Num. 14:2; 16:11). Here, however, they are afraid of the consequences of breaking YHWH's covenant (cf. Jos. 9:24; Deuteronomy 7, 27-28).

9:19 "we cannot touch them" This is a Qal imperfect negative (BDB 407, KB 410) and a Qal infinitive construct (BDB 619, KB 668) used in a metaphorical sense for harm (cf. Gen. 26:11; 2 Sam. 14:10; 1 Chr. 16:22; Ps. 105:15).

9:20 "lest wrath come upon us for the oath which we swore to them" Oathtaking was a very serious matter to the Jews (cf. Lev. 27 and 2 Sam. 1:1-14 for a very specific reference to this account) because it involved a promise in YHWH's name (cf. Jos. 9:9).

▣ "let them live" This is repeated twice

1. in Jos. 9:20 the verb (BDB 310, KB 309) is a Hiphil infinitive absolute

2. in Jos. 9:21 it is a Qal imperative but in a jussive sense


9:21 They became servants (the phrase, "hewers of wood and drawers of water" can be metaphorical of menial service [i.e., Deut. 29:11] or literal because this is exactly the tasks the Gibeonites performed) of all the tribes and for the tabernacle (cf. Jos. 9:27).

 22Then Joshua called for them and spoke to them, saying, "Why have you deceived us, saying, 'We are very far from you,' when you are living within our land? 23Now therefore, you are cursed, and you shall never cease being slaves, both hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God." 24So they answered Joshua and said, "Because it was certainly told your servants that the Lord your God had commanded His servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land before you; therefore we feared greatly for our lives because of you, and have done this thing. 25Now behold, we are in your hands; do as it seems good and right in your sight to do to us." 26Thus he did to them, and delivered them from the hands of the sons of Israel, and they did not kill them. 27But Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord, to this day, in the place which He would choose.

9:22 "deceived" This verb's (BDB 941 II, KB 1239, Piel PERFECT) basic meaning is "to deal treacherously with deceit." It is used in

1. Gen. 29:25 - Laban and Jacob

2. Jos. 9:22 - Gibeonites and Joshua

3. 1 Sam. 28:12 - Saul and the witch of Endor

4. 2 Sam. 29:26 - Shimei and Mephibosheth

5. Prov. 26:19 - man and neighbor


9:23 "both hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God" From the immediate context it is uncertain whether these people would be servants of the whole congregation (cf. Jos. 9:21), or simply of the sanctuary (cf. Jos. 9:23). It does become obvious that they will become the lowest servants of the community. Some have related this account to Noah's cursing of Canaan (cf. Gen. 9:25), but the Hivites have no relationship at all to Ham. It is also interesting that this same group may have become the "Nethinim" (Ezra 2:43; 7:7,24; 8:20); they have foreign names and are assigned the most menial tasks in the Temple. One way to try to minimize the influence of these Canaanites was to put them in the service of the tabernacle where they would be exposed to the worship of YHWH.

These tasks were usually assigned to women (e.g., 2 Sam. 3:29; Jer. 50:37), therefore, they may have functioned as a means of humiliation, as well as servitude (cf. Deut. 29:11).

9:24 "certainly told" This intensified form is a Hophal infinitive absolute and a Hophal perfect of "told" (BDB 616, KB 665).

9:24-25 Notice the repetition of the verb "do" or "make" (BDB 793, KB 889).

1. v. 24 - Qal imperfect

2. v. 25 - Qal infinitive construct

3. v. 25 - Qal imperative

4. v. 25 - Qal imperfect

Also note two Qal perfects in Jos. 10:1.

9:25 "good and right" These two nouns (BDB 373 II, and 449) are synonymous in this context. The Gibeonites are throwing themselves on

1. the covenant promises made in YHWH's name

2. Joshua's sense of appropriate mercy


9:27 "to this day" This is obviously a later addition by an editor or by the original author writing later than the events of the book (cf. Jos. 4:9; 5:9; 7:26; 8:29).

▣ "in the place which He would choose" This is a Deuteronomic phrase which refers to the place that God would designate for the location of His tabernacle and later the Temple (cf. Exod. 20:24; Deut. 12:5,11,14,18,21,26; 14:23; 26:2). This later came to be Jerusalem (cf. 1 Kgs. 8:16,44,48; 11:13,32,36).


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Locate these geographical sites on a map and note the direction of Joshua's campaign.

2. Why was a treaty, made with these Canaanites on false grounds, still honored by the Hebrew nation?