- The confederacy of the kings of Canaan against Israel, verse 1,2.
- The confederacy of the Gibeonites with Israel, verse 3-18.
- Their employment, verse 19-27.
Together - They entered into a league to do this. Tho' they were many kings of different nations, and doubtless of different interests, often at variance with each other, yet they are all determined to unite against Israel. O that Israel would learn this of Canaanites, to sacrifice private interests to the public good, and to lay aside all animosities among themselves, that they may cordially unite against the common enemy.
Gibeon - A great and royal city of the Hivites.
Been ambassadors - Sent from a far country.
The camp at Gilgal - The place of their head-quarters. Men of Israel - To those who used to meet in council with Joshua, to whom it belonged to make leagues, even the princes of the congregation. Now therefore - Because we are not of this people, whom, as we are informed, you are obliged utterly to destroy.
The Hivites - That is, the Gibeonites who were Hivites, Joshua 11:19. Among us - That is, in this land, and so are of that people with whom we are forbidden to make any league or covenant.
Thy servants - We desire a league with you upon your own terms; we are ready to accept of any conditions. From whence came ye - For this free and general concession gave Joshua cause to suspect that they were Canaanites.
Name of the Lord - Being moved thereunto by the report of his great and glorious nature and works; so they gave them hopes that they would embrace their religion. In Egypt - They cunningly mention those things only which were done some time ago, and say nothing of dividing Jordan, or the destruction of Jericho and Ai, as if they lived so far off that the fame of those things had not yet reached them.
The bottles - Leathern bottles.
The men - That is, the princes. Their victuals - That they might examine the truth of what they said. The mouth of the Lord - As they ought to have done upon all such weighty occasions. So they are accused of rashness and neglect of their duty. For though it is probable, if God had been consulted, he would have consented to the sparing of the Gibeonites; yet it should have been done with more caution, and an obligation upon them to embrace the true religion. In every business of importance, we should stay to take God along with us, and by the word and prayer consult him. Many a time our affairs miscarry, because we asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord. Did we acknowledge him in all our ways, they would be more safe, easy and successful.
To let them live - That is, they should not destroy them. That this league was lawful and obliging, appears, 1. Because Joshua and all the princes, upon the review concluded it so to be, and spared them accordingly. 2. Because God punished the violation of it long after, 2 Samuel 21:1. 3. Because God is said to have hardened the hearts of all other cities, not to seek peace with Israel, that so he might utterly destroy them, Joshua 11:19,20, which seems to imply that their utter destruction did not necessarily come upon them by virtue of any peremptory command of God, but by their own obstinate hardness, whereby they refused to make peace with the Israelites.
Three days - That is, at the last of them, or upon the third day, as it is said, verse 17.
And Kirjath-jearim - Which cities were subject to Gibeon, the royal city, chap. 10:2.
Against the princes - Both from that proneness which is in people to censure the actions of their rulers; and from their desire of the spoil of these cities.
Unto all the congregation - That is, Let them be public servants, and employed in the meanest offices, (one kind being put for all the rest) for the use of the congregation; to do this partly for the sacrifices and services of the house of God, which otherwise the Israelites themselves must have done; partly for the service of the camp or body of the people; and sometimes, even to particular Israelites.
Called for them - Probably not only the messengers, but the elders of Gibeon were now present.
Ye are cursed - You shall not escape the curse of God which by divine sentence belongs to all the Canaanites; but only change the quality of it, you shall feel that curse of bondage, which is proper to your race by virtue of that ancient decree, Genesis 9:25. Bond-men - The slavery, which is upon you shall be entailed on your posterity. The house of my God - This only service they mention here, because it was their durable servitude, being first in the tabernacle, and then in the temple, whence they were called Nethinim, 1 Chronicles 9:2; Ezra 2:43, whereas their servitude to the whole congregation in a great measure ceased when the Israelites were dispersed to their several habitations.
In thine hand - That is, in thy power to use us as thou wilt. Unto thee - We refer ourselves to thee and thy own piety, and probity, and faithfulness to thy word and oath; if thou wilt destroy thy humble suppliants, we submit. Let us in like manner submit to our Lord Jesus, and refer ourselves to him; saying, We are in thy hand; do unto us as seemeth right unto thee. Only save our souls: give us our lives for a prey; and let us serve thee, just as thou wilt!
The altar of the Lord - By which appears, that they were not only to do this service in God's house, but upon all other occasions, as the congregation needed their help.