1. And it came to pass, when all the kings which were on this side Jordan, in the hills, and in the valleys, and in all the coasts of the great sea over against Lebanon, the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, heard thereof,
1. Quum autem audissent omnes reges qui erant trans Jordanem in monte, et in planitie, et in toto tractu marls magni e regione Libani, Hitthaeus, Amorrhaeus, Chananaeus, Pherisaeus, Hivaeus, et Jebusaeus,
2. That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord.
2. Congregaverunt se pariter ad pugnandum cum Josue et Israel uno consensu.
3. And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai,
3. Habitatores vero Gibeon au-dientes quod fecerat Josue urbi Jericho et Hai,
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;
4. Egerunt etiam ipsi callide. Nam abierunt et finxerunt se legatos esse, et tulerunt saccos vetustos, in suis asinis, et utres vini vestustos, et ruptos ac colligatos,
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.
5. Et calceamenta vetusta, et resarta in pedibus suis, et vestes re. tustas super se, et torus panis viatici eorum aridus ac mucidus.
6. And they went to Joshua 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 yea league with us.
6. Perrexerunt ergo ad Josuam in castra in Gilgal, dixeruntque ei et viris Israel, E terra longinqua venimus, itaque nunc percutite nobiscum foedus.
7. And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, Peradventure you dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you?
7. Tune responderunt viri Israel ad Hivaeum, Forte in medio mei tu habitas, et quomodo percutiam tocum foedus?
8. And they said unto Joshua, We are thy servants. And Joshua said unto them, Who are you? and from whence come you?
8. At illi dixerunt ad Josuam, Servi tui sumus. Quibus ait Josua, Quinam estis, et unde venistis?
9. And they said unto him, From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of the Lord thy God: for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt,
9. Responderunt ei, E terra longinqua valde venerunt servi tui in nomine Jehovae Dei tui. Audivimus enim famam ejus, et quaecunque fecit in AEgypto,
10. And all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, which was at Ashtaroth.
10. Quaecunque item fecit duobus regibus Amorrhaei, qui erant trans Jordanem, Sihon regi Hesebon, et Og regi Basan in Astaroth.
11. Wherefore our elders, and all the inhabitants of our country, spoke to us, saying, Take victuals with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say unto them, We are your servants: therefore now make yea league with us.
11. Dixeruntque nobis seniores nostri, et emnes habitatores terrae nostrae, Tollite in manu vestra escam pro itinere, et ite in occursum eorum, ac dicite illis, Servi vestri sumus, et nunc percutite nobiscum foedus.
12. This our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and it is mouldy:
12. Iste est panis noster, calidum pro viatico paravimus e domibus nostris quo die egressi sumus ut veniremus ad vos, nunc autem aruit, et siccus est.
13. And these bottles of wine which we filled were new; and, behold, they be rent: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey.
13. Et isti sunt utres vini, quos impleverimus novos, et ecce rupti sunt. Et ista vestimenta nostra, et calceamenta nostra vetustate attrita sunt ob longum iter.
14. And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord.
14. Sumpserunt ergo viri de viatico eorum, et os Jehovae non interrogaverunt.
15. And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation swear unto them.
15. Et fecit cum eis Josue pa-cem, et percussit cum eis foedus quod sineret cos vivere, juraveruntque eis principes congregationis.
1. And it came to pass when all the kings, etc. As the arrival of the people was well known to these kings from the very first, it is certain that their minds were intoxicated from above with security or lethargy, so that they did not forthwith league together to oppose them. It implied excessive stupor not to provide for themselves till they were violently roused to exertion by the overthrow of two cities. For as the war was common, it was a kind of voluntary surrender to send no aid to their neighbors, nay, to have no army ready, which might make a powerful impression for their defense. But in this way God spared the weakness of his people, to whom the combined forces of so many nations would have caused no small fear.
It is certain, then, that by the sloth and torpor of their enemies, the Israelites were rendered more expeditious. For an interval was, in the meanwhile, given them to compose themselves, and thus those whom the mere name of enemies might have alarmed, prepare leisurely to encounter them. In the same way, although the reprobate are desirous, by every possible device, to destroy the Church, God, to take away their power of hurting her, scatters and confounds their counsels, nay, destroys their spirit. On the other hand, these nations display their frantic audacity. Instead of being overcome by manifest miracle, they continue to rage like wild beasts against the unassailable power of God. A report of the taking of Jericho had reached them. Had it been overthrown by the counsel, or the acting, or the prowess, or the engines of men? Nay, the walls had fallen of their own accord. With what confidence then can they league to take up arms against heaven?
3. And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard, etc. The inhabitants of Gibeon alone rejecting the proposal to make war have recourse to fraud, and endeavor to obtain peace by pretending to live at a great distance. To make such an attempt, was very odious to their neighbors, because it was, in a manner, to make a schism among them, to open a door to the Israelites, and weaken the strength of their allies. And though blame is justly due to the foolish credulity of Joshua and the rulers, who were under no obligation to bargain rashly in regard to a matter not properly investigated, yet the Lord, who is wont to bring light out of darkness, turned it to the advantage of his people; for it procured them an interval of relaxation, while they halted in a tranquil district.
The Gibeonites, indeed, judged rightly and prudently, when they resolved to bear anything sooner than provoke God more against them, by a vain resistance. But the employment of fraud and illicit arts, to circumvent those whose favor and protection they desired to enjoy, was no less absurd and ridiculous than at variance with reason and equity. For what could be the stability of a league which was founded in nothing but gross fraud? They pretend that they are foreigners who had come from a far distant country. Joshua, therefore, is bargaining with mere masks, and contracts no obligation except in accordance with their words. Hence the craft by which they insinuated themselves ought not to have availed them. Still, as a great degree of integrity yet existed among men, they deemed it enough to obtain an oath even extorted by fraud, feeling fully persuaded, that the people of Israel would not violate it.
The expression, that they too acted cunningly, is erroneously supposed by some to contain an allusion to the stratagem which Joshua had employed in deceiving the citizens of Ai no less inaccurately do others make it refer to the time of Jacob, whose sons, Simeon and Levi, had treacherously destroyed the Sichemites. (Genesis 34) The antithesis is merely between the hostile preparations of the kings and the secret wiles with which the Gibeonites accosted Joshua. Accordingly, after it is stated, that some had leagued with the intention of trying the result of open war, the trick of the Gibeonites is subjoined, and hence the meaning is, that Joshua had to do not only with professed enemies, who had gathered themselves together to battle, but with the crafty dissimulation of one nation.
It is asked, however, why the Gibeonites labored so anxiously in a matter which was not at all necessary? For we shall see elsewhere that the Israelites were ordered to offer peace to all, that they might thereafter have a just and legitimate cause for declaring war. But as it was everywhere rumored, that they were seeking a permanent settlement in the land of Canaan, (which they could not obtain except by expelling the inhabitants,) the Gibeonites conclude that there is no means of binding them to mercy except by imposing upon them in some way or other; as they would never have spontaneously and knowingly allowed the land which they had invaded to be occupied by others. Nay, as it was known that they had been commanded to destroy all, they had no alternative left but to have recourse to fraud, as all hope of obtaining safety was otherwise taken away. And for this reason they shortly after ask pardon for a fraud wrung from them by necessity.
Here, however, a question arises; as the Israelites object that they are not at liberty to make any paction with the nations of Canaan, but are bound to exterminate them utterly. There is certainly a discrepancy between the two things -- to exhort to submission, and at the same time refuse to admit suppliants and volunteers. But although God required that the laws of war should be observed according to use and wont, and that, therefore, peace should be offered on condition of submitting, he merely wished to try the minds of those nations, that they might bring destruction upon themselves by their own obstinacy. At the same time, it was intimated to the Israelitish people, that they must destroy them; and hence the conclusion necessarily followed, that those who dwelt in the land of Canaan could not be tolerated, and that it was unlawful to make a covenant with them.
We shall afterwards find both things distinctly expressed, viz., that all persisted in carrying on war, because it had been the divine intention that their hearts should be hardened, and that they should perish. It was, therefore, a legitimate inference that those who were doomed to death could not be preserved. If any one object that the Gibeonites, who voluntarily applied for peace, were therefore exceptions, I answer, that the Israelites were not at present considering that formal custom which produced no result, but are merely attending to the promise and the command of God. Hence it is, that they allow no hope to remain, because they had been simply and precisely commanded to purge the land by putting every individual to death, and to succeed to the place of those they had slain.
6. And they went to Joshua, etc. I have said that in strict law, a covenant of this description was null and void. For when they obtain their prayer, what is stipulated but just that they should be kept safe, provided they come from a distant and remote region of the globe? And the oftener they reiterate the same falsehood, the more do they annul a compact elicited by fraud, since its true meaning only amounts to this, that the Israelites will offer no molestation to a foreign people, living at a remote distance. This is shown to be more especially the meaning, from the fact, that the Israelites expressly exclude all the inhabitants of the land of Canaan. They could not, therefore, gain anything by the fraud. Nor are they more assisted by making a fallacious pretext of the name of God, and thus throwing a kind of mist over the mind of Joshua. They pretend that they had come in the name of God; as if they were professing to give glory to God, even the God of Israel; inasmuch as there is a tacit rejection of the superstitions to which they had been accustomed. For if it is true, that they had come, moved by the faith of the miracles which had been performed in Egypt, they concede supreme power to the God of Israel, though to them a God unknown.
14. And the men took of their victuals, etc. Some commentators here have recourse to the insipid fictions that they ate the bread, to ascertain from the taste whether it were stale from age, or that they confirmed the covenant by a feast. The words rather, in my opinion, are an indirect censure of their excessive credulity in having, on slight grounds acquiesced in a fabulous narrative, and in having attended merely to the bread, without considering that the fiction was devoid of color. And, certainly, had not their senses been blunted, many things would have instantly occurred to refute the Gibeonites. But as it sometimes happens, that the most piercing eyes are dazzled by an empty spectacle, they are more severely condemned for not having ascertained the pleasure of God. The remedy was at hand, had they attempted nothing without consulting the oracle. It was a matter deserving of careful inquiry, and it was therefore a sign of gross carelessness, when a priest was ready to seek an answer from God, by means of Urim and Thummim, to decide rashly in an obscure case, as if they had no means of obtaining advice. Their rashness was the less excusable, from being combined with such supine neglect of the grace of God.