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Joshua 9:16-27

16. And it came to pass, at the end of three days after they had made a league with them, that they heard that they were their neighbors, and that they dwelt among them.

16. Post tres autem dies a foedere cum illis inito audierunt, quod pro-pinqui essent ipsis, et in medio ipso-rum habitarent.

17. And the children of Israel journeyed, and came unto their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, and Chephirah, and Beeroth, and Kirjathjearim.

17. Profectique sunt filii Israel, et venerunt ad urbes ipsorum die tertio. Urbes autem eorum erant Gibeon, Chephirat, Beeroth, Ciriatjearlm.

18. And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel. And all the congregation murmured against the princes.

18. Et non percusserunt eos filii Israel, eo quod jurassent eis princi-pes congregationis per Jehovam Deum Israel: et murmuravit tota congregatio contra principes.

19. But all the princes said unto all the congregation, We have sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel: now therefore we may not touch them.

19. Tunc dixerunt omnes principes ad totam congregationem, Nos juravimus eis per Jehovam Deum Israel, ideo mine non possumus attingere eos.

20. This we will do to them; we will even let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath which we swear unto them.

20. Hoc faciemus eis, servabimus eos vivos, ne sit contra nos ira propter jusjurandum quod juravimus eis.

21. And the princes said unto them, Let them live; but let them be hewers of wood, and drawers of water, unto all the congregation; as the princes had promised them.

21. Dixerunt itaque illis principes, Vivant, et caedant ligna, et fodiant aquam toti congregationi, quemadmodum loquuti sunt eis cuncti principes.

22. And Joshua called for them, and he spoke unto them, saying, Wherefore have you beguiled us, saying, We are very far from you; when you dwell among us?

22. Vocavit itaque cos Josue, et loquutus est ad eos, dicendo: Ut quid decepistis nos, dicendo, Remoti sumus a vobis valde, cum in medio nostri habitefts?

23. Now therefore you are cursed; and there shall none of you be freed from being bond-men, and hewers of wood, and drawers of water, for the house of my God.

23. Nunc ergo maledicti estis, nec delebuntur ex vobis servi, et caedentes ligna, et fodientes aquam pro domo Dei met.

24. And they answered Joshua, and said, Because it was certainly told thy servants, how that the Lord thy God commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you, therefore we were sore afraid of our lives because of you, and have done this thing.

24. Qui responderunt ad Josuam, atque dixerunt, Cum renunciando renunciatum fuit servis tuis quomodo praeceperat Jehova Deus tuus Most servo suo ut daret vobis terram, et disperderet omnes habitatores terrae a facie vestra, timuimus valde animabus nostris a facie vestra, et fecimus istud.

25. And now, behold, we are in thine hand: as it seems good and right unto thee to do unto us, do.

25. Et nunc ecce sumus in manu tua, sicut placet, et sicut rectum est in oculis tuis, ut facias nobis, facies.

26. And so did he unto them, and delivered them out of the hand of the children of Israel, that they slew them not.

26. Et fecit eis ita, liberavitque eos de manu filiorum Israel, nec interfecerunt eos.

27. And Joshua made them that day hewers of wood, and drawers of water, for the congregation, and for the altar of the Lord, even unto this day, in the place which he should choose.

27. Constituitque eos Josue eo die caesores lignorum, et haustores aquaq congregationi, et altari Jehovae usque in huuc diem in loco quem elegerit.


16. And it came to pass, etc. The chastisement of their levity by the discovery of the fraud, three days after, must, by the swiftness of the punishment, have made them more sensible of the shame and disgrace. For it was thus known, that through sloth and lethargy, they had very stupidly fallen into error from not having taken the trouble to inquire into a matter almost placed before their eyes. Their marching quietly through that region, entering cities without trouble, and finding free means of sustenance, was owing to the paternal indulgence of God, who not only pardons their fault, but causes that which might justly have been injurious to turn out to their good. Here it is related that the children of Israel did not act in a hostile manner in that region, because the Gibeonites had received a promise of safety confirmed by an oath.

Now two questions arise — first, Whether the children of Israel, who had no intention whatever to pledge their faith to impostors, had contracted any obligation? and, secondly, Whether it was not in the option of the people to rescind a promise which their leaders had foolishly and erroneously made? In regard to the general position, the obligation of an oath ought to be held in the greatest sacredness, so that we may not, under the pretext of error, resile from pactions, even from those in which we have been deceived, since the sacred name of God is more precious than the wealth of a whole world. 8585     Calvin was well qualified, by his legal education, to discuss the important question here raised, and it is impossible to dispute the soundness of his general positions in regard to it, both here and in the previous section of the Commentary on this chapter. There is, however, an appearance of inconsistency in some of the statements. In the section beginning with the third verse, he says in Latin, “Cum larvis ergo paciscitur Josue, nec quidquam obligationis contrahit, nisi secundum eorum verba;” or as it is in French, “Josue donques traitte alliance avec des masques ou phantosmes et n’est nullement oblige, sinon suivant leurs paroles;” “Joshua, then, makes an alliance with masks or phantoms, and is in no way bound, except according to their words.” Again, in the section beginning with verse the sixth, he says, “Dixi summo jure evanidum et irritum fuisse ejusmodi foedus,” or as it is in French, “J’ay dit qu’a la rigueur de droit une telle alliance estoit nulle et cassee;” “I have said, that in strict law such an alliance was null and void.” And he gives the reason in the form of a question, when he asks, “What do they (the Gibeonites) gain when their request is granted, but just that they are to be kept safe, provided they have come from a distant country?” But if the Gibeonites did not gain, or, in other words, were not entitled to demand anything, it is perfectly obvious that the Israelites could not be bound to grant anything. They were the two parties to a mutual contract, in which the claims of the one party were exactly the counterpart or measure of the obligations of the other. It might have been expected, therefore, that after Calvin had decided that the Gibeonites had no claim, he would, of course, have decided that the Israelites had incurred no obligation. Here, however, when considering this latter point, he seems to change his ground, by distinctly asserting, that we may not resile even from pactions in which we have been deceived. The inconsistency, however, is only apparent. He does not say that we are bound by such pactions, as if they were valid in themselves, but he adverts to circumstances which may lay us under a formal obligation to act as if we were bound by them. In other words, he removes the case from a court of law into the court of conscience, and thus brings it under the class of cases to which St. Paul referred, when he drew a distinction between things lawful and things expedient. Joshua and the elders had sworn rashly, but having by so doing put the honor of the God of Israel, so to speak, in pledge, they were bound, at whatever cost, to redeem it. — Ed. Hence though a man may have sworn with little consideration, no loss or expense will free him from performance. I have no doubt, that in this sense David says, (Psalm 15:4,) that the true worshippers of God, if they have sworn to their hurt, change not, because they will bear loss sooner than expose the name of God to contempt, by retracting their promises.

I conclude, therefore, that if a private interest only is to be affected, everything which we may have promised by oath must be performed. And it is apparent from the words, that the Israelites were afraid lest they should expose the name of their God to disgrace among the nations of Canaan. For I think there is an emphasis in the expression — because they had sworn by the God of Israel. But a special reason left the Israelites at liberty to recede from the deceitful compact; for they had not only given up their own right, but improperly departed from the command of God, with which it was not lawful to interfere in the smallest iota. It was not in their power either to spare the vanquished or enact laws of surrender, whereas they now transact as if the business had been committed to them. We see, accordingly, that they twice profaned the name of God, while, under pretence of the oath, they persevered in defending what they had foolishly promised.

In the deference which the common people pay to their leaders, by abstaining from all violence to the Gibeonites, we behold the integrity of the age. Elsewhere it would have readily occurred to elude the promise by asserting that a whole people were not bound by the agreement of a few individuals, as the Romans did, in repudiating the Caudine peace, to which only the consuls, legates, and tribunes had sworn without the orders of the senate and people. The more praise, therefore, is due to that rude simplicity in which the religious obligation prevailed more than the too subtle arguments which the greater part of men in the present day approve and applaud. The people are indeed indignant that their leaders had taken more upon them than they were entitled to do, but their moderation does not allow them to proceed beyond murmur and noise. 8686     French, “Quand il ne passe point outre le murmure, et qu’il se contente de cela;” “When they do not proceed beyond murmuring, and rest contented with it.” — Ed.

20. This we will do to them, etc. Although, according to agreement, they give the Gibeonites their lives, they ratify the whole covenant only in part. For while the Gibeonites were entitled to be made perfectly secure, they are deprived of liberty, which is dearer than life. From this we infer that Joshua and the others had, as in a case of doubt and perplexity, devised a kind of middle course, so as not to make the oath altogether void. The principal object of this device was to appease the multitude: at the same time, while they were indignant at having been imposed upon by the Gibeonites, they punished the fraud, and did not allow impunity to increase their derision. It was a harsh condition, in this arrangement, that the Gibeonites were not only doomed to servile labors but withdrawn from their homes, to lead a vagrant and wandering life. The office of scullions imposed on them was no less mean than laborious, but the worst, of all was to hew wood and draw water, wherever God should be pleased to station the ark.

22. And Joshua called for them, etc. As he was to deliver a sad and severe sentence, he premises that the resolution involves no injustice, because nothing would be more unbecoming than to allow tricks and wiles to be profitable to those who employ them. He therefore first expostulates with them for having warded off danger by falsehood, and then immediately pronounces them cursed. By this I understand that he throws the blame of their servitude upon themselves, because they bear nothing worse than they have deserved by their guile or perfidy; as if he had said that the ground of the condemnation which he pronounces is in themselves. It is hard, indeed, that no end is assigned to the labors to which they are doomed, for this is implied in the words, Slaves shall never cease from among you: but he declares that no injustice is done them, as they were cursed of their own accord, or by their own fault. They, indeed, extenuate the offense, by alleging the necessity which compelled them, and yet they decline not the punishment, which they acknowledge to be justly inflicted. It may indeed be, that overcome with fear, they refused nothing, nay, calmly and flatteringly 8787     Latin, “Nec sine assentatione;” “Nor without flattery.” French, “et sans flatterie;” “And without flattery.” — Ed. acquiesced in the terms imposed on them. For what could they gain by disputing? I have no doubt, however, that as they were conscious of having done wrong, and had no means of completely exculpating themselves, they considered themselves very humanely dealt with, so long as their lives were saved, 8888     Among the many pernicious consequences resulting form this arrangement, was the formation of a degraded caste in the heart of the Israelitish commonwealth, and the consequent introduction of domestic slavery, in one of its worst forms. — Ed.

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