Joshua 9

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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;

2 That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord.

3 And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai,

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;

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.

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 ye a league with us.

7 And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you?

8 And they said unto Joshua, We are thy servants. And Joshua said unto them, Who are ye? and from whence come ye?

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,

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.

11 Wherefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spake 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 ye a league with us.

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:

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.

14 And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD.

15 And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them.

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 neighbours, and that they dwelt among them.

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 Kirjath-jearim.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

  

Exploring the Meaning of Joshua 9      

Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth and New Christian Bible Study Staff

Joshua 9: The Gibeonites deceive Israel.

After Israel conquered Jericho and then Ai, the news about the strength of the Children of Israel - and their mighty God, Jehovah - spread quickly among the people of Canaan. In this chapter, the people of Gibeon came up with a plan to trick Joshua and the Israelites into granting them safety.

To preserve themselves, the Gibeonites cooked up a story that they had come from far away. They dressed in old clothing and worn-out sandals, and brought shabby wine-skins and moldy bread as proof of their long journey. After questioning these travelers, Joshua agreed to guarantee their safety, and the Israelites made a covenant to let them live. Note that the Israelites did not consult the Lord.

In the end, the Gibeonites admitted that they lived close by and were neighbors of Israel, just as the Hivites (the Gibeonites' ancestors) had been with Abraham. Joshua, unable to revoke his promise to them, made them wood-cutters and water-carriers for the altars of the Lord.

This chapter offers us several spiritual lessons. The main one is that there is a place for simple, well-intentioned goodness in our spiritual life, along with our love of God and our love for other people (See Swedenborg's exegetical work, Arcana Caelestia 3436, for details). This is what the Gibeonites stand for; they were not warlike but peaceful, content to live usefully day after day. This is an illustration of natural good, which is an important part of life in this world and in heaven (Arcana Caelestia 3167).

On a spiritual level, their story about living in a country far-away means that when we live good, well-intentioned lives, we are ‘far away’ from the evils of the Canaanites. Although the Gibeonites lived among the Canaanites, their higher values were entirely different. So while the Gibeonites deceived Israel to save themselves, they spoke truthfully when they said: “we come from a place a very long way away” (See Swedenborg's work, Heaven and Hell 481).

Their tattered and torn appearance is meant to illustrate the hard work of doing good. It can be quite wearing to continue doing good things, especially when we feel it is all up to us. Acknowledging that all good is from the Lord renews us, and keeps us from the burden of merit.

In the same vein, their worn-out appearance is also about our relationship with the Word. Little children love and delight in the stories of the Word, but as they grow up, this love dwindles (Arcana Caelestia 3690). But as adults, we have the choice to find those guiding principles from the Word, helping us to keep leading good lives.

The fact that Joshua commanded the Gibeonites to cut wood and draw water also holds spiritual significance. The beauty of wood is that it comes from living trees, and can be turned into many, many useful things. It stands for the steady, humble wish to do good each day (See Swedenborg's work, True Christian Religion 374). This must be present in our worship at the altars of the Lord.

Drawing water provides essential, life-giving refreshment for others. Water stands for truth, and our better actions draw the water of life for the sake of others. Truly, acknowledging the goodness in other people is part of our faith in God. This story shows us that we must allow others to live and to serve everything of God, just as Joshua showed mercy toward the Gibeonites.

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