Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Joshua 9:19

But 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.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Alliances;   Contracts;   Covenant;   Government;   Joshua;   Kirjath-Jearim;   Magnanimity;   Oath;   Servant;   Treaty;   Thompson Chain Reference - Oaths;   Rash Oaths;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Covenants;   Gibeonites;   Oaths;  
Dictionaries:
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Gibeon;   Joshua the son of nun;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - All-Sufficiency of God;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Alliance;   Gibeon;   Slave;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Pentateuch;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Joshua, the Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Gibeon;   Israel;   Joshua;   Stranger;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Alliance;   Prince, Princess;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Elder;   Gibeon;   Journeyings of israel from egypt to canaan;   Nethinim;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Government of the Hebrews;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Conquest of Canaan;   Hebrew Monarchy, the;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Alliances;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Covenant;   Gibeon and Gibeonites;   Hivites;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

We have sworn unto them - Although the Israelites were deceived in this business, and the covenant was made on a certain supposition which was afterwards proved to have had no foundation in truth, and consequently the whole engagement on the part of the deceived was hereby vitiated and rendered null and void; yet, because the elders had eaten with them, offered a covenant sacrifice, and sworn by Jehovah, they did not consider themselves at liberty to break the terms of the agreement, as far as the lives of the Gibeonites were concerned. That their conduct in this respect was highly pleasing to God is evident from this, that Joshua is nowhere reprehended for making this covenant, and sparing the Gibeonites; and that Saul, who four hundred years after this thought himself and the Israelites loosed from this obligation, and in consequence oppressed and destroyed the Gibeonites, was punished for the breach of this treaty, being considered as the violator of a most solemn oath and covenant engagement. See 2 Samuel 21:2-9, and Ezekiel 17:18, Ezekiel 17:19. All these circumstances laid together, prove that the command to destroy the Canaanites was not so absolute as is generally supposed: and should be understood as rather referring to the destruction of the political existence of the Canaanitish nations, than to the destruction of their lives. See the notes on Deuteronomy 20:10, Deuteronomy 20:17.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Joshua 9:19". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/joshua-9.html. 1832.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

But all the princes said to all the congregation,.... That is, all the princes that went to Gibeon addressed all the Israelites that were there:

we have sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel; by the Word of the Lord God, as the Targum; an oath is a solemn sacred thing, and not to be broken, and a good man will make conscience of it, and keep it, though he has sworn to his own hurt: and

now therefore we may not touch them; neither take away their lives nor their substance.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Joshua 9:19". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/joshua-9.html. 1999.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Joshua 9:19 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.

Ver. 19. Now therefore we may not touch them.] Unless we will run upon the pikes of God’s displeasure, as Saul did four hundred years after this. [2 Samuel 21:1-2]

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 9:19". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/joshua-9.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ver. 19. But all the princes said—we have sworn, &c.— But did this oath then, made lightly, and upon a false pretence, bind Joshua and the Israelites? I. Some able interpreters think it did; and their reason is, because Joshua had not been deceived by the Gibeonites in the essential point. The Gibeonites had given themselves out to be foreigners, in order to obtain peace; but, as they could have obtained it, though Canaanites, by renouncing idolatry, and submitting themselves to the Israelites, this falsehood, say these critics, could not deceive Joshua in the essential part of his commission; so that, having once engaged, he was obliged to keep his word; and if he subjected the Gibeonites to servitude, it was only to punish their knavery. Of this opinion are Grotius and Puffendorf. Some remarks are added to confirm these reflections. 1. All the leaders of Israel thought themselves bound by their oath. 2. God punishes the violation of it long afterwards in the family of Saul. 3. As it is expressly declared, that the Gibeonites were the only people that sought for peace with the children of Israel, and as the other nations, who obstinately persisted to oppose them, were for that reason destroyed without mercy; it follows plainly, that there was nothing in the divine laws which obliged Joshua to destroy the Gibeonites in case they applied for peace; consequently, nothing that could dispense with his preserving their lives, after having engaged himself thereto by oath. See Calmet. II. Other casuists, on the contrary, are of opinion, that as Joshua, deceived by the Gibeonites, had promised to them, upon oath, a thing which he neither could promise nor perform, viz. to save their lives, this oath was therefore invalid. These learned men conceive, that the commands of God, respecting the destruction of the Canaanites, allowed of no exception; that the seven nations were to be destroyed without mercy, whether they submitted or not; consequently, that Joshua, on being informed that the Gibeonites were of Canaan, could not, nor ought to keep the oath that he had too lightly made, to preserve them; and that if he regarded this oath, it was, doubtless, because God ratified it by some apparent act, whereof the Scripture, which frequently omits particular circumstances, makes no mention. See Poole's Synopsis, and Barbeyrac's note on Puffendorf's Law of Nature and Nations, b. iv. c. 2. sect. 7. III. As we have embraced the opinion of those interpreters and divines, who think that God had given orders to spare those among the Canaanites who should renounce idolatry and submit to the government of Israel, we cannot subscribe to Grotius's decision. We must not, however, pass over in silence the manner in which this whole affair has been stated by an able critic. After shewing that the people of Israel could enter into no alliance with the Gibeonites in full form; that he treated literally with their ambassadors; that he engaged, in the most sacred manner, to spare the whole nation; that these words contained a formal engagement not to wage war against them; and, consequently, that it is rightly said, that he was unluckily situated, to oblige himself by oath to do that for them which he could not do, without rendering himself guilty of an express breach of the orders which he had received from God; but that the fraud of the Gibeonites having been discovered, Joshua represented to them, that his orders expressly signified, that he was to destroy all the Canaanitish nations, if they refused to submit to the religion and laws of Israel; that they had taken him by surprize, by falsely feigning to be what they were not; and that it was his duty to destroy them; that, nevertheless, he would propose to them an expedient for saving their lives, which was, not only by receiving the civil and religious laws of the Hebrews, but also by resolving to be for ever employed in hewing of wood and drawing of water for the whole congregation, as a punishment for their perfidy; that, how hard soever this condition might be, they chose rather to accept it than to die; that God agreed to this second treaty, as conformable to the orders he had issued against the Canaanites; and that by this means Joshua happily drew himself out of the dilemma into which he had fallen, together with the princes of Israel. See Shuckford's Connection, vol. iii. p. 372, &c.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Joshua 9:19". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/joshua-9.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

They plead not the lawfulness or the prudence of the action, but only the obligation of an oath; of which, though it was procured by fraud, they perceived the people sufficiently sensible.

We may not touch them, i.e. not hurt them, as that word is oft used, as Genesis 26:11 Psalms 105:15 Psalms 144:5; or not smite them, as is said, Joshua 9:18.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joshua 9:19". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/joshua-9.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

19.Now therefore we may not touch them — So strong was their respect for their oath that they would hold as valid a contract made on fraudulent representations. According to natural justice and the laws of our modern civilization, they would have been justified in treating their oath as null and void. Most expositors are of this opinion; and Calvin goes so far as to charge the princes with a new violation of the will of God, because they now “obstinately maintain, upon the pretext of their oath, the promise which they had foolishly made.”

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 9:19". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/joshua-9.html. 1874-1909.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(19) We have sworn unto them . . . therefore we may not touch them.—Although the covenant was obtained from the Israelites by false pretences, yet, being made in the name of Jehovah, it could not be broken; it was His covenant. “He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not,” is commended in Psalms 15:4. We should notice that the law of Jehovah had raised the tone of morality in this particular. There are many Christians who would not hesitate to repudiate an agreement concluded under false pretences.

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Joshua 9:19". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/joshua-9.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
We have
20; Ecclesiastes 8:2; 9:2; Jeremiah 4:2
Reciprocal: 1 Samuel 30:15 - Swear;  2 Chronicles 16:3 - break;  2 Chronicles 36:13 - who had

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Joshua 9:19". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/joshua-9.html.