Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Joshua 9:21

The leaders said to them, "Let them live." So they became hewers of wood and drawers of water for the whole congregation, just as the leaders had spoken to them.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Contracts;   Covenant;   Government;   Joshua;   Kirjath-Jearim;   Magnanimity;   Servant;   Treaty;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Gibeonites;  
Dictionaries:
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Gibeon;   Slave;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - All-Sufficiency of God;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Alliance;   Drawer of Water;   Gibeon;   Slave;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Pentateuch;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Hew;   Joshua, the Book of;   Occupations and Professions in the Bible;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Gibeon;   Israel;   Joshua;   Palestine;   Promise;   Stranger;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Alliance;   Prince, Princess;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Elder;   Gibeon;   Journeyings of israel from egypt to canaan;   Nethinim;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Conquest of Canaan;   Hebrew Monarchy, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Drawer of Water;   Hewer;   Joshua (2);   Promise;   Solomon;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Alliances;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Drawer of Water;   Gibeon and Gibeonites;   Hewers of Wood;   Hivites;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Hewers of wood and drawers of water - Perhaps this is a sort of proverbial expression, signifying the lowest state of servitude, though it may also be understood literally. See below.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Joshua 9:21". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/joshua-9.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Render “they shall be hewers of wood and drawers of water:” menial duties belonging to the lowest classes only (compare the marginal reference). The curse of Noah Genesis 9:25 on the children of Ham was thus fulfilled to the letter in the case of these Hivites.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Joshua 9:21". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/joshua-9.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And the princes said to them, let them live,.... They were very pressing upon them, and importunate with them, to save their lives, because of the oath they had taken:

(but let them be hewers of wood, and drawers of water, unto all the congregation): which was a very low and mean employment, Deuteronomy 29:11; as well as wearisome; and this being a yoke of servitude on the Gibeonites, and a punishment of them for their fraud, and of service, profit, and advantage to the people of Israel, the princess proposed it in hopes of pacifying them, and that they would yield to spare the lives of the Gibeonites; what they proposed was, not that they should hew wood and draw water for all the Israelites for their private use, but what was necessary for the service of the sanctuary, which the congregation was obliged to furnish them with; and now these men should do that work for them, which before was incumbent on them; for Joshua afterwards imposed this upon them, to be hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of God, Joshua 9:23; though Kimchi thinks that while the people of Israel were in camp, and before the land was divided, they were hewers of wood and drawers of water to the congregation; but after the land was divided, and they were settled in their cities and inheritances, then they only hewed wood and drew water for the sanctuary at Gilgal, Shiloh, Nob, Gibeon, and the temple; the Jewish writers sayF19Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Kiddushin, c. 4. sect. 1. , the Nethinim and the Gibeonites were the same, who became proselytes in the times of Joshua, see 1 Chronicles 9:2,

as the princes promised them; which is to be connected, not with their being hewers of wood and drawers of water, this the princes had said nothing of before, and which is rightly included in a parenthesis, but with their being let to live; this they had promised and sworn to, even all the princes, not only all that were now at Gibeon, and were persuading the people to let the Gibeonites live, but all the princes, even those that were not present, but in the camp at Gilgal.

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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.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Joshua 9:21". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/joshua-9.html. 1999.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

The princes declared again most emphatically, “ They shall live .” Thus the Gibeonites became hewers of wood and drawers of water to the congregation, as the princes had said to them, i.e., had resolved concerning them. This resolution they communicated to the congregation at the time, using the expression יחיוּ (let them live); but the historian has passed this over at Joshua 9:21, and instead of mentioning the resolution proceeds at once to describe its execution.

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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Joshua 9:21". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/joshua-9.html. 1854-1889.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

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.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Joshua 9:21". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/joshua-9.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Joshua 9:21 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.

Ver. 21. But let them be hewers of wood and drawers of water.] Lignatores et lixae: so they are freed from a natural death, because of the princes’ oath, but condemned to a civil death (slavery) by the princes’ sentence.

Unto all the congregation.] That they, in the meantime, as a royal nation might be privileged and exempted from such servile drudgery. A great mercy to the one, and, as it proved, no less to the other. See Ezra 2:43, {See Trapp on "Ezra 2:43"} These Gibeonites were afterwards called Nethinims, that is, Dedititii, or rather Deodati, men given to God, and to the public service of the sanctuary and people.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 9:21". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/joshua-9.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

i.e. Let them be public servants, and employed in the meanest offices and drudgeries, (such as this was, this one kind being put for all the rest, as it is Deuteronomy 29:11) for the use and benefit of the congregation; to do this partly for the sacrifices and services of the house of God, as it is expressed, Joshua 9:23, which otherwise the Israelites themselves must have done, partly for the service of the camp or body of the people, and sometimes upon occasion even to particular Israelites; whence they are made bondmen, which is mentioned as a filing distinct from their service in the house of God, Joshua 9:23. And so they are in effect stripped of all their possessions, whereby the main ground of the people’s quarrel was taken away.

As the princes had promised them; or, because or seeing that (as the Hebrew word sometimes signifies) the princes (i.e. we ourselves; they speak of themselves in the third person, which is very frequent in the Hebrew language) had promised it to them, to wit, that they should live, and confirmed their promise by an oath. So the princes speaking here to the people allege the promise or oath of the princes when they met among themselves, and apart from the people. And this change of persons may possibly arise from hence, because some of the princes who were present in the assembly of the princes might now be absent upon some occasion. And this clause relates not to the next words, which are fitly enclosed within a parenthesis, but to the foregoing clause,

let them live, because the princes have promised them their lives.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joshua 9:21". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/joshua-9.html. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

And the princes said to them, “Let them live, so they become hewers of wood, and drawers of water to all the congregation”, as the princes had spoken to them.’

Now the explanation was given of what would be done to them. They would become slaves to Israel. No Israelite could be made a slave. But these were not Israelites. Thus slavery was to be their lot. ‘Hewers of wood and drawers of water’ were the lowest of the low (Deuteronomy 29:11). Their slavery would involve the most menial service in the sanctuary (Joshua 9:23), and also the fulfilling of meeting the general and continual need for wood and water throughout the tribes of Israel.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 9:21". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/joshua-9.html. 2013.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

21.Hewers of wood and drawers of water — We will keep our oath to the letter: they shall live, but live as slaves. Upon the “great high place” of Gibeon the tabernacle was set up at a later period, (1 Chronicles 16:39,) and there it remained till it was removed to Jerusalem by Solomon. From beneath this eminence water and wood for the service of the tabernacle were constantly carried up, requiring the labour of a large number of people. Stanley says: “They hewed the wood of the adjacent valley and drew the water from the springs and tanks which in its immediate neighbourhood abound, and carried them up to the Sacred Tent, and there attended the altar of the Lord.” Respecting the drudgery of this menial service, Dr. Thomson, while passing through this very region of the Gibeonites, says: “I was forcibly reminded of one item in the sentence of condemnation pronounced upon them for their cunning deception — that they should be hewers of wood — by long files of women and children carrying on their heads heavy bundles of wood. It is the severest drudgery, and my compassion has often been enlisted in behalf of the poor women and children who daily bring loads of wood to Jerusalem from these very mountains of the Gibeonites. To carry water, also, is very laborious. The fountains are far off, in deep wadies with steep banks; and a thousand times have I seen the feeble and the young staggering up long and weary ways, with large jars of water on their heads. It is the work of slaves.”

As the princes had promised them — They had promised life not servitude. This promise was kept by successive generations, till Saul rashly killed some and planned the general massacre of the rest. Seven of Saul’s descendants atoned for this breach of the covenant with their lives. 2 Samuel 21:1-9. At the time of Saul’s massacre they were so identified with Israel that the historian was obliged to insert a note explaining their origin.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 9:21". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/joshua-9.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Joshua 9:21. 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; doing these things partly for the sacrifices and services of the house of God, which otherwise the Israelites themselves must have done; partly for the services of the camp or body of people; and sometimes even for particular Israelites.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Joshua 9:21". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/joshua-9.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Multitude. The common people, only considering their own private advantage, murmured at the conduct of their leaders, as they supposed that they were thus deprived of the plunder (Calmet) of many cities, and engaged in a dangerous war, with the five confederate kings. But this war was in no degree detrimental to them, as they knew they had to subdue the whole country; and as for the Gabaonites, they eased the people of Israel of a great burden, by doing the drudgery of the tabernacle, which otherwise must have fallen upon them. (Haydock) --- These people were dispersed through the country, particularly in the cities of the priests and Levites, whose servants they were forced to be. Gabaon was allotted to the priests. In latter ages, many of these poor people being slain by Saul, &c., David was obliged to select some others, called Nathineans, or "people given," to supply their place, (Calmet) unless these were all the remnants of the Gabaonites. (Menochius) --- Josephus (Jewish Wars ii. 17,) speaks of the feast of Xylophoria, or "wood carrying," for the uses of the temple; and we read, (2 Esdras x. 34,) that lots were cast among the priests and the Levites, and the people, for the offering of wood, &c., which seems to insinuate that the ancient institution was then altered. Many authors speak of a fountain which furnished the temple with water, after the captivity, so that the service of the Gabaonites was not much wanted. We find no mention of them after that time.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Joshua 9:21". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/joshua-9.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

be = become.

promised. Compare Joshua 9:15.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Joshua 9:21". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/joshua-9.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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.

Hewers of wood and drawers of water (see the note at Deuteronomy 29:11) - the menials who performed the lowest offices and drudgery in the sanctuary; whence they were called Nethinims (1 Chronicles 9:2; Ezra 2:43; Ezra 8:20) -

i.e., given, appropriated, delivered over (to the sanctuary) - a name first given to the Levites; as hereditarily devoted to the service of the sanctuary; but afterward exclusively applied to the Gibeonites, who were separated from all others, dwelling in their own quarters (Nehemiah 7:46). [The Septuagint has: xulokopoi kai hudroforoi tou thusiasteeriou tou Theou, hewers of wood and drawers of water for the altar of God; leaving out the congregation, to whose private or personal convenience the Gibeonites were not to minister.] Their chastisement thus brought them into the possession of great religious privileges (Psalms 84:10); and their continued preservation in their special office, after the extermination of the other native tribes of Canaan, affords a remarkable confirmation of the truth of the preceding history (see the note at 2 Samuel 21:1-2).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 9:21". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/joshua-9.html. 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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?
let them
23,27; Deuteronomy 29:11; 2 Chronicles 2:17,18
as the princes
Reciprocal: 1 Chronicles 9:2 - the Nethinims;  Ezra 2:58 - Nethinims

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Joshua 9:21". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/joshua-9.html.