Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Joshua 9:23

Now therefore, you are cursed, and you shall never cease being slaves, both hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God."
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Church;   Contracts;   Joshua;   Kirjath-Jearim;   Magnanimity;   Servant;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Gibeonites;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Canaan;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Foreigner;   Gibeon;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - All-Sufficiency of God;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Alliance;   Drawer of Water;   Gibeon;   Slave;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Jephthah;   Solomon's Servants;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Hew;   Joshua, the Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Gibeon;   Israel;   Slave, Slavery;   Stranger;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Gibeonites ;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Ham;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Journeyings of israel from egypt to canaan;   Nethinim;   Tabernacle;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Gib'eonites, the,;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Conquest of Canaan;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Abinadab;   Drawer of Water;   Gibeon;   Hewer;   Nethinim;   Sanctuary;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Alliances;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Drawer of Water;   Gibeon and Gibeonites;   Hewers of Wood;   Hivites;   Levites (Temple Servants);   Valuation;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Now therefore ye are cursed - Does not this refer to what was pronounced by Noah, Genesis 9:26, against Ham and his posterity? Did not the curse of Ham imply slavery, and nothing else? Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be; and does it not sufficiently appear that nothing else than perpetual slavery is implied in the curse of the Gibeonites? They were brought, no doubt, under tribute; performed the meanest offices for the Israelites, being in the same circumstances with the servile class of Hindoos called the Chetrees; had their national importance annihilated, and yet were never permitted to incorporate themselves with the Israelites. And we may reasonably suppose that this was the purpose of God relative to all the Canaanitish nations: those who would not renounce their idolatry, etc., were to be extirpated; those who did were to be preserved alive, on condition of becoming tributary, and serving as slaves. See the note on Deuteronomy 20:17.

Hewers of wood and drawers of water - The disgrace of this state lay not in the laboriousness of it, but in its being the common employment of the females; if the ancient customs among the same people were such as prevail now. The most intelligent travelers in those countries represent collecting wood for fuel, and carrying water, as the peculiar employment of the females. The Arab women of Barbary do so, according to Dr. Shaw. The daughters of the Turcomans in Palestine are employed, according to D'Arvieux, in fetching wood and water for the accommodation of their respective families. From these circumstances Mr. Harmer reasons thus: "The bitterness of the doom of the Gibeonites does not seem to have consisted in the laboriousness of the service enjoined them, for it was usual for women and children to perform what was required of them; but its degrading them from the characteristic employment of men, that of bearing arms; and condemning them and their posterity for ever to the employment of females. The not receiving them as allies was bitter; the disarming them who had been warriors, and condemning them to the employment of females, was worse; but the extending this degradation to their posterity, was bitterest of all. It is no wonder that in these circumstances they are said to have been cursed." - Obs., vol. iv., p. 297.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Joshua 9:23". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/joshua-9.html. 1832.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Now therefore ye are cursed,.... Appear to be the posterity of cursed Canaan, and, notwithstanding the artifice used, should not be exempted from the curse denounced on Canaan: "a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren", Genesis 9:25; as these Gibeonites were; they became the servants of the Levites, who were servants to the priests; and they seemed to be spared in Providence, that that part of the curse on Canaan might be fulfilled: "and Canaan shall be his servant"; the servant of Shem, from whom the Israelites sprang, Genesis 9:25; though the curse was turned into a blessing to the Gibeonites, since though their post and office was mean, yet they had a place in the sanctuary of the Lord, and opportunity of learning the law of God, and understanding the true religion, worship, and knowledge of God, and were an emblem and pledge of the reception of the Gentiles into the church of God:

and there shall none of you be freed from being bondmen; which the oath taken did not oblige Joshua, and the princes, to exempt them from, only to let them live, Joshua 9:15,

and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God; which explains what is meant by the "congregation", and who might purposely choose that phrase, to make the people more easy; but their work, as assigned them by Joshua, was not to hew wood and draw water for every one's private use, only for the service of the sanctuary, which in some sense was the service of the congregation; and a great deal of work there was to be done of this kind, much wood to hew for keeping the fire of the altar continually burning, and for boiling the flesh of the peace offerings, and the like, and much water to draw for various uses, for the washing of the priests and the sacrifices, and various other things.

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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 9:23". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/joshua-9.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

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 l the house of my God.

(l) For the use of the tabernacle and the temple when it will be built.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Joshua 9:23". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/joshua-9.html. 1599-1645.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

Ye are cursed — You shall not escape the curse of God which by divine sentence belongs to all the Canaanites; but only change the quality of it, you shall feel that curse of bondage, which is proper to your race by virtue of that ancient decree, Genesis 9:25.

Bond-men — The slavery, which is upon you shall be entailed on your posterity.

The house of my God — This only service they mention here, because it was their durable servitude, being first in the tabernacle, and then in the temple, whence they were called Nethinim, 1 Chronicles 9:2; Ezra 2:43, whereas their servitude to the whole congregation in a great measure ceased when the Israelites were dispersed to their several habitations.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Joshua 9:23". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/joshua-9.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Joshua 9:23 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.

Ver. 23. Now therefore ye are cursed,] viz., With Cannaan’s curse, "A servant of servants," &c., which yet afterwards God turned to a blessing. See on Ezra 2:43, Genesis 9:25, and observe that it was literally fulfilled in these Canaanites.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 9:23". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/joshua-9.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ver. 23. Now, therefore, ye are cursed, &c.— "Notwithstanding the oath which we have sworn to you, ye shall not utterly escape that sentence of malediction which the Lord of the whole earth has pronounced upon the Canaanitish nations, to which you belong." The base and vile service to which they were about to be for ever subjected, well deserved the odious epithet of a curse. The Gibeonites, in fact, ceased to be free men, and masters of themselves, by reason of the servile offices to which they were put. They did not, however, properly speaking, become absolute slaves.

Hewers of wood, and drawers of water, for the house of my God This is the limitation of their servitude; to carry wood and water for the use of the tabernacle, and afterwards of the temple, or for such other like purposes, as need or circumstances required: for instance, Solomon is thought to have employed them among the hewers of stone, and carriers of burdens, in the building of his magnificent structure. See 1 Chronicles 22:2. 2 Chronicles 2:17-18. Grotius has well expressed their condition: "They were subjected to certain personal servitude; whereas, had they but acted sincerely, they might have been received upon the footing of simple tributaries:" De B. & P. l. ii. c. 13. sect. 4. n. 2. Or, in some generations to come, they might have been even associated with the people of God. See on Deuteronomy 23:2. The author of the Observations remarks, that the labour enjoined the Gibeonites was also what females were wont to perform, and do to this day in those countries. So Dr. Shaw (p. 241 of his Travels) mentions the going out of the women at evening to fetch water, as still the custom of the Arabs of Barbary; and he cites Genesis 24:11 to prove that it was the custom anciently; to which he might have added 1 Samuel 9:11 and John 4:7. The author of the History of the Piratical States of Barbary assures us also, (page 47.) that they cut the fuel. "Amongst the Arabs of the kingdom of Algiers, the care of the cattle belongs to the women and children; they also provide food for the family, cut wood, fetch water, and, when their domestic affairs allow them, tend their silk-worms." D'Arvieux likewise, in his voyage to Palestine, by Roque, p. 230 represents the daughters of the Turcmen of Palestine as fetching wood as well as water. As the women of these countries cut fuel now, as well as fetch water, we may believe that they did so formerly, and that they are both equally ancient customs: a supposition very much confirmed by Jeremiah 7:18 and Lamentations 5:13 which speak of the children's fetching wood,—the young women. The bitterness then of the doom of the Gibeonites does not seem to have consisted in the laboriousness of the service enjoined them, as has been commonly understood; for it was usual for the women and children to perform what was required of the Gibeonites; but in its degrading them from the characteristic employments of men. The not receiving them as allies, was bitter; the disarming them who had been warriors, and condemning them to the employment of females in those days, was worse; but the extending this degradation to their posterity, bitterest of all; insomuch that it is no wonder, under these circumstances, that they are said to have been cursed.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Joshua 9:23". 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

Ye are cursed; you shall not escape the curse of God, which by Divine sentence belongs to all the Canaanites, who are a people devoted by God to ruin, but only change the quality of it; you shall feel that curse of bondage and servitude, which is proper to your race by virtue of that ancient decree, Genesis 9:25; you shall live indeed, but in a poor, vile, and miserable condition.

There shall none of you be freed from being bond-men; the slavery which is upon you shall be entailed to your posterity.

Hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God: this only service they mention here, because it was their principal and most durable servitude, being first in the tabernacle, and then in the temple, whence they were called Nethinims, 1 Chronicles 9:2 Ezra 2:43; whereas their servitude to the whole congregation would in a great measure cease when the Israelites were dispersed to their several habitations.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joshua 9:23". 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

23.Ye are cursed — Bondage, even to the best of masters and to the most honourable kind of labour, is a curse. If slavery were ever a blessing to a pagan nation, by bringing it into a knowledge of the true religion, this would have been such a case; but Joshua pronounces even such bondage, though far above chattel slavery, a curse.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 9:23". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/joshua-9.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Curse. Hebrew, "you are cursed, and there shall be none of you freed from being bondmen;" (Haydock) you are a part of those nations which are under an anathema, and you deserve to be severely punished. (Calmet) --- But we shall fulfil our engagements with you, only in punishment for your craftiness: (Haydock) you must submit to change your religion, (Calmet) which will be your greatest blessing, (Haydock) and to perform the meanest offices, which may be considered as a sort of curse. It is thought that some recompense was allowed the Gabaonites for their labour. (Serarius, q. 17.) --- This sentence was probably pronounced at Galgal, (Calmet) though we might as well conclude that Josue would wait till he came to Gabaon, before he arraigned the people, as no doubt they would make the best of their way out of the camp, as soon as they had obtained their request. (Haydock) --- Water. Slaves of the meanest condition were employed in these offices, Deuteronomy xxix. 11. (Atheneus x. 22.)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Joshua 9:23". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/joshua-9.html. 1859.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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.

Now therefore ye are cursed. The sentence pronounced on Canaan was literally fulfilled on this Canaanite tribe (see the note at Genesis 9:25). [The word is 'aarar (Hebrew #779), not charam, to doom to destruction.]

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 9:23". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/joshua-9.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(23) Bondmen, and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.—The precedent established in regard to the Gibeonites appears to have been followed by Solomon in his dealings with all the remnant of the doomed nations of Canaan who were not destroyed. (See 1 Kings 9:20-21; 2 Chronicles 8:7-8.) It is thought that they are to be recognised in the Nethinim of Ezra and Nehemiah, who come after the Levites, singers, and porters in the enumeration of the restored captives (Ezra 2:43). Compare also the mention of Solomon’s servants (Ezra 2:58), whose children are coupled with the Nethinim. The existence of this large body of Canaanites should be remembered in considering the edict of the law of Moses, that the seven nations were to be destroyed. The sentence was clearly not executed on the mass of the non-resisting population.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Joshua 9:23". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/joshua-9.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
cursed
This may refer to the original curse pronounced against the descendants of Canaan: both of them seem to have implied nothing else than perpetual slavery. The Gibeonites were brought, no doubt, under tribute; performed the meanest offices for the Israelites; being in the same condition as the servile class of Hindoos, called the Chetrees; had their national importance annihilated, and yet were never permitted to incorporate themselves with the Israelites.
Genesis 9:25,26; Leviticus 27:28,29
none of you be freed
Heb. not be cut off from you. hewers. In the East, collecting wood for fuel, and carrying water, are the peculiar employment of females. The Arab women of Barbary, and the daughters of the Turcomans, are thus employed. Hence Mr. Harmer concludes, that the bitterness of the doom of the Gibeonites does not seem to have consisted in the labouriousness of the service enjoined them, but its disgracing them from the characteristic employment of men, that of bearing arms, and condemning them and their posterity for ever to the employment of females.
21,27
Reciprocal: Deuteronomy 20:11 - tributaries;  Joshua 9:8 - General1 Chronicles 20:3 - with saws;  Ezra 2:58 - Nethinims;  Nehemiah 7:46 - Nethinims;  Esther 7:4 - But if we;  Psalm 123:2 - as the eyes;  Galatians 1:8 - let

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Joshua 9:23". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/joshua-9.html.