Sefer Yehoshua-Chapter 9: A treaty is made with the people of Givon

Chapter 9: A treaty is made with the people of Givon

1. The nations prepare to battle Yehoshua

  • When the king of all the nations living in Israel, heard of the conquest of the Jewish people [over the city of Jericho and Aiy[1]] they gathered together to wage war against Israel. This included the nations of Hittite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivite and Jebusite.

2. The people of Givon travel to Yehoshua and trick him into making a treaty:

  • The people of Givon [who were Hivites[2]] heard that which Yehoshua did to Jericho and Aiy, and they decided to connivingly enter a treaty with the Jewish people under false representations and circumstances.
  • The disguise of the Givonites: They made themselves appear [like messengers[3] that had traveled from a far land[4]], taking with them worn-out saddles for their donkeys and tattered leather canteens for their wine, containing cracks and patches over them. They wore ragged shoes containing different colors [due to the wear and tear[5]] and worn-out garments. Their bread was dry and hard and moldy with green and white spots [to give it an appearance of looking old].
  • Meeting with Yehoshua: They arrived by Yehoshua, to the camp of Gilgal, and told him that they arrived from a distant land for the sake of making a treaty. The Jewish people replied that they suspect that perhaps the arrivals are from the Hivite nation who live within Israel, and are not from a distant land, and hence they cannot make a covenant with them. The arrivals told Yehoshua that they are willing to be his servants. Yehoshua asked them as to their whereabouts and the exact nation and land that they come from. They replied that they come from a very distant land, and arrived for the sake of G-d, as they heard all that was done for them in Egypt, and to Sichon the king of Cheshbon and Og the king of Bashan. The elders of their tribe and all the inhabitants of their nation advised them to take with them provisions and travel towards the Jewish people to become their servants. They implored Yehoshua to make a treaty with them. They showed Yehoshua their old and moldy bread as a proof that they had been traveling for many days, as they said that when they left the bread was fresh. Likewise, they showed Yehoshua their cracked canteens of wine and worn out shoes and clothing, saying that when they left everything was new and in good condition.
  • The treaty is made: The Jewish people believed the Givonites and did not ask Hashem for His opinion. Yehoshua made a peace treaty with them, obligating to allow them to live. The leaders of the congregation swore to them.

3. The lies of the Givonites are discovered:

  • The Israeli cities of the Givonites are discovered: Three days after the peace treaty was made the Jewish people discovered the true location of their peace partners, and that they are not from a distant land, but from very close, from within Israel. The Jewish people traveled and arrived in their town on the third day. They inhabited the cities of Givon, Kefirim, Beiros and Kiryat Yearim.
  • The treaty is respected: The Jewish people did not smite the cities, as they respected the treaty that their leaders made with them, swearing in the name of G-d. The entire nation complained against the leaders for the inability to attack the cities. The leaders explained to the people that they swore into a treaty in the name of Hashem and thus now they cannot attack them. They must allow them to live, as if they break the swear of the treaty, the wrath of [of Hashem[6]] will befall them.
  • The Givonites are appointed as woodchoppers and water carriers: The leaders suggested that although they will allow the Givonites to live, they will be woodchoppers and water carriers for the entire nation [during the battles, until the land is conquered[7]].
  • Yehoshua confronts the Givonites for their trickery: Yehoshua summoned the Givonites and confronted them for tricking them and saying that they come from a distant land when in truth they come from very near. Yehoshua said that due to this they will be cursed, and they and their descendants will be woodchoppers and water carriers for the house of G-d [forever, even after the conquering of Israel[8]]. The Givonites replied that they were fearful of being decimated, as they heard of the command of G-d to Moshe to inherit the land of Israel and destroy all its inhabitants. They thus were forced to trick Yehoshua to save their skin. The Givonites replied to Yehoshua that they are handing themselves over to him as slaves and he can do with them whatever he pleases. Yehoshua did so, and allowed them to live, and appointed them as woodchoppers and water carriers for the people and house of G-d until this very day.


[1] Ralbag 9:1; Metzudos David 9:1

[2] Rashi 9:4

[3] Rashi 9:4

[4] Radak 9:4

[5] See Metzudos David 9:6

[6] Metzudos David 9:20

[7] Radak 9:21; Metzudos David 9:23

[8] Metzudos David 9:23

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