Long afterwards, Saul slew some of them, and God sent upon Israel a three years' famine for it. David inquired of the Gibeonites, "What shall I do for you, and wherewith shall I make the atonement?" At their demand, he delivered up to them, seven of Saul's descendants. 2 Sam. xxi. 1—9. The whole transaction was a formal recognition of the Gibeonites as a distinct people. There is no intimation that they served families, or individuals of the Israelites, but only the "house of God," or the Tabernacle. This was established first at Gilgal, a day's journey from their cities; and then at Shiloh, nearly two day's journey from them; where it continued about 350 years. During this period, the Gibeonites inhabited their ancient cities and territory. Only a few, comparatively, could have been absent at any one time in attendance on the Tabernacle. Wherever allusion is made to them in the history, the main body are spoken of as at home. It is preposterous to suppose that all the inhabitants of these four cities could find employment at the Tabernacle. One of them "was a great city, as one of the royal cities;" so large, that a confederacy of five kings, apparently the most powerful in the land, was deemed necessary for its destruction. It is probable that the men were divided into classes, ministering in rotation—each class a few days or weeks at a time. This service was their national tribute to the Israelites, for the privilege of residence and protection under their government. No service seems to have been required of the females. As these Gibeonites were Canaanites, and as they had greatly exasperated the Israelites by impudent imposition, and lying, we might assuredly expect that they would reduce them to the condition of chattels if there was any case in which God permitted them to do so.
IV. Throughout the Mosaic system, God warns the Israelites against holding their servants in such a condition as they were held in by the Egyptians. How often are they pointed back to the grindings of their prison-house! What motives to the exercise of justice and kindness towards their servants, are held out to their fears in threatened judgments; to their hopes in promised good; and to all within them that could feel, by those oft repeated words of tenderness and terror! "For ye were bondmen in the land of Egypt"—waking anew the memory of tears and anguish, and of the wrath that avenged them.
God's denunciations against the bondage of Egypt make it incumbent on us to ascertain, of what rights the Israelites were plundered, and what they retained.