And the rulers said to them, “Let them live and become woodcutters and drawers of water for all the congregation,” as the rulers had said concerning them. Bible

“woodcutters and drawers of water.” This would be the punishment that people who lived far from Israel but surrendered to them would be subject to (cp. Deut. 20:10-11). The REV follows the reading of Robert Alter. The last phrase, “as the rulers had said concerning them,” points to the discussion that the rulers would have had among themselves when they found out that the Gibeonites lived in the Promised Land. The rulers were in a vice between keeping their covenant with the Gibeonites and obeying Torah concerning the peoples in the land. By making the Gibeonites woodcutters and water carriers the elders were at least keeping the part of the Torah about non-Israelites that they could in this situation.

Commentary for: Joshua 9:21