Joshua Chapter 2
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Go to Bible: Joshua 2
“secretly sent two men.” Joshua sent the spies secretly, without telling the Israelites what he was doing. Some 40 years earlier, when Moses sent spies into the Promised Land, all Israel knew they were going. But when they came back they brought an evil report and discouraged the people (Num. 13). The result of that evil report was that the people of Israel grumbled about Moses and spoke of stoning him, and finally God intervened and said He would not let that generation go into the Promised Land, which is why Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years (Num. 14). Joshua did not want any kind of a repeat of that event, so he sent the spies secretly, not telling the people of Israel he had sent them.
It is possible to translate the Hebrew that Joshua “had sent” the spies out, which might make the timing of the three days easier to understand.
“out from Shittim.” The name “Shittim” means “Acacias,” and it is also called Abel-shittim (Num. 25:1, 33:49, Acacias Meadow). The biblical city of Shittim is almost certainly the archaeological site of Tel el-Hamman, the site of a huge Canaanite city (cp. Num. 25:1; 33:49). It is in the plains of Moab across from Jericho.
“the house.” The fact that the men from Israel went right into her house indicates that her house also was a local inn, and that fits with Rahab being a prostitute. It was common in the ancient world, and widely practiced in New Testament Greece and Rome, that one of the services provided by inns was the availability of a prostitute. Often he or she was a slave who had little or no choice in the matter.
“a prostitute whose name was Rahab.” Although Rahab was a Canaanite, she believed in Yahweh (Josh. 2:9-13) even if she believed in her own gods as well. Rahab is praised in the New Testament in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25. Because she hid the spies from Israel, she and her family were saved from the destruction of Jericho (Josh. 6:22-25), and she then married Salmon of the line of Judah and became part of the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Ruth 4:20-21; Matt. 1:5). The fact that Rahab went from Canaanite prostitute to an ancestor of Jesus Christ shows how God can redeem and elevate people’s lives if they trust Him.
“they lay down there.” The spies rested in Rahab’s house. The Hebrew text uses ambiguous vocabulary that can sometimes mean to have sex with, but that is not its meaning here. The vocabulary pulls you into the story.(top)
“king of Jericho.” The “kingdom” of the king of Jericho would not have been very large; just the city of Jericho itself and perhaps some small towns in the local area. Nevertheless, the “king” would oversee the city, make judicial decisions, and command a small army of the local men.
“was told.” Even though it was after dark (cp. Josh. 2:5), an important event such as men from Israel entering the city was serious enough to interrupt the king. Good leaders know the importance of good and timely intelligence and encourage their people to get that information to them.
“search.” The Hebrew word is “dig.” The idiom “dig out the land” referred to uncovering what was there. The Hebrew language uses very concrete language. However, the language that the woman spoke would have almost certainly not been Hebrew. It might have been that these two men were chosen because they knew some of the local language.(top)
“So the king of Jericho sent to Rahab.” Apparently, the king did not come himself, but sent representatives. This occurred after dark (cp. Joshua 2:5).
“all the land.” That the king of Jericho knew the mission of Israel, to conquer the Promised Land, shows that news of Israel, including who they were and what they wanted had been spread around.(top)
“I did not know where they came from.” Rahab lied to the leaders of Jericho, but to those leaders, what Rahab the prostitute said was a plausible statement. Jericho was on both a major north-south trade route and a major east-west route, so it is likely that lots of men came through, and Rahab would not know a lot about many of them, especially if they were not fluent in the local language.
This verse and others like it (cp. Exod. 1:15-20) reveal an ethical standard for what is a “lie,” or at least that there are times when lying is acceptable. God does not require us to give the accurate facts (“the truth”) to someone who will use them to harm us or God’s people. It is certainly good to give accurate facts when we can. Furthermore, this concept can and does get abused because there are times when people’s intentions are not clear, the circumstances are not easily discerned, or people just lie to protect themselves when they ought to tell the truth and deal honestly with the situation they are in. However, there are clear cases, such as here, where a “lie” is the will of God.
[For more on lying as a means of self-defense and more on civil disobedience see commentary on Exod. 1:19.](top)
“for you will catch up with them.” Jericho was a little over five miles from the Jordan River, and the paths were well-traveled and mostly quite level, so once again Rahab’s statement seemed plausible.(top)
“the stalks of flax that she had spread out on the roof.” Flax was cut, dried, and eventually pounded into fibers which were then woven into clothes, oil lamp wicks, etc. The flax stalks were cut and then laid out in the sun to dry, usually for a few weeks, but less if the air was dry and the sun was hot, and a perfect place to do that was on top of a flat roof where the sun would dry them quickly. The fact that Rahab could hide men under the flax on the roof showed that Rahab had been very diligent in gathering a lot of it and likely made clothing for her and her household from it, and may have sold some as well (cp. Prov. 31:13, 34).(top)
“to the Jordan.” The fords of the Jordan across from Jericho are about five miles (8 km) from the ancient city.
“to the fords.” Many places in the Jordan River were too deep to cross easily, but the Jordan did have natural fords where people and animals could cross more easily. The roads in the region led to those fords. If a country controlled the fords, they controlled the east-west travel. When the Israelites fought the Moabites, they captured the fords of the Jordan and then were able to kill all the Moabite soldiers trying to get back to Moab (Judg. 3:28-29).(top)
“the spies.” This is the spies from the camp of Israel. The Hebrew simply reads, “them,” the words “the spies” is added to the English for clarity.(top)
“I know that Yahweh has given you the land.” Because the Devil and his followers have always infiltrated the highest levels of religion, it often happens that “regular people” and even those considered outwardly less godly are people who trust God. Jesus recognized this, and said to the religious leaders of his day, “Truly I say to you, that the tax collectors and the prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you” (Matt. 21:31).
“melt away.” That fear had “fallen” on the Canaanites, and they “melted” brings up the way God spoke in prophecy about the Canaanites. Exodus 15:15-16 speak of fear “falling” on the Canaanites, and them “being melted away.” In the last two months of the wilderness wanderings, God said the fear of the Israelites would fall on the people who heard the reports about Israel, and thus about what God did for them (Deut. 2:25).(top)
“we have heard how Yahweh dried up the water of the Red Sea before you.” Rahab had heard of the Red Sea (the Hebrew reads “Reed Sea”) drying up before the Israelites, an event that had occurred 40 years earlier. Nearly every book of the Old Testament mentions the Exodus in one way or another, giving strong evidence that it was a historical event.
“devoted to destruction.” The Hebrew word translated “devoted” is cherem and means a thing that is “devoted.” It can be “devoted” to Yahweh in the sense of being set apart to Him and therefore being His and holy, or it can be a thing “devoted” to Him in the sense that it is an abomination to Him and thus it will be destroyed; in that case, “devoted to destruction” is the meaning. Generally, this specific phrase was used when the city and its inhabitants were destroyed, and the booty was taken, especially the metals, to the Tent of Meeting (Tabernacle). There is no record of Israel taking spoil or of dedicating it to Yahweh in the Sihon/Og battles, so they may or may not have. We only know from the text that Israel dispatched the people and possessed the land. It is likely that Rahab knew more than we do. The word has entered English as “harem” a group of women set apart for one man.
[For more on “devoted,” see commentary on Josh. 6:17.](top)
“rise up any more spirit.” The Hebrew word translated “spirit” in the REV is ruach (#07307 רוּחַ), and ruach has a huge semantic range and can refer to a large number of things. In this instance, the word “spirit” is used of a person’s mental state including their attitude and emotion. No more haughty or confident attitude (“spirit”) rose up in any Canaanite when they heard about what Yahweh had done for Israel. They became discouraged and downhearted.
[For more on the uses of “spirit,” see Appendix 6, “Usages of ‘Spirit.’”]
“Yahweh your God, he is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” Rahab heard of the great works of God and acknowledged that Yahweh was God in heaven and on earth, and then she acted in a way that showed she respected and would serve that God. In fact, right away she risked her life by hiding the Israelite spies, not because she somehow loved Israel, but because she recognized that their God was the real “God” in heaven and on earth. Rahab is a model for how people should react when they hear about God.(top)
“give me a reliable sign.” All the men could really give was their word on the matter, which they did (Josh. 2:14), and that did turn out to be enough. Also, they told her to tie the rope out the window so they could tell which house was hers in the attack. The fact that Rahab’s house was in the wall and the rope was left out the window during the attack is good evidence that the entire wall did not fall down.(top)
“lives.” The Hebrew word “life” is nephesh (#05315 נֶפֶשׁ), often translated “soul” (the word is plural here). Nephesh has a number of meanings, including “life” (as here in Josh. 2:13), the “individual,” the life force that animates humans, land animals, and many sea creatures.
[For more information, see Appendix 7: Usages of “Soul.”](top)
“faithfully and reliably with you.” Rahab had used “faithfully” and “reliably” in her talk with the spies (Josh 2:12), and now they use the same words back to her, no doubt on purpose to show the seriousness and sincerity of their intention.(top)
“and she lived in the wall.” Many of the ancient walls were not solid but had spaces in them. One such construction is called a casemate wall, and there is an excellent example of one at Masada.(top)
“Go to the hill country.” The mountainous area rises up quickly very quickly just about one-half mile from Tel Jericho. The pursuers would have naturally thought that the men from Israel would have headed back east toward the Jordan, about five miles (8 km) away.
“three days until the pursuers have returned.” It would not take the pursuers three days to go the five miles to the Jordan, but if the pursuers did not find them on the path, they would likely think that either the spies had made it to the Jordan and crossed over to the camp of Israel, or that they had hidden in the brush by the Jordan. Since it was night, there would have been a good chance that the spies would not have crossed the Jordan in the dark since it was at flood stage and unfamiliar to them, and instead had hidden themselves in the brush waiting for sunrise. So it is logical that the men from Jericho might have searched for them here for a couple of days. While hiding for three days may seem excessive, the spies wanted to be sure they would not encounter the men from Jericho on the path to the Jordan.(top)
“that you have made us swear….” This is an anacoluthon, an unfinished sentence. The spies do not spell out what has to happen such that they will be guiltless until the next sentence.
[See figure of speech “anacoluthon.”](top)
“Tie this cord of scarlet thread.” The Hebrew is abrupt; the directions were short and clear. There was no room for error in this communication, it meant life or death. The cord was made of scarlet thread, and is called a “scarlet cord” in Joshua 2:21. It is interesting and unexplained as to how Rahab happened to have a scarlet-colored cord in her house. However, we know from the flax she was drying that she may have made clothes, and scarlet was a common color worn by women, so it does make sense that she could have had scarlet cord in her house.
The Hebrew word translated “cord” is tiqvah (#08615 תִּקְוָה), which has two meanings, and both are appropriate here. The two meanings are “cord, line” and “hope.” In Rahab’s case, she was to tie a “cord” of scarlet thread, which was also her “hope” of being delivered from death, into the window so the Israelite warriors could see it.(top)
“out of the doors of your house, outside.” The Hebrew does not use the word for “street” although many versions read that way based on the likely correct assumption that outside the house was the street.
“if any hand is on him.” This is idiomatic for “if anyone harms him.”(top)
“we will be guiltless of your oath.” To anyone who fears God, taking an oath is a very serious business. God expects people to keep their word, and even more so if it is an oath (cp. Ps. 15:4; Eccles. 5:1-6).(top)
“cord.” The Hebrew is both “cord” and “hope.” See commentary on Joshua 2:18.(top)
|Jos 2:22||- (top)|
“that had happened to them.” The Hebrew is idiomatic: the spies “told all that found them.” This idiom occurs in a number of places (cp. Judg. 6:13).(top)
“Yahweh has given into our hands all the land.” These two spies, like Caleb and Joshua almost 40 years earlier, were confident, having a secure trust in the work of Yahweh in bringing them into their land inheritance. Years earlier, Moses had sent out 12 spies (Num. 13:1-20), and 10 of them fearfully reported that they could not conquer the land, saying, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are” (Num. 13:31-32). In contrast to those ten, Joshua and Caleb had confidently reported that Israel could conquer the land (Num. 14:6-9). There is little doubt that when Joshua heard the confident report of the spies that he had sent to Jericho that he remembered what he and Caleb had reported to Moses those many years before. It is quite likely that he thought about what his life would have been like if all the spies Moses sent into Israel had been like he and Caleb and these two brave men. He could have spent his life in the Promised Land rather than marching around the desert and eating the same manna day after day for 40 years. Every life has its “What if…,” but it is not healthy to dwell on that. There is much to do for God here and now, and believers have eternity to look forward to because we will be in a wonderful place with a wonderful new body surrounded by wonderful people. Joshua understood that and wisely focused on the task at hand and prepared for crossing the Jordan and the attack on Jericho.
“melt away.” This also occurs in Joshua 5:1.(top)