Notes on Joshua 2
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Joshua 2:1a, KJV
1 And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho.
Shittim was still on the east side of Jordan. The nation of Israel had not yet crossed over.
2:1b And they went, and came into an harlot's house, named Rahab, and lodged there.
The men may not have been able to find lodging anywhere else. Rahab was one of a number of foreign and/or pagan women who eventually became believers in the God of Israel. She proved it by giving these men a place to hide, and by not betraying them. See Hebrews 11:31.
2 And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither to night of the children of Israel to search out the country.
The men of Israel must have known, or may have known, that there would be spies in Jericho, looking for anyone who was a foreigner to them. Something about these two Israelites was noticed and the king of Jericho was notified.
3 And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country.
Whether or not Rahab had become a believer in the God of Israel, this was a definite test of her faith and her character. There was and is a conflict between honoring the king or government, and protecting the life of one’s guests. Compare this event with the time Lot offered his own virgin daughters to the mob who had come to his house in Sodom after the two angels had come there (Genesis 19).
4 And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they (were): 5 And it came to pass (about the time) of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them.
Perhaps not knowing what else to do, Rahab basically lied to the king’s agents sent to arrest the Israelites who had come into Jericho. God did forgive her, however, and honored her commitment to the spies. If she had not yet become a believer in the God of Israel, then her sin of lying would be no worse than any other sin. She would still have needed forgiveness for so doing.
Had she by now become a believer, however, then she may have had no other option. If she had told the truth, affirming that yes, the spies are here in my house, then this story may have had a much different ending. They would have faced death, perhaps, for espionage. Her future may have been either a reward for capturing the enemy—or, she may have faced punishment as an accomplice to a crime.
6 But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof.
Note the mention of flax in verse 6. Where did she get the flax? This is only the second mention of flax in the Old Testament. Flax, sadly, seemed to be one of the payments to harlots (Hosea 2:5). Linen, however, was widely used for clothing (Genesis 41:42), construction of the Tabernacle (Exodus, many verses), part of the priests’ clothing (Lev. 6:10 and Lev. 16), and other uses. Linen was never supposed to be mixed with wool (Deut. 22:11) for a garment. One final mention of linen is Revelation 19:14, where it is stated that the “armies of heaven will be clothed in fine linen, white and clean”!
7 And the men pursued after them the way to Jordan unto the fords: and as soon as they which pursued after them were gone out, they shut the gate.
The soldiers believed Rahab’s words and departed to search for the Israelites.
8 And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof;
No doubt she did this quietly, perhaps before dark, so that her neighbors would not be aware of the spies and possibly get word back to the king. No contradiction between here and verse 4. There it is said that she hid the men, here it states that they had not yet laid down—they apparently had been hiding, still, under the stalks of flax.
9 And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. 10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that (were) on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.
The events she mentioned had happened over 40 years ago (crossing the Red Sea) up to a more recent time (the campaign against Sihon and Og). News traveled slowly back then but traveled, nonetheless. Even though Jericho was many miles from Sihon’s and Og’s territory, the people of Jericho were in great fear of the Israelites at this time.
11 And as soon as we had heard (these things), our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he (is) God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.
The people of Jericho didn’t have any more courage, by now, but incredibly none of them acted on the fear which they were enduring—except for Rahab and her family (noted below). God was and is not willing that any should perish (John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9, etc.) and would have saved any other citizen of Jericho had anyone there exercised faith in the God of Israel. Parallel: one of the two thieves crucified with Jesus, even within speaking distance, apparently never requested salvation seriously!
12 Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father's house, and give me a true token: 13 And (that) ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.
Rahab didn’t ask for anything except a pledge of assurance for herself and a promise of life for her family.
14 And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the LORD hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee. 15 Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house (was) upon the town wall, and she dwelt upon the wall.
The spies promised Rahab that they would deal “kindly and fairly” with her and her family. According to Strong’s concordance, “cord” could mean “rope”. Whatever it was, it was enough for two grown men to use it as a means of escape from Jericho.
16 And she said unto them, Get you to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you; and hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers be returned: and afterward may ye go your way.
Rahab would know the territory or lay of the land, being a native of that area. She also seemed to be familiar with the procedures used to search for spies. She kept faith with the spies, never giving them up to the local authorities.
17 And the men said unto her, We (will be) blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear. 18 Behold, (when) we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father's household, home unto thee.
The spies instructed Rahab to bind the thread or cord (line) in the window when they came into the land. This event wasn’t far off. The “line” or “cord” seemed to be different from the rope or line the men had used to depart from Jericho, Rahab’s house specifically. The Hebrew text uses two different words, according to Strong’s concordance. Again she’s reminded to bring all her immediate family into her house when the Israelites had entered the land.
19 And it shall be, (that) whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood (shall be) upon his head, and we (will be) guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood (shall be) on our head, if (any) hand be upon him.
Those who remained in Rahab’s house would be spared. Anyone who left had to face the consequences.
20 And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear.
One of the conditions was silence on Rahab’s part. If she alerted the authorities, the contract between herself and the spies would become void.
21 And she said, According unto your words, so (be) it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window.
Rahab agreed to the terms, as stated by the spies. Note that she didn’t wait for the Israelites to enter the land to bind the scarlet line in her window—this seems to be an immediate act.
22 And they went, and came unto the mountain, and abode there three days, until the pursuers were returned: and the pursuers sought (them) throughout all the way, but found (them) not.
As Rahab had predicted. We are not told which mountain or range of mountains the spies fled to, so there is no need for any speculation.
23 So the two men returned, and descended from the mountain, and passed over, and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all (things) that befell them:
“Passed over” refers to crossing the Jordan River. Fords are mentioned in verse 7 so the spies may have been able to cross there. If, however, the Jordan was in flood stage, they probably swam across.
24 And they said unto Joshua, Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us.
No doubt the spies reported all they had been able to discover—which may not have been very much, given the seemingly brief time they were there—but the most important news was this report, namely, that the inhabitants did “...faint because of us (the Israelites)”. It’s been said that, “Fear is a valuable ally, and a terrible foe.”
Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)