Chapter 2

1 Rahab receiveth and concealeth the two spies sent from Shittim. 8 The covenant between her and them. 23 Their return and relation.

1. Sent. Perhaps preferably, “had sent.” The spies had been sent out prior to the events recorded in ch. 1:10–18 (see on ch. 1:11). It is clear that Joshua did not send the spies out as a result of distrust, but rather, probably, by divine command. The two men sent were guided and protected in a remarkable way. Faith in God’s promises does not supersede, but rather complements, diligence and effort on our part.

Shittim. Or, “Abel-shittim,” meaning “meadow of acacia trees” (Num. 33:49). Some suggest Tell el-Kefrein, about 6 mi. (10 km.) east of the Jordan; others as Tell elРHammaЖm, 9 mi. (14 km.) east of it. Here Israel had camped for some time. Here the Moabite and Midianite women had tempted them. Nearby lay the town of Beth-peor. Here also Moses had delivered his last discourse, and near here he was buried (Deut. 4:46; 34:6).

Secretly, saying. Or, “secretly saying.” Joshua’s instructions to the men were given secretly, that is, without the knowledge of the people. He remembered vividly the adverse reaction to the report of the spies 38 years previously. The 12 spies (Num. 13:2, 26) had been sent out from the people (Deut. 1:22) and reported to the people (Num. 13:32), whereas these 2 spies were sent out by Joshua and reported directly to Joshua (Joshua 2:23). Prudence on the part of a leader is necessary. Even though Joshua had all faith in God, yet he must do all in his power to ensure the success of the attack. He should not, as general, enter a strange and hostile land without first exploring it. This precaution may have been taken under God’s explicit direction as a means of encouraging Joshua. Also God knew of Rahab and her faith (vs. 9–11), and would save her and her family.

An harlot’s house. Jewish writers and some Protestant commentators have sought to show that Rahab was simply an innkeeper. But neither the Heb. zonah nor its Greek equivalent in the LXX permits such a rendering. As used throughout the OT, and as translated in Heb. 11:31 and James 2:25, the word denotes a “harlot.” Such she either now was or formerly had been, and into such a person’s house the spies might enter less conspicuously than into a more public place, for food and lodging.

As the light of the true God dawned upon Rahab’s heart, she repented and cast her lot with God’s people (PK 369). To her was granted the honor of becoming a progenitor of Christ (see on Matt. 1:5). Nevertheless, the opprobrium of her former life clung to her, for she is ever after known as “the harlot.” Her experience teaches three great lessons: (1) Great sin is no bar to repentance. (2) Many who before their conversion led wicked lives may thereafter distinguish themselves as heroes of faith. (3) A reputation once established may cling to a person long after repentance has erased sin from his life.

2. It was told. The city was in a state of emergency. An army that had but recently conquered two powerful kings was camped less than 15 mi. away. The people of Jericho knew of the miracles attending Israel’s wilderness journey, as evidenced by Rahab’s testimony (vs. 9–11). They were living in dread of imminent siege, and every stranger looked suspicious to them.

To night. The spies had chosen evening time to enter, for it was then that the tillers of the fields would be returning and the least attention would be directed toward the two spies. They had hoped thus to escape attention, but evidently their dress, language, or features gave them away. Had God not provided them a refuge, they would have been captured and no doubt lost their lives. Even the harlot recognized them as Israelites, but uninhibited by prejudice, she realized that it was useless to fight against Jehovah, and cast herself upon the mercy of their God. She may not have known what the word “faith” meant, but the thing itself was in her heart (Heb. 11:31), and found expression both in words and in deeds (James 2:25).

3. Come to thee. The king of Jericho apparently thought that the spies had not only come for lodging (“entered into thine house”) but also to visit Rahab personally. Now she must choose between her country and her conscience. Whether the spies had as yet had time or opportunity to tell her about their God, we do not know, but with whatever light she did have she made the momentous decision to cast her lot with God’s people. Following the words “come to thee” both the LXX and the Syriac add, “during the night,” suggesting that it was dark when they entered. The Holy Spirit had been impressing Rahab’s heart, and apparently led them to her house, even as He leads God’s messengers to homes that are looking for light today.

4. Took. Obviously, “had taken,” that is, before the officers arrived. Aware that the arrival of the strangers was known and that search would likely be made for them, and knowing also of their errand and having made her decision, she had already safely hidden the men where search was not likely to be made for them.

Hid them. Or, “had hidden them [literally, “him”],” that is, she hid each one separately in a place by himself. It would be easier to hide them separately, and also, if one was found, there was a possibility that the other might escape. Such details could have been reported only by an eyewitness.

I wist not. Here and in v. 5 is a series of lies told in order to save life. Is this justifiable? Rahab was faced with what seemed to her a choice between a greater and a lesser evil: to share in the responsibility of the death of two men whom she believed to be messengers of God, or to tell a lie and save them. To a Christian a lie can never be justified, but to a person like Rahab light comes but gradually. There was a time when God’s people did not know of the true Sabbath, and so transgressed it. There was a time when we did not understand tithing or healthful living. “The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). God accepts what is sincerely and honestly intended, even though there be a mixture of frailty and ignorance in it. Rahab’s faith was tested and it rang true. God accepts us where we are, but we must “grow in grace” 2 Peter 3:18).

6. Brought them up. Literally, “caused them to go up,” that is, to the flat roof, so common in the Near East. According to Jewish law, the roof was to be provided with a parapet (Deut. 22:8). Even the roof of a public building was flat (Judges 16:27). A roof might be used as a promenade (2 Sam. 11:2) or for prayer (Acts 10:9). Rahab used it, as did many others, for drying stalks of flax, from which she would make linen cloth, and so it is used today. Flax and barley are both early crops (Ex. 9:31), and this was the first month (Joshua 4:19).

8. Before they were laid down. Sleeping on the roof was common practice in warm weather, and in the tropical climate of Jericho summer arrives early. There was nothing the spies could do until she came with further instructions. She could yet deliver them over to the king if she would. With faith in her heart she came up to where they were to make arrangements for her own safety and for that of her relatives, when Israel should take the city.

9. I know. The Hebrew reads, “I knew,” or, “I have known.” Here she uses the language of the prophets, expressing that which is promised as though it were already fulfilled. Her faith was equal to theirs. This was the encouragement that Joshua and the children of Israel needed.

Faint. Literally, “melted away.” Here she refers particularly to the peoples that Israel had already overcome, as listed in v. 10. A report of the great things God had done for them had come to Jericho (v. 10).

10. Amorites. A powerful race that subdued the aboriginal Rephaim (Deut. 2:20, 21, Israel’s victory over the Amorites was in fulfillment of a promise God had made while Moses was still alive (Deut. 11:25).

11. Our hearts did melt. The word translated “hearts” is singular in the Hebrew, and probably refers to their will to resist. In such a state of mind men are easily overcome. The people of Jericho were in terror, and the two spies no doubt realized that victory was certain.

This experience may serve to encourage us. We too are fighting the battles of the Lord under the heavenly “Joshua.” All appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, the forces of evil cringe before the manifest power of God. He is going before us, and the fear of us and of what the Lord has done for us is in the heart of His enemies. The kingdom of darkness is tottering to its fall, and Satan and his hosts know it. In view of this fact let us be strong; perfect faith and love cast out fear (1 John 4:18). The inhabitants of Jericho all heard and trembled; only Rahab passed from fear to faith and service.

He is God. How Rahab had learned of the true God is not revealed. There had not been time for her to get much information from the two spies. Her chief knowledge had no doubt come from the reports of how Jehovah, the God of Israel, was working for them. After making her confession of faith Rahab proceeded to enter into covenant relations with God and the representatives of His people for the preservation of her life. Surrendering her life to God, she received assurance that it would be preserved in the coming judgment of Jericho.

12. A true token. Literally, “a token of truth.” She asked two things: (1) that she and her family might be preserved, as she had preserved them, and (2) that the spies would give her “a token of truth,” which the Israelites would recognize and respect. She had no husband, but mentioned a mother, father, brothers, and sisters. After she had extracted from the spies an oath that they would preserve her life and that of her family, they designated the “token”—a scarlet cord in the window (v. 18). Like the blood sprinkled upon the doorposts, this cord assured the safety of those residing within.

14. Our life for your’s. They pledged their lives as security for hers. Should they fail, she and her family would be slain.

This our business. Literally, “this our word,” here evidently a reference to the “true token” she had requested. Before giving it they sought assurance that she would keep secret the fact that Israel expected soon to take Jericho. Carelessness or duplicity on her part would release them from their pledge.

15. Let them down. But not before the conversation of vs. 16–20 had taken place. As in ch. 1:10, 11, a future fact is injected earlier than its chronological position would lead us to expect. Such repetitions occur frequently in the Bible.

Upon the wall. Living as she did upon the wall, it would be comparatively easy for her to lower the spies. For archeological information concerning the ancient city of Jericho, see p. 42.

16. The mountain. The site of ancient Jericho is situated near the western edge of the valley, here some 14 mi. wide, and the only “mountain” nearby is to the west. In that direction, but a mile from Jericho, rise the hills that form what is known as the Wilderness of Judah. The nearest ridge is so high that long before evening it casts a shadow on the city. In this mountainous area are many caves, and here the spies might have fled and been safe until the searchers returned. Then, at night, they might safely have made their way to their camp at Shittim.

17. The men said. Or, “had said,” that is, before she let them down. It is most improbable that she would have dismissed them before the conditions discussed in vs. 16–20 were agreed upon, or that she would converse with them about such matters after they were let down. Nor would she begin her discourse in her house, and not complete it until she had let them down the wall. The statement in v. 18, “which thou didst let us down by,” does not necessarily prove that these words were spoken after they had descended. Speaking of the future, they naturally think of the present as being in the past, and of the action now contemplated as already completed (see Vol. I, p. 27).

18. This line. The scarlet “line” is not the same as the “cord” (v. 15) by which the men were lowered. These are described by different words in the original. The word translated “cord” (v. 15), or “rope,” is chebel, whereas the word here translated “line” is tiqwah. Elsewhere in the OT (31 times) it is translated “hope” or “expectation” (Ps. 62:5; 71:5; etc.). It comes from a root meaning “to twist,” “to bind,” and consequently, “to be firm,” “to be strong,” or figuratively, “to be confident,” “to hope.” It would have been preposterous to require Rahab to display in her window the means by which the spies had escaped. It would at once have declared to all beholders the very thing Rahab was pledged not to disclose. The “line of scarlet thread” was probably of linen. A product of her trade (v. 6), it would not be likely to attract undue attention.

Which. That is, the window, not the “cord.”

Thou shalt bring. A reasonable provision. If her relatives would not perish with the people of Jericho, who believed not, they must manifest their belief by finding shelter in the place of refuge, as Noah and his family did in the ark. In a similar way, those today who would escape the judgments of God upon an unbelieving world will be found associating with others who have chosen the way of life.

21. She bound. Perhaps not until the time when this precaution became necessary, but more likely that very night, lest she should forget it later. Furthermore, it would inspire her with courage and hope to be able to see there the sign of deliverance.

23. Came to Joshua. The spies reported directly to Joshua (see on v. 1). He had probably learned a lesson from the time he with 11 others had been sent out from Kadesh-barnea, and 10 had returned with a discouraging report. He may have felt it wise for this reason to keep the mission of the two spies secret until he had received their report. Their message (see ch. 2:9–11, 23, 24) must have encouraged Joshua and the people to advance without delay across the Jordan and against Jericho.

24. The Lord hath delivered. How different the report of the two spies at the close of the 40 years of wandering, compared with that of the ten spies 38 years earlier (Num. 13:31–33) Compare the experience of Gideon (Judges 7:9–14).

Ellen G. White comments

1–24PP 482, 483

10   PP 483

11   PK 369; PP 369, 483, 492

24   PP 483