Joshua Sends Spies into the Land, 1-24

Discussion Starters, Joshua 2

(a) How would you describe Rahab’s character and personality, as describe here, and in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25?

(b) The story of Rahab is the story of how a Gentile woman of dubious morals found that she mattered to God. The Old Testament focuses on the Lord’s dealings with his chosen people, the Jews; but can you think of other instances where Gentile people find God’s favour? And what do you make of Matthew 1:5?

(c) God does not intend us to imitate everything that was done by even the great ‘heroes’ of the faith, such as Abraham, Moses, David, and Peter. In what respects does Rahab provide us with an example to follow, and in what respects should we not follow her example?

2:1 Joshua son of Nun sent two spies out from Shittim secretly and instructed them: “Find out what you can about the land, especially Jericho.” They stopped at the house of a prostitute named Rahab and spent the night there. 2:2 The king of Jericho received this report: “Note well! Israelite men have come here tonight to spy on the land.”

‘The first major section of the book recounts the movement of the Israelites from Acacia Grove (2:1), across the Jordan River (chs. 3; 4; cf. 1:2), and into the land of Canaan. This movement marks the end of one era (5:9) and the beginning of the new life in the Land of Promise (5:12). It represents the first main testimony of the book to the faithfulness of God to his promises.’ (New Geneva)

This chapter serves a number of purposes. For one thing, it confirms Joshua’s skills as a leader concerned for the welfare of his people, who gathers intelligence before moving into hostile territory. For another thing it illustrates how submission to Israel’s God (by Rahab) brings deliverance from the coming destruction. It is clear that the main actor in this chapter is not Joshua, nor the spies, but Rahab.

‘Before the expected sequel to ch. 1 (namely, Jos 3:1) there is the surprising story of the spies who return to Joshua proclaiming the promise of God (Jos 2:24; cf. Jos 1:2-5). Although the Book of Joshua describes in graphic detail the destruction of the Canaanites (chs. 6-12), it gives a prominent place to Rahab, a Canaanite harlot,. (Lev 18:24 in context ) It is from her lips that the spies hear testimony to the promise and the power of God, (Jos 2:9-11 ) in the light of which she seeks and finds “kindness.” (Jos 2:12 ) She will be spared from the coming judgment (Jos 6:22, 23) and find a place among the people of God (Jos 6:25). The chapter testifies to the grace of God in bringing such a woman to seek and find his mercy. The story of Rahab supplies an important perspective on the judgments of God that will occupy much of this book.’ (New Geneva)

Butler (WC) adopts a surprisingly sceptical view of the (non-)historicity of this chapter: ‘Archaeological and form critical evidence bring the historical question of the Rahab narrative into sharp focus. At the basis of the account is an entertaining folk narrative concerning the spies in Jericho. It presupposes the city at the height of its power and strength. The purpose of the story in its present setting is not so much to reconstruct history as to ridicule the original inhabitants of the land. From the perspective of a people settled in the land which does not belong to them, Israel looks back and draws an intentionally onesided portrait of her enemies in order to glorify her God. The question of when is simply ignored.’

Joshua … sent two spies from Shittim – ‘Faith in God’s promise ought not to supersede but encourage our diligence in the use of proper means. Joshua is sure he has God with him, and yet sends men before him. We do not trust God, but tempt him, if our expectations slacken our endeavours.’ (MHC)

“Jericho” – The city was built around an oasis in the middle of a hot and desolate valley, 840 ft below sea level.

A prostitute – ‘In the fact that a woman who had gained a shameful livelihood by prostitution was shortly after admitted into the body of the chosen people, and became a member of the Church, we are furnished with a striking display of divine grace which could thus penetrate into a place of shame, and draw forth from it not only Rahab, but her father and the other members of her family.’ (Calvin)

Among the deities worshipped by the Canaanites were gods of fertility, whose cult encouraged sexual licence.

Rahab – She is remembered in the New Testament as an ancestor of Christ, (Mt 1:5 ) and as an example of faith (Heb 11:31 ) and good works. (Jas 2:25 ) She is one of a handful of people in OT times who, though they were non-Jews with very limited knowledge of Jehovah, yet received grace and believed. Others include Naaman the Syrian, 2 Kings 5:15-19, and the people of Nineveh, Jonah 3:5.

‘The story of Rahab confirms God’s welcome to all people, whatever their condition. Christ died for all the world and the opportunity is available for all to come to him through faith, even the chief of sinners, 1 Tim 1:15. Like Paul, Rahab exhibits faith and understanding of the God who saves her. She becomes part of the family line that leads to the birth of Jesus, Mt 1:5 and a model of faith for all Christians, Heb 11:31.’ (Hess)

According to NDB, Rahab is ‘almost certainly to be identified with Rahab (AV ‘Rachab’), the wife of Salmon and mother of Boaz, ancestor of David, who is included in our Lord’s genealogy in Mt 1:5.’

‘Only two women are personally named in Heb 11 “The Hall of Fame of Faith”: Sarah, the wife of Abraham, (Jos 2:11 ) and Rahab, the harlot of Jericho. (Jos 2:31 )

Sarah was a godly woman, the wife of the founder of the Hebrew race; and God used her dedicated body to bring Isaac into the world. But Rahab was an ungodly Gentile who worshiped pagan gods and sold her body for money. Humanly speaking, Sarah and Rahab had nothing in common. But from the divine viewpoint, Sarah and Rahab shared the most important thing in life: They both had exercised saving faith in the true and living God.’ (Wiersbe)

‘It’s remarkable how God in his grace uses people we might think could never become his servants. “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence.” (1 Cor 1:27-29, NKJV ) Jesus was the “friend of publicans and sinners,” (Lk 7:34 ) and he wasn’t ashamed to have a former prostitute in his family tree!’ (Wiersbe)

They … stayed there – lit. ‘they slept there’, but not ‘with her’, though this was assumed by the men of Jericho. ‘The text carefully avoids implying a sexual liaison between the spies and their hostess.’ (Hess) The house was probably not a brothel, but a ‘hostel’ providing overnight accommodation for travellers. It is not surprising to learn that such a place was also used for prostitution.

The king of Jericho was told – Canaan consisted of a number of city-states, each with its own ‘king’. No doubt the city was already on ‘red alert’, and on the look-out for suspicious characters. Thus it was that the two spies had been noticed.

‘Reconnaissance, espionage, and deception are necessary in war, even holy war (see 1; cf. Jdg 7:9-16). Rahab hid the spies and misled the king of Jericho’s scouts with lies (2-7). She clandestinely let the spies escape and instructed them how to avoid detection by hiding in the mountains pitted with caves to the west of the city – the opposite of what might be expected by a posse (16-17).’ (NBC)

‘The deceptions by Joshua and Rahab raise eyebrows. How can they be a legitimate part of holy war? (Cf. Mt 5:33-37 Eph 4:14-15) Indirect analogies of situations where deception and disinformation are right and necessary may help. Hunters use traps and blinds; fishermen, lures and bait. In sport, players will often try to trick their opponents by putting spin on a ball or adopting deceptive postures. In chess a player deceives his opponent into taking his weaker piece in order to capture his stronger one; in poker one keeps a ‘straight face’. God was kind to the midwives for deceiving Pharaoh, (Ex 1:19-20) and ‘by faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born’. (Heb 11:23) In all these situations we do not accuse the participants of acting according to the unethical principle that a right end justifies a wrong means. Rather, we recognize that in such situations deception is legitimate, not wrong. So also the OT recognizes that in war intelligence, counter-intelligence and decoys are all part of ‘the game’. Joshua set an ambush, (Jos 8:9) and David used Hushai as a mole in conjunction with a network of spies. (2 Sam 15:32-37 16:15-22) In the NT Paul escaped the Jews under the cover of night, (Ac 9:23-26) and the angel took advantage of the sleeping soldiers to release Peter from Herod’s clutches. (Ac 12:6-10) In most situations, however, lies are wrong, (Pr 30:7-8) and truth is required. (Eph 4:15) The believer must listen to God’s Spirit through Scripture and conscience so as not to rationalize the situation.’ (NBC)

2:3 So the king of Jericho sent this order to Rahab: “Turn over the men who came to you—the ones who came to your house—for they have come to spy on the whole land!” 2:4 But the woman hid the two men and replied, “Yes, these men were clients of mine, but I didn’t know where they came from. 2:5 When it was time to shut the city gate for the night, the men left. I don’t know where they were heading. Chase after them quickly, for you have time to catch them!” 2:6 (Now she had taken them up to the roof and had hidden them in the stalks of flax she had spread out on the roof.)

But the spies had been noticed.

It was, of course, treason against Jericho and its ruler to give help to these spies. ‘Rahab’s helpful deeds indicate her renunciation of allegiance to the Canaanites of Jericho and her acceptance of the rulership of Joshua and his agents.’ (Hess)

‘Their life hangs upon the tongue of a woman, just as if it were hanging by a thread.’ (Calvin)

“I did not know” – But she did know. (Jos 2:9) ‘The writer of Joshua does not justify or condemn Rahab for lying, but James approves her action. (Jas 2:25) Deception is a necessary tactic in war. The main point is why Rahab protects the foreign spies.’ (Jos 2:9-11) (New Geneva)

‘She believed, upon the report she had heard of the wonders wrought for Israel, that their God was the only true God, and that therefore their declared design upon Canaan would undoubtedly take effect and in this faith she sided with them, protected them, and courted their favour. Had she said, “I believe God is yours and Canaan yours, but I dare not show you any kindness,” her faith had been dead and inactive, and would not have justified her. But by this it appeared to be both alive and lively, that she exposed herself to the utmost peril, even of life, in obedience to her faith.’ (MHC)

‘Those only are true believers that can find in their hearts to venture for God; and those that by faith take the Lord for their God take his people for their people, and cast in their lot among them. Those that have God for their refuge and hiding-place must testify their gratitude by their readiness to shelter his people when there is occasion. Let my outcasts dwell with thee, Isa 16:3,4. And we must be glad of an opportunity of testifying the sincerity and zeal of our love to God by hazardous services to his church and kingdom among men.’ (MHC)

‘When one sets out to be truthful, new problems appear. There are people to whom it is clearly not right to tell the whole truth-invalids, not yet strong enough to take bad news; enemies in wartime, to whom one should not give information, and from whom, like Rahab (Joshua 2) and Corrie ten Boom, one may have fugitives to hide; mad and bad folk, who would use what you tell them to harm others; the general public, when as a politician one is putting through a beneficent plan which depends for its effect on nobody anticipating it; and so on. Nobody doubts that in these cases responsible persons must dissemble. But does that square with the ninth commandment?

In principle, yes. What is forbidden is false witness against your neighbor-that is, as we said, prideful lying designed to do him down, and exalt you at his expense. The positive command implicit in this negative is that we should seek our neighbor’s good, and speak truth to him and about him to this end. When the love which seeks his good prompts us to withhold truth which, if spoken, would bring him harm, the spirit of the ninth commandment is being observed. In such exceptional cases as we have mentioned, all courses of action have something of evil in them, and an outright lie, like that of Rahab (Jos 2:4,5; note the commendation of her, Jas 2:25) may actually be the best way, the least evil, and the truest expression of love to all the parties involved.

Yet a lie, even when prompted by love, loyalty, and an escapable recognition that if telling it is bad, not telling it would be worse, remains an evil thing (unless, indeed, with old-style Jesuits and modern-type situationists we hold that the end justifies the means). To bear false witness for one’s neighbor is not so bad as bearing false witness against him; but the lie as such, however necessary it appears, is bad, not good, and the right-minded man knows this. Rightly will he feel defiled; rightly will he seek fresh cleansing in the blood of Christ, and settle for living the only way anyone can live with our holy God-by the forgiveness of sins. Again, we say: Lord, have mercy!-and lead us not into this particular type of temptation, where only a choice of sins seems open to us, but deliver us from evil.’ (J.I. Packer, Growing in Christ)

“I don’t know which way they went” – ‘The moral issue of whether or not Rahab was justified in lying has often been raised. Some may argue that it was no lie, but this is difficult to maintain in the light of statements in the text that are the opposite of what Rahab knew to be true…It is best not to excuse Rahab’s actions, but neither to be troubled by them…The ethical issue is not the concern of the narrative. It stresses the deception, not in order to condemn Rahab but to magnify her personal risk in hiding the spies.’ (Hess)

Stalks of flax – Flax grows to a height of three or four feet. It would be stored on the roof in order to dry it. Once dried, it is used to make yarn for the production of linen.

Undesigned coincidence?  Against the scepticism of Butler and others, we can discern here a detail in the narrative that points to historical plausibility.  According to Josh 4:19; 5:10, the Israelites crossed the Jordan just before the time of the Passover.  It was in the weeks leading up to the time of Passover that flax was harvested.  Thus we find, in the present verse, stalks of flax laid out on the roof (in order to dry). (Source)

2:7 Meanwhile the king’s men tried to find them on the road to the Jordan River near the fords. The city gate was shut as soon as they set out in pursuit of them.

As soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut – ‘This detail further emphasises the vulnerability of the spies and their dependence upon Rahab for protection. There was no way out of the town for them. At any moment, Rahab could raise the alarm and have them arrested. Further, their escape from Jericho was now more urgent, for the agents could return at any time if they became satisfied that the spies had not left Jericho and concluded that they had been deceived. But the means of escape for the spies was no longer obvious to them: the gate was shut. This provides the background for Rahab’s provision of another escape route, demonstrating how important her role was for the spies’ deliverance.’ (Hess)

2:8 Now before the spies went to sleep, Rahab went up to the roof. 2:9 She said to the men, “I know the LORD is handing this land over to you. We are absolutely terrified of you, and all who live in the land are cringing before you. 2:10 For we heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you left Egypt and how you annihilated the two Amorite kings, Sihon and Og, on the other side of the Jordan. 2:11 When we heard the news we lost our courage and no one could even breathe for fear of you. For the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on earth below!

She went up on the roof – This was probably the upper storey of the house, containing the sleeping quarters. It was the most secret and private part of the house.

v9 Here begins one of the longest uninterrupted statements by a woman in the whole of the Bible, vv9-13.

‘This first Canaanite across the Jordan with whom the Israelites met was no ordinary person. Rays of Divine light had entered that unhallowed soul, not to be driven back, not to be hidden under a bushel, but to be welcomed, and ultimately improved and followed. Our minds are carried forward to what was so impressive in the days of our Lord, when the publicans and the harlots entered into the kingdom before the scribes and the pharisees. We are called to admire the riches of the grace of God, who does not scorn the moral leper, but many a time lays his hand upon him, and says “I will, be thou clean.” “They shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but the children of the kingdom shall be cast into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and. gnashing of teeth.”‘ (Expositor’s Bible)

‘Many would assume that Rahab – a pagan, a Canaanite and a prostitute – would never be interested in God. Yet Rahab was willing to risk everything she had for a God she barely knew. We must not guage a person’s interest in God by his or her background, life-style, or appearance. We should let nothing get in the way of our telling people about God.’ (Life Application)

“I know that the Lord has given this land to you” – Thus summarised the message of the entire book of Joshua, and demonstrates profound faith and insight.

“Melting in fear” – ‘This is the inevitable response to finding oneself on the wrong side of what God has promised to do.’ (New Geneva) This fear had been predicted in Ex 15:16 23:27. Rahab’s confession shows that what had been promised by the Lord to Israel was now coming true.

‘If she kept a public house, this would give her an opportunity of understanding the sense of various companies and of travellers from other parts of the country, so that they could not know this any way better than by her information; and it would be of great use to Joshua and Israel to know it; it would put courage into the most cowardly Israelite to hear how their enemies were dispirited, and it was easy to conclude that those who now fainted before them would infallibly fall before them, especially because it was the accomplishment of a promise God had made them, that he would lay the fear and dread of them upon all this land, (Deut 11:25) and so it would be an earnest of the accomplishment of all the other promises God had made to them.’ (MHC)

Rahab (a) believes Jehovah’s promise to Israel, v9; (b) believes in Jehovah’s power and dominion over the whole world, v11.

‘The king of Jericho had heard as much as she had of the great things God had done for Israel, yet he cannot infer thence that the Lord had given them this land, but resolves to hold it out against them to the last extremity; for the most powerful means of conviction will not of themselves attain the end without divine grace, and by that grace Rahab the harlot, who had only heard of the wonders God had wrought, speaks with more assurance of the truth of the promise made to the fathers than all the elders of Israel had done who were eye-witnesses of those wonders, many of whom perished through unbelief of this promise. Blessed are those that have not seen, and yet have believed; so Rahab did. O woman, great is thy faith!’ (MHC)

‘Through traveling merchants the Canaanites knew of the crossing of the Red Sea on dry land. Within the past few months fugitives from the Amorite kingdoms of Sihon and Og had reported how Israel had put their nations under the curse of total destruction. These reports led to two results: fear and faith. For most Canaanites it was only fear; for Rahab, both fear and faith (2:8-10).’ (OT Survey)

‘D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones reminds us that “faith shows itself in the whole personality.” True saving faith isn’t just a feat of intellectual gymnastics by which we convince ourselves that something is true that really isn’t true. Nor is it merely a stirring of the emotions that gives us a false sense of confidence that God will do what we feel he will do. Nor is it a courageous act of the will whereby we jump off the pinnacle of the temple and expect God to rescue us. (Mt 4:5-7) True saving faith involves “the whole personality:” the mind is instructed, the emotions are stirred, and the will then acts in obedience to God.

“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet the intellect, moved with fear the emotions, prepared an ark the will….” (Heb 11:7) Rahab’s experience was similar to that of Noah: She knew that Jehovah was the true God the mind; she feared for herself and her family when she heard about the great wonders he had performed the emotions; and she received the spies and pleaded for the salvation of her family the will. Unless the whole personality is involved, it is not saving faith as the Bible describes it.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the mind must be fully instructed in every aspect of Bible truth before a sinner can be saved. The woman with the hemorrhage only touched the hem of Christ’s garment and she was healed, but she acted on the little knowledge that she did possess. (Mt 9:20-22) Rahab’s knowledge of the true God was meager, but she acted on what she knew; and the Lord saved her.’ (Wiersbe)

“We have heard” – ‘The cause of Rahab’s knowledge, and the Canaanites’ terror, was the news of what God had already done for Israel in faithfulness to his promises.’ (New Geneva) The Canaanites had received accounts of the Lord’s great deeds on behalf of his people. These accounts provided the source of Rahab’s confession in v9.

The two events referred to marked the beginning and the end of Israel’s passage through the desert.

“Amorites” – ‘The term is flexible, sometimes applying to all the peoples of Canaan (e.g., 24:15), sometimes more specifically to people in the hill country (e.g., 5:1), especially as distinct from the Jebusites who also occupied the hill country (e.g., 3:10).’ (New Geneva)

‘The woman has had an eye to see and an ear to hear. She has not gazed in stupid amazement on the marvellous tokens of Divine power displayed before the world, nor accepted the sophistry of sceptics referring all these marvels to accidental thunderstorms and earthquakes and high winds. She knew better than to suppose that a nation of slaves by their own resources could have eluded all the might of Pharaoh, subsisted for forty years in the wilderness, and annihilated the forces of such renowned potentates as Sihon and Og. She was no philosopher, and could not have reasoned on the doctrine of causation, but her common sense taught her that you cannot have extraordinary effects without corresponding causes. It is one of the great weaknesses of modern unbelief that with all its pretensions to philosophy, it is constantly accepting effects without an adequate cause.’ (Expositor’s Bible)

“The Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” – ‘The acknowledgment of God required in Israel (Deut 4:39) is made by Rahab.’ (New Geneva) In making this positive confession of faith in Jehovah, Rahab is by strong implication rejecting all other so-called gods. ‘The image of the faith of Rahab shines clear as in a mirror when, throwing away all idols, she ascribes the rule of heaven and earth to the God of Israel alone. Without question, when men acknowledge that heaven and earth are subject to the God of Israel, the fictitious gods of the nations amongst which they distribute the majesty and the power and the glory of God are wholly repudiated.’ (Calvin)

‘Rahab made a most explicit confession of her faith, not only in Jehovah as the God of the Hebrews, but in him as the one only God of heaven and earth. It would have been nothing had she been willing to give to the Hebrew God a place, a high place, or even the highest place among the gods. Her faith went much further. “The Lord your God, he is God in heaven above and in earth beneath.” This is an exclusive faith – Baal and Ashtoreth are nowhere. What a remarkable conviction to take hold of such a mind! All the traditions of her youth, all the opinions of her neighbours, all the terrors of her priests set at nought, swept clean off theboard, in face of the overwhelming evidence of the sole Godhead of Jehovah!’ (Expositor’s Bible)

‘Rahab has learned her history well and responds with an affirmation of the fear of those who oppose Israel and with the confession that only Israel’s God controls the destiny of the world.’ (Hess)

‘What a confession of faith from the lips of a woman whose life had been imprisoned in pagan idolatry! She believed in one God, not in the multitude of gods that populated the heathen temples. She believed he was a personal God (“your God”), who would work on behalf of those who trusted him. She believed he was the God of Israel, who would give the land to his people. This God whom she trusted was not limited to one nation or one land, but was the God of heaven and earth. Rahab believed in a great and awesome God!’ (Wiersbe)

‘Rahab’s conversion was truly an act of God’s grace. Like all the citizens of Canaan, Rahab was under condemnation and destined to die. God commanded the Jews to “utterly destroy them” and show them no mercy. (Deut 7:1-3) Rahab was a Gentile, outside the covenant mercies shown to Israel. (Eph 2:11-13) She didn’t deserve to be saved, but God had mercy on her. If ever a sinner experienced Eph 2:1-10, it was Rahab!’ (Wiersbe)

2:12 So now, promise me this with an oath sworn in the LORD’s name. Because I have shown allegiance to you, show allegiance to my family. Give me a solemn pledge 2:13 that you will spare the lives of my father, mother, brothers, sisters, and all who belong to them, and rescue us from death.” 2:14 The men said to her, “If you die, may we die too! If you do not report what we’ve been up to, then, when the LORD hands the land over to us, we will show unswerving allegiance to you.”

“Swear…” – ‘She is convinced, relying on no evidence except the promise of God of which she had heard, that the sons of Abraham are the sure possessors of the land of Canaan. She did not think that God favored robbers who were bursting with unjust violence and unbridled lust into the territory of others. She declared rather that the Israelites were coming into the land of Canaan because God has assigned them the rule over it…’ (Calvin)

“Kindness” – The word is often used in the context of covenant faithfulness. It is ‘a shorthand way of saying “unfailing help to a needy covenant partner.”‘ (NBC)

‘In the language of Rahab, we behold that characteristic property of faith described by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, when he calls it a vision, or sight of things not appearing. (Heb 11:1) Rahab is dwelling with her people in a fortified city: and yet she commits her life to her terrified guests, just as if they had already gained possession of the land, and had full power to save or destroy as they pleased. This voluntary surrender was, in fact, the very same as embracing the promise of God, and casting herself on his protection.’ (Calvin)

‘Though her faith may at this time have been but as a grain of mustard seed, we see two effects of it that are not to be despised. One was her protection of the Lord’s people, as represented by the spies; the other was her concern for her own relations. Father, mother, brothers, and sisters and all that they had, were dear to her, and she took measures for their safety when the destruction of Jericho should come. She exacted an oath of the two spies, and asked a pledge of them, that they would all be spared when the crisis of the city arrived. And the men passed their oath and arranged for the protection of the family. No doubt it may be said that it was only their temporal welfare about which she expressed concern, and for which she made provision. But what more could she have been expected to do at that moment? What more could the two spies have engaged to secure? It was plain enough that if they were ever to obtain further benefit from fellowship with God’s people, their lives must be preserved in the first instance From the universal destruction which was impending. Her anxiety for her family, like her anxiety for herself, may even then have begun to extend beyond things seen and temporal, and a fair vision of peace and joy may have begun to flit across her fancy at the thought of the vile and degrading idolatry of the Canaanites being displaced in them by the service of a God of holiness and of love. But neither was she far enough advanced to be able as yet to give expression to this hope, nor were the spies the persons to whom it would naturally have been communicated. The usual order in the Christian life is, that as anxiety about ourselves begins in a sense of personal danger and a desire for deliverance therefrom, so spiritual anxiety about the objects of our affection has usually the same beginning. But as it would be a miserable thing for the new life to stand still as soon as our personal safety was secured, so it would be a wretched affection that sought nothing more on behalf of our dearest friends. When, by accepting Christ, we get the blessing of personal safety, we only reach a height from which we see how many other things we need.’ (Expositor’s Bible)

v13 ‘For the Christian, Rahab represents the example of one who confesses God’s historic acts of redemption and receives salvation. The confession of faith becomes the means to salvation, Rom 10:9 1 Jn 4:15.’ (Hess)

v14 ‘These circumcised men accepted this converted prostitute into the full fellowship of the covenant community, and were even willing to die for her and her family. The oath with the Gibeonites in ch. 9 is another matter. They heard the fame of Israel’s God, but they never confessed him as their Lord.’ (NBC)

2:15 Then Rahab let them down by a rope through the window. (Her house was built as part of the city wall; she lived in the wall.)

She let them down by a rope – The only means of escape, since the gate was closed, v7.

‘Like Abraham and Ruth, Rahab renounced her country in favour of Israel. In fact, she risked her life to be identified with Israel’s God (4-7, 15-16). The NT honours the faith (Heb 11:31) that produced her good works. (Jas 2:25) Her faith even earned her a place in the lineage of Jesus.’ (Mt 1:5) (NBC)

The house she lived in was part of the city wall – ‘Archaeological excavations indicate casemate walls of ancient fortresses commonly contained rooms inside them. Casemate walls are built with space in the middle, which builders frequently filled with earth for reinforcement. Houses also could be built on top of the wall and within the wall. Middle Bronze fortifications at Jericho had considerable space between the stone revetment wall (used to support an embankment), a mud brick parapet wall (a low, protective wall on a roof or balcony), and the upper wall. Evidence from the excavation of Jericho shows poorer houses built in that space.’ (Brown, UBCS)

2:16 She told them, “Head to the hill country, so the ones chasing you don’t find you. Hide from them there for three days, long enough for those chasing you to return. Then you can be on your way.”

“Go to the hills” – She may have been thinking of Jebel Qarantal, a mountain northwest of Jericho. The area has many caves, and would provide a suitable hiding place.

2:17 The men said to her, “We are not bound by this oath you made us swear unless the following conditions are met: 2:18 When we invade the land, tie this red rope in the window through which you let us down, and gather together in your house your father, mother, brothers, and all who live in your father’s house. 2:19 Anyone who leaves your house will be responsible for his own death—we are innocent in that case! But if anyone with you in the house is harmed, we will be responsible. 2:20 If you should report what we’ve been up to, we are not bound by this oath you made us swear.” 2:21 She said, “I agree to these conditions.”

“This scarlet cord” – Attempts to read symbolic or typological significance into this cord and its colour should be treated with caution. The cord may have already been present in the house, as a means of advertising its purpose.  Or, the colour may be been used because it would easily be seen.

‘The distinction the spies made between faithful Rahab and the disobedient Canaanites finds its final fulfilment in the last judgment. (Mt 25:31-46 Rev 20:11-15) As Israel needed the scarlet blood of the lamb on their door-frames to distinguish them from the condemned Egyptians, (Ex 12:7,13) so Rahab needed this scarlet cord that the Israelites provided to distinguish her and her family from the doomed Canaanites. Today, believing families accept by faith God’s demarcating sign of baptism (Ac 2:38-39; 16:31-33) and proclaim Christ’s death when they drink the cup of the new covenant in his scarlet blood.’ (Lk 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25-26) (NBC)

‘This was a necessary proviso, for Rahab’s kindred could not be distinguished any other way than by being in her distinguished house; should they mingle with their neighbours, there was no remedy, but the sword would devour one as well as another.’ (MHC)

She sent them on their way and then tied the red rope in the window. 2:22 They went to the hill country and stayed there for three days, long enough for those chasing them to return. Their pursuers looked all along the way but did not find them. 2:23 Then the two men returned—they came down from the hills, crossed the river, came to Joshua son of Nun, and reported to him all they had discovered. 2:24 They told Joshua, “Surely the LORD is handing over all the land to us! All who live in the land are cringing before us!”

The pursuers probably assumed that the spies had escaped across the river before they had reached them.

In the story of Rahab in this chapter, Joshua plays no active part. The story could have been omitted, along with the further reference to it in Josh 6:22-25, without harm to the overall plot of the book. ‘If Joshua represents the Israelite man who finds guidance and success through faith in the Lord God, does Rahab represent his counterpart, the Canaanite woman who finds guidance and success through faith in the Lord God? In one of the most nationalistic books in the Hebrew Bible, does it not serve the purposes of the promise to Abraham that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Ge 12:3) to place side by side with the choice of a military leader and his initial preparations for battle, the story of a foreign woman who believed and was saved without arms or bloodshed?’ (Hess)

‘For the Christian, Rahab’s faith provides a model of one who believes in God’s historic acts of redemption (whether the exodus of the Old Testament or the cross of the New Testament). Not only does she believe, but she confirms her faith and then acts upon it to preserve God’s people and to advance God’s kingdom.’ (cf. Jas 2:25f) (Hess)

What does this story mean, if it never happened?
Treating the story as a fabrication, Butler (WBC) then fabricates his own view of its meaning:-

Israel has taken up a popular story centering around the ability of a prostitute to trick a king and gain freedom for two men. Israel has transformed this into a story preparing for the conquest of Jericho. The two men are spies sent out by Israel to conquer the land, that is the city-state ruled by the king of Jericho. The story has then been placed at the front of the conquest narratives as a whole to introduce the theology of conquest. The Deuteronomist has then made the story the basis for his theological creed. The growth of the story thus represents a manifold theological interpretation. Each generation of Israelites has learned something new about itself and its God through telling and retelling the story of Jericho’s favorite prostitute.