Joshua 2:3-9, 15-16, 22-24
Why did Joshua send the spies secretly? As far as he knew, he would be attacking a heavily fortified city using conventional warfare tactics. He needed strategic information about the city for the upcoming battle. But he also knew that this might draw criticism from the other leaders. After all, the last time spies were sent, the report they brought back caused disastrous problems (see Numbers 13:1-14:4). While he did not want to move ahead without information, he also did not want to cause the people to stumble and question his wisdom and ability to lead the nation. Why would the spies stop at the house of Rahab, a prostitute? (1) It was a good place to gather information and have no questions asked in return. (2) Rahab’s house was in an ideal location for a quick escape because it was built into the city wall (see Joshua 2:15). (3) God directed the spies to Rahab’s house because he knew her heart was open to him and that she would be instrumental in the Israelite victory over Jericho. God often uses people with simple faith to accomplish his great purposes, no matter what kind of past they have had or how insignificant they seem to be. Rahab didn’t allow her past to keep her from the new role God had for her. (Joshua 2:1).
Was Rahab justified in lying to save the lives of the spies? Although the Bible does not speak negatively about her lie, it is clear that lying is a sin. In Hebrews 11:31, however, Rahab is commended for her faith in God. Her lie is not mentioned. Several explanations have been offered: (1) God forgave Rahab’s lie because of her faith; (2) Rahab was simply deceiving the enemy, a normal and acceptable practice in wartime; (3) because Rahab was not a Jew, she could not be held responsible for keeping the moral standards set forth in God’s law; (4) Rahab broke a lesser principle—telling the truth—to uphold a higher principle—protecting God’s people. (Joshua 2:4, 5). There may have been another way to save the lives of the Israelite spies. But under the pressure of the moment, Rahab had to make a choice. Most of us will face dilemmas at one time or another. We may feel that there is no perfect solution to our problem. Fortunately, God does not demand that our judgment be perfect in all situations. He simply asks us to put our trust in him and to do the best we know how. Rahab did that and was commended for her faith. (Life Application Study Bible). Two spies left the Israelite camp at Acacia Grove, crossed the Jordan River, and slipped into Jericho. The city was built around an oasis in the midst of a hot and desolate valley 840 feet below sea level. Jericho was the first major city the Israelites set out to conquer. Now in Joshua 2:6, it is displayed the significance that flax was harvested in the fields and piled high on the rooftops to dry. It was then made into yarn, which was used to make linen cloth. Flax grows to a height of three or four feet. Stacked on the roof, it made an excellent hiding place for the spies.
In Joshua 2:8-13, 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 gauge a person’s interest in God by his or her background, lifestyle, or appearance. We should let nothing get in the way of our telling people the Good News. Again, in Joshua 2:11, Rahab recognized something that many of the Israelites did not—the God of heaven is not an ordinary god! He is all powerful. The people of Jericho were afraid because they had heard the news of God’s extraordinary power in defeating the armies across the Jordan River. Today we can worship this same powerful, miracle-working God. He is powerful enough to destroy mighty, wicked armies, as he did in Jericho. He is also powerful enough to save us from certain death, as he did with Rahab. And so it was, in Joshua’s day it was common to build houses on city walls. Many cities had two walls about 12 to 15 feet apart. Houses were built on wooden logs laid across the tops of the two walls. Rahab may have lived in such a house with a window that looked out over the outside wall. (Life Application Study Bible). As the spies prepared to go, they again confirmed the pact by repeating and enlarging the conditions Rahab must abide by. First, her house must be marked by a scarlet cord hung from the window. Because of the position of the house on the city wall about the house on the wall) the cord would be clearly seen by the Israelite soldiers again and again as they would march around the walls (see Joshua 6:12-15). Her home would be clearly marked out and no soldier, however fierce and eager he might be in the work of destruction, would dare violate the oath and kill anyone in that house. Next, Rahab and her family were to remain in the house during the attack on Jericho. If anybody would wander out and was killed the guilt for his death would be his own, not the invaders’. Finally, the spies again emphasized that they would be free of this oath of protection if Rahab exposed their mission. (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty). (Joshua 2:15-20).
To these conditions Rahab agreed, and after the spies left, she tied the scarlet cord in the window. She probably also hurried and told her family to gather in her house. The door of her house was a door to safety from the judgment soon to fall on Jericho (read Genesis 7:16, and Exodus 12:23). Their mission completed, the spies and Rahab exchanged parting instructions concerning their escape (read Joshua 2:15-16). Jericho at this time was surrounded by two walls about 15 feet apart. Planks of wood spanned the gap and then houses were built on this foundation. Probably due to the pressure of space in the small city, Rahab’s house was one of those built “on the wall.” In this way it was “part of the city wall” (v. 15). (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty). The spies were carefully lowered by a rope through a window of Rahab’s house. Their escape would have been more difficult, if not impossible, had it been necessary for them to go out of the city gate. Scarcely a half-mile west of Jericho are limestone cliffs about 1,500 feet high, honeycombed with caves. Here the spies hid (in the hills) for three days until the soldiers of Jericho gave up the hunt. Then under cover of darkness the spies swam back across the Jordan, made their way quickly to the camp at Shittim, and reported to Joshua about their strange and stirring adventure. (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty). Be Blessed!