Joshua 2 – The Rescue of Rahab
A. Spies are sent to the city of Jericho.
1. (1a) Joshua sends forth spies.
Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.”
a. Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove to spy secretly: This kind of careful preparation shows faithfulness, not a lack of faith. God’s promises of success to us should never lull us into inaction. They should spur us on to a step out in godly activity.
i. We aren’t told who the two spies are, but Jewish tradition – speculation, really – says they were faithful Caleb and the high priest Eliezer.
ii. Remember that all this takes place during the three days Joshua has commanded the nation to wait on the banks of the Jordan (Joshua 1:11). God has a special purpose for these three days.
b. To spy secretly: Joshua also shows wisdom by sending them secretly. The last time that spies that went out publicly it turned out badly for Israel; when a majority of the spies came back with a discouraging report (Numbers 13).
c. Go, view the land, especially Jericho: God has greater things in mind for this spy mission; it will fail as a mission of military reconnaissance, but it will succeed in God’s purpose.
2. (1b) The spies at Rahab’s house.
So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there.
a. Came to the house of a harlot named Rahab: Through the history of Christianity, it has embarrassed some Bible interpreters that these two spies went to the house of a prostitute. Some have tried to say that Rahab was simply an “innkeeper,” but the language is clear enough. She was a harlot.
i. In the second century Origen wrote: “As the first Joshua sent his spies before him and they were received into the harlot’s house, so the second Joshua sent his forerunners, whom the publicans and harlots gladly received”.
ii. It is great when sinners receive Jesus; not those who deny their sinfulness or don’t know what they are capable of apart from Jesus – the gospel is for those who know they are sinners.
b. And lodged there: Why did they go to the harlot’s house? Though it was an awkward place, it must be admitted that it was a perfect place to hide out and remain anonymous, and this was necessary because the city was on strict guard.
i. There isn’t even the hint of immorality with Rahab. Anyone who assumes that there was immoral conduct forces their own bias on the text.
3. (2-7) Rahab hides and protects the spies.
And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, “Behold, men have come here tonight from the children of Israel to search out the country.” So the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the country.” Then the woman took the two men and hid them. So she said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And it happened as the gate was being shut, when it was dark, that the men went out. Where the men went I do not know; pursue them quickly, for you may overtake them.” (But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof.) Then the men pursued them by the road to the Jordan, to the fords. And as soon as those who pursued them had gone out, they shut the gate.
a. Then the woman took the two men and hid them: In the culture of that day, there was a strong tradition of hospitality. If someone was a guest in your house, you had the duty to protect them and care for them. Even considering this, Rahab went much further than the respect of cultural traditions regarding hospitality. She put her own life on the line for these men.
b. Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from: The Bible simply reports Rahab’s lie; it does not praise it or excuse it. Perhaps if she had beforehand determined in her heart to not lie in obedience to God, He would have made a way for her to preserve the life of the spies without lying.
c. The men went out: Rahab’s lie is not justified, but it does show courage. Consider that she was a pagan sinner in a city and culture wholly given over to the worship of false gods and immorality, with no previous contact with the word of God or the things of God. What is your excuse?
B. Salvation for Rahab.
1. (8-14) Rahab’s confession of faith.
Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, and said to the men: “I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the LORD, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.” So the men answered her, “Our lives for yours, if none of you tell this business of ours. And it shall be, when the LORD has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you.”
a. I know that the LORD has given you the land: This surprising outburst of faith shows that God had a plan in bringing Rahab and the spies together. It is the same kind of thing we see when God supernaturally brings us to people who are believers or open to the gospel.
b. He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath: Rahab’s declaration was proof of her faith. It was not strong faith and it was not perfect faith, but her faith was commendable nonetheless (Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25).
i. We may be appalled at the fact that Rahab was a prostitute, or that she was a liar. Despite those facts, she was not saved by her works, but by her faith. She knew who God was, she knew who she was, and she trusted God for her very life.
c. That you also will show kindness to my father’s house: Rahab’s desire to see her family saved, and the length she went to save their lives, shows that her love should be noticed, as well as her faith.
d. Swear to me by the LORD: This shows that Rahab longed for assurance by asking for an oath. She wanted to leave her sinful life and culture and go with God’s people.
2. (15-21) The means of Rahab’s salvation: the scarlet cord.
Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall; she dwelt on the wall. And she said to them, “Get to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you. Hide there three days, until the pursuers have returned. Afterward you may go your way.” So the men said to her: “We will be blameless of this oath of yours which you have made us swear, unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household to your own home. So it shall be that whoever goes outside the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we will be guiltless. And whoever is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him. And if you tell this business of ours, then we will be free from your oath which you made us swear.” Then she said, “According to your words, so be it.” And she sent them away, and they departed. And she bound the scarlet cord in the window.
a. Bind this scarlet cord in the window: This was the signal to the army of Israel that the people in this home were to be spared. Despite Rahab’s desire, despite her faith, despite the promises of these spies, she would have perished unless she put her trust in a blood-red cord cast down from her window. Without the scarlet cord, she could not have been saved.
i. As early as the first century, commentators such as Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, Ireneaus, Origen and more saw this scarlet cord as a symbol of the blood of Jesus.
b. And she bound the scarlet cord in the window: Rahab immediately put her faith into both the identification and safety of the scarlet cord. She also trusted in the ones who made the promise about the scarlet cord (according to your words, so be it).
i. Joshua would be a savior for Rahab, but a judge of the rest of Jericho. In the same way, Jesus is a savior for those who trust Him, but a judge for those who reject Him.
c. According to your words, so be it: Rahab’s destiny was to marry one of the princes of Judah and be found in the lineage of King David and Jesus Himself.
3. (22-24) Mission accomplished.
They departed and went to the mountain, and stayed there three days until the pursuers returned. The pursuers sought them all along the way, but did not find them. So the two men returned, descended from the mountain, and crossed over; and they came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all that had befallen them. And they said to Joshua, “Truly the LORD has delivered all the land into our hands, for indeed all the inhabitants of the country are fainthearted because of us.”
a. And told him all that had befallen them: Considering how God will have them conquer the city of Jericho, how did the information from these spies help in the battle for Jericho? Jericho was one of the strongest and most heavily fortified cities of Canaan; if Israel could conquer it, the whole land would be before them – but how did this reconnaissance help them with the eventual battle? It didn’t help them at all!
b. Truly the LORD has delivered all the land into our hands, for indeed all the inhabitants of the country are fainthearted because of us: The reconnaissance mission didn’t help with military strategy, but it did help in encouraging the faith of these spies and the whole nation. This was far more important than a good battle plan.
i. There was another purpose at work in sending the spies: to save Rahab. In this, we see the extent God goes to in bringing one woman and her father’s house to salvation – – someone seemingly “impossible” to save.
ii. You may know some people that seem “impossible” to save, but God’s hand is not too short or too weak to save people like Rahab, and He can work in amazing ways to bring salvation.