1.And Joshua the son of Nun sent, etc. The object of the exploration now in question was different from the former one, when Joshua was sent with other eleven to survey all the districts of the land, and bring back information to the whole people concerning its position, nature, fertility, and other properties, the magnitude and number of the cities, the inhabitants, and their manners. The present object was to dispose those who might be inclined to be sluggish, to engage with more alacrity in the campaign. And though it appears from the first chapter of Deuteronomy, (Deu_1:22,) that Moses, at the request of the people, sent chosen men to spy out the land, he elsewhere relates (Num_13:4) that he did it by command from God. Those twelve, therefore, set out divinely commissioned, and for a somewhat different purpose, viz., to make a thorough survey of the land, and be the heralds of its excellence to stir up the courage of the people.
Now Joshua secretly sends two persons to ascertain whether or not a free passage may be had over the Jordan, whether the citizens of Jericho were indulging in security, or whether they were alert and prepared to resist. In short, he sends spies on whose report he may provide against all dangers. Wherefore a twofold question may be here raised — Are we to approve of his prudence? or are we to condemn him for excessive anxiety, especially as he seems to have trusted more than was right to his own prudence, when, without consulting God, he was so careful in taking precautions against danger? But, inasmuch as it is not expressly said that he received a message from heaven to order the people to collect their vessels and to publish his proclamation concerning the passage of the Jordan, although it is perfectly obvious that he never would have thought of moving the camp unless God had ordered it, it is also probable that in sending the spies he consulted God as to his pleasure in the matter, or that God himself, knowing how much need there was of this additional confirmation, had spontaneously suggested it to the mind of his servant. Be this as it may, while Joshua commands his messengers to spy out Jericho, he is preparing to besiege it, and accordingly is desirous to ascertain in what direction it may be most easily and safely approached.
They came into a harlot’s house, etc. Why some try to avoid the name harlot, and interpret זונה as meaning one who keeps an inn, I see not, unless it be that they think it disgraceful to be the guests of a courtesan, or wish to wipe off a stigma from a woman who not only received the messengers kindly, but secured their safety by singular courage and prudence. It is indeed a regular practice with the Rabbins, when they would consult for the honor of their nation, presumptuously to wrest Scripture and give a different turn by their fictions to anything that seems not quite reputable. (33) But the probability is, that while the messengers were courting secrecy, and shunning observation and all places of public intercourse, they came to a woman who dwelt in a retired spot. Her house was contiguous to the wall of the city, nay, its outer side was actually situated in the wall. From this we may infer that it was some obscure corner remote from the public thoroughfare; just as persons of her description usually live in narrow lanes and secret places. It cannot be supposed with any consistency to have been a common inn which was open to all indiscriminately, because they could not have felt at liberty to indulge in familiar intercourse, and it must have been difficult in such circumstances to obtain concealment.
My conclusion therefore is, that they obtained admission privily, and immediately betook themselves to a hiding-place. Moreover, 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. Most assuredly while the term זונה, almost invariably means harlot, there is nothing here to oblige us to depart from the received meaning.
Joshua – sent – two men to spy secretly – It is very likely that these spies had been sent out soon after the death of Moses, and therefore our marginal reading, had sent, is to be preferred.
Secretly – It is very probable also that these were confidential persons, and that the transaction was between them and him alone. As they were to pass over the Jordan opposite to Jericho, it was necessary that they should have possession of this city, that in case of any reverses they might have no enemies in their rear. He sent the men, therefore, to see the state of the city, avenues of approach, fortifications, etc., that he might the better concert his mode of attack.
A harlot’s house – Harlots and inn-keepers seem to have been called by the same name, as no doubt many who followed this mode of life, from their exposed situation, were not the most correct in their morals. Among the ancients women generally kept houses of entertainment, and among the Egyptians and Greeks this was common. I shall subjoin a few proofs.
Herodotus, speaking concerning the many differences between Egypt and other countries, and the peculiarity of their laws and customs, expressly says: Εν τοισι αἱ μεν γυναικες αγοραζουσι και καπηλευουσι· οἱ δε ανδρες, κατ’ οικους εοντες, ὑφαινουσι. “Among the Egyptians the women carry on all commercial concerns, and keep taverns, while the men continue at home and weave.” Herod. in Euterp., c. xxxv. Diodorus Siculus, lib. i., s. 8, and c. xxvii., asserts that “the men were the slaves of the women in Egypt, and that it is stipulated in the marriage contract that the woman shall be the ruler of her husband, and that he shall obey her in all things.” The same historian supposes that women had these high privileges among the Egyptians, to perpetuate the memory of the beneficent administration of Isis, who was afterwards deified among them. Nymphodorus, quoted by the ancient scholiast on the Oedipus Coloneus of Sophocles, accounts for these customs: he says that “Sesostris, finding the population of Egypt rapidly increasing, fearing that he should not be able to govern the people or keep them united under one head, obliged the men to assume the occupations of women, in order that they might be rendered effeminate.” Sophocles confirms the account given by Herodotus; speaking of Egypt he says: – “There the men stay in their houses weaving cloth, while the women transact all business out of doors, provide food for the family,” etc. It is on this passage that the scholiast cites Nymphodorus for the information given above, and which he says is found in the 13th chapter of his work “On the Customs of Barbarous Nations.” That the same custom prevailed among the Greeks we have the following proof from Apuleius: Ego vero quod primate ingressui stabulum conspicatus sum, accessi, et de Quadam Anu Caupona illico percontor. – Aletam. lib. i., p. 18, Edit. Bip. “Having entered into the first inn I met with, and there seeing a certain Old Woman, the Inn-Keeper, I inquired of her.”
It is very likely that women kept the places of public entertainment among the Philistines; and that it was with such a one, and not with a harlot, that Samson lodged; (see Jdg_16:1, etc.); for as this custom certainly did prevail among the Egyptians, of which we have the fullest proof above, we may naturally expect it to have prevailed also among the Canaanites and Philistines, as we find from Apuleius that it did afterwards among the Greeks. Besides there is more than presumptive proof that this custom obtained among the Israelites themselves, even in the most polished period of their history; for it is much more reasonable to suppose that the two women, who came to Solomon for judgment, relative to the dead child, (1Ki_3:16, etc), were inn-keepers, than that they were harlots. It is well known that common prostitutes, from their abandoned course of life, scarcely ever have children; and the laws were so strict against such in Israel, (Deu_23:18), that if these had been of that class it is not at all likely they would have dared to appear before Solomon. All these circumstances considered, I am fully satisfied that the term זונה zonah in the text, which we translate harlot, should be rendered tavern or inn-keeper, or hostess. The spies who were sent out on this occasion were undoubtedly the most confidential persons that Joshua had in his host; they went on an errand of the most weighty importance, and which involved the greatest consequences. The risk they ran of losing their lives in this enterprise was extreme. Is it therefore likely that persons who could not escape apprehension and death, without the miraculous interference of God, should in despite of that law which at this time must have been so well known unto them, go into a place where they might expect, not the blessing, but the curse, of God? Is it not therefore more likely that they went rather to an inn to lodge than to a brothel? But what completes in my judgment the evidence on this point is, that this very Rahab, whom we call a harlot, was actually married to Salmon, a Jewish prince, see Mat_1:5. And is it probable that a prince of Judah would have taken to wife such a person as our text represents Rahab to be?
It is granted that the Septuagint, who are followed by Heb_11:31, and Jam_2:25, translate the Hebrew זונה zonah by πορνη, which generally signifies a prostitute; but it is not absolutely evident that the Septuagint used the word in this sense. Every scholar knows that the Greek word πορνη comes from περναω, to sell, as this does from περαω, to pass from one to another; transire facio a me ad alterum; Damm. But may not this be spoken as well of the woman’s goods as of her person? In this sense the Chaldee Targum understood the term, and has therefore translated it אתתא פונדקיתא ittetha pundekitha, a woman, a Tavern-Keeper. That this is the true sense many eminent men are of opinion; and the preceding arguments render it at least very probable. To all this may be added, that as our blessed Lord came through the line of this woman, it cannot be a matter of little consequence to know what moral character she sustained; as an inn-keeper she might be respectable, if not honorable; as a public prostitute she could be neither; and it is not very likely that the providence of God would have suffered a person of such a notoriously bad character to enter into the sacred line of his genealogy. It is true that the cases of Tamar and Bathsheba may be thought sufficient to destroy this argument; but whoever considers these two cases maturely will see that they differ totally from that of Rahab, if we allow the word harlot to be legitimate. As to the objection that her husband is nowhere mentioned in the account here given; it appears to me to have little weight. She might have been either a single woman or a widow; and in either of these cases there could have been no mention of a husband; or if she even had a husband it is not likely he would have been mentioned on this occasion, as the secret seems to have been kept religiously between her and the spies. If she were a married woman her husband might be included in the general terms, all that she had, and all her kindred, Jos_6:23. But it is most likely that she was a single woman or a widow, who got her bread honestly by keeping a house of entertainment for strangers. See below.
1. The City of Jericho. As the Jordan River nears the Dead Sea, the river valley widens to a width of about 10 miles. On the western edge of this wide valley lies the ancient city of Jericho.
a. Strategic importance. Jericho is one of the oldest known cities in the world, its earliest ruins dated at 7,000 B.C. The military importance of this city is seen in that it stood at the crossroads of the Canaanite trade routes and controlled the door into central Palestine.
b. Physical description. There are two Jerichos – an original site during the Old Testament era and a different site in the New Testament era. The site of the Old Testament city is a mound rising up 50 feet above the surrounding bedrock of the southern Jordan valley (Jericho Isaiah 825 feet below sea level). It is located about 10 miles to the NNW of the mouth of the Dead Sea and directly west of fords which make it possible to cross the Jordan except during the rainy season. There is a natural spring known as Ain es-Sultan which originally attracted settlers to this site. This oasis gave the city its nickname, “City of Palm Trees.”
Jericho was surrounded by a double wall about 30 feet high. The outer wall was 6 feet thick; then came an open space of 15 feet, followed by the inner wall which was 12 feet thick. The city was fairly small (only 6 acres), but held a strategic position at the hub of four major roads radiating outward to Gerazim, Jerusalem, Hebron, and westward to the fords across the Jordan.
c. Archaeological digs have been conducted by… Austro-German archaeologists Ernst Sellin and Deutsche Orientgesellschaft from 1907-1909 and again in 1911. John Garstang from 1930-1936. He found scarabs of Hatshepsut, Thutmoses 3rd and Amenhotep 3rd in a cemetery at Jericho, indicating that the city was intact in the period from 1450 to 1400 B.C. (a scarab of Hatshepsut would have been especially rare), but none later. Garstang created quite a stir when he announced that he had discovered the walls of Jericho which had been knocked down by the Israelites.
The following history was outlined by Garstang for the city of Jericho:
1. UndesignatedNeolithic occupation (prior to 4500 B.C.). Already at this time the city was defended by a wall 12 feet high and 6 feet wide.
2. UndesignatedChalcolithic occupation saw a number of successive cities (4500-3000 B.C.).
3. City A Brick wall – Early Bronze Age – 3000 B.C.
4. City B Founded around 2500 B.C. -City grows to 12 acres. Destroyed in 1700 B.C.
5. City C Hyksos period. – Larger than its predecessors – 15 acres. High walls and a moat. Destroyed around 1500 B.C., presumably by pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty.
6. City D Constructed around 1500 B.C. Scarabs of Amenhotep 3rd (1413-1377 B.C.). Double wall system with a space of 12-15 feet between the walls. Walls were about 30 feet high. City only comprised about 6 acres. Evidence of violent destruction – outer wall has fallen down the slope.
7. City E Constructed in 860 B.C. (1Ki_16:34). The city was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.
The city was eventually abandoned and the New Testament city of the same name was built at a nearby location.
Kathleen Kenyon, director of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem from 1952-1958, had originally been a student of Garstang’s. She disagreed with the dates assigned by Garstang (her tendency was to deny any correlation between archaeology and the Bible). She established that arstang’s wall had in fact collapsed 1000 years earlier. She concluded that Jericho had been unoccupied in the Late Bronze Age. Bryant Wood, an archaeologist at the University of Toronto, re-investigated Kenyon’s final reports which had been published after her death in 1978. He confirmed her dating of the wall in question but rejected her conclusion for the dates of the final destruction of the city. He concluded that this final destruction had indeed taken place around 1400 B.C.
Hid then with the stalks of flax – It is a matter of little consequence whether we translate פסתי העיץ pistey haets stalks of flax, or stalks of hemp: the word עץ ets, which signifies wood, serves to show that whether it was hemp or flax, it was in its rough, unmanufactured state; and as this was about the season, viz., the end of March or the beginning of April, in which the flax is ripe in that country, consequently Rahab’s flax might have been recently pulled, and was now drying on the roof of her house. The reader may find some useful remarks upon this subject in Harmer’s Observations, vol. iv., p. 97, etc.
Upon the roof – We have already seen that all the houses in the east were made flat-roofed; for which a law is given Deu_22:8. On these flat roofs the Asiatics to this day walk, converse, and oftentimes even sleep and pass the night. It is probable that this hiding was after that referred to in the fourth verse.
Keil and Delitzsch
When the king of Jericho was informed of the fact that these strange men had entered the house of Rahab, and suspecting their reason for coming, summoned Rahab to give them up, she hid them (lit., hid him, i.e., each one of the spies: for this change from the plural to the singular see Ewald, §219), and said to the king’s messengers: כֵּן, recte, “It is quite correct, the men came to me, but I do not know where they were from; and when in the darkness the gate was at the shutting (i.e., ought to be shut: for this construction, see Gen_15:12), they went out again, I know not whither. Pursue them quickly, you will certainly overtake them.” The writer then adds this explanation in Jos_2:6 : she had hidden them upon the roof of her house among stalks of flax. The expression “to-night” (lit., the night) in Jos_2:2 is more precisely defined in Jos_2:5, viz., as night was coming on, before the town-gate was shut, after which it would have been in vain for them to attempt to leave the town. “Stalks of flax,” not “cotton pods” (Arab., J. D. Mich. ), or “tree-flax, i.e., cotton,” as Thenius explains it, but flax stalks or stalk-flax, as distinguished from carded flax, in which there is no wood left, λινοκαλάμη, stipula lini (lxx, Vulg.). Flax stalks, which grow to the height of three or four feet in Egypt, and attain the thickness of a reed, and would probably be quite as large in the plain of Jericho, the climate of which resembles that of Egypt, would form a very good hiding-place for the spies if they were piled up upon the roof to dry in the sun. The falsehood by which Rahab sought not only to avert all suspicion from herself of any conspiracy with the Israelitish men who had entered her house, but to prevent any further search for them in her house, and to frustrate the attempt to arrest them, is not to be justified as a lie of necessity told for a good purpose, nor, as Grotius maintains, by the unfounded assertion that, “before the preaching of the gospel, a salutary lie was not regarded as a fault even by good men.” Nor can it be shown that it was thought “allowable,” or even “praiseworthy,” simply because the writer mentions the fact without expressing any subjective opinion, or because, as we learn from what follows (Jos_2:9.), Rahab was convinced of the truth of the miracles which God had wrought for His people, and acted in firm faith that the true God would give the land of Canaan to the Israelites, and that all opposition made to them would be vain, and would be, in fact, rebellion against the Almighty God himself. For a lie is always a sin. Therefore even if Rahab was not actuated at all by the desire to save herself and her family from destruction, and the motive from which she acted had its roots in her faith in the living God (Heb_11:31), so that what she did for the spies, and thereby for the cause of the Lord, was counted to her for righteousness (“justified by works,” Jam_2:25), yet the course which she adopted was a sin of weakness, which was forgiven her in mercy because of her faith.
(Note: Calvin’s estimate is also a correct one: “It has often happened, that even when good men have endeavoured to keep a straight course, they have turned aside into circuitous paths. Rahab acted wrongly when she told a lie and said that the spies had gone; and the action was acceptable to God only because the evil that was mixed with the good was not imputed to her. Yet, although God wished the spies to be delivered, He did not sanction their being protected by a lie.” Augustine also pronounces the same opinion concerning Rahab as that which he expressed concerning the Hebrew midwives (see the comm. on Exo_1:21).)
Asleep. It seems as if the spies had been ignorant of the danger to which they had been just exposed, and had gone to the roof of the house with a design to pass the night in greater security. Rahab perceives, however, that it would be extremely rash for them to continue with her any longer, and therefore she gives them the best advice, to secure their safety by fleeing in the dead of the night, and without further delay. (Haydock)
I know that the Lord hath given you the land – It is likely she had this only from conjecture, having heard of their successes against the Amorites, their prodigious numbers, and seeing the state of terror and dismay to which the inhabitants of her own land were reduced.
Hath given. Rahab”s faith is shown by this expression. What God willed she regarded as already done. To speak of the future as of a past already fulfilled is the usual language of the Hebrew prophets. Faint, Literally, melt; cf. Exo_15:15, Exo_15:16, which is thus shown to be not poetic license, but sober fact. For we may take the future in the passage just cited as a present, and translate, “All the inhabitants of Canaan melt away; fear and dread are falling upon them”. (cf. Deu_2:25 Deu_11:25)
Keil and Delitzsch
Notwithstanding these precautions, the men escaped. As soon as the officers had left Rahab’s house, she went to the spies, who were concealed upon the roof, before they had lain down to sleep, which they were probably about to do upon the roof, – a thing of frequent occurrence in the East in summer time, – and confessed to them all that she believed and knew, namely, that God had given the land to the Israelites, and that the dread of them had fallen upon the Canaanites (“us,” in contrast with “you,” the Israelites, signifies the Canaanites generally, and not merely the inhabitants of Jericho), and despair had seized upon all the inhabitants of the land. The description of the despair of the Canaanites (Jos_2:9) is connected, so far as the expressions are concerned, with Exo_15:15 and Exo_15:16, to show that what Moses and the Israelites had sung after crossing the Red Sea was now fulfilled, that the Lord had fulfilled His promise (Exo_23:27 compared with Deu_2:25 and Deu_11:25), and had put fear and dread upon the Canaanites.
10.For we have heard how, etc. She mentions, as the special cause of consternation, that the wide-spread rumor of miracles, hitherto without example, had impressed it on the minds of all that God was warring for the Israelites. For it was impossible to doubt that the way through the Red Sea had been miraculously opened up, as the water would never have changed its nature and become piled up in solid heaps, had not God, the author of nature, so ordered. The transmutation of the element, therefore, plainly showed that God was on the side of the people, to whom he had given a dry passage through the depths of the sea.
The signal victories also gained over Og and Bashan, were justly regarded as testimonies of the divine favor towards the Israelites. This latter conclusion, indeed, rested only on conjecture, whereas the passage of the sea was a full and irrefragable proof, as much so as if God had stretched forth his hand from heaven. All minds, therefore, were seized with a conviction that in the expedition of the Israelitish people God was principal leader; hence their terror and consternation. At the same time, it is probable that they were deceived by some vain imagination that the God of Israel had proved superior in the contest to the gods of Egypt; just as the poets feign that every god has taken some nation or other under his protection, and wars with others, and that thus conflicts take place among the gods themselves while they are protecting their favorites.
But the faith of Rahab takes a higher flight, while to the God of Israel alone she ascribes supreme power and eternity. These are the true attributes of Jehovah. She does not dream, according to the vulgar notion, that some one, out of a crowd of deities, is giving his assistance to the Israelites, but she acknowledges that He whose favor they were known to possess is the true and only God. We see, then, how in a case where all received the same intelligence, she, in the application of it, went far beyond her countrymen.
Keil and Delitzsch
The report of the drying up of the Red Sea (Exo_14:15.), of the defeat of the mighty kings of the Amorites, and of the conquest of their kingdoms, had produced this effect upon the Canaanites. Even in the last of these occurrences the omnipotence of God had been visibly displayed, so that what the Lord foretold to Moses (Deu_2:25) had now taken place; it had filled all the surrounding nations with fear and dread of Israel, and the heart and courage of the Canaanites sank in consequence.
11.The Lord your God, he is God, etc. Here the image of Rahab’s faith appears, as if reflected in a mirror, when casting down all idols she ascribes the government of heaven and earth to the God of Israel alone. For it is perfectly clear that when heaven and earth are declared subject to the God of Israel, there is a repudiation of all the pagan fictions by which the majesty, and power, and glory of God are portioned out among different deities; and hence we see that it is not without cause that two Apostles have honored Rahab’s conduct with the title of faith This is sneered at by some proud and disdainful men, but I wish they would consider what it is to distinguish the one true God from all fictitious deities, and at the same time so to extol his power as to declare that the whole world is governed at his pleasure. Rahab does not speak hesitatingly, but declares, in absolute terms, that whatever power exists resides in the God of Israel alone, that he commands all the elements, that he orders all things above and below, and determines human affairs. Still I deny not that her faith was not fully developed, nay, I readily admit, that it was only a germ of piety which, as yet, would have been insufficient for her eternal salvation. We must hold, nevertheless, that however feeble and slender the knowledge of God which the woman possessed may have been, still in surrendering herself to his power, she gives a proof of her election, and that from that seed a faith was germinating which afterwards attained its full growth.
Melt. The word in the Hebrew is a different one to that used in ver. 9, but it has a precisely similar meaning. There seems no reason why the destruction of Sihon and Og should have inspired such terror into the hearts of the powerful Phoenician tribes. But the miracle of the drying up of the Red Sea was an event of quite another order, and eminently calculated to produce such feelings. Nothing but such an occurrence could have explained Rahab”s language, or the anxiety which the near approach of the armies of Israel inspired in those “cities, great and walled up to heaven,” with their inhabitants of giant-like stature and strength. Courage. Literally, spirit. The word jWr seems to have been used in the Hebrew in just the same senses as our word spirit, and it signified wind also. (see 1Ki_10:5)
For the Lord your God, he is God. Literally, for Jehovah your God. This declaration, bearing in mind the circumstances of the person who uttered it, is as remarkable as St. Peter”s, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” How Rahab attained to this knowledge of God”s name and attributes we do not know. It is certain, however, that under the circumstances her knowledge and spiritual insight are as surprising as any recorded in Scripture, and are sufficient to explain the honour in which her name has been held, both at the time and ever since. “I see here,” says Bp. Hall, “not only a disciple of God, but a prophetesse.” Keil argues that Rahab regards God only as one of the gods, and supposes that she had not entirely escaped from polytheism. But this view does not appear to be borne out by the form of her expressions. We should rather, in that case, have expected to find “he is among the gods,” than He is God, which is the only possible rendering of the Hebrew.
12.Now, therefore, I pray you, swear, etc. It is another manifestation of faith that she places the sons of Abraham in sure possession of the land of Canaan, founding on no other argument than her having heard that it was divinely promised to them. For she did not suppose that God was favoring lawless intruders who were forcing their way into the territories of others with unjust violence and uncurbed licentiousness, but rather concluded that they were coming into the land of Canaan, because God had assigned them the dominion of it. It cannot be believed that when they sought a passage from the Edomites and others, they said nothing as to whither they were going. Nay, those nations were acquainted with the promise which was made to Abraham, and the memory of which had been again renewed by the rejection of Esau.
Moreover, 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. She, moreover, exacts an oath, because often, in the storming of cities, the heat and tumult of the struggle shook off the remembrance of duty. In the same way she mentions the kindness she had shown to them, that gratitude might stimulate them the more to perform their promise. For although the obligation of the oath ought of itself to have been effectual, it would have been doubly base and inhumane not to show gratitude to a hostess to whom they owed deliverance. Rahab shows the kindliness of her disposition, in her anxiety about her parents and kindred. This is, indeed, natural; but many are so devoted to themselves, that children hesitate not to ransom their own lives by the death of their parents, instead of exerting courage and zeal to save them.
THE OATH OF THE SPIES.
Kindness. The original is perhaps a little stronger, and involves usually the idea of mercy and pity. This, however, is not always the ease. (see Gen_21:23 2Sa_10:2) “It had been an ill nature in Rahab if she had been content to be saved alone: that her love might be a match to her faith, she covenants for all her family, and so returns life to those of whom she received it,” (Bp. Hall). A true token. Literally, a token of truth. The construction is that in which the latter noun often stands in Hebrew for an adjective. Here, however, it would seem to be a little more, a token of truth a pledge, that is, of sincerity. Rahab wanted some guarantee that her life and the lives of her kindred would be saved. The bare word of the spies would not suffice, for how could she and her kindred be identified in the confusion attending the sack of the city? But if the spies would agree upon some sign by which she could be recognised, it would at once be a pledge that they intended to keep their word, and a means of protection in the approaching downfall of the city.
14.Our life for yours, etc. They imprecate death upon themselves, if they do not faithfully make it their business to save Rahab. For the interpretation adopted by some, We will pledge our lives, seems far-fetched, or too restricted, since their intention was simply to bind themselves before God. They constitute themselves, therefore, a kind of expiatory victims, if any evil befalls Rahab through their negligence. The expression, for yours, ought, doubtless, to be extended to the parents, brothers, and sisters. They therefore render their own lives liable in such a sense, that blood may be required of them, if the family of Rahab do not remain safe. And herein consists the sanctity of an oath, that though its violation may escape with impunity, so far as men are concerned, yet God having been interposed as a witness, will take account of the perfidy. In Hebrew, to do mercy and truth, is equivalent to performing the office of humanity faithfully, sincerely, and firmly.
A condition, however, is inserted, — provided Rahab do not divulge what they have said. This was inserted, not on account of distrust, as is usually expounded, but only to put Rahab more upon her guard, on her own account. The warning, therefore, was given in good faith, and flowed from pure good will: for there was a danger that Rahab might betray herself by a disclosure. In one word, they show how important it is that the matter should remain, as it were, buried, lest the woman, by inconsiderately talking of the compact, might expose herself to capital punishment. In this they show that they were sincerely anxious for her safety, since they thus early caution her against doing anything which might put it out of their power to render her a service. In further distinctly stipulating, that no one should go out of the house, or otherwise they should be held blameless, we may draw the important inference, that in making oaths soberness should be carefully attended to, that we may not profane the name of God by making futile promises on any subject.
The advice of Rahab, to turn aside into the mountain, and there remain quiet for three days, shows that there is no repugnance between faith and the precautions which provide against manifest dangers. There is no doubt that the messengers crept off to the mountain in great fear, and yet that confidence which they had conceived, from the remarkable interference of God in their behalf, directed their steps, and did not allow them to lose their presence of mind.
Some have raised the question, whether, seeing it is criminal to overleap walls, it could be lawful to get out of the city by a window? But it ought to be observed, first, that the walls of cities were not everywhere sacred, because every city had not a Romulus, who could make the overleaping a pretext for slaying his brother; and secondly, That law, as Cicero reminds us, was to be tempered by equity, inasmuch as he who should climb a wall for the purpose of repelling an enemy, would be more deserving of reward than punishment. The end of the law is to make the citizens secure by the protection of the walls. He, therefore, who should climb over the walls, neither from contempt nor petulance, nor fraud, nor in a tumultuous manner, but under the pressure of necessity, could not justly on that account be charged with a capital offence. Should it be objected that the thing was of bad example, I admit it; but when the object is to rescue one’s life from injury, violence, or robbery, provided it be done without offence or harm to any one, necessity excuses it. It cannot be charged upon Paul as a crime, that when in danger of his life at Damascus, he was let down by a basket, seeing he was divinely permitted to escape, without tumult, from the violence and cruelty of wicked men.
Keil and Delitzsch
After this confession Rahab entreated the spies to spare her family (father’s house), and made them promise her on oath as a sign of their fidelity, that on the capture of Jericho, which is tacitly assumed as self-evident after what had gone before, they would save alive her parents, and brothers and sisters, and all that belonged to them (i.e., according to Jos_6:23, the children and families of her brothers and sisters), and not put them to death; all of which they promised her on oath. “A true token,” lit. a sign of truth, i.e., a sign by which they guaranteed the truth of the kindness for which she asked. This sign consisted in nothing but the solemn oath with which they were to confirm their assurance, and, according to Jos_2:14, actually did confirm it. The oath itself was taken in these words, “our soul shall die for you,” by which they pledged their life for the life of Rahab and her family in this sense: God shall punish us with death if we are faithless, and do not spare thy life and the lives of thy relations. Though the name of God is not really expressed, it was implied in the fact that the words are described as swearing by Jehovah. But the spies couple their assurance with this condition, “if ye utter not this our business,” do not betray us, sc., so that we should be pursued, and our life endangered; “then will we show thee mercy and truth” (cf. Gen_24:27).
Then she let them down by a cord etc. – The natural place of this verse is after the first clause of Jos_2:21; for it is certain that she did not let them down in the basket till all those circumstances marked from Jos_2:16-20 inclusive had taken place.
She dwelt upon the wall – That is, either the wall of the city made a part of her house or her house was built close to the wall, so that the top or battlements of it were above the wall with a window that looked out to the country. As the city gates were now shut there was no way for the spies to escape but through this window; and in order to this she let them down through the window in a basket suspended by a cord, till they reached the ground on the outside of the wall.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
her house was upon the town wall — In many Oriental cities houses are built on the walls with overhanging windows; in others the town wall forms the back wall of the house, so that the window opens into the country. Rahab’s was probably of this latter description, and the cord or rope sufficiently strong to bear the weight of a man.
22.But Joshua had said unto the two men, etc The good faith of Joshua in keeping promises, and his general integrity, are apparent in the anxious care here taken. But as the whole city had been placed under anathema, a question might be raised as to this exception of one family. No mortal man was at liberty to make any change on the decision of God. Still as it was only by the suggestion of the Spirit that Rahab had bargained for her impunity, I conclude that Joshua, in preserving her, did only what was considerate and prudent.
We may add, that the messengers were not yet under any contrary obligation, as the complete destruction of the city had not been declared. It is true, they had heard in general, that all those nations were to be destroyed, but they were still at liberty to make a compact with a single woman, who had voluntarily abandoned her countrymen. But we shall afterwards meet with a far easier solution, namely, that while the Israelites, by the divine command, exhorted all whom they attacked, to surrender, by holding out the hope of pardon, the blinded nations obstinately refused the peace thus offered, because God had decreed to destroy all of them. But while all, in general, were hardened to their destruction, it follows that Rahab was exempted by special privilege, and might escape in safety, while the others perished. Joshua, therefore, judged wisely, that a woman who had voluntarily gone over to the Church, was rescued thus early, not without the special grace of God. The case of the father and the whole family is, indeed, different, but seeing they all spontaneously abjure their former state, they confirm the stipulation which Rahab had made for their safety, by the promptitude of their obedience.
Moreover, let us learn from the example of Joshua, that we do not sufficiently attest our probity, by refraining from violating our promise intentionally and of set purpose, unless we also diligently exert ourselves to secure its performance. He not only allows Rahab to be delivered by her guests, but is careful to guard against her sustaining any injury in the first tumult; and to make the messengers more diligent in performing their office, he reminds them that they had promised with the intervention of an oath.
23.And the young men that were spies went in, etc God, doubtless, wished those to be safe, whose minds he thus inclined to embrace deliverance. Had it been otherwise, they would have rejected it not less proudly, and with no less scorn than the two sons-in-law of Lot. But a still better provision is made for them, when, by being placed without the camp, they receive a strict injunction to abandon their former course of life. For had they been immediately admitted and allowed to mix indiscriminately with the people, the thought of their impurity might never, perhaps, have occurred to them, and they might thus have continued to indulge in it. Now when they are placed apart, that they may not, by their infection, taint the flock, they are impressed with a feeling of shame, which may urge them to serious conversion.
It cannot be meant that they were thus set apart for safety, lest any one in the crowd might have risen up violently against them: for they would have been received by all with the greatest favor and gladness, whereas they might have been attacked in a solitary place more easily, and even with impunity. Their impurity, therefore, was brought visibly before them, that they might not while polluted come rashly forward into the holy meeting, but rather might be accustomed by this rudimentary training to change their mode of life. For it is added shortly after, that they dwelt in the midst of the people; in other words, having been purged from their defilement’s, they began to be regarded in the very same light as if they had originally belonged to the race of Abraham. In short, the meaning is, that after they had made a confession of their previous impurity, they were admitted indiscriminately along with others. By this admission, Rahab gained one of the noblest fruits of her faith.
Brought out Rahab, and her father, etc. – Rahab having been faithful to her vow of secrecy, the Israelites were bound by the oath of the spies, who acted as their representatives in this business, to preserve her and her family alive.
And left them without the camp – They were considered as persons unclean, and consequently left without the camp; (see Lev_13:46; Num_12:14). When they had abjured heathenism, were purified, and the males had received circumcision, they were doubtless admitted into the camp, and became incorporated with Israel.