The Word Made Fresh
1Joshua secretly sent two men from Shittim, and told them, “Go spy out the land, especially around Jericho.” They went to Jericho and spent the night at Rahab’s, a local prostitute. 2Someone told the king of Jericho that some Israelites had come to spy on them, 3and he ordered Rahab to bring the men out. “They’re spies!” he said. 4But she hid the men and sent an answer to the king, saying, “Yes, the men did come here, but I don’t know where they’re from, 5and they left when it was time to close the city gate at dark. I don’t know where they went. If you hurry after them, you should be able to catch them.” 6But she had hidden them on her roof with flax stalks she had laid out. 7The king’s men searched for them all the way to the Jordan River crossing, and as soon as they left, the city the gate was closed.
8She went up to the roof before the men had bedded down for the night. 9“I know the LORD has given you the land,” she said. “Everybody around here is afraid of you. 10We have heard the story of how the LORD dried up the Red Sea to help you escape Egypt, and we heard how you soundly defeated the Amorite kings, Sihon and Og. 11When we heard that, everyone here lost heart and is scared to death of you. It is obvious to us that the LORD your God truly is the God of heaven and earth. 12Now, since I have been kind to you, promise me by the LORD your God that you will be kind to my family. Give me some assurance in good faith 13that you will spare my parents and my brothers and sisters and their families and protect our lives.”
14The men replied, “You have spared our lives; we will spare yours. If you promise not to tell them why we came here, then we will protect you as you protected us when the LORD gives us this territory.”
15Then she let them escape with a rope hung through her window; her house was connected to the city wall, and she let them down outside the city. 16She said, “Go up into the hills away from the men who are searching for you toward the river. Stay hidden up there for three days. They will have returned by then and you’ll be able to go on your way.”
17The men said to her, “We can’t keep the promise we’ve made to you 18when we invade the land, unless you tie a crimson cord in the window you lowered us down from. And you must bring your parents and siblings and their families here to your house. 19If any of them leave this house and go into the streets they will be responsible for what happens to them and we will be innocent. If anything happens to anyone with you in this house, we will bear the responsibility if they are killed. 20But if you tell anyone what we’re planning, we will be released from this agreement.”
21“Of course,” she said. “I agree to those terms.” She sent them away then and they escaped the city, and she tied the crimson cord in the window.
22The men escaped into the hills and stayed there for three days until their pursuers returned to Jericho. They had searched all along the way from the city to the river and found nothing. 23The men came down from the hills then and crossed back over the river and told Joshua everything that had happened. 24“Obviously, the LORD has given the whole territory to us,” they said. “Everybody over there is mortally afraid of us.”
1-7: Joshua sends two spies to Jericho. They wind up at Rahab’s, a popular local night spot, perhaps, but scholars don’t all agree that she was a prostitute. The word used about her here could simply mean something as innocent as “innkeeper.” Still, it does introduce a bit of humor that these two fellows should think this was the place to find out what they were sent to learn. Rahab hides them from the local authorities.
8-14: It has long been recognized as a useful military strategy to strike fear into the heart of your enemy before the battle begins. Here, God has done that for them. Word has reached Jericho about the Israelites and the way God has protected them.
15-21: The two spies offer a deal with Rahab: if she keeps quiet about them, and ties a red cord in her window, they will see to it that she and her family are spared when the siege begins. She agrees, of course, and in chapter 6 we’ll see that the Israelites keep their end of the deal.
22-24: The words of Rahab have convinced the spies that the land is ripe for the taking because the people are already afraid of them.
The passing of three days might be a metaphor for the new chapter that is about to begin in the life of the people of Israel. When we struggle with difficult decisions, praying for God’s help and then waiting for three days is not a bad approach. Oftentimes when we pray for help, God gives us help from unforeseen sources — but give God a little time to get things arranged!