Read Joshua 2
Rahab and the Spies
1 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.
2 The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” 3 So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.”
4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. 5 At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” 6 (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) 7 So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.
8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.10 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 Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.
12 “Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign 13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.”
14 “Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.”
15 So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. 16 She said to them, “Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.”
17 Now the men had said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us 18 unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. 19 If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them. 20 But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.”
21 “Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.”
So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
22 When they left, they went into the hills and stayed there three days, until the pursuers had searched all along the road and returned without finding them. 23 Then the two men started back. They went down out of the hills, forded the river and came to Joshua son of Nun and told him everything that had happened to them. 24 They said to Joshua, “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.”
Joshua chapter two begins with a secret mission. Two spies commissioned by Joshua to accomplish two things: stay safe and get a lay of the land, specifically Jericho. Think about this scene for a minute. Joshua, a spy himself, sending out two spies. He knew what he was asking of them. He knew what courage and strength would be required. Never underestimate God’s plan to use our history and experiences to encourage and equip others. Joshua was uniquely qualified to instruct these two men.
Even though Rahab is a Canaanite prostitute, she fears YHWH, the One true God. She’s heard stories of His deliverance, power, and mercy and expresses a real, personal faith and knowledge of God. Rahab is confronted with two sinful options: lying or contributing to the execution of God’s representatives. She chooses the option that would bring the most glory to God—protecting His people. She hides the spies and saves their lives and makes an agreement with them that they will, in turn, spare her and her family on the day of battle.
This woman’s background and significance in God’s Kingdom plan cannot be overstated. The whole outcome of the spies’ mission hinges on the action of a woman, and not just any woman, but a prostitute. A traitor to her people. An outsider. A foreigner to the Hebrews. Yet, she’s praised twice in Scripture for living out her faith and is a link in the genealogy of Jesus.
Her story provides hope to us all. Throughout Scripture Rahab is repeatedly identified by her occupation as prostitute (even in the New Testament). Repetition is important. God wants us to know that no matter how wretched our past, He can do great things through anyone who repents and believes in Him through faith. God is always willing to spare the repentant—the one who surrenders their life to Him. He delights in delivering and using the disregarded, the downcast, and the disgraced.
- What do you learn about the character of God in this passage?
- What do you learn from Rahab? What do you learn from the spies?
- How do you apply what you observe and learn in Joshua 2 to your life?
Did You Know?
Over the years archaeologists have uncovered houses from within the ruined walls of Jericho. The scarlet cord that Rahab hung outside of her house would have been such a contrast in color that it would have made it easy for the Israelites to spot.