Joshua 1:1-2 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them.
The book of Joshua was written around 1375 BC. Although anonymous, some of it probably came from Joshua himself. The author recounts how, with God’s help, Joshua completed Moses’ ministry by leading God’s people into the Promised Land.
Joshua was likely a slave in Egypt, who witnessed the plagues, and followed Moses through the Red Sea. That generation died in the wilderness, but due to their faith, Joshua and Caleb survived and entered the Promised Land.
Joshua 1:8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
It was not enough for Joshua to be a military genius; he had to be a student of God’s word. The promise of success was based on obedience, which required daily study. This was also God’s will for the future kings of Israel. When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law . . . . It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life (Deuteronomy 17:18-19), wrote Moses.
When Israel’s kings departed from God’s law, they lost their right to rule God’s kingdom. The reason Jesus is qualified to be the King of kings (Revelation 19:16) is because he perfectly kept God’s word. Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4), he said.
Joshua 2:1 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.
We are not told why the spies went to the house of a prostitute, but there are at least three possible reasons. First, men going to the house of a prostitute was not likely to raise suspicion. Second, a prostitute might be a good source of information due to her various clients. And third, since good hotels were scarce, some prostitutes also provided lodging.
Joshua 2:2-3 The king of Jericho was told, Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land. 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.
Jericho was a city-state, and the king perceived the Israelites to be a serious threat. When he learned that Rahab was harboring two of them, he commanded her to turn them in. If a king commands you to turn in a couple spies, you either cooperate or become guilty of treason. You either save your life or lose it.
But sometimes saving your life is losing it, and losing your life is saving it. Rahab could have saved her life for a little while by turning over the spies, or saved it forever by putting her trust in God. That’s how it is with Christ. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it (Mark 8:35), said Jesus.
Joshua 2:4-5 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. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I do not know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.
It is a little surprising that the king’s men trusted the word of a prostitute, but she was able to convince them. In fact, the spies were hiding under stalks of flax on Rahab’s roof (Joshua 2:6). Flax was used for making linen, and was often dried on rooftops. Details like this add credibility to the story, and draw the reader in.
Joshua 2:7 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.
This gave Rahab the time she needed to talk to the spies at length. She told them that fear had fallen on Jericho. They knew that God had parted the Red Sea for the Israelites, and defeated kings for them (Numbers 21:21-35). This would be helpful information for Joshua, since few things are more important to the outcome of war than morale. It also fulfilled God’s word through Moses: the people of Canaan will melt away; terror and dread will fall on them (Exodus 15:15-16).
Rahab also made a profession of faith in God. [F]or the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below (Joshua 2:11), she said. We do not know how she came to this conclusion, but she clearly believed in God, since she was now on the side of Israel. When Rahab heard about the God who delivered his people from slavery, she probably longed to be his. She may have even prayed that God would let her change sides. So when the opportunity came, she took it.
Like Rahab, our first allegiance is no longer to the kingdom of this world, but to the kingdom of God. We too foresee the day when The kingdom of the world [will] become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah (Revelation 11:15), wrote John. Like Rahab, we commit treason against the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4) by giving our allegiance to Christ. In these and other ways, Rahab models the Christian life.
Joshua 2:12 Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you.
The spies agreed to spare Rahab and her family. This is a little surprising in light of an earlier command given by God through Moses. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy (Deuteronomy 7:2). But upon her profession of faith, this is precisely what they did.
The division between Israelite and non-Israelite was less about ethnicity than allegiance to God. This is why Paul called the church the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). A true Israelite is not someone with Abraham’s DNA, but with Abraham’s faith (Galatians 3:7). Because she believed in the God of Abraham, Rahab was allowed to live.
Joshua 2:21 So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
The scarlet cord was a prearranged sign that would identify Rahab’s house to Israel’s army. Everyone else in the city would be destroyed, but the soldiers were to spare the house with the scarlet cord in the window.
A scarlet cord was probably used because Rahab had one, and because it could be seen. It would later remind the Israelites of their escape from Egypt. They were saved by the scarlet blood of a Passover lamb (Exodus 12:1-30). And Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7), wrote Paul. Scarlet is the color of blood, and we are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Rahab is also mentioned three times in the New Testament: once for her faith (Hebrews 11:31), once for her works (James 2:25), and once in the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5). The woman who started out as a Canaanite prostitute became part of God’s people, and a great-great-grandmother of the Savior of the world. It is truly remarkable what God can do for ordinary people who put their trust in him.
Reflection and Review
Why did God want the kings of Israel to know his word?
How does Rahab model the Christian life?
Why was Rahab allowed to live?