Welcoming the Spies

Welcoming the Spies

An Examination of Joshua 2:1-14

The Biblical text is a curious thing. Attempts to define it narrowly are met with so many counter-examples as to make the attempt fairly meaningless. From beginning to end we are given a amalgamation of stories, rules, examples, and declarations of such complexity that many simply throw up their hands in defeat in attempting to understand the material as a whole. Yet it is this complexity which ultimately defines that which we claim to profess. In the complexity is order, yet an order more complicated than we can imagine, or indeed may even desire. But that is what we have been given and called to know.

This complexity must be dealt with, not in a way which seeks to reduce or manage the intricacy of the text through critical erosion or dogmatic rationalization, but rather in a way which seeks to understand the true broadness of the covenantal relationship which YHWH initiated with humanity. The dangers of misinterpreting, or misappropriating, the Biblical narrative can be seen no more clearly than in the history of the interpretation of the foundation of Israel.

This is a task which even to this day is as much a political question as it is an historical or literary question, making the task not simply an academic exercise, but indeed a task of ultimate import. It is the goal of this brief paper to explore a specific narrative in more detail, namely Joshua 2:1-14, hoping to understand the complexity and importance of the initial foray of the Israelite people into the land which was occupied, but promised to them.   I also will seek to explore some broader themes of God’s nature, interaction, and expectations which lay at the heart of how he deals with humanity, even to this day.

The first book of the Hebrew Bible relates the story of the foundations of the Jewish people, beginning with the very beginning and proceeding to tell the tale of the Patriarch’s and the establishment of the people in the land of Egypt. Between the first and the second book, however, many years pass in which a favored people decline into a slave class. The second through the fourth books tell the tale of the release of the people from bondage, and indeed the establishment of their identity as ones united by the very call and action of God. Their journey brought them through the sea itself to the land of what was then known as Canaan.  On their first approach their hearts were not confident enough to claim that which God told them was theirs, and they were turned back into the wilderness. [1] After another forty years they returned, fought those who lived east of the Jordan River, and found decisive victory. Archaeological evidence seems to indicate that a time of destruction of Canaanite cities began in the late 13th century BCE, and while there is not specific evidence to tie this destruction with the invasion of the Israelites the cities excavated match many of those mentioned in the tales of the Israelite conquest. [2] It is on the banks of the Jordan river that the narrative of Joshua 2 is located


2:1 And Joshua, Son of Nun, sent two men secretly as spies from Shittim saying, “Go, see the land and Jericho.” So they went, and they came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab, and there they slept. 2It was told to the king of Jericho, “Behold, men have come hither tonight from the children [3] of Israel to explore [4] the land.” 3And the king of Jericho sent a message to Rahab [5] saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who came to your house, for they came to search out all the land.  4But the woman took the two men and hid them, [6] and she said, “Correct, the men came to me, but I did not know from whence they came. 5When the time came to close the gate at dusk the men left.  I do not know where the men went.  Chase quickly after them, for you can overtake them.” 6(She herself had taken the men up to the roof and hid them among gathered flax which had been arranged for her on the roof). 7And the men pursued after them on the road by the Jordan to the fords, and they shut the gate after the ones who pursued went out after them. 8But before they went to sleep she went up to them on the roof 9and she said to the men, “I know that YHWH gives the land to you all, and that terror [7] of you all has fallen on us, and that all of the inhabitants of the land are helpless before you. 10For we have heard that YHWH dried up the water of the sea of reeds before you all when you came out from Egypt and what you all did to the two kings of the Amorites who were in the region across from the Jordan, to Sihon and to Og, who you exterminated. 11We heard it and our hearts grew fearful and the spirit of all of us rose up no more. For YHWH your god is God in the heavens above and on the earth below. 12And now, I pray, swear to me by YHWH that since I did a kindness for you, you also will do a kindness for the house of my father, and you will give to me a sign of faithfulness, 13and you will let my father, mother, brothers and sisters live, as well as all who belong to them, and you will deliver our lives from death.” 14And the men said to her, “Our lives in return for yours from death. If you do not make known our affairs this also will come to pass when YHWH gives us the land, and we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.”


v.1 The beginning of this text is introduced in a way which seems to indicate its being a self-contained oral tale at one point. The person of Joshua was very clearly introduced in prior passages, yet here he is once again more formally referred to as the “son of Nun.”   This, and other aspects of the narrative, seems to indicate that at its core this passage was at one time an oral tale, part of the told history of the people. More specifically, this tale falls into a possible genre called a “spy narrative”. [8] Following what appears to be a general form, this type of narrative shows is clearly one of dramatic presentation showing the wisdom and courage of the heroes, the bumbling of the enemies, and the special protection by God. Joshua, the successor to Moses, and the new representative of God for the people, sends two unnamed spies from Shittim to explore the land, and more specifically to look at the city of Jericho. [9]

The place of Shittim is worthwhile to note. Located, probably, immediately east of the Jordan, and just north of the Dead sea it was a key location in the history of the pre-invasion of Israel. It is likely that it can be identified with the Abel-Shittim of Numbers 25, with the longer name here meaning the brook, or stream, of the Acacias. [10] For a people long in the wilderness, a forest of trees among the hills would certainly be a welcome place of rest and abundance, an effective spot from which to restore supplies and make preparations, as well as a hidden location. The specific identity of this spot is now up for debate. The Tell el-Kefrein is the generally accepted modern location, with its placement overlooking the plains of Moab, about six miles north of the Dead Sea and east of the Jordan. [11] Other scholars, though, prefer the larger site of Tell el-Hammam, the Abila mentioned in Josephus located two miles farther east, as more likely.   Both contain evidence of Iron Age occupation, with el-Hammam, however, also showing signs of the presence of fortresses indicating its one-time strategic value. [12]

Shittim is a spot of great importance in the history of Israel. In Numbers 25 we read that while they were there the people of Israel began to have sexual relationships [13] with the Moabites, leading to the people being drawn into the cultic activities of their neighbors, sacrificing to the “Baal of Peor.” God sent a plague upon the people for their improper behavior, only stopped after the zealousness of Phinehas violently punished some overbold violators. [14] Because of their role as tempters, God orders the destruction of the Midianites, which Israel carried out from their base at Shittim. This spot was also the location of a census of all men of military age, for the purposes of an army as well as to apportion the land allotments. [15] Moses passed the mantle of leadership over to Joshua, and gave his final speech here. [16] Shittim was a place of major transition in many ways for the people of Israel.

In sending his spies across the Jordan river, Joshua was making preparations for a new chapter in the history of the Israelites. While they had been victors east of the Jordan, the establishment of the people on the west was what had been promised to them by YHWH. There are difficulties, however, in determining what it was exactly that Joshua’s spies saw. The city of Jericho is located 825ft below sea level, making it the lowest city on earth, just east of the mountains of Judea. It is now generally identified with the Tell es-Sultan, 16km northwest of the mouth of the Jordan, about 2km northwest of the modern city. [17]

The dryness of being located just east of a mountain range is mitigated by the location of a spring at the location, now called Ain es-Sultan, as well as the nearby spring Ain Duq, which creates a fertile oasis of the area. While the location of Jericho is quite clear, the archeology seems to indicate that there was not a settlement, or at least not a major settlement during the late 13th century. The repeated occupation, destruction, and heavy erosion of the site, however, makes preciseness very difficult. As Bright writes, “In view of the incompleteness of the evidence, one is forced to suspend judgment.” [18] It may be that the tale is referring to a different site, or that the location was a smaller settlement, with a petty king and hastily built walls, which is now completely eroded away. [19]

The specifics of the terrain and city were not, however, the focus of the narrative. We are not told anything about the mission of the spies in their gathering of information. Rather we are told that having come to the city the spies met a prostitute named Rahab, and went to her home. The word for prostitute here, hnwz, implies improper sexual intercourse. [20] The more common usage, however, of the word is metaphorical, as an image of idolatry by the people of Israel, lusting after and committing fornication with other gods. [21] In the participle form, one who commits fornication, then indicates and is properly translated as prostitute in this text, an occupation clearly not sanctioned by the Law. [22] In thinking of this tale as an oral story it is not unlikely that the concept of the spies spending the night at the house of a prostitute was meant to add a little “spice” to the story. [23] Some, more prurient minded, scholars advocate the idea that indeed the spies did in fact stay with Rahab for the purpose of her “services”, but the text does not seem to make this a preferred inference.

The wording, though giving an impression, seems to purposely stay away from indicating any sexual relationship. The spies were not said to sleep “with” Rahab, and given the decidedly non-Victorian tendencies of the Biblical text, if this was a proper interpretation the text would be certainly more clear on the matter. Instead if one looks at the narrative from the perspective of the spies wanting to stay anonymous, their staying at the house of a prostitute makes clear, strategic, sense. What more likely place would travelers from the wilderness likely go to upon arrival in a city? Indeed, strategically thinking again, a prostitute may have insight into the city which would reveal not only the physical aspects, but also may have insight into the minds of leaders and important citizens, while not having a vested interest in the status quo. This is all conjecture of course, we are not told how or why the spies decided to attach themselves to Rahab.

v.2 The intention of the spies to stay anonymous, however, was not successful. In some way the King heard about the presence and mission of the spies from Israel, and was justifiably nervous. As was mentioned, the information about Jericho at this time is so scarce it is impossible to determine anything about this unnamed king, or any of the politics of the city. By leaving him unnamed, the text itself indicates his unimportance for both the narrative, and probably in history. This and the next verse are the only ones in which the king is mentioned. Even in chapter 6 when the army is capturing the city, the king makes no appearance.

v.3       The king sends for Rahab to bring out the men who have come to her home. Apparently, the king’s intelligence knew that the spies had arrived, and where they went, but little else. The king seems to understand, however, their fuller mission, of which spying out Jericho was only a part, realizing that, as Boling puts it, “Far more was at stake than the great Jordan valley oasis alone.” [24] If the king could halt or destroy the Israelites his own acclaim, and indeed survival, could be assured.

v.4, 5    This seems to be an awkward addition if the text is understood as simple history. If understood as an oral narrative, however, the location of this information here adds drama to the tale. The king’s men had come and asked about the men who we are told are at Rahab’s, but only after the conversation starts does the narrator tells us that Rahab had taken the men and hidden them. While the grammar could imply that she hid the men after the guards had begun the conversation, the translation of the verb as a pluperfect, “had taken” seems more justified. [25] Rahab had presence of mind to hide the men before the guards came, thus avoiding raising suspicion. The response of the men in v. 7 seems to indicate no suspicion was raised.

Her response to the guards raises an interesting question: Did she lie?  Of course this is not a terribly large issue for those who see this merely as a narrative of an ancient people, but for those of faith, viewing the text more profoundly, the idea of a woman commended for her righteousness telling a lie is troublesome. Calvin wrote:

As to the falsehood, we must admit that though it was done for a good purpose, it was not free from fault.  For those who hold what is called a dutiful lie as altogether excusable, do not sufficiently consider how precious truth is in the sight of God.. Rahab… does wrong when she falsely declares that the messengers were gone, and yet the principal action was agreeable to God because the bad mixed up with the good was not imputed. On the whole, it was the will of God that the spies should be delivered, but he did not approve saving their life by falsehood. [26]

While many other writers agree with the sentiments expressed by Calvin, the simple fact of the matter is that there is never, ever, any mention of this lie as being morally deficient. [27] This has led some to attempt to get around the fact that Rahab said something to the men other than what was true. [28] Clearly the text does not support lying in general, but the presence of this accepted instance simply indicates the complicated structure of Scripture, which does not hold very cleanly to our clear lines of “do’s and don’ts.” The measure of true righteousness is something more profound.

Cities of course were places of refuge, so the shutting of the gates at night was a common practice in order to maintain security and keep watch on the comings and goings of visitors. Though some commentators find an implied divine assistance in the narrative, [29] Rahab’s story was plausible, spies would not want to generally be caught in the city overnight, especially if they were afraid that their mission had been revealed.

v.6, 7 She had hidden the spies among the stalks of flax which had been gathered and placed for her upon her roof. [30] Flax was a stalky plant used to make linen. It was one of the earliest textile plants, and would grow up to 1m tall, with beautiful blue flowers. [31] Boling argues that this probably was not cultivated flax, but a wild variety whose scarcity would indicate its price, as well as the rare chance that the spies would be able to hide among it. [32]

The king’s men listened to Rahab and pursued the two spies outside the town. The gate was, of course, shut behind them. Though some see a comic element in the narrative of bumbling aides and a nervous king outwitted by a prostitute [33] the indication is more of one of genuine, and realistic, fear by those in Jericho. The gate was shut quickly behind the pursuers, [34] because it was night, and because they knew a victorious army was on the other side of the river, an army which had utterly destroyed major cities already and seemed likely to do so again. The men traveled up the road along the Jordan to where the river could be forded. This may have been a ways away, as Joshua 3:15 notes it was the time of year when the Jordan typically overflowed its banks.

v.8, 9 After the commotion had passed Rahab went up to the roof to talk to the two men. She had risked her own life for them and now wanted to make her position more clear.

While it could be said that this statement as a whole was a later addition, especially in its similarity with other Deuteronomistic statements, [35] it need not be the case that this is an artificial claim. Rather, it is likely that in the eighty years of their travels, the story of Israel had been passed on. Certainly, their recent military exploits would have been looked on with great interest and wariness by those in the land. Looking beyond simply textual criticism, this statement indicates both probable knowledge given the political and economic climate, [36] and probable understanding by Rahab given her response to aid the Israelites. She knew the fear in the city, and rather than striking out against it, she sought to join in with what she knew was the winning side. It is common to seek to see Rahab’s aid as somehow being an aspect of her place in society, and her willingness to join in any attempt to overthrow the status quo. [37] We are not, however, given motives but rather a declaration.

Rahab declares that she knows that God has given the land to the Israelites. She knows, from her own interaction and experience, that everyone is filled with terror, and are indeed “melting” before them. The word gwm literally implies a washing away, or melting. The image here is that of a solid turned to a liquid, that of a whole being broken down. This word, however, is primarily used in the Hebrew text as metaphorical, though the idea of a real “flow” or melting” is at the core of its meaning. It signifies the solid heart or courage of a person or people being “melted”, dissolving and breaking down, oftentimes in the face of God, [38] or a force of nature. [39] The narrative of the conquest it seems reveals that the loss of courage, and the melting of the heart of the enemy is one of the primary works of God in clearing the land. [40] Though the falling down of the walls of Jericho in chapter six is the more widely reported miracle, the melting of hearts before his people seems to be God’s general mode of activity. [41] Courage is the work of God in the midst of his people.

v.10, 11 The news of the Israelites and what they had done, and had done for them, was the source of the terror in Jericho. This includes the story of their crossing the Sea of Reeds, often translated as the Red Sea, but probably signifying not the larger body of water we now recognize, but a smaller part, maybe the Gulf of Aqabah. [42] In this, their god can be seen as the God of nature. Rahab also makes reference to the defeat of Sihon and Og. [43] Here the will of God was shown to be overwhelming, the defeat of these two kings showed that attempts to intervene in the plans for the Israelites would be met with destruction. Thus not only were these great military victories, they were, most probably, understood as indicating the power which the Israelite God held over everything else, including the gods of the Amorites, Bashanites, and Moabites. Essentially, Rahab recited God’s part of the covenant. [44]

The word commonly translated as “utterly destroyed”, Mrj, is a bit more complex than the translation indicates. The word basically means “devoted” to YHWH. Essentially anything “devoted” as such becomes wholly and irrevocably the personal property of God, and thus is holy as such, no longer available for use by humanity. These things, or people, oftentimes are then utterly destroyed if not specifically used by God.  Their sacred quality may entail their destruction. God claimed the “holy land” for his people, thus those in the land which were not his “chosen” were removed from existence. [45] He is making a special claim upon the people or things and requires his people to follow the dictates of these claims. Rahab understands this apparently, and is seeking to be included among those “chosen” who are useful. She is under the Mrj already, so her goal is to become included within the covenantal community that acknowledges YHWH. [46]

What is a common refrain of covenantal language, so common in fact that most commentators see this as a late addition, comes from the mouth of a prostitute. Earlier in their time at Shittim, the Israelites prostituted themselves physically and spiritually, forsaking the covenant relationship to participate in unlawful activity. Here, however, we find one who professionally is a prostitute, yet turns from her profession and loyalty to the Canaanite people and religions, and claims the words of the covenant. The Chosen people turn away from God, while the rejected turn towards YHWH. This is revealed to be a common theme throughout salvation history. [47] Thus the story of Numbers 25 is reversed, leading to the salvation and victory of Israel.   In making this claim, Rahab was asserting in action and words that which the Israelite people were called to assert in actions and words. [48] Their disobedience was highlighted by Rahab’s obedience to a God that was not her own.  God is seeking for his people to make the same confession, for they too are “devoted” to God. If they would not confess the same as the prostitute Rahab, and instead prostituted themselves to other gods they too would be utterly destroyed. [49]

v.12-14 Having established by word and deed her faithfulness, Rahab then asks that the two men respond by vowing to her that she and her family would not be utterly destroyed along with the rest of the city. [50] Basically, she is asking these two men as representatives of the people of YHWH to include her family, asking that the men as representatives of the people of Israel do with her what YHWH has done on behalf of the people of Israel. She is asking to be included within a covenantal relationship, bound by the name of YHWH. [51]

She showed kindness to the men, so in return she wants kindness shown to her. The word kindness, dsj, is as Boling puts it, “notoriously difficult to translate.” [52] It implies a “covenant-loyalty”, with a sense of compassion and caring. The basis of its more profound meaning comes in the understanding that this is how God deals with his chosen people. [53] The people of God are expected to deal faithfully, with loving-kindness and steadfast love, to those who are faithful to God, or who have been committed to their protection. [54] The men agree, accepting the covenant as binding if she maintains her own faithfulness. They have placed their lives in her hands, and now she places her life in theirs when they have the upper hand. They express confidence, confidence that was noticeably lacking in previous accounts of those who spied the holy lands. [55] In return for her “covenant-loyalty” they will return the dsj and tma, the latter word implying “covenantal integrity.” [56] They leave, and in chapter six Israel returns, destroys the city, but saves Rahab and all her family. In Matthew we find her family was received into the covenant community quite well, with her descendants including David and Jesus. In her taking hold of the covenant, YHWH received her and her family into the relationship of his chosen people, and showed the whole world dsj through her descendants.


Though it may be possible to consider this text in isolation academically, the relevance and importance of this text for our present era is profound. To ignore it because of its complexity would be to ignore possibly what God is still doing in this world. It is difficult to say that God orders the destruction of entire people groups for the sake of another people group, but the Biblical record implies that this is in fact the case.   God is seeking to establish a people for his own glory, to reveal his work and being to those who do not see him, destroying those who may interfere in this goal.  Originally, he chose the people of Israel, bringing them out of Egypt and doing great works on their behalf, giving them courage and putting terror into the hearts of their enemies. The sign of God’s hand for a people was victory, the sign of God’s hand against a people was defeat. Theologically, then, it would not be absurd to see God’s hand still working on the behalf of his chosen people in re-establishing them in the land. Yet the question of the Mrj is a tricky one.

Clearly, the call for destruction must be clearly declared and even specifically defined by God himself, in the absence of a specific revelation we must walk very carefully. What is consistently the case is that the people of God must deal faithfully with people, treating with kindness those that are dependents. As God has shown love to us, we must show love to others. It is not simply enough that we are the people of God, we must also act like it. God is seeking those to be in his covenant who are faithful, and who confess in action and words the truths of his covenant-faithfulness. It is these who will inherit the kingdom, and those that reject the covenant that God will utterly destroy. Rahab is offered to us, as she was to the Israelites, as a model of true faithfulness, and her faithfulness resulted in great victory. Though once a prostitute, she placed herself within the covenantal relationship and was blessed by YHWH. That is the basics of the Gospel itself, and the call upon all of us to live out in all that we do.


[1] cf. Deut. 20:8

[2] see John Bright, A History of Israel 4th edition. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2000), 130ff.

[3] lit. “sons of Israel”

[4] The root here means “to dig”, with the implication to search out, “dig up some information.” Cf. Dt 1:22. In Job 29:29 it is an eagle searching out the land. Dennis J. McCarthy, “Some holy war vocabulary in Joshua 2.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 33 (Ap 1971): 228 argues this word is associated with holy war language saying that “it is suggestive that the word is so associated with things which inspire fear, one of the essential elements in the theory of the holy war.”

[5] lit. “sent to Rahab”

[6] the text has a singular pronoun here. This may be a textual error as the context clearly indicates that she hid two men. cf. GST. Marten Woudstra, The Book of Joshua (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), 70n.13 notes it may be that the suffix should be treated distributively; i.e. “she had hidden each of them.”

[7] This word is connected with the divine warrior or his agents in Ex 15:16; 23:27. In other passages it relates to God’s chastisement of sinners with weapons. See Dt 32:35; Job 20:25; Jer. 50:38. This is not simply an emotion, this is panic.  This panic may result in emotion, but is the active response to physical objects which terrify. See McCarthy, 229.

[8] As noted in Trent Butler Joshua, WBC v. 7. (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), 28 this genre includes six elements: 10 selection or naming of the spies; 2)dispatching of the spies with specific instructions; 3) report of the execution of the mission, along with confirmation through an oracle or reference to the context of salvation history; 4) notice of return and results; 5) a perfect tense formula confirming the gift of the land by YHWH; 6) conclusions derived from 1-5, namely action of entering or conquering the land. Also found in Num. 13-14; Deut 1:19-46; Josh. 14:7,8; Judg 18; Num 21:32-35. See Coats, George.  “An exposition for the conquest theme.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 47 (Ja 1985): 50ff. for a more substantial development of the “spy tale.”

[9] some commentators and translations, including the NRSV, expand the meaning of the conjunction here so as to imply not simply both, but “especially” Jericho.

[10] Shittim means “acacias.” See Joel Slayton . “Shittim.” Anchor Bible Dictionary v. V. Edited by David Noel Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992., 1222.   Boling writes that this word with the definite article could indeed be properly translated as “The Acacias”, “reminding the reader of the harsh desert terrain and climate at the southern end of the Jordan valley… Here for the bulk of the year the shade of these beautiful trees is a welcome relief and it is not surprising that they should have given their name to a small region.” Robert Boling, Joshua (Garden City: New York, 1982), 144.

[11] ibid.

[12] GI Davies, “Shittim”, New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed. Edited by JD Douglas, N. Hillyer, RW Wood. Downers Grove: IVP, 1996.1097ff.

[13] heb. twnb la twnzl

[14] Numbers 25:6ff.

[15] Numbers 26. This  includes the allotments to Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh east of the Jordan given in Numbers 32, in return for their service in fighting for the land west of the Jordan

[16] Numbers 27:12-23; Deut. 31ff.

[17] TA Holland and Ehud Netzer, “Jericho,” Anchor Bible Dictionary v. III. Edited by David Noel

Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 724.

[18] Bright, 130.

[19] Although quite important for this discussion, a fuller treatment of the archeological evidence of Jericho, as well as arguments for and against the veracity of the Joshua text simply is too extensive for this present work. See the excellent and concise article by Holland and Netzer for a more thorough treatment.

[20] see Gen. 38:24; Deut. 22:21; Numbers 25:1

[21] The literal and metaphorical meanings are often connected, one leads to another, as seen in Numbers 25. For more metaphorical usage see Ex 34:15; Dt 31:16; Lev. 20:6; Je 3:6; Ez 23:3, etc.

[22] Lev. 19:29; 23:17; Gen 38 shows the bias of the application of the law however. Tamar would have been stoned if she had been a prostitute, per Deut. 22:21, but because it was Judah who, unknowingly, paid her all was well and good. Numbers 25:1 indicates, though, that the Law in this case was intended both for men and women to follow. DJ Wiseman, as quoted by Campbell, apparently seeking to soften the shocking aspect of the story, as well as some Jewish traditions (including Josephus and the Targums), attempts to define hnwz as the equivalent of ‘barmaid’ or ‘innkeeper’, an immoral person — but not professionally so. See Woudstra, 69n.7, KM Campbell, “Rahab’s Covenant: a short note on Joshua 2:9-21,” Vetus Testamentum 22 (Ap 1972): 243; Greenspoon, “Rahab,” Anchor Bible Dictionary v. V. Edited by David Noel Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992. 611.   This is clearly not indicated by the usage of the word in other texts. Woudstra, 70 notes that the word, bkv, “does indeed have an ambiguous meaning and may be used of sexual intercourse, but in v. 8 it is used without such connotation. Some read v.3 ‘who have come to you,’ as having sexual overtones (cf. Gen. 38:16; Judg. 16:10). This is indeed a possible meaning of the phrase, but the addition ‘who have entered your house; would seem to be against that understanding here.” Boling, 145 following the lead of others, writes however that “the inn and the brothel have been found in one establishment often in the history of mankind, and where better to get information than a bar?”

[23] Boling, 145 writes, “Probably the narrator intends to titillate by reminding readers of an immemorial symbiosis between military service and bawdy house.”

[24] Boling, 145.

[25] See Boling, 145ff.; Woudstra, 70n.12

[26] quoted in Peter Barnes, “Was Rahab’s lie a sin?” Reformed Theological Review 54 (Ja-Ap 1995): 1.

[27] Indeed Rahab is twice in the New Testament commended for her righteousness (Heb. 11:31; James 2:25). See Barnes, 1-3 for other examples of disapproval.

[28] Woudstra, 71n.14 notes that Holwerda argued “that ‘truth’ in Israel is something different from ‘agreement with fact.’ It means ‘loyalty toward the neighbor and the Lord.” Woudstra, thus concludes that viewed in this way, Rahab’s words need not be called a lie. Barnes, in his excellent article on this subject, however, does not quibble over the word lie, but over whether this was a sin, ending his study on this passage with the comment, “truth-telling takes place in concrete situations, and cannot be treated as though it occurs in a vacuum. Kant’s commitment was not to the God of the Bible, but to an abstract ideal of his own making [Kant wrote “Truth in utterances that cannot be avoided is the formal duty of a man to every one, however great the disadvantage that may arise from it to him or any other.”]. Rahab’s commitment was to the God of Scripture, and also to His people.  Her lie, therefore, was no sin.”  Historically speaking, then, one could from this perspective say quite adequately that for German’s who were hiding Jews during WWII to tell the truth to SS soldiers would have been the sin, not telling a lie. Other examples of accepted lying in the OT include: 1 Sam. 19:14; 21:1015; 27:10-12; 2Sam. 17:17-21; 2 Kings 6:19; Jer. 38:25-28. John 7 tells us that Jesus said one thing, and did another.

[29] Woudstra, 71 writes, “it is strange that the king’s messengers were so quickly persuaded of the accuracy of this woman’s words and that no search of her house was instituted. The Bible is often sparing with indications of divine guidance over against human intrigue (cf. Gen. 50:20; 2 Sam. 17:14). Yet this guidance may well be implied by the narrator of this account.” Rather, however, it seems that the willingness for the messengers to believe Rahab indicates their own incomplete intelligence of the situation, as well as trust of Rahab’s loyalty.

[30] payment for services, maybe?

[31] JD Douglas, “Flax” New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed.  Edited by JD Douglas, N. Hillyer, RW Wood. Downers Grove: IVP, 1996.370.

[32] Boling, 146.

[33] See Howard, “Rahab’s Faith: An Exposition of Joshua 2:1-14.” Review and Expositor 95(Spring 1998):273.

[34] the ‘posse’ as Boling, 139 translates.

[35] See Butler, 31 “The one thing that does appear to be clear is that the Deuteronomist has introduced his own theological conception into the mouth of Rahab in vv.9-11. The tradition of the fear of the actions, the drying up of the waters, the two kings of the Amorites, and the divine title (12b) all bear Deuteronomic stamp. Verse 24 stems from the same source. Here then is pre-Deuteronomic literuature given a Deuteronomic stamp.” Greenspoon, 611 writes, “that affirmation, found in Josh 2:8-11 and thoroughly Deuteronomistic in language and theology, is widely regarded as a late element in what otherwise seems to be fairly early material.”

[36] Bright, 142 writes, “News of what had happened, and of the new faith that had come from the desert, cannot have been long in reaching western Palestine.”

[37] See Murray L. Newman, “Rahab and the Conquest,” Understanding the Word, edited by James T. Butler, Edgar W. Conrad and Ben C. Ollenburger (Sheffield: JSOT, 1985), 169ff.  Rahab’s role here introduces a much larger question of the establishment of Israel itself in the land, and how much help they had from a large disaffected population. This question is much more complex to fit into this space offered here. See Bright, 133-143. Greenspoon, 611: “In a pre-Deuteronomistic stage, Rahab and her family may have been identified with that segment of the Jericho population that opposed the royal establishment and could be expected to respond positively to the invading Israelites.”

[38] Ez. 21:20; Ex. 15:15; Jer. 49:23; Na 2:8; Am. 9:5

[39] Ps 65:11; Am. 9:13

[40] Though as the story of the battle of Ai in Joshua 7 and 8 indicate, the Israelite’s hearts could melt in fear if they were not right with God.

[41] Woudstra, 72 “Dread accompanies God’s march through the world on behalf of his people.” Boling, 146 “The victory of the Divine Warrior is not achieved by the weapons in human hands.”  See also Ex. X Z23:27; Job 20:25; Jer 50:38.

[42] See Woudstra, 72n.19, though he seems rather dogmatically assertive of it being the “Red” sea. It is the same term as used in Exodus 13:18 so whatever body of water is referred to here, the context is clearly that of the miracle of the Israelites crossing it.

[43] Numbers 21:21ff.

[44] cf. Deut. 4:37ff. Moses speaking, “And because he loved your ancestors, he chose their descendants after them. He brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, driving out before you nations greater and mightier than yourselves, to bring you in, giving you their land for a possession, as it is still today. So acknowledge today and take to heart that YHWH is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.” See also Deut. 4:35; 7:9; 10:17; 1Kings 8:23, 60.

[45] See Lev. 27:28ff.; Nu. 21:2ff.; Deut. 2:34; Jos. 6:178:26; 10:28; 1 Sam 15:20, 22; Ezra 10:8

[46] This is important in that the unity of the Israelites is based on their religious confession, not political or social rules. George  Mendenhall, “Ancient Oriental and Biblical Law,” Biblical Archeologist 17 (1954: 2, 3):36 writes “The one factor which held the tribes together at all was the religious bond which imposed upon them common religious obligations, not a common political law enforced by central authority.” Rahab with her confession places herself within that religious bond.

[47] i.e. the book of Jonah, Acts, etc.

[48] It seems that this would provide the reason for the inclusion of the story, in addition to the later reason of being part of David’s genealogy.   Newman, 174 argues that it was a “security clearance” for Rahab’s descendants, but this seems unlikely. His other point, p. 173ff., that this story served as a typology of those that accept YHWH (Rahab) and those that reject (the king of Jericho) is more possible, but given the tremendously minor role the king plays, it is not likely he was intended to symbolize very much.

[49] Ex. 22:20..See also Dt. 13:16; Ju 21:11; Deut. 30:11ff.  gives the Israelites the choice of life or death. As the “chosen” they either live for God, or do not live at all.

[50] It could be argued that Rahab was simply acting to save her own, and her family’s, lives without regard to any religious claims. Campbell, 244 argues, though, “To be sure, the lives of herself and her family were uppermost in her mind; but her behavior was not merely expedient. The pressure of circumstances apparently brought about a complet rethinking of her loyalties, her life and its purpose, and when the spies providentially arrived in her house, she made the decision to break with her previous suzerain and align herself, through these emissaries, to the God of Israel.”

[51] Boling, 147 notes that “the only way, apparently, to avoid the ban is to make a covenant.” This is not necessarily avoiding the ban, however, but instead placing oneself on a different side of it. Mendenhall, 39 writes “The covenant between YHWH and people was a covenant with each family, if not with each individual. Since protection was an important concern of all covenants, this meant that each Israelite family was thus placed under the direct protection of God, and could be attacked only at the great risk of incurring the enmity of God (See Jer.2:3). This placed on the law great responsibilities for the protection of each member of the community regardless of his social or economic status, including the protection of the thief (Exod. 22:3).” Thus once accepted by the Israelite spies, Rahab’s family is included in this bond of covenantal protection.

[52] Boling, 147.

[53] i.e. Gen 39:21; 1 Sam. 20:14; Ps. 59:17

[54] 1 Sam 20:15; Prov. 19:22; 31:26

[55] Numbers 13.

[56] Boling, 147. Boling adds that these words in combination are the Greek equivalents of   cavri” and ajlhqeiva/, “Grace and Truth.”

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