Joshua 2: The Whore of Jericho

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Questions:

  • Who is Rahab? Why is she a harlot? How come she was so ready to help the spies?
  • What is God trying to teach Joshua?
  • Where should I be looking for those God has placed to help me fulfill my purpose?

Read more to pursue answers in Joshua 2

[Joshua 2:1 NASB] Then Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.”

I wonder if Joshua deliberately chose to send two hand-picked men this time rather than twelve political appointees

So they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there.

I would love to know the backstory on this. Was Rahab a high-status temple prostitute, who noticed (or even foresaw) two such men coming to town and sought them out? Or was she a social outcast, and the spies chanced to seek her out simply to avoid notice (or gain entertainment)?

Clearly she is a remarkable woman. She knows that others would recognize the spies for what they were:

[Joshua 2:2-4 NASB] It was told the king of Jericho, saying, “Behold, men from the sons of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” And the king of Jericho sent word to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.”

She doesn’t hesitate to disobey her king. In fact, she already planned to:

[Joshua 2:4-6 NASB] But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them, and she said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. “It came about when it was time to shut the gate at dark, that the men went out; I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them in the stalks of flax which she had laid in order on the roof.

She is not merely a careful planner, but a convincing liar:

[Joshua 2:7 NASB] So the men pursued them on the road to the Jordan to the fords; and as soon as those who were pursuing them had gone out, they shut the gate.

She didn’t do this merely take pity on two strangers. She clearly understood their purpose, and wants something from them in return for her heroism:

[Joshua 2:8 NASB] Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof,

She starts with a remarkable testimony:

[Joshua 2:9-11 NASB] and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. “For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. “When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.

Wow. This must have been music to the ears of the spies. Of course, she had a reason for buttering them up like this:

[Joshua 2:12-14 NASB] “Now therefore, please swear to me by the LORD, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth, and spare my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, with all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” So the men said to her, “Our life for yours if you do not tell this business of ours; and it shall come about when the LORD gives us the land that we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.”

Fascinating. My minimal understanding of ancient prostitution is that such women were usually orphans or otherwise cut off from their family. Did they regard her as kindly as she wants them to be treated? Or had she in fact become a harlot out of a cold calculation that this was the best way to help her family?

She certainly seems to plan things out in advance:

[Joshua 2:15-16 NASB] Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall, so that she was living on the wall. She said to them, “Go to the hill country, so that the pursuers will not happen upon you, and hide yourselves there for three days until the pursuers return. Then afterward you may go on your way.”

I wonder… it was certainly convenient that her house was on the wall. Perhaps this chose this deliberately, knowing they might need to make a hasty escape. Still, it would make a cool story if somehow Rahab had foresaw and planned all this. Maybe I’ll write one up some day…

For their part, the men had been planning how to fulfill their side of the bargain:

[Joshua 2:17-19 NASB] The men said to her, “We shall be free from this oath to you which you have made us swear, unless, when we come into the land, you tie this cord of scarlet thread in the window through which you let us down, and gather to yourself into the house your father and your mother and your brothers and all your father’s household. “It shall come about that anyone who goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be free; but anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him.

They strike a deal:

[Joshua 2:20-21 NASB] “But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be free from the oath which you have made us swear.” She said, “According to your words, so be it.” So she sent them away, and they departed; and she tied the scarlet cord in the window.

And it happens just as she said:

[Joshua 2:22 NASB] They departed and came to the hill country, and remained there for three days until the pursuers returned. Now the pursuers had sought them all along the road, but had not found them.

The spies escape, and return with quite a story:

[Joshua 2:23-24 NASB] Then the two men returned and came down from the hill country and crossed over and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and they related to him all that had happened to them. They said to Joshua, “Surely the LORD has given all the land into our hands; moreover, all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before us.”

Think what this would mean to Joshua:

  • First, the testimony of these spies echoes what he and Caleb affirmed 40 years ago, that God would give this land into their hands.
  • Second, their enemies are already quaking in fear, which is a huge psychological advantage in battle.
  • Third, Rahab’s practical assistance is a powerful demonstration of God’s providential care.

What’s more, Rahab’s decisiveness demonstrates exactly the kind of “strength and courage” everyone was demanding of him in the last chapter. No wonder she became a byword of faith.

I can’t help but wonder whether David’s great-great grandfather Salmon, who later married Rahab, was one of those two spies. As part of the tribe of Judah, he could easily be a nephew of Caleb – the one man on earth Joshua would trust to pick men for a mission like this.

Of course, Joshua and Caleb could not have imagined their choice resulting in a marriage, never mind the creation of David and the Christ. They simply called faithful men to do the dangerous work needed to accomplish what God had called them to do — and trusted God to take care of them. Which He did, in spades.

Maybe I need to do the same.

Father God,
Thank you that you are a God who plans everything in advance. I am amazed how you have placed people all around me, in the unlikeliest places, that have the exact skills and passions necessary to further your kingdom. Help me to have the strength and courage to call men to dangerous but necessary work, trusting that you will bless them for their faithfulness.
I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.

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