Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 28 2019 - Joshua 2:1-24 – Rahab and the spies

Forty years earlier, Joshua had been one of twelve men sent to spy out the land which God had promised his people. Now Joshua sends two spies across the river Jordan to spy out the land and particularly the city of Jericho. This spying expedition is not to discover whether the land is all that God had promised – that had been established forty years earlier – but to prepare for the battle ahead. What would they encounter as they crossed the river and approached the city?

When the two men arrived in Jericho they, "entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there" (v.1). No doubt they reasoned that two strange men entering the house of a prostitute would not attract any particular attention. But somehow, whether from their clothes or their voices, these men were recognised to be Israelites and the news was quickly passed to the king of Jericho.

The king's messengers were sent to Rahab demanding the Israelites be produced. Rahab, perhaps hearing the approach of the messengers, hid the men under a pile of flax laid out to dry on her flat roof. She then sent the messengers off by telling them that the men had already left before the city gate was locked; they should hurry off in pursuit if they are to catch them.

Now we learn why Rahab showed such kindness towards the spies. The fame of the Israelites had gone before them. The people of Canaan, or at least of Jericho, have heard of the way these people miraculously crossed the Red Sea when they left Egypt and had heard of the victories they gained in battle against the kings of the Amorites on the other side of the Jordan. The people of Jericho and its surrounding lands are afraid that they will be next. Rahab is convinced that Yahweh, the God of the Israelites "is God in heaven above and on the earth below" (v.11). Rahab is convinced that this mighty God will give the land to the Israelites – they will not be able to withstand his power.

Rahab may not have been alone in drawing these conclusions, but while others may be preparing for a battle, she is ready to submit to Yahweh, the God of heaven and earth. She wants her and her family to be numbered among the people of Israel.

It is easy to suppose that Rahab's request for mercy when the Israelites invade was a simple concern for self-preservation, but subsequent events suggest that it was more than that. Rahab is recorded among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 (v. 31) and is referred to as "righteous" by James (James 2:25). She married an Israelite called Salmon and together they bore a son called Boaz who appears a key figure and godly man in the Book of Ruth. So she became an ancestor of King David and of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5). In this chapter of Joshua we witness the awakening faith of Rahab marking the beginning of her notable history among the people of God.

The spies promise that Rahab and her family will be spared, asking only that she says nothing of all this to the other inhabitants of Jericho and that she hangs a red cord in the window of her house to ensure that it is easily identified and spared when the Israelites invade the land. Rahab's house was built into the city wall and the spies were let down from a window and so escaped the city. The spies returned to Joshua with the news, "The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us" (v.24).

Father God, we recognise that you are the living God, the only God, maker of heaven and earth and of everything in them. Gladly we trust in you and in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We rejoice to be numbered among your people. Help us to spread the news of your mighty saving work and so encourage others to come and join your people.

Peter Misselbrook