Joshua 2

Spies Dispatched

Israel is only days from going into Canaan to take possession of the land and Joshua thought it prudent to secretly send spies so that he might understand what he was facing. Scripture does not tell us why this was done in secret or what key leaders he consulted if any. Was it the disappointment of the people's response to this type of mission under Moses lingering in his mind that prompted him to act covertly? Was he was afraid that the people view this as a lack of faith? Did the king of Jericho have soldiers near Israel's camp? The text gives no indication about Joshua's motives. Joshua's instructions were precise; the mission for these spies was to view the land, specifically Jericho which would be an initial objective. These two men traversed the Jordan and navigated their way to Jericho where they found lodging in the house of a prostitute named Rahab. This was a strategic maneuver because this type of home would likely house soldiers who might inadvertently provide useful information. When these men entered the city, it raised the suspicions of many and word traveled through the town until the king received word that spies from Israel had come to search out the land. The king acted quickly and sent some of his men to the home of Rahab.

An Unexpected Ally

The king's men arrive, demanding that Rahab produce the spies who had entered her house. What happened next was nothing short of extraordinary. Rahab committed treason against the king and forsook her own people. She admitted that the men had come to her, but she declared her innocence about understanding the threat they posed. She explained to the king's men that they left just before the gate was closed but she did not know where they intended to go. Rahab urged the men to leave quickly because they would be able to overtake and apprehend them. Rahab took precautions in case the king's men barged in to seek the men by force, and she hid the spies on the roof of her house under stalks of flax. It turns out that these measures were unnecessary and the king's men gave chase toward the Jordan, and the gates were shut as soon as they left. The two spies must have been on edge straining to hear the conversation of this prostitute with the king's men and ready to defend their lives or die trying if they raided the house. Rahab returns to the roof to address the spies who must have been astounded by what she has to say. Rahab declares that she knows that the Lord has given Israel the land and her people are terrified of them. The people of the land had heard of their crossing the Red Sea and how Sihon and Og had been destroyed. Rahab renounces the gods of her people and confesses her faith in the God of Israel.

The Scarlet Cord

Rahab believed in God's power, and she now asks for mercy and favor. She entreats these spies to make a covenant with her so that her family might be spared when Israel took Jericho. The spies swore on their lives that she would receive kindness as long as she kept their mission a secret. Rahab let the men down by a rope from her window, and because her house was built into the wall, they were outside the city walls. Rahab urges them to go into the hills and hide for three days until those who were chasing them abandoned their search. Before they departed, the two men reiterated the conditions of the covenant to Rahab and gave her detailed instructions. Rahab was to tie the scarlet cord in the window and gather her family into her house because they would not guarantee the safety of anyone outside the house. After they had left, she tied the scarlet cord in the window, instantly identifying her house. The two spies disappeared into the night, headed for the hills, and hid for three days. When it was safe, they returned to camp and reported everything to Joshua. They told Joshua that the inhabitants were afraid and badly proclaim that God has given Israel the land. 

Things To Consider:

  • Should we see any conflict between Joshua sending spies and God's promise and instructions about the land? Why?
  • What do you observe about Rahab's faith based on her actions?
  • Could you see any circumstances that might lead you to forsake your fellow citizens? Why?
  • Why do you think the men made a covenant with Rahab?
  • Do you think they had the authority to make such a decision? Why?
  • How has God been working in Canaan while he was dealing with Egypt and the Amorites?
  • What does that tell us about the limits of our understanding?
  • How does the scarlet cord picture the gospel?
  • Who is our scarlet cord that saves us from the day of destruction?
  • Is there a Rahab in your life? Who is it?
  • How does God encourage us through others around us?
  • How does faith grow?