Verse 1: Then Joshua son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went, and entered the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab, and spent the night there. (NRSV)
- The secrecy used here is obviously from the people of the land that the spies were going into, but it also is secrecy from the Israelites.
- The last time spies were sent out by Israel in Numbers 13, they convinced the people not to attack as God had told them to.
- As Joshua was one of those spies he better than anyone the need to contain the information received from the spies. The last thing Joshua wanted was to spend another 40 years in the wilderness because more spies got the people upset.
- We probably shouldn’t think too deeply into the significance of only sending two spies, the number from the first group of spies who loyally reported back that the Israelites could win. It probably just represents the secret nature of the sending, and that they were going to a smaller area (specifically Jericho).
- There is no implication in the text of sexual misconduct by the spies. This was simply the only place for strangers in a city.
- There were no real inns at this time period, and without family they had no one else to stay with.
- So the only place available where they could sleep without any questions being asked was a prostitute.
Verse 4: But the woman took the two men and hid them. Then she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they came from. And when it was time to close the gate at dark, the men went out. Where the men went I do not know. Pursue them quickly, for you can overtake them.” (NRSV)
- This would make no sense except that Rahab was a prostitute. No one else in the city could have gotten away with this statement.
- She is caught red handed with the men having been seen in her house.
- Her response is quite graphic. It is literally “they entered into me” and not “into my house.” Her prostitution is her excuse. Rahab is claiming that the men were normal customers who came and left and she didn’t treat them any differently.
- It is ironic that Rahab’s profession saved the two men, because the king bought it. No one else could have gotten away with saying foreigners visited them and they didn’t know where those foreigners were or who they were.
Verse 12: Now then, since I have dealt kindly with you, swear to me by the LORD that you in turn will deal kindly with my family. Give me a sign of good faith 13 that you will spare my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” (NRSV)
- Women were not allows to make binding contracts in her culture at the time, nor were the spies given authority to make treaties.
- These men could have ignored their agreement with her and not been in trouble.
- Rahab had no reason to believe that these men would keep their word other than that they were men from God. This was an act of faith on her part, that the people of God would go beyond what they were required to do and look after her.
Verse 18: if we invade the land and you do not tie this crimson cord in the window through which you let us down, and you do not gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your family. (NRSV)
- Much like a “red light district” today, red/crimson has been a color for prostitutes for many years. Again, we have an ironic use of Rahab’s prostitution here, that the symbol of her trade, which condemned her to the lowest of lives, would not just save her but her family.
- A woman did not have many choices in life during this age. If she didn’t get married, or her husband died young, her family was expected to take care of her. If they didn’t, she would usually have to beg or become a prostitute.
- Rahab’s family is alive, yet she is still a prostitute. Her father and brothers should have been looking out for her, taking care of her so that she didn’t become a prostitute. Something is very wrong but we don’t know what.
- It could be that Rahab chose this profession.
- Or her family refused to take care of her for some reason.
- This is another serious irony, that the family which should have been looking after Rahab and saving her from her profession were actually being saved by her, thanks to her profession. This is a huge role reversal, perhaps foreshadowing the huge upturning that was coming with the Israelite’s invasion.
Verse 24: They said to Joshua, “Truly the LORD has given all the land into our hands; moreover all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before us.” (NRSV)
- Again, the spies report directly back to Joshua first, instead of reporting to the people as a whole immediately. Joshua was not sure what sort of a report they would be bringing.
- But what a difference is this report from the one Joshua had to try and shout down 40 years earlier. That one was doom and gloom, this one the spies are crying out about how the people are ready for the conquest.
Message Ideas/Scripts/Liturgy That Use This Chapter
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