Joshua 2


Joshua sends out two spies to examine the state of the

inhabitants of the land, particularly those of Jericho, who

are entertained at the house of Rahab, 1.

The king of Jericho is informed of their being in the town, and

sends to Rahab, commanding her to deliver them up, 2, 3.

She hides the spies, and tells the messengers that the men were

departed and gone towards the mountain, 4, 5.

When the officers of the king of Jericho were departed, she took

the spies to the house-top, and covered them with flax, 6, 7.

She relates to them that the fear of the Israelites had fallen

on all the inhabitants of the country on hearing of their

victories over the Amorites; that she knew none could resist

the God of Israel, and therefore desired them to give her an

oath that, when they took Jericho, they would preserve the

lives of her and her family, 8-13.

The spies swear to her, 14.

She lets them down by a cord from the house-top, and gives them

directions how to proceed, in order to avoid the pursuers,

15, 16.

She is to tie a scarlet line to the window, through which she

had let them down, which should be the sign to the Israelites

to spare that house and its inhabitants, 17-19.

Having bound her to secresy, they depart, 20, 21.

After three days' stay in the mountain, they return to Joshua,

and make a favourable report, 22-24.


Verse 1. Joshua-sent-two men to spy secretly] It is very likely

that these spies had been sent out soon after the death of Moses,

and therefore our marginal reading, had sent, is to be preferred.

Secretly-It is very probable also that these were confidential

persons, and that the transaction was between them and him alone.

As they were to pass over the Jordan opposite to Jericho, it was

necessary that they should have possession of this city, that in

case of any reverses they might have no enemies in their rear. He

sent the men, therefore, to see the state of the city, avenues of

approach, fortifications, &c., that he might the better concert

his mode of attack.

A harlot's house] Harlots and inn-keepers seem to have been

called by the same name, as no doubt many who followed this mode

of life, from their exposed situation, were not the most correct

in their morals. Among the ancients women generally kept houses of

entertainment, and among the Egyptians and Greeks this was common.

I shall subjoin a few proofs. HERODOTUS, speaking concerning the

many differences between Egypt and other countries, and the

peculiarity of their laws and customs, expressly says: εντοισιαι


εοντεςυφαινουσι. "Among the Egyptians the women carry on all

commercial concerns, and keep taverns, while the men continue at

home and weave." Herod. in Euterp., c. xxxv. DIODORUS SICULUS,

lib. i., s. 8, and c. xxvii., asserts that "the men were the

slaves of the women in Egypt, and that it is stipulated in the

marriage contract that the woman shall be the ruler of her

husband, and that he shall obey her in all things." The same

historian supposes that women had these high privileges among the

Egyptians, to perpetuate the memory of the beneficent

administration of Isis, who was afterwards deified among them.

NYMPHODORUS, quoted by the ancient scholiast on the OEdipus

Coloneus of Sophocles, accounts for these customs: he says that

"Sesostris, finding the population of Egypt rapidly increasing,

fearing that he should not be able to govern the people or keep

them united under one head, obliged the men to assume the

occupations of women, in order that they might be rendered


Sophocles confirms the account given by Herodotus; speaking of

Egypt he says:-




OEdip. Col. v. 352.

"There the men stay in their houses weaving cloth, while the

women transact all business out of doors, provide food for the

family," &c. It is on this passage that the scholiast cites

Nymphodorus for the information given above, and which he says

is found in the 13th chapter of his work "On the Customs of

Barbarous Nations."

That the same custom prevailed among the Greeks we have the

following proof from APULEIUS: Ego vero quod primate ingressui

stabulum conspicatus sum, accessi, et de QUADAM ANU CAUPONA illico

percontor.-Aletam. lib. i., p. 18, Edit. Bip. "Having entered into

the first inn I met with, and there seeing a certain OLD WOMAN,

the INN-KEEPER, I inquired of her."

It is very likely that women kept the places of public

entertainment among the Philistines; and that it was with such a

one, and not with a harlot, that Samson lodged; (see Jud 16:1,

&c.;) for as this custom certainly did prevail among the

Egyptians, of which we have the fullest proof above, we may

naturally expect it to have prevailed also among the Canaanites

and Philistines, as we find from Apuleius that it did afterwards

among the Greeks. Besides there is more than presumptive proof

that this custom obtained among the Israelites themselves, even in

the most polished period of their history; for it is much more

reasonable to suppose that the two women, who came to Solomon for

judgment, relative to the dead child, (1Ki 3:16, &c.,) were

inn-keepers, than that they were harlots. It is well known that

common prostitutes, from their abandoned course of life, scarcely

ever have children; and the laws were so strict against such in

Israel, (De 23:18,) that if these had been of that class it is

not at all likely they would have dared to appear before Solomon.

All these circumstances considered, I am fully satisfied that the

term zonah in the text, which we translate harlot, should

be rendered tavern or inn-keeper, or hostess. The spies who

were sent out on this occasion were undoubtedly the most

confidential persons that Joshua had in his host; they went on an

errand of the most weighty importance, and which involved the

greatest consequences. The risk they ran of losing their lives in

this enterprise was extreme. Is it therefore likely that persons

who could not escape apprehension and death, without the

miraculous interference of God, should in despite of that law

which at this time must have been so well known unto them, go into

a place where they might expect, not the blessing, but the curse,

of God? Is it not therefore more likely that they went rather to

an inn to lodge than to a brothel? But what completes in my

judgment the evidence on this point is, that this very Rahab, whom

we call a harlot, was actually married to Salmon, a Jewish prince,

see Mt 1:5. And is it probable that a

prince of Judah would have taken to wife such a person as our

text represents Rahab to be?

It is granted that the Septuagint, who are followed by

Heb 11:31, and Jas 2:25, translate the Hebrew

zonah by πορνη, which generally signifies a prostitute; but it

is not absolutely evident that the Septuagint used the word in this

sense. Every scholar knows that the Greek word πορνη comes from

περναω, to sell, as this does from περαω, to pass from one to

another; transire facio a me ad alterum; DAMM. But may not this be

spoken as well of the woman's goods as of her person? In this

sense the Chaldee Targum understood the term, and has therefore

translated it ittetha pundekitha, a woman, a

TAVERN-KEEPER. That this is the true sense many eminent men are of

opinion; and the preceding arguments render it at least very

probable. To all this may be added, that as our blessed Lord came

through the line of this woman, it cannot be a matter of little

consequence to know what moral character she sustained; as an

inn-keeper she might be respectable, if not honourable; as a

public prostitute she could be neither; and it is not very

likely that the providence of God would have suffered a person of

such a notoriously bad character to enter into the sacred line of

his genealogy. It is true that the cases of Tamar and Bathsheba

may be thought sufficient to destroy this argument; but whoever

considers these two cases maturely will see that they differ

totally from that of Rahab, if we allow the word harlot to be

legitimate. As to the objection that her husband is nowhere

mentioned in the account here given; it appears to me to have

little weight. She might have been either a single woman or a

widow; and in either of these cases there could have been no

mention of a husband; or if she even had a husband it is not

likely he would have been mentioned on this occasion, as the

secret seems to have been kept religiously between her and the

spies. If she were a married woman her husband might be included

in the general terms, all that she had, and all her kindred,

Jos 6:23. But it is most likely that she was a

single woman or a widow, who got her bread honestly by keeping a

house of entertainment for strangers. See below.

Verse 3. The king of Jericho sent unto Rahab] This appears to be

a proof of the preceding opinion: had she been a prostitute or a

person of ill fame he could at once have sent officers to have

seized the persons lodged with her as vagabonds; but if she kept a

house of entertainment, the persons under her roof were sacred,

according to the universal custom of the Asiatics, and could not

be molested on any trifling grounds. A guest or a friend is sacred

in whatever house he may be received, in every part of the east to

the present day.

Verse 4. And hid them] Probably she secreted them for the time

being in some private corner, till she had the opportunity of

concealing them on the house-top in the manner mentioned Jos 2:6.

Verse 5. When it was dark] So it appears that it was after night

that the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, ordering her to produce

the persons who lodged with her. The season itself was friendly to

the whole plot: had these transactions taken place in daylight, it

is scarcely possible that the spies could have escaped. But this

is no excuse for the woman's prevarication, for God could have

saved his messengers independently of her falsity. God never says

to any, Do evil that good may come of it. See at the end of the


Verse 6. Hid then with the stalks of flax] It is a matter of

little consequence whether we translate pistey haets

stalks of flax, or stalks of hemp: the word ets, which

signifies wood, serves to show that whether it was hemp or flax,

it was in its rough, unmanufactured state; and as this was about

the season, viz., the end of March or the beginning of April, in

which the flax is ripe in that country, consequently Rahab's flax

might have been recently pulled, and was now drying on the roof of

her house. The reader may find some useful remarks upon this

subject in Harmer's Observations, vol. iv., p. 97, &c.

Upon the roof.] We have already seen that all the houses in the

east were made flat-roofed; for which a law is given De 22:8. On

these flat roofs the Asiatics to this day walk, converse, and

oftentimes even sleep and pass the night. It is probable that this

hiding was after that referred to in the fourth verse.

Verse 9. I know that the Lord hath given you the land] It is

likely she had this only from conjecture, having heard of their

successes against the Amorites, their prodigious numbers, and

seeing the state of terror and dismay to which the inhabitants of

her own land were reduced.

Verse 11. He is God in heaven above, and to earth beneath.] This

confession of the true God is amazingly full, and argues

considerable light and information. As if she had said, "I know

your God to be omnipotent and omnipresent:" and in consequence of

this faith she hid the spies, and risked her own life in doing it.

But how had she this clear knowledge of the Divine nature? 1.

Possibly the knowledge of the true God was general in the earth at

this time, though connected with much superstition and idolatry;

the people believing that there was a god for every district, and

for every people; for the mountains and for the valleys; see

1Ki 20:23. 2. Or she received this instruction from the spies,

with whom she appears to have had a good deal of conversation; or,

3. She had it from a supernatural influence of God upon her own

soul. She probably made a better use of the light she had received

than the rest of her countrymen, and God increased that light.

Verse 12. Swear unto me by the Lord] This is a farther proof

that this woman had received considerable instruction in the

Jewish faith; she acknowledged the true God by his essential

character Jehovah; and knew that an oath in his name was the

deepest and most solemn obligation under which a Jew could

possibly come. Does not this also refer to the command of God,

Thou shalt fear the Lord, and shalt swear by his name?

See Clarke on De 6:13.

Verse 13. Deliver our lives from death.] She had learned, either

from the spies or otherwise, that all the inhabitants of the land

were doomed to destruction, and therefore she obliges them to

enter into a covenant with her for the preservation of herself and

her household.

Verse 14. Our life for yours] "May our life be destroyed if we

suffer yours to be injured!" This is what was anciently called in

our country pledging-staking, a man's life for that of his

neighbour or friend.

Verse 15. Then she let them down by a cord &c.] The natural

place of this verse is after the first clause of Jos 2:21; for it

is certain that she did not let them down in the basket till all

those circumstances marked from Jos 2:16-20 inclusive had taken


She dwelt upon the wall.] That is, either the wall of the city

made a part of her house or her house was built close to the wall,

so that the top or battlements of it were above the wall with a

window that looked out to the country. As the city gates were now

shut there was no way for the spies to escape but through this

window; and in order to this she let them down through the window

in a basket suspended by a cord, till they reached the ground on

the outside of the wall.

Verse 16. Hide yourselves there three days] They were to travel

by night, and hide themselves in the day-time; otherwise they

might have been discovered by the pursuers who were in search of


Verse 18. This line of scarlet thread] tikvath

chut hashshani. Probably this may mean, this piece of scarlet

cloth, or, this cloth (made) of scarlet thread. When the

Israelites took the city this piece of red cloth seems to have

been hung out of the window by way of flag; and this was the sign

on which she and the spies had agreed.

Verse 20. If thou utter this our business] It was prudent to

make her life depend on her secresy; had it been otherwise she

might have been tempted to give information, not only concerning

the spies, but concerning the designs of the Israelites. But her

life being at stake, added to every other motive, she kept the

secret for the sake of her own personal safety and that of all her


Verse 23. So the two men returned] Having concealed themselves

in the mountains that night, all the next day, and the night

ensuing, on the third day they returned to Joshua.

Verse 24. Truly the Lord hath delivered into our hands all the

land] How different was this report from that brought by the spies

on a former occasion! They found that all the inhabitants of the

land were panic-struck. The people had heard of the great exploits

of the Israelites on the other side of Jordan; and as they had

destroyed the potent kings of the Amorites, they took it for

granted that nothing could stand before them. This information was

necessary to Joshua to guide him in forming the plan of his


1. IT may be asked, Did not Rahab lie in the account she gave to

the officers of the king of Jericho, (Jos 2:4, 5,) There came men

unto me, &c.? I answer, She certainly did; and the inspired writer

sets down the fact merely as it stood, without making the Spirit

of God responsible for the dissimulation of the woman. But was she

not rewarded, &c.? Yes; for her hospitality and faith, not for her

lie. But could she have saved the spies without telling a lie?

Yes, she certainly might; but what notion could a woman of her

occupation, though nothing worse than an inn-keeper, have of the

nicer distinctions between truth and falsehood, living among a

most profligate and depraved people, where truth could scarcely be


2. There is a lax morality in the world that recommends a lie

rather than the truth, when the purposes of religion and humanity

can be served by it. But when can this be? The religion of Christ

is one eternal system of truth, and can neither be served by a lie

nor admit one. On this vile subject fine words have been spoken.

Tasso, in his elegant episode of Sophronia and Olindo, in the

Gerusalemme Liberata, b. ii., v. 22, represents the former as

telling a lie to Saladdin, relative to the stealing of an image,

for which, as he could not discover the culprit, he doomed all the

Christians in his power to death. Sophronia, a pious Christian

virgin, getting into the presence of the tyrant, in order to save

her people, accuses herself, though perfectly innocent, of the

theft. Her conduct on this occasion the poet embellishes in the

following manner, for which the religion of that time, which dealt

in holy frauds, would no doubt applaud him.

'Ed ella: il reo si trova al tuo cospetto;

Opra e il furto, Signor, di questa mano

Io l' immagine tolsi; Io son colei

Che tu ricerchi, e me punir tu dei.

Cosi al pubblico fato il capo altero

Offerse, e 'l volle in se sol racorre.


SI BELLO, che si possa a te preporre?"

Then she: "Before thy sight the guilty stands;

The theft, O King, committed by these hands.

In me the thief who stole the image view!

To me the punishment decreed is due."

Thus, filled with public zeal, the generous dame

A victim for her people's ransom came.

O great deceit! O lie divinely fair!

What truth with such a falsehood can compare!


Thus a lie is ornamented with splendid decorations both by the

Italian and English poet, and the whole formed into an

anti-apostolic maxim, Let us do EVIL, that GOOD may come of it.

A purer morality was taught by one of the most ancient heathen

writers than is here preached by these demi-christians:-



Iliad. l. ix., v. 312.

My soul detests him as the gates of hell,

Who knows the truth and dares a falsehood tell,

The following is the advice of a genuine Christian poet, and one

of the holiest men of his time:-

LIE not; but let thy heart be true to God;

Thy tongue to it, thy actions to them both.

Cowards tell lies, and those who fear the rod;

The stormy working soul spits lies and froth.

DARE TO BE TRUE! nothing can NEED a lie.

The fault that needs it most grows TWO thereby.


For other observations on this subject

See Clarke on Ge 12:20, at the end, and "Ge 20:12".

3. Though the hand of God was evidently in every thing that

concerned the Israelites, and they were taught to consider that by

his might alone they were to be put in possession of the promised

land; yet they were as fully convinced that if they did not use

the counsel, prudence, and strength which they had received from

him, they should not succeed. Hence, while they depended on the

Divine direction and power, they exercised their own prudence, and

put forth their own strength; and thus they were workers together

with him, and did not receive the grace of God in vain. The

application of this maxim is easy; and we cannot expect any

success, either in things spiritual or temporal, unless we walk by

the same rule and mind the same thing.

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