Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying,
Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.
By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she received the spies in peace.
For thirty days a heavy shadow of sorrow hung over the camp of Israel encamped upon the plains of Moab. In itself this was not new. Sorrow and gloom had often before formed the prevailing atmosphere in Israel’s camp. But this was different. Often before their sorrow had been one of sullen unbelief and dissatisfaction with Moses, their leader appointed by God. Now Moses was gone, and his absence left them with the feeling that the glory had departed from Israel. Although they had often murmured against what he said, there had always been the fact that Moses talked with God face to face. Now that he was gone they realized that no one would ever completely take his place. The intimate relationship between Moses and God would never again be repeated until the Messiah would come. In sorrow and tears they mourned his departure.
Still it was not as though God had left them without a leader. Almost from the time that they had left Egypt he had set aside Joshua to be the servant of Moses in a very special sense. It was Joshua who had led the armies of Israel against the Amalekites already at Rephidim. It was Joshua who had gone with Moses to Mount Sinai and had waited for him there upon the mountain side for forty days and forty nights until Moses returned from talking to God. It was Joshua who zealously, even though mistakenly, had defended the exclusive right of Moses to prophesy in Israel and sought to have those men silenced who prophesied in the camp apart from Moses. Finally, and foremost, it had been Joshua who with Caleb had given the good report of the spies and had urged the children of Israel to go into the land of promise in faith, rejecting the evil report of the ten. In all of this God had been preparing Joshua for the day when he would take up the leadership of the nation where Moses left off. In a way Joshua could never take the place of Moses. The intimate relationship which Moses had known with God he would not have. But in another way he in his work rose above the accomplishments of Moses. While Moses had died without the borders, it was Joshua who led the people into the land of rest and promise. As his name implied, he was “Jehovah’s Salvation,” the foretype of Jesus in His final victory in heaven.
When the days of mourning for Moses were accomplished, God came to Joshua and spoke, saying, “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise go over the Jordan, thou and all of the people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your feet shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein; for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed; for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” With this there could be no question in Joshua’s heart but that he was appointed by God to take up the work of Moses, and that the blessing of God would sustain him as he went.
Having heard thus from Jehovah, Joshua passed the command on to the people. He called to him the officers of the people and said, “Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the LORD your God giveth you to possess it.”
Again Joshua went specially to speak to the children of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh who had taken up residence on the eastern shore of the Jordan. To them he said, “Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, The LORD your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land. Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on. this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valor, and help them; until the LORD have given your brethren rest, as he hath given you, and they also have possessed the land which the LORD your God giveth them: then ye shall return unto the land of your possession, and enjoy it, which Moses the LORD’s servant gave you on this side Jordan toward the sunrising.”
To this they gave immediate answer, “All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go: According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the LORD thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses. Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage.” There was no question but that they received Joshua in Moses’ place completely.
Still Joshua was making his plans carefully. It was important that especially here at the beginning of his work he should show discretion in all that he did. He was very much concerned with what changes may have taken place in the attitude of the inhabitants of Canaan since he had spied out the land forty yearsbefore. But at the same time he was fearful lest some timid spies might return to discourage the people as had happened in the days of Moses. Thus he called two young men to him secretly and without the knowledge of the people sent them forth as his own private investigators, who were to report not to the people but to him personally. The command which he gave them was this, “Go view the land, even Jericho.”
Jericho was directly over the river from where Israel was encamped and about eight miles from the river bank. The men crossed the river secretly and then, pretending to be Canaanites, walked calmly to the city of Jericho. It was a rich and beautiful country which they observed on their way, with a semi-tropical growth of gardens and trees. Without incident they passed through it and entered the city of Jericho. Walking slowly through the streets of the city they sought as best they could to judge the feeling of the people. As they did so two things became apparent. One was that the people were in a state of high agitation because of the children of Israel encamped on the other side of the river. The other was that the people recognized them as strangers and looked upon them with suspicion. This latter fact left the spies in a very bad position. The day had just about drawn to its end. For them at this hour of the day to try to leave the shelter of the city for the insecurity of the open fields would have been a suspicious act which would in all likelihood result in their immediate capture. However, they could hardly remain in the open streets after dark, and if they would seek to take up lodging in a public inn it would give immediate rise to inquiry concerning their nationality and their mission. This seemed to leave but one alternative. They sought out the home of a harlot in the hope that a woman such as that would be indifferent to their nationality and purpose in the city. Thus it was that they came into the home of Rahab, a woman who lived on the city’s wall.
The men were hardly prepared, however, for the closeness with which danger was following them. Almost immediately there was a knock on the door of Rahab’s house. The king had already learned of their presence in the city and his soldiers had learned of their presence with Rahab. But neither were they prepared for the reaction of Rahab. Without hesitation or question she hurried them up unto the roof of the house and hid them under the stalks of flax which she had drying there. Only then did she let the soldiers in and said to them, “There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were: and it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them.”
Here was a strange thing which they could not understand. But they heard the soldiers leaving, and they heard Rahab coming again to the roof of the house. But there was no need for them to ask. Of her own accord she began to explain. “I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when ye came out of Egypt: and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side of Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token: and that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”
Here was a strange thing, the last thing which the spies had expected to meet. They had come as spies of Israel into a heathen land of wicked inhabitants. They had turned to the lowliest of all the inhabitants of this Godless land, a harlot, hoping to find safety in her moral indifference. And what did they find?—a woman ready to risk her own life to hide them from the pursuing enemy—a woman with a confession of faith in Jehovah their God more strong and clear than that of many who had lived in the very midst of Israel for many years. Even more, from her they learned what they had come to find out. The witness of Jehovah and His greatness had gone before them. Even here in this heathen city it had its effect. Just about all of the inhabitants of this city were struck with terror before the power of Israel which was closing in upon them. Still, it had only aroused them to hate Israel more and to set themselves against them just as had done Sihon and Og. But in a few, namely, in Rahab and her family, it had aroused the beginning of faith. They were ready to renounce their places in this heathen nation and to take up the cause of Israel, even to the danger of their own lives. Now, God in his infinite greatness and wisdom had brought them to the door of this very house to show to them what He in the powerful working of His Word had already accomplished in this land. How could they doubt but that He in all of His greatness would surely cause that all of His promises would come to pass.