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So the two men returned, and descended from the mountain, and passed over, and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all things that befell them: 

And they said unto Joshua, Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us.

Joshua 2:23, 24

Joshua had sent out two young men to investigate the city of Jericho before the children of Israel passed over the river Jordan. For them things had happened much more swiftly than they were able to comprehend. They had come to Jericho hoping to walk through the streets of the city unknown and unnoticed and so observe the attitudes and morale of the people in their daily activities. As it happened things worked out quite differently. What they found was not a city calmly going about its daily activities, but a city highly agitated and uneasy. Immediately it became evident that by the very fact that they were strangers they were looked upon with suspicion. When they came near to anyone it resulted in withdrawn and suspicious silence. Suddenly they stood before an entirely new problem. The day was just about spent and for them to leave the protection of the city so close to nightfall would do more to identify them as enemies than anything else. But on the other hand, to go into a public inn would surely give rise to inquiry as to their identity and the truth might well come out. In desperation they turned in at the door of a harlot’s house hoping to find indifference with a woman such as that.

Coming thus into the home of Rahab the spies were again taken by complete surprise. Rather than finding a woman completely indifferent to their identity, it became immediately evident that this woman was vitally concerned. In fact she seemed to recognize them for what they were without the least of a doubt. But, rather than looking upon them as enemies, her first interest was in their safety. She seemed to know that the king of the city would soon have searchers out to find them and take them captive. But she was prepared for this, and bringing them to the roof of her house hid them under some drying flax. Hardly were they hidden than the searchers were there. They asked directly for the spies, but Rahab turned them away with this explanation, “There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were: and it came to pass about the time of the 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.” Not having time to investigate further, the king’s soldiers hastened away.

But this was still not the greatest. Most astonishing was -the explanation which Rahab made when they came out of hiding again. “I know,” she said, “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.”

Here suddenly was the explanation of all that had happened. Here was the reason why the people of Jericho had been so agitated and fearful of them as strangers; here was the reason why soldiers had been sent out so quickly in pursuit; the reports of what Israel’s God had done had struck terror in the hearts of all the heathen. It seemed strange to these young men of Israel. They had lived through the days when so many of their own fathers had perished in the wilderness because they had refused to be satisfied or even impressed by those works of Jehovah which they themselves had witnessed. Somehow it reflected poorly upon Israel to hear that the heathen were filled with terror from just hearing the reports of these same events.

But even more astonishing was the result which these reports had upon the heart of Rahab herself. While all of the rest of the people had been moved to hate Israel and its God the more because of these reports, Rahab had been brought to faith by them. Here was a heathen woman, not of the seed of Abraham, and with very little knowledge and no real instruction in the law and promises, and with her they found the confession which so many of their fathers had refused to make, “The LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.” And even more was this brought to the fore by the request that she made, “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.” This woman was going completely on the assumption that Israel would without a doubt soon ‘be victorious over the whole land of Canaan. So firm was her conviction that she desired with her family to be preserved from the end determined for her people and to be received into the nation of Israel to partake in its inheritance. To them it was effectively demonstrated that the power of faith was not limited to the children of Israel in some way of natural inheritance. It was in the power of God to give it to whomever He chose, even in fact to this heathen harlot.

To the young men of Israel there was no longer any doubt as to the sincerity of Rahab’s confession. They answered immediately with conviction, “Our life for your’s, if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the LORD hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee.”

All that remained now for the spies was the problem of getting out of the city and of returning to the camp of Israel on the other side of Jordan. But Rahab was also equal to that. The house where she lived was part of the wall of the city. Its windows looked outward upon the country side. For Rahab it was a simple matter to produce a cord with which the spies could easily be let down from her window in the dark. Moreover, she was also ready with advice as to how the spies could evade the searchers who even in the night were busy looking for the spies. They would be especially watchful of the fords of the river where the spies would have to cross over. Thus she told them, “Get you to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you; and hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers be returned: and, afterward may ye go your way.”

In turn the young men had instructions for Rahab which would have to be kept if she and her family were to be preserved from death as they had promised. They said to her, “We will be blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear. Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home with thee. And it shall be that whosoever shalt go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if thy hand be upon him. And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear,” There was good reason for these qualifications which were made by the spies. Although they were reasonably certain that the faith of Rahab was genuine and thus that the Lord would preserve her from death, they could not speak that certainly of her family unless they shared with her in that same faith. Of this the waiting in the house of Rahab would be a reasonable test. By their presence there they would give testimony to the fact that they believed God would give the victory to Israel. In fact, all of the factors mentioned, including the hanging of the scarlet cord and their failure to betray the trust of the spies, would be a testimony of faith for those who waited for deliverance in Rahab’s house. It was as though the spies anticipated the observation which James would make so many years later, “Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:35, 26). Their obedience to the instructions of the spies would be an affirmation to the fact that their faith was living and not dead.

Only after all of these preparations were carefully made did the spies take their departure from Rahab. Silently they slid down the rope into the darkness of the night. As Rahah had advised them; they went first in quite a different direction from that which might have been expected from those who wished to cross the Jordan and return to the camp of Israel. In the mountains there were many caves which they could use as a hiding place. In addition, from the mountains they could look out over the valley of the Jordan. In all probability they could observe through the days that followed the soldiers busy in the valley of Jordan searching’ to find the spies. The diligence with which the search was being made could only serve to impress upon them once more the greatness of the terror which the inhabitants of Jericho held for the children of Israel and their God. Even as Rahab had said, it was a full three days before the searchers were willing to give up the search as a failure. In turn it must have taken much patience and self-control for the spies to wait until the efforts of the searchers were spent. They knew that across the Jordan preparations were being made for Israel to come and cross over the Jordan. Meanwhile, Joshua was waiting to hear their report. But careful for their duties, the men waited.

Finally on the third day after darkness was fallen, they descended from their hiding place. Skirting wide about the walls of Jericho they went to the ford of Jordan and crossed over. Quickly they covered the distance to Israel’s camp, eager to tell Joshua of that which they had seen and heard, and of the remarkable deliverance which had befallen them. Undoubtedly Joshua was also eager to hear their report. From his own experience he knew so well how fearful an enemy country could look to those who traveled through it secretively as spies. Could he help but wonder if these two would return with the same hesitant trepidation as had been shown by the ten who returned with him and Caleb forty years before. But the report of these two when it came was quite different. In a sense they had mostly failed in their intention to observe and witness the feelings of the people of Jericho. They had been driven from the streets so soon after their arrival. Yet, although they had covered so very little territory and seen so very little of the city, they had witnessed that which assured them of the victory which the Lord would give them over the city more than anything else could ever do; they had witnessed the faith of Rahab. Her confession was more convincing than anything else. With confidence they could stand before Joshua and say, “Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us.”

—B.W