Joshua 2



A lot of people struggle with the concept of God’s grace because it’s so vast and almost beyond comprehension, most of the time we think we do well feeling the guilt of our sin, but we sometimes take that guilt too far and feel that God cannot forgive us because, as we put it, ‘I’ve been too bad.’

Paul knew he had been a sinner, yet he found grace. 1 Corinthians 15:9-10 / Ephesians 3:8 / 1 Timothy 1:15-16.

As we enter Joshua 2 we read about an immoral woman named Rahab who found grace. She was a harlot, despite some people who have tried to suggest that Rahab was merely an innkeeper. That was a role filled many times by women.

The word translated harlot comes from a root word meaning to nourish. However, this particular word can only have this meaning. She is described in the New Testament as a harlot, Hebrews 11:31 / James 2:25.

But the point is she found grace and she was delivered when the city of Jericho was taken, Joshua 6:22-25. She later married a prince of Israel, Matthew 1:4-6 / Ruth 4:18-22 / 1 Chronicles 2:11-12 / Numbers 7:1-12. She is included in the genealogy of Christ, Matthew 1:4-6.

It is interesting to note that there are 4 women mentioned there. Tamar was guilty of incest, Rahab, who was a harlot, Ruth, who was a heathen and Bathsheba, who was an adulteress. Surely the story of Rahab should give us great joy in realising that God’s grace is extended to everyone.


‘Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So, they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there. The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” So, the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.” But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) So, the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut. Joshua 2:1-7

Joshua sent two men to spy out the land but the text says they were sent secretly. This could be in secret as far as the Canaanites were concerned or it could mean that the Israelites themselves didn’t know, although highly unlikely.

There were only 2 spies sent, possibly because Joshua remembered his own work as a spy and possibly because 12 men would leave too much chance for a difference of opinion, just like what happened last time.

Remember only two of those first 12 gave the right report, Joshua and Caleb. More likely though, only 2 two were sent because it would be easier for 2 men to get the job done.

The spies went to the house of a harlot, remember they didn’t go for immoral purposes but simply because at Rahab’s, they could be inconspicuous. We don’t know how they met Rahab, maybe they followed her on the street or met her outside the city, the point is that God is at work through people.

The king of Jericho is must have been already suspicious of the people across the river from them, he himself might have had his own spies, but word has gotten to the king, that these spies are nearby, and maybe he knows why and so Rahab gives the spies some protection.

The king sends word to Rahab to bring the men out then she lies about their presence saying they had already left her place. Some people justify Rahab’s lie on the basis of the culture in which she lived, whilst others justify her lie saying the safety of the spies depended on it. We have to remember that God doesn’t overlook sin for His purposes, Rahab’s faith is approved, not her sin.

The king’s men didn’t know that the spies were on the roof hidden under flax. Flax was used for making fine linen. Sometimes it was laid out on the roof to dry. Why Rahab was engaged in this business we don’t know but the point is that she hid the spies, the king’s men believed her story and leave pursuing the spies.

Rahab’s Lie Many people are confused regarding the story of Rahab who, although she lied when she hid Israel’s spies, was described as being “justified”, James 2:25 / Hebrews 11:31. Is this an inconsistency within the Bible or a contradiction?

The story regarding the Canaanite, whose name was Rahab, in no way sanctions lying. There are several factors that must be taken into account in examining the Old Testament record.

1. One would not even know of this event were it not for the fact that it is revealed in the biblical documents. This is a clue as to the openness and integrity of the sacred account. Scripture makes no effort to conceal the episode. Her weakness is bluntly revealed.

2. Rahab’s lie is never condoned anywhere in the Bible text. The New Testament writers certainly do not claim that she was “justified” by her misrepresentation of the facts regarding the Hebrew spies.

3. Lying is uniformly condemned throughout the Bible, Leviticus 19:11 / Proverbs 6:16-19 / Ephesians 4:25 / Revelation 21:8. The fact is, apart from divine revelation it cannot be proved that lying is wrong.

The case of Rahab is an example of God honouring a person due to her obedient faith, in spite of a personal character flaw. Rahab was a Canaanite, an ancient body of pagans that inhabited Palestine at the time Israel entered the land in the 15th century before Christ. They were a grossly wicked people, steeped in idolatry and immorality.

They even sacrificed their children on occasion as offerings to their gods. By profession, Rahab was a “harlot,” and the scriptures make no attempt to hide that unsavoury lifestyle. Without question, this woman needed considerable refinement.

In spite of her sordid background, Rahab had generated in her heart a growing faith in the God of Israel. We should understand that this woman was from a pagan environment.

Her concept of morality and her personal lifestyle (she was a harlot) needed considerable refining. In spite of her sordid background, she had developed a sincere faith in Israel’s God, Joshua 2:9-11.

This woman had come to believe in the true God and his power to deliver. She was of a different temperament than her heathen neighbours. Accordingly, when the spies from Israel approached her, she was not “disobedient,” like the others of Jericho who would perish in their pagan corruption.

Rather, she, through faith in Jehovah, received the spies in peace, Hebrews 11:31, hid them and sent them out another way, James 2:25. It was by these works of faith that she was delivered. Later, she was even incorporated into Christ’s genealogy, Matthew 1:5.

Admittedly she lied in the process of hiding the spies, and that was wrong. But her faith and obedience allowed her to obtain pardon from her blemished history. It is for the former that she is commended; the latter was never approved.

She was not “justified” by lying; rather, she was justified by her faith and her works, in spite of her ignorance and/or weakness. It would be a gross misuse of this narrative to employ it as proof that there are occasions when it is divinely permissible to lie.

We must not pass from this point without noting that the case of Rahab demonstrates the wonderful harmony between faith and works in the divine plan. The writer of Hebrews states that Rahab perished not, as a result of her faith; James declares that she was justified by her works. These two requirements are not mutually exclusive from one another.


‘Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the LORD has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.’ Joshua 2:8-11

Now remember that Rahab didn’t have, what the Israelites had, they had seen the plagues of Egypt, she didn’t, they had seen the crossing of the Red Sea, she didn’t, they had seen pillars of smoke and fire, she didn’t, they had seen the quail and manna, she didn’t, so if anyone should have great faith it should be the Israelites.

But Rahab responded in a way which reflected her faith, she speaks of the exploits of which her people were aware, the crossing of the Red Sea and the defeat of Sihon and Og, Numbers 21:21-35.

She goes ahead and speaks of the fear of her people. Look at how she describes their fear, the terror of you has fallen on us, the inhabitants have melted away. In other words, everyone is terrified and there is no courage to be found anywhere.

Her faith is very humbling indeed, she says two great things, she says first of all, ‘I know that the Lord has given you the land’ and secondly, ‘the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.’ Now these two statements alone weren’t going to save her, look at what her faith led her to do, she hid the spies, and she put out the cord. Faith always leads us to do something.


‘Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.” “Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the LORD gives us the land.” So, she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. She said to them, “Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.” Now the men had said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them. But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.” “Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.” So, she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window’. Joshua 2:12-21

We see here that Rahab makes a plea, not just for herself and her own possessions but for her father’s household. She wanted her father, mother, brothers, and sisters to be saved. But she’s a prostitute and who would listen to a prostitute? Well, the same could be said of the Samaritan woman, John 4:28-30, people listened to her and so did Rahab’s family, Joshua 6:23 / Joshua 6:25.

After some bargaining, Rahab makes a deal. She says, if she tells no one about the spies, they will live. The people must remain in the house and the scarlet cord must be tied in the window. There have been numerous suggestions as to why the scarlet cord.

It would simply contrast with the wall of the city and be easily seen. It simply might have just been there, after all, scarlet was sometimes associated with prostitutes and therefore would go unnoticed by the people of the city, Revelation 17:3-4 / Jeremiah 4:30.

Scarlet was felt by some to be a protection against evil spirits. The early church fathers preached it as being typical of the blood of Jesus to be shed later and the blood sprinkled at the Passover previously. Whatever the reason, it served its purpose.


‘When they left, they went into the hills and stayed there three days, until the pursuers had searched all along the road and returned without finding them. Then the two men started back. They went down out of the hills, forded the river and came to Joshua son of Nun and told him everything that had happened to them. They said to Joshua, “The LORD has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.’ Joshua 2:22-24

The spies followed Rahab’s instructions and they went to the hill country where there would be many caves in which to hide. They remained there long enough for their pursuers to give up on them. The spies returned to Joshua and reported all that had happened to them and they repeated Rahab’s words. ‘The Lord has given all the land into our hands’ Joshua 2:9, ‘The inhabitants … have melted away before us’ Joshua 2:9 / Joshua 2:11.

This confirmed what God had promised back in Joshua 1:2 / Joshua 1:5. God used this same kind of proof for Gideon, Judges 7:13-15. In other words, God really would keep His promises.


We clearly see that God does forgive. Some commentators see 4 doors of salvation in the Bible. 1. The door of the ark. 2. The door of the Passover. 3. The door of Rahab’s house 4. Jesus as a door, John 10:9. Whether this is true or not, we still see that God forgives.

Rahab also teaches us that we must live for God despite being surrounded by a world of sin. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 / 2 Corinthians 6:17 but at the same time, we need to be concerned about the salvation of others.

Go To Joshua 3

Joshua 2