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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 2

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot's house, named Rahab, and lodged there.

Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly. Faith is manifested by an active persevering use of means (James 2:22.); and accordingly Joshua, while confiding in the accomplishment of the divine promise (Joshua 1:3), adopted every precaution which a skillful general could think of to render his first attempt in the invasion of Canaan successful. Two spies were despatched to reconnoitre the country, particularly in the neighbourhood of Jericho; for, in the prospect of investing that place, it was desirable to obtain full information as to its site, its approaches, the weak and assailable parts of its walls, the character and resources of its inhabitants. This mission, which in many respects was a perilous onethey had to swim across the swollen river, required the strictest privacy, and it seems to have been studiously concealed from the knowledge of the Israelites themselves, lest any unfavourable or exaggerated report, publicly circulated, might have dispirited the people, as that of the spies did in the days of Moses.

Jericho, [ Yªriychow (H3405), also Yªreechow (H3405) (Numbers 22:1) and Yªriychoh (H3405) (1 Kings 16:34); Septuagint, Ierichoo (G2410); classical writers, Ierikous]. Some derive this name from a word signifying 'new noon,' in reference to the crescent-like plain in which it stood, formed by an amphitheater of hills; others, from a world signifying 'its scent,' on account of the fragrance of the balsam and palm trees in which it was embosomed. Its site was long supposed to be represented by the small mud-walled hamlet Er-Riha (Reland's 'Palaestina,' pp. 383, 829; Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,' 2:, pp. 279, 285); but recent researches have fixed on a spot about half an hour's journey westward, where large ruins exist, and about six or eight miles distant from the Jordan. It stood at the western extremity of a great palm forest, nearly three miles broad and eight miles long, but of which not a vestige now remains (Stanley's 'Sinai and Palestine,' p.

301). It was for that age a strongly-fortified town, the key of the eastern pass through the deep ravine, now called Wady-Kelt, into the interior of Palestine.

They went, and came into an harlot's house, [ zownaah (H2181), or more fully, as here, 'ishaah (H802) zownaah (H2181), a prostitute: a participle from zaanaah (H2181), to commit fornication, to play the whore]. Many expositors, desirous of removing the stigma of this name from an ancestress of the Saviour (Matthew 1:5), have called her a hostess or tavernkeeper [deriving the word from zuwn (H2109), to nourish]. This view is strenuously supported by Dr. Adam Clarke; and he further defends it by the authority of the Chaldee Paraphrast [who renders the ittetha pundekeetha, a woman, an innkeeper, the Chaldee pundak being an evident corruption of the Greek pandokeion, an inn, as Buxtorf has remarked.] But scriptural usage (Leviticus 21:7-14; Deuteronomy 23:18; Judges 11:1; 1 Kings 3:16), the authority of the Septuagint [ pornee (G4204)], followed by the apostles (Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25), and the immemorial style of Eastern khans, which are never kept by women, establish the propriety of the term employed in our version. Her house was probably recommended to the spies by the convenience of its situation, without any knowledge of the character of the inmates. But a divine influence directed them in the choice of that lodging-place.

Verse 2

And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither to night of the children of Israel to search out the country.

It was told the king - by the sentinels who at such a time of threatened invasion would be posted on the eastern frontier, and whose duty required them to make a strict report to headquarters of the arrival of all strangers. The king was of course only a petty, though independent, ruler, each of the cities of Canaan at this period being governed by its own melek.

Verse 3

And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 4

And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were:

The woman took the two men and hid them - literally, him; i:e., each of them in separate places, of course previous to the appearance of the royal messengers, and in anticipation of a speedy search after her guests. True to the laws of hospitality, for which Orientals generally, and the women particularly, have ever been famous, she, at the imminent risk of her own life, protected her guests from their pursuers. According to Eastern manners, which pay an almost superstitious respect to a woman's apartment, the royal messengers did not demand admittance to search, but asked her to bring the foreigners.

Verse 5

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.

The time of shutting of the gate. The gates of all Oriental cities are closed at sunset, after which there is no possibility either of admission or egress; and in the East there is scarcely any twilight; 'sunset,' therefore, is a period 'when it is dark.'

The men went out. This was a palpable deception. But, as lying is a common vice among pagan people, Rahab was probably unconscious of its moral guilt, especially as she resorted to it as a means for screening her guests; and she might deem herself bound to do it by the laws of Eastern hospitality, which make it a point of honour to preserve the greatest enemy, if he has once eaten one's salt. Judged by the divine law, her answer was a sinful expedient; but her infirmity being united with faith, she was graciously pardoned, and her service accepted (James 2:25).

Verse 6

But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof.

She had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax. Flax with other vegetable productions, is at a certain season spread out on the flat roofs of Eastern houses to be dried in the sun; and after lying awhile it is piled up in numerous little stacks, which, from the luxuriant growth of the flax, rise to a height of three or our feet. Behind some of these stacks Rahab concealed the spies. 'The stalks of flax had no doubt just been cut down, and she had spread them upon the roof of her house to steep and to season. It was harvest time (see the note at Joshua 3:15). It would seem that the flax and the barley were crops which ripened about the same time in Egypt; and as the climate of Canaan did not differ materially from that of Egypt, this no doubt was the case in Canaan too; so that the flax stalks must have been newly reaped. Here I see truth; yet how very minute is this incident! How very casually does it present itself to our notice! How very unimportant a matter it seems in the first instance under what the spies were hidden! Enough that, whatever it was, it answered the purpose and saved their lives. Could the historian have contemplated for one moment the effect which a trifle about a flax-stalk might have in corroboration of his account of the passage of the Jordan?' (Blunt's 'Undesigned Coincidences,' p. 106).

Verse 7

And the men pursued after them the way to Jordan unto the fords: and as soon as they which pursued after them were gone out, they shut the gate.

The men pursued after them the way to Jordan unto the fords. That river is crossed at several well-known fords. The first and second immediately below the sea of Galilee (Irby and Mangles, pp. 296, 301; Seetzen, p. 351; Buckingham, p. 448; Burckhardt, p. 344; Van de Velde, 2: 477; Stanley, 'Sinai and Palestine,' pp. 322, 335), the third and fourth immediately above and below the pilgrims' bathing-place, opposite Jericho (see all of them alluded to in Judges 3:28; 1 Samuel 13:7; 2 Samuel 2:29; 2 Samuel 10:17; 2 Samuel 17:22; 2 Samuel 19:15).

As soon as they which pursued after them were gone out, they shut the gate. This precaution was to ensure the capture of the spies, should they have been lurking in the city.

Verse 8

And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof;

Before they were laid down - literally, they had not yet lain down (see the note at Genesis 2:5).

She came up unto them upon the roof; and ... said. Rahab's dialogue is full of interest, as showing the universal panic and consternation of the Canaanites on the one hand (Joshua 24:11; Deuteronomy 2:25), and her strong convictions on the other, founded on a knowledge of the divine promise, and the stupendous miracles that had opened the way of the Israelites to the confines of the promised land. She was convinced of the supremacy of Yahweh; and her earnest stipulations for the preservation of her relatives, amid the perils of the approaching invasion, attest the sincerity and strength of her faith.

Verses 9-13

And she said unto the men, 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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 14

And the men answered her, Our life for yours, 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.

The men answered her, Our life for yours. This was a solemn pledge-a virtual oath, though the name of God is not mentioned; and the words "if ye utter not this our business" were added, not as a condition of their fidelity, but as necessary for her safety, which might he endangered if the private agreement was divulged.

Verse 15

Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was upon the town wall, and she dwelt upon the wall.

Her house was upon the town wall. In many Oriental cities houses are built on the walls with overhanging windows; in others the town wall forms the back wall of the house, so that the window opens into the country. Rahab's was probably of this latter description, and the cord or rope sufficiently strong to bear the weight of a man.

Verse 16

And she said unto 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.

She said - rather, 'she had said;' for what follows must have been part of the previous conversation.

Get you to the mountain. A range of white limestone hills extends on the north, called Quarantania (now Jebel-Karantul), rising to a height of from 1,200 to 1,500 feet, and the sides of which are perforated with caves. Some one peak adjoining was familiarly known to the inhabitants as "the mountain." The prudence and propriety of the advice to flee in that direction, rather than to the ford, were made apparent by the sequel.

Verses 17-18

And the men said unto her, We will be blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 19

And it shall be, that whosoever shall 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 any hand be upon him. His blood shall be upon his head, [ daamow (H1818)]. The word, being in the singular, implies that the relative of Rahab who breaks the stipulated terms by venturing abroad at the time of the impending siege, shall be himself, and no one else, the cause of his own death. Daamiym (H1818), in the plural, bloods, is used by David to the Amalekite in reference to his blood-guiltiness if he were to kill Saul (2 Samuel 1:16).]

Verse 20

And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 21

And she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window.

She bound the scarlet line in the window - probably soon after the departure of the spies. It was not formed, as Harmer supposes, rate network, as a lattice, but simply to hang down the wall. Its red colour made it conspicuous; and it was thus a sign and pledge of safety to Rahab's house, as the bloody mark on the lintels of the houses of the Israelites in Egypt to that people.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/joshua-2.html. 1871-8.
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