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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 2

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Joshua 2:0


Spies Sent to JerichoRahab Hides the SpiesJoshua's Spies at JerichoJoshua Sends Spies into JerichoJoshua's Spies at Jericho
Joshua 2:1-7Joshua 2:1-7Joshua 2:1-7Joshua 2:1-3Joshua 2:1-7
Joshua 2:4-7
Received by RahabThe Pact Between Rahab and the Spies
Joshua 2:8-14Joshua 2:8-14Joshua 2:8-14Joshua 2:8-13Joshua 2:8-13
Joshua 2:14Joshua 2:14-21
Promise to Rahab
Joshua 2:15-21Joshua 2:15-21Joshua 2:15-21Joshua 2:15-16
Joshua 2:17-21The Spies Return
Joshua 2:22-24Joshua 2:22-24Joshua 2:22-24Joshua 2:22-24Joshua 2:22-24

READING CYCLE THREE (from “A Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. Rahab was a Canaanite harlot in Jericho, the rabbis say from age 10.

B. She hid the spies (that Joshua sent) from the city authorities because she feared Israel's imminent invasion.

C. She helped the spies escape over the walls.

D. Some say that she later became the wife of Salmon and the mother of Boaz, who is in the lineage of the Messiah (Matthew 1:5). Other Jewish traditions say she married Joshua.

E. She became very popular in Jewish writings (e.g., Sifre Numbers 78; Zuta' 75) as

1. one of the four most beautiful women in the world

2. the ancestress of 8 prophets, including Jeremiah and Huldah

3. a prime example of the power of repentance

F. In the NT she is mentioned twice as an example of faith, Hebrews 11:30-31 and James 2:24-26.

Verses 1-7

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 2:1-7 1Then Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there. 2It was told the king of Jericho, saying, “Behold, men from the sons of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” 3And the king of Jericho sent word to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.” 4But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them, and she said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. 5It came about when it was time to shut the gate at dark, that the men went out; I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” 6But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them in the stalks of flax which she had laid in order on the roof. 7So the men pursued them on the road to the Jordan to the fords; and as soon as those who were pursuing them had gone out, they shut the gate.

Joshua 2:1 “Joshua. . .sent two men as spies” Joshua is following in Mosaic precedent, but he is doing so knowing how disastrous the first mission (the spies into Canaan, cf. Numbers 13:0) went. He had confidence that Israel was now ready to trust YHWH's word and presence to give them military victory.

“secretly” This was done secretly (or “quietly” BDB 361 I) because of the nature of the mission or because of the Jews' previous experience in sending spies.

“Shittim” “Shittim” means “stream of Acacias” (BDB 1008, cf. Numbers 33:49). This site was also the locale of Israel's idolatry with the Canaanite fertility cult (cf. Numbers 25:1). It was located on the eastern side of the Jordan on the northern border of the land of Moab. It was part of “the Plains of Moab.”

Acacia wood is dark, hard wood used extensively in the tabernacle (cf. Exodus 25:26; it is often translated “Shittim wood”).

In verse Joshua 2:2 Joshua gave them two orders.

1. “go,” BDB 229, KB 246, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. “view,” BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal IMPERATIVE

“Jericho” This is the oldest city in this part of the world (about 7000 B.C.). It was called the city of palms. The name means “fragrance” (BDB 437). Archaeologically little can be known about this tel because of (1) weather erosion and (2) multiple levels of human habitation.

“the house of a harlot” Later Judaism tried to make her an “innkeeper” (Meg. 14b,15a; Josephus; Rashi), but this is typical of their attempts to remove embarrassing events from the OT (cf. Exodus 32:0). The term is definitely “harlot” (BDB 275). This would have been one place the spies could go as strangers and be welcome without question.

“Rahab” The name means “to be wide” (BDB 932 I) and may be a euphemism for her prostitution (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 1091 and vol. 4, pp. 1123-1126).

Joshua 2:2 “king of Jericho” This was the common Canaanite governmental city-state title (like the Philistines). He was very nervous over such a large body of people camped so close to his city, especially in light of what they had done to the native kingdoms on the eastern side of the Jordan.

“men from the sons of Israel” They were identified either by their dress or their speech.

Joshua 2:3 “bring out the men” This VERB (BDB 422, KB 425) is a Hiphil IMPERATIVE. This king was afraid!

Joshua 2:4 “but I did not know where they were from” Many commentators have been bothered by Rahab's lying (cf. Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 181-182). Why, is she not still a Canaanite prostitute? At what point does she become an informed believer? This is not God lying!

Joshua 2:5 “Pursue them quickly” This is another lie to cover her deception (BDB 922, KB 1191, Qal IMPERATIVE).

Joshua 2:6 “stalks of flax” Flax (BDB 781 #2 f) was used to make linen. This indicates a possible date of March/April (flood stage for the Jordan), since this was when flax was sun dried.

“on the roof” The flat roof was a place of social gathering as well as a work place in the summer.

Joshua 2:7 “the fords” This referred to special shallow water crossing places in the Jordan river (BDB 721).

Verses 8-14

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 2:8-14 8Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, 9and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. 10For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. 12Now therefore, please swear to me by the LORD, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father's household, and give me a pledge of truth, 13and spare my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, with all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” 14So the men said to her, “Our life for yours if you do not tell this business of ours; and it shall come about when the LORD gives us the land that we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.”

Joshua 2:9 “the LORD has given you the land” How did a Canaanite prostitute know (1) God's covenant name; (2) the covenant stipulations; and (3) their exodus experience? Apparently she heard by word of mouth from her customers.

“the terror of you has fallen on us” The term “terror” (BDB 33) is often used of YHWH's supernatural intervention in battle (e.g., Exodus 15:16; Exodus 23:27; Job 20:25).

“all the inhabitants of the land” The root of this Hebrew word means “to sit, remain, dwell” (BDB 442, KB 444, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE). Some scholars asset that it should be translated “rulers” or “those who sit on the throne,” but no translation that I am aware of translates it like that. They assume it relates to the third meaning, “those who dwell in the land” (cf. Exodus 15:14).

“I have melted away before you” This is parallel to “the terror of you has fallen on us.” This VERB (BDB 556, KB 555, Niphal PERFECT) is a metaphor of helpless disorganization or panic (cf. Joshua 2:11; Joshua 5:10; Exodus 15:15; 1 Samuel 14:16; Jeremiah 49:23). It is used to describe fear in Deuteronomy 1:28 and also of the Israelites at their defeat at Ai in Joshua 7:5.

Joshua 2:10 “Red Sea” This is literally “Sea of Reeds” or “Sea of Weeds.” This term is used of

1. salt sea (cf. Jonah 2:5; 1 Kings 9:26)

2. fresh water reeds in the Nile (cf. Exodus 2:3; Isa. 19:26)

3. the large body of mysterious water to “the south” (cf. Numbers 33:8, Numbers 33:10)

thereby referring to the modern bodies of water called the Red Sea, Indian Ocean or Persian Gulf.


“the two kings of the Amorites” The account of Israel's victory over Sihon and Og is recorded in Numbers 21:0 and Deuteronomy 2-3.

“utterly destroyed” The VERB (BDB 355, KB 353, Hiphil PERFECT) herem meant “under the ban.” This was a holy war term for complete dedication to God. All that breathed became holy unto God and thereby had to be removed from human use. Examples are

a. limited ban - Deuteronomy 2:34-35; Deuteronomy 3:6-7

b. total ban - Joshua 6:17, Joshua 6:21

Joshua 2:11 “He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” This is a strong theological statement of God's transcendence and imminence. This is the paradox of YHWH as “the Holy One of Israel” and on the other hand, the ever present God of creation. This is an affirmation of monotheism. See Special Topic: Monotheism.

Joshua 2:12 “swear to me by the LORD” The VERB (BDB 989, KB 1396, Niphal IMPERATIVE) is common in Deuteronomy and Joshua.

1. God swears, Joshua 1:6; Joshua 5:6 (twice); Joshua 21:43, Joshua 21:44

2. His people swear, Joshua 2:12, Joshua 2:17, Joshua 2:20; Joshua 6:22, Joshua 6:26; Joshua 9:15, Joshua 9:18, Joshua 9:19, Joshua 9:20; Joshua 14:9

3. do not swear by their gods, Joshua 23:7

This was a common practice of involving God's name in daily life (cf. Joshua 9:15). The fact that she wants an oath in YHWH's name shows her faith in Him.

“dealt kindly” Hesed (BDB 338) is the Hebrew word for God's covenant loyalty and love for His people. Here, however, it is used of a general sense of hospitality.


NASB“and give me a pledge of truth” NKJV“and give me a true token” NRSV“Give me a sign of good faith” TEV“and give me some sign that I can trust you” NJB“and give me a sure sign of this”

This sign (BDB 16) of truth (BDB 54) is described in Joshua 2:18 and was honored by Joshua. Rahab and all of her family with her were spared, Joshua 2:13.

Joshua 2:14 This is an oath formula assuring Rahab that the two spies could speak with authority for the Israeli army.

NASB, NRSV, NJB“kindly and faithfully” NKJV“kindly and truly” NJB“treat you well”

These two terms are significant covenant terms:

1. “kindly,” BDB 338, cf. note at Joshua 2:12

2. “faithfully,” BDB 54 is the root for covenant faith, trust and steadfastness

Verses 15-21

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 2:15-21 15Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall, so that she was living on the wall. 16She said to them, “Go to the hill country, so that the pursuers will not happen upon you, and hide yourselves there for three days until the pursuers return. Then afterward you may go on your way.” 17The men said to her, “We shall be free from this oath to you which you have made us swear, 18 unless, when we come into the land, you tie this cord of scarlet thread in the window through which you let us down, and gather to yourself into the house your father and your mother and your brothers and all your father's household. 19It shall come about that anyone who goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be free; but anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him. 20But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be free from the oath which you have made us swear. 21She said, “According to your words, so be it.” So she sent them away, and they departed; and she tied the scarlet cord in the window.

Joshua 2:15 The exact location of her place of business and home is uncertain. Jericho was a double walled city. There may have been walkways from the roofs of buildings built against the inner walls to the top of the outer wall. Robert Bratcher and Barclay Newman in A Translators Handbook on the Book of Joshua by the United Bible Societies, have an interesting comment,

“Archaeological excavations reveal that at one time Jericho had two city walls, an inner one and an outer one, separated by a space of some 3.5 to 4.5 meters. Houses were built on heavy timbers laid from one wall to the other: the window through which Rahab let the men down looked out from the outer wall” (p. 32).

Joshua 2:16 “go” This VERB (BDB 229, KB 246) is a Qal IMPERATIVE. Her advice was crucial in their escape.

“the hill country” This referred to the rugged hill country to the west and south of Jericho. In other words, she instructed them to go the opposite direction from the camp of Israel.

Joshua 2:18 The term “rope” (BDB 286 II) in Joshua 2:15 is different from the term (BDB 876 CONSTRUCT 296) used in Joshua 2:17. The first implies a corded strong rope, the second a much smaller, weaker rope, or thick thread (cf. Joshua 21:0). By putting out this small rope/thread it did not draw undue attention to her home by the inhabitants of Jericho.

The color scarlet is often associated with the tabernacle color, but must have also been a common color for thread (cf. Genesis 38:28, Genesis 38:30). These spies may have had it with them. The dye color came from a worm (BDB 1040).

“gather to yourself into the house your father and your mother and your brothers and all your father's household” In the OT salvation has to do with physical deliverance. Notice Rahab's whole family is delivered by her act of faith. This corporate concept is not only common in the OT, but extends to the “household” conversions of the NT (cf. Joshua 2:2; John 4:44, John 4:53; Acts 11:14; Acts 16:14-15, Acts 16:31-33; Acts 18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:16).

Joshua 2:19-20 Notice the conditional covenant related to the faith of Rahab (cf. Joshua 2:20) and her family (Joshua 2:19). If they believe in YHWH they will abide by the three conditions of the spies (cf. Joshua 2:18-20).

Joshua 2:19 “his blood shall be on his own head” This is a Hebrew idiom of personal responsibility (cf. Ezekiel 18:13; Ezekiel 33:5).

Verses 22-24

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 2:22-24 22They departed and came to the hill country, and remained there for three days until the pursuers returned. Now the pursuers had sought them all along the road, but had not found them. 23Then the two men returned and came down from the hill country and crossed over and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and they related to him all that had happened to them. 24They said to Joshua, “Surely the LORD has given all the land into our hands; moreover, all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before us.”

Joshua 2:24 The spies told Joshua of the fear of the Canaanites (cf. Joshua 2:9). This is a fulfilled prophecy from Exodus 23:27 and Deuteronomy 2:25.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did these spies go to a prostitute's house?

2. Why did Rahab help them?

3. Is lying alright if used for God?

4. What concept of God did Rahab have?

5. What significance does the scarlet thread have?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Joshua 2". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/joshua-2.html. 2021.
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