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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Joshua 2

 

 


Verses 1-24

2. The sending out of the spies to Jericho

Joshua 2

a. Sending of the Spies, and their Reception by Rahab

Joshua 2:1-7

1And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy [as spies] secretly, saying: Go, view the land, even [and] Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot’s lot’s house, named Rahab, and lodged [lay down] there 2 And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither to-night of the children [sons] of Israel, to search out the country [ארץ, land]. 3And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which [who] are entered into thine house, for they be come to search out all the country [land]. 4And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me5[and said: True,[FN1] the men, came to me] but I wist [knew] 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 [know] not: pursue after them quickly for ye shall overtake them 6 But she had brought them up to the roof of the house [omit: of the house[FN2]], and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order [spread out, or stacked up for herself] upon the roof 7 And the men pursued after them the way to [the] Jordan unto [to] the fords: and as soon as they which pursued after them were gone out, they shut the gate.

b. Rescue of the Spies by Rahab on their Promise to her that, in the taking of the Land, they would spare her and hers

Joshua 2:8-21

8And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof; and she 9 said unto the men, I know that the Lord [Jehovah] hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint10[נמֹגו, melt] because of you. For we have heard how the Lord [Jehovah] dried up the water of the Red Sea for [before] 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 the] Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed [ye devoted[FN3]]. 11And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts [heart] did melt [יִמֵּם, flow down], neither did [does] there remain any more courage in any Prayer of Manasseh, because of you [ch. Joshua 5:1]: for the Lord [Jehovah] your God, He is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath 12 Now therefore [And now], I pray you, swear unto me by the Lord [Jehovah], since[FN4] I have showed you kindness, that ye will also show kindness unto my father’s 13 house, and give me a true token [a token of truth]; and that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have14[ch. Joshua 6:23; Joshua 6:25], and deliver our lives from death. And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be,[FN5] when the Lord15[Jehovah] hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee. Then she let them down by a [the] cord through the window: for her house was upon the town-wall [in the “wall-side,” Gesen.], and she dwelt upon the wall 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 go17[go ye] your way. And the men said unto her, We will be [are] blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear, [unless thou doest what we now say to thee]. 18Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet [crimson] thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring [gather] thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household home unto thee 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 [blameless, as Joshua 2:17]: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him 20 And if thou utter this our business, then we will be [are] quit [blameless] of thine oath which thou hast made us to [omit: to, as Joshua 2:17] swear 21 And she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet [crimson] line in the window.

c. Return of the Spies to Joshua

Joshua 2:22-24

22And they went, and came to the mountain, and abode there three days, until the pursuers were returned: and the pursuers sought them throughout all the way, but found them not 23 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 befel them 24 And they said unto Joshua, Truly [omit: Truly[FN6]] the Lord [Jehovah] hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even [and also] all the inhabitants of the country [land] do faint [melt] because of us.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

a. Joshua 2:1-7. Sending out of the Spies and their Reception by Rahab. Probably still the same day on which Joshua had received the divine command to cross the Jordan, he sends forth secretly two spies to go over to Jericho, which was somewhere about fourteen miles distant.

Joshua 2:1. Shittim, Numbers 33:49, Abel-shittim, i. e. Meadow of the Acacias, from שִׁטָּה, acacia, probably lying northward from Beth-jeshimoth in the land of Moab, the last camping-place of the Israelites east of the Jordan, at the outlet of the Wady Heshban, known from the history of Balaam ( Numbers 25:1; Micah 6:5), not far from the Jordan, 60 stadia = 3hours from the place of crossing according to Josephus (Ant. iv8, 1; v1, 1; Bell. Jud. iv7, 6). Near to this evidently well chosen camp-ground ( Numbers 24:5-6) lay the city of Beth-peor, where Moses delivered his last discourse and was buried ( Deuteronomy 4:46; Deuteronomy 34:6). Compare, further, Knobel on Numbers 22:1, [and Stanley, S. & P. p291 f. Am. ed.—Tr.]

Spies. According to the LXX. two young men, nothing like which is said in the Heb. here, but in Joshua 6:23 we learn that the spies were young men. At all events Joshua would choose brave and prudent men for this mission, because, having himself been one of the twelve spies ( Numbers 13:9) he knew from experience the dangers to which they would be exposed. He takes only two and sends them secretly (חֶרֶשׁ, prop.: Silence, here used adverbially) that the enemy might get no intimation of it.[FN7] Should he have done this? the question has been asked.[FN8] Toward the answer it may be said, That the use of human prudence, with all trust in divine providence, is not only allowable, but often also a binding duty. Joshua ought not, in his position as a general, to enter into a strange and hostile land without having explored it first. He proceeded in full conformity with the example of Moses, Numbers 13.

Jericho. Written here “and everywhere in our book יְרִיחוֹ, but in the Pent. only יְרֵחוֹ,” Keil; 1 Kings 16:34, יְרִיחֹה; a very strong city ( Joshua 6:1), the key to all the land west of the Jordan, the city of palm-trees (עִיר הַתִּמָרִים, Deuteronomy 34:3; Judges 1:16; Judges 2 Joshua 23:15); in the LXX, in the N. T. ( Matthew 20:29; Mark 10:46; Luke 18:35; Luke 19:1; Luke 10:30, Hebrews 11:30), and in Josephus (Bell. Jud. iv8, 3), ‘Iεριχώ; in Strabo xvi2, § 47, ‘Ιεριχοῦς; the city of odors and fragrance (from הֵרִיחַ,רוּחַ, fragrant place; the ending הֹוֹ being for וֹן, comp. עַכּהֹ,שִׁילהֹ, Gesen.[FN9]); just as far west of the Jordan as Shittim was east of it. The immediate vicinity of Jericho is very fertile. As the climate approximates to that of Egypt the harvest is ripe here by the end of March. Toward the Jordan, however, the surface is arid, and the region between Jericho and Jerusalem was a rocky wilderness,—the Quarantania, not even to this day entirely safe for travellers ( Luke 10:30). Comp. Furrer, pp149, 151–154.

The spies successfully reach Jericho, towards evening ( Joshua 2:2); “at a time, therefore, when the courtezans traversed the streets ( Proverbs 7:9 ff.; Isaiah 23:16); they met with Rahab and followed her to her house” (Knobel). She was a זֹנָה, πόρνη ( Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25), and not an innkeeper פּוֹנְדְקִיתָא, πανδοκεύτρια (Josephus, Ant. v1, 2, Chald, Rabb, Vatab, Hess, Hist. of Josh. i. p37). Her name is mentioned also in the Genealogy of Jesus ( Matthew 1:5) where she appears as wife of Salma or Salmon, and mother of Boaz. “The Rabbins derive from her eight prophets and priests” (Knobel). The Epistle to the Hebrews, and that of James celebrate her memory and glorify her faith and her works ( Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25). See on this the Doctrinal and Practical below. In our narrative she is seen as a very prudent person ( Joshua 2:4), of great presence of mind, degraded indeed, but by no means sunk in vice, and who therefore has intimations of the power of Jehovah the Almighty God ( Joshua 2:10-11).

To-night (הַלַּיְלָה as in Genesis 19:5; Genesis 19:34, here more precisely defined Joshua 2:5). The king of Jericho receives word that in the evening twilight two strange men have arrived in Jericho and been received into Rahab’s house. Perhaps there were, as Calvin conjectures, men standing at the gates, to notice suspicious people, especially as they were aware, no doubt, in Jericho, of the intentions of the Hebrews beyond the Jordan. The king sends to Rahab, therefore ( Joshua 2:3), and demands that she shall give up the men. At the same moment (not earlier, as Keil supposes) she hides the spies, as the demand of the king’s servants was probably made from the outside, with which the “bring forth” ( Joshua 2:3) plainly agrees. She boldly lies to the king’s messengers ( Joshua 2:4-5) who go away, frustrated, in order to pursue as soon as possible Joshua’s spies, whom they suppose to have escaped and fled toward the Jordan ( Joshua 2:7).

Joshua 2:3. Notice the full circumstantiality of the king’s command.

Joshua 2:4. In וַתִּצְפְּנוֹ the suff. sing, is not to be changed into ־ֵם, but is an instance rather of “the free discourse in which one passes from the plural to the singular” (comp. Ewald, Gramm. § 309 a.).[FN10]

I knew not... . . Spoken with the air of simplicity.

Joshua 2:5. And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate. Heb. לִסְגּוֹר וַיְהי הַשַּׁעַר as Genesis 15:12, וַיְהִי הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ לָבאֹ, and it came to pass about the time of the going down of the sun (cf. Gesen. § 132, Rem1).

When it was dark, בְּחשֶׁךְ, De Wette: as it grew dusk. It may, however, well be translated, “when it was dark,” since in the East, night comes on soon after sundown, and the evening twilight (נֶשֶׁף, Job 24:15; Proverbs 7:9) is of very short duration, so that sometimes נֶשֶׁף signifies simply night ( Isaiah 5:11; Isaiah 21:4; Isaiah 59:10).

Joshua 2:6, relates further where and how Rahab had hidden the spies ( Joshua 2:4) on the roof, under the stems of flax. The roof was flat ( Mark 2:4) According to the Jewish law it must be provided with a “battlement” ( Deuteronomy 22:8), that blood should not come upon the house by any one falling therefrom. “Here many men,” as Starke observes, “might stay together, Judges 16:27 (comp. also Acts 2:1); they could walk about there within the battlement securely ( 2 Samuel 11:2); could speak from thence to others ( Matthew 10:27), and there they used to pray ( Acts 10:9). The Romans also, but not all, had such roofs, and not over the whole house; but parts of some of their houses were furnished with such flat roofs which were called solaria, because they lay exposed on all sides to the sun, and also mœniana, as the Italians now also call them altana.בְּפִּשְׁתֵּי הָעֵץ, LXX. correctly ἐν τῇ λινοκαλάμῃ, Vulg. stipula lini, therefore flax-stalks, not cotton, as De Wette (cf. also Furrer p151, obs2), following the Arab. translation will have it, “since פִּשׁתָּה and פֵּשֶׁת or פִּשְׁתֶּה are everywhere else used only of flax” (Knobel). Unbroken flax is meant, the stalks of which, about Jericho as in Egypt, reach a height of more than three feet and the thickness of a reed (comp. Winer, Realw, s. v. “Flachs” [and Smith’s Dict.])

Joshua 2:7. To the fords—A more exact determination of “the way,” and not to be referred to “they pursued after.” The fords themselves cannot be identified; one may consult the maps, especially Van de Velde, who gives a road from Jericho southeastwardly to a ford.

c. Joshua 2:8-21. Rescue of the Spies by Rahab, on their Promise to her that in the taking of the land they will spare her and hers. After the departure of the royal messengers Rahab goes up on the roof to the spies, describes to them the faint-heartedness of the people, desires an oath from them as security that they will show kindness to her and her family in return for her kindness to them, and after receiving this lets the men down by a rope through the window ( Joshua 2:8-15).

Joshua 2:9. Jehovah. The word is remarkable as used by Rahab, but she might easily, as even Knobel grants, be acquainted with the name of the God of Israel, as the people had already camped long in the neighborhood.

Terror is fallen upon us [אֵימַתְכֶּם, suff. having the force of obj. Gen.], Deuteronomy 2:25; Deuteronomy 11:25, cf. particularly Exodus 15:13-16. The vision which was there expressed in Moses’ song of triumph ( Joshua 2:15) has now been fulfilled. The inhabitants of the land melt away for fear; for they have heard how God ( Joshua 2:10) has dried up the Red Sea ( Psalm 106:7; Psalm 106:9; Psalm 106:22; Psalm 136:13, Heb. reed-sea, sea of reeds, and in Egypt, Schari-sea (schari = reed) i. e. the Arabian Gulf; and have heard also how ill it has gone with Sihon king of the Amorites ( Numbers 21:21-31; Deuteronomy 2:30-37), who refused the Israelites a passage through his land ( Numbers 21:23; Deuteronomy 2:30), and after him with Og king of Bashan ( Numbers 21:33-35; Deuteronomy 3:1-7). Both have lost land and people by the edge of the sword, and the recollection of this victory lived yet in the memory of after ages, as may be seen from Psalm 136:19-20. Gesenius derives סיחוֹן from סָחָה = סוּחַ, from which also סְחִי, sweepings, filth (περικάθαρμα, περίψημα, 1 Corinthians 4:13), comes. Granting the correctness of this etymology, the name Sihon might perhaps be rather a nickname which the Hebrews had applied to the Amorite chief than his real name; but this we will not assume to decide. The name עוֹג, from עוּג, according to the Arab, to bend, med. E. to be bent, crooked = the crooked one, would suit well with that supposition.

Ye devoted (הֶחֱרַמְתֶּם, Hiph. of הָדַם). The ground signification of the unused Kal is “to cut off,”[FN11] in support of which we may compare partly חֶרְמֵשׁ, a sickle, and partly the related words הָרַת,חָרַשׁ,חָרַץ. Accordingly חֶרֶם is that which is cut off, separated, and especially, separated for God, devoted to him ( Leviticus 27:21; Leviticus 27:28-29; Numbers 18:14; Deuteronomy 7:26; Deuteronomy 13:18; Joshua 6:17-18; Joshua 7:1 ff.; 1 Samuel 15:21; Ezekiel 44:29), and that too “without a possibility of redemption,” ἀνάθεμα ( Romans 9:3; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Galatians 1:8-9; 1 Corinthians 16:22),[FN12]κατάρα ( Galatians 3:13). Objects of such a doom might be persons, as here Sihon and Og (comp. further 1 Kings 20:42; Isaiah 34:5) or things ( Joshua 6:17-18; Joshua 7:1 ff.). Therefore הֶחֱרִים is to put something under the ban, to doom, i. e. to consecrate or devote it exclusively to Jehovah without a possibility of redemption, whereby the consecrated object perishes, being destroyed. Thus the word is to be understood here as often in our book, Joshua 8:26; Joshua 10:28; Joshua 10:37; Joshua 11:21; Joshua 13found in Joshua 11:12, as in 1 Samuel 15:8, having “with the edge of the sword” appended. [See further on this subject the exeget. note on Joshua 6:17, and the doctrinal and ethical there, No1.]

Joshua 2:11. Neither did there remain any more courage, that Isaiah, on account of fear. Differently in 1 Kings 10:5, where “there was no more spirit in her” expresses the result of astonishment,—Rahab recognizes God as the Almighty and Omnipresent, a knowledge which is possible to the heathen ( Romans 1:19-21).

[“Sign of truth, i. e. a sign by which they guarantee to her the truth, or reality of the exhibition of the חֵסֶד desired by her,” Keil.] Knobel interprets: “a proof, an evidence ( Job 21:29), that you are honest and true men,” and supposes further that “Rahab points them to the moral law, which for a favor shown prescribes a thankful and true return,” and he rejects the common supposition of an outward sign, with the remark that “this would have been demanded by her not till after the request in Joshua 2:13, and would have been given by the spies now before they were let down.”[FN14] But (1.) such a sign might be required just as well before as after the request in Joshua 2:13; (2.) all the passages quoted above, especially 2 Kings 20:8-9; Isaiah 7:11; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 38:7; Isaiah 38:22; Luke 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:17, favor the common explanation which is supported by an actual instance in 1 Samuel 18:3-4; (3.) in Joshua 2:18 the crimson line is in fact given as such a “token;” (4.) Rahab might provisionally content herself with the oath given in Joshua 2:14, although the sign was not yet given her, but she received it afterwards.

Joshua 2:14. Our life for yours, [lit. “our soul instead of yours for death,” anima nostra pro vobis moriatur, Maur,] i. e. “You with the population of Jericho are threatened with death, but it shall not strike you but us, if we prove false; God shall in this case destroy us instead of you” (Knobel).

Joshua 2:15. Her house was, etc. The house was built against the city wall, but she dwelt on the city wall, that Isaiah, her chamber was in the upper story of the house, which rose above the wall. Many such houses still stand in old cities, as along the Rhine, for instance.[FN15] As the spies were rescued here so was Paul ( Acts 9:25) at Damascus. Starke makes here the following honest observation: “It was generally held, particularly in ancient times, punishable to leap or climb over a wall; but we readily see that this was so considered properly on account of the wanton contempt that was shown, comp. Nehemiah 4:2. But here the thing was done to save the lives of innocent people and servants of God; besides, as has already been seen, Rahab was no longer bound to seek the interest and honor of her town, accursed and doomed by God.”

The men have reached the ground and stand below. Rahab, from above, advises them to turn to the mountain, while they point out to her the special conditions on which they will keep the oath; and then go their way ( Joshua 2:16-21).

Joshua 2:16. Get you to the mountain. Probably the cavernous mountain to the north of Jericho, which the Arabs now call Kuruntul (see Robinson, 2:303 [Quarantania, see Stanley, S. & P 301 f.]). On the road to the Jordan the king’s messengers would undoubtedly have met them, as Rahab implies in the beginning of her counsel, “lest the pursuers meet you.”

Joshua 2:17. We are blameless, etc. To understand these words we must supply: Unless you do what we shall now say to you, Genesis 24:41.

Joshua 2:18-20. This line of crimson thread קָו = תִּקְוָה is line, not rope, חֶבֶל. This line was spun out of “crimson thread” (חוּט הַשָּׁנִי). שָׁנִי is the crimson color produced by תּוֹלַעַת שָׁנִי, Coccus ilicis, Linn, a cochineal insect living on the holm-oak, the larvæ of which yield the crimson dye (“crimson,” from the Arabic name of the insect, Kermes). This line is to be distinguished from the cord ( Joshua 2:15), and not identified with it as is done by Luther, who even connects the relative clause אֲשְׁר־־בוֹ ungrammatically with חוּט ה׳ instead of חַלּוֹן, as Knobel also approves. This is the “token “given by the spies to Rahab, and by her ( Joshua 2:21) fastened to the window.[FN16] A thick red cord would hardly have been proper for this, as Schulz perceived when he remarked: “Neque etiam probabile Esther, eundem ilium funem, quo Rachab in demittendis exploratoribus usa sit ( Joshua 2:15), fenestræ alligatum fuisse, uti Lutheri versio vernaeula statuit multis sequacibus; funis enim iste facilem suspieionem movisset, exploratores in Rachabis ædibus quæsitos ejus restis ope demissos esse, cum contra tenue ae leve filum collineum nihil suspecti haberet.” This view is held also by Maurer and Keil, and before Schulz, by J. D. Michaelis. From its bright red color the line was visible at a distance. But how did Rahab reach the line when the men were below and she above at the window? They probably fastened it to the cord which she then drew up. To this first condition the spies add a second, namely, they would be clear of their oath also if she did not gather all her relatives into her house, which they were not to leave ( Joshua 2:18-19). The third and last condition is that Rahab shall betray nothing ( Joshua 2:20).

His blood be upon us. Blood = blood-guiltiness, responsibility for blood, Genesis 37:26; Leviticus 17:4. In this signification we have the plural also דָּמִים. Hence בֵּ ת,עִיר דָּמִים, house, city of blood, 2 Samuel 21:1; Ezekiel 22:2; “man of blood,” Psalm 5:7; Psalm 26:9. Compare besides Matthew 27:19; Matthew 27:24-25.

Joshua 2:21. She fastened the line in the window, not the cord.

c. Joshua 2:22-24. Return of the Spies to Joshua. The last verses of the chapter relate the return of the spies who, after tarrying three days in the mountain, recrossed the Jordan [probably by swimming, as the water at this season was too high to ford.—Tr.] and came with joyful tidings to Joshua ( Joshua 2:22-23).

All that befel them. “The אוֹהָם כָּל־הַמֹּצאוֹת is synonymous with כָּל־הַקְּרֹת אוֹהָם, Genesis 42:29” (Keil) “On מָצָא, to overtake, befall, comp. Exodus 18:8; Numbers 20:14. Similarly קְרֹת, Genesis 42:29.” (Knobel)

Joshua 2:24 contains the most important part of their report, that the inhabitants of Canaan were very much dispirited and fearful (נָמֹגוּ, as in Joshua 2:9).

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. Besides that Rahab has received an honorable position in the genealogical record of Jesus ( Matthew 1:5), she is mentioned with praise by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews ( Hebrews 11:31) as well as by James ( James 2:25), as a woman of vigorous faith. “The former of these,” as Rüetschi observes (Real-Encyklop. xii514), is followed by Clemens Rom. who not only makes Rahab a pattern of πίστις and φιλοξενία, but praises in her a certain προφητεία, since he finds in the red line a sign of the redemption through Christ’s blood of all who believe and hope in the Lord.” This red line is applied allegorically by Starke also, “This red, scarlet precious line,” he says, “leads us to the blood of the paschal lamb of the O. T. ... but still more plainly points us to the precious, crimson blood of Jesus, shed for us, etc, by which we are upheld and kept unto salvation, as Rahab and her family were kept alive and safe by that red line.”

It need scarcely be said that the Scripture itself knows nothing of this signification of the red line, and yet it may be well worth while to subject the two passages, Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25, to a brief examination. In Hebrews 11it had just been said that the walls of Jericho fell down through faith after they had been compassed about by the Israelites seven days. Then we read: “by faith the harlot Rahab perished not (οὐ συναπώλετο) with them that believed not (τοῖς ἀπειθήσασι,) since she received the spies with peace (μετ̓ εἰρήνης, Luth.: with friendship). Faith is thus ascribed to her as to the Israelites, that faith, namely, which is the “substance” a confident expectation (ὑπόστασις) of that for which one hopes, and the “evidence,” or conviction of the reality of things not seen ( Hebrews 11:1). She is also called, honestly, πόρνη, while the Rabbins (see above, after the example of Josephus, Ant. v12, 7), uniformly make of her an inn-keeper, or also a concubine (Kimchi). On the same track Christian interpreters followed later, proposing to translate the זוֹנָה “stranger” or “heathen woman.” But in this matter we must abide by the historical truth of the Epistle to the Hebrews, as Matthew also, in bringing in Tamar, Rahab and Bathsheba into the genealogical register, “without doubt aimed to show the Jewish-Pharisaic spirit that there was a higher righteousness than that of outward Jewish holiness” (Lange, Comm. on Matthew 1:5). By her faith Rahab was led to this higher righteousness, “and rose above the fact that she had until then been a heathen and a harlot” (Lange, l. c.). Therefore she perished not with the unbelievers when she had received the spies with peace. Her faith in the God of heaven and earth ( Joshua 2:11) had so sharpened her sight that she distinctly foresaw the conquest of the land ( Joshua 2:9) and clearly perceived the disheartened mind of the Canaanites. It was a strong faith, which showed its fruits in works of love ( Galatians 5:6). Hence James places her beside Abraham ( Joshua 2:24) and says of her that by (ἐξ) works she was justified; “likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified (ἐδικαιώθη) by works since she received the messengers (ἀγγέλους not κατασκόπους, as in Hebrews 11:31) and sent them out another way.” We first notice here that, as in Hebrews 11, Rahab is called πόρνη, then that her practical faith exhibited in the reception of the spies is praised, as Abraham’s practical faith manifested in the offering of Isaac is in Joshua 2:21. But yet it is in James also expressly faith ( Joshua 2:22) which constitutes the principle of all outward conduct. Therefore, since we must deny all fundamental difference between Paul and James, we cannot agree with Rüetschi in saying (ubi sup.): “The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews brings forward Rahab as an example of faith, and James ( James 2:25) consistently with his position, as an example of righteousness through works.” For, in reference to ἐδικαιώθη, Lange has hit the truth when he says on this passage, “The term δικαίουν means with James, according to the O. T. way of speaking but with a N. T. depth, that God declares righteous in the theocratic forum before the theocratic congregation regarded as permanent. It is the divine declaration of the proof [proved reality?] of faith in God’s kingdom and for it, while the λογίζεσθαι εἶς δικαιοσύνην of James, or the δικαίουν of Paul is an act which passes simply between God and the sinner in the forum of his consciousness.” In this theocratic sense now Rahab was justified, “not merely in that her life was granted ( Joshua 2; Joshua 6:22 ff.), but in that, still further, she became a highly honored mother in Israel” Lange, Comm. on James in l. c.). Her faith was not a dead faith but living and effectually active. But faith remains ever, even according to the view of James, the principle of her action, for he adds in confirmation of this ( James 2:26): “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so is faith also without works dead.” Faith must perfect itself through works ( Joshua 2:22) that it may suffice for justification not only before God but also before the congregation. So was it with Abraham’s and also with Rahab’s faith. Both stand justified before God and before men; before God immediately through faith, before men through faith, evincing, certifying, displaying itself in works.

[If God acts He goes beyond the limits of the existing dispensation, and oversteps his established relationships with man. It is thus that the divine nature of Jesus, and the divine rights of his person, manifested themselves. He was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. That was the limit of his formal relationship with men. But if faith lays hold of the goodness of God, can that goodness deny itself, or limit itself, to those who for the time being were alone the subjects of his dispensation? No, Christ could not say, God is not good, I am not good, to the degree you have imagined. How could God deny himself? The Syrophenician woman obtains what she asks for. Precious prerogative of faith, which knows and owns God through everything; which honors Him as He Isaiah, and ever finds Him what He is!”

“Wherein was manifested that faith in Rahab which the Apostle cites as a pattern? Admirable proof that the way in which God acts in grace is before and above law, that grace overleaps the boundary which law ascribes to Prayer of Manasseh, even while maintaining its authority,—an authority, however, which can only manifest itself in condemnation. What then was Rahab’s faith? It was the faith which recognizes that God is with his people, all weak and few as they may be, unpossessed of their inheritance, wandering on the earth without a country, but beloved of God. If Abraham believed God when there was not a people, Rahab identified herself with this people when they had nothing but God.” Darby, p309.—Tr.]

But Rahab lied to the messengers of her king. Did this falsehood also come through faith? Certainly not; rather in it she showed her natura disposition, precisely as it was with the Hebrew midwives ( Exodus 1:19) who, although they feared God ( Exodus 1:17), nevertheless deceived Pharaoh; or with that woman at Bahurim ( 2 Samuel 17:18-20), who denied that Ahimaaz and Jonathan, David’s spies, were with her when Absalom’s servant sought them. Abraham on the other hand, when Isaac’s perplexing question ( Genesis 22:7) tempted to a Song of Solomon -called “white” lie, answered from faith ( Genesis 22:8) and gave in so doing an example for every one in such cases.

[Added from Keil by the translator The falsehood with which Rahab was shrewd enough not only to turn off all suspicion of her being in collusion with the men of Israel who had come into her house, but also to lead the further pursuit of them away from her house, and to frustrate the attempts to capture them, can be excused neither as a lie of necessity to accomplish a good end, nor with Grotius on the unfounded plea, that “ante Evangelium mendacium viris bonis salutare culpæ non ducebatur.” Nor can it be explained as either “allowed” or “even praiseworthy,” because the author simply reports the fact without judgment of his own, nor yet because Rahab, as appears from what follows ( Joshua 2:9 ff.), being persuaded of Jehovah’s omnipotence and of the reality of the miracles wrought by God for his people, acted in pious faith that the true God would give the land of Canaan to the Israelites, and that all opposition to them was vain and a resistance to Almighty God himself. For a lie is and always must be a sin. Although, therefore, Rahab in this was moved by no thought of protecting herself and her family from destruction, and the disposition from which she acted was rooted simply in faith in the living God (πίστει, Hebrews 11:31), so that what she did in this disposition for the spies, and so for God’s cause, is reckoned to her for righteousness (ἐξ ἔργων ἐδικαιώθη, James 2:25), still the course which she adopted was a sin of weakness, which for her faith’s sake was graciously forgiven her,—an “infirmitas, quæ ipsi ob fidem gratiose condonata est.” Calov.—Tr.]

2. That the spies gave their oath was quite proper, since “necessity required it.” Generally in antiquity, and so also among the Israelites, the taking of oaths was much more common than with us ( Genesis 24:37; Genesis 1:5.; Judges 21:5; 1 Samuel 14:24 etc, Matthew 14:7), and this was especially the case in private intercourse. To avoid, as far as possible, the use of God’s name in this, they in later times availed themselves of other objects by which to swear, as clearly appears from Matthew 5:33-37; Matthew 23:16 ff.; James 5:12. Against such frivolous swearing both Christ and the Apostle James speak, while both alike indicate the ideal of Christian truthfulness in that yea should be yea, and nay, nay. The more our life and the life of others approaches to perfection, the less need will there be of oaths and confirmation of the nature of oaths. In the private intercourse of Christians with each other, this is indeed the case now wherever the spirit of Christianity is in any considerable degree active in their hearts. The state also will have to strive after this, but as things in general now are, and representing as it does the law and not the gospel, it cannot yet forego the oath as a means of justice.[FN17] Therefore the Christian also, out of obedience to “the powers that be” ( Romans 13:1) will have to submit to the taking of the oath. The rejection of the oath by Anabaptists, Mennonites, and Quakers, was closely connected with that of military service, and with the refusal to assume public offices, and rested on antinomianism.—That to pledge the soul, therefore the life, as is done here, Joshua 2:14, and elsewhere in the O. T, is not allowable for us Christians, needs no argument. On the other hand, it is carefully to be observed, and has with right been specially pointed out by interpreters of this passage, what care the spies take with the conditions, under which they should be clear of their oath; how precisely they put them in form, how clearly and plainly they express them, that they might not afterwards be charged with perjury ( Joshua 2:14; Joshua 2:17 ff.) Another example of great conscientiousness in reference to an oath, see in Joshua 9:19-20.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

The sending of the spies to Jericho. (1.) Sending forth and reception by Rahab ( Joshua 2:1-7); (2.) their rescue ( Joshua 2:8-21); (3.) their return to Joshua ( Joshua 2:22-24).—The heathen woman Rahab as a heathen of true faith, with reference to Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25.—Base things before the world and things which are despised has God chosen—proved by the example of Rahab especially as presented by Matthew 1:5. Comp. 1 Corinthians 1:28.—How faith sharpens discernment concerning the condition of an individual or of a whole people.—Despondency as a result of heathen sentiment and life.—Even yet we may hear what the Lord does if only we will hear.—The glory of God as (1.) above in heaven, and (2.) below, on the earth.—One should care not only for himself but for all those belonging to him.—Rahab as a faithful daughter and sister.—Kindness and truth a beautiful ornament of God, not less also of men.—The rescue of the spies out of Jericho and that of Paul out of Damascus compared with each other ( Joshua 2:15; Acts 9:25). Good advice ought always to be received. Proceed carefully when you have to take an oath, that no one afterwards may charge you with its violation.—Of an oath; (1.) when is it allowable? (2.) what is it? (3.) what results from it?—Let it be as you say—much spoken in few words.—The joyful return of the spies to Joshua with praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.

Starke: Christian! To us also heaven is promised, Luke 13:24; Colossians 3:1-2 [ Hebrews 4:1; Hebrews 4:11]. Truth and friendship are never better sought than in extreme danger.—Woman’s craft exceeds all craft, therefore beware of it. By God’s name only should one swear, Deuteronomy 6:13, Zephaniah 1:5.—How sacred and inviolate must the oath have been at all times among the Israelites, when even a heathen woman would trust her life to it. O, that Christians would observe this, and keep their oaths also sacred and inviolate! Ecclesiastes 5:4.—In making contracts men should explain themselves clearly to each other, and use no ambiguous language.—Christians should be silent, for a loquacious tongue brings many into sorrow, Proverbs 13:3; Proverbs 13:16; [ James 2:2 ff.]. In time of persecution to conceal one’s self is quite proper for the ministers and servants of God also. God can soon take courage away from enemies.

Hedinger: While one has ordinary means one should use them; but if these fail one may betake one’s self to God’s immediate help. We enter not by the little side door except when the great portal is shut. Even the greatest sinners when they truly repent, are agreeable to God ( Jeremiah 5:3). One discreet and faithful person in a house is wont to cause much good; where, on the contrary, all are careless and secure, then it often happens that they all perish together ( Genesis 39:2-5).

Cramer: For the best good of his country every patriot should give himself up even to the hazard of body and life ( 1 Samuel 17:41). Those who are on their journeys God can wonderfully keep from dangers, Psalm 31:21; Psalm 91:1.

Osiander: Right faith breaks forth thus in free confession of the truth, magnifying and praising God, and streaming out in love towards fellow men.

[Matthew Henry: There are many who before their conversion were very wicked and vile, and yet afterward come to great eminence in faith and holiness.—They who truly believe the divine revelation concerning the ruin of sinners, and the grant of the heavenly land to God’s Israel, will give diligence to flee from the wrath to come, and to lay hold on eternal life, by joining themselves to God and to his people.—They that will be conscientious in keeping their promises will be cautious in making them, and perhaps may insert conditions which others may think frivolous.—Sinners’ frights are sometimes sure presages of their fall.

Thos. Scott (on Joshua 2:12-13): When we really discover the danger to which our souls are exposed, from the wrath of an offended God, and are earnestly seeking salvation, we shall begin to feel for those who are not sensible of their own lost condition. This will induce us to attempt what we can to forward the salvation of our beloved friends and relations; and thus they who have been the grief and disgrace of their families, may, by the grace of God, become their protection as well as ornament.—Tr.]

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Joshua 2:4.—So the lexicographers and interpreters with one consent understand כֵּן.—Tr.]

FN#2 - Joshua 2:6.—“Of her house” is purely superfluous. The LXX. had substituted δῶμα for גָּג, and the Vulgate combined both notions, and was followed by the English Version.—Tr.]

FN#3 - Joshua 2:10.—הֶחֱרַמְתֶּם. The meaning of this verb is well indicated in the Exegetical Note on the verse. It seems very desirable to express it more specifically than is done by the vague phrase “utterly destroyed.” In employing for this purpose, throughtout, the word “devote,” which is used Leviticus 27:28-29, Numbers 17:14, etc, it is to be regretted that we have not a cognate noun to denote the devoted object. Still we may come near to the Hebrew directness by adhering to “devote,” “devoted thing,” etc. —Tr.

FN#4 - Joshua 2:12.—כִּי ut alias sœpissime significat quod ὅτι. Maur. To imitate exactly the Hebrew construction is not possible in idiomatic English. A nearer approach to it would be: Swear. ... that I have shown you kindness and ye will also show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a token of truth ( Joshua 2:13), and save alive, etc. Fay explains by inserting after “that” [as], De Wette, “because,” and both omit, of course, the “and” before “give me,” or rather substitute “also.” Either way gives us substantially the proper sense so far, but whether the verbs נְחַתֶּם and הַחֲיִתֶםְ and הִצַּלְתֶּם are to be translated as coördinate with עֲשִיהֶם and subordinate to הִשָּׂבְעוּ (which they grammatically are), or as coördinate with the latter, the practice of interpreters differs. We incline to side with Masius, who translates the verbs in question as all depending alike on כִּי: jurate. ... Vos usuros esse. ... pietate; et daturos. ... conservaturosque . ... crepturosque.—Tr.]

FN#5 - Joshua 2:14.—Modify, and connect the two sentences thus: Our life for yours! If ye utter not this our business, them it shall be that when, etc.—Tr.]

FN#6 - Joshua 2:24.—כִּי simply introduces the following clause as quoted. See Gesen. Lex. B1, b.—Tr.]

FN#7 - The accent connects חֶרֶשׁ with לֵאמֹר, and it is probable that the secrecy is to be understood as referring equally to the Israelites and to the Canaanites. Maurer would seem to confine it to the former. He quotes Schultz as follows: “Cum Josua tristi experientia edoctus ( Numbers 13:14) sciret, quantum periculi habere posset exploratorum et multitudo et missio publica, duos tantum eosdemque clam atque inscio populo emisit, Nehemiah, si tristia referrent, in vulgus dimanaret narratio, timidoque ac fracto animo fierent Israelitæ læto cæteroquin duorum æque ac plurium nuntio facile alacriores futuri.”—Tr.]

FN#8 - E. g. by Masius in loc, who formally discusses the question and decides it in favor of Joshua’s course.—Tr.]

FN#9 - For other derivations and other forms of the word, see art. “Jericho,” in Smith’s Bibl. Dict. where also a full topographical and historical account of the city may be found. See Stanley, S. & P. pp299–304.—Tr.]

FN#10 - Speculations of the Rabbis on this, given by Masius, are curious. “This use of the sing. R. Solomon thinks to indicate both the delay of the woman in hiding them, and the narrowness of the place in which they were stowed away. RR. Kimchi and Levi, however, suppose them to have been hid not in one and the same place, but each one separately, either that the flax piled on them both might not rise too high and become thus an object of suspicion, or lest they should both be discovered at once. .... What is handed down in the Commentary which we have said to be called Tanhuma, is a Jewish dream, to wit, that when the woman had hidden Caleb, the other, Phinehas, said to her: I am a priest. Now the priests, being like the angels, are visible when they please to be, when not they are not perceived; therefore the other one alone, not Hebrews, was hidden by the woman.” Com. in Josuam, in loc.—Tr.]

FN#11 - So Winer (Simonis Lex.); Gesen. and Fürst take separate views of the etymology of the verb, but all agree as to the meaning of this form.—Tr.]

FN#12 - See Smith’s Dict, of the Bible, art. Anathema.—Tr.]

FN#13 - Whatever unholy object was devoted to Jehovah, being. of course, incapable of use, for him and for his cause, and in abomination in his sight, must needs be destroyed.—Tr.]

FN#14 - Keil also supposes that “this sign consisted in nothing else than the solemn oath which they were called upon to render and did render, ver14.” This view, however, it may be remarked, is entirely precluded by the translation of Joshua 2:12-13, advocated above in the textual note on the passage; for what the men are called upon to swear that they will do, they cannot in the very act be doing.—Tr.]

FN#15 - Knobel supposes the house may have been partly embraced within the wall, and Rahab’s chamber strictly on top of the wall “which must therefore have been tolerably thick.”—Tr.]

FN#16 - Knobel denying the reference to any material sign inner12, is obliged by the art. in הַזֶּה to identify תִּקְוָה (line) with הַחֶבֶל (rope) Joshua 2:15—Tr.

FN#17 - On the propriety in itself of the appeal to God by a sincere worshipper in confirmation of his veracity (which is essentially the oath, see Tholuck’s Com. on the Sermon on the Mount. at Matthew 14:33-36. But this being fully granted, it seems to the present writer extremely questionable whether the entire disuse of such appeals before our courts, custom house officials, revenue assessors, etc. etc, would not rather promote the ends of justice, while it would certainly do away with a shocking scandal to religion. This is of course, on the supposition that something like the “affirmation” now allowed should be regularly substituted, and the civil penalties for falsehood here be righteously assigned and rigorously exacted. It is one thing to conjecture of what use the oath might be in these civil transactions if reverently administered and intelligently taken; it is quite another thing which we actually witness, and are likely to witness, when men by myriads throughout the land daily mumble over the most solemn form of words, without a thought of their significance, and seal the mockery for the most part by an act of superstitious nonsense. When we consider that an oath thus carelessly employed, is in the most aggravated sense, taking the name of God in vain, and that our laws almost necessitate this in cases so numerous that their united sound may be imagined rising as a constant murmur to heaven amidst the voice of our public life, we may well dread the condemnation due to a profane people. Is there really any counterbalancing gain in the ascertainment of the truth?

Is not the evidence now got by affirmations as satisfactory as that by oaths? The word of the man who actually regards God needs not the sanction of an oath; for him who does not the penitentiary alone has any terror, and to that he might as well appeal.—Tr.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 2:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/joshua-2.html. 1857-84.

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Friday, November 27th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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