Then 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. It was told the king of Jericho, saying, “Behold, men from the sons of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” And 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.” But 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. It 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.” But 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. So 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.
Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, and 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. For 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. When 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. Now 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, and spare my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, with all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” So 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.”
Then 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. She 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.” The men said to her, “We shall be free from this oath to you which you have made us swear, 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. It 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. But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be free from the oath which you have made us swear.” She 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.
They 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. Then 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. They 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.”
Understanding And Applying the Text
This passage has caused many have questioned Joshua’s trust in God. God told him to go. So what does Joshua do? He sent spies. What gives? Those who condemn Joshua presume on God. God had prepared Joshua for this task. He studied war under Moses. He used all his God-given skills and knowledge to do what God told him to do. Amateurs think about tactics. Professionals worry about logistics and intelligence. Joshua had an entire army to feed, plus their families. He needed to know how they were going to sustain themselves. He needed to know the strength, and readiness of the army he was going to face. That was simple good generaling.
Did he not trust God? Of course, he did. If he did not he would have stayed on the east side of the Jordan. To go without using the skills God gave him would not be faith. It would be credulity. It would be superstition. Christianity is reasonable. So many Christians today do not have faith. They have a superstition. God uses means. Trusting God means using the means He has provided. So no, we should not condemn Joshua for sending the spies.
The spies went into the house of a prostitute. Some try to deny her profession. They interpret the Hebrew as “one who keeps an inn.” The spies wanted to avoid detection. While observing the city they came to a woman who lived in an out-of-the-way place. Her house was next to the city wall. In fact, the outer side was the wall. So it is easy to infer it was in some obscure corner. It was out of the public pathway. People in her profession usually lived in narrow lanes and secret places. It is unreasonable to assume this was a common inn.
This woman, a prostitute, was soon admitted into the body of the chosen people. She would bare children. And one of her descendants would be our Lord Jesus Christ. We have a striking display of divine grace. The term זונה, almost means harlot. There is nothing to cause us to find another meaning.
Prostitutes are great sources of information. Intelligence organizations have used them throughout history. So it is not surprising that the spies would go to a harlot for information.
There are two interesting points here. First, God had given the land to the Israelites. But that did not relieve Joshua from acting as a good general. Gathering information about the enemy and territory is fundamental. To fight any war or battle you need to know your enemy. Moses did as God commanded by sending the first group of spies in Numbers 13:1. Joshua sent spies into the land. Obedience to God does not mean operating in a foolish manner. Joshua was not sending spies into the land to determine rather or not to go. God had already said go. He was sending them to determine the strategy and tactics. He needed to know the path to use. Joshua trusted God. He also understood God required him to exercise his abilities. That was Joshua’s job. But the results were God’s responsibility.
The second point is that Rahab was a harlot. She was a liar. She lied straight face when asked about the spies from Israel. Yet it is because she lied she is included in the roll call of the saints in Hebrews 11:31. “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.” It should give us a sense of peace and comfort to know that it is by grace that God saves and preserves us.
Doing the will of God is only accomplished by faith. And Rahab exhibited her faith. But doing the will of God requires doing. Sitting back and doing nothing thinking God with take care of it is not faith. It is an excuse for sloth. It is nothing but sinful. God requires us to act. God requires us to do. God commands and we obey His will. He is responsible for the outcome. You are not. So don’t fret about the big stuff, i.e. the results. That is God’s responsibility. You are only responsible for the easy simple stuff. Your responsibility is to obey His command. That is all you can handle.