Joshua 2 Study Notes


2:1 The term for spies comes from the same word as foot. These “footers” did not always work as spies. In 2Sm 15:10 they announced Absalom as king. Thus they could disseminate information as well as gather it. Acacia Grove translates Hebrew Shittim, probably a site some miles east of the Jordan River opposite Jericho, and Israel’s camp since Nm 25:1. The Hebrew root for Joshua’s command, Go, is identical to they left. Such a response indicates the spies’ obedience. Nevertheless, they did not look over the land but went directly to Jericho. Rahab was an innkeeper and prostitute—occupations that are recognized in ancient Near Eastern literature such as the Code of Hammurabi. The presence of an inn at Jericho (Lk 10:30-35) may be explained by its location on the north-south and east-west trade routes. Here the spies could learn about the land and also discover anyone who might be sympathetic.

2:2-3 The story is punctuated by repetitions that emphasize the key points. The first of these is the mission to investigate the land. This was told to the king of Jericho who sent his agents to Rahab’s house where they repeated the charge. Known at the highest levels, her actions were high treason in the eyes of the rulers of Jericho.


Hebrew pronunciation [NEW ahkh]
CSB translation rest
Uses in Joshua 9
Uses in the OT 140
Focus passage Joshua 1:13,15

Nuach means rest (Ex 23:12) or come to rest (Gn 8:4). Locusts settle (Ex 10:14). Rest from enemies means gaining relief from them (Est 9:16). Nuach connotes wait (1Sm 25:9), reside (Pr 14:33), remain (Ps 125:3), abide (Ec 7:9), or be calm (Is 14:7). Causally, nuach signifies give rest or comfort (Jos 1:13; Pr 29:17). Nuach describes settling people (Jos 6:23). It means leave something (Gn 19:16) or, with a preposition, leave alone (Ex 32:10). It suggests place (Gn 2:15), set down (Jos 4:3), store (Dt 14:28), or deposit (Nm 19:9). One lets hands slip or rest (Ec 7:18; 11:6). Letting rest conveys allowing (Ps 105:14) or tolerating (Est 3:8). With objects like wrath or spirit, nuach denotes vent (Ezk 5:13), satisfy (Ezk 16:42), or pacify (Zch 6:8). Guards are stationed (2Ch 1:14). The infinitive indicates relief (Neh 9:28).

2:4-5 Rahab’s hiding of the spies is mentioned again in v. 6. Rahab denied knowledge about the origin and the destination of the spies. Thus she risked her life, but she also lied. Despite this, Heb 11:31 and Jms 2:25 admire her faith. The text does not condone her act, although there was no other way to save the spies from death. Forgiveness was available with God. The point here is that her words kept the king’s men from looking in the house. Repeating information about the city gate (v. 7) is important because it explains how Rahab’s ruse could make sense (the gates were not yet shut when the spies left). Its second mention explains why the spies could no longer leave as they had entered. The shut gates represent the defiance of Jericho, resistant to the movement of God and his people.

2:6 Rahab’s hiding of the spies is repeated here from v. 4, delaying explanation of what the spies would actually do, and so heightening the tension.

2:7 The phrase the road to the fords of the Jordan informs the reader of how Rahab’s ruse worked.

2:8-11 Rahab’s I know contrasts with her “I didn’t know” in v. 4. There follows a true confession in place of the former deceit. The phrases terror of you has fallen on us and the land is panicking repeat the same expressions from Ex 15:15-16. Those predictions looked forward to reactions that Rahab describes having been fulfilled. Confessions of God’s gift and sovereignty over heaven and earth begin and end the confession (Jos 2:9a,11b). Situated within these confessions are statements about the fear that has come upon the Canaanites (vv. 9b,11a). All these expressions provide an envelope for the central confession of Rahab in v. 10. This confession is based upon the historic acts of God’s redemption of Israel at the Red Sea and against Sihon and Og. As with God’s historic act of redemption in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, so Rahab’s confession of his gracious work in redeeming Israel from Egypt and beyond forms the basis for the salvation faith that she speaks with her mouth and believes in her heart (Rm 10:9).

2:12 Now please introduces Rahab’s request with an identical form of words as in 1Sm 24:21 where Saul described God’s will for David and then, as here, requested David to spare his family. Show kindness is a key expression that also appears when Abraham’s servant requested from God direction to find a wife for Isaac (Gn 24:12). In the Decalogue God shows kindness to a thousand generations of those who are faithful to him (Ex 20:6). Here as well the concern is for the preservation of Rahab’s family and her descendants. The sure sign is the spies’ oath to protect Rahab’s family.

2:13 Rahab did not ask for her own salvation, but for that of her family.

2:14 The spies acted to guarantee their own protection and thereby ensure the success of their mission. The spies were vulnerable and dependent on Rahab.

2:15 The actions described did not occur immediately. How secret would a mission be with the spies on the ground below shouting up to Rahab the negotiations of vv. 17-20? That she let them down by a rope through the window is a summary that introduces a more detailed description in vv. 16-21—a common technique in OT accounts.

2:16 The Jordan River was east of Jericho, but the steep hills that ascended from the Jordan Valley were to the west. The spies could hide there among the many caves and nooks. On the three days, see note at 1:11.

2:17-20 The scarlet cord at the opening of her house with the family gathered inside is clearly symbolic of the Passover and its placement of blood on the door frames of the house in which the family was preserved from death (Ex 12:3-13). At the same time that Israel celebrated the Passover in the new land (Jos 5:10-11), Rahab would be joining them in similar actions that would bring about her salvation from Jericho’s destruction.

2:21 This verse describes the same event as v. 15.

2:22-23 The three days here is the same time period as the “three days” in 1:11 and 3:2.

2:24 The spies’ report is a summary of what Rahab said, using her words (v. 9). This reiterates the fulfillment of prophecy (Ex 15:15) and the power of God to bring success to Israel. Contrast the majority report of the earlier generation of spies who focused on the obstacles of the land’s inhabitants (Nm 13:26-33). The spies here emphasized what God had done. Rahab, though not a leader like Joshua, was able to contribute to the success of Israel. Christians can do the same by confessing their faith and acting on it (Jms 2:25-26).