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.
An harlot's house - In the face of the parallel passages (e. g. Leviticus 21:7 : Jeremiah 5:7) the rendering advocated for obvious reasons, namely, "the house of a woman, an innkeeper," cannot be maintained. Rahab must remain an example under the Law similar to that Luke 7:37 under the Gospel, of "a woman that was a sinner," yet, because of her faith, not only pardoned, but exalted to the highest honor. Rahab was admitted among the people of God; she intermarried into a chief family of a chief tribe, and found a place among the best remembered ancestors of King David and of Christ; thus receiving the temporal blessings of the covenant in largest measure. The spies would of course betake themselves to such a house in Jericho as they could visit without exciting suspicion; and the situation of Rahab's, upon the wall Joshua 2:15, rendered it especially suitable. It appears from Joshua 2:4 that Rahab hid them before the King's messengers reached her house, and probably as soon as the spies had come to her house. It is therefore most likely that they met with Rahab outside of Jericho (compare Genesis 38:14), and ascertained where in the city she dwelt, and that they might entrust themselves to her care. Rahab (i. e. "spacious," "wide." Compare the name "Japheth" and Genesis 9:27, note) is regarded by the fathers as a type of the Christian Church, which was gathered out of converts from the whole vast circle of pagan nations.
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.
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.
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:
I wist not whence they were - Rahab acted as she did from the belief in God's declared word, and conviction that resistance to His will would be both vain and wicked Joshua 2:9-11. Thus, she manifested a faith both sound and practical, and is praised accordingly Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25. The falsehood to which she had recourse may be excused by the pressure of circumstances and by her own antecedents, but cannot be defended.
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.
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.
Stalks of flax - literally, "the carded fibres of the tree." The flax in Palestine grew to more than three feet in height, with a stalk as thick as a cane. It was probably with the flax stalks, recently cut (compare Exodus 9:31, note) and laid out on the house roof to dry, that Rahab hid the spies.
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 sense is, that "they pursued along the way which leads to Jordan and across the fords;" probably those described in Judges 3:28.
And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof;
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.
For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.
And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.
The Lord your God, he is God - From the rumour of God's miraculous interpositions Rahab believed, and makes the self-same confession to which Moses endeavors to bring Israel by rehearsing similar arguments Deuteronomy 4:39. Rahab had only heard of what Israel had experienced. Her faith then was ready. It is noteworthy, too, that the same reports which work faith and conversion in the harlot, cause only terror and astonishment among her countrymen. (Compare Luke 8:37-39.)
Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father's house, and give me a true token:
A true token - literally, "a sign" or "pledge of truth; "something to bind them to keep their promise faithfully. The "token" was the oath which the spies take Joshua 2:14.
And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, 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, when the LORD hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee.
Our life for yours - See the margin. This is (see Joshua 2:17) a form of oath, in which God is in effect invoked to punish them with death if they did not perform their promise to save Rahab's life. Compare the more common form of oath, 1 Samuel 1:26, etc.
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.
Upon the town wall - The town wall probably formed the back wall of the house, and the window opened therefore into the country. (Compare Paul's escape, 2 Corinthians 11:33).
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.
And the men said unto her, We will be blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear.
Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father's household, home unto thee.
The "line" or cord was spun of threads dyed with cochineal: i. e., of a deep and bright scarlet color. The color would catch the eye at once, and supplied an obvious token by which the house of Rahab might be distinguished. The use of scarlet in the Levitical rites, especially in those more closely connected with the idea of putting away of sin and its consequences (compare e. g., Leviticus 14:4, Leviticus 14:6,Leviticus 14:51; Numbers 19:6), naturally led the fathers, from Clement of Rome onward, to see in this scarlet thread, no less than in the blood of the Passover (Exodus 12:7, Exodus 12:13, etc.), an emblem of salvation by the Blood of Christ; a salvation common alike to Christ's messengers and to those whom they visit.
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.
And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear.
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.
And they went, and came unto 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.
Unto the mountain - Probably the mountains to the west and north of Jericho, called afterward, from the belief that the 40 days of our Lord's temptation were passed among them, the Quarantania. The spies avoided at the first the neighhourhood of the Jordan, where the pursuers sought them: and amidst the grottoes of the limestone rocks, which in later ages were the abode of numerous hermits, they could readily shelter themselves for three days.
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 befell them:
And they said unto Joshua, Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us.