Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
By night. Hebrew, "this night." (Calmet)
House. She spoke to them through a window. The messengers did not enter into her house; whence Serarius infers, that Rahab was a person consecrated to some impure deity, and therefore held in some estimation among the people of Jericho, as this was a city of the moon, in whose honour such consecrations were generally made. But these arguments are not very convincing. (Calmet)
Hid, or "had hidden," as (ver. 6,) she had made the men retire before she spoke to the messengers, and probably before they came to demand them. As soon as she was informed of their design, she took all prudent precautions both for her own and their safety, as she could not have escaped death, if she had been discovered affording shelter to the enemies of her country. She felt herself authorized by God, on this occasion, to abandon those upon whom he had declared war, and who could have derived no benefit from the spies being betrayed to them. (Haydock)
At the time, not precisely, as otherwise the men who shut the gates must have seen them, but about that time, (Calmet) Rahab pretends that the spies had left her house, and had directed their course towards the gate, so that she made no doubt but they might easily overtake them. (Haydock) --- Notwithstanding this officious lie, which is a venial sin, St. Paul and St. James testify that she was justified by her faith in God, and by good works towards these men. See St. Augustine, contra Mend. 17. and note on James ii. 25. (Worthington) --- Rahab might suppose that an officious lie was not a sin, (Menochius) as many great and learned men seemed to have maintained this doctrine. See Grotius, Jur. iii. 1. 9.; Origen, contra Cels. iv. p. 171.; St. Chrysostom, hom. 53, Genesis. She was so far from intending to do an injury to any one, that she consulted the welfare both of her guests and of her countrymen, who, if they had detected the spies and committed murder, would have thus brought greater destruction upon themselves, as they could not escape the wrath of God. (Calmet)
There. The roofs were flat in that country, and consequently very proper to dry flax, or "cotton," as Masius understands.
Jordan, where they had probably come over, though perhaps in a boat, (Menochius) and where the messengers concluded they would have the best chance of finding them, as the Israelites were on the opposite side of the river. (Haydock) --- As soon as they were gone out of the city, the guards shut the gate, that if the spies should still be lurking within, they might be hindered from making their escape. (Menochius)
Asleep. It seems as if the spies had been ignorant of the danger to which they had been just exposed, and had gone to the roof of the house with a design to pass the night in greater security. Rahab perceives, however, that it would be extremely rash for them to continue with her any longer, and therefore she gives them the best advice, to secure their safety by fleeing in the dead of the night, and without further delay. (Haydock)
Strength. Hebrew "they faint or melt away," deprived both of strength and counsel.
Beneath. This is the confession of a true convert, (Calmet) inspired by God. (Haydock) --- For St. Paul commends her faith. (Hebrews xi. 31.) (Menochius) --- The pagans confined the power of their idols to certain districts; the power of the true God is infinite. (Calmet)
True token, such a one as, when I shew it to the Israelites, they may preserve me and mine. She is not content with a verbal promise, she requires something permanent and sensible, as a mark of their mutual engagements, (Calmet) a token of their sincerity. They afterwards appointed a piece of scarlet to be hung out of the house, where those were to be collected who should be entitled to protection. Rahab was bound not to divulge their secret, nor to betray them. If she had instructed others of her fellow-citizens to hand out the same mark, she would have forfeited all her privileges, ver. 20. (Haydock)
Death. We are willing to die instead of you, if we do not fulfil our promises. --- Truth, a real and effectual mercy.
Days; the remainder of this night, and the day and night following. It is probable that they would travel only in the night time. (Calmet) --- If they had gone by the high road, they might easily have been discovered by the messengers, who would be on their return. (Haydock) --- But retiring to the mountains south of Jericho, till they had re-entered the city, the spies made their escape. (Calmet)
Ver 1. Sent, or as many translate, "had sent," as if Josue had dismissed the spies immediately after the mourning of Moses was ended, (Calmet) on the 1st of Nisan. On the second day they examined the city, and were obliged to flee in the night. But they only returned to their brethren on the 6th. On the following day Josue gave orders to make all necessary preparations for their departure, and crossed the Jordan on the 10th of the month. (Salien, B.C. 1469.) --- Setim was about eight or nine miles from the river, "or sixty stadia." (Josephus, [Antiquities?] v. 1.) --- Two men. Septuagint intimate that they were young. See chap. vi. 23. (Haydock) --- The Rabbins assert, without reason, that Caleb and Phinees were chosen, and that they pretended that they were deaf, (eross) a word which the Vulgate translates, secretly. (Calmet) --- Jericho. Josue had himself examined the country some time before. But there might have been many changes, and he might not know the present disposition of the people of Jericho. (Haydock) --- This city was built in a delightful plain, surrounded by mountains, (Calmet) except on the east side, chap. iv. 13. (Haydock) --- Harlot. Hebrew zona may also signify an "innkeeper," as such places were under the direction of women, who were commonly of a very loose character. Hence the Greeks deemed it a dishonour to enter into a public house. Isocrates says, that "even an honest servant will not dare to enter into an ale-house, to eat or drink." (Atheneus Dipn. 13.) --- Rahab might have been formerly addicted to pleasure, as the Scripture and the Fathers agree; (Hebrews xi. 31., and James ii. 25.) (Calmet) though she might at this time be very discreet, being awakened by the account of the miracles which God had wrought in favour of his people, who, she knew, were approaching to take possession of the country. The spies might, therefore, take shelter in her house with the least suspicion, and without danger of injuring their character. (Haydock) --- The woman was not very old, as she was afterwards married to Salmon. (St. Matthew i. 5.) --- With her. they spent the first night in her house, entering the city in the dusk of the evening, so that they had not time to make any observations till the following day. (Salien) --- Others think that they were suspected by the people of the town almost immediately, and denounced to the king. Hence they were forced to flee that same night, without having accomplished their design, and were only informed by Rahab of the dismay which had seized the inhabitants, ver. 11.
By which window or cord. (Calmet) --- The cord was left as a signal. (Menochius)
Fear, as Rahab had testified. They might also have been witnesses of the people's consternation, which gave them the most assured hopes of victory, as the Lord had given this sign, among others, that he would be with them, Deuteronomy xxviii. 10. (Haydock)