Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.Joshua sends two spies to Jericho; they are sought after; Rahab hides them; deceives the messengers, Joshua 2:1-7. She acknowledges that God had given them the land; her reasons, Joshua 2:8-11. The covenant between her and them, Joshua 2:12-21. Their return and relation, Joshua 2:22-24.
Sent; or, had sent, as that tense is oft used. See Poole "Joshua 1:11".
Shittim; called also Abel-shittim, Numbers 33:49.
Two men; not twelve, as Moses did, partly because the people of Canaan were now more alarmed than in Moses’s time, and more suspicious of all strangers; and partly because those were to view the whole land, these but a small parcel of it.
To spy, i.e. to learn the state of the land and people, and what way and method they should proceed in. It is evident enough that Joshmi did not this out of distrust, as the people did, Deu 1; and it is most probable he had God’s command and direction in it, for the encouragement of himself and his army in their present enterprise.
Secretly; with reference not to his enemies, which being the constant and necessary practice of all spies, was needless to be mentioned; but to the Israelites, without their knowledge or desire. And this seems added by way of opposition unto the like action, Deu 1, where it was done with the people’s privity, and upon their motion; and therefore an account was given, not only to Moses, but also to the congregation; whereas here it was given to Joshua only, Joshua 2:23, which was a good caution to prevent the inconveniency which possibly might have arisen, if their report had been doubtful or discouraging.
The land, even Jericho, i.e. the land about Jericho, together with the city. Heb. the land and Jericho, i.e. especially Jericho. So and is used 2 Samuel 2:30 1 Kings 11:1 Psalm 18:1. They obeyed Joshua’s command, even with the hazard of their own lives, considering that they were under the protection of Divine Providence, which could very easily many ways secure them; or being willing to sacrifice their lives in their country’s service.
An harlot’s house; so the Hebrew word is used, Judges 11:1 16:1 1 Kings 3:16 Ezekiel 23:44 and so it is rendered by two apostles, Hebrews 11:31 Jam 2:25; such she either now was, or formerly had been; and such a person’s house they might come to with less observation than to an hostess, as some render it, or to a public victualling-house. And such a course of life was very common among the Gentiles, who esteemed fornication to be either no sin, or a very small and trivial one.
Lodged there, or, lay down, as the same word, is rendered, Joshua 2:8, intended and composed themselves to rest; but they were disturbed and hindered from their intentions upon the following discovery.
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.To-night; this evening, by comparing this with Joshua 2:5.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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:Or, But the woman had taken—and had hid them, to wit, before the messengers came from the king; as soon as she understood from her neighbours, or common rumour, that there was a suspicion of the matter, and guessed that search would be made. And this is justly mentioned as a great and generous act of faith, Hebrews 11:31, for she did apparently venture her life upon a stedfast persuasion of the truth of God’s word and promise given to the Israelites.
I wist not whence they were: her answer, contained in these and the following words, was palpably false, and therefore unquestionably sinful; howsoever, her intention was good therein: see Romans 3:8. But it is very probable, she being a heathen, might think, what some Christians have thought and said, that an officious lie is not unlawful. Or, at worst. this was her infirmity, which was graciously pardoned by God, and her faith was amply rewarded.
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.The time of shutting of the gate; either of her house, or rather of the city, which was shut at a certain time.
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.Up to the roof, which was plain, after the manner. See Deu 22:8 Matthew 10:27 Mark 2:4 Acts 10:9. Laid in order upon the roof, that they may be dried by the heat of the sun.
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.Fords, or passages, i.e. the usual places where people used to pass over Jordan, whether by boats or bridges; or rather, because of the shallowness of the river, which a little after this swelled higher, as the history will tell us, and as it is very usual for rivers to do.
They shut the gate of the city, partly for their security against their approaching enemies; and partly to prevent the escape of the spies, if peradventure Rahab was mistaken, and they yet lurked in the city.
And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof;Before they were laid down to rest or sleep, as they intended, being now, after the departure of their searchers, come from their hiding place to their resting-place.
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.Quest. How could they understand one the other?
1. The Hebrew and the Canaan or Phoenician languages have a very great resemblance, and are thought to be but differing dialects of one and the same tongue, as the learned prove by a multitude of words, which are common to both of them. Or,
2. Some of the Hebrews had either out of curiosity, or by Joshua’s order and direction, learnt that language for this or other such like occasions.
Your terror, i.e. the dread of you. See Exodus 23:27 34:24 Deu 11:25 Deu 28:7.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Did melt, i.e. were dissolved, lost all consistency and courage. This phrase is oft used, as Deu 1:28 20:8 Joshua 5:1 7:5.
He is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath; he can do whatsoever he pleaseth in heaven and earth; whereas our gods are enclosed in heaven, and can do nothing to us upon earth.
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:By the Lord; by your God, who is the only true God: so she shows her conversion to God, and owns his worship, one eminent act whereof is swearing by his name.
My father’s house; my near kindred, which she particularly names, Joshua 2:13. Husband and children it seems she had none. And for herself; it was needless to speak, it being a plain and undeniable duty to save their preserver.
A true token; either an assurance that you will preserve me and mine from the common ruin; or a token which I may produce as a witness of this-agreement, and a mean of my security.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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; we pawn and will venture our lives for the security of yours. Or, may we perish, if’ you be not preserved.
This our business, i.e. this agreement of ours, and the way and condition of it, test others under this pretence secure themselves. By which they show both their piety and prudence in managing their oath with so much circumspection and caution, that neither their own consciences might be insnared, nor the public justice obstructed.
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.Which gave her the opportunity of dismissing them when the gates were shut.
She dwelt upon the wall; her particular dwelling was there; which may possibly be added, because the other part of her house was reserved for the entertainment of strangers.
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.To the mountain, i.e. to some of the mountains wherewith Jericho was encompassed, in which also there were many caves where they might lurk.
Three days; not three whole days, but one whole day, and parts of two days: See Poole "Joshua 1:11".
And the men said unto her, We will be blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear.The men said, or, had said; namely, before she let them down; it being very improbable, either that she would dismiss them before the condition was expressed and agreed; or that she would discourse with them, or they with her, about such secret and weighty things after they were let down, when others might overhear them; or that she should begin her discourse in her chamber, and not finish it till they were gone out of her house.
Object. They spoke this after they were let down; for it follows, Joshua 2:18, this-thread which thou didst let us down by.
Answ. Those words may be thus rendered, which thou dost let us down by, i.e. art about to do it; it being frequent for the pretertense to be used of a thing about to be done, by an enallage of tenses, as Joshua 10:15.
Blameless of this thine oath, i.e. free from guilt or reproach if it be violated, namely, if the following condition be not observed.
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.Into the land, i.e. over Jordan, and near the city.
Bind this line of scarlet thread in the window, that it may be easily discerned by our soldiers.
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.His blood shall be upon his head; the blame of his death shall rest wholly upon himself, as being occasioned by his own neglect or contempt of the means of safety.
His blood shall be on our head; we are willing to bear the sin, and shame, and punishment of it.
If any hand be upon him, to wit, so as to kill him, as this phrase is used, Esther 6:2 Job 1:12.
And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Forthwith, partly, that the spies might see it hung out before their departure, and so the better know it at some distance; partly, lest some accident might occasion a mistake or neglect about it; and partly, for her own comfort, it being pleasant and encouraging to her to have in her eye the pledge of her deliverance.
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.Abode there three days; supporting themselves there with the provisions, which after the manner of those times and places they carried with them, which Rahab furnished them with.
Throughout all the way, i.e. in the road to Jordan, and the places near it, but not in the mountains.
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 passed over, to wit, Jordan unto Joshua. Him alone, not the people, as they did Num 13.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.