Spies Saved by Rahab. 1Then Joshua, son of Nun, secretly sent out two spies from Shittim, saying, “Go, reconnoiter the land and Jericho.” When the two reached Jericho, they went into the house of a prostitute named Rahab,a where they lodged. 2But a report was brought to the king of Jericho: “Some men came here last night, Israelites, to spy out the land.” 3So the king of Jericho sent Rahab the order, “Bring out the men who have come to you and entered your house, for they have come to spy out the entire land.” 4The womanb had taken the two men and hidden them, so she said, “True, the men you speak of came to me, but I did not know where they came from. 5At dark, when it was time to close the gate, they left, and I do not know where they went. You will have to pursue them quickly to overtake them.” 6Now, she had led them to the roof, and hidden them among her stalks of flax spread out* there. 7But the pursuers set out along the way to the fords of the Jordan. As soon as they had left to pursue them, the gate was shut.
8Before the spies lay down, Rahab went up to them on the roof 9and said:* “I know that the LORD has given you the land, that a dread of you has come upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land tremble with fear because of you.c 10For we have heard how the LORD dried up the waters of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt,d and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites beyond the Jordan, whom you destroyed under the ban. 11We heard, and our hearts melted within us; everyone is utterly dispirited because of you, since the LORD, your God, is God in heaven above and on earth below.e 12f Now then, swear to me by the LORD that, since I am showing kindness to you, you in turn will show kindness to my family.g Give me a reliable sign 13that you will allow my father and mother, brothers and sisters, and my whole family to live, and that you will deliver us from death.” 14“We pledge our lives for yours,” they answered her. “If you do not betray our mission, we will be faithful in showing kindness to you when the LORD gives us the land.”
15Then she let them down through the window with a rope; for she lived in a house built into the city wall.* 16“Go up into the hill country,” she said, “that your pursuers may not come upon you. Hide there for three days, until they return; then you may go on your way.” 17They answered her, “We are free of this oath that you made us take, unless, 18when we come into the land, you tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you are letting us down. Gather your father and mother, your brothers, and all your family into your house. 19Should any of them pass outside the doors of your house, their blood will be on their own heads, and we will be guiltless. But if anyone in your house is harmed, their blood will be on our heads. 20If, however, you betray our mission, we will be free of the oath you have made us take.” 21“Let it be as you say,” she replied, and sent them away. When they were gone, she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
22They went up into the hill country, where they stayed three days until their pursuers, who had sought them all along the road without finding them, returned. 23Then the two came back down from the hills, crossed the Jordan to Joshua, son of Nun, and told him all that had happened to them. 24They assured Joshua, “The LORD has given all this land into our power; indeed, all the inhabitants of the land tremble with fear because of us.”
* [2:6] Stalks of flax spread out: to dry in the sun, after they had been soaked in water, according to the ancient process of preparing flax for linen-making. In the Near East the flax harvest occurs near the time of the feast of the Passover (4:19; 5:10); cf. Ex 9:31.
* [2:9–11] Rahab’s speech is Deuteronomic in content and style. Through her, the author expresses a theological conviction: the Lord, the God of Israel, is God above all gods; the formation of the people Israel and its success is the Lord’s doing; and all the rulers of the neighboring nations do well to panic at what the Lord is doing (cf. 5:1). Rahab the prostitute is pointedly mentioned in the Matthean genealogy of Jesus (Mt 1:5) and in Jas 2:25.
* [2:15] A house built into the city wall: the city wall formed the back wall of the house; remains of such houses have been found at ancient sites. The upper story of Rahab’s house was evidently higher than the city wall. It was through the window of such a house that St. Paul escaped from Damascus; cf. Acts 9:25; 2 Cor 11:33.