Saturday, August 13, 2005

Last Sunday's Bible Study Notes.



Joshua appointed two spies to search out the land, especially Jericho. This is ironic, since he was one of the 12 spies sent out by Moses. It says he sent them “secretly”, which probably means he did not tell the Israelites he was sending them. This would avoid the problem of an unfavorable report.

The Israelites were camped at Shittim, which means “Acacia Grove” (Used in NKJV) and seems to be the place they camped at in Numbers 25:1, where they sinned with Moabite women and worshipped Baal. One of the Israelite men even brought a Midianite woman into the Israelite camp and into his tent. The Lord struck the people with a plague that did not stop until Phineas, the son of Eleazer, killed the man and woman. 24,000 people died. So God brought the people to this place of great disobedience to launch the great phase of obedience.

The spies managed to get inside the walled City of Jericho. Verse 5 indicates the gate to the city was open during the day, so they may have disguised themselves or covered themselves in order to pass into the city. They went to the house of a prostitute, Rahab, and spent the night there. Her house was literally part of the wall around the city.

Someone found them out, however, and reported their presence to the king. The king is just the king of Jericho, a city-state. The king knew they were spies. The king sent a message to Rahab to give them up. Rahab protected them by denying their presence to the messengers and sending them on a wild goose chase. Rahab then hid them on the roof and covered them with stalks of flax. However, the King shut the gate to the city, so they were trapped there.

2:8-11 Rahab’s confession

When Rahab speaks, she indicates a knowledge of what is going on and how the Lord was acting on the part of Israel. She said she knew: (1) The Lord had given them the land; (2) terror of the Israelites had fallen on the Canaanites at Jericho; (3) the locals were demoralized by the presence of the Israelites.

Some observations are in order. First, Rahab attributes the success of the Israelites to God and knows somehow that He has given Canaan to them. This, coupled with the fact that the king knows they are spying out the land, according to verse 3, means they had knowledge and awareness of the fact that Israel was headed in their direction. We are not told how she got this knowledge. However, Canaan had been a tributary to Egypt, so information was freely exchanged. In addition, the Canaanites were traders, so people came and went from the cities all over the area, bringing news. The discovery of the Tel-El Amarna tablets shows us letters were exchanged between the Egyptian governors in Syria and Palestine and the kings of Assyria and Babylon and others. So, news and ideas were exchanged. The people of Jericho found out that the Israelites were coming and what their history was. God had promised this beforehand. In Deuteronomy 2:25, he said “This very day I will begin to put the terror and fear of you on all the nations under heaven. They will hear reports of you and will tremble and be in anguish because of you.”

More importantly, Rahab had knowledge that God has already given victory to Israel. This must have come as a revelation from God, for we have no record of her having contact with the Israelites before this. So we see God reaching into a pagan and corrupt land to reveal himself to one who would be faithful.

Second, Rahab uses the personal name of the Lord here (YHWH). She does not say “your god”. She declares him to be the God of all things, repudiating the Canaanite belief in many gods.

Third, the population of Jericho was afraid already, and the Israelites had not yet crossed the Jordan. The Lord promised Joshua in 1:5 that no man would be able to stand before him. It was not because of the fearsomeness of Joshua, but the fear of the Lord.

2:12-14 Rahab’s covenant

Rahab extracted a promise that she and her family would be spared in the invasion, in return for her assistance to the spies. They agreed. You can also tell these spies are believers, as opposed to the 12 Moses sent. They refer to the time when God will give them the land, not if the Lord will give them the land.

2:15-16 The Spies Escape

Rahad lowered the spies over the wall on a rope. Her house was on top the wall, so they went straight down to the outside. She told them where to hide. It reminds you of Paul being lowered over the wall at Damascus.

2:17-21 Rahab’s Passover

In order to mark her house for salvation, Rahab was instructed to bind the scarlet cord, with which she lowered the spies, to her window to identify it for the Israelites when they came to destroy the city. She was to gather all her family in the house. It reminds you of the first Passover, when blood was painted on the doorposts and the angel of death passed over the homes, but destroyed the unmarked homes.

Rahab confessed the Lord, helped the Lord’s people as they executed his will and judgment and was honored for it. Hebrews 11:31, part of the Faith Hall of Fame, says “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient (or unbelieving). James 2:25 also extols Rahab’s actions. Matthew 1:5 records that she married Salmon, a descendent of Abraham and the tribe of Judah, so that she became the mother of Boaz, who married Ruth. She became the great, great grandmother of King David, putting her in the lineage of Christ, through Joseph.

2:22-24 A Good Report

The spies followed Rahab’s instructions and escaped back to their camp. Unlike the prior spies, they made a good report. They said truly the Lord has delivered all the land into our hands and all the people are afraid of us. God had promised them this on their first trip to Canaan in Exodus 23:27, but the Israelites were unwilling to trust God for deliverance.
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