Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. Joshua . . . sent . . . two men to spy secretly--Faith is manifested
by an active, persevering use of means
and accordingly Joshua, while confident in the accomplishment of the
adopted every precaution which a skilful general could think of to
render his first attempt in the invasion of Canaan successful. Two
spies were despatched to reconnoitre the country, particularly in the
neighborhood of Jericho; for in the prospect of investing that place,
it was desirable to obtain full information as to its site, its
approaches, the character, and resources of its inhabitants. This
mission required the strictest privacy, and it seems to have been
studiously concealed from the knowledge of the Israelites themselves,
test any unfavorable or exaggerated report, publicly circulated, might
have dispirited the people, as that of the spies did in the days of
Jericho--Some derive this name from a word signifying "new moon,"
in reference to the crescent-like plain in which it stood, formed by an
amphitheater of hills; others from a word signifying "its scent," on
account of the fragrance of the balsam and palm trees in which it was
embosomed. Its site was long supposed to be represented by the small
mud-walled hamlet Er-Riha; but recent researches have fixed on a spot
about half an hour's journey westward, where large ruins exist about
six or eight miles distant from the Jordan. It was for that age a
strongly fortified town, the key of the eastern pass through the deep
ravine, now called Wady-Kelt, into the interior of Palestine.
they . . . came into an harlot's house--Many expositors, desirous of
removing the stigma of this name from an ancestress of the Saviour
have called her a hostess or tavern keeper. But Scriptural usage
the authority of the Septuagint, followed by the apostles
and the immemorial style of Eastern khans, which are never kept by
women, establish the propriety of the term employed in our version. Her
house was probably recommended to the spies by the convenience of its
situation, without any knowledge of the character of the inmates. But a
divine influence directed them in the choice of that lodging-place.
2, 3. it was told the king--by the sentinels who at such a time of
threatened invasion would be posted on the eastern frontier and whose
duty required them to make a strict report to headquarters of the
arrival of all strangers.
4-6. the woman took the two men, and hid them--literally, "him," that
is, each of them in separate places, of course previous to the
appearance of the royal messengers and in anticipation of a speedy
search after her guests. According to Eastern manners, which pay an
almost superstitious respect to a woman's apartment, the royal
messengers did not demand admittance to search but asked her to bring
the foreigners out.
5. the time of shutting of the gates--The gates of all Oriental
cities are closed at sunset, after which there is no possibility either
of admission or egress.
the men went out--This was a palpable deception. But, as lying is a
common vice among heathen people, Rahab was probably unconscious of its
moral guilt, especially as she resorted to it as a means for screening
her guests; and she might deem herself bound to do it by the laws of
Eastern hospitality, which make it a point of honor to preserve the
greatest enemy, if he has once eaten one's salt. Judged by the divine
law, her answer was a sinful expedient; but her infirmity being united
with faith, she was graciously pardoned and her service accepted
6. she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with
the stalks of flax--Flax, with other vegetable productions, is at a
certain season spread out on the flat roofs of Eastern houses to be
dried in the sun; and, after lying awhile, it is piled up in numerous
little stacks, which, from the luxuriant growth of the flax, rise to a
height of three or four feet. Behind some of these stacks Rahab
concealed the spies.
7. the men pursued after them the way to Jordan unto the fords--That
river is crossed at several well-known fords. The first and second
immediately below the sea of Galilee; the third and fourth immediately
above and below the pilgrims' bathing-place, opposite Jericho.
as soon as they which pursued after them were gone out, they shut the
gate--This precaution was to ensure the capture of the spies, should
they have been lurking in the city.
8-13. she came up unto them upon the roof and said--Rahab's dialogue is
full of interest, as showing the universal panic and consternation of
the Canaanites on the one hand
and her strong convictions on the other, founded on a knowledge of the
divine promise, and the stupendous miracles that had opened the way of
the Israelites to the confines of the promised land. She was convinced
of the supremacy of Jehovah, and her earnest stipulations for the
preservation of her relatives amid the perils of the approaching
invasion, attest the sincerity and strength of her faith.
14. the men answered her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our
business--This was a solemn pledge--a virtual oath, though the name of
God is not mentioned; and the words were added, not as a condition of
their fidelity, but as necessary for her safety, which might be
endangered if the private agreement was divulged.
15. her house was upon the town wall--In many Oriental cities houses
are built on the walls with overhanging windows; in others the town
wall forms the back wall of the house, so that the window opens into
the country. Rahab's was probably of this latter description, and the
cord or rope sufficiently strong to bear the weight of a man.
16-21. she said--rather "she had said," for what follows must have
been part of the previous conversation.
Get you to the mountain--A range of white limestone hills extends on
the north, called Quarantania (now Jebel Karantu), rising to a height
of from twelve hundred to fifteen hundred feet, and the sides of which
are perforated with caves. Some one peak adjoining was familiarly known
to the inhabitants as "the mountain." The prudence and propriety of the
advice to flee in that direction rather than to the ford, were made
apparent by the sequel.
21. she bound the scarlet line in the window--probably soon after the
departure of the spies. It was not formed, as some suppose, into
network, as a lattice, but simply to hang down the wall. Its red color
made it conspicuous, and it was thus a sign and pledge of safety to
Rahab's house, as the bloody mark on the lintels of the houses of the
Israelites in Egypt to that people.