THE SPIES AND RAHAB.
(1) Joshua . . . sent out of Shittim.—That is, he sent the spies before the people left the place where they had been encamped for some months (Numbers 22:1; Numbers 33:49). Shittim was the last stage of the Exodus under Moses. Probably the sending of these two spies was simultaneous with the issue of the general orders to Israel to prepare for the passage of Jordan within three days. The three days of Joshua 1:11; Joshua 2:22 appear to be the same period of time.
Two men to spy.—The sending of these spies should be compared, as to the general effect and character of the measure, with other similar events. There are three instances of sending spies in reference to Canaan—viz., (1) the sending of the twelve by Moses from Kadesh-barnea; (2) the instance before us; (3) the sending of men to view Ai. The present instance is the only one in which the measure had a good effect. In the case of the twelve, Moses describes the action as a manifestation of unbelief. The spies took upon them to discover the right path for Israel to take, a thing which was God’s prerogative, not theirs (Deuteronomy 1:22; Deuteronomy 1:32-33). The men who viewed Ai (Joshua 7:2-3) came back and presumed to instruct Joshua how to proceed against it, with disastrous results. In this instance the two men brought back a report of the state of things in Jericho (exactly what they were ordered to do), which encouraged all Israel to proceed. Compare the effect of Gideon and Phurah’s visit to the camp of Midian (Judges 7:11), “Thou shalt hear what they say, and. afterwards shall thine hands be strengthened.”
Into an harlot’s house, named Rahab.—The attempts to show that Rahab was not “an harlot” are not justified by the word used in Hebrew, or in the Greek of the LXX., or in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 11:31), or in that of St. James (James 2:25). But there is no harm in supposing that she was also an innkeeper, which the Targum calls her in every place; indeed, it is very probable that the spies would resort to a place of public entertainment, as most suitable for ascertaining the state of the public mind. How far they were disguised, how they came to be discovered, whether the king of Jericho knew of the impending march of Israel from Shittim, are questions of detail which the narrative leaves unanswered, and which the imagination may discuss at pleasure. The point of the story is not in these.
(1) There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were.—A falsehood which evidently left no stain on Rahab’s conscience, although all falsehood is sin. The same may be said of Jael’s slaying Sisera. The Divine standard of sin and holiness never varies; but the standard of man’s conscience, even when faith is a dominant principle in the character, may vary to a very considerable degree. In Jesus Christ “all that believe are justified from all things;” but “by the deeds of the law no one. Here, as elsewhere, the application of the law only brings the discovery of sin.