Ver 1. Sent, or as many translate, “had sent,” as if Josue had dismissed the spies immediately after the mourning of Moses was ended, (Calmet) on the 1st of Nisan. On the second day they examined the city, and were obliged to flee in the night. But they only returned to their brethren on the 6th. On the following day Josue gave orders to make all necessary preparations for their departure, and crossed the Jordan on the 10th of the month. (Salien, B.C. 1469.) — Setim was about eight or nine miles from the river, “or sixty stadia.” (Josephus, [Antiquities?] v. 1.) — Two men. Septuagint intimate that they were young. See chap. vi. 23. (Haydock) — The Rabbins assert, without reason, that Caleb and Phinees were chosen, and that they pretended that they were deaf, (eross) a word which the Vulgate translates, secretly. (Calmet) — Jericho. Josue had himself examined the country some time before. But there might have been many changes, and he might not know the present disposition of the people of Jericho. (Haydock) — This city was built in a delightful plain, surrounded by mountains, (Calmet) except on the east side, chap. iv. 13. (Haydock) — Harlot. Hebrew zona may also signify an “innkeeper,” as such places were under the direction of women, who were commonly of a very loose character. Hence the Greeks deemed it a dishonour to enter into a public house. Isocrates says, that “even an honest servant will not dare to enter into an ale-house, to eat or drink.” (Athen. Dipn. 13.) — Rahab might have been formerly addicted to pleasure, as the Scripture and the Fathers agree; (Hebrews xi. 31., and James ii. 25.) (Calmet) though she might at this time be very discreet, being awakened by the account of the miracles which God had wrought in favour of his people, who, she knew, were approaching to take possession of the country. The spies might, therefore, take shelter in her house with the least suspicion, and without danger of injuring their character. (Haydock) — The woman was not very old, as she was afterwards married to Salmon. (St. Matthew i. 5.) — With her. They spent the first night in her house, entering the city in the dusk of the evening, so that they had not time to make any observations till the following day. (Salien) — Others think that they were suspected by the people of the town almost immediately, and denounced to the king. Hence they were forced to flee that same night, without having accomplished their design, and were only informed by Rahab of the dismay which had seized the inhabitants, ver. 11.
Ver. 2. By night. Hebrew, “this night.” (Calmet)
Ver. 3. House. She spoke to them through a window. The messengers did not enter into her house; whence Serarius infers, that Rahab was a person consecrated to some impure deity, and therefore held in some estimation among the people of Jericho, as this was a city of the moon, in whose honour such consecrations were generally made. But these arguments are not very convincing. (Calmet)
Ver. 4. Hid, or “had hidden,” as (ver. 6,) she had made the men retire before she spoke to the messengers, and probably before they came to demand them. As soon as she was informed of their design, she took all prudent precautions both for her own and their safety, as she could not have escaped death, if she had been discovered affording shelter to the enemies of her country. She felt herself authorized by God on this occasion, to abandon those upon whom he had declared war, and who could have derived no benefit from the spies being betrayed to them. (Haydock)
Ver. 5. At the time, not precisely, as otherwise the men who shut the gates must have seen them, but about that time, (Calmet) Rahab pretends that the spies had left her house, and had directed their course towards the gate, so that she made no doubt but they might easily overtake them. (Haydock) — Notwithstanding this officious lie, which is a venial sin, St. Paul and St. James testify that she was justified by her faith in God, and by good works towards these men. See St. Augustine, contra Mend. 17. and note on James ii. 25. (Worthington) — Rahab might suppose that an officious lie was not a sin, (Menochius) as many great and learned men seemed to have maintained this doctrine. See Grotius, Jur. iii. 1. 9.; Origen, contra Cels. iv. p. 171.; St. Chrysostom, hom. 53, Genesis. She was so far from intending to do an injury to any one, that she consulted the welfare both of her guests and of her countrymen, who, if they had detected the spies and committed murder, would have thus brought greater destruction upon themselves, as they could not escape the wrath of God. (Calmet)
Ver. 6. There. The roofs were flat in that country, and consequently very proper to dry flax, or “cotton,” as Masius understands.
Ver. 7. Jordan, where they had probably come over, though perhaps in a boat, (Menochius) and where the messengers concluded they would have the best chance of finding them, as the Israelites were on the opposite side of the river. (Haydock) — As soon as they were gone out of the city, the guards shut the gate, that if the spies should still be lurking within, they might be hindered from making their escape. (Menochius)
Ver. 8. Asleep. It seems as if the spies had been ignorant of the danger to which they had been just exposed, and had gone to the roof of the house with a design to pass the night in greater security. Rahab perceives, however, that it would be extremely rash for them to continue with her any longer, and therefore she gives them the best advice, to secure their safety by fleeing in the dead of the night, and without further delay. (Haydock)
Ver. 9. Strength. Hebrew, “they faint or melt away,” deprived both of strength and counsel.
Ver. 11. Beneath. This is the confession of a true convert, (Calmet) inspired by God. (Haydock) — For St. Paul commends her faith. (Hebrews xi. 31.) (Menochius) — The pagans confined the power of their idols to certain districts; the power of the true God is infinite. (Calmet)
Ver. 12. True token, such a one as, when I shew it to the Israelites, they may preserve me and mine. She is not content with a verbal promise, she requires something permanent and sensible, as a mark of their mutual engagements, (Calmet) a token of their sincerity. They afterwards appointed a piece of scarlet to be hung out of the house, where those were to be collected who should be entitled to protection. Rahab was bound not to divulge their secret, nor to betray them. If she had instructed others of her fellow-citizens to hang out the same mark, she would have forfeited all her privileges, ver. 20. (Haydock)
Ver. 14. Death. We are willing to die instead of you, if we do not fulfil our promises. — Truth, a real and effectual mercy.
Ver. 16. Days; the remainder of this night, and the day and night following. It is probable that they would travel only in the night time. (Calmet) — If they had gone by the high road, they might easily have been discovered by the messengers, who would be on their return. (Haydock) — But retiring to the mountains south of Jericho, till they had re-entered the city, the spies made their escape. (Calmet)
Ver. 18. By which window or cord. (Calmet) — The cord was left as a signal. (Menochius)
Ver. 24. Fear, as Rahab had testified. They might also have been witnesses of the people’s consternation, which gave them the most assured hopes of victory, as the Lord had given this sign, among others, that he would be with them, Deuteronomy xxviii. 10. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Two spies are sent to Jericho, who are received and concealed by Rahab.
1 And Josue, *the son of Nun, sent from Setim two men, to spy secretly: and said to them: Go, and view the land, and the city of Jericho.** They went, and entered into the house of a woman that was a harlot, named Rahab, and lodged with her.
2 And it was told the king of Jericho, and was said : Behold there are men come in hither, by night, of the children of Israel, to spy the land.
3 And the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying: Bring forth the men that came to thee, and are entered into thy house: for they are spies, and are come to view all the land.
4 *And the woman taking the men, hid them, and said: I confess they came to me, but I knew not whence they were:
5 And at the time of shutting the gate in the dark, they also went out together. I know not whither they are gone: pursue after them quickly, and you will overtake them.
6 But she made the men go up to the top of her house, and covered them with the stalks of flax, which was there.
7 Now they that were sent, pursued after them, by the way that leadeth to the fords of the Jordan: and as soon as they were gone out, the gate was presently shut.
8 The men that were hid were not yet asleep, when behold the woman went up to them, and said:
9 I know that the Lord hath given this land to you: for the dread of you is fallen upon us, and all the inhabitants of the land have lost all strength.
10 We have heard that *the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea, at your going in, when you came out of Egypt: **and what things you did to the two kings of the Amorrhites, that were beyond the Jordan: Sehon and Og, whom you slew.
11 And at the hearing these things, we were affrighted, and our heart fainted away, neither did there remain any spirit in us, at your coming in: for the Lord your God he is God in heaven above, and in the earth beneath.
12 *Now, therefore, swear ye to me by the Lord, that as I have shewed mercy to you, so you also will shew mercy to my father’s house: and give me a true token,
13 That you will save my father and mother, my brethren and sisters, and all things that are theirs, and deliver our souls from death.
14 They answered her: Be our lives for you unto death, only if thou betray us not. And when the Lord shall have delivered us the land, we will shew thee mercy and truth.
15 Then she let them down with a cord out of a window: for her house joined close to the wall.
16 And she said to them: Get ye up to the mountains, lest perhaps they meet you as they return: and there lie ye hid three days, till they come back, and so you shall go on your way.
17 And they said to her: We shall be blameless of this oath, which thou hast made us swear,
18 If, when we come into the land, this scarlet cord be a sign, and thou tie it in the window, by which thou hast let us down: and gather together thy father and mother, and brethren, and all thy kindred into thy house.
19 Whosoever shall go out of the door of thy house, his blood shall be upon his own head, and we shall be quit. But the blood of all that shall be with thee in the house, shall light upon our head, if any man touch them.
20 But if thou wilt betray us, and utter this word abroad, we shall be quit of this oath, which thou hast made us swear.
21 And she answered: As you have spoken, so be it done: and sending them on their way, she hung the scarlet cord in the window.
22 But they went and came to the mountains, and stayed there three days, till they that pursued them were returned. For having sought them through all the way, they found them not.
23 And when they were gone back into the city, the spies returned, and came down from the mountain: and passing over the Jordan, they came to Josue, the son of Nun, and told him all that befel them,
24 And said: The Lord hath delivered all this land into our hands, and all the inhabitants thereof are overthrown with fear.
1: Year of the World 2553. — ** Hebrews xi. 31.; James ii. 25.
4: Josue vi. 17.
10: Exodus xiv. 21. ** Numbers xxi. 24.
12: Josue vi. 22.