Joshua’s Spies

Rahab spies 2

Q. Jos 2:1 Then Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there. My bible study leader said Joshua sent spies because he lacked faith, as all early chapters of Joshua mentioned the LORD except ch. 2. Do you agree? Also why only two secretly, not 12 publicly as Moses did in Num 13? Why go to a harlot? Is Rahab really a harlot or an inn-keeper as some suggested?

A. I do not see it that way. While ch. 2 did not say the LORD instructed Joshua to send out spies, He is referenced to 6 times in the words of Rahab and the spies (Josh 2:9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 24). The LORD told Joshua to be “strong and courageous” 4 times in ch. 1 (Josh 1:6, 7, 9, 18). It is unlikely that he will forget so soon. Besides, Joshua was a military man, and sending out spies was his usual practice:
Josh 7:2 Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” So the men went up and spied out Ai.
God did not chastise Joshua for sending spies; He chastised Israel because Achan took some of the things under the ban (Josh 7:1).

Why spies at all, and two secretly? The Bible did not say, so I can only speculate. There are several possibilities:
• Joshua remembered he and Caleb spying out Canaan, but that was forty years ago, and things could have changed.
• He recalled the bad report from the 10 leaders of the tribes which led to their wandering in the wilderness for forty years, and did not want leaders to influence the people again with their opinion. He wanted only military intelligence, so sent people who are not known.
• A single witness is not binding, but two or three are (Deut 17:6; 19:5). So two were sent as they are better than one (Eccle 4:9) and can help each other.

Why a harlot? Again the Bible did not explain, but possibly:
• They as foreigners would attract the least attention by going to a harlot.
• Harlots deal with people from different social class and might have military intelligence.

Was Rahab a harlot or inn-keeper? She could be both, but the Bible is consistent in identifying her as a harlot or prostitute:
Josh 2:1
• Josh 6:17 The city shall be under the ban, it and all that is in it belongs to the LORD; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in the house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent.
• Josh 6:25 However, Rahab the harlot and her father’s household and all she had, Joshua spared; and she has lived in the midst of Israel to this day, for she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.
• Heb 11:31 By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.
• Jas 2:25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?

The Bible accurately records the good and the bad about God’s people. That’s why it is trustworthy. And God redeems the bad and changes it into good, as Rahab became the mother of Boaz, Jesus’ ancestor (Mt 1:5). From hindsight we might even say that the spies went to her house so that she could be redeemed to become part of Jesus’ genealogy. It’s all part of God’s plans.

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Is ISIS a sign of the End Times? (2 of 2)

ISIS 2

(Continued from yesterday)

Let’s check the candidates against the clues:

1. The Babylonian empire did sit over many nations. While immorality is true of many dynasties in world history, of the 293 times the name Babylon appears in 260 verses in the NASB, the main characteristics were arrogance, idolatry, cruelty etc., not immorality, except in Revelation where it is figurative and may not be referring to literal Babylon. Babylon conquered Judah and led the captives away, persecuting the Jews, but it most definitely is not where the Lord was crucified.

2. The Roman Empire also sat over many nations, and secular historians agreed that Rome was immoral. But, if the beast on which the woman rode is already the revived Roman Empire, the woman herself cannot be Rome, unless she is the apostate RC Church, committing spiritual adultery through the ages, as well as having an illicit liaison with the Antichrist’s one-world government in the future. Rome did persecute the early church before adopting Christianity as the official religion, and later on Catholics persecuted Protestants during the Inquisition. But again, Roman was not where the Lord was crucified, except as some argued that it was Pilate’s Roman soldiers who executed the crucifixion.

3. God Himself called Israel and Judah (Jerusalem) harlots – Jer 3:8-9 And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also. Because of the lightness of her harlotry, she polluted the land and committed adultery with stones and trees, but in what sense is she sitting on many waters? One possibility is that the Jewish Diaspora is scattered among many nations. Also God endowed His chosen people such that many are among the world’s top financiers and scientists, dealing with the kings or rulers of the earth.

As to being partners with the Antichrist who will later turn against her, it fits in with the first three and a half years of the Great Tribulation when Israel will form a covenant with the Antichrist, who then breaks it (see Dan 7:25; 12:7). What about being drunk with the blood of saints? That fits too with:
Lk 11:50-51 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’ (See also 1 Kings 19:10, 14; Rom 11:13)
And of course the Lord was crucified outside Jerusalem.

So of the three suggestions, apostate Jerusalem fits the clues best. This is in contrast to the woman in Rev 12:1-6, who symbolizes the believing Messianic community.

Now, if Babylon is apostate Jerusalem, it cannot be Iraq at the same time. But then why am I saying ISIS is a sign of the end time? It has to do with:
Rev 20:4 Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Of all the atrocities committed by ISIS, the most heinous got to be the public beheading of Christians who refused to recant their faith in Jesus. Beheading is a barbaric method of execution that has gradually been banned throughout the world, but practiced in Sharia (Islamic) law. In recent years both Al Qaeda and ISIS used beheading as a terrorism tactic. While this recruited some fanatical mujahideen (jihadists), it also repelled many Muslims and drove them to Christ. It is for this reason I believe ISIS to be a sign of the end times.

Is ISIS a sign of the End Times? (1 of 2)

ISIS 1

Q. Is ISIS a sign of the end times?

A. I believe it is, though not for the same reason as some commentators suggested. ISIS or ISIL stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The name Iraq does not appear in the Bible, but Iraq is located where ancient Babylon was. Some therefore identify Iraq as Babylon in Rev and hence a sign of the end times. The name Syria appears in the NASB 9 times, and is ancient Aram. Both Babylon and Aram were enemies of Judah and Israel.

I do not equate Iraq to Rev’s Babylon. The name Babylon appears in the NT 11 times:
• 4 times as literal ancient Babylon – Mt 1:11, 12, 17; Acts 7:43;
• 7 times as figurative Babylon – 1 Pet 5:13; Rev. 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21;
Who or what does the symbolic Babylon refer to? The most detailed clues are in Rev 17:

1. Babylon is called the great harlot (17:1, 15, 16; 19:2) or Mother of Harlots (v 5):
Rev 17:1 … the great harlot who sits on many waters,
• Rev 17:5 and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”

Many waters refer to people and (Gentile) nations:
Rev 17:15 And he said to me, “The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.
• Rev 19:6 Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters

2. Her main characteristic is immorality:
Rev 17:2 with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.”
This is mentioned 8 times: Rev 14:8; 17:2 twice, 4; 18:3 twice, 9; 19:2; and refers to her adultery, both physical and spiritual.

3. She is affiliated with a beast:
Rev 17:3 … and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.

There are only two beasts in the Bible with seven heads and ten horns. The first one is the red dragon in Rev 12:3 i.e. Satan. The second one is in:
Rev 13:1 Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.
• Rev 17:7 And the angel said to me, “Why do you wonder? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.
• Rev 17:9-10, 12 … The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; … The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, …

Scholars agree that this beast from the sea (nations) is the Antichrist. Most commentators equate the seven mountains to Rome, as Rome was built on seven hills. Or the seven kings may refer to seven Roman emperors. Those who take this literally believe the Antichrist to be a revived Roman Empire, or the personal Antichrist to be the head of this future one-world government. Those who take this figuratively believe the Antichrist to be the Roman Catholic (RC) Church. Regardless, Babylon the great harlot is an ally of the Antichrist.

4. She is intoxicated with persecuting God’s people:
Rev 17:6 … And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.

5. Even though the beast begins as the harlot’s partner, it will turn against her:
Rev 17:16 And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire.

6. The woman is the great city:
Rev 17:18 The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.”
Including 17:18, “great city” is mentioned 8 times in Rev:
Rev 11:8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.
• Rev 16:19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. (See also Rev 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21)

Sodom stands for immorality; Egypt represents slavery. Several possible cities have been suggested:
• Babylon, taking the passage literally;
• Rome, because it reigned over the kings of the earth at that time; and
• Jerusalem, because that’s where the Lord was crucified;
but which, if any, is correct?

(To be continued)