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.