Joshua – Week 3: Joshua sends spies to Jericho

Chapter 2 – Joshua sends spies into Jericho (focus passage vv8-13)

Literary context

What is the general outline of this chapter? Notice the brackets: the story starts and ends with Joshua and the spies on this side of the river.

How does this passage fit into the context of the previous book(s)? and the following book(s)?

It is part of the bigger story of Israel conquering Jericho, but also of Israel entering the Promised Land (Canaan). This chapter provides a view of the Canaanites where chapter 1 provided a view of the Israelites. The focus of chapter 1 is on Joshua (the deliverer of Israel) and in chapter 2 it is on Rahab (the deliverer of her family).

There is an obvious tie to the sending of the scouts from Kadesh Barnea outlined in Numbers 13-14 and Deuteronomy 1.

Rahab’s confession is one of the longest uninterrupted statements by a woman in biblical narrative.

Focussing on Rahab’s confession, do you notice how she starts her false confession to the kings men? (I don’t know – v 5) This is against the start of her true confession (I know – v9). It emphasises that a true confession replaces the former deceit.

Read verse 9 in the NIV. Notice the confession “I know” and then the three subordinate clauses starting with “that”:

“I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you…”

The first “that” summarises the basic theological message of the book. The second and third “that’s” indicate the reaction of the Canaanites.

Do you notice anything specific regarding the structure of the first part of the confession (vv 9 – 11)? There is a chiasm, with the focus on Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. The two events in the centre of the chiasm describes the first and last events of Israel’s trek through the desert.

These two events also allude to the two major themes in Joshua: the crossing of the Jordan and the complete destruction of the inhabitants of Canaan (devote to the ban).

Rahab is mentioned by the author of Hebrews (11:31) as one of the heroes of faith, and James (2:25) mentions her as one who showed her faith by works.

Historical context

Why did the spies enter the house of a prostitute? Are there any indications that they might have had sexual relations (or intention)? There is better evidence that this might have been an inn or similar place. See this quote from Weinfeld (quoted in Joshua, Richard Hess, 1996, IVP Academic):

Sending out men for reconnaissance was a widespread phenomenon in the east. Moreover, a prostitute’s or innkeeper’s house was the accustomed place for meeting with spies, conspirators, and the like. This, for example, we read in Hammurabi’s Code: ‘If scoundrels plot together in an innkeeper’s house, and she does not seize them and bring them to the palace, that innkeeper shall be put to death.’ (law 109) In a Mari letter we read about two men who sow fear and panic and cause rebellion in an army. Also, the pattern of a three-day stay in an area when pursuing escapees has support in ancient eastern sources; for example the instructions to the Hittite tower commanders specify that if an enemy invades a place he must be pursued for three days. In the same collection of instructions we find that it is forbidden to build an inn in which prostitutes live near the fortress wall, apparently because of the kind of danger described in Joshua 2.

Rahab is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:5) as the wife of Salmon and the mother of Boaz – ancestor of King David.

Analysing narrative

What kind of narrative is this? (report, speech or drama) This is a drama (or at least part of one, but we focus on the confession of Rahab which is a speech.

Who are the characters? What action is there? (remember that we ask these questions in the context of the speech as we are focussing on the speech and not the larger story of the spies or the even larger story of the fall of Jericho (which in turn forms part of the entering of the Promised Land! And so we can continue with providing larger and larger contexts).

Why did Rahab give this particular speech? Introductory speech to her request for mercy? Justification for lying to the King’s men?

What were the issues? And what did she say about this? The citizens of Jericho knew that their city was about to be invaded by the Israelites, and as was the practice (see comments on the Holy Ban discussed under the story of Achan’s sin) if they lost to the Israelites, the whole city and its inhabitants would probably be destroyed. She took a chance – based on the information available to her – on whether she will side with the Israelites or her own people. She believed (had faith) in the ability and power of the God of Israel.

What did Rahab want her hearers to think or do? She wanted to convince them of her faith in the God of Israel through her confession. Then she wanted them to spare her life in reaction to her confession and subsequent actions helping the scouts.

Normally the key point of a speech story is often at the beginning or end of the speech, or sometimes it is interpreted by a short statement afterwards. However, in this case, the key of the speech is contained right in the middle. The speech is in the form of a chiasm, and the middle part is the focus: Rahab’s confession regarding the deliverance of Israel from Egypt and their defeat of the Amorite kings east of the river Jordan.


What is the topic of the text?

What does the passage teach about this topic?

What is the main point of the teaching (topic and what is says about topic)?

How does this main point apply to me or my audience? (One has to be very specific here)

What is the redemptive focus, i.e. how does the text surpass a list of things to do, avoid or believe, and point to Christ?


What was the original meaning of this passage? (tip: is it related to fear or faith, or both?)

What is the principle?

How can we apply the principle in a situation today?

Verify the application to other passages in Scripture.

Christian business principles, based on Biblical Truth