Study Notes

Joshua 2:1-4:24

2:1 Two Spies

Joshua sends two unnamed spies from Shi-TEEM in to view the land, especially Jericho. Forty years ago, twelve spies had been sent in. We get Moses' account of this in Deuteronomy 1...

Deut. 1:20-22 "And I said to you, 'You have come to the hill country of the Amorites which the LORD our God is about to give us. See, the LORD your God has placed the land before you; go up, take possession, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has spoken to you. Do not fear or be dismayed.' Then all of you approached me and said, 'Let us send men before us, that they may search out the land for us, and bring back to us word of the way by which we should go up, and the cities which we shall enter.'"

This had turned out to be a terrible proposition. Of the twelve, ten came back in fear, saying,

Num. 13:31 ..."We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us."

The congregation freaked out, and God judged them for it. This was the reason they'd wandered in the wilderness for forty years. Now, why in the world would Joshua send in more spies?

Two things I see that are different here:

1) The first spy mission was decided corporately by the people being led, the second was decided privately by the leader.

2) The first spies were sent in public knowledge; the second were sent secretly.

The way I see this is that the first group was sent with the motivation of "should we enter this land?" The second group was sent with the motivation of "how should we enter this land?"

Rahab The Harlot

The two spies lodge in a house owned by a woman named Rahab. She is described as a "zaw-NAW," a Hebrew word meaning either a harlot or an innkeeper - could she have just been running a bed and breakfast? No, the New Testament calls her a "POR-nay," a Greek word that most definitely means prostitute.

What were the spies doing in a house of prostitution? They were certainly not there to enter into immorality - in the world's eyes, it could be that they were trying to avoid suspicion. But this was to be a divine appointment for this woman's salvation.

2:2-7 A Good Lie?

Even though they'd tried to avoid being noticed, the king of Jericho found out that Israelite spies had entered her house. When he demanded that they be turned over, she hid them, then claimed that they had come and gone. "If you hurry, you can still catch them! They went that a'way!"

This seems, to me anyway, a perfectly natural chain of events. But for some reason, lots of people have a big problem with Rahab's lie here. Some people say that God is condoning her lie. On the contrary, the Bible never says what a righteous thing it was for her to do. Other people say, "Well, Rahab lied, so lying to further the kingdom of God must be okay." I don't think you'd be able to prove that point from Scripture.

Yes, Abraham lied to stay alive when he said his wife was his sister. Yes, Jacob lied to his father, saying he was Esau, in order to receive the blessing. And yes, God was faithful to these men, even after their lies. But He never condones lying. On the contrary, the Scripture says clearly,

Prov. 12:22 Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD...

Prov. 19:9 A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will perish.

Prov. 19:22 ...It is better to be a poor man than a liar.

Lying is always sin, but it is not the unforgivable sin. Before we condemn Rahab, a woman who is only this day becoming a believer, we must consider our own lives - how long were you a believer before you uttered your final lie?

2:8-13 Your Reputation Precedes You

The Israelites' reputation had preceded them. Word had come to the land of Canaan about the parting of the Red Sea, and about the defeat of See-KHONE, the king of the Amorites and Og, the king of Baw-SHAWN. Fear had struck the Canaanites, just as God had promised in Deuteronomy 2.

Deut. 2:25 'This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the peoples everywhere under the heavens, who, when they hear the report of you, shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.'

God had given their enemies a spirit of fear.

Rahab's Faith

The people of Canaan were in dread of the Israelites, but Rahab understood that it was the Lord who had done these things. She knew that the God of the Israelites was the one true God of heaven and earth. She also knew that God was about to bring judgment upon them, and asked for salvation from the coming judgment.

Rahab becomes an example of a woman of faith. The New Testament heralds her in this way, with the writer of Hebrews saying,

Hebr. 11:31 By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.

James also used her as an illustration of works demonstrating faith.

James 2:25 And 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?

A Canaanite prostitute becomes a woman of faith, praised in the New Testament. But this isn't the only honor bestowed upon Rahab. You see, Rahab later married one of the princes of Judah, and gave birth to a man named Boaz, a major player in the book of Ruth. Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed, Obed had a son named Jesse, and Jesse had a son named David. Ruth was the great-great grandmother of King David! This makes her an ancestor of Jesus Christ, which Matthew demonstrates in the first chapter of his gospel.

This tells me that whether you've been a prostitute or a drug addict, a pornographer or a dope dealer, Jesus Christ welcomes you into His family.

Hebr. 2:11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one {Father} ; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren

What a gracious God we serve!

2:14-21 The Cord Of Scarlet

Why the strange symbol of the scarlet rope? The meaning of this scarlet cord is threaded (if you will excuse the pun) throughout Scripture, beginning back in the book of Genesis.

When Tamar was giving birth to twins back in Genesis 38, we read,

Gen. 38:28-29 Moreover, it took place while she was giving birth, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet {thread} on his hand, saying, "This one came out first." But it came about as he drew back his hand, that behold, his brother came out...

Here, the scarlet thread marked the firstborn. The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ was Mary's firstborn son (Luke 2:7), that He was the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8: 29), the firstborn of all creation (Col. 1:15), and the firstborn from among the dead (Col. 1:18, Rev. 1:5).

In Leviticus 14, the scarlet string shows up again, when the cleansing of a leper is described.

Lev. 14:2-7 "This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing. Now he shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall go out to the outside of the camp. Thus the priest shall look, and if the infection of leprosy has been healed in the leper, then the priest shall give orders to take two live clean birds and cedar wood and a scarlet string and hyssop for the one who is to be cleansed. The priest shall also give orders to slay the one bird in an earthenware vessel over running water. As for the live bird, he shall take it, together with the cedar wood and the scarlet string and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was slain over the running water. He shall then sprinkle seven times the one who is to be cleansed from the leprosy, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the live bird go free over the open field.

This again is a picture of Jesus Christ. There are two birds involved. In Scripture, birds are often referred to as "birds of the heavens." They both represent Jesus Christ, Who came from heaven. One bird was placed in an earthen vessel. Jesus, too, when He came to earth, placed Himself in an earthen vessel - the body of a man (2Cor 4:7). The bird was slain at the hands of the priests, just as Jesus was (Luke 24:20, John 19:6). Then the blood of the bird was mixed with water inside the vessel, just like what happened in Jesus' earthen vessel (John 19:34, 1John 5:6). The live bird was fastened to the wood with the scarlet string, just as Jesus was fastened to the wood of the cross, covered in blood. Hyssop was also present, just as it was at the cross (John 19:29-30). The leper was sprinkled seven times, representing his complete cleansing by the blood, and then the live bird was released again to the heavens, just as Jesus rose from the dead and returned to heaven.

So in Leviticus 14, the scarlet string represents the blood of Christ, which cleanses all sinners, all of us lepers, completely.

The two spies here in Joshua 2 tell Rahab that she will be saved from the coming judgment of God upon sinful people by this scarlet cord. Anyone who ventured outside the covering of the scarlet cord would die in the judgment. The same is true for the blood of Jesus Christ - it saves us from judgment, and anyone who refuses to be protected by it will perish.

2:22-24 A Good Report

From the day the scarlet cord - which represents the blood of Christ - was hung, it was three days before the spies came back from hiding and told everyone that the Lord was victorious. Sounds an awful lot like the gospel accounts, doesn't it?

3:1-4 Go After The Ark

The congregation of Israel moves from Shi-TEEM to the Jordan River and camps there for three days. Then they are instructed to follow the ark, but to leave a space of 2,000 cubits, which is a little more than half a mile.

Why were they not to come near it? The officers said,

Josh. 3:4 "...Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you shall go, for you have not passed this way before."

They'd never been there before - they were strangers in unfamiliar territory. They had to leave distance between themselves and the ark to know the way to go.

How does this truth apply to our lives? The ark of course, was where God would manifest Himself on earth. Inside was the bread of life and the Word of God. It is a picture of Jesus Christ. We are to follow the Lord at every step

1Pet. 2:21 ...Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,

Yes, there is a gap of time between the days that He walked and the days that we do, but He is still clearly visible, His path is well-marked.

Ps. 119:105 Thy word is a lamp to my feet, And a light to my path.

The way we should walk, the way we should follow Jesus, is very clear.

3:5-6 Consecrate Yourselves

They are about to cross over the Jordan River. This will symbolize the believer crossing over into the Spirit-filled, abundant, victorious Christian life. Many of us have attempted to cross over into that land, but can't seem to find the way. Saints, before we can cross, we must be consecrated. Too many of us want to be filled with the Spirit, but we've got to eliminate some sin to make room!

I imagine that the Israelites consecrated themselves in the same manner they were instructed to in Exodus 19. They were told to wash their garments and to be physically chaste.

They were to wash their clothes. In Scripture, water is symbolic of the Word of God, and clothes represent a person's character or condition. To consecrate ourselves, we must be getting into the Word of God and letting it change our thoughts and actions.

As far as the abstinence went, it is the same as Paul taught the Corinthians:

1Cor. 7:5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer

If you've been desiring to enter into the victorious Christian life, get into the Word, let it change your life, and get into a time of waiting on God in prayer.

3:7-17 Crossing The Jordan

The priests were commanded to walk towards the river, carrying the ark. As soon as their feet touched the water, the Jordan stopped flowing. Way upstream at the city of Adam, beside Tsaw-reth-AWN, the water mysteriously gathered up, and would not flow. The priests stood in the middle of the dry Jordan with the ark until everyone had crossed over.

4:1-14 Two Memorials

One man from each of the twelve tribes was to go back to the middle of the Jordan and take a stone from the river bed. Joshua also erected a twelve-stone monument, but his was in the middle of the river.

What purpose do these memorial monuments serve? The twelve stones on the land served as a visible memorial of remembrance that God had cut off the waters of the Jordan and allowed His people to cross over. The twelve stones underwater were a private memorial that only God could see.

In our lives, we need memorials. Testimonies, diaries, pictures, remembrances of the miracles that God has done in our lives. But not all of them are to be public. God has given the church two memorials, two ordinances, which we are to follow - one of which is public, the other private. In baptism, we memorialize publicly what Christ has done in our lives. In communion, we memorialize privately what Christ has done.

4:15-24 The Jordan Flows Again

As soon as the priests came out of the river bed, the waters rushed back to their spring flood levels. The people encamped and the stone memorial was erected at Ghil-GAWL.

Next week, we will venture into chapters five and six, and watch the miraculous fall of the city of Jericho.

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