God has promised the land, God has prepared the land (e.g. people melting in fear), God will give the land as a possession, all as part of his purposeful work to fulfill his promises of land and people (e.g. Rahab as the first Canannite convert).
We are to respond in faithful obedience; like the spies confidently working in cooperation with God’s purposes, and like Rahab recognizing the supreme sovereignty of God and submitting to His authority.
Joshua starts very positively, opening in chapter 1 with great promises by God to his people of land and success based on obedience (1:7). Joshua responds obediently (1:10-11), and the people respond obediently as well (1:16-18). The spies were confident in God’s promises (2:14, 24) unlike the spies of 40 years earlier (Num 13). What could improve on this? The answer – the faith of Rahab. The story of the faith of Rahab in Ch2 serves to both illustrate the validity of the promises of God (e.g. confirms that a great fear has fallen on the people of Jericho), and look forwards towards an expansion of the people of God to include both Jews and gentiles. “(Rahab’s) presence in the book of Joshua is a positive feature, displaying the outworkings of the Abrahamic covenant, God’s inclusive interest in all who would confess him as sovereign Lord, and his providential care for his own people.”(6) Rahab was a woman of a vibrant faith in action (Heb 11:31 and Jam 2:25), putting native-born Israelites to shame (1, 2), implying the justification of the condemnation of the Canaanite people for not sharing her faith (3), and ‘earning’ a place in the genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1:5). Rahab’s declaration of faith was personal and confident (‘I know’), specific (‘the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below’) and unconditional. It does not appear that the spies had sexual relations with Rahab as there is no hint of condemnation for their actions. Staying with a prostitute may have been a good way of gathering information about Jericho and function as a suitable place to stay without raising suspicion (4). Interestingly, although the Israelites were expressly forbidden from making covenants with the Canaanites (Deut 7:1-6), it appears as though Rahab’s expression of faith in God justified a covenant with her to save her family’s life. The declaration of the spies in 2:24 shows their confidence in a promise-keeping God and looks back to the song of Moses in Ex 15:13-15 as it looks as though God is causing those prophetic words to come true.
(1) Haddon W. Robinson, Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages (Third.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 61.
(2) R. J. D. Knauth, “Alien, Foreign Resident,” Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 31.
(3) Philip Satterthwaite and Gordon McConville, Exploring the Old Testament: The Histories (vol. 2; London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2007), 42–43.
(4) John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012), Jos 2:1.
(5) Brenda Heyink, “Prostitution,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2013, 2014).
(6) David M. Howard Jr., Joshua (vol. 5; The New American Commentary; Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 78-112