Friday, June 25, 2010

JOSHUA: Chapter 2

Chapter 2
Summary:Joshua sends two spies out of Shittim, telling them to scout out the "promised land", specifically the city of Jericho. When the spies arrived they stayed overnight with a prostitute named Rahab.

Somehow word got out to the king of Jericho that there were Israeli men who came into the city during the night to search out the land. The king sent for Rahab asking her to bring forth the men that entered her house, and informing her that they had come to spy over the land.

Rahab hid the two spies and explained, "The men did come to me, but I did not know from where they came from. When it came time to shut the city gate at nightfall, the men left. I don't know which direction they left in, but if you go quickly you should catch them."

However, Rahab had actually brought the spies up to the roof of her house and hid them underneath the stalks of flax that she had laid upon her roof. So the men went off in pursuit of the spies heading toward the Jordan River. As soon as they left in pursuit the city gate was shut.

Before the spies laid down to rest for the night, Rahab says to them, "I know that God has given you this land, and that your terror has fallen upon us. The inhabitants of this land faint because of you.

"We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you, when you came out of Egypt, as well as what you did to the two kings of the Amorites, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. As soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted and there remained no courage in any man because of you. The Lord your God is in the heaven above and the earth beneath.

"Therefore, I pray to you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you will show kindness to my father's family, and give me a token of your willingness to do so - that you will spare the lives of my parents, my siblings, and all that they have."

The men answered her, "Our lives for yours, if you do not tell anyone of our business. When the Lord has given us the land, we will deal kindly and truly with you."

She then helped them leave by a rope through her window, as her house was upon the town wall. She then proceeded to tell them to flee to the mountains and hide for three days, to throw off their pursuers, before going on their way.

The men responded by telling her that their promise will not be binding unless she ties a scarlet thread to the window they escaped by. They add that she is to bring her parents and her siblings into her home, as they claim that they will not be responsible for anyone they kill outside of her house. They also add that if she tells anyone about their business, then the deal to spare their lives will be off. Rahab agreed to their terms, and as they left she tied a scarlet thread to the window.

The spies hid in the mountains for three days until their pursuers gave up looking for them. They returned to Joshua and told them the story of what had happened to them.

They also told Joshua, "Truly the Lord has delivered all of this land into our hands. All of the country's inhabitants are even afraid of us!"
Thoughts:In this chapter Joshua sends out two spies to scout out the "promised land" and who wind up spending the night with a prostitute, named Rahab, living in the city of Jericho. Apparently they weren't very discreet about their night with the prostitute, as word eventually got out to the king of Jericho that there were some Israeli men who came into the city to search out the land. Whoops.

The king sent for Rahab and demanded that she bring the men staying with her to him. Rahab admits to the men who came to summon her, that she had in fact seen the spies, however she then lies telling them that she didn't know where they came from, that they had left at nightfall, and that she didn't know which direction they were heading. She then encouraged them to leave by suggesting that if they hurried, then they might catch the spies.

Rahab instead had actually hidden the spies up the roof of her house. After their pursuers leave, she tells the spies that she "knows" that God has given the Israelites this land and that all of the inhabitants have grown to fear the Israelites. She claims to have heard about how God parted the Red Sea 40 years prior, and the brutal killings of King Sihon and King Og, along with every living being in their kingdom, and that due to those stories that her people have been afraid.

So, she bargains with the spies, pleading with them to spare the lives of herself and her family, for not turning them in to her king. The spies agree, but add that she'll have to tie a scarlet thread to her window, that she will have to keep her family in her house while the Israelites slaughter her fellow townsfolk, and that they won't be held responsible if any of her family steps outside and is killed by the marauding horde of Israelites. They also add that if she tells anyone about what they are doing the deal will be off. Rahab agrees and the spies leave by a rope tied to her window, as her house is high upon the city walls.

Obviously this raises a lot of questions. Why is a woman who violates God's laws (she's a prostitute and a liar) being portrayed in a compassionate light, simply for protecting two Israelites - with a lie no less? If the tale presented in Exodus: Chapter 14 is accurate, how could anyone besides the Israelites known about the parting of the Red Sea forty years prior, unless they were told the story by an Israelite to begin with? With the story of the parting of the Red Sea having only having been witnessed by the Israelites (as the entire Egyptian army drowned) wouldn't it seem reasonable that the Israelites might perhaps embellish their own story with supernatural elements to make it sound more grandiose?

However, the most daunting question is why the bible seems to send a contrasting message when it comes to lying. We've already read several times throughout the bible where lying is clearly considered a "sin": the ninth commandment from Exodus: Chapter 20 - "thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor"; Exodus: Chapter 23 "thou shalt not raise a false report" (23:1) and "keep thee away from a false matter" (23:7); Leviticus 19:11 "Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another."; Deuteronomy 5:20 "Neither shalt thou bear false witness."; and much later in the book of Proverbs "Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord." (12:22) and "A righteous man hateth lying." (13:5). Yet, later in the book of James, we see that Rahab is actually praised for her lying and deception: "Was not Rahab, the harlot, justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?" (James 2:25)

The key to sorting out this apparent contradiction is in defining the term "neighbor". When "neighbor" is defined to simply mean fellow Israelite, or even simply non-enemies of Israel, lying to those that do not qualify as a "neighbor" is probably justified, and in the case of Rahab, considered a righteous act when it serves the cause of the Israelites.

However, allowing Rahab and her family to survive brings up another problem - it directly contradicts God's orders to "utterly destroy" and "show no mercy" to the inhabitants of Canaan. When the Israelites brought back whom they felt were harmless prisoners - women and children - after slaughtering the Midianites, Moses became furious and told them to finish the job - with the exception of any virgin girls, whom the soldiers could "keep for themselves". One could chalk this up as an error in judgment of the spies, if Rahab's "works" were not later justified in the New Testament in the book of James.

The chapter closes out with the spies hiding out in the mountains for three days, by Rahab's suggestion, until their pursuers gave up looking for them. They then returned to Joshua and told him that they were convinced that God had truly given them the "promised land" since the inhabitants had grown afraid of the Israelites.

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