BIBLE STUDY SERIES #551, 552 and 553

16 June, 2002

JOSHUA - 2:7-18

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting the present series of Bible Studies for just over ten years now; starting with a Bible Study that began back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. The sequence, with occasional digressions, took up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy. Today, we have arrived at Joshua 2:7, and you may wish to have your Bibles open to that reference as we consider what God's Holy Word would show us from today's Study.

We had learned that Joshua has been appointed by The Almighty God, whom the Israelites know by His name, Yahweh, which means the ever-existent one; a most appropriate designation for a God Who continues down the generations of an entire people and nation as their God. Joshua has led the Tribes of Israel to the Jordan River, and they are preparing to cross and to take possession of The Promised Land on the western side. Two spies had gone ahead, and lodged in the house of Rahab, in Jericho, but suspicion had aroused the authorities, and they had to take steps to avoid capture. Let us review Joshua 2, from verse 1, which we had studied last week, to get the picture before continuing:

1. And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot's house, named Rahab, and lodged there.
2. And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither to night of the children of Israel to search out the country.
3. And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country.
4. And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were:
5. And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them.
6. But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof.

Keil and Delitzsch consider that Rahab lied in a "sin of weakness, which was forgiven her in mercy because of her faith." The New Bible Commentary states "The falsehood by which Rahab sent the king's messengers on the wrong scent is recorded simply without comment (4, 5). We have here a very imperfect morality. The New Testament commends Rahab, not for her falsehoods, but for her faith (Heb. xi. 31; Jas. ii. 25). Into her dark and tragic life had come some faint glimmering of the truth that here in Israel there was a God above all the gods she had ever known. stories of His great deeds and the success in war of His people had reached the city (10). To the power and mercy of this supreme God she would trust herself. This faith, immature though it may have been, was the saving of her and of her family (13) ..."

However, in one sense, the woman's explanation that she "wist not whence they were" in verse 4 might be taken as correct, because she had not, in fact, asked for a detailed map of their route from their point of origin across the river but rather, seems to have assumed the situation. If her manner of life was either as an innkeeper, or as an harlot, in either case, she would probably not, in the normal course of events, be excessively inquisitive of the true identities of those who lodged within her house; but we have to admit that she would probably be "stretching things somewhat" by putting the matter in such terms to the king's messengers!

Keil and Delitzsch give the wording of the time of alleged departure the meaning that "when in the darkness the gate was at the shutting (i.e. ought to be shut), ... they went out again." Again, the spies did, apparently, "go out of the house", in order to ascend to the roof, so her statement was partially based on the truth, and while she had hidden them there, she had not stayed with them on the roof to know if they had, or had not, moved from the hiding place which she had arranged, since she had returned into the house, but again, she is obviously conducting her conversation with such adroit obfuscation that she was certainly cutting a fine line at the extreme edge of the truth! Again, when, in verse 5, Rahab had told the king's messengers "pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them" they would have "overtaken" the spies the moment they made a move out the gate and towards the river, for the spies had remained behind them in the city, and would, if they later moved off in the other direction towards the mountains, westward, as she intended to direct them, be well "behind" the searchers near the brink of the river! Let us now read a portion of today's Scripture:

7. And the men pursued after them the way to Jordan unto the fords: and as soon as they which pursued after them were gone out, they shut the gate.
8. And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof;
9. And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.
10. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.
11. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.
12. Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father's house, and give me a true token:
13. And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.
14. And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the LORD hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee.

Here, The Companion Bible draws attention to certain terms which Rahab uses. At verse 9, "faint" is in Hebrew, "have melted." At verse 10, "heard", "This is the ground (Heb. 11:1) of faith. Cp. Rom 10. 17." The Hebrews verse is the well known "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." and that in Romans 10 says: "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." The word "melt" in verse 11 is stated to be "Prophecy fulfilled" with a reference to Exodus 15:14-15, which says: "The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina", and the end of 15: "all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away", while "remain", in Hebrew, means "rise up."

Keil and Delitzsch take some paragraphs to re-tell what is probably clear within the words of the passage itself, making reference to the motivations involved within Rahab, and the spies as they conversed.

15. Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was upon the town wall, and she dwelt upon the wall.
16. And she said unto them, Get you to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you; and hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers be returned: and afterward may ye go your way.
17. And the men said unto her, We will be blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear.
18. Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father's household, home unto thee.
19. And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him.
20. And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear.
21. And she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window.
22. And they went, and came unto the mountain, and abode there three days, until the pursuers were returned: and the pursuers sought them throughout all the way, but found them not.

Turning to The New Bible Commentary, we read that Rahab knew the accounts of the great works of the God of Israel, and "To the power and mercy of this supreme God she would trust herself. This faith, immature though it may have been, was the saving of her and of her family (13), for she received from the spies the promise that when the city fell the house with the scarlet cord hanging from the window would be spared, (19). Some identify the scarlet thread with the cord by which she let the spies down, but the words are different. At Rahab's suggestion, the spies hid themselves for three days. The hills around Jericho are full of caves and so would have given them ample cover. They then returned to Joshua, probably by swimming the Jordan, with their report of the utter despondency and alarm of the Canaanites."

23. So the two men returned, and descended from the mountain, and passed over, and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all things that befell them:
24. And they said unto Joshua, Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us.

That scarlet cord held great significance, not only for Rahab's household, but as part of symbolic pattern which we can leave for the next Study.

23 June, 2002

JOSHUA - 2:19-24 - A Scarlet Cord

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting the present series of Bible Studies for just over ten years now; starting with a Bible Study that began back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. The sequence, with occasional digressions, took up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy. Today, we have arrived at Joshua 2:18, although we had also looked briefly beyond that point on the last Study, and you may wish to have your Bibles open to that reference as we consider what God's Holy Word would show us from today's reading.

We had learned that Joshua had led the Tribes of Israel to the Jordan River, and they are, at this point, preparing to cross and to take possession of The Promised Land on the western side. Two spies had gone ahead, and lodged in the house of Rahab, in Jericho, but the authorities had been aroused by suspicions, and the two spied had to take steps to avoid capture with Rahab's assistance.

Incidentally, for those who have not been looking at The Law of The LORD with us through previous Studies, we should mention that God specifies that a matter which involves the execution of those deemed guilty and worthy of death must, in their time of Judgment, receive testimony from more than one true and honest witness to that guilt. That law is found in Deuteronomy 17:6, and also in Deuteronomy 19:15. Indeed these two references, in their very duality, affirm the principle in that very circumstance, and its continuance and validation within the New Testament is also seen in Matthew 18:16, II Corinthians 13:1, I Timothy 5:19, Hebrews 10:28 and Revelation 11:3. It is a basic law for the validation of all testimony. The passage in Deuteronomy 17:6-7 states it thus:

6. At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.
7. The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you."

We can see that this law is being carried out to the letter by Joshua and the two spies whom he sent into Jericho before the major assault upon that city by God's dramatic provisions. Those provisions, by direct orders of The LORD Himself to Joshua, as we shall see, have, in their outworking, become proverbial and part of the literary heritage of all history.

Now let us review Joshua 2, taking our start from verse 15, which we had studied last week, as Rahab arranges the escape of the spies from the city of Jericho, to get the picture before continuing:

15. Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was upon the town wall, and she dwelt upon the wall.

The Hebrew word, translated cord is pronounced the same as the English word "cable", a word which Partridge's Etymological Dictionary supposes may derive from Arabic "habl, a rope." The Companion Bible states "cord = rope" and draws our attention to Acts 9:25 which recounts that, in similar circumstances, the disciples in Damascus let Saul (later called Paul) down by the wall to escape the Jews who had taken council to kill him. Continuing at verse 16:

16. And she said unto them, Get you to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you; and hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers be returned: and afterward may ye go your way.
17. And the men said unto her, We will be blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear.
18. Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father's household, home unto thee.

This "line of scarlet thread" is not translated from the same Hebrew word as that which is translated "cord", but the word can mean cord, line or string, and in any event, scarlet threads might have been used to form this thicker rope, for it had to be large enough to be seen at a distance during the forthcoming assault. Here, then, is that most symbolic red cord in the window, which is one of many occurrences throughout scripture and the subsequent history of Israel wherein the same theme holds importance. We can go back to the births of Pharez and Zarah, the sons of Judah by his daughter-in-law, Tamar, when the midwife tied a scarlet thread about the hand of Zarah which first emerged during the births. That cord indicating primogeniture, insofar as the hand was concerned, is today commemorated on the Red Hand, couped in heraldic terms, tied at the wrist by a scarlet cord, as the symbolic mark of royal inheritance from Judah by the people of Ulster in Northern Ireland and certain of the Clans of Scotland.

Red in the window of escape for the spies symbolised the red blood of the lambs wherein the hyssop was dipped to daub the doorposts and lintels of the Israelite dwellings on the night when the angel of death passed over them while the firstborn throughout Egypt were being taken in death. It was that window which was the door of escape for the spies, but also it was the same which in a larger sense proved to be the door of escape for Rahab and her whole family in the coming destruction. Even that portion of the wall must have remained intact throughout the earthquake which threw down the rest of the wall of Jericho. That Red on the Cross of Christ at the Crucifixion was the Blood-validation of His Sacrifice for all who would be drawn by God's Holy Spirit to enter therein, and as Hebrews explains, that blood was carried by Christ into the Holy of Holies in the heavens, thereafter. Hebrews 9:11-16 should be read herewith, as it is the culmination of this theme. That reference in Hebrews 9 states:

11. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;
12. Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
13. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:
14. How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
15. And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
16. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.

That chapter ends with verse 28: "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."

Picking up our Joshua reference again, where we stopped, at verse 19, we read:

19. And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him.
20. And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear.
21. And she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window.
22. And they went, and came unto the mountain, and abode there three days, until the pursuers were returned: and the pursuers sought them throughout all the way, but found them not.

Rahab received from the spies the promise that when the city fell the house with the scarlet cord hanging from the window would be spared, (19). Thus, at Rahab's suggestion, the spies hid themselves for those three days. The hills around Jericho are full of caves and so would have given them ample cover. They then returned to Joshua, probably by swimming the Jordan, with their report of the utter despondency and alarm of the Canaanites." And the chapter ends thus:

23. So the two men returned, and descended from the mountain, and passed over, and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all things that befell them:
24. And they said unto Joshua, Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us.

That scarlet cord held great significance, not only for Rahab's household, but also as part of the symbolic pattern in the later history of Israel. It is the origin of that governmental "red tape" which binds documents to be sealed. Like the Red Thread which is woven into the ropes of the British Navy, it runs interwoven through the length of the history of the Great Plan of The Almighty God as He interacts with His People and all humanity.

We shall continue with this theme on our next Study.

30 June, 2002

JOSHUA - 3:1-11 - 3 DAYS

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting the present series of Bible Studies for just over ten years now; starting with a Bible Study that began back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. The sequence, with occasional digressions, took up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy. Today, we have arrived at Joshua 3:1-11, and you may wish to have your Bibles open to that reference as we consider what God's Holy Word would show us from today's reading.

We had learned on our last Bible Study that Joshua had led the Tribes of Israel to the Jordan River, and they are, at this point, encamped at Shittim to the east of the river, and preparing to cross it, and to take possession of The Promised Land on the western side. Two spies had gone ahead, and lodged in the house of Rahab, in Jericho, but the authorities had been aroused by suspicions, and the two spied had to take steps to avoid capture. Before leaving, they made a promise to spare Rahab and her family if all of her family members and friends gathered inside her house which would be marked by the scarlet cord tied in that window of escape, until the city had been destroyed. Then the spies' own escape had involved climbing down the rope or cord let down outside the wall from Rahab's window, and a swift retreat through the darkness to the cave-pitted hills, rather than immediately making for the Israelite encampment across the Jordan River.

On the previous study, we took note of the fact that scripture mentions the colour of the cord, which made it specific and meaningful, as also in Exodus 12:13, the blood on doorposts and lintels signified that the Israelites within were to be protected from the angel of death on the night of the Passover. Today, just as we noted the significant requirement that two witnesses would be required for the task assigned to the spies, we might consider the numbering of three days in which the two spies were to remain in hiding, and also a little later in the account, the space in cubits by which the Ark is to precede the people to the Jordan River. These are also included in the present Scriptural account, and as we should realise, no detail in that record is superfluous. As we have noted in the past, The Almighty God does not encumber His sentences with useless or meaningless details. Every detail is there for a reason, and if we want to obtain the greatest satisfaction from our study of the Word, we should not overlook the possibility of meaning, perhaps symbolic, or perhaps even prophetic, in any such item. Let us read Joshua 3:1-8.

1. And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over.
2. And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host;
3. And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.
4. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore.
5. And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you.
6. And Joshua spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the people. And they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people.
7. And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.
8. And thou shalt command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, ye shall stand still in Jordan.

We might now ponder the delay of the spies from immediately returning to the Camp of Israel. Instead they had, in the dark, to find a hiding place in the hills for three days before their return to the encampment. Three days is a set time which we find cropping up periodically through the Scriptures. It is specified many times in the Word of God. Let us list some occurrences and see if there is any common element of meaning to that amount of time, and more particularly, let us be careful to note where such a period carries within its circumstances a parallel meaning to that which our present passage demonstrates.

When Pharaoh's butler and baker joined Joseph while incarcerated, that is to say, hidden from society in the prison house, and each recounted his dream, Joseph gave the meaning, namely that each would be drawn from prison and judgment given, one to life, the other to death in three days (Genesis 40:12-19).

Later, in Genesis 42, when Joseph had become Prime Minister over Egypt, he put his brothers into ward for three days before releasing all but one to return home.

In Exodus 10:22, one of the plagues upon Egypt consisted of three days of darkness which hid the whole land of the Egyptians.

In Exodus 15:22, the Israelites moved three days in the wilderness of Shur, and found no water, and thus the needed source remained hidden from them.

In Joshua 9:16, Gibeonites who were of Canaan tricked the Israelites into making a league with them, and the fact they were neighbours was hidden from Israel for three days and when this was revealed after those three days, the punishment was that they must become "hewers of wood and drawers of water to all the congregation of Israel.

Samson, in Judges 14:14 succeeded in hiding the meaning of his riddle from the wedding guests for three days until betrayed by his wife.

At Samuel's first encounter with Saul, in I Samuel 9:20, Samuel revealed that the asses, lost for three days previously, and which Saul had been seeking, had been found.

In I Samuel 20:19, Saul's son, Jonathan made an agreement to reveal the true situation regarding Saul's anger in three days, and if danger threatened, David would then hide himself by fleeing to the stone called Ezel, meaning "departure".

In I Kings 12:5, Solomon's son, King Rehoboam used three days to consult with the elders, and then with his youthful friends, and the bad advice of the latter resulted in his loss of the House of Israel to Jeroboam's leadership.

In II Kings 2:17, the fifty men of the sons of the prophets watched as Elisha received the mantle of the departing Elijah, as the whirlwind took him up, and pressed Elisha to permit a search for Elijah's body, but they did not find him.

David sinned in numbering Israel while neglecting the half shekel tax to The LORD, in I Chronicles 21:12, and had to choose one of three punishments, each involving time in a quantity of three: three years of famine, three months of defeats by his enemies, or the three days during which the angelic sword reduced the numbers in his kingdom. The one he selected was the latter.

Ezra 10:8 records the rain-soaked people who had to gather at Jerusalem within three days and stand to confess their sin

Nehemiah 2:11 records that Nehemiah waited three days to hide his plan from unfriendly neighbouring peoples before going by night to inspect the broken walls of Jerusalem.

Queen Esther and her maidens fasted in isolation for three days before she chanced death, daring to appear, unbidden, before the King on behalf of God's people.

Jonah 1:17 tells us that Jonah was three days hidden in the great fish, before he was put ashore for his delayed ministry, a fact which was used by Christ to exemplify his own death, burial in the tomb, and resurrection in Matthew 12:40.

In Matthew 15:32, multitudes had followed Jesus three days without food, so he thereupon performed the miracle using seven loaves and a few little fishes to feed them all.

Luke 2:46 states that aged twelve, Jesus location was hidden from his parents for three days because he was in the temple discussing Scripture with the learned doctors.

Saul of Tarsus was blinded for three days in Acts 9:9, following the Damascus-road encounter with the risen Christ before his reception by the disciple Ananias.

Jesus, in Matthew 26:61, spoke of his ability to rebuild the destroyed temple (speaking in symbol of his own body) in three days, which words, his enemies affirmed with derision in Matthew 27:40, Mark 15:29 and John 2:19, but at Matthew 27:63, after his death and burial had taken place, the chief priests and Pharisees showed that they knew very well that He had spoken of His body.

There are other Scriptures which list the words "three days", but from the above selection, we may note within many an element of something or someone, being hidden from view for three days prior to disclosure, by incarceration, burial, or simply being lost to view. Surely when such a meaning threads these examples like a string running through a necklace, there is divine meaning to be drawn therefrom.

On our next Bible Study, we shall move along to see how yet another element within the story can yield some instructive thoughts for our meditations.

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