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.
1. Miserat1autem Josue filius Nun viros duos exploratores clam,2 dicendo: Ite, considerate terram et Jericho. Profecti sunt igitur et ingressi sunt domum mulieris meretricis, cujus nomen erat Rahab, et dormierunt illic.
2. And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither tonight of the children of Israel to search out the country.
2. Dictum autem fuit regi Jericho, Ecce venerunt huc viri nocte hac e filiis Israel ad explorandum terram.
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 they be come to search out all the country.
3. Tunc misit rex Jericho ad rahab, dicendo; Educ viros qui ingressi sunt ad te, qui venerunt domum tuam; quia ad explorandum totam terram venerunt.
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:
4. Sumpserat autem mulier duos viros, et absconderat eos: Tunc ait, Venerunt quidem ad me viri, sed non noveram undenam essent.
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 you shall overtake them.
5. Fuit autem dum porta clauderetur in tenebris, egressi sunt viri; nec cognovi quo abierint. Sequimini cito eos quia comprehendetis eos.
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.
6. Ipsa autem ascendere fecerat eos in tectum, et absconderat eos sub culmis lini ab ea ordinatis super tectum.
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.
7. Viri autem persequuti sunt eos itinere Jordanis usque ad vada: portam vero clauserunt, simul ac egressi sunt qui eos persequebantur.
8. And, before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof;
8. Antequam vero dormirent, ipsa ascendit super tectum ad eos.
9. And she said unto the men, I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.
9. Et ait ad viros: Novi quod Jehova dederit vobis terram, eo quod cecidit terror vester super nos, et quod defluxerunt omnes habitatores terrae a facie vestra.
10. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when you came out of Egypt; and what you did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed.
10. Audivimus enim quomodo arefecerit Jehova aquas maris Supli a facie vestra dum exiistis ex Aegypto; et quae fecistis duobus regibus Aemorrhaei, qui erant trans Jordanem: Sihon et Og quos interemistis.
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.
11. Audivimus, et dissolutum est cor nostrum, neque constitit ultra spiritus a facie vestra. Jehova enim Deus vester Deus est in coelo sursum et super terram deorsum.
12. Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the Lord, since I have showed you kindness, that you will also show kindness unto my father's house, and give me a true token:
12. Nunc ergo jurate mihi, quaeso, per Jehovam (feci enim vobiscum misericordiam) quod facietis etiam vos cum domo patris mei misericordiam, et dabitis mihi signum verum,
13. And that you 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.
13. Quod vivos servabitis fratrem meum, et matrem meam, et fratres meos, et sorores meas, et omnes qui sunt eorum, eruetisque animas nostras a morte.
14. And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if you utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the Lord has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee.
14. Dixerunt ei viri: Anima nostra pro vobis ad moriendum: modo non prodideris sermonem nostrum hunc: tunc erit, ubi tradiderit Jehova nobis terram, faciemus tecum misericordiam et veritatem.
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.
15. Demisit itaque eos fune per fenestram: domus enim ejus erat in pariete muri, et in muro ipsa habitabat.
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 you go your way.
16. Dixit autem eis: Ad montem pergite, ne forte occurrant vobis qui insequuntur, et latitate illic tribus diebus, donec redeant qui insequuntur, et postea ibitis per viam vestram.
17. And the men said unto her, We will be blameless of this thine oath which thou has made us swear:
17. Tunc dixerunt ei viri, Innoxii erimus a juramento tuo hoc quo nos adjurasti.
18. Behold, when we come into the land, thou shall bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou did let us down by: and thou shall bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father's household, home unto thee.
18. Ecce, quum ingrediemur terram, funiculum hunc fili coccinei ligabis in fenestra, per quam demiseris nos: patrem vero tuum et matrem tuam congregabis ad te in domum, et omnem familiam patris tui.
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.
19. Erit autem, quicunque egressus fuerit e valvis domus tuae foras, sanguis ejus erit in caput ejus, nos vero innoxii: quicunque vero tecum fuerit in domo, sanguis illius in caput nostrum, si manus injecta fuerit in eum.
20. And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou has made us to swear.
20. Si vero prodideris sermonem hunc nostrum, erimus innoxii a juramento quo adjurasti nos.
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.
21. Respondit illa: Ut loquuti estis, ita sit. Tunc dimisit eos, et abierunt, ligavitque filum coccineum in fenestra.
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.
22. Profecti venerunt ad montem, et manserunt ibi tribus diebus, donec reverterentur qui insequuti fuerant, qui quaesierunt per omnem viam, nec invenerunt.
23. So the two men descended from the mountain, and returned, and passed over, and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all things that befell them:
23. Reversi ergo duo illi, postquam descenderunt e monte, transierunt, veneruntque ad Josue filium Nun, et narraverunt ei quaecunque acciderant sibi.
24. And they said unto Joshua, Truly the Lord has delivered into our hands all the land: for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us.
24. Dixeruntque ad Josue, Tradidit Jehova in manus nostras totam terram. Dissoluti enim sunt omnes habitatores terrae a facie nostra.
Now Joshua secretly sends two persons to ascertain whether or not a free passage may be had over the Jordan, whether the citizens of Jericho were indulging in security, or whether they were alert and prepared to resist. In short, he sends spies on whose report he may provide against all dangers. Wherefore a twofold question may be here raised -- Are we to approve of his prudence? or are we to condemn him for excessive anxiety, especially as he seems to have trusted more than was right to his own prudence, when, without consulting God, he was so careful in taking precautions against danger? But, inasmuch as it is not expressly said that he received a message from heaven to order the people to collect their vessels and to publish his proclamation concerning the passage of the Jordan, although it is perfectly obvious that he never would have thought of moving the camp unless God had ordered it, it is also probable that in sending the spies he consulted God as to his pleasure in the matter, or that God himself, knowing how much need there was of this additional confirmation, had spontaneously suggested it to the mind of his servant. Be this as it may, while Joshua commands his messengers to spy out Jericho, he is preparing to besiege it, and accordingly is desirous to ascertain in what direction it may be most easily and safely approached.
My conclusion therefore is, that they obtained admission privily, and immediately betook themselves to a hiding-place. Moreover, in the fact that a woman who had gained a shameful livelihood by prostitution was shortly after admitted into the body of the chosen people, and became a member of the Church, we are furnished with a striking display of divine grace which could thus penetrate into a place of shame, and draw forth from it not only Rahab, but her father and the other members of her family. Most assuredly while the term
It is not wonderful, therefore, that men who were unknown and who appeared from many circumstances to have come with a hostile intention, were denounced to the king. At the same time, however, we may infer that they were supernaturally blinded in not guarding their gates more carefully; for with the use of moderate diligence the messengers after they had once entered might easily have been detained. Nay, a search ought forthwith to have been instituted, and thus they would to a certainty have been caught. The citizens of Jericho were in such trepidation and so struck with judicial amazement, that they acted in everything without method or counsel. Meanwhile the two messengers were reduced to such extremities that they seemed on the eve of being delivered up to punishment. The king sends for them; they are lurking in the house; their life hangs upon the tongue of a woman, just as if it were hanging by a thread. Some have thought that there was in this a punishment of the distrust of Joshua, who ought to have boldly passed the Jordan, trusting to the divine guidance. But the result would rather lead us to conclude differently, that God by rescuing the messengers from extreme danger gave new courage to the people; for in that manifestation of his power he plainly showed that he was watching over their safety, and providing for their happy entrance into the promised land.
Now, the questions which here arise are, first, Was treachery to her country excusable? Secondly, Could her lie be free from fault? We know that the love of our country, which is as it were our common mother, has been implanted in us by nature. When, therefore, Rahab knew that the object intended was the overthrow of the city in which she had been born and brought up, it seems a detestable act of inhumanity to give her aid and counsel to the spies. It is a puerile evasion to say, that they were not yet avowed enemies, inasmuch as war had not been declared; since it is plain enough that they had conspired the destruction of her fellow-citizens.5 It was therefore only the knowledge communicated to her mind by God which exempted her from fault, as having been set free from the common rule. Her faith is commended by two Apostles, who at the same time declare, (Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25,) that the service which she rendered to the spies was acceptable to God.
It is not wonderful, then, that when the Lord condescended to transfer a foreign female to his people, and to engraft her into the body of the Church, he separated her from a profane and accursed nation. Therefore, although she had been bound to her countrymen up to that very day, yet when she was adopted into the body of the Church, her new condition was a kind of manumission from the common law by which citizens are bound toward each other. In short, in order to pass by faith to a new people, she behooved to renounce her countrymen. And as in this she only acquiesced in the judgment of God, there was no criminality in abandoning them.6
As to the falsehood, we must admit that though it was done for a good purpose, it was not free from fault. For those who hold what is called a dutiful lie7 to be altogether excusable, do not sufficiently consider how precious truth is in the sight of God. Therefore, although our purpose, be to assist our brethren, to consult for their safety and relieve them, it never can be lawful to lie, because that cannot be right which is contrary to the nature of God. And God is truth. And still the act of Rahab is not devoid of the praise of virtue, although it was not spotlessly pure. For it often happens that while the saints study to hold the right path, they deviate into circuitous courses.
Rebecca (Genesis 27.8) in procuring the blessing to her son Jacob, follows the prediction. In obedience of this description a pious and praiseworthy zeal is perceived. But it cannot be doubted that in substituting her son Jacob in the place of Esau, she deviated from the path of duty. The crafty proceeding, therefore, so far taints an act which was laudable in itself. And yet the particular fault does not wholly deprive the deed of the merit of holy zeal; for by the kindness of God the fault is suppressed and not taken into account. Rahab also does wrong when she falsely declares that the messengers were gone, and yet the principal action was agreeable to God, because the bad mixed up with the good was not imputed. On the whole, it was the will of God that the spies should be delivered, but he did not approve of saving their life by falsehood.
It appears, however, that Rahab was not at all dismayed, since she bargains with so much presence of mind, and so calmly, for her own safety and that of her family. And in this composure and firmness her faith, which is elsewhere commended, appears conspicuous. For on human principles she never would have braved the fury of the king and people, and become a suppliant to guests half dead with terror. Many, indeed, think there is something ridiculous in the eulogium bestowed upon her both by St. James and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, (James 2:25; Hebrews 11:31,) when they place her in the catalogue of the faithful. But any one who will carefully weigh all the circumstances will easily perceive that she was endowed with a lively faith.
First, If the tree is known by its fruits, we here see no ordinary effects, which are just so many evidences of faith. Secondly, A principle of piety must have given origin to her conviction that the neighboring nations were already in a manner vanquished and laid prostrate, since terror sent from above had filled all minds with dismay. It is true that in profane writers also we meet with similar expressions, which God has extorted from them that he might assert his power to rule and turn the hearts of men in whatever way he pleases. But while these writers prate like parrots, Rahab declaring in sincerity of heart that God has destined the land for the children of Israel, because all the inhabitants have fainted away before them, claims for him a supreme rule over the hearts of men, a rule which the pride of the world denies.
For although the experience of all times has shown that more armies have fallen or been routed by sudden and un-looked for terror than by the force and prowess of the enemy, the impression of this truth has forthwith vanished away, and hence conquerors have always extolled their own valor, and on any prosperous result gloried in their own exertions and talents for war. They have felt, I admit, that daring and courage are occasionally bestowed or withheld by some extraneous cause, and accordingly men confess that in war fortune does much or even reigns supreme. Hence their common proverb with regard to panic terrors, and their vows made as well to Pavor (Dread) as to Jupiter Stator.9 But it never became a serious and deep-seated impression in their minds, that every man is brave according as God has inspired him with present courage, or cowardly according as he has suppressed his daring. Rahab, however, recognizes the operation of a divine hand in striking the nations of Canaan with dismay, and thus making them as it were by anticipation pronounce their own doom; and she infers that the terror which the children of Israel have inspired is a presage of victory, because they fight under God as their Leader.
In the fact, that while the courage of all had thus melted away, they however prepared to resist with the obstinacy of despair; we see that when the wicked are broken and crushed by the hand of God, they are not so subdued as to receive the yoke, but in their terror and anxiety become incapable of being tamed. Here, too, we have to observe how in a common fear believers differ from unbelievers, and how the faith of Rahab displays itself. She herself was afraid like any other of the people; but when she reflects that she has to do with God, she concludes that her only remedy is to eschew evil by yielding humbly and placidly, as resistance would be altogether unavailing. But what is the course taken by all the wretched inhabitants of the country? Although terror-struck, so far is their perverseness from being overcome that they stimulate each other to the conflict.
The signal victories also gained over Og and Bashan, were justly regarded as testimonies of the divine favor towards the Israelites. This latter conclusion, indeed, rested only on conjecture, whereas the passage of the sea was a full and irrefragable proof, as much so as if God had stretched forth his hand from heaven. All minds, therefore, were seized with a conviction that in the expedition of the Israelitish people God was principal leader;10 hence their terror and consternation. At the same time, it is probable that they were deceived by some vain imagination that the God of Israel had proved superior in the contest to the gods of Egypt; just as the poets feign that every god has taken some nation or other under his protection, and wars with others, and that thus conflicts take place among the gods themselves while they are protecting their favorites.
But the faith of Rahab takes a higher flight, while to the God of Israel alone she ascribes supreme power and eternity. These are the true attributes of Jehovah. She does not dream, according to the vulgar notion, that some one, out of a crowd of deities, is giving his assistance to the Israelites, but she acknowledges that He whose favor they were known to possess is the true and only God. We see, then, how in a case where all received the same intelligence, she, in the application of it, went far beyond her countrymen.
Moreover, in the language of Rahab, we behold that characteristic property of faith described by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, when he calls it a vision, or sight of things not appearing. (Hebrews 11:1) Rahab is dwelling with her people in a fortified city: and yet she commits her life to her terrified guests, just as if they had already gained possession of the land, and had full power to save or destroy as they pleased. This voluntary surrender was, in fact, the very same as embracing the promise of God, and casting herself on his protection. She, moreover, exacts an oath, because often, in the storming of cities, the heat and tumult of the struggle shook off the remembrance of duty. In the same way she mentions the kindness she had shown to them, that gratitude might stimulate them the more to perform their promise. For although the obligation of the oath ought of itself to have been effectual, it would have been doubly base and inhumane not to show gratitude to a hostess to whom they owed deliverance. Rahab shows the kindliness of her disposition, in her anxiety about her parents and kindred. This is, indeed, natural; but many are so devoted to themselves, that children hesitate not to ransom their own lives by the death of their parents, instead of exerting courage and zeal to save them.
A condition, however, is inserted, -- provided Rahab do not divulge what they have said. This was inserted, not on account of distrust, as is usually expounded, but only to put Rahab more upon her guard, on her own account. The warning, therefore, was given in good faith, and flowed from pure good will: for there was a danger that Rahab might betray herself by a disclosure. In one word, they show how important it is that the matter should remain, as it were, buried, lest the woman, by inconsiderately talking of the compact, might expose herself to capital punishment. In this they show that they were sincerely anxious for her safety, since they thus early caution her against doing anything which might put it out of their power to render her a service. In further distinctly stipulating, that no one should go out of the house, or otherwise they should be held blameless, we may draw the important inference, that in making oaths soberness should be carefully attended to, that we may not profane the name of God by making futile promises on any subject.
The advice of Rahab, to turn aside into the mountain, and there remain quiet for three days, shows that there is no repugnance between faith and the precautions which provide against manifest dangers. There is no doubt that the messengers crept off to the mountain in great fear, and yet that confidence which they had conceived, from the remarkable interference of God in their behalf, directed their steps, and did not allow them to lose their presence of mind.
Some have raised the question, whether, seeing it is criminal to overleap walls, it could be lawful to get out of the city by a window? But it ought to be observed, first, that the walls of cities were not everywhere sacred, because every city had not a Romulus, who could make the overleaping a pretext for slaying his brother;11 and secondly, That law, as Cicero reminds us, was to be tempered by equity, inasmuch as he who should climb a wall for the purpose of repelling an enemy, would be more deserving of reward than punishment. The end of the law is to make the citizens secure by the protection of the walls. He, therefore, who should climb over the walls, neither from contempt nor petulance, nor fraud, nor in a tumultuous manner, but under the pressure of necessity, could not justly on that account be charged with a capital offence. Should it be objected that the thing was of bad example, I admit it; but when the object is to rescue one's life from injury, violence, or robbery, provided it be done without offence or harm to any one, necessity excuses it. It cannot be charged upon Paul as a crime, that when in danger of his life at Damascus, he was let down by a basket, seeing he was divinely permitted to escape, without tumult, from the violence and cruelty of wicked men.12
1 Calvin's "
2 This word "clam" may refer either to the secrecy of Joshua in sending the spies, or to the secrecy which they were to employ in making their inquiries. Either meaning seems good. The latter is countenanced by the Septuagint, which unites the secrecy and the spying in the single compound word kataskopeu~sai; but it is evident, both from the version and the Commentary, that Calvin prefers the former. -- Ed.
3 In the present instance they set no limits to their extravagances, and gravely tell us, that instead of leading a life of infamy, she was merely an innkeeper or "hostess," and was afterwards honored to be the wife of Joshua. -- Ed.
4 Had the season of the year when these transactions took place not been known from other sources, the mode of concealment to which Rahab resorted would have gone far to fix it. The "stalks of flax" with which she covered them, was evidently the crop of flax as it had been taken from the ground after attaining maturity, and laid out in the open air to dry, agreeably to a custom still practiced, before it was subjected to the process of skutching, for the purpose of being deprived of its woody fiber. The flax sown about the end of September was pulled in the end of March or beginning of April, which accordingly was the period when the Israelites began to move their camp. -- Ed.
5 It may either mean that "they" (the Israelites) "had conspired," as here translated, or as the French has it, that "Rahab had conspired," -- Ed.
6 Latin, "
7 Latin, "
9 French, "
10 French, "
11 This is an instance of the quiet and almost sly humor which occasionally betrays itself in Calvin's other writings, and shows, that had it comported with the general gravity of his character, he might easily have added wit to the other weapons with which he fought the battles of the faith. In private life, when greater freedom was allowable, it appears, according to Beza's statement, to have not infrequently contributed to the charm of his conversations. -- Ed.
12 The whole objection, as to the overleaping of walls, is so ridiculous in itself, and so very inapplicable to the circumstances of all parties at the time, that it is difficult to understand why Calvin should have condescended to notice it at all, or, at least, given himself so much trouble to refute it. If one might hazard a conjecture, it would be that some question of a similar nature had been raised in regard to the walls of Geneva, and given a local interest to a discussion which otherwise seems somewhat out of place. -- Ed.