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 (Manna 74: Standing Firm)
Conquest of Canaan—Jericho (Part 1)
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Conquest of Canaan—Jericho (Part 1)

Caleb Lee—Singapore

Jericho was the city conquered by the Israelites after God had allowed them to cross the River Jordan on dry ground. According to military experts, it was Jericho’s location that made it so important. Being right in the middle of the land, it was an invaluable entry point to Canaan. The conquest of Jericho and Ai would effectively split the land of Canaan into the northern and southern regions. Indeed, this was exactly what would happen as the Israelites went on to undertake their northern and southern conquests.

Apart from how and why Jericho was conquered, this event is also significant because of the people involved: Rahab, the inhabitants of Jericho, the people of Israel who went out to fight this war, and Joshua. This article considers the first two protagonistic perspectives—Rahab and her compatriots.


Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, "Go, view the land, especially Jericho." So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there. And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, "Behold, men have come here tonight from the children of Israel to search out the country." So the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, "Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the country."

(Josh 2:1–3)

At first glance, it would seem that these two spies were not very wise. They had chosen to lodge with a lady of dubious virtue; a person who, many of us expect, would betray friends and acquaintances for money or when under threat. When the king of Jericho learned of the spies, he sent his soldiers to hunt for them. Their search led them to Rahab’s house. She had to quickly decide what to do.

At this crucial juncture, Rahab chose to hide the spies on the roof of her house and deceive the soldiers (Josh 2:4–7). In the process, she told two lies. First, she claimed she did not know their origins although she did (cf. Josh 2:4,9). Second, she told the soldiers the men had left although they were still hiding at her place (cf. Josh 2:5,6). The first lie was to protect herself and the second lie was to protect the Israelites by sending the soldiers off on a wild goose chase.

Eventually, when the Israelites captured Jericho, Rahab and her family were spared. An analysis of this event would show that Rahab was not saved because of her lies, but because of her faith which was demonstrated through her immediate action. New Testament authors attest to this:

By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace. (Heb 11:31)

Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? (Jas 2:25)

What then are the critical elements of Rahab’s faith?

(1) Recognition of God and His People

After she had sent the soldiers away, Rahab told the two spies, "I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you” (Josh 2:9).

Rahab’s words showed her faith and belief in the true God. How did she come to have this kind of faith?

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 to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. (Josh 2:10)

The events that Rahab were referring to had happened about forty years apart. It was not surprising that she had heard about the more recent annihilation of the two Amorite kings, Sihon and Og. But somehow, she had also heard about the Israelites’ miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, which took place four decades ago. And critically she did not stop at just hearing about it; she also thought deeply about it. She did not dismiss the Red Sea miracle as fanciful legend. In fact, after analytical reflection, she correctly concluded that the Lord God was with the children of Israel and that He had promised them the land of Canaan.

Faith comes by hearing. From careful and thoughtful hearing, Rahab was able to recognize the Lord God and to understand who His chosen people were.

(2) Concern for Loved Ones

The second element of Rahab’s faith can be seen from her deep concern for her family (Josh 2:12–13). Having heard of the miracles accompanying the Israelites’ military campaign, she put two and two together; she realized that her city was doomed because they were up against the God of heaven and earth and His people. Not one to labor under feelings of misguided patriotism, her immediate thought was to secure salvation for her family.

Today, we have heard the truth. But are we anxious for our family members and the people around us who have not yet received salvation? Is this matter of highest priority for us such that we are prepared to try all ways and means to bring the truth to them? Rahab’s faith was demonstrated through her compelling need to ensure the safety of her family.

(3) Obedience and Action

The third element of Rahab’s faith is that, having heard and believed, she obeyed and took immediate action. Rahab’s plea for the deliverance of her entire house had met with this response: “Our lives for yours, if none of you tell this business of ours. And it shall be, when the Lord has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you” (Josh 2:14).

The two spies promised to spare Rahab and her relatives under two conditions. First, Rahab and her family were not to tell anyone else about the coming of the spies (Josh 2:20). Second, Rahab had to tie a scarlet thread to the window of her house, gather all her relatives in her house, and ensure that nobody left the house (Josh 2:17–19).

The scarlet thread was to indicate the house of Rahab to the invading children of Israel. This was the only way by which the people within the house would be spared. It was a very severe warning. Anyone who left the house and went into the street would have only himself to blame if he were to be killed.

The scarlet thread has often been said to mean the blood of Christ. It represents entering into Christ and into the house of God to escape the coming destruction. We enjoy the safety of being in God’s house today. But is our family safely ensconced in God’s house too?

After the spies had stated their conditions, Rahab agreed and complied immediately (Josh 2:21). Faith without works is dead (Jas 2:26). In our context, after we have heard and believed, we must not procrastinate. We must do whatever God has commanded. And like Rahab, we must do so immediately.


Scholars have classified Jericho as one of the oldest cities in the world. By the time Joshua sent the spies, it had a ruler, an army, and strong fortifications, suggesting a certain level of sophistication and prosperity. So the city would clearly have had many more inhabitants apart from Rahab. Many would have been richer and of higher status than she.

What all these inhabitants of Jericho shared was a great terror of the Israelites. They had all heard how the Lord had helped the Israelites cross the Red Sea and destroy the Amorites (Josh 2:10). However, their fear drove them differently. It was in this that the people of Jericho provided a stark and tragic contrast to Rahab.

Rahab’s fear developed into faith, prompting her to take action to help the spies and then negotiate for her family’s deliverance. In contrast, the king of Jericho’s fear drove him to pursue the two spies. What could he have done to stop the imminent invasion even if he had caught the spies? Joshua could have sent more. So while Rahab’s fear turned her to God, the rest of Jericho only tried to wait out or delay the inevitable.

Some context would help us understand Jericho’s state of mind. The people in Jericho were possibly Amorites. In Abraham’s time, God had revealed part of His future plan to Abraham. He told Abraham that his descendants would become slaves; but in the fourth generation, they would return to the land where Abraham dwelt, i.e., Canaan. Their slavery would last for four generations because the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet complete (Gen 15:16).

In other words, God had been very patient with the Canaanites for a long time. God knew of their sins, especially of the people of Jericho. But these people continued to remain hard-hearted. Hearing of the mighty works of the God of Israel had evoked fear. But there was still no repentance.

Ultimately, when the people of Jericho heard how the Israelites crossed over the river Jordan on dry ground, they knew that there was no more hope. So, with a fearful expectation of judgment, they sat tight, doing nothing except weep over their impending destruction.

The tragic end of the people of Jericho is a warning to us modern believers not to step out of the love of God. There is a boundary that we must never cross. Once we cross this boundary, there is no turning back. What is this boundary?

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. (Heb 10:26–27)

According to Hebrews 10, if we sin willfully, we can only wait fearfully for judgment, because there is no more forgiveness of sins. Sinning willfully generally refers to mortal sins, such as adultery, murder, or apostasy. But there are other “minor” sins that may also fall under the category of sinning willfully. For example, we sin willfully if we say that continuous lying is okay. If we continue to lie without guilt and still think we have committed no egregious error, then we have already crossed the boundary. Like Jericho, we would only be waiting for judgment and destruction.


Rahab and the people of Jericho provide us with two instructive contrasts of faith versus faithlessness, of obedience versus recalcitrance, and of active action versus passive apprehension. Grace came upon a woman with a sinful occupation who started with nothing. She was saved and had a part with the Messiah (cf. Mt 1:5). God was moved by her faith, which was born through a thoughtful analysis of what she had heard of the Lord God and demonstrated through her immediate action. In the time of judgment, no wealth, status, learning, or weapons could help the other inhabitants of Jericho. They were destroyed because of their stubborn refusal to change. Hence, we need to be watchful, keeping in close communion with God, lest we fall prey to sin. And if we do step out of the love of God, then let us return to God immediately. Like Rahab, God will surely deliver us and our loved ones if we act by faith.

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Author: Caleb Lee