Joshua 2 / Hebrew – English Bible / Mechon-Mamre

This chapter tells the story of the spies who visit Jericho and stay with Rahab, perhaps the most famous prostitute in the Bible. The story is clearly meant as a foil for the disastrous mission of the spies under Moses, in Parshat Shlach, and in fact, this is the Haftorah for that parsha. Two differences stick out to me. First, the spies chosen are anonymous, and they do not appear to hold any political office – unlike their predecessors, who were tribal chiefs. Second, these spies reported privately to Joshua, not publicly. Both of these seem to be highly pragmatic adaptations that I believe are the hallmark of the difference between Moses’ Joshua’s leadership styles. Joshua believes that God is with him, but he is much more sensitive to the practicalities of leading a nation of imperfect humans.

In addition to this overt allusion, the story also goes back to the parting of the Yam Suf. Let’s compare the texts briefly. First, from the Az Yashir, the song sung after the Israelites had crossed the sea, and immediately after they acknowledged Moses’ leadership over them:

ד  שָׁמְעוּ עַמִּים, יִרְגָּזוּן;  {ס}  חִיל  {ר}  אָחַז, יֹשְׁבֵי פְּלָשֶׁת.  {ס} 14 The peoples have heard, they tremble; pangs have taken hold on the inhabitants of Philistia.
טו  אָז נִבְהֲלוּ, אַלּוּפֵי  {ר}  אֱדוֹם–  {ס}  אֵילֵי מוֹאָב, יֹאחֲזֵמוֹ רָעַד;  {ס}  נָמֹגוּ,  {ר}  כֹּל יֹשְׁבֵי כְנָעַן.  {ס} 15 Then were the chiefs of Edom affrighted; the mighty men of Moab, trembling taketh hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan are melted away.

Now let’s look at what Rahab had to say to the spies:

  וַתֹּאמֶר, אֶל-הָאֲנָשִׁים–יָדַעְתִּי, כִּי-נָתַן יְהוָה לָכֶם אֶת-הָאָרֶץ; וְכִי-נָפְלָה אֵימַתְכֶם עָלֵינוּ, וְכִי נָמֹגוּ כָּל-יֹשְׁבֵי הָאָרֶץ מִפְּנֵיכֶם. 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 melt away before you.
י  כִּי שָׁמַעְנוּ, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-הוֹבִישׁ יְהוָה אֶת-מֵי יַם-סוּף מִפְּנֵיכֶם, בְּצֵאתְכֶם, מִמִּצְרָיִם; וַאֲשֶׁר עֲשִׂיתֶם לִשְׁנֵי מַלְכֵי הָאֱמֹרִי אֲשֶׁר בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן, לְסִיחֹן וּלְעוֹג–אֲשֶׁר הֶחֱרַמְתֶּם, אוֹתָם. 10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond the Jordan, unto Sihon and to Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.
יא  וַנִּשְׁמַע וַיִּמַּס לְבָבֵנוּ, וְלֹא-קָמָה עוֹד רוּחַ בְּאִישׁ מִפְּנֵיכֶם:  כִּי, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם–הוּא אֱלֹהִים בַּשָּׁמַיִם מִמַּעַל, וְעַל-הָאָרֶץ מִתָּחַת. 11 And as soon as we had heard it, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more spirit in any man, because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above, and on earth beneath.

It appears as if she’s already heard the song! In any case, the word Mog (as in NaMogU) is pretty rare, and appears in the Torah only once, in Joshua twice (both in this chapter), once in Samuel, once in Job, and a few times in the later prophets, including Isaiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Psalms, and Nahum. Usually, when it appears it is specifically referencing the parting of the Sea of Reeds.

There’s also interesting business regarding the sign of the deal that the spies make. They agree to save Rahab and her family, so long as they remain within her home. They also have her tie a scarlet thread to to her window (referred to as Tikvat Hashani – lit. the scarlet hope). It’s reminiscent of the scarlet line that would be tied on Yom Kippur in the Temple, and which would miraculously turn white upon the conclusion of the Yom Kippur service by the High Priest. This is also the first interaction that the Israelites have with the people of Canaan – a people whom they are bound to destroy, not to treat with. This tension will rise up again, shortly.