Joshua 2: 1- 24
Joshua- prophet and leader, circa 13th centruy BCE
This haftarah takes place just after Joshua has succeeded Moshe as leader of the nation.
He secretly sent two spies to Jericho to investigate the city and the surrounding countryside. They went to to the home of Rahav, a harlot and innkeeper whose inn was located in the outer wall of Jericho. The leaders of Jericho found out that the two spies had gone there and they questioned Rahav about their whereabouts. She misled the city leaders, hiding the spies under bales of flax on her roof top, and helped them escape the town safely. The spies climbed from her window out of the city walls using a red cord she had given them They told her to put that same red cord in her window so that when the Israelites later attacked Jericho, her home and all those in her home would be spared.
My illustration at the top of this page shows Rahav on the roof of her inn with the two spies. They are holding the red cord that she will show from her window.
This haftarah is paired with the parsha that describes the previous occasion Israelite spies went on a mission to investigate Jericho. The two parallel stories play out very differently. In the parsha Moshe appointed twelve men, one from each tribe, to spy on the land and bring back fruit of the land. Moshe spoke to them and gave them instructions publicly. They returned laden with beautiful grapes, pomegranates and figs but with warnings that the mission was impossible. Their negative report was public too. A rebellion was averted, but not before God said that these Israelites did not merit entering the land of Canaan.
Of the twelve men who were sent only Joshua of the tribe of Ephraim and Caleb of the tribe of Judah believed that B’nei Yisrael, led by God , would be able to possess the “land of milk and honey”.
In this haftarah we see that Joshua learned from the earlier experience. Rather than send a large delegation of twelve well known men he sent only two unnamed spies. It was a secret mission- b’nei Yisrael did not know about it. Moshe had given the twelve spies a long list of things to report. This afforded them the chance to discuss and debate amongst themselves and discover elements to be afraid of. In contrast Joshua gave his two emissaries one goal- to observe the land of Jericho. In that way Joshua avoided getting unwanted advice from tribal leaders who did not have enough faith in the invisible hand of God.
The two spies returned with the information Joshua needed. This haftarah is our introduction to the triumphant entrance of the children of Israel to the land that God had promised them.
It is intriguing that Rahav, the woman who helped the Israelites was a harlot, an innkeepeer, and wasn’t a member of b’nei Yisrael. Yet she recognized the strength of the one God who led the Israelites and she was ready to pledge her future to Him. It’s an interesting story that has a number of hints to other stories in our canon. Read it through-see what you can find.
Have a Shabbat Shalom, and thank-you for reading this week’s entry!