Joshua 2:14: Rahab’s Covenant, Part 2

Verse 14:[1]  And the men answered her, Our life for yours (Heb. instead of you to die[2]), if ye utter not this our business.  And it shall be, when the LORD hath given us the land, that (Judg. 1:24; Matt. 5:7) we will deal kindly and truly with thee.

[Let our soul be in your place unto death, נַפְשֵׁ֤נוּ תַחְתֵּיכֶם֙ לָמ֔וּת]  Our soul for you to die (Montanus, Drusius, Masius), supply, shall be exposed (Junius and Tremellius).  Hebraism:  We will preserve you, even if it should mean death for us (Vatablus).  We will deliver ourselves to be killed for your sake to those wishing to kill you (Kimchi in Masius).  This is a formula of oath (Masius, Malvenda, Bonfrerius); that is to say, May our soul die, or, May God destroy us, if the Hebrews harm you.  See verse 17 (Lapide).  To God we pledge our soul or life in the place of thine, so that, if anyone harm thee, He shall destroy us (Bonfrerius).  Indeed, the name of Jehovah is not in the formula; but it was religion to pious men to employ that in imprecations of this sort:  And, for this reason, if it was posited, those evil, ominous, and dire words were passed over in silence; as in those words, The Lord do so to me, etc.[3]  But it was sufficient that the name of God was in the stipulation of Rahab, to which they respond fully and completely (Masius).

Our life for yours; we pawn and will venture our lives for the security of yours.  Or, may we perish, if you be not preserved.

[If thou dost nor reveal us]  And our business, which the King would have purchased at the greatest price (Malvenda).  But they were already sufficiently confident of Rahab’s intention (Bonfrerius).

[אִ֚ם לֹ֣א תַגִּ֔ידוּ אֶת־דְּבָרֵ֖נוּ זֶ֑ה]  If ye reveal, or divulge, not this our word (Montanus, similarly Junius and Tremellius).  Our matter (Masius, Drusius), which was transacted among us (Drusius).  This our fame (Arabic); that business (Jonathan), the business of this covenant (Piscator).  Understand the sign to be hung from the window, and the counsel concerning gathering her paternal family into her house (Drusius, Kimchi and Levi ben Gershon in Masius).  For, if the citizens had learned of those things, some would have made use of similar signs, and others would have intruded upon the house of Rahab (Masius), and those were too many and unworthy of life (Menochius).  Therefore, they desire that the execution of the oath by not impeded by her (Bonfrerius).  We are admonished by their exception, that we not suffer ourselves to be drawn to swear except with the greatest caution and religion, after we have diligently explored all things completely, whether we might even be able to fulfill what we have sworn (Masius).  Our speech, that is, this method by which we mean to save you:  or, our speeches in which we promise that we are going to preserve thee, etc. (Vatablus).

This our business, that is, this agreement of ours, and the way and condition of it, lest others under this pretence secure themselves.  By which they show both their piety and prudence in managing their oath with so much circumspection and caution, that neither their own consciences might be insnared, nor the public justice obstructed.

[And when the Lord will have delivered[4]]  Hebrew:  and it shall be.[5]  Either it is superfluous, as is often the case; or it confirms what preceded, and what follows:  that is to say, What we have said shall be done; do not doubt it:  in turn to thee we promise, that when Jehovah, etc. (Vatablus).

[We shall do unto thee mercy and truth[6]]  That is, We shall preserve thee in life, and we will not fail (Vatablus).  This phrase signifies to be kind with the utmost fidelity (Masius).  He furnishes mercy, who first confers a benefit; truth, who repays a benefit (Vatablus).  חֶסֶד, piety, or beneficence, has regard unto the benefit itself, and signifies a gratuitous benefit.  And so it regards the kinsmen of Rahab, who performed no meritorious services toward the spies.  אֱמֶת, truth, has regard unto the certain fidelity of furnishing the benefit, and signifies what is just and equitable to be furnished; but this has regard to Rahab herself.  You will find these conjoined, Genesis 24:27 (Masius out of Kimchi).

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֧אמְרוּ לָ֣הּ הָאֲנָשִׁ֗ים נַפְשֵׁ֤נוּ תַחְתֵּיכֶם֙ לָמ֔וּת אִ֚ם לֹ֣א תַגִּ֔ידוּ אֶת־דְּבָרֵ֖נוּ זֶ֑ה וְהָיָ֗ה בְּתֵת־יְהוָ֥ה לָ֙נוּ֙ אֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ וְעָשִׂ֥ינוּ עִמָּ֖ךְ חֶ֥סֶד וֶאֱמֶֽת׃

[2] Hebrew:  תַחְתֵּיכֶם֙ לָמ֔וּת.

[3] See Ruth 1:17; 1 Samuel 3:17; 1 Kings 2:23.

[4] Hebrew:  וְהָיָ֗ה בְּתֵת־יְהוָ֥ה לָ֙נוּ֙ אֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ.

[5] Hebrew:  וְהָיָה.

[6] Hebrew: וְעָשִׂ֥ינוּ עִמָּ֖ךְ חֶ֥סֶד וֶאֱמֶֽת׃ .

2 thoughts on “Joshua 2:14: Rahab’s Covenant, Part 2

  1. Matthew Henry: “No doubt they knew themselves sufficiently authorized to treat with Rahab concerning this matter, and were confident that Joshua would ratify what they did, else they had not dealt honestly; the general law that they should make no covenant with the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 7:2) did not forbid them to take under their protection a particular person, that had heartily come into their interests and had done them real kindnesses. The law of gratitude is one of the laws of nature. Now observe here, 1. The promises they made her. In general, “We will deal kindly and truly with thee,” Joshua 2:14. “We will not only be kind in promising now, but true in performing what we promise; and not only true in performing just what we promise, but kind in outdoing thy demands and expectations.” The goodness of God is often expressed by his kindness and truth (Psalm 117:2), and in both these we must be followers of him. In particular, “If a hand be upon any in the house with thee, his blood shall be on our head,” Joshua 2:19. If hurt come through our carelessness to those whom we are obliged to protect, we thereby contract guilt, and blood will be found a heavy load. 2. The provisos and limitations of their promises. Though they were in haste, and it may be in some confusion, yet we find them very cautious in settling this agreement and the terms of it, not to bind themselves to more than was fit for them to perform. Note, Covenants must be made with care, and we must swear in judgment, lest we find ourselves perplexed and entangled when it is too late after vows to make enquiry. Those that will be conscientious in keeping their promises will be cautious in making them, and perhaps may insert conditions which others may think frivolous. Their promise is here accompanied with provisos, and they were necessary ones.”

  2. Westminster Confession of Faith “Of Lawful Oaths and Vows” [a systematic presentation of what Scriptures teaches on this important subject]:

    I. A lawful oath is part of religious worship, wherein, upon just occasion, the person swearing solemnly calls God to witness what he asserts, or promises, and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he swears.

    II. The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear, and therein it is to be used with all holy fear and reverence. Therefore, to swear vainly, or rashly, by that glorious and dreadful Name; or, to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred. Yet, as in matters of weight and moment, an oath is warranted by the Word of God, under the New Testament as well as under the old; so a lawful oath, being imposed by lawful authority, in such matters, ought to be taken.

    III. Whosoever takes an oath ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth: neither may any man bind himself by oath to any thing but what is good and just, and what he believes so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform. Yet it is a sin to refuse an oath touching any thing that is good and just, being imposed by lawful authority.

    IV. An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation, or mental reservation. It cannot oblige to sin; but in any thing not sinful, being taken, it binds to performance, although to a man’s own hurt. Not is it to be violated, although made to heretics, or infidels.

    V. A vow is of the like nature with a promissory oath, and ought to be made with the like religious care, and to be performed with the like faithfulness.

    VI. It is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone: and that it may be accepted, it is to be made voluntarily, out of faith, and conscience of duty, in way of thankfulness for mercy received, or for the obtaining of what we want, whereby we more strictly bind ourselves to necessary duties: or, to other things, so far and so long as they may fitly conduce thereunto.

    VII. No man may vow to do any thing forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance whereof he has no promise of ability from God. In which respects, popish monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.

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