“And Yehoshua the son of Nun sent from Shitim two men as spies secretly saying, ‘Go see the land and Yericho.'” The two pious spies Calev and Pinchos were given the unique spying mission of observing the entire land through their glimpse of Yericho. Apparently, there was no need to obtain detailed strategic information in preparation for their invasion. Their mission was clearly stated and limited to the specific act of seeing Yericho. Ralbag explains that Yericho, being the stronghold of the land, was the perfect gauge of Canaan’s temperament, fear or confidence. In essence, the spies were sent to determine if Canaan was preparing for a massive attacker. Was she petrified by the Jewish nation’s approach?
It is interesting to note that Yehoshua’s name is mentioned here in full, Yehoshua the son of Nun. Although he was initially identified with his full title, he is subsequently referred to throughout the sefer as Yehoshua. The mention of his entire name throughout this mission reflects upon an earlier mission of Yehoshua (when he was known as Yehoshua Bin Nun) when he was sent to spy the land. During that mission, Yehoshua, unlike ten colleagues, remained faithfully devoted to his cause and returned with favorable tidings about the land. Now, as Yehoshua himself was sending spies, he called upon them to follow his previous example and remain focused on the mission. He warned them not to be overwhelmed by the awesome towering inhabitants of the land and to fulfill their task with perfection. Their exclusive mission was the determination of the true inner feelings of the Canaanite inhabitants, confidence or dread.
“And they went and came to the house of a female storekeeper named Rachav and laid down there.” As we learn in the upcoming verses, Rachav’s house was directly inside the wall of the city. It seems that the spies didn’t even expose themselves to the smallest section of the city. Because Rachav was situated in such a perfect location, undoubtedly, crowds of people filtered through her doors each day. The spies reasoned that through the informal conversations of these visitors the truth would ultimately be revealed. Over a cold soothing cup of beer, the visitors’ real concerns and fears would surface from behind their false front of courage and determination .
“And it was said to the King of Yericho saying, ‘Behold men came here tonight from the Jewish people to spy the land.'” Apparently, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that these people must have been spies for the Jewish nation. However, the text offers no clue as to how their concealed identity was so quickly discovered. Chazal (in explanation of an upcoming verse [2:11]) inform us that this storekeeper was the object of many high ranking officials’ hearts. She was well known throughout the land and enjoyed a close relationship with all. However, as Rachav herself confessed, this practice was brought to a sharp halt after Hashem’s massive massacre of Sichon and Og. Subsequently, people lost their appreciation for lust and pleasure, and, being petrified of the pending invasion, their focuses shifted away from her. Suddenly two total strangers entered the city at night and went directly to Rachav’s house. They seemed comfortable and confident in their manner and were apparently without fear or trepidation. This convinced all the petrified onlookers that the intruders must belong to the enemy and were fearlessly going about their merry way.
“And the King of Yericho sent to Rachav saying, ‘Send out the men who are coming to you – who have come to your house, because they’ve come to spy out the land.'” The king informed Rachav that she was mistaken in her impression that the men had come to spend time with her. Their true objective was to stay in her house and discover the secrets of the land (see Malbim ad loc). The king sent an exact message in support of his suspicion. These men, unlike the petrified inhabitants, showing interest in her proved they were from the enemy’s camp. They were really interested in listening to the inner feelings of her many aquaintances to undoubtedly discover the true political climate of the land.
“And the woman took the two men, hid him and said, ‘Yes the men have come to me but I didn’t discover their identity.'” Rachav performed a heroic act in risking her life in saving the spies. As we will discover soon (verses 9-11), she had already come to perfect recognition of Hashem and proclaimed Him as the absolute Master of the universe. But the wording of this verse, “She hid him” presents great difficulty. As we know, there were two spies. Yet she only hid one. Chazal explain that Pinchos, possessing a similar status to an angel, became invisible and did not need to be hidden. This unprecedented and unparalleled experience requires much reflection. Considering that she successfully hid one of them, what need was there for the other to become invisible? What lesson is being taught here never to be repeated throughout Jewish history?
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