ESSAY
Passover and the Structure of Joshua 2

The initial chapters of Joshua demonstrate that Joshua is a new Moses, completing the task that Moses began. Moses is named ten times in the first chapter; though dead, he still dominates the scene. The book begins with the announcement of Moses’ death (1:1); Yahweh promises to fulfill what He has spoken to Moses and to be with Joshua as He had been with Moses (1:3, 5, 17); Joshua is told to meditate on the law delivered through Moses (1:7); and the transJordanian tribes pledge their loyalty to Joshua as they had to Moses (1:17).

With this in the background, it is not surprising that the events of Joshua 1-6 closely parallel Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. Since the conquest completes the exodus (cf. Exodus 15:14-18), it is fitting that the entry into the land is larded over with Passover-Exodus allusions. In chapter 3, the Jordan parts and Israel crosses on dry ground; then the Israelite men are circumcised and they celebrate Passover, which is immediately followed by the destruction of the city and the deliverance of Rahab’s house. The exodus followed this pattern: Destruction of Egypt, Passover, Water crossing. Now the entry into the land chiastically reverses the sequence: Water crossing, Passover, Destruction of Jericho. (The two spies who enter a house in a doomed city also reminds us of the two angels visiting Sodom and delivering Lot’s house; Jericho is both Sodom and Egypt, cf. Rev. 11:8. Closer to home, they parallel Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh.)

The chiastic structure of Joshua 2 serves to reinforce the Passover connections especially. The chapter can be outlined as follows:

2:1: spies enter Jericho, Rahab’s house
        2:2-7: Rahab sends out the men from Jericho
            2:8-14: rooftop covenant
        2:15-22: Rahab sends out the spies
2:23-24: the spies return to Joshua

Rahab’s house is the geographic center of this story; the action is concerned with the comings and goings to and from her house. For Israel, her house becomes a house of refuge, as the houses of Israel were on Passover, and as her house will become for her family when Jericho is destroyed; by giving life to the spies of Yahweh she receives a promise of life. The men of Jericho, however, are not welcomed; she shows them no hospitality; the serpents are not allowed into the garden. At the center of the structure is a covenant-making episode, which, significantly, takes place in a mountain-like setting, and in which Rahab recalls the promise of land to Abraham, the Lord’s deliverance from Egypt, and Israel’s victories in the transJordan.

To fill out the structure of this chapter, we can also note the chiasms within some of the larger units. 2:2-7 breaks down as follows:

2:2-3: king of Jericho sends for the spies
        2:4a: Rahab had hidden the spies
            2:4b-5: Rahab sends out the men of Jericho (shut the gate)
        2:6: Rahab had hidden the spies
2:7: men pursue the spies (shut the gate)

This structure explains the repetition of 2:4a in verse 6 that has troubled commentators.

The central section, 2:8-14, is also carefully constructed. There is an inclusio in 2:9 and 2:14: "Yahweh has given the land." Otherwise, the section is a double chiasm. First, Rahab, in one of the longest speeches given by a woman in the Bible, professes her faith in Yahweh:

2:9a: Yahweh has given the land
        2:9b: our hearts melted
            2:10a: exodus
            2:10b: conquest of Sihon and Og
        2:11a: hearts melted
2:11b: Yahweh is God of heaven and earth

Note the parallel of exodus and conquest; the exodus was a conquest of Egypt, and the conquest an exodus into a new land and situation. Also note that Rahab identifies Yahweh, the God who keeps His promise to give Israel the land, as the God of the Gentiles, of heaven and earth.

The story continues with Rahab’s request for assurances from the spies that her family will be spared, to which they agree.

2:12a: I have dealt kindly with you
        2:12b-13: deliver my family’s life
        2:14a: our lives for yours
2:14b: we will deal kindly

Though simplified, we can detect in this covenant-forming scene some of the pattern of covenant-making in general: a review of Yahweh’s gracious dealings with Israel, a reminder of obligations, and an oath.

Finally, 2:15-21 also has a chiastic structure, and here the Passover comes prominently to view.

2:15: spies escape through window
    2:16: Rahab speaks: "Go to the hills"
        2:17: free from oath
            2:18a: unless you tie scarlet cord
                2:18b: gather household in house
            2:19: bloodguilt
        2:20: free from oath
    2:21a: Rahab speaks: spies depart
2:21b: Rahab ties cord at window

The structure highlights the Passover connections in several ways. It underlines what is evident in the narrative, namely, that the window with the scarlet cord is a way of escape (the cord parallels the rope), like the bloody doorway of Passover. This is reinforced by the parallel of 2:18a and 2:19, where the scarlet cord is linked with blood guilt: If the cord of blood is not displayed, then the blood of Rahab’s family will be shed, with impunity, by Israel; only a display of "blood" will save Rahab from a bloody death. Finally, the center of this section repeats the command of Exodus 12:22. These structural indications should eliminate doubt (commonly expressed by commentators) that Rahab’s deliverance is to be understood as a Passover.

To round things out, the chapter ends with the spies returning to where they began to deliver their report. Structurally, we may note that their report to Joshua in 2:24 picks up on the speech of Rahab in 2:9-11, the central section of the passage (Lord gives land; people melt). The spies agree with Rahab that Jericho is ripe for judgment; and Israel, having learned the lessons of Kadesh Barnea, accepts the encouraging report and prepares for war.

Peter Leithart is the president of Theopolis Institute. This post originally appeared on Biblical Horizons

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