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Bible Study: Spies in Jericho

Joshua’s men found an unexpected ally—one who wanted to defect.

In Touch Ministries staff November 10, 2022

When the Lord says “Go,” we can do so confidently. But as was true for the men who snuck into the pagan city of Jericho, wisdom and discernment are still helpful. Have you ever felt called to perform a risky mission—something only God could accomplish? Or met someone like Rahab, who just needed help embracing the truth? He’s ready to use humble, willing servants in similar ways today—including you.

Illustration by Adam Cruft


Joshua had taken over leadership of the Israelites after Moses’ death. God was now sending this generation of His people into the Promised Land, to conquer the inhabitants city by city and to settle there.


Joshua 2:1-24


Our trust in God should outweigh logic.

  • To learn about Jericho, Joshua “sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim” (v. 1). Secrecy is often seen as wrong—and we must guard against justifying wrongdoing. Yet God was fulfilling His plan to establish the nation. What wisdom would Joshua have needed to obey God’s will? Did you ever encounter secrecy in the church? What did you learn about God’s right to keep some things hidden and to reveal others (Deut. 29:29)?
  • Even when we think we know where the Lord is leading, He may direct us to unexpected paths or bring help from a person who challenges us. That’s why serving Him requires trust and a heart tuned to His voice. In Joshua 2:1, the spies took refuge with a prostitute, though they couldn’t have known she would follow the God of Israel. How do their actions illustrate the balance between faith and discernment?
  • Rahab told the spies, “No courage remained in anyone any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth below” (v. 11). But compare her words to the actions she took in protecting the spies and arranging for her family to be saved. What might her words of testimony in verse 11 have had to do with the courage she displayed?
  • As a prostitute and a pagan woman, Rahab had very little in common with the Israelite spies. But since she’d come to believe in Jehovah—which she demonstrated at great personal risk—they shared something essential. Relationships between even those of similar background or lifestyle can eventually falter when faith isn’t shared. Yet we may have close friends in the church with whom we share little more than Christ as Savior. Have you experienced this unity? How do you explain it?


By God’s miraculous power, the walls of Jericho fell and the Israelites took over the city.

  • Read Joshua 6:17-25. When the army destroyed Jericho, only items of value were saved since “silver and gold, and articles of bronze and iron are holy to the Lord ...and shall go into [His] treasury”—but Rahab and her family were also included (vv. 17-19). Do you find it significant that she’s mentioned in the context of items for God’s treasury? (Compare to 2 Tim. 2:19-21 NKJV.) How was Rahab like an “vessel for honor”?
  • Welcomed among the Israelites, Rahab later married into the tribe of Judah and was part of Jesus’ lineage (Josh. 6:25; Matt. 1:5). Hebrews 11:31 also includes her in the “hall of faith.” Have you ever been surprised by a person’s faith—or perhaps by your own? Take time to thank God for this gift in you and others. 


Rahab proclaimed belief and backed it up with action. And she was welcomed among the faithful.

  • Her story invites appreciation of the varied backgrounds in the community of faith.


Consider how this study applies to your life. 

The spies set out from Shittim—a place whose name is Hebrew for the acacia trees of that area. God designated acacia wood for making the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25:10), likely because it was heavy, durable, and resistant to decay. The Israelites took spiritual refuge at the ark, where God’s mercy seat was located. Today we take refuge in Christ and find God’s mercy in Him, leading many to liken Jesus—and by extension His church—to an ark. Consider the spies’ mission, then, as a picture of evangelism. What might it mean to “set out from Shittim” to walk among unbelievers?

  • When the spies left Shittim and entered Jericho, God’s protection was with them. We leave the four walls of the church and even dwell or labor in ungodly environments, but we never leave the “ark” of Christ. How has He shown His protection over you?
  • The spies’ arrival signaled a turning point for Rahab—and deadly danger for others. Our carrying God’s Word and presence into the world, though done with Christlike humility, may confront others with a crucial decision or perhaps even a feeling of judgment (John 16:8). How does this affect your sense of love and mercy?
  • When God points the way, follow Him with faith and devotion, prayerful discernment, and compassion for the lost. Your presence may be what’s needed for someone else to declare faith. Meanwhile, rejoice with those of every persuasion who stand with you in Christ. They are His chosen vessels too.

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