Joshua 2: Visit to Jericho
From the east bank of the Jordan the children of Israel saw the hills of Canaan some eight miles away across the plain. They were steep bluffs, brown and barren, belonging to the wilderness of Judaea. At the foot of these hills was Jericho the "fragrant place," called also "the city of palm trees," both names no doubt being given from the gardens and orchards about the city.
Jericho in the Old Testament days was a different place from the Jericho mentioned in the Gospels; it stood a mile farther north, close under the hills. Directly behind the city rose a stern weather-beaten cliff; it is now called Mount Karantel, which means "forty," from a tradition that it was here that the Lord spent the forty days in the wilderness when He was tempted; for the same reason hermits have lived in the caves of the mountain, feeling that it was a holy place. There is a mound, formed at least in part of ruins, where the old city stood, from under which a large spring of water, clear but warm, breaks out. It is called "Elisha’s Fountain" in memory of the story told in 2 Kings 2:18-22, how the prophet healed the water which was bad.
Standing on the mound of ruins above the spring we look out over the broad sunny meadows to the eastern hills. We remember what the people of Jericho said to Elisha, that "the situation of the city is pleasant." Here with water and careful cultivation, in warm sunshine that made the climate tropical, the gardens flourished and the beautiful date palms. The people who lived here before the children of Israel came had built a strong city with walls and gates.
What were the twelve men called who were sent into the land of Canaan from Kadesh long ago? Now Joshua sent two spies across the Jordan to Jericho, to see the land and the people and to bring back word. The king and people of Jericho learned that they were in the city and would have taken them, but a woman in whose house they were, treated them kindly; she hid them among the bundles of flax which had been brought from the field and were drying on the roof of the house. The roofs you know were flat, covered with earth rolled hard. Have you seen flax growing? What is made from it? When it was safe to do so, the woman let the men down from her window, which was on the city wall, and told them to hide for three days in the mountain (we think of the cliff behind the town with its many caves and hiding-places), for men were searching for them in the plain. So they came back safe to Joshua. They told him that the people of the land were weak with fear of the children of Israel. They told also of the kindness of the woman and of the promise they had made her, that when Jericho was taken she should be saved and all her family. She would mark her window by a line of scarlet thread so that it would be known. And this was done; the woman was saved and her family, and they lived among the people of Israel. (Joshua 6:22-25.)
1. When were spies sent to view the promised land?
2. What city was called "the city of palm trees"? Where was the city?
3. How were the two spies saved? What report did they bring back to Joshua?
4. Who were Nun, Sihon, Og?
5. What is said in the chapter about a gate, a housetop, a window, flax, a scarlet thread?
If heaven and a heavenly life are represented by the land of Canaan, what in particular are represented by the high hills of the land, and what by the low plain of Jordan on the border of the country? The high hills represent interior, spiritual states, and the low plain represents states of external usefulness and enjoyment. This was the meaning when Lot chose the plain of Jordan for his home and Abram dwelt upon the hills. Remember also that John's teaching of repentance and of good outward life is associated with this same plain of Jordan. (A. 1585, 1590)
Jericho was a city in the plain, at the entrance of the land. It represents one of the first states of heavenly life of which one has experience; its name "the city of palm trees" suggests that it is a state of safety in the saving power of the Lord. Palms in ancient days were emblems of victory, and in the best sense of victory over evil, and safety in the power of the Lord. Remember how the multitude welcomed the Lord into Jerusalem, waving palms and crying, "Hosanna, save now" (John 12:12-13), and how the multitude in the Revelation with palms in their hands ascribed salvation to the Lord. (Rev. 7:9-10; A. 8369; E. 458; R. 367) Before the children of Israel crossed the Jordan, Jericho was in the hands of the enemies; it then represented a state of evil in outward life, of selfish indulgence and of careless security in evil ways. (A. 1585, 9325 end; E. 700) We shall think again of the meaning of Jericho when we come to the taking of the city.
The woman in Jericho who treated the Israelites kindly and was afterward saved by them represents enjoyment in the things of natural life that can be separated from the influences that have led it astray and made it evil and can be guided truly and made a part of heavenly character. A simple good affection is also represented by the scarlet thread which she hung as a sign in her window: The warm, rich colors suggest affection and love. A deep ruby red (called by Swedenborg purple) stands for the deepest love of the Lord; and scarlet, which is less deep but more conspicuous, for neighborly love and charity. (A. 9468; R. 725)
Does the story of the spies, how they found safety on the housetop and afterward in the mountain, remind you of words in the Gospel? (Matt. 24:16-17) The housetop and the mountain mean good states of love to the Lord and one another. The flax represents simple truth of what is right. (Rev. 19:8; A. 3650-3654, 7601)