Among the many unusual things found in Yehoshua, chapter 2, most striking is that which is completely ignored.
God’s command regarding the nations of the land of Canaan had been unequivocal.
Only from those nations that Hashem your God gives you as an inheritance, do not let a soul live. Utterly destroy them- the Hittites, Emorites, Canaanites, Perizites, Hivites and Jebusites, as Hashem your God has commanded you. (Devarim 20:16-17)
How can the spies contradict this explicit injunction by making a commitment to Rachav to save not only her, but her entire family? In rabbinic parlance, this would seem to be an ‘oath against that which is written in the Torah’, and should be null and void!
The lesson, the first lesson of war in the blood-soaked book of Yehoshua, is simple as it is profound. The spies call their promise to Rachav an act of ‘kindness and truth’, ‘hesed ve’emet’. The universal value of gratitude, the commitment to repay kindness with kindness, is truth, no less binding than the explicit instructions of the Torah in general. In fact, when the two contradict, it is apparently even more binding.
My reflections on the daily chapter of the wonderful, challenging 929 project. Join the ride- I welcome thoughts, discussion, questions, comments. Learn more about 929 at 929.org.il. Now there’s even an app.