After forty years of wandering God's people are ready to go into the land of Israel. Moses has died and the people have a new leader, Joshua. Planning to attack the city of Jericho first, Joshua sends two spies to find out how the city is defended.
Midnight. It was so dark that no human eye could have spotted the two men who broke away from the camp and crept silently through the desert until they reached the edge of the River Jordan. At that time of year the river was in full flood – wide, deep and flowing fast. The two men knelt and prayed and then without saying another word they dived into the river. With a strength that could only have come from God, they swam to the other side and heaved themselves out onto the bank. They shook themselves like dogs to get as much water out of their clothes as possible and then they set off into the land of Canaan.
By the time the sun began to rise, Dan and Asher were within sight of the city of Jericho. Joshua, the leader of God's people, had sent them here on a secret mission to spy out the city and bring back a report of how it was defended. The brothers crouched down out of sight behind a pile of rocks and waited. Dan kept watch while Asher made notes. The city was built on a mound of earth so that anyone attacking it would struggle to run uphill with heavy armour and weapons. The walls were tall and thick, they would be impossible to break through. Guards patrolled along the top of the walls every few minutes; there was no way to approach the city without being seen.
“If it comes to a battle,” sighed Asher, “we've got no chance, it's common sense.”
“What's common sense got to do with it?” asked Dan, “Common sense didn't get us out of Egypt, through the desert and back here safely, God did.”
“We've got to get into that city,” said Asher, “We need to find out what's behind those walls.”
“Leave it to me,” Dan told him, “I've got a plan!”
The gates of the city were enormous. Asher pulled his cloak over his head and looked at the ground as he and Dan joined the back of a queue of people heading into the city to buy and sell at the market.
“Stay calm,” said Dan softly, “just try to look like you know where you're going and no one will suspect a thing.”
Dan was right; the guards barely glanced at them as they walked through the gates.
“We're in,” whispered Asher to Dan, “nice one!”
But he spoke too soon. The woman behind them in the queue was carrying a large basket of grapes. It was a hot day and the basket was heavy and suddenly it slipped from her hands and she tripped over it. She cried out in alarm and as she fell forwards she caught hold of Asher's cloak, pulling it off his head. Everyone looked around to see what all the noise was about, including the guards. They took one look at Asher and saw at once that he was no market trader. When they realised they'd let an enemy into the city, they drew their swords and stepped towards him.
“Run!” shouted Dan. The two brothers turned and began to push their way through the crowd. They hurtled down the streets of the city, changing direction, ducking down alleyways, trying everything they could to get away from the guards. Asher looked back over his shoulder as they ran, the guards were out of sight but he could still hear them shouting in the distance. They turned another corner … and found themselves in a dead end. In front of them was a wall stretching up out of sight, they'd reached the edge of the city, they were trapped and the guards were closing in on them.
“Lord God help us,” Dan prayed. Then suddenly he saw it – a wooden door in the wall right in front of them. Had it always been there or had it just appeared? There was no time to worry about that now. Dan tried the handle and the door swung open. He grabbed Asher, dragged him through and then slammed the door shut behind them. They held their breath as they heard the guards running down the street outside.
“They're not here,” they heard one of the guards calling, “they must have gone another way. Let's go.”
“That was close,” said Asher.
“Excuse me,” came a voice from behind them, “but who are you and what are you doing in my house?”
Dan and Asher turned around slowly. On the other side of the room was a woman and she was holding a knife. Asher looked at her and he felt in his heart that God was telling him to trust her, so he told the woman who they were and what they were doing in Jericho. When he'd finished the woman put down the knife.
“My name is Rahab,” she said, “We've all heard of your people; we've heard how your God rescued you from Egypt. Everyone here is terrified of you. If I hide you from the guards and help you to escape will you promise to protect me and my family when you attack the city?”
“Yes,” replied Asher, “I give you my word that you and your family will not be harmed.”
At that very moment someone began to hammer on the door and a voice cried out, “Open up in the name of the king, we know the enemy spies are in there!”
“Quickly,” Rahab urged them, “follow me!”
She led Dan and Asher up to the roof of her house. The roof was covered with bundles of a plant called flax that Rahab had left there to dry. She lifted up the bundles so that the two brothers could crawl under them out of sight and then she went back downstairs. By the time Rahab returned it was beginning to get dark again.
“I told the guards that you had been here but I didn't know who you were,” she said, “I told them you'd already left the city and if they were quick they might catch up with you. They've gone to search the road that leads to the River Jordan. Now let's get you out of here before they come back.”
Rahab's house was built right into one of the walls that surrounded Jericho and in one room the window faced out of the city. Rahab found some rope and prepared to lower Dan and Asher from the window down to the ground below.
“Listen,” said Asher to Rahab, “When we attack keep all of your family indoors. Take a piece of red cord and hang it from this window, then we will know which house is yours. If you forget to do this I can't promise that you will be safe.”
“I understand,” Rahab told him, “Now go!”
As soon as their feet touched the ground Dan and Asher began to run. They made for the hills and hid there for three days until they were sure that the guards had given up looking for them. Then they headed back to the Israelite camp and went straight to Joshua.
“Well,” he asked them, “What did you find out?”
“God has put this whole land into our hands,” Dan reported, “the people there have heard of all the things He has done for us and they are melting with fear.”
“Excellent,” said Joshua, “Prepare to break camp. We will cross the Jordan in three days time and take back the Promised Land!”