104-103-Joshua Chapter 2
Rahab, a prostitute and a woman of faith, remains enigmatic centuries after her brief appearance in Israel’s history. Because she placed her faith in Israel’s God and helped the two young Israelite scouts who came to her house, her life was spared when Israel captured Jericho. Because Rehab’s house stood on the wall of the city, Joshua’s scouts went there when they entered Jericho. Rehab might have been an innkeeper as well as a prostitute; other documents from the Old Testament era record women innkeepers who were also prostitutes. If Rehab’s house was in fact an inn, it would have been a reasonable destination; Joshua’s scouts could hope that they would not attract unwanted attention.
Rehab’s arrangement with the scouts was a stirring declaration of faith in Yahweh, Israel’s God. (Joshua 2:8-21) As a Canaanite woman, Rehab would have practiced the fertility cult of Baal, god of the storm and life giving rain, and his consort Asherah, the mother earth goddess. Yet based on Israel’s progress toward her land, Rehab recognized that Yahweh, the God of Israel, is “the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below. (Joshua 2:11)
After Joshua’s conquest of Jericho, Rehab married Salmon of the tribe of Judah; she gave birth to a son, whom they named Boaz. (Ruth 4:21 Matthew 1:5) Thus, Rehab was the mother-in-law of Ruth, another foreign woman adopted into Israel. Rehab was King David’s great-grandmother. She is listed with Moses, David, Samson, and Samuel as examples of faith demonstrated by good deeds. (Hebrews 11:31 James 2:25) She is one of the five women, including Mary, mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, the human family tree of God’s Son. (Matthew 1:5) Along with these outsiders and their stories, Rehab bears an especially poignant witness to the breathtaking scope of God’s grace.
During the three days that Joshua had commanded the nation of Israel to wait on the banks of the Jordan River Joshua sent out two spies to recon the area and Jericho. God had a special purpose for His people to wait there at the Jordan River. Sending spies forth to learn of the possible difficulties that may be ahead of the Israelites was not a lack of faith on Joshua’s part. We must trust in God’s promises but that does not mean that He will do all for us. It is our lack of action on His promises that displays a lack of faith. The Promises of God should spur us into an active godly activity.
Joshua also show s wisdom by sending the spies out secretly. Moses had sent out twelve spies 40 years prior and the majority of them came back with unfavorable report. (Numbers 13:1-33) Joshua and Caleb were among those spies and only they had said that Israel could take the Promised Land of milk and honey. Now it is Joshua that is leading the conquest and he has chosen two men of faith to check out what lay ahead.
If this reconnaissance mission was for military purposes it was a failed mission. But God had a greater plan by sending them forward and in this greater plan they were successful. The two spies entered into the city of Jericho and went to the home of Rehab who was a prostitute. Throughout history Bible interpreters have been shy about the fact that Rehab was a prostitute but the Scripture is very clear that she was a harlot. Bible commentators considered Rahab to be an innkeeper, which solved their dislike of the harlot problem. It is quite probable that she was an innkeeper but it was a common practice of women innkeepers to practice prostitution. An inn would have been a logical place for strangers of a city to go. But the fact remains that the Scriptures say that Rehab was a harlot.
In the second century a commentator wrote, “As the first Joshua sent his spies before him and they were received into the harlot’s house, so the second Joshua sent his forerunners, whom the publicans and harlots gladly received”. (Origen) The one who knows they are a sinner will receive Jesus Christ as their Savoir. It is a human tragedy that many deny their sinfulness and are unaware of what they are capable of apart from the Lord.
Rahab was a prostitute and possibly an innkeeper as well, either way the spies went there as it would have been the perfect place for strangers to go unnoticed by an uneasy population. The people of Jericho were aware of the Israelite presence only five miles away, and they were aware of their intention. The City of Jericho was on high alert and strangers to the city would have come under sever scrutiny.
It was the culture of the day that the host of the house was to care and protect their guest. It was an expected duty. Yet Rehab knew who they were by the dialect of this language. The Hebrew and the Canaanite spoke the same language but the dialect was distinctively different. She knew that they were Israelite. Therefore she knew why they were there, to view the city and know their fortifications. The king of the city was told that Israelites had entered into the city and probably suspected that they would go to a home as Rahab’s. He sent men to demand their release unto him. Rahab went further than the expected tradition and risked her life by protecting them for the king’s men.
Rahab admitted that the Israelite men had come to her but said that she did not know who they were or where they were from. This was of course a lie, as the Scripture records her lie. It is possible not knowing the Law of Moses she sinned unaware. If she had beforehand determined in her heart to be obedient to God’s Law God would have made a way for her to save the lives of the spies without telling a lie. The lie that Rehab told is not justifiable but it does show great courage on her part. Rahab was a pagan sinner living in a city wholly given over to the worship of false gods. She was an immoral prostitute who had no previous contact with the Word of God. Her sin may not have been a conscious sin. In spite of the argument Rahab was being used by God to protect His children.
Because of Rahab’s position in the Jericho society she would have been one that was privy to the talk of events around Jericho. Also she was a woman well aware of the history of events in the greater region. Therefore she knew of the Power of the Israelite God, Yahweh. And by the previous conquests of the Israelites she knew the weakness of the pagan gods of her people. With this opening up of her mind and heart to the truth of God she expresses her faith in God with these words to the spies, “I know that the LORD has given you the land.” This knowledge that God had revealed to her also shows that it was God’s plan to bring her and the spies together. This is the same way that God works with us to bring us into contact with likeminded believers or people who are open to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ.
With Rahab’s declaration that He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath is a proof of her faith. It may not have been a strong faith and certainly not perfect but it is commendable. (Hebrews 11:31 James 2:25) Some may argue that Rahab was a prostitute and a liar and therefore could not be saved. But the truth is that none of us are saved by our works but by our faith. Rahab knew who she was, Rahab knew who God was and she trusted God for the saving of her life.
Along with Rahab’s faith we should also notice that she had a heart of love. She had a strong desire out of her love to see her family saved as well and goes to great length to save them as well.
Like all, Rahab wanted assurance that her desires would be honored and asked for an oath. Rahab wanted to leave her sinful life behind and go with the people of God. She wanted this for her and she wanted this for her family as well.
The scarlet cord that the spies were let down with became the signal to the Israelite people that the inhabitants of that home were to be spared. No matter Rahab’s desire, her faith or the promises of the spies, Rahab’s salvation for her and her family came by the blood read cord cast down from her window. Without the scarlet cord Rahab would not have been saved. First century commentators, Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr and Origen saw the scarlet cord as a symbol of the blood of Jesus.
Rahab immediately placed her faith in the scarlet cord and bound it to her window. She also placed her faith in the promises of the Israelite spies. She spoke, “according to your words, so be it.”
Joshua would be Rahab’s savior, but for the rest of Jericho he would be the judge. To those who trust Jesus He is their savior but for those who reject Jesus He will be their judge. The destiny of Rahab was to marry a prince of Judah. As a result her name is found in the lineage of King David and that of Jesus Christ.
Considering the information that the spies brought back from Jericho it contained no information that had military value. Jericho was a strong and well-fortified city in the land of Canaan. If the Israelites took Jericho then the whole land would lay before them. As a military reconnaissance for the battle for Jericho the spies venture was not a profitable one.
Because fear had entered into the hearts of the Canaanites the report that the spies gave was positive, “Truly the LORD has delivered all the land into our hands, for indeed all the inhabitants of the country are fainthearted because of us.” The reconnaissance may not have been helpful but it did produce an encouraging faith in the spies and to the nation of Israel. A willing heart is a greater asset that a good battle plan.
The more important purpose was the accomplishment of saving Rehab. Here we see the extent that God will go to save one of His to be in His house in heaven. It may have seemed an impossible task to go into a pagan city and find one willing to accept the gift of God’s salvation, but then nothing is impossible with God. “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26