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Rahab's Faith

INTRODUCTION: The story of Rahab of Jericho became prominent in my thoughts as I came across it in my schedule of reading through the Bible this year, and making some notes for each book. I further developed the outline of the record from scripture regarding this inhabitant of Canaan, as I also continued my scheduled reading through Joshua and beyond. I expanded my research to include some other scripture references regarding Rahab's story. I began with a word search for verses containing Rahab (and Rachab), and this list of verses in itself, provided a brief outline of this important Bible character.

NOTE: Bible text is taken from the 1769 KJV.

A - Old Testament passages related to Rahab

Joshua 2:1 And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot's house, named Rahab, and lodged there.

Joshua 2:3 And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country.

Joshua 6:17 And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.

Joshua 6:23 And the young men that were spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; and they brought out all her kindred, and left them without the camp of Israel.

Joshua 6:25 And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father's household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.

B - New Testament passages related to Rahab

Matthew 1:5 And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;

Hebrews 11:31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.

James 2:25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?

COMMENTS: Faith in action stirred the mercy of the LORD for one who was among a people condemned to die, and this mercy extended to certain close kindred of hers, because they also acted by faith on her warning to them. The house on the wall became to Rahab's family like the ark that saved eight alive, from the destruction of all unbelievers by the LORD's floodwaters. And when the destruction of Jericho swept over the city as the warriors of Israel crossed the fallen walls, Rahab's house remained intact on an unfallen section of that city wall, above the destruction. The scarlet cord, much like the blood on the lintel and doorpost for Passover, was seen by the LORD, and by the warriors of Israel to keep death away. Rahab had advised the spies to hide for three days before they began their journey back to their own camp, but she hung that cord from her window from the very day the two spies left, as a symbol of her faith that they would return, see the sign, and keep their promise of safety. As a further stamp of God's approval on her faith in action, Rahab is carried in scripture from the Old Testament to the New Testament: listed in the line of Christ in Matthew, and displayed as an example of faith in both Hebrews and James.

C - Christ, our Lamb of God

He spread his own blood on the cross that is the doorpost of the world, for all who will come under his blood by faith, into the safe vessel as sealed by the Spirit, for salvation from the second death. All mankind is already condemned because of our sin nature from one man's sin (Adam), and all who believe can be saved out of that sin because of one man's righteousness, Christ Jesus, the God-man. Just as the inhabitants of Jericho either didn't see the cord from Rahab's window, or attached no significance to it if they did see; the world does not see or acknowledge the protection of our faith.

When we accept his finished work in our behalf, we have the same assurance as Rahab so that we are prepared for whenever he will return in victory. And if we share with others of family or acquaintance, and they also believe, then the company of those who are saved grows in number.

D - Overview of Rahab's Faith, from the account in Joshua

Rahab hid the two men on her roof, then made a false report to the King, that they had already left. Before the men lay down to sleep, Rahab came up to them on the roof and she said:
- The LORD has given you the land.
- Your terror has fallen on us.
- All the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.

For we have heard:
- How the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea when you came out of Egypt.
- What you did to Sihon and Og, how you utterly destroyed them.
- Upon hearing these things our hearts melted and the courage of every man left him, because of you.

For the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. Therefore because I showed you kindness, swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my father's house, and give me a true token:
- That ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have.

And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business. When the LORD has given us the land, we will deal kindly with you. Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was upon the town wall, and she advised them to hide in the mountain 3 days, then return to their camp.

The men said the oath she made them swear is void if she fails to comply with conditions:
- Bind the scarlet line in the window when they come into the land.
- Bring all relatives into her house for guaranteed safety (from the attack by Israel).
- Do not utter the plan.

Rahab accepts the terms, and immediately binds the scarlet line in the window. Now a number of days had to pass after the spies left Jericho, because they hid for three days, made their journey back to the camp on the east side of Jordan, crossed with the whole company of Israel back to the west side of Jordan, and then stayed in the camp several days after the mass circumcision. When the army of Israel arrived at Jericho, seven more days preceded the actual taking of the city. As these many days passed the scarlet line hung from Rahab's window, and Rahab and her family made whatever preparations necessary to be able to be in the house at the time of the attack.

E - Joshua 6:20-22

20 So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. 21 And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword. 22 But Joshua had said unto the two men that had spied out the country, Go into the harlot's house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as ye sware unto her.

COMMENTS: And as the earlier verses revealed, Rahab and her kindred were placed outside the camp of Israel, but the writer also tells us that she remains with Israel to this day (the writing of the book.). Matthew then tells us in his genealogy that she actually became a wife in Israel, and a mother in the line of Christ.

F - Was Rahab Really a harlot?

Because of the details about Rahab's risks taken for the two spies, her comments about their God, and her concern for her family, who seemed to still hold her in regard enough to be available and listen to her; I needed to further convince myself that she fit the description of the term harlot. I determined to make scripture my foundation to do this, because it is an absolutely reliable source if we can accurately interpret what we read, through the guidance of the Spirit of the LORD.

I started with Flax, because it impressed me that she would have this stock on her roof. Surprisingly to me, the word flax appears in only ten verses in the KJV, and below I list only a few of those.

Joshua 2:6 But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof.

Proverbs 31:13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

Isaiah 42:3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.

Hosea 2:5 For their mother hath played the harlot: she that conceived them hath done shamefully: for she said, I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink.

Rahab had enough flax on her roof to hide two men, but we are not told whether she used it to make things for sale, or simply sold it as a raw product to others. Proverbs tells us that honorable women could be industrious with flax, and the Isaiah passage tells us flax could be used as wick material, as well as a textile. (The fact that this Isaiah passage is quoted in the New Testament referring to the Christ is interesting, but not crucial to the basic discussion of flax as a commodity.) In Hosea, we find that flax could easily be part of the hire for a prostitute in an agricultural economy.

The Hebrew term used in reference to Rahab (Strong's 02181) is translated in the KJV as either harlot or whore, and it means the same thing as those terms mean to us today. So, as unsavory as it may seem, Rahab was likely exactly what the term harlot implies, and she apparently was very successful at her work, which was seemingly acceptable to her family in her society. How then can critics of the God of the Old Testament not see his abundant mercy through this moving story? Faith, not works, is the key to salvation by the grace of God, and our LORD and Savior is unchanging throughout all his record in the Old and the New Testament. His salvation is sufficient to save any sinner, regardless of how others may choose to measure the level of their sin.

--- Reflections in prayer ---

LORD, guide my thoughts as I reflect on the story of the two spies and Rahab. There are things to consider about the actions of the men in their choice to stop at a harlot's house to begin the contact, which brought this story to the record of scripture. May I be very cautious in my conduct about where I go, and whose company I seek. But do not allow me LORD to reject any person that you have accepted, because my sin is no less significant against a holy God than that of any other. May I be like Rahab also, in that she became a part of God's people after she left the company of unbelievers. When the message and the opportunity came to her she acted. Strengthen me LORD, to continue in my faith since salvation has come to me. You are a great God of grace and mercy, forgiving sin and providing the payment to satisfy your holiness! May my life praise you as long as I have breath, and may my contacts expand your kingdom for your honor and glory. Amen and amen.

Published 1 June 2004, first issued 29 April 2001