4.2 Joshua -- Rahab

This remarkable incident is the first "wrinkle" in God's decree of destruction upon Canaan.

         

Joshua sent two spies into the city of Jericho.  They stayed at the home of Rahab the prostitute.  One wonders if this was on official business.  "There is no place like a harlot's house for people coming and going.  There is no indication whatever that they went there for any immoral purpose."1  Still, they were inept spies, because the King of Jericho knew who they were (Josh 2:2-3).   However, Rahab hid them and saved their lives, and informed them of the low morale of her fellow citizens:
       
         "All who live in this country are melting in fear because of you" (Josh 2:9-11).

 

She asked the men that the lives of her family be spared.  They told her to tie a red cord in her window, and not to let any of her family go outside her house.  This corresponds to the Israelites putting the lamb's blood on the doorposts of their houses in Egypt (Ex 12:21-23).   And indeed, when the walls of Jericho fell, and the Israelites invaded, the whole city was burned, but Rahab and her family were spared (Josh 2:24-25).

        

Rahab is another of these interesting outsiders who keep intervening in critical places in the Biblical narrative:  Melchizadek, Hagar,  Asenath, Pharaoh's daughter, Jethro and Zipporah.  She was not a moral woman, obviously, and her motivation for helping the spies was enlightened self-interest.  Rahab is an affront to religious sensibilities: 

        "Rahab was a harlot in a heathen land.  Some people have been embarrassed by this and have tried to tone it down, but it is impossible to do so. That is really what she was.  It is the only thing  the Hebrew word in Joshua 2:1 can mean....We miss the whole point of the story...if we become embarrassed and soften it" (Schaeffer, pp. 73, 75). 

The NIV (and Josephus) try to sanitize her by giving the alternate translation "innkeeper" (footnote to Josh 2:1).   But the New Testament references to her are explicit: "Rahab the prostitute" (Heb 11:31James 2:25).

         

In the New Testament, Rahab is listed as an ancestor of David, and thus of Jesus Christ (Mat 1:5).  Note that this genealogy omits many generations between Rahab and David (almost the entire period of the Judges is missing).  If the Rahab of Joshua is the same person as the Rahab of Matthew, it means she married Salmon, an Israelite of the tribe of Judah.  Rahab also appears in the list of "heroes of the faith" (Heb 11:31) and is praised for her righteous deeds (James 2:25).