Joshua 2 (NRSV)
Rahab and the Spies
2Then Joshua son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went, and entered the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab, and spent the night there.
Why did they go to the harlot’s house? Though it was an awkward place, it must be admitted that it was a perfect place to hide out and remain anonymous, and this was necessary because the city was on strict guard.
1 Peter 4:8 —
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
The hooker with the heart of gold . . .
is a literary archetype: a woman who sells sex for cash but is internally a good person. Besides Rahab in the Bible, we have Aldonza in Man of LaMancha — Belle Watling in Gone with the Wind — Bianca in Othello — Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire — Nancy from Oliver Twist — Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke — Sofya Marmeladov from Crime and Punishment — Vivian in Pretty Woman — and many others. In the musical Les Miserables, Fantine is our golden-hearted girl. HERE is her song, “I Dreamed a Dream.”
2The king of Jericho was told, “Some Israelites have come here tonight to search out the land.” 3Then the king of Jericho sent orders to Rahab, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come only to search out the whole land.”
4But the woman took the two men and hid them. Then she said, “True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they came from. 5And when it was time to close the gate at dark, the men went out. Where the men went I do not know. Pursue them quickly, for you can overtake them.” 6She had, however, brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax that she had laid out on the roof.
7So the men pursued them on the way to the Jordan as far as the fords. As soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.
8Before they went to sleep, she came up to them on the roof 9and said to the men: “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that dread of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before you. 10For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites that were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11As soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no courage left in any of us because of you. The Lord your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below. 12Now then, since I have dealt kindly with you, swear to me by the Lord that you in turn will deal kindly with my family. Give me a sign of good faith 13that you will spare my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.”
14The men said to her, “Our life for yours! If you do not tell this business of ours, then we will deal kindly and faithfully with you when the Lord gives us the land.”
Quite a woman, this Rahab! God brings her the spies and she declares her faith in the “God in heaven above and on earth below.” And let’s not be too offended by her line of work, for we are all saved by grace and not by our works; we are all saved from sin. We see her wanting to leave her current life and join with the people of God.
15Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the outer side of the city wall and she resided within the wall itself. 16She said to them, “Go toward the hill country, so that the pursuers may not come upon you. Hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers have returned; then afterward you may go your way.”
17The men said to her, “We will be released from this oath that you have made us swear to you 18if we invade the land and you do not tie this crimson cord in the window through which you let us down, and you do not gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your family. 19If any of you go out of the doors of your house into the street, they shall be responsible for their own death, and we shall be innocent; but if a hand is laid upon any who are with you in the house, we shall bear the responsibility for their death. 20But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be released from this oath that you made us swear to you.”
21She said, “According to your words, so be it.” She sent them away and they departed. Then she tied the crimson cord in the window.
There was another purpose at work in sending the spies: to save Rahab. In this, we see the extent God goes to in bringing one woman and her father’s house to salvation — someone seemingly “impossible” to save. You may know some that seem “impossible” to save, but God’s hand is not short to save people like Rahab, and He can work in amazing ways to bring salvation.
Matthew 1:1-6 (New International Version)
A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David.
22They departed and went into the hill country and stayed there three days, until the pursuers returned. The pursuers had searched all along the way and found nothing. 23Then the two men came down again from the hill country. They crossed over, came to Joshua son of Nun, and told him all that had happened to them. 24They said to Joshua, “Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands; moreover all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before us.”
Quite a different report than the one the ten spies brought back to Moses at Kadesh-barnea! This has the true ring of faith, and may have reminded Joshua of his own words many years ago:
“The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Numbers 14:7-9).
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.