Joshua 2:1(NKJV) 1Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from £Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there.
This week we have been studying the connection between walking in favor and faith. Favor is something God does for us. He moves upon people who can help us in areas where we cannot help ourselves. Nevertheless, this does not eliminate our need to walk in faith. In addition to faith, we must walk in patience, which is the ability to be consistent in faith and a good attitude while we wait for those upon whom God is moving to respond.
Yesterday we began looking at the story of the taking of Jericho by the Israelites. We saw that there were two characters representing two aspects of faith in this story. Joshua represents aggressive faith. He received the Word of God, believed the Word, acted on it and in seven days, the walls of Jericho fell. This kind of faith does not depend on favor because God is moving directly for Joshua and the Israelites. There are times when this type of faith is all we need.
Rahab represents a type of faith I call “waiting faith.” She received favor with the Israelite spies and obtained a promise from them. She accepted this promise as coming from the God of Israel and believed it. The spies gave her some instructions and then left. It was weeks before anything happened. Rahab had no control over the situation. All she could do was apply the conditions to the best of her abilities and wait for the favor of the spies to produce. That is the kind of faith we usually find ourselves operating in.
Let us look at Rahab for a few minutes. Who was this woman? The bible calls her a “harlot.” This is not a word we use much today, but most of us know what it means. We would use the word prostitute. However, was she really what that word implies? The Hebrew word used does mean someone who prostitutes themselves. It is used of Israel when they follow other gods. The word can also mean fornication. There is no question that Rahab could be just what we would think of when we use the word “prostitute.”
Adam Clarkes Commentary on the Old Testament gives another perspective. “Harlots and inn-keepers seem to have been called by the same name, as no doubt many who followed this mode of life, from their exposed situation, were not the most correct in their morals. Among the ancients women generally kept houses of entertainment, and among the Egyptians and Greeks this was common.”
The thought that Rahab was an innkeeper, and not strictly a prostitute, makes far more sense to me. These two spies were hiding in enemy territory. Surely, they were not seeking “company for the evening.” They were seeking a place to spend the night and found that Rahab had rooms to rent.
Another commentary disagreed with the idea that Rahab was not just a harlot because he felt that the point of her story was the wonderful redemptive power of God. He likened her to the woman in the New Testament caught in the act of adultery. I would agree that this woman received forgiveness and redemption. It may well be that some of her guests did more than stay in her inn. However, I like another picture of who this woman was.
I believe Rahab was just a normal person in a difficult situation. She was a woman who had no husband. We do not know why. She owned an inn, which put her reputation in question. She had flax piled on her roof. Could it be that she also had a business weaving cloth and making rope? That is what the flax was used for. I believe Rahab was like many of us. She was doing the best she could in her situation.
Into her inn come two men who are not from that city. This would not be unusual since her inn is one of the places travelers to Jericho would stay. She notices something different about these two men. Everyone in Jericho is aware that Israel is on the other side of the Jordan River. They all know that Israel claims Canaan as their own land. Jericho is the gateway to Canaan.
Everyone in Jericho has also heard of the plagues that came upon Egypt, the most powerful nation in the world. They know about the parting of the Red Sea, the miraculous provision of Manna and Israel’s defeat of the kings just east of Jericho across the Jordan. They know that Israel must attack Jericho and when Rahab sees these men, she knows they must be spies.
The King also knows about the spies. We do not know why the king immediately comes to Rahab to ask about them. It may be that Rahab’s inn is well known as a place travelers stay. It may be that someone saw them enter Rahab’s house. Either way, the king tells Rahab to send them out so he can capture them. Rahab has a choice to make.
Think of her position. She has the reputation of a prostitute in her city. She is a simple woman who is trying to run a business. If she gives these men to the king, it cannot hurt her situation. It may well help her considerably. It certainly would have garnered favor with the rulers of the city.
On the other hand, she knows that Israel is coming. She knows that they could not do what they have done without divine help. If she chooses to hide the spies, she is a traitor to her city. Nevertheless, when Israel attacks she may have gained favor with them. This could save her life. If she makes the wrong choice, she dies either way.
She decides to side with the God of Israel and his people. She hides the spies on her roof among the flax. She lies to the king saying, “They were here but they left. If you hurry you might still catch them.” She then goes to the spies and asks them for favor.
Joshua 2:12-13(NKJV) 12Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, 13and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”
I want to point out something in what she said. She showed them kindness. Another word for this kind of kindness is favor. The bible says we will reap what we have sown. I believe if we want favor, then we must be willing to show favor. The spies agree to her request with some qualifications.
If she wants her and her family to be saved, when Israel attacks, they must all be in her home. In addition, there must be a red cord left hanging from her window. If these conditions go unmet, her blood and that of her family will be on her hands. If they are met and anyone of her family is harmed, Israel will be accountable.
Rahab agrees to the conditions set by the two spies. She helps them escape the city and gives them instructions on how best to get away undetected. Soon the spies are gone and Rahab is left with a promise of favor.
Now she must wait.