The Faithfulness of Rahab: Joshua 2

The Faithfulness of Rahab


Bible verses

Joshua 2

Hebrews 11:31

James 2:25


The time is of most significant. The people of Israel were going back to their promised land. Joshua was a faithful servant of God, who, under the command of Moses, had spied out the land of Canaan just over 40 years previously. But due to the unfaithfulness of the children of Israel they rebelled against God (Deuteronomy 1:26) who caused them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until all those that rebelled had died.

Joshua begins the process of entering and taking the land by sending in two spies who end up in the home of Rahab. This woman, who is called a prostitute in the Old Testament, but could be translated inn-keeper, but is clearly labelled a prostitute in the New Testament, saves the spies, and ultimately herself and family.

This remarkable story, told in the first six chapters of Joshua, shows a faithful servant of God, Joshua, contrasted with the faithful, unsaved, ungodly, gentile who is saved due to her faith. Indeed, righteousness in imputed to her because of her faith - "she received the spies with peace" (Hebrews 11:31, and also James 2:25). Her works in faith earned her a place in Scripture.

It is worthy to note she was saved by faith not because she was freed from sin.

Some get rather hung up about this story in terms of the men being in the place of prostitution (most likely an inn since the Hebrew can indicate Rahab was an innkeeper, but more likely a keeper of a house of ill-repute, or at lest an inn where prostitution was the norm, and a good place in any village to gather intelligence), the lie that Rahab told (2:4,5) noting that Rahab is condemned as a prostitute (harlot) not a liar - lying is wrong but noting that God uses sinners to further his own desires - one only needs to see his use of Nebuchadnezzar to discipline Israel, and David's taking of the show bread is deemed blameless by Jesus (Mat 12:3-6). However, twice elsewhere in the Bible her faithfulness is upheld as an example. It shows that sinners can be useful vessels for God, if they are faithful. We too are sinners, saved by the grace of God and can be useful vessels if we faithfully allow ourselves to be.

Rahab marries Salmon and has Boaz. Boaz marries Ruth, a Moabites and has Obed, who has Jesse, who is the father of David. This means that Rahab is in the genealogy of Jesus Christ.

Jericho - Bet Yerah = House of the Moon God: compare the symbolism used in Islam

Located just north of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Rahab = "proud", the poetic name given to Egypt eg Psalm 87:4.


The Narrative

Two Spies

Chapter 2 of Joshua delivers the story as told from an onlooker. Joshua sends out two spies (2) who visit the land and are especially commended to spy out Jericho. The reason is never revealed but was what Joshua had to do those many years before. Indeed it appears the spies achieved no spying at all being found out very early on.

Counterintelligence measures immediately alerts the officials of the city of Jericho who promptly puts in place a search for them (3). The city clearly must have been on high alert and they soon locate the place the men were staying. The alertness of the city is found in the words of Rahab: after explaining she knew the things Yahweh had done for Israel, she states:

And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. (2:11)

The world may totally disbelieve God, his existence or his works, but come the day when God delivers his wrath on those who hate him, there will be fear. It is interesting to see the use of prayer during this drought. Whether the drought is a chastisement of God or not, for drought certainly was used in this way in the Old Testament (Australia 2006/7), the world apparently, in some quarters at least, sees it as an act of God. The response of the godless in Jericho is also no less remarkable - due to fear they have shut the city (6:1) and put in place counterintelligence processes in an attempt to thwart Israel.

The Culture of Jericho

Rahab was an ordinary person - however a harlot - but no different from those round about us today - a world ripe for judgement, as Jericho was (compare Genesis 15:16 with Romans 11:25, Luke 21:24). We tend to think we live in a "Christian" society today, more sophisticated and advanced, yet in all ways no better, and probably worse than Jericho. The culture of Jericho was seeped in the traditions of the goddess of sensual love - Ashtoreth, to which the most licentious rites were performed in her honour. Jericho was the house of the moon god, occupied by an idolatrous people, devoid of faith in God, yet not devoid of the knowledge of God. Is this not unlike today?

I suggest that few in this country have not heard about God and what he has done, that is, the might story of Jesus and his death for our sin. The response of the Jerichoites was to shut themselves up and not repent nor submit to God. Ashtoreth was associated with the name Baal which time and time again led the children of Israel into idolatry. The god was associated with fertility, sexuality and war and was accepted in Greek culture as Aphrodite. Today we are seeped in the same traditions of sensual love portrayed most notably in the advertising that bombards us everywhere and the sexual depravity found in movies, books and the internet beamed by the undiscerning person into to their lounge rooms and bedrooms.


Rahab's occupation was endorsed by society in the same way prostitutes are endorsed today[1]. Today the world is more sophisticated and it does not perform to a so called god, as Rahab may have, noting that covetousness is idolatry, hence the imagery of Ashtoreth fits exactly the sexualisation of all advertising today.

The narrative clearly shows the providence of God. The spies happen upon a woman, though a sinner, fears God more then she fears the officials of the city. Rahab lived in the safest place of the city. Jericho had two walls, one about two metres thick and the other four metres. The gap between was about 4-5 metres, over which houses were placed. Thus Rahab was situated securely high on the massive walls of Jericho on its seemingly sure foundation. Despite the sinful nature the city imagined they were secure. Even the most religious can live in a false sense of security with walls built of pious activity, donations to worthy causes, help in the time of need, and even baptism and the attendance of worship, else they embattle themselves with the belief there is no God.

Not all were sinners like Rahab. Even non-Christians can question the morality of prostitution, yet the entire city was condemned. To God sin is sin and all sinners are lost - the severity of the sin makes not difference, as the wages of sin is death.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, Romans 1:18

Judgement is inevitable. As in time of these Canaanites so is the time today for this world. We currently live in the "time of the Gentiles". Jerusalem we are told will be tramped under foot until the time of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:24). When will this happen? The Letter to the Romans indicates that this is when the "full number of the Gentiles have come in", meaning when the ordained number of believers have been reached God will implement his plan to judge the world as clearly out laid in Scripture. Hence, praying for Christ to return is rather superfluous - we need to pray for opportunities for preach to the unsaved, so those that hear the gospel might be saved (Romans 11:14,15) - only when the last person to be saved is saved, the church will be raptured.

The Spies

Rahab clearly understood the meaning of the spies. It would have been impossible to miss the millions of Israelites encamped on the east side of the Jordan (called the river of death) without knowing their intent. God had given the land to the children of Israel and the people of Canaan knew it. Further, they all quaked in their knees from the stories that had been told - versus 8-11. In particular they were more than impressed with the exodus from Egypt and the way God had dealt with the kings of the Amorites, hence fulfilling the prophecy of God, that these events would speak to the nations. What is interesting is that Rahab rightly ascribes the success of these two events to the LORD God - ie Jehovah God, the God of Salvation.

Rahab hides the spies

She strangely, instead of immediately turning these men over to the officials, hides them[2]. To my mind she was clearly an intelligent and industrious person. The flax, drying on the roof of her pointed to her industrious nature. The question remains - why did she hide the spies, which was an act of treason against her own people, but an act of faith towards God?

Her action shows her conviction in the impending death of the city. She was convicted she was totally and utterly lost. Unlike the rest of the city she understood the significance of God's plan. For a person to be saved they need to be first convicted of their sin. The Holy Spirit was sent for this purpose:

Nevertheless I [Jesus] tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: John 16:5-8

One's conviction needs to be deep and real. If not, the word merely sprouts up but is quickly choked by the worldly cares. Rahab was more than just idly convicted she was lost. Part of preaching the word is to convince:

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:2

The conversion of Rahab

Conversion means a complete turning away and movement in the opposite direction. Turning around alone is no good. Once turned, you need to move off. Rahab was convinced that all was lost - Jericho was to be destroyed. But up to this point she had no idea how to move forward.

God sent two spies. This not some arbitrary number. We see two witnesses (note the spies referred to in Joshua are called messengers in James) in Revelation that come to convince the world. Two is the number of a witness - one requires two to ensure collaboration of evidence. This is Levitical - see Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15, etc.

Humans have two witnesses - conscience and memory. The conscience can rebuke us while memory reminds us. The conscience is required to listen to the Holy Spirit - failure to do will be to our determent.

Four reasons she was converted:

1.       She could not save herself within the city. Her position on the wall was not going to stand against these hordes of people.

2.       She could not approach the people of God. Jericho - which represents Satan - has nothing to do with Godly people. The city was shut up - no one could get in and no one could get out. The world hates fraternising with the people of God - hence we see the plethora of books being published in the past few years that attempt to dissuade any one "fraternising" with the people of God.

3.       She was actively dis-encouraged by those that ruled over her to seek salvation. Our rulers make it as difficult as they can to prevent salvation. The removal of scripture from schools, the introduction of the study of comparative religions, the removal of the Bible as a text all are direct strategies by the world to prevent salvation. Ridicule is also a weapon used and very effective it is to.

4.       She could see the spies, which clearly were messengers in her presence, were an avenue for salvation - it had to come from the outside, and indeed from those she considered her enemies. No amount of endeavour on our part can save ourselves. Our salvation must come from God - there is no other way. Rahab had the two spies.

The exercise of Faith

Rahab would have had plenty of experience in dealing with men. Her occupation brought her into contact with the entire strata of society - yet at this point there is no doubt her heart would have been pumping hard and her head pounding as she quickly identified this opportunity as a means to salvation. She had to weigh up - trust the city officials or trust these men from the nation God had blessed?

She exercises her faith.

She places her life and that of her family into the hand of two strangers - enemies of her people - and saves their lives in return for a promise to save hers. The only token which was to affect her salvation along with any other in the house was a scarlet cord.

Note that she is not only concerned for herself, but to her family as well - 2:12&13. Are you concerned about your family?

The deliverance she wants is the delivery from death. So is it for us, as it was for the people at the time of Noah and the people at the time of the Passover. The wages of sin is death - which is a casting in to outer darkness and eventually into the lake of fire, where everlasting punishment will occur.

She saves the men by letting them down the wall. An interesting learning exercise can be had here - the location of the window of Rahab's fathers house was no coincidence, and nor is our salvation. One needs to understand predestination versus freewill to fully comprehend this.

The scarlet cord

The only safe house in Jericho becomes Rahab's house, if and only if a scarlet cord is placed in the window. In some ways this is equivalent to the "city of refuge" - which needs to be left for another day[3].

The blood of an animal painted on the door posts of the houses in Egypt was all that separated the occupiers from death. It is interesting to note that like here in Joshua, the Passover in Egypt, and when Noah built the ark the means to salvation was free to all. In each case, all in the house were saved. Furthermore, God did not check the contents - 8 souls in the Ark, a household, which must have included Egyptians in some cases during Passover, and anyone in the house with the scarlet cord during the fall of Jericho, were saved.

For us, anyone in Christ is saved. Salvation is not affected by God who first checks out our life. Like in Jericho - the men save those in the house with the scarlet cord. Like in Egypt the angel "passed over" those with blood on the door posts, and with us, God see the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

The action of Rahab was enough to cover everyone in the house. One ponders the frantic activity of Rahab over the next few days, then the six days as the entire city watched with awe as the entire army of Israel, silently marched around the city. She would have been seen talking, arguing, and cajoling members of her family and friends to be in the house. A newly saved person cannot keep quiet. It could have cost her life, but she did not give up. No-one knows how many did not enter the house and was lost - perhaps a brother or niece or aunt. What we do know that she was saved along with her father's house:

But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho-and she lives among the Israelites to this day. Joshua 6:25

The assurance of salvation is ours - we will be saved. Those that dwell in the house of the Lord will be saved. Hence, the fine scarlet cord is a more acceptable offering than any - more efficacious than all the bulls of Israel or the offering of Cain (who attempted to use his own merit). It ends at Calvary, where the "new covenant in my blood" was shed.

Our redemption is with the "precious blood of Christ", the "blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin".

It is only by the blood of Jesus do we have the boldness to enter into the holiest of holies - death would have resulted before this blood was sprinkled: God sees us through his son's shed blood.

Faith does what God demands

We can sum this up by saying faith does what God demands. Our faith needs to be in the Lord Jesus Christ. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Noah was commanded to build an ark, Rahab was commanded to hang a cord in the window - both were saved.

Salvation: The matter is simple.

With no scarlet cord, Rahab was lost. With it she was saved, irrespective of her "occupation".

With no blood on the door posts no one in the house was saved however good they were.

Without faith we are lost.

Salvation is provided by God himself. Rahab could not save herself. The wall did not destroy her family or herself because God did not allow it to. Joshua ordered the family to be extricated - Rahab would have been killed if she stepped into the street and attempted to run through the gaping wall that had just fallen down.

Dwelling in Israel

The consequence of Rahab's action was she no longer dwelt in Jericho. Further, her god could no longer be her god - she accepted Yahweh as her God - the God of Salvation not the god of fertility.

This is the consequence of salvation. We cannot serve two masters - at conversion we must leave the world's things entirely (not Rahab still dwelt in Canaan). She forsook her friends, her god and her way of life and began anew. Being born again means starting afresh - with the Holy Spirit as the centre of our life.

Some words on Joshua

The taking of Jericho was to be accomplished by a means that not only was innovative but was clearly led by a remarkable strategist. Who would have thought that marching around the city every day for six days, than seven times on the seven day could bring down the walls? Furthermore, one can ponder the insertion of Levites at the head of the army (Levites were forbidden to fight) and the taking of Jericho on the seventh day - the Sabbath was holy and not for war!

Faith without works is dead. But works without God is useless.

Who was in command?

In Chapter 5 the commanding officer speaks to Joshua. This gives us an insight into the person who Joshua was - God speaks to those who listen (Job 42:4), and Joshua was one of those. His faithfulness had extended for more than 40 years, having glimpsed the Promised Land over 40 years previously, and as he trod the wilderness for the intervening time, wondering, no doubt whether he would live long enough to see it again. Now he was ready to take the Land that God had promised.

Faithfulness demands a listening ear.

Joshua 5:13-15. Here the man speaking to Joshua is God himself (see verse 2 of chapter 6 - Jehovah = Salvation) as the Son, who comes to take command of his army[4]. Here we see that Joshua is second in command, a position of subservience. Jesus came as a servant for us "Jesus has become a servant Hebrews 15:8" and was obedient to his Father. Obedience requires listening first. This means turning off other noise - we live in a world of noise, which can act as a large barrier, or at least an impediment to our hearing anything.

Faithfulness demands that God is in control

The real commander, the real head of this congregation, the real head of any family must be God himself. Who is in control of our life? We tend to use one of three arrangements:

1. The absent God method

Do we make plans as best as we are able then carry them out as best as we are able, in the absence of God - the God absence method?

Amazingly often this works - God allows us to follow this path for a while, but then eventually we fall. This method usually leads to pride - "look what I have done", which requires a nudge by God to discipline or chastise us. If a nudge does not work, an out right fall may be required: and many a man will testify that is what was required to wake them up to the realisation that pride is totally self destructive.

2. Reliance on the benevolence of God

Do we make plans the best we are able then approach God to give us prosperity in the execution of those plans? This sometimes works, but usually does not. This is also the "letter box" prayer method where are thoughts are only on what we, that is I, can do. The Old Testament is littered with failures due to reliance on developing the plans in the absence of divined guidance. Eventually the method fails.

3. God in command method

Do we approach God first and determine his plan, which we carry out in His strength? This is what Joshua did, as did David and Daniel. The mighty warriors of God succeeded where others failed because they relied on God to their utmost.

The book of Joshua contrasts the first and third method and examines the second all in a space of seven chapters. After the resounding victory over Jericho, the Israelites attempt to take Ai and failed dismally, because they attempt to take control. The question is who is in control of your life? We need to totally surrender to God, which is a real test of our faith. And this is what Rahab did. She had no choice.


[1] In this State prostitution is only illegal if a person solicits his or her service from a public place.

[2] Entry to a house required the woman's permission, hence it is Rahab rather than any male that takes the lead role in this story.

[3] Unintentional killing was dealt with by the person fleeing to a "city of refuge". The death could not be revenged while the person lived in such a city, and in any case, once the high priest died, could never be revenged - hence a comparison with the death of our high priest, Christ Jesus, and the sin of Israel etc (Ex 21:13 Nu 35:6 De 4:42 19:3 Jos 20:2,9 1Ch 6:67).

[4] Note: this is not an Angel, as Joshua worshiped Him, which is impossible to do to an Angel - See John's experience when he tried in Patmos (Revelation).

Faithfulness\the faithfulness of Rahab (June 2007).doc
David L Simon, June 2007 (GB)

Posted 24 June 2007