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Monday, August 11, 2014 | Comments (6)

by John MacArthur

After more than 500 years, God’s promise of a land for His people was about to be realized. A new generation would receive the promise rejected by their parents and longed for by multiple generations before them.

Israel’s arrival at the Jordan River (Joshua 1:2) brought them to the brink of their inheritance. But this inheritance would not be handed to them on a platter—they would have to fight for it. Across the river stood the towering city of Jericho.

Jericho was part of the Amorite kingdom, a grotesquely violent, totally depraved, thoroughly pagan culture. Amorites were so hell-bent on the pursuit of everything evil that God Himself had condemned them and ordered the Israelites to wipe them from the face of the earth (Deuteronomy 20:17). In fact, the Amorite culture had been completely and maliciously corrupt for so long (going back at least to the time of Abraham), that their evil lifestyle was the very reason God granted Abraham and his heirs the right to their land in the first place (Deuteronomy 18:12; 1 Kings 21:26).

The Lord promised Abraham that his descendants would take possession of the land as soon as the wickedness of the Amorites was complete (Genesis 15:16). That time had now come. The evil nation reached God’s maximum tolerance level and Israel was God’s instrument by which He would administer judgment.

Israel’s invasion may have been imminent, but their first foray into the Promised Land was a covert operation. Joshua sent spies on a reconnaissance mission with the central aim of assessing Jericho’s heavily fortified defenses. As the entry point into Canaan and the gateway to its interior, Jericho had to be Israel’s initial target.

The spies needed to discretely go about their business, probably making measurements of the wall and recording details about the battlements and the landscape. They also needed accommodation in the city close enough to the wall for detailed observation and a rapid getaway. Furthermore, they needed a host who was not inclined to ask nosy questions concerning their origins nor alert the Jericho authorities to some strangers in their midst.

God providentially solved that complex equation with the most unlikely solution—a prostitute named Rahab who lived in the wall surrounding the city. “So they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there” (Joshua 2:1). Thus Rahab is the very first person Scripture introduces us to in the Promised Land.

Here was an ideal situation for the spies. Both Rahab and her business were probably well-known in Jericho. She would have opened her door to them without any questions about who they were. In her business, strict confidentiality was essential. She probably welcomed them and invited them inside quickly, just as she did all her clients.

The Israelite spies did not seek Rahab out to take advantage of her for immoral purposes. Perhaps that very thing is what first won them her trust. In sharp contrast to all the other men she encountered, they were not there to use her or abuse her. Presumably, they treated her with dignity and respect while they made their careful reconnaissance. No doubt they explained who they were, which meant they would have almost certainly told her something about their God.

Somehow, it appears, the presence of the spies was known almost as soon as they entered Rahab’s house. Everyone in Jericho already knew that the entire Israelite nation was camped across the river, within walking distance. All of Jericho had heard about Israel’s miraculous escape from Pharaoh across the Red Sea and the drowning of the entire Egyptian army (Joshua 2:10). The story of Israel’s subsequent wandering in the wilderness was also well-known throughout the region. Rahab herself tells the spies that all the inhabitants of the land were fainthearted because of what they had heard about Israel and God’s dealings with them. In Rahab’s words, “When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you” (Joshua 2:11).

City officials had probably given strict orders to report anything suspicious to the king. The “king” functioned like a city mayor, but he had military control. Therefore, he was the one to be notified if intruders were spotted.

Perhaps someone from whom the spies had asked directions turned them in. Or maybe sentries near Rahab’s house spotted them and recognized them as Israelites from their clothing. In any case, their presence was quickly reported to Jericho’s king. The information he received included exact details about where the spies had gone, so the king sent messengers to search Rahab’s house.

It is here where Rahab utterly surprises the reader. Remember, she made her living by selling herself for evil purposes. There was probably a handsome reward to be gained if she had turned in the spies. But she didn’t. She hid them. She misdirected the officials and saved the lives of the two spies, even though this put her at considerable risk. Obviously, the king’s representatives knew the spies had been in her home.

They would probably be back to ask questions if they couldn’t find evidence that the men had left the city. She put her own life in jeopardy by protecting these strangers. It was a demonstration of her faith in the God of Israel over the Amorite authorities. Her sudden expression of faith was not only unexpected, it ran counter to every instinct that would normally motivate a woman like Rahab.

It was an unlikely confluence of forces for good. On the one hand, a lone pagan woman who profited from the debauchery of her culture. On the other hand, an entire nation of itinerant, lifelong refugees who had lived for the past forty years under the frown of God because of their parents’ disobedience.

Jericho’s defeat would be the first dramatic conquest in one of history’s greatest military campaigns. And Rahab’s newfound allegiance to the God of Israel was the first domino to fall.

Interestingly, Rahab’s actions in protecting the spies involved the telling of a lie. That raises some interesting theological questions that I will address in my next post.

(Adapted from Twelve Extraordinary Women)


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#1  Posted by Randy Johnson  |  Monday, August 11, 2014 at 8:37 PM

Interesting theological questions.., Yes, because Rahab appeared to be caught between telling a lie and (2 Chronicles 19:1-3).

#2  Posted by Thomas Coutouzis  |  Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 4:28 PM

I would say "no". God would look at any lie as a sin. Scripture tells us to not lie or bear false witness. If God is sovereign, then Rahab could have told authorities the truth and the same outcome for Jericho as well as those two men would happen. If you lie or tell the truth, they are too different paths but will lead to the same end (in this case, the fall of Jericho). Personally, I would never want to be put in that position. I pray that I would remember that God is in control and His will is going to be done so I must tell the truth out of love to Him.

#4  Posted by Randy Johnson  |  Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 7:11 PM

Are not spies deceivers? Are they not lying about who they really are? Why not just go straight to Jericho and announce what you plan to do instead of using spies in the first place? What about David feigning madness before King Achish and the Philistines (1 Sam 21:9-15)? Is that not deception? This is why I find this interesting. Does not God himself use a form of deception according to David (2 Sam 22:26-27)?

#5  Posted by Manuel Jr. Reyes  |  Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 11:15 PM

A temperament person, once received salvation, does not change overnight; he remains temperament the day after. Yet he gets sanctification works from the Holy Spirit to remove such evil.

#6  Posted by Marius Pieterse  |  Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 11:56 PM

I agree with the previous statement that lying is a sin in all circumstances. This woman lied because it was in her nature to do so. This was her way of dealing with the situation.

Had God used someone else, that person would have dealt with the situation in a manner consistent with his/her frame of reference.

God did not instruct her to lie. As we all have freedom to choose our actions, so she chose this method. She could very easily have achieved the same results with honest methods. But honesty did not come naturally to her.

I think she is getting too much credited for her support, as she has no moral compass by nature; and by profession sells her body (and by extension her soul) to anyone with money. Such a person would be a prime candidate for their (the spies') purposes, specially when adding the promise of protection once the city has fallen. She had a lot more to gain than to lose.

Lets therefore not paint too rosy a picture of this prostitute and the part she played, since she has received her reward immediately. I hope she was subsequently moved to repent of her ways, because sin is sin and the reward is death. Praise God for His mighty works, not a prostitute for her small role.

Strange though, how often I have heard pastors pick the persona of the prostitute for their sermons and put these women on a pedestal. The way these women of zero moral values are portrayed are always starkly in contrast to what the real message is: that God can use ANY person regardless of how bad (and women who sell their bodies - with all the spiritual consequences thereof - are some of the worst out there) we are. It is a message of His sovereignty, not of the prostitute's importance in Biblical history. Of course, this is just my opinion. No offence intended.

Blessings everyone!

#7  Posted by Kenneth James  |  Thursday, August 14, 2014 at 8:19 AM

It is not right to kill, yet it is permitted if done in defense of country, self or to protect the innocent. My question would be is there a time when one law or principle offsets another? That is scary ground to walk on because one can rationalize things in his mind. Guess that is why eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil never works out.