Sunday, December 11, 2016


Josh 2:1–21

Rahab on Jericho’s Walls

The Lord’s call of Abraham made clear from the beginning that his job description for the people of God would be “bless the nations” (Gen 12:1–3). Here we find not only a foreign woman, but even a prostitute coming under that blessing (Josh 2:1). Some commentators suggest that the Hebrew term zonah doesn’t necessarily mean “prostitute” but could mean something like an “innkeeper,” because Joshua’s two spies headed to her establishment to spend the night. But it’s actually pretty clear that the Hebrew term refers to a woman committing fornication, whether sneaking around occasionally or openly doing it professionally.

Like King Balak in Moab, Rahab in Jericho had noticed how strong the Lord was making his people Israel (2:9­–11). But rather than attempting to curse Israel like Balak had, she decided to throw in her lot with them. When Joshua’s two spies came to Jerusalem, she put them up for the night (2:1). A town’s grapevine quickly cottoned on to a couple spies from the desert who had dropped in to see the town prostitute. So the king sent for them (2:2–3). But Rahab hid the spies among her stuff on the roof, sent the king’s men went off on a wild goose chase, and went up on the rooftop to strike a deal with the spies (2:4–8). When Jericho falls, protect me and my extended family (2:12–13). The spies swore by their own lives, “We will be kind to you when the Lord gives us the land” (2:14). So she sent them on their way with advice how to evade capture (2:15–16).

The men told her to gather her family inside her house and to mark it with the “scarlet rope” that she used to drop them down the outside of the city walls (2:15, 18). Occasionally we hear fanciful interpretations telling us the red of the “scarlet rope” signifies, or typifies, the red blood of Christ. Just because the rope was red doesn’t mean we have a type of Jesus’ blood. Actually, this signal has more in common with the mark of protection God gave Cain (Gen 4:15), the bloodied door posts that marked out the houses to be protected from the death angel when it passed over Egypt (Exod 12), the pen mark on the forehead of the righteous in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezek 9), and the mark on the 144,000 in Revelation (Rev 7:4; 14:1, 3). And all of these are physical symbols of the reality that God provides in the seal of the Spirit (2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:30). This red cord was to serve as a signal to all of Israel’s soldiers that this was a house that the Lord wanted to protect.

This shows us that God will be gracious to anyone who turns to him, whether in fear of judgment as was the case in Rahab’s case, or in loyalty as would later be the case with Ruth. God will be faithful to his covenant promise to Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you” (Gen 12:3a). Of course, the opposite is true: “I will curse those who treat you with contempt” (Gen 12:3b).

As the New Testament puts it, “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9). It doesn’t matter what you lifestyle or nationality; if you turn to God he will turn his smiling face to you.

Rahab in Jesus’ Genealogy?

It’s interesting to speculate that Boaz’s prostitute mother and his Moabitess wife both joined the faithful assembly of those who were longing for the coming of Messiah (Matt 1:5). Some traditions identify the Rahab who was Boaz’s mother (Matt 1:5) with the Rahab from Jericho (Josh 2). Impossible to know if they were the same lady—but an interesting idea. In either case, it’s an amazing thing to see the “Gospel” outreach even in the earliest time of the Old Testament people of God.

Questions, Reflections, and Commitments

  • Where “on Jericho’s wall” are you sitting this Christmas season?
  • Are you like one of the two spies, already numbered among those who are going about God’s business in this world and looking for spiritual victories?
  • Are you like Rahab’s neighbors along the wall or in the streets below, going about your own business with no regard for what God is about to do in overthrowing this world in his final judgment?
  • Are you like the king and his messengers, patrolling the walls in opposition to God and his people?

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