Joshua 2:1-21

Again, we shall be looking in this study at a woman who, for reasons not stated in the Bible, had been reduced to selling her body for sex. This was often the case where a woman's husband had died and she had no other relatives to support her. However, unlike Delilah in our previous study, Rahab had heard about the God of the Israelites and believed that He was the one, true God. As a result, her story turned out very differently.

The Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, was born in Jerusalem in AD 37/38, the son of an aristocratic, priestly family. He wrote a number of books about Jewish history and makes mention of Rahab because she played an important part in Jewish history, Josephus described her as an inn-keeper and this may have been the case since many inns offered prostitution as an additional service for passing travellers. In those days, inns also had a reputation as a good place for exchanging news and gossip and would have made an ideal choice for spies to learn about what was going on in the local area.

Rahab had a house that was built right into the city wall, an ideal location for attracting passing travellers. It was also the perfect place to hear news and stories from all over the known world. Almost certainly, that was how she had come to hear about the Israelites and their incredible escape from Egypt. She would have learned how God had dried up the Red Sea to lead the people out of Egypt and then restored it again to wipe out Pharoah's pursuing army. (Joshua 2:10; Exodus 14:1-31) She had also clearly heard about how God had destroyed Sihon and Og - the kings of the Amorites - when they had refused to allow the Israelites to travel through their land. (Joshua 2:10; Numbers 21:21-31) Instead of being full of fear because of these amazing stories, Rahab was thrilled to hear about a God who was real and cared enough about His people to deliver them when they were in trouble. (Psalm 66:5-7; Psalm 56:3-4) She had learned that Jehovah was an all-powerful, miracle-working God who cares for individuals and can save them from certain death. (Psalm 65:5-8; Psalm 91:14-16)

This goes a long way to explain why Rahab had welcomed the Israelite spies to her house (or inn) and then gone to such lengths to protect them. Truly, God had gone before them and prepared the way. The house provided excellent cover, enabling them to hear the local gossip and sound out the situation within the city. They discovered that the men of Jericho were already very fearful of Israel. The timing was perfect, too, since it was harvest-time for the flax and this was all stacked up on the roof to dry out. The king of Jericho’s intelligence service inevitably heard that suspicious characters had been seen at Rahab's establishment but, when soldiers appeared to check it out, Rahab had already taken the precaution of hiding them on the roof under the flax and she sent the king's men off on a "wild goose chase". She then helped the spies escape by lowering them from the window of her house with a rope and telling them to hide in the hills for three days until the hue and cry had died down. She also considered her own family and looked after them by asking the spies to promise that they would return the favour by protecting her and her family when their people eventually overthrew the city. They agreed to protect her and gave her a scarlet cord with instructions to tie it to the window from which she was going to let them down.

Fixed faith

When faced with an opportunity to put her faith into action, Rahab made a split-second decision to join with the people of God, put her old lifestyle and her own nation behind her and obey the leading of God. She knew He was the only one who could save her. Imagine if Rahab had the same spirit as Delilah. (Judges 16:1-21) She might have used her seductive ways to stop the spies and keep them occupied until they were arrested. They would all have died in the fall of Jericho! She knew that faith was not simply believing in her heart that the God of Israel could save her; she had to put her belief into action. (James 2:24-26),

Rahab did not delay. She hung the red cord in her window and waited. This also was a step of faith. She had to trust the men, believing that what she was expecting to happen would happen. She had to explain to her family what she had done and make sure that they were willing to support her. Finally, she had to keep up the pretence to her neighbours. She didn’t know whether the spies would evade capture or how long it might take for their plans to find fulfilment. She had to trust that the God in whom she had placed her faith would protect her.

Barely one week later, there was a similar miracle to the crossing of the Red Sea occurred as the children of Israel walked with dry feet over the Jordan River at the season of flooding. Before long, word of this latest miracle spread throughout the surrounding countryside and fear gripped all those who lived there. (Joshua 5:1). Doubtless, Rahab would have heard this news as well. Before long, the Israelite army appeared. They laid siege to the city of Jericho, but they didn't behave like any other army besieging a city. For six days, their troops marched around the city in silence - apart from a small group of priests who walked ahead of the army, blowing loudly on trumpets made of rams' horns. They were followed by the "ark" - a wooden box representing the presence of God, carried on poles by more priests.

The scarlet cord

We can be sure that Rahab would have been checking her scarlet cord regularly, ensuring that it was visible for all to see, so no mistakes could be made. She must also have constantly reassured her family that, despite the rumours, all would be well. On the seventh day, the Israelite army again marched solemnly around the walls of Jericho seven times with trumpets blaring. (Joshua 6:15-21) The tension on both sides of the wall must have been unbearable. Inside, the people would be terrified, wondering what their fate would be but, in Rahab’s house, there would have been a sense of hope and excited expectation, because she had made a covenant with the people of God - and so with God Himself - as evidenced by the scarlet cord.

Watching from her vantage point, Rahab must have wondered and talked about exactly how the children of Israel would take the city. Nothing would have prepared her for what she was about to see. A final blast on a trumpet was suddenly accompanied by an earth-shattering cry form the Israelite troops. The earth began to tremble then the city wall began to crumble and fall away. As walls and houses all around began to collapse, Rahab needed all her new-found faith to believe for her and her family’s safe deliverance. Her only protection was a piece of scarlet cord - the sole guarantee of her safety amid her neighbours' disaster.

The eternal plan

God's plan for humanity has always included a strong desire for an unbroken relationship with human beings, made in His own image and adopted as children in His family. Even when Adam & Eve listened to Satan and disobeyed God's command, God already had a plan to combat his evil intent. That plan involved blood. As soon as His children sinned, God made them garments of animal skins to clothe them and protect them from the shame that they now experienced. (Genesis 3:21) The blood of animals was shed for the covering of sin. All through history, God has made promises to people and confirmed His word with a sacrifice that involves the shedding of blood. God made a covenant (an unbreakable promise) with Abraham for amazing blessings of health, prosperity and victory over sin. (Deuteronomy 28:1-14) God confirmed these blessings with a blood covenant. (Genesis 15:9-18) Nothing short of an agreement sealed with blood would have convinced Abraham that God meant what He said. He was so convinced that God would keep His covenant promise that he could even lay his own precious son on an altar as a sacrifice (although God didn't require him to go through with it).

It was the same in Moses' day: when they were slaves in Egypt and God had promised to deliver them, the only thing that protected the children of Israel from the angel of death was the blood of a perfect lamb daubed on their doorposts. (Exodus 12:7-23) Right through to the New Testament, there are further explanations of the covenant that God made with Abraham and his descendants. It was celebrated regularly through the system of blood sacrifices and offerings that were made, first in the "tabernacle" (tent) and later in the temple. Finally, Jesus was sent to be an eternal sacrifice, made once for the sins of the entire human race. (Hebrews 9:18-28)

God Himself came in human form. Jesus shed His own blood once and for all for the complete washing away of our sin. Sin is not just covered but completely removed. Jesus kept the covenant agreement and was able to be our "perfect lamb". (1 Peter 1:18-20) He was sacrificed, instead of us, so that we might be cleansed of sin, free to know God and raised from death to eternal life. (Galatians 3:13-14) Every diabolical plan and demonic attack in Satan's rebellion was rendered harmless as all our sin was laid on Jesus at the Roman cross. He totally stripped the devil of all the authority he had stolen, taking all the curses, so that we could walk in all the blessings. His blood was shed so that we could be party to the covenant with the Father, sealed in blood, which can never be annulled.

The blood covenant

The reason for the blood covenant was to show:

  • love and devotion,
  • protection and
  • equality.

All through the Bible, we see that blood has always been used by God as a seal of His promises to us. Every promise we have in His word for our lives, physical and spiritual, is sealed by the blood of Jesus. This is a guarantee that God will fulfil each one. Today we have a better covenant than Rahab’s because ours is written in the shed blood of Jesus, by which we are made "the righteousness of God". (2 Corinthians 5:21) The earlier covenants had their limitations. They were intended for the nation of Israel as a whole and designed to illustrate the full and final outworking of God's covenant - through Jesus - for every individual person. (Hebrews 9:8-14)

The story of Rahab is the most amazing picture of the fulfillment of a promise made to her and her family. (Joshua 2:14) Through her faith, she was kept safe when the walls came down all around her. (Hebrews 11:30-31) She was brought out of her house by the spies and established in a place of safety. Joshua 6:22-25. The sign of blood put over her building protected her and her whole household.

More than ever, in our own time, we must - by faith - apply the blood of Jesus daily to our households and property, believing for complete protection wherever we go. If there is any form of physical problem, we must know how to trust the blood of Jesus and how to persevere. When everyone else’s homes are falling round them, we can believe God to completely protect our belongings and whole family. (Psalm 91; Revelation 12:11)

Rahab went on to marry a man called Salmon and they had a son named Boaz. He married Ruth and she became the great-great-grandmother of King David. They are all named in the lineage of Jesus that is outlined in Matthew's gospel. (Matthew 1:5) What an amazing success story from the life of a woman who started as a prostitute! When faced with the ultimate choice, she put her faith in the living God and "went and sinned no more". (John 8:11)

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