In our study of Joshua chapter two, we will look at the story of Rahab the prostitute and see a demonstration of the fact that salvation is for all who believe in Yeshua Messiah.
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Y'hoshua the son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Sheetim with these instructions: "Go, inspect the land and Yericho." They left and came to the house of a prostitute named Rachav, where they spent the night.
In Hebrew, shittim means "acacia trees" and this was the site of the headquarters for the Israelite people. We also remember that it was acacia wood that was used to construct the ark of the covenant as well as the tabernacle itself (see Exodus 37). Jericho was an early center of worship for lunar dieties. The Israelites were preparing to take the promised land and to remove all the false gods from the land. We see that, prior to attacking Jericho, Joshua sent two spies to check out the land. Y'hoshua was quite familiar with the land as he had been a part of the team that was sent to check out the land at the direction of God through Moshe (see Numbers 13). The spies went to the house of Rachav who was a prostitute. In Hebrew, Rachav means "wide" or "broad". She basically ran a brothel and an inn for travelers (it was common at that time for an inn and brothel to be combined).
The king of Yericho was told about it - "Tonight some men from Isra'el came here to reconnoiter the land." The king of Yericho sent a message to Rachav, "Bring out the men who came to you and are staying in your house, because they have come to reconnoiter all the land."
Jericho was a mighty fortified city and we see that they also had a good intelligence gathering force as the king was told of the arrival of the spies and they knew who they were as well as about their goal of taking the entire land of Canaan. The king sent men to arrest them for being spies.
However, the woman, after taking the two men and hiding them, replied, "Yes, the men did come to me; but I didn't know where they had come from. The men left around the time when they shut the gate, when it was dark. Where they went I don't know; but if you chase after them quickly, you will overtake them." Actually she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them under some stalks of flax she had spread out there. The men pursued them all the way to the fords at the Yarden; as soon as the pursuit party had left, the gate was shut.
This translation (and virtually all English translations) mistranslate this passage as it says "hiding them" but, in the Hebrew text, it says "hiding him". The Hebrew text uses the singular form to show unity and these two spies were unified in the purpose of God and they were acting as one which is why the singular form is used in the Hebrew text. When confronted by the authorities, she lied to them in order to save the lives of the two spies. She had already hidden them in flax that was laid out to dry on the roof. We might ask ourselves why she would put herself in such danger to protect these men. If caught, she would probably be killed along with them.
The two men had not yet lain down when she returned to the roof and said to them, "I know that ADONAI has given you the land. Fear of you has fallen on us; everyone in the land is terrified at the thought of you.
Now, we get to see why Rachav would risk her own life for the Israelite spies. We see that all of the people in the land of Canaan had heard that the Israelites are God's people and that He had already given them the land. We see that, upon hearing this revelation of God's will, the people were too terrified to fight against the Israelites. Jericho was a mighty city and the normal reaction to this revelation would have been to launch a pre-emptive attack on the Israelite camp but they were too afraid. As followers of Yeshua Messiah, this same thing applies to us as, if we are active in pursuing the will of God, then, God will be active in our defense and our enemies will be scared of attacking us.
We've heard how ADONAI dried up the water in the Sea of Suf ahead of you, when you left Egypt; and what you did to the two kings of the Emori on the other side of the Yarden, Sichon and 'Og, that you completely destroyed them. As soon as we heard it, our hearts failed us. Because of you, everyone is in a state of depression. For ADONAI your God - he is God in heaven above and on the earth below.
In this passage, we see that everyone had heard about how God had redeemed Israel from Egypt and the fact that they had utterly destroyed two powerful kings on the east side of the Jordan River. The Hebrew word cherem is translated as utterly destroyed and it speaks to the fact that the Israelites did not defeat the enemy and take their possessions. Instead, they completely destroyed everything and this was seen as dedicating the victory to God. In the Hebrew text, it does not say "our hearts failed" but it says "his heart failed" and, once again, this speaks of unified action and the fact that the entire people were paralyzed with this fear to the point that nobody could oppose the Israelites. We see that Rachav had simply acted out of fear because she feared the Lord more than she feared the king of Jericho. That, my friends, is the key to salvation for us as well. We must fear life and death without Yeshua Messiah more than we fear the persecution that comes with the faith.
So, please, swear to me by ADONAI that, since I have been kind to you, you will also be kind to my father's family. Give me some evidence of your good faith, that you will spare the lives of my father, mother, brothers and sisters and all who are theirs, so that we won't be killed."
The word that is translated here as "kind" is actually chesed and it speaks of grace and we see that Rachav is seeking grace and truth to make her and her family alive.
The men replied to her, "Our lives are certainly worth yours, provided you don't betray our mission. So when ADONAI gives us the land, we will treat you kindly and in good faith."
So, it was agreed that her family would be spared in exchange for her cooperation. Rachav had believed that God had given Israel the land and she cooperated with them to save the lives of her family. This is a picture of the way that we come to salvation in that we simply must believe that God sent His Son (Yeshua Messiah) to pay for our sins. Once again we see grace and truth together as the promised outcome of the oath taken by the spies.
Then she lowered them by a rope through the window; since her house abutted the city wall, indeed was actually built into it. She told them, "Head for the hills, so that the pursuit party won't get their hands on you; and hide yourselves there for three days, until the pursuers have returned. After that, you can go on your way."
In this passage, we find that Rachav's house had the city wall as one of the walls to her house and so she was able to let them outside the city through a window in the city wall which was also a part of her house. Rachav let the men out of the city without letting anyone know about them. She also told them to go to the mountain which refers to Jerusalem which was in the opposite direction of the men that were out searching for them. In the three days that they were to stay there, we see a picture of the fact that Yeshua Messiah would be raised from the dead in three days. The spies were as good as dead if they had been caught but, at the end of three days, the men who were after them would have given up and their lives would be saved.
The men said to her, "We will not be guilty of violating the oath you made us swear, provided that when we enter the land, you tie this piece of scarlet cord in the window you let us down from; and you gather together in your house your father, mother, brothers, and your father's entire household.
There were two additional responsibilities that Rachav had in order for her and her family to be saved. First, she had to tie a red cord to the window that she had let the spies out through which would have been a marker for the men to identify the house when they came back into the city. The Hebrew word translated as cord can also be translated as hope and the color scarlet is the color of blood and we see that this visual sign was a scarlet thread of hope. It reminds us of the fact that there is only one way to be saved and that is through the blood of Yeshua Messiah. The second thing that she had to do was to get all of her family into her house and they would not be allowed to leave. We see the same restriction in God's instructions to the people concerning the passover in Egypt (see Exodus 12). This is an important fact in that many people think that, since their mom or dad have been a part of the church for years, they are as well. But, as we see it was not their relationship with Rachav that was going to save them, but their location (being in her house).
If anyone goes out the doors of your house into the street, he will be responsible for his own blood, and we will be guiltless. But everyone who stays with you in the house - we will be responsible for his blood if anyone lays a hand on him. However, if you say a word about this business of ours, then we will be free of your oath that you made us swear."
Rachav could only tell her family to come in and stay but she could not tell them about the spies and their deal. This reminds us that it is by faith that we are saved through grace. Her family would have to believe her and trust that she was looking out for them. Faith is an individual thing and we cannot be saved through another's faith. In this, we see the fact that we, as Christians, do not have the power to save anyone. We can tell them how to be saved (accepting Yeshua Messiah) but everyone has to make their own choice. We are to share the gospel with those around us but, if they refuse the blood of Yeshua, then, they must pay for their sins with their own blood.
"According to your words, so be it," she said, and sent them away. As they departed, she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
So, the terms of the contract are agreed to and Rachav sends the spies off and ties the cord to the window. This verse reminds us that we come to salvation on God's terms. Like Rachav, He gives us the free will to accept or reject the terms but we cannot alter the terms. Just as the spies gave her a cord to identify her house, Yeshua has given us the Holy Spirit to identify us.
They left, arrived in the hills, and stayed there three days, until the pursuers had returned. The pursuers had searched for them all the way but hadn't found them. Then the two men returned. Descending from the hills they crossed over and came to Y'hoshua the son of Nun, and reported everything that had happened to them.
Timing is critical in all things and we know that God's timing is perfect. The spies were patient and followed the advice of a prostitute hiding out for three days. It would have been easy to get all excited and try to immediately run to Y'hoshua and tell him the good news but they waited.
"Truly ADONAI has handed over all the land to us," they told Y'hoshua. "Everyone in the land is terrified that we're coming."
At the appointed time, they delivered the good news to Y'hoshua.