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Mary Elizabeth Baxter :: Rahab—Joshua 2.

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"Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you."-Matthew 21:31

The children of Israel were on the borders of the Land of Promise, and Joshua, Moses' successor, sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying: "Go, view the land, even Jericho." (Jos 2:1.) These men were utterly unacquainted with the city, and with the character of its inhabitants: but it was no chance that they came to the house of a woman whose life was known throughout the city as evil and profligate.

When men of God come into contact with those who are sinful, one of two things must happen: either they must be dragged down into sin, or the sinner must be brought to repentance. Oil and water cannot mix, and the Spirit of God cannot mix with the spirit of the evil one.

It was not long before Rahab, the harlot, in whose house the spies lodged, began to suffer persecution. The King of Jericho heard that the children of Israel were come to search the land, and he sent a warrant for their arrest, and the officers stood before the house of Rahab with the command that she should deliver them up. It was


There is little doubt, from what happened afterwards, that these men of God had spoken of their God, and had borne in faithful testimony the unhallowed atmosphere of that house; and now came a time when the woman must decide whether she should take part with God's people or whether she would be the means of their destruction. She chose for God, took the two men, and hid them, at the risk of her own life. She returned answer:

"There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were: and it came to pass, about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went, I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them."

Rahab told a lie, and a lie is one of the worst of sins in the sight of God. But let us remember that this poor woman had never heard the Ten Commandments, and did not know the difference between sin and righteousness. Paul says: "I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shall not covet…For without the law sin was dead." (Rom 7:7-8.) So it was with Rahab; she had not learnt it was a sin to tell a lie; it was in her a sin of ignorance.

She had brought the men to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax which she had laid in order upon the roof, ready for the winter spinning. Rahab had placed her life in danger because she had been so deeply impressed with the fact that their God was the true God; and we may be sure that, at the same time, she repented of her sinful life.

After the officers of justice had left her house and gone to pursue after the spies, supposing that Rahab had told them the truth, she came to her hidden guests, and said to them:

"I know that the Lord hath given you the land." These very words bear witness that somebody had spoken to her about the Lord, and the thought had taken possession of her. She had begun to fear God, and "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Psa 111:10), and she said: "I know that…your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt." From these words we may gather that however wicked may have been Rahab's former life, as soon as she heard of the Mighty God who could perform a miracle for the sake of His people, an awful and reverent sense of this God had taken possession of her mind, and she had learnt to regard Him as greater even than the king of her country. God loves to find hearts that tremble at His Word. (Isa 66:5.) O how often some judgment of God happens, some sudden death or terrible disaster, and for a few days a slight impression is made, and then men forget, and go on just as before! It was not so with Rahab: she laid to heart what she heard of God.

"As soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath." (Jos 2:11.)


woman, and a heathen woman of a disreputable character! Placed by her side, how would the young scoffers of the 19th century appear, who would, nevertheless recoil from the appellation of heathen, who would like to be considered to belong to a Christian community? Placed by the side of this woman, how would those appear who mock and jeer at answers to prayer, and who relegate the living God to a level with the deities of past mythology. Is there not a greater dignity, is there not more of real and common sense about this heathen woman than about these 19th century men? How silly is agnosticism compared to this simple, reverent bowing to a superior Power!

This woman was not ashamed of the measure of faith which she had in God. She believed that life and death were in His hands, and so she said:

"Now, therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that ye will also show kindness unto my father's house, and give me a true token: and that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death."

Rahab had become, not a believer only, but an intercessor. She sought, not only her own life, but the lives of her family. Would that every Christian believer were as noble and as zealous for the souls of their family as was this once heathen woman!

The spies answered her: "Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the Lord hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee." Neither Rahab nor yet the spies uttered a doubt as to the fulfilment of God's promise. Both were sure that God's people should prevail.

When she saw that the way was safe, Rahab let down the spies by a cord through the window, for her house was upon the town wall. But before they departed, they told her to bind a line of scarlet thread in the window, and charged her to bring every member of her family into her house which was upon the wall; and they said:

"And it shall be that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be upon our head, if any hand be upon him."

What does this scarlet line signify? Surely, the precious blood of Christ. It is like a type beforehand of that blood which shelters and which proclaims the safety of those who trust in it. Out from the shelter of the blood, destruction, and damnation, and eternal death can touch the souls of men; but, sheltered by the blood, no destroying angel, no fear of judgment, can reach them. "There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." (Rom 8:1.) O how needful it is to have every member of our house and family sheltered by the precious blood: husband, wife, children, servants, workmen, all under the blood!

One warning the spies gave to Rahab still:

"If thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear."

"According unto your words, so be it," was her answer. (Jos 2:20-21.)

"And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window." Days passed by; but Rahab was at peace. She knew that judgment was coming, but she feared nothing. Does our faith in God give us a like fearlessness? If not, it cannot be as real as hers.

At last, the time came when Joshua marshalled his hosts, and they compassed the city of Jericho, and for seven days walked round the city, blowing with rams' horns. Doubtless many of the inhabitants mocked at this curious method of warfare; but there was one face serious all the time; it was that of the heathen woman who had learnt to put her trust in Israel's God.

When "the wall" of the city "fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him," there was one house which stood erect. And Joshua called the two spies, and said to them:

"Go unto the harlot's house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as ye sware unto her." (Jos 6:20-22.)

Rahab had been wise; not one member of her family was wanting; she had imbued them with her own faith. "And they brought out all her kindred…And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father's household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho." (Jos 7:22-25.) And this woman, once so degraded, was honoured by being one of the direct line from which the Lord Jesus Christ was descended. (Mat 1:5.)

Miriam, The Prophetess—Numbers 12. ← Prior Section
Deborah—Judges 4. Next Section →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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