Week twenty-two: Joshua 1–8; 23–24
Rahab, the harlot of Jericho, maybe a woman you might want to judge for her mistakes, as in the earlier story of Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Judah. Some scholars think she might have been an innkeeper; other scholars think she probably was a prostitute, which is why she could so easily hide two men in her apartment without any trouble. But her previous sins did not stop her from recognizing the Israelite spies as men of God. She said to the spies: “I know that the Lord hath given you the land… and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.” (Joshua 2:9)
The gospel of Jesus Christ gives us hope that we can change, through faith in Him and His Atonement. In the Old Testament, we read the story of many people who initially may seem like “bad examples.” As Ellis T. Rasmussen explained, “[T]he writers of biblical records were very frank about people and deeds, good and bad. In a way, these accounts are disheartening, but on the other hand they enhance the credibility of the whole biblical account. The writers truthfully told both the vices and the virtues of heroes and villains, people and kings, prophets and priests.”[i]
Joshua was leading the children of Israel to their promised land, but the great city of Jericho stood in their way. The doors of the city were shut – no one could come in or out. The Lord told Joshua and his men of war to circle the city once every day for six days. On the seventh day, seven priests with trumpets of ram’s horns and the ark of the covenant were to go before the group. The Lord told Joshua and his people to circle the city seven times and then blow the horns. On this final time, all the people were to shout a great shout, and the city walls would come tumbling down.
Why seven times? David J. Ridges explained that “Seven was used numerous times in the law of Moses to symbolize the covenant. This number means completeness, perfection as used in the scriptures. Perfection comes eventually through the help of the Lord, through making and keeping covenants. Through strict obedience to the Lord’s instruction for conquering Jericho, the Israelites succeeded because of the ‘perfect’ power of the Lord, represented by the number seven.” [ii]
Only Rahab and those in her household were left alive. To the men who had been hidden by Rahab, Joshua told them: “Go into the harlot’s house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as ye sware unto her, 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.” (Joshua 6:22, 25)
Rahab in Hebrew means “spacious”[iii] or “broad.”[iv] Rahab’s influence truly became broad as she stayed with Israel and became a part of the covenant people. Her faith was even referenced by apostles in the New Testament. Paul used Rahab’s story as an example of faith: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.” (Hebrews 11:30-31).
In James’ discourse on faith and good works, he also used Rahab as an example of good works: “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers and had sent them out another way?” (James 2: 24-25) James concluded his thought by writing “so faith without works is dead…” (James 2:26)
“Rahab was accepted into the nation of Israel to such an extent that she was able to marry into the royal family of Judah. She married Salmon, the son of Nahshon. Nahshon was the leader of the tribe of Judah and commanded their army.”[v] The son of Rahab and Salmon was Boaz. Boaz married Ruth, another Gentile who converted to the God of Israel. Because of Rahab’s faith and conversion, her son is mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy of the Savior.[vi]
Rahab’s example is one of humility and repentance. The Apostle Peter taught: “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations.” (II Peter 2:9). If we put our trust in Him, the Lord will also deliver us out of temptations.
May you find joy in the Lord as you trust in Him and in His power of deliverance this week.
[i] Ellis T. Rasmussen, The Unchanging Gospel of Two Testaments, Ensign, October 1973.
[ii] David J. Ridges, Your Study of the Old Testament Made Easier, 2006, p. 299.
[iii] She shall be called Woman: Women of the Old Testament. Ensign, September 2006
[iv] Bible Dictionary, p. 759
[v]Rex Rouis, Rahab: The Harlot in the Genealogy of Christ, https://www.hopefaithprayer.com/rahab-harlot-genealogy-christ/
[vi] Matthew 1:5