After the death of Moses, God chose Joshua to be the leader of the Israelites as they moved into the land of Canaan, completing the mission He had given Moses and that was to take the land and destroy all who lived there. Jericho is one of those places set for destruction.
Joshua sent two spies into Jericho to gather information on the lay of the land and to see how the city was protected by her walls. These spies made it to Jericho but were soon found out and sought refuge at the home of Rahab. The King sent his guards to her home demanding her to turn over the men to them. She admitted the men were there, but she had turned them away, and they left the city at sundown. She implied to the guards that if they hurried they could catch up with them. When they left, the city gates were closed. No one was getting in or out of the city after that, but Rahab had not turned the spies away. They were still in the city because she hid them on the roof of her house, underneath stalks of flax. After the guards had left her home, she went up to the roof, told the spies they were known to the king and had been found out.
Now Rahab lived in Jericho and was a ritual prostitute, worshipping false gods. The Land of Canaan, of which Jericho is part, was steeped in idolatry, yet Rahab had heard of the One True God and when these spies came, she decided then and there that she, too, would place all of her faith and trust in this One True God.
Hiding these men would have been considered high treason to the King of Jericho, yet Rahab defied her rulers and helped the spies. In return all she asked for was for them to spare her family and the spies agreed to do this, and gave her a scarlet ribbon to hang on her window sill so that they would know where she and her family were. She helped them escape Jericho by lowering them down the wall in a basket from her window, telling them the best way to avoid capture and to hide there for three days, and then it would be safe for them to return to the Israelite camp. This is exactly what they did and because of her advice and her help, they returned to the Israelite camp, victorious in their successful mission.
There is a significance in the scarlet cord. It symbolizes the blood that was spread above the doors of the Israelites in Egypt that was placed there so that the Death Angel would pass over them. Those who were the first born of their families would die if the blood was not spread over their doors. The significance is that during the time this occurred the Israelite’s were observing Passover (Jericho 5:10-11). When Rahab hung the scarlet ribbon in her window, it was like the blood spread upon the doors of the Israelite’s homes and she, and her family were spared. The scarlet cord also symbolizes the blood of Christ that was shed for us on the cross. Blood is scarlet and Jesus’ blood was shed so that we could be saved. Just as the blood on the doorposts of the Hebrews in Egypt spared the first born of all those whose doorposts were covered with the blood, Jesus’ shed blood makes us white as snow:
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow..” Isaiah 1:18 (KJV)
Rahab’s hanging the scarlet thread on her window signifies her faith in God, that He would save her from the destruction of Jericho and death, just as Christ’s blood saves us from eternal destruction and death because of the blood He shed on the cross.
Rahab’s story does not end here. She adapted to the Israelite’s way of life, trusting in God to save her. She was no longer a ritual prostitute in slavery to a false god and living in idolatry. She married the Israelite Salmon; was the mother of Boaz, who would marry Ruth, and was the great-grandmother of King David and an ancestress of Jesus Christ. God surely honored this woman for her faith. We know He did; we can read it in Hebrews 11:31, the great chapter of faith. She is the second of the two women listed in this chapter, the other being Sarah, the wife of Abraham.
God used a harlot to help His people at the destruction of Jericho. He does this often, using the outcasts, the rejected, those who are thought of as worthless and useless in the eyes of man but in His eyes they are of great value, and He uses them for His purposes. It did not matter to Him that Rahab was a harlot for a false god. She was willing to be used by Him because she had heard what a great God He was, and she wanted to be His. God was willing to do this for her, showing His great mercy and love, even for those that seem unusable for such a great purpose. In Joshua 6:17-25 there are 86 Hebrew words devoted to the salvation of Rahab and 102 words describing Jericho’s destruction (HCSB Study Notes, page 350). Those 86 words show us just how important her salvation was to God.
You may be wondering how her family was not destroyed when the walls fell. When walls fall they crush and these were siege walls, thick and heavy, and they came down by the hand of God when the Israelites shouted and sounded their horns. Rahab’s house was literally inside the wall. How did she survive?
This is amazing. On page 313 of the KJV Archaeological Study Bible is a section that tells about Rahab’s house. It says:
“German excavations from 1907-1909 on the northern section of the site uncovered a portion of the lower city wall that did not fall as it did everywhere else.(1) The still-standing section rose as high as 8 feet (nearly 2.5 m), with houses built against it still intact. A second wall at the crest of the embankment revealed that these particular houses were situated between the upper and lower city walls and were thus “in the city wall”. Since the lower wall also formed the back wall of the houses, an opening (window) in the wall would have provided a convenient escape route for the spies. From this northerly location it was only a short distance to the hills of the Judean wilderness, where the spies hid for three days (2:16, 22).”
We see from this report that the areas of the wall where Rahab lived are still standing and is evidence that she and her family could and did survive it! I love it when archaeology confirms the Bible. The Israelites did not lay one hand on that wall to make it fall.
They fired no weapons to make it fall. They made it fall by obeying God only sounding their horns and shouting. God took care of the rest. And He protected that little section where Rahab and her family lived. He did it because she had such faith in Him and because she helped the spies, preventing them from being captured and thus saving their lives. God not only protected her, He gave her the honor of being mentioned by name in both Joshua and Matthew, but also in the Great Hall of Faith chapter of Hebrews 11, and He also gave her the honor of being the ancestress of Jesus. All this is because of her faith and trust in a God that was not known to her until the stories of His miracles in helping the Hebrews escape from Egypt were heard in her land. She was a prostitute for the gods of her people yet she did not honor them, nor, for that matter did they honor her. Instead, she chose to honor the God of Israel. When God calls you and gives you the chance to do this for Him do not be afraid, think of Rahab and her great courage and faith in the One True God of Israel. She was no one special, no one great, no one of any influence or fame. She was one woman, facing the possibility of being caught for treason, but chose to ignore that and place her faith and trust only in the God of Israel, letting Him use her for His purposes and for His glory, and in turn she is forever honored as one of His own.
NIV Life Application Study Bible, Study Notes, pages 301-302, ©2011 Zondervan; co-published by Tyndale House Pub. Inc.
KJV Archaeological Study Bible, page 313; 320-321, ©2010 Zondervan
HCSB Holman Christian Study Bible, a reference to R. Hess’s book, Joshua, page 134; also pages 344-346, ©2010 Holman Publishers
Women of the Bible, Spangler, Ann and Syswerda, Jean E., ©1999, Zondervan, pages 101-102
ISBN #: 0-310-22352-0
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