Though the story of Rahab and the two spies may not be as well-known as the other stories about the Israelites’ journey to Canaan, it still plays a significant role in determining the victory of the chosen people in conquering the promised land. Moreover, through this story, we’re also able to take away many great lessons about faith that are applicable to our lives today.
The story of Rahab (Jos 2) takes place during the time when Joshua was the leader of the Israelites. During this time, Joshua sent out two spies to explore the city of Jericho, the first city in Canaan that the Israelites planned to conquer. So the two spies went out and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab.
Knowing that the Israelites were spying out his land, the king of Jericho requested Rahab to turn in the men. However, instead of obeying the king, Rahab hid the two spies under the flax on her roof, and lied that these men already left and she had no idea where they went.
Risking her life
As for the reason why she was willing to risk her life to do such a thing, Rahab explained in her conversation with the two spies:
“We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.
Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death.”
Just as she wished, the men agreed to repay her kindness by sparing her family’s life when the Israelites took over Jericho. As a sign of their promise, they gave her a red cord, instructed her to tie it to her window, so that the Israelite soldiers would be able to see it and not harm the people inside the house.
It turns out that the Israelites were able to take over the city of Jericho later on, and all of the people inside the city were killed. However, because in the story of Rahab, he had previously helped the two spies, her whole family was saved and included among the Israelite community at that time.
God Always Fulfills His Promises
The Israelites conquering the promised land is not a random event that just so happened to take place, but it was all part of God’s covenant with His people since the time of Abraham.
In Gn 22:17, God promised Abraham that his descendants will be “as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. [They] will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through [them] all nations on earth will be blessed.” God granted these blessings to Abraham and his descendants because Abraham had obeyed His commands and kept His laws faithfully (Gn 22:18, Gn 26:5.)
The cascade of events that follows serves to make this promise a reality. Though it took over 400 years between the time of Abraham to the time of Moses and Joshua when the Israelites finally stepped foot on the promised land, God never forgot a single word he spoke to Abraham.
Just as He had promised, God guided the Israelites and helped them gain victory in all the battles they took part in. If it wasn’t because of God’s guidance, such a small and weak group of people would never have been able to defeat such powerful nations.
Joshua was born during a time in biblical history when God’s people were enslaved in Egypt under Pharaoh. He was a slave until he and the Israelites were set free and guided out by Moses. Thus, he shared in all the events that took place in Egypt including the 10 plagues, the Passover, and the parting of the Red Sea. After Moses’ death, he leads the Israelites into the Promised Land.
As God Guided the Israelites
Joshua helped lead the Israelites to victory in their first battle against the Amalekites right after they had passed through the Red Sea. This was the beginning of his faithfulness and obedience to God and Moses, God’s chosen messenger. Joshua also shared in the events that took place when the Israelites were in the desert on the way to the Promised Land, Canaan. Along with the Israelites J ate the manna that came from heaven, drank the water from the rock, was guided by the clouds by day and the fiery pillars by night.
Joshua Remained Obedient to God
However, J did not take part in the worship of the golden calf. While the Israelites were creating the idol he diligently waited for Moses to descend from Mt. Sinai with the ten commandments. Furthermore, Joshua would stay outside a tent known as the “tent of meeting” where Moses would meet with God while the rest of the Israelites stayed outside their own tents to watch the event. He was still outside the “tent of meeting” even after Moses had left. The Israelites faced the greatest challenge of their lives as they prepared to finally enter the promised land.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Christians across the spectrum know Abraham as “the father of faith.” This title is probably familiar to us, as we often hear it in Bible studies, even from youth. We are taught of Abraham’s great faith and righteousness, and to follow his example. However, perhaps not many of us know the reason (or at least the full picture) as to why he received this title. He is the 19th descendant of Adam, and the 10th descendant of Noah, from the line of Shem. In Genesis 12, God commands Abram to leave his father’s household and go to the land of Canaan. Abram did just as God commanded him, and set for Canaan—he was 75 years old at this time.
The Covenant with Abraham
In Genesis 15, Abram (later to be called Abraham) receives a vision from God, where God makes a covenant (promise) with him that he will have descendants so numerous that they cannot be counted (v. 5). And because Abram believed in this promise, he was considered righteous (v. 6). But the covenant does not end here. In verses 13-14, God says, 13 “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own.” Later, God chose Moses to lead the Israelites out. This promise was made before he had his son Isaac.
Abram’s wife Sarai was unable to bear him a child, so he had one through his maidservant Hagar at the age of 86—he named him Ismael. In Genesis 17, God renamed Abram to Abraham (meaning exalted father) because he was to be the father of many nations (v. 5). His wife Sarai was also renamed to Sarah (v. 15). Then God makes a covenant with him that Sarah will bear him a child, to be called Isaac (Gn 18: 17,19-20). At this time, he and Sarah were 100 and 90 years old, respectively. So upon hearing this, he fell facedown in what might potentially be the first biblical instance of “ROFL”.
Nevertheless, God kept his promise to him, and Sarah bore Isaac (Gn 21:2). From this point on, things get interesting because God tests Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. The very next morning, Abraham set forth to Moriah with Isaac, where he was to be sacrificed. Now keep in mind that by this point, God had already promised him that he would be the father of many nations (Gn 17:4). But yet he is expected to sacrifice his only son, from whom these “many nations” were to come. Hebrews 11:11-12 and v. 17-19 explain the reason behind his great faith. He reasoned that for God to fulfill the promise He made to him, Isaac had to live. So regardless of whatever happened, one way or the other, Isaac would father many nations. Because of this, Abraham was ready to obey Gods command.
Abraham Believed the Promise
As he is about to sacrifice Isaac, God commands him to stop, and acknowledges his obedience. Abraham then sees a ram, and offers it as a sacrifice in place of Isaac. What is very important to take from this story is that Abraham’s faith was not without reason. It was not a blind faith, but rather faith based upon understanding. He believed in God’s promise, and because of this, he was able to act accordingly. We must also ask ourselves, is my faith based on understanding of God’s promises? Or other things such as feelings and emotions? I hope that his story can be a great example for all of us to grow in faith.