Amid the triumph of the sons of Israel taking the cities of Canaan there is Canaanite hope. Jericho (Yarcho) was a solitary symbol of promise fulfulled. No other city falls into Israelite hands in the way Rahab’s city did. Adopting a Canaanite into the Hebrew clan in what seems to be a reward for undercover work is of immense interest because of the triumph of hope, a commodity which remained, officially, under wraps for non-Jews until the death of Christ. The people who received Rahab must be distibguished from the Exodus generation. Nevertheless, the preparations for life in Canaan must have been sobering for Rahab and her family and confusing for the Israelite generation that emerged from the Wilderness Wandering. The difference between the Sinai and post-Moses generation was that they had very distinct worldviews. On the one hand there is the formation of the people and their preparation to travel, and on the other a generation armed with instructions about the new life in Canaan and the task of violently taking possession of Canaanite land and property with a Canaaite family safe in the ranks.
Saving a prostitute
Joshua made sure Rahab received the promised reward. Joshua saves her family. She gets moved into Israelite socitey, on the fringes, as it were, at first (see below Outside the Camp). She joins the family of the Sons of Israel right where God is planning to become human: Bethlehem. There, she becomes the wife of Salmon, connecting her to the tribe of Judah.
Behold, [when] we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee. Josh 2:18
Rahab is an ancestor of the David
There are two Gentile women in the lineage of David. The Judah tribe apparently received Rahab who became the great great grandmother of David. The tribe also received Ruth the Moabite, whose story is told in the Book of Ruth. Luke records,
and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, Matt 1:5 and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, Matt 1:6
Paul reminded his Gentile audience that a massive shift has taken place in human interactions and that hope had not always been a commodity they could rely on. This is an arrangement that eluded the Jewish people as normal. The exclusion of Gentiles from the priesthood and the monarchy persisted despite indications to the contrary. The presence of friendly Canaanites in the land, their cooperation with David and Solomon, the longstanding cosmopolitan character of Abraham’s family in patricarchal times all hinted that barriers and partitions were not the absolute standard they are held out to be. It only takes one exception to destroy a precious pipedream. How could Ezra, a competent scribe, be unaware of the Rahab narrative when he ordered the dissolution of Jew-Gentile marriages and the separation of parents from their children?
Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Ezra 10:3
That they were trying to undo a necessary thing never dawned on them. The operation took two days and one can opnly imagine the misery.
But the people are many, and it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand without, neither is this a work of one day or two: for we are many that have transgressed in this thing. Ezra 10:13
The treatment of outsiders has always been a diagnostic because of Israel’s higher and separate identity.
Deuteronomy 26:19 reports God’s intention.
… he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.
Paul registers the wretched condition of the partitioned spiritual world.
remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Eph 2:12
In hindsight, we should recognize that Israelites too have known estrangement. They found themselves unaccompanied during the desert days and evicted during the monarchy and in New Testament times. Ezekiel records that an attachment to idols accomplishes the same estrangement as Gentiles have experienced.
That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols. Ezek 14:5
Hope is now an eternal spring
Barriers have come down in a big way. Conventions have been shpwn the door. First and above all, access to God is now a personal happening. Secondly, the priesthood is dislocated from its Levitical roots and located in Judah’s king-priest. The Jew-Gentile splits are over. Male-female dichotomies fail and slave and free get equal justice.
We can leave hopelessness behind. We find ourselves no longer alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and we are no longer strangers to the covenants of promise.
Rahab is perhaps the first Canaanite to be welcomed into Israelite society but not the last. Despite the promise to clear outr the Canaanites and the purge by Ezra there were Gentiles living in Judea, and not only Romans. There were people of Canaanite descent and Samaritans to contend with.
When our Lord meets a woman with a demonized daughter and he tries to avoid meeting her request, he discovers that she has something uncommon in Israel. She has faith. Rahab’s inclusion in safety among the Israelites is a well-known fact. We do not know how many other Canaanites were enveloped into Israelite life but we are certain that there ought to have been one family that was notable in New Testament times for its faith and Canaanite strain: David’s.
Same to God – Jew or Gentile
Christ has brought the far near, he’s broken down walls with his body, he’s made a new entity of two, and he’s smoothed everyone’s way to God.
- FAR vs NEAR: But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Eph 2:13
- NO DIVIDING WALL: For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility Eph 2:14
- TWO BECOME ONE : by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, Eph 2:15
- THE PASSION ENDS THE US-THEM HOSTILITY: and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. Eph 2:16
- Few people have been born to hopelessness, if any, but it has been the experience of countless millions to hear “You can’t sit here”, “You cannot get married here”, and “You can’t drive here”.
It smacks of dishonesty to say that the obstacles to Gentile inclusion was misapplied covenant and not clear directions.
As early as Exodus 34 (it certainly looks like Palestinian Covenant) we begin to hear “Watch your interactions with the inhabitants of the land” (vs. 11-12) and avoid participating in their sacrificial feasts.
Hope was a red rope
The instrument of Rahab’s salvation was a rope: a scarlet line (tiqvah). This is the word for hope. This word discovery makes the saving of Yarchoite Rahab a gripping vignette of the mystery of godliness.
- Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household. Josh 2:18
- And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window. Josh 2:21
- But to the two men who had spied out the land, Joshua said, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring out from there the woman and all who belong to her, as you swore to her.” Josh 6:22
Outside the Camp
The Sons of Israel did not know what to do with Rahab. They actually had rules about access to Yahweh and they had to keep Joshua’s word.
So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. Josh 6:23
And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. Josh 6:24
So Rahab had a tent outside the camp of Israel. She was safe. She was not a hero. Her family may have cheered her and revered and feted her for giving them the chance to escape the Amorite decree: dispossession and destruction.
But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. Gen 15:16.
And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, which dwelt on the other side Jordan; and they fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, that ye might possess their land; and I destroyed them from before you. Josh 24:8
Special arrangements had to be made for her to have food and the services that every woman deserves. Ten men in the congregation Israel owed their lives to her.
Us and them – a discredited blueprint
The entire history of keeping people apart was never a healthy or happy occupation. The celebration of the weekly day of rest included recalling the 400 year Israelite stay in Egypt.
And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. Eph 2:17
But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. Josh. 6:25