In Joshua 2 we read a story that may be familiar to many about two Jewish spies who entered the city of Jericho and were harbored by a Canaanite woman named Rahab. The fact that the Bible identifies her as a harlot has let some to assume that these men came to her house seeking something more than just a place to avoid discovery, but that is just speculation. What is very clear from this chapter, however, is that Rahab was no ordinary Canaanite. In conversation with the men of Israel, she said,
I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For 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 the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. (Josh 2:9-11)
There are a couple of things that caught my attention when I read this passage recently. First of all, Rahab was a Canaanite, which meant that she did not have access to the Scriptures. Of course, at that point in time, only a small portion of God’s word had yet been written, but still, she did not have any direct, special revelation concerning the Lord. This means that whatever knowledge she had of God came from her own observations of the natural world and world events.
This leads to the second point, which is that all of the people of Jericho had heard about Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea and about their victories over the armies of Og and Sihon. With four decades having passed since God’s miraculous delivery of his people from the hand of the Egyptians, many people must have concluded that the Red Sea crossing story was just a myth or at least a tall tale that had grown with the telling. The conflicts with the Amorites had occurred during the two years just prior to their entering the land of Canaan, so those must have renewed the sense of dread about the coming of the Israelites, but Rahab’s response appears to be unique among her people.
This woman, whose trade was typical of the immorality of the Canaanite civilization, recognized that the land of Canaan belonged Yahweh, and that he had granted it to the children of Israel to possess it. She further proclaimed the unique, covenant relationship between Yahweh and his people, and his sovereign lordship over all of creation. These theological conclusions were based entirely on her belief in the rumors of the Red Sea crossing and the military victories of the Israelites over the Amorites. What amazing faith she showed with such little evidence to bolster it!
As I reflect on her testimony, which was verified by her actions throughout the next few chapters of the book, I cannot help but think about her response to the very limited light which she had received about God. By contrast, people today have access to God’s word in more ways than we can count, yet we often fail to exercise even the smallest amount of faith in what the Lord has revealed. Rahab was willing to put her life and that of her family at risk, because she was convinced that Yahweh was the true God, the Lord of heaven and earth. And she was convinced of this because she had heard stories about a great miracle which had occurred a generation earlier and two battles which others had no doubt concluded were lucky victories for the Israelites. May we, too, stake our lives on the power and faithfulness of the One whose word is truth!