The section “Great Stories of the Bible” will tell in short the stories of the main characters in the Ancient Testament. Our goal is to inform the reader with a pleasant and simple style and to excite his curiosity, inviting him to a personal reading of the Word of God. English translation used for the biblical quotes is the New Heart English Bible (2014).
Text by Alberto Folcia
In the last issue, we started writing about the four women that the evangelist Matthew puts in Jesus’ genealogy: Tamar (whose story we have already told), Rahab, Ruth and the wife of Uriah. Now it is Rahab’s turn.
We find the story of Rahab in chapters 2 and 6 of the book of Joshua: the Israelites freed from the Egyptian slavery thanks to the LORD’s intervention, have spent forty years in the desert as a punishment for their continuous rebellions and lack of faith in Him and now, Moses having died on the mount Nebo, are going to enter the promised land to conquer it, led by their chief Joshua. One of the most feared hostile cities is Jericho, because of its formidable defenses and high walls; therefore, Joshua secretly sends in some explorers to get a detailed report before the attack. The spies stay overnight in Rahab the prostitute’s house, who hides them and misleads the king’s guards sent to capture them. Rahab proposes a pact to the explorers: «I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Sea of Suf before you, when you came out of Egypt; and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites, who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and to Og, whom you utterly destroyed. As soon as we had heard it, our hearts melted, neither did there remain any more spirit in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and on earth beneath. Now therefore, please swear to me by the LORD, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a true token; and that you will save alive my father, my mother, my brothers, and my sisters, and all that they have, and will deliver our lives from death» (Jos 2,9-13). Indeed a very beautiful profession of faith despite being a pagan! The explorers agree: «when we come into the land, you shall bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which you did let us down by. You shall gather to yourself into the house your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household. It shall be that whoever goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood will be on his head, and we will be guiltless. Whoever is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand is on him» (Jos 2,18-19).
As expected the LORD puts the city in the hands of Israel: at the war cry by the people the walls fall down and the enemy is soon defeated; only Rahab’s family, according to the promise, is saved and «She lived in the midst of Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers, whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho» (Jos 6,25).
Rahab’s faith is praised in the New Testament, too. In the long list of faithful witnesses that we can find in chapter 11 of the letter to the Hebrews, Rahab is the only woman cited by name, together with Abraham’s wife Sarah: «Now faith is being confident of what we hope for, convinced about things we do not see. For by this, the elders obtained testimony. […] By faith, the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith, Rahab the prostitute, did not
perish with those who were disobedient, having received the spies in peace» (Heb 11,1-2.30-31). Even the letter by James in chapter 2, exalting the works of faith, speaks of Rahab: «What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can faith save him? And if a brother or sister is naked and in lack of daily food, and one of you tells them,“Go in peace, be warmed and
filled;” and yet you did not give them the things the body needs, what good is it? Even so faith, if
it has no works, is dead in itself. Yes, a man will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me
your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe, and shudder. But do you want to know, foolish man, that faith apart from works is useless? Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith worked with his works, and by works faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness;” and he was called the friend of God. You see f that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In like manner was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works, in that she received the messengers, and sent them out another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead» (Jam 2,14-26).
Next month we will be telling the story of Ruth, the Moabitess.