Last week we saw how the work of God in the history of the Israelites “melted” the hearts of the residents of Jericho.
- And in Rahab’s case, the “melting” was such that she acknowledged Yahweh as “God in the heavens above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:11).
- The book of Hebrews confirms for us that her confession was a trusting on par with Abraham.
- She was not simply a calculating pagan adding one more god to her collection and using it to her advantage.
In fact, it is argued that given the arrangement of Joshua 2, her confession of faith is the central point of Joshua 2.
- Dale Ralph Davis’ says Rahab’s faith is the meat of a literary “structure sandwich”.
Structure Sandwich (chiastic structure):
- Commission by Joshua, 1a
- Arrival/concern: protection of the spies, 2–7
- Confession of faith, 8–14
- Escape/concern: protection of Rahab and Co., 15–21
- Arrival/concern: protection of the spies, 2–7
- Return to Joshua, 22–24
It needs to be pointed out that her confession contains both elements of trust that we spoke of a few weeks ago.
- (1) Done Work – A recognition of the “done” work of God – Exodus.
- (2) Future Promise – A trust in the future promise of God – Delivery of Promise Land to Jews at Jericho’s expense.
- The second is implied because she asks to be saved – “deliver our lives from death” (Joshua 2:13).
Note also that her confession here also acknowledges the following:
“Genuine faith never rests content with being convinced of the reality of God but presses on to take refuge in God. Rahab not only must know the clear truth about God but also must escape the coming wrath of God” – Dale Ralph Davis.
We also saw that Rahab pleaded with the Jewish spies for mercy on her.
- She asked that they “deal kindly with my father’s house” (Joshua 2:12)
- And she even asked them to enter into an oath with her.
- “please swear to me by the LORD” – Joshua 2:12
- The spies obliged her request – “our life for yours even to death” (Joshua 2:14).
- More on this in a moment.
Her words to the spies in 2:12 also hint that more was to come from this interaction.
- She asked that they give her “a sure sign” – Joshua 2:12.
Joshua 2:15–17 (ESV) — 15 Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall, so that she lived in the wall. 16 And she said to them, “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the pursuers have returned. Then afterward you may go your way.” 17 The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made us swear.
In spite of the fact that 15 comes before 16 as written, in reality, the conversation most likely took place before the men were lowered down the wall.
- David Howard, Woudstra, Hess and others address this issue, no reason to get into it here.
In the course of the conversation, she tells them to go in the opposite direction of the king’s posse.
- Whether or not the waiting 3 days is supposed to be a connection to three days Jesus was dead, we don’t really know.
- But it is clear that there life depends on following her instructions – “hide there three days”.
Importantly, for our purposes, we have the spies confirming that they did indeed swear an oath with Rahab in verse 17.
- This swearing an oath with Rahab requires that we contend with the words of Moses.
- Deuteronomy 7:1–2 (NIV) — 1 When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you—2 and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.
- Deuteronomy 20:16–18 (NIV) — 16 However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you.
It seems that, “The entire incident relates a situation expressly forbidden to Israel and articulates an opposition to the introductory affirmations of obedience” – David Howard.
- So were the spies disobedient to God’s command?
- Were they bamboozled by a shrewd pagan prostitute?
The answer, of course, is to be found in the meat of the “structure sandwich”.
- Rahab had confessed belief in Yahweh.
- Her melted heart was circumcised.
James Boice sums up Rahab’s faith this way:
- She “put her life on the line”
- She “repudiated her own past and people”
- She “identified with the Jewish people”
So the answer to the two questions is no.
- Because, what we have here is more OT Gospel.
- Or to put another way, this is the “outworkings of the Abrahamic covenant” – David Howard.
- We musn’t lose sight of the fact that the nations were to be blessed through God’s election of Israel.
- So the faith that united Abraham to Christ and put him in a place of being seen as obedient to the law did the same for Rahab.
- And as Paul tells us, in Christ nationality is meaningless.
David Howard puts it as follows:
“By this [her faith], she made herself an Israelite, so to speak. She chose to cast her lot with Israel’s God, not the Canaanites’ gods. Prior to this confession of faith, the spies showed no intentions of entering into any treaties or agreements with her or any other Canaanite. However, her confession of faith made all the difference. She was, in effect, no longer a Canaanite” – David Howard.
The book of Joshua and Gospel of Matthew reveal just how true Howard’s statement that she was “no longer a Canaanite” is:
- Joshua 6:25 (ESV) — 25 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.
- And we know from Matthew that, “She married a Jew and became an ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ. She married a man of the tribe of Judah named Salmon. Their son was Boaz, who married Ruth the Moabitess. Their son was Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of King David (see Matt. 1:5–6)” – James Boice.
Joshua 2:18–21 (NIV) — 18 unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. 19 If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them. 20 But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.” 21 “Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.” So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
We have in this text the sure sign and the seal of the sworn oath that Rahab asked for earlier.
- The spies say to her that when they return all will be well with her if she has “tied this scarlet cord in the window”.
- The presence of the scarlet cord will secure her safety.
- And it will save not only her from certain destruction, but also her family, as long as she and they are “in your house”.
There is but one thing that will negate this salvation.
- “But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath…” – verse 20.
- It is clear that this certainly means that she can’t betray the spies.
- Hiding in the hills, for example.
- But it may also mean that she must remain silent about Jericho’s coming destruction.
- No doubt, she had many friends that she wanted to warn, but the text seems to indicate that only her family could be saved.
- This is unclear.
Symbolism of the Scarlet Cord:
How far can we take the symbolism of the scarlet cord?
- Mark Woudstra tells us that some of the Church fathers considered the cord “a symbol of the blood of Christ”.
- But interestingly, Howard, Woudstra, and Boice are hesitant to see the cord as a type for Christ.
- “…it is questionable as to whether the typology pointed out here—that the scarlet thread represents shed blood or the blood of Christ and that Rahab represents the Church—is truly warranted” – David Howard.
- They give a number of reasons – no time to get into them here.
So does it symbolize anything?
- There are at least three things that seem to find consensus.
(1) David Howard sees a clear connection between both the scarlet cord and the women of our text and Genesis 38:28.
- Genesis 38:28 (ESV) — 28 And when she was in labor, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet [sani] thread on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.”
- Here we have Tamar tying a “scarlet thread” around one of her twin son’s wrists at his birth – Zerah.
- Zerah is actually mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus.
So what is the connection?
“Rahab and Tamar are linked together in being two of the four foreign women in this same genealogy. Now we see a further link between the two women in the scarlet cord. In God’s providence, these two women—both of them foreigners, societal outcasts, prostitutes, and in possession of a scarlet cord—came to be part of the lineage of Jesus Christ himself” – David Howard.
BTW – If this connection is legit, then it would seem that the scarlet cord can represent Christ.
- If He is the one that ultimately links Rahab and Tamar then doesn’t He participate in the symbolism?
“…there is a remarkable parallel between the cord that marked her house and the blood of the lambs spread on the doorposts and lintels of the Jewish homes in Egypt when the angel of death passed over the Jewish homes and families” – James Boice.
The similarities are many:
- Blood of Lamb as sign of protection – Scarlet Cord as sign of protection
- Must remain in house to be safe – Must remain in house to be safe
- Lives of the faithful spared – Lives of the faithful spared
BTW – As with (1), if the scarlet cord parallels Passover and Passover points to Christ, then here again we seem to be saying that the scarlet cord hints at Jesus.
(3) The Gospel
- Given one and two, and what we’ve said about Rahab’s faith, it is no wonder that John Piper suggests that the cord represents the Gospel.
- In fact, he wrote a poem called “The Gospel of the Wall of Jericho” to drive this point home.
Joshua 2:22–24 (ESV) — 22 They departed and went into the hills and remained there three days until the pursuers returned, and the pursuers searched all along the way and found nothing. 23 Then the two men returned. They came down from the hills and passed over and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and they told him all that had happened to them. 24 And they said to Joshua, “Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.”
Our final verses make clear that Rahab kept her end of the sworn oath.
- She didn’t rat out the spies.
- “…the two men returned.”
The spies then gave a report to Joshua about what they had found – “told him all that happened”.
- But, the author of Joshua summed up the report in one sentence.
- “Truly the Lord has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.”
This sentence reveals some pretty cool things.
- (1) The spies are convinced that the promise land will be theirs.
- (2) And there is the added bonus that the people of Jericho are terrified – “the inhabitants…melt away because of us”.
- Panic-stricken condition – TWOT.
It is unclear (translations differ) if their certainty about the promise land is because of the fear they encountered.
- Let us hope that it is based on their trust in God – the surety of His Done Work and Future Promises.
- For these are the very things that Rahab cited for the fear and for her faith.
Finally, the spies’ report harkens back to the recon mission Joshua was a part of 40+ years earlier.
- At that time the Jewish spies (except Joshua and Caleb) were the ones terrified.
- It seems God’s judgment upon Israel to wander the desert for 40 years bore some fruit.