Jesse Tree 12. “Rahab: Messianic Matriarch”

Scripture: Josh 2:1–21

Rahab on Jericho’s Walls

The Lord’s call of Abraham made clear from the beginning that his job description for the people of God would be “bless the nations” (Gen 12:1–3). At Jericho, we find not only a foreign woman, but even a prostitute coming under that blessing (Josh 2:1). Some commentators suggest that the Hebrew term zonah doesn’t necessarily mean “prostitute” but could mean something like an “innkeeper.” But it’s pretty clear that the Hebrew term refers to a woman committing fornication, whether sneaking around occasionally or openly doing it professionally.

Protecting the Spies

Rahab and the Emissaries of Joshua
Unknown (17th cent.), “Rahab and the Emissaries of Joshua”

Rahab noticed how strong Israel had become and decided to cast her lot with them. So when Joshua’s spies came to Jerusalem, she put them up for the night (Josh 2:1, 9–11). And when the town grapevine cottoned onto a couple spies who had dropped in to see the town’s prostitute, the king sent for them (Josh 2:2–3). But Rahab hid the spies and sent the king’s goons off on a wild goose chase.

Then she struck a deal with the spies: When Jericho falls, protect me and my extended family (Josh 2:4–8, 12–13). The spies swore by their own lives, “We will be kind to you when the Lord gives us the land” (Josh 2:14). So she sent them on their way with advice how to evade capture (Josh 2:15–16).

Protecting Rahab’s Household

A Red Cord in the Window

Rahab hangs the scarlet thread from her window
Frederic James Shields (1833-1911), “Rahab Hangs the Scarlet Thread from Her Window”

The men told her to gather her family inside her house and mark it with a “scarlet rope” (Josh 2:15, 18). Fanciful interpretations argue that the red color symbolizes the blood of Christ. But just because the rope was red doesn’t mean we have a type of Jesus’s blood.

Actually, this signal is one in a list biblical seals:

  • mark of protection that God gave Cain (Gen 4:15)
  • bloodied door posts of houses to be protected from the death angel (Exod 12)
  • pen mark on the forehead of the righteous in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezek 9)
  • mark on the 144,000 (Rev 7:4; 14:1, 3)

And all of these are physical symbols of the reality that God provides in the seal of the Spirit (2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:30).

Theological Lesson

Old Testament Context

God will be gracious to anyone who turns to him. In Rahab’s case, the fear of God led her to seek his protection—but then, that’s the beginning of wisdom. In Ruth’s case, it was a response of loyal love for a mother-in-law. God will be faithful to his covenant promise to Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you” (Gen 12:3). Of course, the opposite is true: “I will curse those who treat you with contempt” (Gen 12:3).

New Testament Application

As the New Testament puts it, “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9). It doesn’t matter what your nationality—or your lifestyle—if you turn to God he will turn his smiling face to you.

Rahab in Jesus’s Genealogy?

Some traditions identify the Rahab from Jericho (Josh 2) with the Rahab who was Boaz’s mother (Matt 1:5). We don’t know if they were the same lady. But perhaps Boaz’s Canaanite mother, a prostitute, and his Moabitess wife, “a virtuous woman” (Ruth 3:11), both joined the faithful assembly of those who were longing for the coming of Messiah.

Questions, Reflections, and Commitments

Where “on Jericho’s wall” are you sitting this Christmas season?

  • Are you like one of the two spies, already numbered among those who are going about God’s business in this world and looking for spiritual victories?
  • Are you like Rahab’s neighbors along the wall or in the streets below, going about your own business with no regard for what God is about to do in overthrowing this world in his final judgment?
  • Are you like the king and his messengers, patrolling the walls in opposition to God and his people?

Ornament for the day

  • Click here to download cross-stitch patterns for all the daily ornaments.
  • Click here to download a simple coloring book for all the daily ornaments.

Author: Dale A. Brueggemann

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