Courage and Kindness

Rahab lived in Jericho, and helped the two spies whom Joshua had sent to view the land, " ... especially Jericho." (Joshua 2:1). Whilst her actions may not have determined the strategy of battle or the outcome for Jericho, Rahab's assistance was crucial in the safe return of the spies and their subsequent favourable report.

"Truly the LORD has delivered all the land into our hands, for indeed all the inhabitants of the country are fainthearted because of us." (Joshua 2:24)

Rahab was a harlot and a Gentile. Neither her profession nor her lineage immediately draw a picture of virtue, yet Rahab displayed remarkable courage and performed a rare kindness, characteristics which are more readily associated with the righteous, the faithful, the people of God.

Jericho was completely destroyed. None survived apart from Rahab and her family - a staggering accomplishment. Add to this the fact that Rahab is recorded in the famous messianic genealogy. The Anointed One, the Messiah, for whom all Israel waits, and in every generation, is related to Rahab. Indeed, Rahab was great-great-grandmother to one of the greatest kings in world history, and Israel. According to the genealogy recorded in the Book of Matthew (1:5) King David was a descendant of Rahab. And from King David will come the Messiah, the Ultimate King who will establish His throne in Jerusalem, and whose Kingdom will last forever.

The fall of Jericho was pivotal. The battle strategy itself was unique, and paved the way for the Children of Israel to arrive home, and to take possession of their everlasting inheritance. Rahab, this Gentile harlot, was there, at the forefront, urging Israel in those first steps.

When the king of Jericho heard that there were two Israeli spies in town he "sent to Rahab, saying, 'Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the country.'" (Joshua 2:3) It is intriguing that the Scripture records the process, whereby the king "sent to Rahab"; she is not referred to as Rahab the harlot. Note, also, the king refers to the spies not as spies, but "the men who have come to you".

One of the most notable aspects about Rahab was that she did not do what might be expected of a Gentile or a harlot.

When the king of Jericho commanded, "Bring out the men ...", Rahab did not appear to tremble in subjection. She was not intimidated. Neither was Rahab glowing with a boasting heart, with a "look at me, the king has sent to me" pretence. Instead, Rahab did quite the unexpected - she hid the spies.

This was courage, true courage - mark it well.

These were no ordinary spies. Ordinary men, yes, but from a unique people, the Children of Israel. Ordinary men on a special mission. When speaking with these two men of Israel, Rahab announces, "I know that the LORD has given you the land ... " (Joshua 2:9)

This declaration has enormous consequences.

Rahab the harlot was a local. Her family had probably lived in Jericho for generations. But here, she was welcoming the Children of Israel home. She was saying, "This is your land. I and my family may have lived here for generations, but this land belongs to you. We have been temporary tenants, simply occupying and holding it, for you, until you take possession!"

Contrast Rahab's declaration to the voices of the Palestinian and Arab Muslim countries. While Rahab welcomed Israel, saying, "this is your land ...", the Palestinian and Arab Muslim countries (together with support of the international community) deny Israel's inheritance to the land. Today, the Jewish people, the descendants of the Children of Israel, are not only refused rightful possession, but are forced to give their land to others to whom it does not belong.

Rahab stood firm in the truth. "I know that the LORD has given you the land ... " To obey the king, "Bring out the men ..." would have meant for Rahab to deny the God of heaven and earth, and forced her to walk contrary to the truth. These men were destined to take possession, not to die at the hands of the king of Jericho. She withstood the king's command with faithful courage.

Rahab's faith was proactive. She showed the men kindness, by hiding them. "Then the woman took the two men and hid them." (Joshua 2:4) Notice, Rahab is referred to as "the woman" while the spies are referred to as "the two men". There is something righteous about the actions of Rahab.

The kindness shown by Rahab is distinctly different from the way in which the world shows kindness. According to the world's philosophy, it is acceptable for the doer of the deed to set conditions, "I'll do something for you, if you do something for me." Likewise, the world teaches that acts of kindness should be in public view, so as to guarantee an appropriate acknowledgement or recognition.

Rahab's kindness is different. Prior to hiding them, Rahab says nothing to the men about reward - she simply performs the act without condition. Note how great Rahab's act of kindness was.

The kindness shown to the two men was at a time when they themselves were vulnerable. Death threatened at the hands of the king of Jericho, and they were powerless. Moreover, by hiding the men of Israel, Rahab's life was in danger. Nevertheless, Rahab does not attempt to negotiate for a future reward; she justly performs this kindness.

This is not how the world performs kindness; this is God's way; it is the path of the righteous. It is a good work - a mitzvah.

Notice also, after releasing the two men, Rahab asks them to show kindness. "Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the LORD, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father's house ..." (Joshua 2:12) Here too, Rahab does not seek kindness for herself, but "to my father's house". Even in this, Rahab is displaying a steadfast faith in the God of Israel. Somehow, she knew that she could not rely on the king of Jericho, otherwise she would have asked him, but instead she asked the two men of Israel to show kindness to her father's house.

Rahab's courage and kindness were not random or baseless, but flowed from faith founded in the truth: "I know the LORD has given you the land ... for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven and on earth." (Joshua 2:9, 11)

Rahab was a woman of exemplary behaviour. Rahab may have been a harlot of Jericho, but she concerned herself with the welfare of Israel, and acted favourably toward God's people.

May the God of Israel raise up Gentiles today, who like Rahab act courageously for the people of Israel, even to withstand the king's command, refusing to "bring out the Jews", and to show kindness by hiding the Jewish people from those who seek their demise.

Mark Warren