Artwork: Rahab Helping the Two Israelite Spies, by Frederick Richard Pickersgill, 1897
Rahab of Jericho hid two Israelite spies on the roof of her house on the city wall and deceived the king's soldiers who came looking for them. She told the spies that everyone in Canaan was afraid of Israel, and she made them swear by God that they would save her and her family. Then she helped the spies to escape by lowering them down the city wall by a rope and directing them to hide in the mountains for three days to avoid capture (Josh chs. 2, 6).
Rahab of Jericho practised treason. She betrayed her own people. She lied to the king's officers and she abandoned her neighbours to their fate. Yet Rahab became the ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt 1:5) and is highly commended by the apostles for her faith and courage (Heb 11:31; James 2:25). How can we justify her choice, not only by standards of loyalty and integrity, but also in light of present-day concerns over invasion and genocide? Rahab of Jericho had heard about the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea and Israel's victory over the two Amorite kings of the Transjordan. But she didn't side with the Israelites just because she was sure they would conquer Canaan. She also said to the spies: "The LORD your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below." This key confession explains her decision in the midst of these exceptional historical events. Rahab of Jericho was a thinker. She decided that the truth is more important than group loyalty. She chose the real God of Israel over the fake gods of Canaan; the King of the Universe over the king of her city; law and ethics over corruption and expedience; meaning over futility, and eternal life over oblivion. For Rahab, no tradition could deny the evidence of the Creator's power, and no affiliation could outweigh the call of truth. We do not usually have to make such drastic choices, but when we do... "As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Josh 24:15) "We must obey God rather than any human authority." (Act 5:29)