From their vantage point at Acacia Grove, east of the Jordan River, Joshua and the Israelites could look westward to see the promised land, their God-given inheritance, “a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8). They could see the towering walls of Jericho, a fortified Canaanite city, deep in the Jordan River Valley, just a stone’s throw from the Dead Sea. Jericho was called the “City of Palms” (Deuteronomy 34:3) due to its elevation, about fourteen-hundred feet below sea level, with an almost tropical climate. It was an oasis of green, with surrounding fields and pastures irrigated by inexhaustible springs.
The Israelites had no way of knowing that the citizens of Jericho were in a frantic panic. The pagan Canaanites had “heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea” (Joshua 2:10). No doubt, they knew that bread mysteriously and magically rained from heaven to sustain the advancing army! Consequently, those in Jericho had “lost heart” and their “courage failed” (Jericho 2:11). They coward in fear, knowing that God’s unstoppable army was advancing.
From Acacia Grove, Joshua sent two men to stealthfully examine and inspect the area. “Go and scout the land, especially Jericho” (Joshua 2:1). Arriving at Jericho during the late afternoon, they found refuge in “the house of a prostitute named Rahab” (Joshua 2:1). Conveniently located near the city gates, I can imagine that Rahab’s Roadhouse was a combination tavern, greasy-spoon, hostel, and whorehouse. Weary travelers were probably directed there, a one-stop shop for all their wants and needs.
As the sun fell over the towering eastern hillside, rumors flew concerning the two suspicious men, Israelite spies. “Then the king of Jericho sent word to Rahab and said, ‘Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, for they came to investigate the entire land’ ” (Joshua 2:2)
Like all of Jericho’s citizens, Rahab had heard the descriptions of God’s people. But Rahab was different from her neighbors. Instead of fear, she had faith. “By faith Rahab the prostitute welcomed the spies in peace and didn’t perish with those who disobeyed” (Hebrews 11:31). To the two spies, Rahab testified, “the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth below”(Joshua 2:11).
Instead of betraying the Israelite spies, she hid them and protected them from certain death. Whisking the two men to the roof, she concealed them “among the stalks of flax” (Joshua 2:6). Late in the night, as Jericho became quiet and still, Rahab “let them down by a rope through the window, since she lived in a house that was built into the wall of the city” (Joshua 2:15).
Weeks later, when God’s army miraculously triumphed over Jericho, the only portion of the city walls that weren’t utterly destroyed was the small section where Rahab lived. Because of her faithfulness, and by God’s design, Rahab’s life, and the lives of her family, were spared. No others survived.
By God’s grace, Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute, was grafted into Abraham’s line when she married a Hebrew warrior named Salmon. Salmon and Rahab had a son named Boaz who married a Moabitess named Ruth. “Boaz fathered Obed by Ruth, and Obed fathered Jesse” (Matthew 1:5), the father of king David, the great, great, great… great grandfather of Jesus.
From prostitute to princess… that’s grace!