THE LIE OF RAHAB
See Joshua 2:4-7. Compare this with Ex 1:18-20; 1 Sam 16:2-3; 21:2. How does this square
with Ex 20:16; Prov 12:22; Eph 4:25; James 2:25? The dealing with the apparent lie of Rahab is
a hard one, one that has been given a variety of answers by Biblical scholars.
A. The falsehood to which she had recourse may be excused by the pressure of the
circumstances and by her own antecedents, but cannot be defended. (Barnes Notes)
B. Her deceit is not to be justified as a lie of necessity told for a good purpose. Neither can
we avoid the problem by saying that before the preaching of the gospel a salutary lie was
not regarded as a fault even by good men. Such cannot be shown to be "allowable," or
even "praiseworthy," simply because the writer mentions the fact without expressing any
subjective opinion. . . she is still culpable in affirming an untruth, for a lie is always a sin.
(Winter, Joshua, College Press)
C. The scared historian simply narrates the fact, and makes no comment whatever upon it. .
. Rahab was not doubt absolutely ignorant that there was any sin, either in her mode of
living or in the lie she told to save the men's lives. . . However, the guilt of Rahab's
falsehood may be extenuated, it seems best to admit nothing which may tend to explain it
away. We are sure that God discriminated between what was good in her conduct and
what was bad; rewarding the former, and pardoning the latter. Her views of the Divine
law must have been exceedingly dim and contracted. A similar falsehood, told by those
who enjoy the light of revelation, however laudable the motive, would of course deserve a
much heavier censure. (Pulpit Commentary)
D. The course which she adopted was a sin of weakness, which was forgiven her in mercy
because of her faith. (Keil-Delitzch)
E. It may be asked, "Did not Rahab lie in the account she gave to the officers of the King of
Jericho?" I answer, She certainly did; and the inspired writer sets down the fact merely
as it stood, without making the Spirit of God responsible for the dissimulation of the
woman. But was she not rewarded? Yes; for her hospitality and faith, not for her lie. But
could she have saved the spies without telling a lie? Yes, she certainly might; but what
notion could a woman of her occupation have of the nicer distinctions between truth and
falsehood, living among a most profligate and depraved people, where truth could
scarcely be known? (Adam Clarke)
F. First, one must remember that the status of this woman at the time she was visited.
Second, one must recognize that the darkened conscience is but gradually enlightened.
Third, Rahab was just in the process of changing her whole way of life; she was
beginning to throw in her lot with God's people. (Beacon Bible Commentary)
RAHAB AND ACHAN: A STUDY IN CONTRASTS
Taken from: Hamlin, Joshua, Inheriting the Land. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983
A poor Canaanite woman A well-to-do man of the tribe of Judah (Josh
Took the spies to the roof and hid them from the king of Took the forbidden things and hid them from
Jericho (2:6) Joshua (7:21-22)
Showed kindness and loyalty to the Israelite spies and Brought trouble on Israel by his greed (7:11,
helped them achieve victory (2:12) 25)
Made a covenant with the Israelites (2:12-14) Broke the covenant with God (7:11)
Saved her whole family alive, and they became respected Condemned his family to death and oblivion
members of the kingdom society (2:13-14; 6:22-23, 25) (7:25)
The contrast between the unfaithful Israelite and the faithful foreigner is remarkable. King Ahab
was a kind of Achan figure, and the prophets described Israel in terms of unfaithfulness
reminiscent of Achan. We can find counterparts of Rahab in Ruth the Moabitess (Ruth 2:2), the
widow of Zarephath in Sidon (1 Kgs 17:9), Naaman the Syrian (2 Kgs 5:1), the people of Nineveh
(Jonah 3:6-9), those described in Isa 44:5; 45:14, 22-23; 49:7; 55:5, King Cyrus (Isa 44:28; 45:1),
the centurion at the cross (Matt 27:54), and Cornelius in Caesarea (Acts 10), as well as the great
multitude "from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne"
The contrast between Rahab and Achan is well illustrated in Jesus' words " Many will come from
east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while
the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness" (Matt 8:11-12).
I. RAHAB--WOMAN OF FAITH
A. God works through very ordinary and unlikely people, such as Rahab. She had
four strikes against her as to her likelihood of being used by God in the culture of
B. She was a Canaanite, not a Jew. Most of the Canaanites were so wicked that
God gave the instruction that they were to be wiped out. But here was one who
was an exception to the rule.
C. She was a woman. The typical Jewish prayer by the time of Jesus that a man
would pray every morning was, "Lord, I thank thee that I was not born a Gentile,
a slave, or a woman." In many places in the world today women still have a
second-class statues. In some cultures they are even considered as objects to
be owned. India and some other countries practice infanticide with female
babies. But God shows by his choice of Rahab that both male and female are
part of His original creation and both are made in His image.
D. She was a prostitute. She was probably not a cultic prostitute, tied into the
Canaanite fertility goddess worship because there is another Hebrew word to
describe a religious prostitute. Most likely she was forced into this occupation for
economic reasons. Her family was probably involved in agriculture outside the
city. That would explain the flax bundles drying on the roof. God has a way of
working through the most ordinary and unlikely people who live on t he edge of
social respectability. Jesus attracted these kinds of people to him.
E. She was dishonest. She told an out and out lie to the soldiers who came looking
for the spies. Here is a strange combination. Rahab is a harlot, a liar, and a
person of great faith. Is her lying justified? Does God work by a situational
ethic? NO! God's standards never change. What you have with Rahab is the
fact that the conscience is slowly enlightened. There can be no doubt that she
changed both her profession and her ethics as she threw in her lot with God's
people. But there is no doubt as to how she was living when she first came into
contact with the Israelites. She was on the outmost circle of faith, just touching
the boundaries. But the nearer she would come to the Lord, the most she would
change form her previous lifestyle. But, this just goes to show that God can use
us as we are, and in the process, change us.
F. Rahab was an unusual mother. She made quite a pilgrimage. She married,
settled down and raised a family and actually became one of the ancestors of
Jesus Christ on Joseph's side. She is listed in Christ's genealogy in Matt 1:5-6.
She is affirmed as an example of living faith in Heb 11:31 and affirmed for her
good works in James 2:25.
II. FIVE QUALITIES IN RAHAB'S LIFE THAT ARE VERY INSTRUCTIVE IN PRACTICAL
A. She had a street-smart openness to truth from wherever it came. She was
faithful to what little light she did have. We should guard against closed minds.
Rahab had heard how God was working in the Israelite nation. She knew their
God must be powerful. Perhaps because she was a prostitute she was looking
for something better. She just may have been an open person looking for
something better. She saw a need for change in her life and recognized the
possibilities and potential for change.
B. Rahab had the courage to make a tough decision.
C. Rahab was willing to join a new family--the family of God.
D. Rahab had a loyalty to her own human family.
E. Rahab had a lasting faith in the Lord.