11: A Gentile Become A Member Of Israel

How does a person become a member of society?  The Bible speaks of at least two that I can think of immediately.  Ruth became a member of a different society.  And here in this section Schaeffer explains the story of Rahab becoming a member of a different society.  Although God sought to keep His chosen race pure, there were these exceptions that we must account for.  I don't think it is too hard to understand if we back away from being legalistic about it.  There are numerous factors involved in growing a family into a people group and then a nation and then moving them into a land.  We have to see there is some fluidity involved in the project.  
As seen at jesusway4you.com

What follows are fragmentary pieces of Francis Schaeffer’s commentary Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History picked out for my own edification and direction. I am interested most in finding the conditions God gave for taking and possessing His land. Also, what can we learn from this story of conquest? To go to the start of these lessons click here.

In the last chapter we focused on the continuity of the national portion of the Abrahamic covenant as it flowed down to the time of Joshua and beyond. Is there anything in the crucial moment of history in which Joshua lived which can show us the continuity of the spiritual blessing? Indeed there is: Rahab the harlot.

The Spies’ Perspective

While the Israelites were camped at Shittim, Joshua sent two spies across the Jordan. “And they went, and came into an harlot’s house, named Rahab, and lodged there” (Josh. 2:1). Why did the two spies go to a harlot’s house? The answer is simple: they went where they could easily “get lost,” where they could find shelter with some degree of freedom. There is no place like a harlot’s house for people coming and going. There is no indication whatever that they went there for any immoral purpose; this simply does not exist in the story.

Rahab gave the spies two things. First, she gave them shelter. They were filled with thankfulness that she had hid them and saved their lives, not only because they escaped personally, but because her help made possible the success of their venture. Second, she spoke the words which provided the key to the spies’ report to Joshua:

And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint [literally, melt] because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, who were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you; for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. (Josh. 2:9–11)

In this remarkable set of words Rahab verbalized the truth to these two spies. The spies came to a most unlikely place, and the words of this woman told them exactly what the situation was.

There was a parallel event in the life of Gideon. God told Gideon that Gideon would save Israel from the hand of the Midianites, and Gideon asked for two different signs to confirm this. After responding to Gideon’s request, God gave him one more sign that he did not ask for. God told him to go down at night to the camp of the Midianites. So Gideon went down with his servant. Standing on the periphery of the camp, they heard two Midianites talking:

And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along. And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon, the son of Joash, a man of Israel; for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host. And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshiped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian. (Judg. 7:13–15)

As with the two spies and Rahab, what Gideon heard was giving encouragement through the words of an enemy. This convinced him of the final outcome, thus enabling him to say with courage, “There is no question that we are going to be victorious.” From the mouth of somebody on “the other side” came a verbalization that completely settled the situation.

The spies had real faith. For when they responded to Rahab’s request, they told her that her life would be saved “when the Lord hath given us the land” (Josh. 2:14). Not if but when. These men understood that God’s promises were going to stand sure.[1] This was a complete contrast to the ten spies at the time of Moses.

Also a great contrast to the failure of thirty-eight years before was the reply the two men gave to Joshua: “Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us” (Josh. 2:24). This sounds almost exactly like what Joshua and Caleb had said. The two spies sent to Jericho were faithful, not just in the sense of having good eyes, but in the sense of believing the promises of God.

Rahab’s Perspective

Rahab was a harlot in a heathen land. Some people have been embarrassed by this and have tried to tone it down, but it is impossible to do so. That is really what she was. It is the only thing the Hebrew word in Joshua 2:1 can mean.

When she had the men in her house, Rahab besought them in this way:

Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the LORD, since I have shown you kindness, that ye will also show kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token; and that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death. And the men answered her, Our life for yours if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the LORD hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee. Then she let them down by a cord through the window; for her house was upon the town wall, and she dwelt upon the wall. And she said unto them, Get you to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you; and hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers be returned; and afterward may ye go your way. And the men said unto her, We will be blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear. Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window by which thou didst let us down; and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee. And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him. And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear. And she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed; and she bound the scarlet line in the window. (Josh. 2:12–21).

There is no mention here of husband or children. Those designated to be saved are of her “father’s household.” Verse 18 shows that none of her family lived with her. This is consistent with the word Scripture uses to describe her. Later, when Jericho was taken, who did the spies bring out? “Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren … all her kindred … Joshua saved Rahab, the harlot, alive, and her father’s household” (Josh. 6:23, 25). We miss the whole point of the story, therefore, if we become embarrassed and soften it: Rahab was a harlot in a heathen land.

But Rahab had two things going for her. First, she had heard something propositional. She had heard what had happened in space-time history when the Hebrews came out of Egypt and when they had fought against Sihon and Og, two nearby powers.

Second, in her presence were two spies who represented to her the whole Israelite nation. This is one reason why it was important that the two men did not go to her because she was a harlot. To her they were representatives of God’s people. And they did not waver in their faith before this woman (Josh. 2:14). What she had was the message and the tangible contact with two spies.

Surrounding Rahab, however, was a hostile and awesome environment: Jericho, the mighty fortress, with its great walls. Jericho had stood for hundreds of years; it was impregnable, or so its inhabitants thought. So, though Rahab had heard a propositional message and though she had the two spies standing before her, she was still surrounded by a monolithic mentality, an entire world-view. She was pressured by a powerful city and an ancient culture continuing on in its normal life—eating, drinking, marrying and so forth. At that moment she could see nothing with her eyes which indicated it would fall.

What did Rahab do? In the midst of this tension, Rahab believed. This is the crux of the story. “I know that the LORD has given you the land,” she said. “The LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath” (Josh. 2:9, 11). Her statement about God was universal and total.

How did she know that? We are not told. Often in Scripture we find that people knew things, though we are not told how they came to know them. But Rahab knew! And what she knew was totally against her culture. She believed in a new God, a God totally and diametrically opposed to the gods of Jericho, but a God above all other gods, a universal God. In the midst of the Canaanites, the Ammonites, the Amorites—in the midst of their horrible, polluted worship, laden with sex symbols and sex practices—Rahab affirmed a true theological proposition about who God really is.

Abraham in his day believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. Joshua also made a personal choice: “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood [that is, on the other side of the Euphrates], or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh. 24:15). Rahab stood in exactly the same position. Surrounded by those who worshiped the Canaanite and Amorite gods, she made her decision: “By an act of the will, on the basis of the knowledge that I have, I declare in faith that God is the God of Heaven above and the earth beneath. He is the universal God.”

Peter preached to the Jews on Pentecost that the covenant was fulfilled in the coming of Christ, but that each person had to believe individually. As Paul preached throughout the Roman Empire, non-Jews began to believe. At the time of Joshua, Rahab stood in the stream of the spiritual portion of the covenant as a believing non-Jew. She stood where the Gentiles stood in the New Testament when they first believed the gospel in Antioch. She stood exactly where most Christians stand today, for most of us are non-Jewish believers.

This non-Jew believed and passed from the kingdom of the Amorites to the kingdom of the Jews. But she did something much more profound than exchanging one human citizenship for another. She also passed from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s dear Son. The book of Hebrews makes a tremendous statement about Rahab, paralleling her to other heroes of the faith: “By faith the harlot, Rahab, perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace” (Heb. 11:31). There were those who did not believe, but she did believe; so she did not perish. More than this, she became something that not all the Jews were, because, as we have seen, not all the Jews were spiritual Jews. Many who stood in the natural line of the covenant never partook of the spiritual blessings because they did not make Rahab’s choice. So curiously enough, she who had been a non-Jewish heathen suddenly became not only a part of the nation of Israel, but also a part of the true Israel. With one act of faith, she stepped into the nation and beyond many of the Jews themselves to become a member of spiritual Israel.

Questions & Notes

  1. The spies had real _________ and understood that God’s promises were going to stand sure.

The following questions are from The NIV Serendipity Bible.

1.Why do you suppose Rahab felt safe harboring two spies?
2.What was Rahab’s request of the spies?
3.In this request, is she: (a) Self-serving? (b) Other-centered? (c) God-honoring? Why do you think so?
4.What does their conversation reveal about Israel’s intentions? About the binding nature of promises? About Rahab’s saving faith?
5.What is the key element in the spies’ report (Josh 2:9, 24)? Upon first hearing that report, how would you respond?


1.Rahab’s actions spare her family. What can you do to help insure the salvation of your family?
2.When told of how God has worked through those “on the other side,” how do you respond: With fear? Jealousy? Vicarious joy? Inspired faith?
3.What great things has God done “on your side” that might offer hope to others?
4.What groups of people live “on the other side,” whom you need to reach out in Christian love to include in your circle?

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