Last time, we looked at the story of Moses, and we examined in some detail God’s miraculous rescue of the Israelites from the pursuing Egyptian army by His parting of the Red Sea before them to allow a path for their escape, and His subsequent inundation of the Egyptians who tried to follow them. We looked briefly at the great unfaithfulness of the Israelites when they were wandering in the Sinai desert. Finally, we saw that God continued to fulfill His plan of salvation by bringing forth the Messiah – Jesus – from among the nation of Israel despite their faithlessness, noting that He also has mercy upon us, and showers us with grace despite our own imperfect faith, and concluding with a magnificent quote from Psalm 103 which bears repeating.
7He made known His ways to Moses,Psalm 103:7-14 – NKJV
His acts to the children of Israel.
8The LORD is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
9He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
10He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
11For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
12As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13As a father pities his children,
So the LORD pities those who fear Him.
14For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.
Hebrews 11:30-31 – The Great Hall of Faith – Part 8
The Hebrews writer now continues with his examples of faith throughout the history of the Hebrew people which has taken up most of Hebrews 11.
30By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days.Hebrews 11:30 – NKJV
As we saw in our previous study, news of the successes of the Israelites in their battles in the wilderness, and of God’s miraculous rescue of them by the parting of the Red Sea. Had reached the people of Jericho by the time the Israelites arrived. No doubt the residence of the city were waiting in fear of the Israelite army, and even more of the God who went before them. In fact sadly, the fear of the LORD among the citizens of Jericho, was even greater than that among the Israelites themselves in many cases. Nevertheless, the people of Jericho prepared to defend the city as the Israelite hosts approached, God having held back the waters of the Jordan so that the Israelites could cross over as a reminder to the Israelites of His presence with them and His power as their leader in the coming battle.
4:11Then it came to pass, when all the people had completely crossed over, that the ark of the LORD and the priests crossed over in the presence of the people. 12And the men of Reuben, the men of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh crossed over armed before the children of Israel, as Moses had spoken to them. 13About forty thousand prepared for war crossed over before the LORD for battle, to the plains of Jericho. 14On that day the LORD exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they had feared Moses, all the days of his life.
5:1So it was, when all the kings of the Amorites who were on the west side of the Jordan, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan from before the children of Israel until we had crossed over, that their heart melted; and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the children of Israel.Joshua 4:11-5:1 – NKJV
Upon arriving at Jericho, Joshua encountered the LORD Jesus Himself.
13And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?”Joshua 5:13-15 – NKJV
14So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.”
And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?”
15Then the Commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.
Here Joshua exhibits the kind of faith the Hebrews writer writes of throughout this chapter. First, note that Joshua was fearless of the armed Man before him, knowing that God had promised to be with him in the coming battles. More importantly though, once Joshua came to know who this Man was, he immediately fell down in worship, and sought His guidance with full intention to obey whatever He commanded. The LORD was faithful in providing His direction.
2And the LORD said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. 3You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. 4And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him.”Joshua 6:2-5 – NKJV
Of course, we know that the conquest of Jericho succeeded just as the LORD had directed and foretold. But even with 40,000 men at arms, it would have been difficult for the Israelites to conquer a fortified city prepared for siege like Jericho. Clearly, it was the work and power of the LORD Himself that allowed the city to be taken so quickly.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.John 15:5 – NKJV
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?Romans 8:31 – NKJV
The horse is prepared for the day of battle,Proverbs 21:31 – NKJV
But deliverance is of the LORD.
31By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.Hebrews 11:31 – NKJV
The incident to which the Hebrews writer refers here is found in Joshua in association with the conquest of Jericho. The faith of Rahab (Hebrew רָחָב Rachab meaning “wide”) is reported specifically in Joshua 2:8-12.
1Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove [שִׁטָּים Shittiym – last encampment of the Israelites prior to crossing the Jordan from Moab] to spy secretly, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.”Joshua 2:1-15 – NKJV
So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there. 2And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, “Behold, men have come here tonight from the children of Israel to search out the country.”
3So the king of Jericho 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.”
4Then the woman took the two men and hid them. So she said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. 5And it happened as the gate was being shut, when it was dark, that the men went out. Where the men went I do not know; pursue them quickly, for you may overtake them.” 6(But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof.) 7Then the men pursued them by the road to the Jordan, to the fords. And as soon as those who pursued them had gone out, they shut the gate.
8Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, 9and said to the men: “I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. 10For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. 12Now 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, and give me a true token, 13and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”
14So the men answered her, “Our lives for yours, if none of you tell this business of ours. And it shall be, when the LORD has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you.”
15Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall; she dwelt on the wall.
As the Hebrews writer reiterates, by her faith Rahab and her household were spared during the conquest of Jericho despite her house being built into the city walls which collapsed.
Aside – It is intriguing to ponder that the young men sent to spy out Jericho did not themselves experience the parting of the Red Sea which Rahab reminded them of. The generation of those who passed through the Red Sea had died in the wilderness by the time the Israelites crossed over the Jordan. Of those who crossed the Jordan, only Joshua and Caleb remained of those who had passed through the Red Sea.
20So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. 21And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword.Joshua 6:20-25 – NKJV
22But Joshua had said to the two men who had spied out the country, “Go into the harlot’s house, and from there bring out the woman and all that she has, as you swore to her.” 23And the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, her mother, her brothers, and all that she had. So they brought out all her relatives and left them outside the camp of Israel. 24But they burned the city and all that was in it with fire. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. 25And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father’s household, and all that she had. So she dwells in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.
Aside – (See handout – Comparison of Biblical Genealogies) Matthew 1:1-17 contains a genealogy of the LORD Jesus which lists Rahab as the wife of Salmon, and great-great grandmother of King David. Could Matthew’s Rahab be the same person who hid the spies Joshua sent to Jericho? The answer hinges on how long the judges ruled over Israel following Joshua’s death at the age of 120, until the anointing of Saul as Israel’s first king by the last judge – Samuel. Unfortunately, it is impossible to determine Biblically precisely how long the judges ruled. Rahab of Jericho must have been at least in her teens at the time the Israelites conquered the city, since she was known as a harlot. Furthermore, we know that Joshua was still leading Israel when Caleb received his inheritance some five year later (Joshua 14:6-13). After Joshua died, the book of Judges says that Israel suffered oppression for 8 years before Othiel became Israel’s first judge. By that time Rahab would have been in her thirties. If Rahab of Jericho was the same person as King David’s great-great-grandmother, she would have given birth to King David’s great-grandfather Boaz about the time judge Othiel began to rule. The book of Judges lists twelve judges along with the periods of peace and prosperity Israel enjoyed under their leadership – a total of about 300 years. The book also lists the periods of oppression Israel suffered between judges – a total of about 110 years. So the time of the judges was about 400 years. Assuming that King David would have been in his mid to late teens when he killed the giant Goliath during the reign of King Saul, then he must have been born sometime near the beginning of the judgeship of Israel’s last judge – Samuel. If Rahab of Jericho was the wife of Salmon and great-great-grandmother of King David given in Matthew’s genealogy, and only three generations (Rahab’s son Boaz to Obed to Jesse to David) lived during the time of the judges, then each of those generations would have been about 130 years at least!
Therefore in all likelihood, either the Rahab mentioned by Matthew in his genealogy was not the same Rahab of Jericho who hid the spies, or Matthew skipped some generations in his genealogical listing (or both). Either of these is quite plausible. Proper names are often reused in God’s Word. Perhaps the most famous example is the name Joshua.The Hebrew name יְהוֹשׁוּעַ Yĕhowshuwa` is the same name that is Hellenized in the New Testament Greek as Ἰησοῦς Iēsous translated into English as Jesus. Furthermore, skipping over generations deemed insignificant was common practice in ancient genealogies including those found in the Bible. No genealogical listing could ever be complete, of course. Otherwise they would need to list billions of names. Note however that the five genealogies of the LORD Jesus found in God’s Word agree very closely, so if generations are skipped over by them, the omitted names must be the same ones.
With all that said, we must surely keep in mind that the human genealogy of Jesus is totally irrelevant, because Jesus of Nazareth was and is God Himself come in the flesh of a man. Certainly the genealogy of Joseph – Jesus’ adoptive father is not important. Only the genealogy of his wife Mary has any bearing – and that not because of any genetic relationship she had with God in the flesh whom she carried in her womb, but because it was necessary for Jesus to be a descendant of Abraham through Judah, and David so that the prophecies which foretold the coming of the Messiah might be fulfilled.
Before we leave the discussion of Rahab, let’s remind ourselves of the overall theme of Hebrews 11 – the righteousness of God imputed to people through their faith. Furthermore we should remember that faith is manifested by obedience and action in accordance with God’s direction. We saw this particularly with Abraham’s obedience to God’s call for him to sacrifice Isaac. Jesus’ half-brother James focuses in his epistle on the concept that faith is manifested in obedient action.
18But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?James 2:18-20 – NKJV
James goes on as the Hebrews writer does to give some examples of people in Israelite history who demonstrated their faith by their works. One of the examples mentioned by James is Rahab.
24You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.James 2:24-25 – NKJV
25Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
One final aspect of the Rahab story deserves brief mention. We are told in Joshua 2:1 that Rahab was a harlot who lived in Jericho. The Hebrew word translated here as “harlot” is זָנָה zanah. It bears the connotation, not only of being a prostitute or adulteress with which we normally associate Rahab, but is also used throughout the Old Testament to speak of one who is unfaithful to God. The nation of Israel for example is frequently called a harlot by the prophets, and even by God Himself. Clearly then, Rahab had repented of her unfaithfulness to God by the time the spies arrived in Jericho. Furthermore, if the Rahab in Matthew’s genealogy is the same as the Rahab written of in Joshua 2 & 6, then she is a perfect example of what Peter told the Roman centurion, Cornelius.
34Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.Acts 10:34-35 – NKJV
Perhaps Peter had forgotten that Rahab – like Cornelius – was a gentile. God is not interested in our stations in life, or even in our past sins. God looks at the heart, and determines what to do with us by what He finds there.
Next time, we will look at the last of the Hebrews 11 examples of the history of faith in Israel.