"Go, inspect the land and Yericho."
In every haftarah we've studied recently, one theme has reoccurred: the inclusion of Gentiles in the covenant that HaShem cut with Israel.
The reason for that is quite simple. From the covenant HaShem cut with Abraham (Genesis 12:3) through Yeshua's Great Commission, going through Tamar, Ruth, and Rahab, the purpose of HaShem's doing so has always been the same: the redemption of all of humanity!
From HaShem choosing Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his family, the redemption of Gentiles has been the focus and the goal of the whole program from the beginning!
HEBREW NOTE: The name Joshua, or Yehoshua, is the full version of the Aramaic Hebrew name Yeshua. Yeshua is to Yehoshua as Rick is to Richard.
We have a repeat of what happened forty years before. Joshua and Caleb are the only adult survivors from the forty-year wandering in the desert as a result of the previous failed spy mission (see parasha Shelach). In fact, by that time, they are the only witnesses who were adults at the time of the plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea, and of all that transpired from the very beginning. I would say that Joshua really wanted to get it right this time. Thankfully, they had had forty years to think about these events.
MESSENGERS OR ANGELS?
Y'hoshua the son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Sheetim with these instructions: "Go, inspect the land and Yericho." (Joshua 2:1)
In Joshua 2:1, the two anonymous envoys from Joshua are called spies. In Joshua 6:17, they are called "messengers", a word that is synonymous with the word "angel." This invites a beautiful midrash that those "spies" were like the two angels that went before HaShem to Sodom and Gomorrah to warn them. As the angels were received by Lot, the messengers from Joshua were received by Rahab. Both cities were destroyed and both hosts survived.
But surely the messengers from Joshua were not angels. They were real flesh and blood people.
They left and came to the house of a prostitute named Rachav, where they spent the night. (Joshua 2:1)
Rahab's house of ill-repute was expected to report to the authorities of the passages of strangers.
The king of Yericho was told about it -- "Tonight some men from Isra'el came here to reconnoiter the land." The king of Yericho sent a message to Rachav, "Bring out the men who came to you and are staying in your house, because they have come to reconnoiter all the land." (Joshua 2:2-3)
From Abraham and Isaac protecting their wives from Pharaohs to Jacob and Esau lying to Isaac (Esau by not telling that he had sold his birthright, and Jacob by pretending to be Esau); continuing with Joseph's brothers lying to their father and Joseph disguising himself so he would not be recognized, the "cloak and dagger" saga of the Genesis text continues with Rahab sending the king's men on a wild goose chase.
However, the woman, after taking the two men and hiding them, replied, "Yes, the men did come to me; but I didn't know where they had come from. The men left around the time when they shut the gate, when it was dark. Where they went I don't know; but if you chase after them quickly, you will overtake them." Actually she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them under some stalks of flax she had spread out there. The men pursued them all the way to the fords at the Yarden; as soon as the pursuit party had left, the gate was shut. The two men had not yet lain down when she returned to the roof and said to them, "I know that Adonai has given you the land. Fear of you has fallen on us; everyone in the land is terrified at the thought of you. We've heard how Adonai dried up the water in the Sea of Suf ahead of you, when you left Egypt; and what you did to the two kings of the Emori on the other side of the Yarden, Sichon and `Og, that you completely destroyed them. (Joshua 2:4-10)
These issues of seeming justified lying are a great subject of controversy in Judaism and Christianity. In 1804, the Kentucky Baptist Church split over the issue. The group who justified Rahab's lying ended up being called "The Lying Baptists."
What we have here are two moral imperatives that collide. 1. To tell the truth 2. To save a life. As life often reminds us, hyper-moral absolutism doesn't work in Torah law. In many cases, the Master taught us to weigh matters (Mat 12:4). In any case, whatever we think of Rahab must be weighed with James' comment about her. As the apostle was teaching about faith justified by either obedience to Torah or by the grace of HaShem he says:
You see that his faith worked with his actions; by the actions the faith was made complete; and the passage of the Tanakh was fulfilled which says, "Avraham had faith in God, and it was credited to his account as righteousness." He was even called God's friend. You see that a person is declared righteous because of actions and not because of faith alone. Likewise, wasn't Rachav the prostitute also declared righteous because of actions when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another route?
RAHAB'S BEAUTIFUL CONFESSION OF FAITH
Then the most beautiful thing happened. The reports of HaShem's works have caused fear to come on the whole city.
As soon as we heard it, our hearts failed us. Because of you, everyone is in a state of depression (Joshua 2:11).
This is the fulfillment of Moshe's prophetic song after the crossing of the Red Sea:
The peoples have heard, and they tremble; anguish takes hold of those living in P'leshet; then the chiefs of Edom are dismayed; trepidation seizes the heads of Mo'av; all those living in Kena`an are melted away.
The whole thing has been a great witness to Rahab who now confesses her faith to the God of Israel:
For Adonai your God -- he is God in heaven above and on the earth below. So, please, swear to me by Adonai that, since I have been kind to you, you will also be kind to my father's family. Give me some evidence of your good faith, (Joshua 2:12)that you will spare the lives of my father, mother, brothers and sisters and all who are theirs, so that we won't be killed." The men replied to her, "Our lives are certainly worth yours, provided you don't betray our mission. So when Adonai gives us the land, we will treat you kindly and in good faith." Then she lowered them by a rope through the window; since her house abutted the city wall, indeed was actually built into it. She told them, "Head for the hills, so that the pursuit party won't get their hands on you; and hide yourselves there for three days, until the pursuers have returned. After that, you can go on your way."
In the face of impending doom, Rahab not only took refuge in the God of Israel, but she received his messengers. This is just like Yeshua said of those who receive His disciples:
"Whoever receives you is receiving me, and whoever receives me is receiving the One who sent me.
A PROMISE OF HOPE
The men said to her,
"We will not be guilty of violating the oath you made us swear, provided that when we enter the land, you tie this piece of scarlet cord in the window you let us down from; and you gather together in your house your father, mother, brothers, and your father's entire household. (Joshua 2:17-18)
In Hebrew, the words "scarlet cord" are written as תקות חוט, Tikvat chot, meaning "Cord of Hope.
The scarlet cord reminds us of the red blood painted on the sides of the doors of the Children of Israel for death to pass over them. It also reminds us of the scarlet thread attached to the horn of the Yom Kippur goat that will serve as an atonement to purify the nation. As with Passover, the walls of Jericho fell and her house was spared, along with all who were in it.
If anyone goes out the doors of your house into the street, he will be responsible for his own blood, and we will be guiltless. But everyone who stays with you in the house -- we will be responsible for his blood if anyone lays a hand on him. (Joshua 2:19)
However, if you say a word about this business of ours, then we will be free of your oath that you made us swear." "According to your words, so be it," she said, and sent them away. As they departed, she tied the scarlet cord in the window. They left, arrived in the hills, and stayed there three days, until the pursuers had returned. The pursuers had searched for them all the way but hadn't found them. Then the two men returned. Descending from the hills they crossed over and came to Y'hoshua the son of Nun, and reported everything that had happened to them. "Truly Adonai has handed over all the land to us," they told Y'hoshua. "Everyone in the land is terrified that we're coming." (Joshua 2:25)
RAHAB IN HISTORY
According to Jewish history books, Rahab and her family converted and intermarried with Israel. Her descendants were blessed with ten priests and a prophetess. While Jewish tradition claims that she married Joshua, messianic tradition claims that she married Salmon, the son of Nachshon, one of the princes of Judah, and became part of the kingly dynasty of the kings of Israel.
Salmon was the father of Bo`az (his mother was Rachav),
Bo`az was the father of `Oved (his mother was Rut), `
Oved was the father of Yishai,
Very few women are mentioned in the biblical genealogies, but Rahab and Ruth are some of them as part of the making of the DNA of Yeshua. Along with Tamar, they seem to be a genetic firstfruit for the salvation of humanity!
MAY WE ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT AS IT WAS JUST FOR US,
IT WAS NOT JUST, JUST FOR US,
BUT FOR THE REST OF HUMANITY.
IF HE WANTS TO RECEIVE THEM, SO SHOULD WE!
R' GABRIEL LUMBROSO