Prostitute Rahab’s Salvation and the Irruption of God’s Reign

A year ago, I had the gracious privilege of translating the ninth chapter of Exodus for a paper in a Hebrew class. Primarily, I dealt with Exodus 9:13-16 in order to gain a better understanding of God’s purpose in Pharaoh to reveal his mighty power and manifest his covenant name in all the earth (click here to read that paper). Again and again, the text of Scripture testified that all of God’s sovereign acts in the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, the sending of the plagues upon Egypt, and the delayed deliverance of his people had a unique design behind them. In line with the narratives of Creation (Gen 1:1ff), the Flood (Gen 6-7), the tower of Babel (Gen 11), the call of Abraham (Gen 12), and Joseph’s captivity-turned-rule in Egypt (Gen 37-45), the Exodus (esp. chapters 1-15) demonstrates the irruption (not erruption) of God’s kingdom and its establishment on earth. Exodus 9:13-16 shows how this happens through God’s purpose to make known his mighty power and redemption in association with his covenant name.

Now I am translating Joshua, and what struck me yesterday was that this very theme running through the Exodus narrative (and through the entire Pentateuch!), becomes front and center in the narrative of Rahab the prostitute hiding the Israelite spies (Josh 2:1-24). Why had she helped the spies of God’s covenant people? Here is her answer: “I know that the Lord [Yahweh] has given you the land, and that the terror of you [Israelites] has fallen on us, and that all of the land have melted away before you. For we have heard how the Lord [Yahweh] dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. When we heard, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; because the Lord [Yahweh] your God, he is God in heaven above and on earth below” (Josh 2:9-11).

Rahab’s response to the inbreaking of God’s rule is breathtaking. In the Exodus, the Lord desired to make his mighty power known. Here, we find Rahab testifying that she indeed fears the Lord. What is more, in the Exodus, the Lord purposes to make known his covenant name (i.e. Yahweh) in all the earth. Here, we find Rahab testifying that she not only trembles before Yahweh, but believes Yahweh himself is GOD! Indeed, he is God of heaven and earth, a rejection of the Canaanite gods, and a confession of the God of Israel. According to the New Testament, this places Rahab in the covenant community, those who have the same faith of Abraham (Matt 1:5; Heb 11:31; Jas 2:25).

We find, then, that in the Exodus narrative, God is not only placing fear in the hearts of people, such as Rahab, but associating his covenant name with the salvation and deliverance of his covenant people, even those Gentiles who trust him. Thus, the fear of the Lord is surely to be associated with the One who is mighty to save, a testimony consistent with the entire Old Testament and which looks forward to the Messiah, his cross, his resurrection, and his return. The New Testament says this Messiah’s name is Jesus. Rahab’s barriers of being a Canaanite and a prostitute are no challenge for the triumph of his cross and resurrection. She feared and trusted in the one true God who brought so great a salvation in his Son. Are you? 

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