Behold, when we come to the land, you shall bind this line of scarlet thread in the window from which you let us down, . . . Joshua 2:18
Line – Usually translated “cord” in this verse, the Hebrew word tiqvah has a different meaning in every one of its additional thirty-one occurrences. The fact that it isn’t translated in the normal way in this verse isn’t an accident. It’s an intentional word-play; another example of the elaborate interconnections found in the Hebrew Scripture that are invisible to us in English. By now you must realize that the story of the Scripture just wasn’t written to you. It was written to Hebrew readers because only Hebrew readers can read between the lines.
Tiqvah is usually translated “hope.” Put this background into the story of Rahab and you will come away with a much deeper understanding of this event. The spies whom Rahab saves tell her to put a scarlet “cord” in her window. What does that cord mean? It means hope, the very same word. Rahab is saved by hope in Israel. Rahab, the Gentile prostitute, is rescued because she puts the sign of hope in her window and Israel recognizes that sign. After the attack, the text tells us that Rahab is brought “into the midst” of Israel. In fact, this is another play on words. The secondary meaning of “into the midst” is womb or inward parts. Rahab, the prostitute, enters into the womb of Israel where she is now safe. The imagery converts what was a sinful activity into another sign of rescue and salvation. Perhaps Rahab’s story has a lot more to it than we think – if we read between the lines.
There are other allusions associated with this story. The red cord protects Rahab’s entire family as long as they stay within the house. The red cord, the sign of hope, becomes Rahab’s Passover offering. Just as the children of Israel were protected by the blood on the door, so Rahab is protected by the scarlet cord from the window. It’s worth noting that Rahab’s act of faith rescues her whole family. Once again we see the focus on community. What the individual does impacts the whole.
Today you can journey to Israel and visit Yad VaShem, the holocaust museum. Outside the museum is the path of the righteous Gentiles, a garden walkway between trees planted as memorials to those Gentiles who rescued Jews from the Third Reich. There is no tree for Rahab, but there could be. She is a righteous Gentile. Her act brought salvation to Hebrew spies. Her act of faith and trust in the God of Israel resulted in adoption into the community of Israel. In fact, she is so important that her name appears in the genealogy of Yeshua. If there were ever a righteous Gentile, Rahab qualifies.
We can learn two important things from this brief look at her story. First, we discover another example of the importance of women in the Hebrew Scripture. Rahab is honored. In spite of her profession, what matters is her deliberate faith – a faith expressed in outward righteous acts. Second, we see ourselves in her story. We are Gentiles brought into the midst of Israel. We have been folded into the womb of God’s people. Oh, and by the way, from this point on, there is no mention of Rahab as an independent person within the body of the children of Israel. She is just one of God’s chosen. Her place in the genealogy of the Messiah is secured. One more Gentile is grafted in – just like we are.
Topical Index: Rahab, tiqvah, hope, cord, Gentile, Joshua 2:18