and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you.” Joshua 2:9 NASB
I know – How did Rahab know? How did she know that these men were from the tribe of Israel? How did she know the story of the crossing of the Red Sea? How did she know that YHWH, the God of Israel, had given them the land? How could she know these things? She was not a world traveler. She was not a politician. She was not a state official. How could she know?
Scuttlebutt, that’s how. Pillow talk. Rumors. Stories. If Rahab entertained men (or even if they merely lodged at her inn), it is more than likely that she also listened to their tales. And if the two men who are spies are masquerading as traveling “clients,” it wouldn’t be long before she could put the stories together and arrive at the conclusion she expresses. Rahab’s occupation puts her in the ideal place to overhear confidences, evaluate reports and recognize impending danger.
Yada’ati – I know. She is certain that these men are not tourists. She is certain that their God is about to bring destruction. Therefore, she acts out of self-interest. “Keep me and my family alive.” She takes risks in both directions. First, she lies to her own city-king. If she is caught, her life is probably over. Secondly, she places her well-being in the hands of two strangers, strangers who really have no reason to rescue her.
But Rahab seems to know a bit more than the current political situation. “I know that YHWH has given the land to you.” Rahab knows YHWH? How? How could she know about this God of the Hebrews when no Hebrew had been in the land for centuries? How could she know about the promise to Abraham? Once more we encounter the inclusiveness of God. YHWH doesn’t show Himself only to the sons of Jacob. Just as Jethro, the Midianite priest, knew YHWH; just as Hagar, the Egyptian slave encountered YHWH, so now Rahab tells us that she knows YHWH. The Tanakh is the record of God’s interactions with His people Israel, but there are indications that God is busy with others too. God’s work in the world stretches forth among all men, even if Israel is the place where God reveals His specific plans and intentions. Rahab knows YHWH. That fact alone ought to leap off the page in surprise. Maybe, just maybe, God is doing things among people who fall far outside our consideration of appropriate spiritual relations.
Rahab concludes with a statement with far-reaching consequences. Yes, she has heard the rumors and the reports, but her decision is not based on sound bites from the nightly news. She says, “YHWH your Elohim, He is Elohim of the heavens above and the earth below.” This is a profession of monotheistic faith out of the mouth of a woman in a pagan and idolatrous culture. Rahab might as well be standing with the congregation at Sinai and saying, “Shema, O Israel, YHWH Eloheynu, YHWH ehad.” Before Rahab becomes part of the congregation, she is already expressing the faith of the congregation. We just have to listen between the lines.
Perhaps this part of the story of Rahab teaches us something about those “outside” our borders. Maybe we need to listen more intently to their expressions of desire and hope. Maybe we need to be more sensitive to the fact that God doesn’t exclude any who seek Him no matter where they come from. Perhaps the lesson here is that God is God – and all we are required to do is watch for His handiwork everywhere we happen to go – even in the house of Rahab of Jericho.
Topical Index: know, yada’, Shema, Rahab, faith, Joshua 2:9