Now therefore, please swear to me by the LORD, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth, Joshua 2:12 NASB
Please – So far everything about Rahab is just a little strange. It’s almost as if the narrator left out all the nitty-gritty details on purpose. Perhaps the storyteller is crafting this episode so that we, the readers, have to enter into the narrative in order to understand it. That seems to be the case with this tiny addition to the Hebrew text – the particle na.
The particle na is often not even translated. It is simply two consonants (Nun-Aleph) attached to a verb, in this case, as a suffix to shava, “to make an oath.” With na attached to the verb, the meaning shifts from a demand to a request, from “Swear an oath” to “Please, swear an oath.” Rather than compelling action, the supplicant invites a response. The reciprocity is left hanging.
Na is sometimes attached to verbs expressing God’s actions. Those rare occasions are quite remarkable. But this isn’t the word used for God’s covenant promises. When God makes a covenant, the verb is karat, “to cut” a covenant. The first time the verb shava appears is in the story of Abimelech and Abraham (Genesis 21:22). The first time we find this verb with God as the subject is Genesis 22:16 where God declares His blessing on Abraham following the attempted sacrifice of Isaac. Twenty-five times God swears an oath concerning the inheritance of the land. None include the particle na. None are conditioned upon the acceptance of the other party.
But that is not the case here. Rahab’s request for a binding agreement can only take effect if the two spies concur. Rahab asks. She does not demand, even though hesed contains the reciprocal expectation. Hidden in Rahab’s use of na is an indication of humility. Na demonstrates Rahab’s character, the same character we find in other women who are outsiders. Hagar demonstrates incredible obedience by returning to the abusive Sarah. Ruth shows her intense loyalty in her statement to Naomi. The Canaanite woman shows her humility in her reply to Yeshua. Rahab is in good company. She doesn’t barter her deliverance even though she might have called on the hesed protocol. Instead, she begs. This woman who is outside the fold, whose moral character may be suspect, who represents the enemy, beseeches the spies for mercy. We should take note that she does not include herself in her request. She begs for others. She is the intercessor for the life of those she loves. We can only stand in awe of her devotion, courage and faithfulness. Perhaps Rahab, the woman of ill-repute, is a good deal closer to God’s heart than we imagined. Perhaps Rahab teaches us what it means to be humble.
Topical Index: Rahab, humility, na, shava, swear, Joshua 2:12
 Some sources suggest that God swears an oath after the flood, but careful examination reveals that shava is not used in that instance. The phrase uses amar (God said), not shava.