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Why did the Israelite spies visit the house of Rahab the prostitute?

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Question: "Why did the Israelite spies visit the house of Rahab the prostitute?"

Before Israel’s battle against the city of Jericho, Joshua sent two spies into the city to investigate (Joshua 2). When these two spies’ presence was discovered, the spies hid in Rahab the harlot’s house to avoid capture.

It may seem strange that the spies found refuge in the house of a prostitute—what were they, people of God, doing there? The answer may be quite simple. To state the obvious, perhaps the spies were seeking the services of a prostitute. There is another possible explanation, however. The house of a harlot was probably a good place to avoid detection—a couple of travelers entering such a house would probably not arouse much suspicion. The spies, seeking anonymity, figured a house of prostitution would be a good place to find it. Also, Rahab’s house was situated on the city wall (Joshua 2:15), providing an escape route. As it turned out, the spies’ choice of a hiding place was God-ordained.

Rahab’s assistance to these spies was of tremendous importance. She hid the spies on her roof, and, when the king’s guards came to her house, she sent the guards in a different direction. Thus, she protected the lives of the two Israelite spies. In her conversation with the spies, Rahab declared her faith, saying, “The LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:11).

As a result of Rahab’s faith and actions, the two men promised to protect Rahab and her family when the Israelites returned. They told her, “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the LORD gives us the land” (Joshua 2:14).

At the battle of Jericho, the walls of the city fell down, and the people of Jericho were defeated. Rahab’s family, however, was spared: “But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day” (Joshua 6:25).

Rahab’s name would later be mentioned in three important places in the New Testament. First, Matthew 1:5 mentions her as the mother of Boaz, making her the great-great-grandmother of King David. More importantly, Rahab was a direct ancestor of Jesus Christ.

Rahab is mentioned in the “hall of faith” of Hebrews 11. Verse 31 notes, “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.”

Rahab’s actions are mentioned in James 2:25–26 as an example of true, living faith: “Was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” Her actions saved lives and revealed her heart of faith. Despite her background, her faith and actions worked together to reveal her as a woman who believed in God.

Rahab’s example helps us still today. No matter our past, God asks us to believe in Him and live out our faith through action. When we do, God can use us in powerful ways to change lives both now and for eternity.

Recommended Resource: Joshua: Holman Old Testament Commentary by Kenneth Gangel.
Joshua, New American Commentary by David Howard

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Why did the Israelite spies visit the house of Rahab the prostitute?

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