Here’s my preliminary answer to the question, Did Rahab lie?
It comes from a larger consideration of Joshua, “Ten Things About Joshua 2.” Admittedly this answer does not deal with all the passages that relate to bearing false witness or speaking truth in love. Rather, it seeks to understand how we might read Joshua 2 at the textual horizon.
My twofold answer to the question is that, first, the text leads us to focus on the truth she confessed, rather than the falsehood she (may or may not have) told. Second, the answer is not wholly apparent. The text conceals her motives, even as it reveals her faith. In this way, I do not believe Joshua 2 is written to answer this question.
That said, it is an important question and one that we should consider. With those caveats in place, let’s consider Rahab’s faithful actions and whether or not we should see them as a “lie.”
Tamar and Judah. Rahab and Salmon. Ruth and Boaz. Bathsheba and David. The Church and Jesus.
What do these couples have in common? They are all in the Bible? Yes. They are all in Jesus genealogy? Yes.
And most astoundingly, each had a history with harlotry. Respectively, the dress, the (former) identity, or the actions of these couples contain some element related idolatry, adultery, or prostitution.
Finding a place in this redemptive story, Sunday’s sermon considered the incredible story of Rahab and how God saved her from a life of prostitution and a city on the verge of destruction. With many themes that touched on the fabric of salvation, we saw God had mercy on this woman and can have mercy on anyone who believes.
You can listen to the sermon online. Response questions and additional resources can be found below.
- How do the spies of Joshua 2 contrast with the spies of Numbers 13?
- What observations can you make about Rahab?
- Do any aspects of this story surprise you?
- What does Rahab believe about God?
- How do you see the mercy of God in this story?
- Do you see any significance in the scarlet cord?
- What does the New Testament testify about Rahab in Matthew 1:5, Hebrews 11:31, and James 2:25?
- What truths are visible in this story? What might application of this narrative look like?
Joshua 2 is filled with exegetical, ethical, and biblical theological challenges. Here are ten things that begin to wade into the richness of Joshua 2.
1. Joshua 2 appears to be an “unnecessary” story in the framework of the book.
Nothing is unnecessary in Scripture. Every jot and tittle is inspired by God and useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). However, there are facts and even chapters that may appear to be unnecessary, as in the case of Joshua 2.
In the flow of Joshua, the second chapter interrupts Israel’s entry into the land. Chapter 1 speaks of the preparation for entry; chapter 3 records the entry itself. Chapter 2 stands in the middle of this continuous story, and thus it stands out. For the sensitive reader, the placement of the story does not mean Rahab and the spies are out of place. On the contrary, they are exactly where they need to be. And they demonstrate the great importance of this chapter.
As Dale Ralph Davis observes, this “non-essential” story is necessary for showing how God saved a Gentile harlot (Joshua, 28–29). The story is not necessary for demonstrating God’s power or justice in overthrowing the wickedness of Jericho. His faithfulness would stand upon the giving the land to Israel, as he had promised. But his mercy is highlighted by this inclusion of Rahab’s redemption, and hence the main point of this whole chapter will center on God’s unexpected grace and undeserved mercy. Continue reading