When Moses died, God appointed Joshua in his place. Joshua was the man who led Israel into the land of Canaan, the land God promised to His people. As they prepared for invasion, Joshua sent spies to scout the land. They went to the town of Jericho and found refuge in the house of a harlot named Rahab; she protected them from her own people, at great risk to herself.
Then Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there. It was told the king of Jericho, saying, “Behold, men from the sons of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.” And the king of Jericho sent word to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.” But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them, and she said, “yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. It came about when it was time to shut the gate at dark, that the men went out; I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.” Joshua 2: 1 – 5
Rahab hid the spies because she feared their God. She knew that Israel would not fail in taking Jericho. She had heard and believed the accounts of the exodus and how Israel escaped Egypt by God’s hand, and how they had battled other kings and won. And so she shrewdly made peace with the spies, to keep her and her family safe.
“Now therefore, please swear to me by the LORD, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth, and spare my father and my mother and my brothers and my sisters, with all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” Joshua 2: 12 – 13
The spies accepted her proposal.
So the men said to her, “Our life for yours if you do not tell this business of ours; and it shall come about when the LORD gives us the land that we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.” Joshua 2: 14
It is at this point where the conversation becomes really interesting.
Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall, so that she was living on the wall. She said to them, “Go to the hill country, so that the pursuers will not happen upon you, and hide yourselves there for three days until the pursuers return. Then afterward you may go on your way.” The men said to her, “We shall be free from this oath to which you have made us swear, unless, when we come into the land, you tie this cord of scarlet thread in the window through which you let us down, and gather to yourself into the house your father and your mother and your brothers and all your father’s household. It shall come about that anyone who goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be free; but anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him. But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be free from the oath which you have made us swear.” She said, “According to your words, so be it.” So she sent them away, and they departed, and she tied the scarlet cord in the window. They departed and came to the hill country, and remained there for three days until the pursuers returned. Now the pursuers had sought them all along the road, but had not found them. Then the two men returned and came down from the hill country and crossed over and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and they related to him all that had happened to them. They said to Joshua, “Surely the LORD has given all the land into our hands; moreover, all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before us.” Joshua 2: 15 – 24
In this passage we not only have a three day reference, but a reference to a scarlet cord. Both of these function as New Testament types. The three day reference looks ahead to Christ’s third day resurrection, and the scarlet cord looks ahead to the shedding of Jesus’ blood for the forgiveness of sins.
Consider this comparison of events:
|Old Testament Account
||New Testament Account
|The spies depart for three days and hide in the hills
||Christ dies and is buried in a tomb for three days
|The Jews promise not to harm Rahab, if she places the scarlet cord in her window
||God promises to remove His wrath from those who believe in Jesus (and the blood He shed)
|After three days, the spies return to Joshua, the conquering of Jericho is imminent, and the protection of Rahab is guaranteed
||On the third day, Christ rose from the dead, His second coming is imminent, and the salvation of His church is guaranteed
This account of Rahab contains elements that look ahead to Jesus – the scarlet cord and the three days the spies were in the hills. But the passage is more than typological – it shows how God very specifically worked to preserve the Messianic seed. As a result of her encounter with the spies, Rahab became a believer in the God of Israel, married into the Messianic tribe of Judah, and became an ancestor of Jesus by becoming an ancestor of David. Matthew gives us this information:
The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram. Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon. Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David the king…Matthew 1: 1 – 6
And so the story of Rahab and the spies is another stellar example of God’s sovereign working in history to bring about His plan of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God again has authenticated the Bible as His word by placing into the Old Testament another account featuring a three day period of time, this one involving a Gentile harlot who was grafted into the kingdom of God and made a righteous heir.