The Repentant Hooker (29 May, 2013, Sivan 20, 5773)
Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute who helped the Israelite spies and assisted the Israelites in conquering Canaan. Rahab shows that we can all repent and return to the Almighty. God will help us become ourselves.
Joshua chapter 2 tells how when the Israelites under Joshua were about to enter the Land of Canaan and conquerit they sent two spies before them. These spies returned with a favorable encouraging report. We are told about us about Rahab (Rachav) who was a Canaanite prostitute who helped the Israelite spies and encouraged them.
As a reward the lives of Rahab and her family were spared. According to tradition Rahab later married Joshua and very great people including the Prophet Jeremiah were descended from her.
Talmud Yerushalmi, Beracoth ch.2 halacha 8 (29b):
# When Israel does the will of the Almighty, God searches through the whole world to find a righteous person amongst the Nations of the Earth. He then brings the person and attaches them to Israel. Such was the case with Yitro [Jethro] and Rahab. On the other hand, when they make HIM angry HE takes the righteous away from them. #
No matter who you are or what you have done you can always repent and find a place with the God of Israel.
Joshua chapter 2:
1 Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Shittim [Acacia Grove] to spy secretly, saying, Go, view the land, especially Jericho. So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there.
The woman owned a kind of inn. In those days lodging houses were frequently owned by prostitutes. A prostitute could also have access to information that other people would not have. The chances of suspicion were also lessened since it is not unusual for strange men to visit such women.
The Midrash Sifrei points out that it says later, FOR HER HOUSE WAS UPON THE TOWN WALL, AND SHE DWELT UPON THE WALL (2:15). She dwelt on the outskirts in a dwelling that linked the city with the region around it, convenient for business. Outsiders apparently seeking available female company would not usually have aroused undue suspicion. Even so the presence of the spies was discovered.
2 And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, men have come here tonight from the children of Israel to search out the country.
Somebody saw them and recognized them for who they were.
3 So the king of Jericho sent 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 country.
4 Then the woman took the two men and hid them. So she said, Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from.
5 And it happened as the gate was being shut, when it was dark, that the men went out. Where the men went I do not know; pursue them quickly, for you may overtake them.
6 (But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof.)
7 Then the men pursued them by the road to the Jordan, to the fords. And as soon as those who pursued them had gone out, they shut the gate.
8 Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof,
9 and said to the men: I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you.
The Commentators suggest that she had noticed diminished vigor amongst her visitors. It has been noted amongst primitive peoples in transition to another society where the male image is impaired that sexual vigor diminishes. Amongst primitive peoples this is immediately measurable but it also is applicable to all of us. Wives should be careful not to offend the masculine self-image of their menfolk. A famous (and brilliantly inspired, I saw him play once) football player in Israel once observed that he could tell which of the married players on his team were hen-picked and which were not. Also the feminization of society such as women fulfilling combat roles in the Army etc affects the functioning of males. It is not that the women cannot do it. They can. It is something else. Live and let live. Otherwise, in the end everyone suffers.
10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed.
11 And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.
She acknowledged the God of Israel. According to tradition Rahab returned and repented. She was the ancestress of Jeremiah the prophet. She had not necessarily entered the profession of her own free will in the first place. According to reports a lot of prostitutes are forced into the business and the authorities do not really protect them or even want to. Maybe the society she was part of had made her what she was and her way of redemption was to join the destroyers of that society in a good sense? Maybe she had seen so much that she knew true goodness when she finally met up with it?
A large proportion of prostitutes were the victims of incestuous exploitation in their childhood. One sin leads to another. On the other hand one good deed also leads to another and good deeds are far more effectual. The bottom line is that whatever we do we do to ourselves.
12 Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the LORD, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father's house, and give me a true token,
13 and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.
She was concerned for her family. Some have suggested that she was not a native Canaanite but belonged to a family of sojourners.
14 So the men answered her, Our lives for yours, if none of you tell this business of ours. And it shall be, when the LORD has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you.
15 Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall; she dwelt on the wall.
16 And she said to them, 'Get to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you. Hide there three days, until the pursuers have returned. Afterward you may go your way.
According to tradition Rahab had been forced into prostitution by her own people at the age of ten. For forty years she worked in the profession. When the spies arrived the spirit of prophecy came over her. She assisted them, saved herself and her family, converted and became an Israelite and married a Prince of Israel and bore children. Eight prophets and one prophetess of Israel were descended from this woman.
17 So the men said to her: We will be blameless of this oath of yours which you have made us swear,
18 unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father's household to your own home.
scarlet -symbol of royalty?
19 So it shall be that whoever goes outside the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we will be guiltless. And whoever is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him.
20 And if you tell this business of ours, then we will be free from your oath which you made us swear.
21 Then she said, According to your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed. And she bound the scarlet cord in the window.
22 They departed and went to the mountain, and stayed there three days until the pursuers returned. The pursuers sought them all along the way, but did not find them.
23 So the two men returned, descended from the mountain, and crossed over; and they came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all that had befallen them.
24 And they said to Joshua, Truly the LORD has delivered all the land into our hands, for indeed all the inhabitants of the country are fainthearted because of us.
If we do the will of God the enemy will faint away before us.