image courtesy of reverendmom
Rahab was a woman accustomed to exchanges. First it was sex for money. Later it was her Canaanite nationality for an Israelite identity. In the middle, though — and where we’ll focus our time — she exchanged a lie for the lives of two spies.
Here’s the scenario in brief:
Joshua’s just been commissioned by God to lead the Israelites into the promised land. He sends a couple of spies to case the land, and especially the city of Jericho. They head to a prostitute’s house; her name is Rahab. Somehow the king of Jericho gets wind of the two Israelites staying at Rahab’s place and sends his thugs to rough them up a bit (or to knock them off, rather). Rahab admits that, yes, the spies did come to her house, but they left late in the afternoon and she doesn’t know where they were going — other than out the city gate. If the henchmen leave quickly, they might catch them.
What actually happened, though, was that Rahab hid the spies on her roof under some of that season’s harvest. And lied to the king’s men. After saving the lives of the two reconnaissance officers, she made a deal with them: As a result, when the Israelites took the city of Jericho, she and her family were spared. [More on that deal in a future post.]
The Hebrew writer memorialized Miss Rahab in 11:31 of his book:
By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
James was rather fond of the prostitute as well (2:24-25):
You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. In the same way, 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?
It turns out that Rahab was even the great great grandmother of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. (Matthew 1:5)
So here’s the big question? Was Rahab right to offer a lie in exchange for the lives of these two spies? She’s clearly commended for her faith by the Hebrew writer. And she’s certainly praised by James for the actions resulting from her faith. But neither writer explicitly states that she was right to lie in this situation.
We know from scripture that lying is a sin (I won’t waste our time listing all those verses). But is it ever right to do so? Was Rahab right to do so? If not, what should have been her response?
Or perhaps the deeper question… are we sometimes expected (or forced) to choose between the lesser of two evils? Or, in these situations, does one of these “evils” cease to actually be evil — and instead become good?
I’m throwing the questions out there today and in my next post will share my thoughts on the subject — as well as some of the snobby theologian lingo used to describe it. I also intend to explain why this subject has been of particular interest to me of late.
For other posts in this series on famous exchanges in the Bible, see:
adam and eve’s exchange
jacob and esau’s exchange