by Al Maxey

Issue #262 ------- August 24, 2006
Forbear to judge, for we are sinners all.
Shakespeare (1564-1616)
"Henry VI"

Jezebel of Jericho
A Reflective Study of Rahab

While teaching in the temple, Jesus was often confronted by the chief priests, elders, scribes and Pharisees. As a rule, their purpose was less than honorable; typically designed to trap Him in some theological blunder they could then use to discredit Him before the people. These legalistic religionists were tireless in their efforts to destroy Him, and our Lord reserved some of His most scathing public rebukes for these godless guides and sectarian shepherds. He characterized them as hypocrites, blind guides, fools, whitewashed tombs, serpents, sons of hell, and a brood of vipers [Matthew 23]. On one occasion He even declared, "Truly I say to you, the tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you!" [Matt. 21:31]. Why? Because some of these self-aware sinners were willing to display their faith in Him, whereas most of these self-righteous religionists were not [vs. 32]. I can't help but think that perhaps, as Jesus made this rather bold statement, He may well have had women like Rahab of ancient Jericho at least partly in mind.

Rahab has been the focus of considerable speculation among disciples over the centuries. Who was she? Harlot or heroine; prostitute or proselyte? Sinner or saint? Was Rahab a genuine believer or just an opportunistic business-woman? Or maybe some of each? What is heaven's perspective? What ever became of her? And what lessons might we learn from her choices in life? A reader from Texas recently wrote, "Bro. Al, can it be concluded from the Scriptures that Rahab was a righteous person? In some of your past issues of Reflections you mentioned Rahab as 'an obedient believer' and as one having 'saving faith.' I really have no problem with these statements, but can we assume they demand her to be a righteous person? Would it not perhaps be far more correct to say that Rahab was a shrewd business person who simply did not want to die? I see no connection with her rescue and righteousness. I would appreciate any thoughts you might have on this."

The account of Rahab is found in the early chapters of the book of Joshua. Her name is not to be discovered anywhere else in the Old Covenant writings outside of this account of the conquest of the city of Jericho. Mention is made of her in the pages of the New Covenant writings only in Hebrews 11:31, James 2:25, and Matthew 1:5. Very little is known about this woman, yet virtually all of what is revealed in Scripture about her has become the source of much heated debate from the time of the early church ... and before. Even the ancient Jewish rabbis had a wealth of tradition liberally scattered among the tidbits of revealed fact. The end result of thousands of years of such theorizing and postulating by biblical scholars, both Jewish and Christian, has led to the present grim reality that we may never fully perceive all the relevant facts about this fascinating woman from ancient Jericho. Nevertheless, some ultimate truths shine through the theological and historical clutter that has accumulated all around her. We shall try to sort through this in our present study. Hopefully a glimpse of the real Rahab may yet become faintly visible to us today. Even if not, however, the lessons learned from her life can still be clearly ascertained across the vast expanse of time, distance and culture.

Historical Background

The people of Israel had been led forth from their bondage in Egypt, through forty years of wandering in the wilderness, to the point where they were now ready to enter into, and conquer, the land of promise across the Jordan. They were now being led, following the death of Moses, by Joshua, the son of Nun, who was one of the spies originally sent out to reconnoiter the land. Only he and Caleb brought back a positive report, and the reluctance of the people to trust their God proved quite costly. That was now all in the past; the land of promise lay before them. And once again, spies are sent out [Joshua 2:1] to gain valuable intelligence for the battle ahead. One of the first major tests of Joshua and his forces, and the first battle within the promised land itself, would be the siege and capture of the city of Jericho, although the people of Israel had already had some previous success in their move forward to claim their inheritance from God. Word of these dramatic successes had preceded them, and the people of Jericho were extremely concerned when they saw the Israelites had now targeted them -- "When we heard these things, our hearts melted within us; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you" [Joshua 2:11; cf. Ex. 15:15-16]. The specific references cited in Joshua 2:10, of which the residents of Jericho were well-aware, and which had left them largely demoralized, were the crossing of the Red Sea on dry land [Ex. 14:21f] and Israel's victory over the Amorites and Bashan [Num. 21:21f]. News had traveled fast and far!

The account of the miraculous capture of Jericho is fascinating reading -- Joshua 6. Even our young children can recount the story of the Israelites marching around the city, blowing the rams' horns and shouting, and of how the walls all fell down on the seventh day. It was one of our God's great miracles, and a tribute to the faith and perseverance of His people. Prior to all of this, however, two unnamed spies slipped into the city to gather information. Their orders were, "Go view the land, especially Jericho" [Joshua 2:1]. It is interesting that Joshua only sent two. Perhaps he remembered only too well that only two (he and Caleb) had come back years before with a positive report. He also sent them "secretly," which most scholars feel suggests he did so without the knowledge of the people of Israel. These two spies would report to him [vs. 23]. Thus, if the report was negative it would not come to the attention of the people, demoralizing them. Some have even questioned why Joshua sent them out in the first place, since God had clearly promised to be with them in their conquest of the land. Nevertheless, this action proved to be redemptive for Rahab and her family, and also significant for establishing the blood line through which would come the Messiah. Thus, I personally see God's hand in the matter. I believe Joshua was providentially led by God's Spirit to send forth these spies. Our Sovereign knew exactly what He was doing!

Harlot or Hostess?

After receiving their orders from Joshua, these two spies made their way to the city of Jericho "and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there" [Joshua 2:1, NASB]. Weren't these godly men on a mission? Why would they go to a "hooker's house" when they arrived in Jericho? And how did they hear about this "Jezebel" of Jericho? Did they actually seek out such sexual services? After all, they were away from home and family, so who would know? Right? Many military men do seek out prostitutes during time of war. Yet, this has troubled some biblical scholars for centuries! A somewhat plausible explanation, of course, is that staying with such a one would very likely be the last place the authorities would think to look for any Israelites who may have slipped in among them. It is also very probable that "the spies would resort to a place of public entertainment as being most suitable for ascertaining the state of the public mind" [Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 2, p. 109]. "Rahab's house was the only place where the men could stay with any hope of remaining undetected and where they would be able to gather the information they were seeking" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 259].

A significant part of the debate centers around the words used in both OT and NT texts to describe Rahab. The Hebrew word employed is zonah, which means "a secular harlot, not a temple prostitute," which would be the Hebrew word qedeshah [Dr. F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 328]. The Expositor's Bible Commentary concurs with this distinction [vol. 12, p. 129]. Most biblical scholars admit that this particular word means "harlot, whore, prostitute." The debate, however, arises over the fact that the word was also very frequently used to refer to a person (in that time period, especially among the pagan peoples, this person was usually a woman) who provided a lodging place for travelers. Thus, "'innkeeper' and 'prostitute' were synonymous terms in that culture" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 259]. Adam Clarke wrote, "Harlots and inn-keepers seem to have been called by the very same name" [Clarke's Commentary, vol. 2, p. 10]. "Josephus, followed by Chrysostom, suggested that she was merely an innkeeper" [Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, vol. 2, p. 297]. The Targum of Jonathan characterizes her in every place as a keeper of an inn. Some ancient manuscripts have even inserted the word "called" into the biblical text ("Rahab was called a harlot") in an attempt to soften the force of the blow to her character. Dr. Charles Ellicott, in his Commentary on the Whole Bible, firmly believes Rahab was a prostitute, "but there is no harm in supposing that she was also an innkeeper" [vol. 2, p. 109]. Others suggest Rahab may in fact have been an innkeeper in Jericho, but one who simply couldn't control her own sexual urges, and thus frequently found herself seducing and sleeping with the travelers who came her way.

Although there have been frequent attempts to portray Rahab in a more positive light, most scholars feel the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. Rahab, most likely, was a prostitute. "The evil name of the poor woman's unhappy trade cannot truthfully be softened" [Dr. Charles Ellicott, Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 8, p. 368]. "John Calvin calls the interpretation 'innkeeper' a 'presumptuous wresting of Scripture'" [Pulpit Commentary, vol. 3]. Although some might debate the meaning of the Hebrew word, that is much more difficult to do with the Greek word. In the NT passages where Rahab is mentioned, as well as in the passages of the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint), the word used is porne (from which we get our word "porn"). It is truly hard to soften this word! The Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia points out that this word "definitely means 'harlot,' and that is decisive for those who hold to the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures" [vol. 2, p. 1439]. If the holy Scriptures truly are "God-breathed" [2 Tim. 3:16], which I trust most of us accept, then it was clearly no accident that the word porne was selected to describe this woman from ancient Jericho. The Spirit of God knew her far better than the commentators.

Rahab's Righteous Response

"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?" [James 2:25, NIV]. Various other translations of this particular passage render the phrase: "justified by works." The Greek word used here is dikaioo, which means "to make or render right or just; to accept as righteous; to justify" [The Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 102]. The very same phrase appears in James 2:21 with regard to Abraham. The point James makes here is -- the active, visible response of faith, of both Abraham and Rahab, resulted in both of them being declared righteous. They were justified by faith ... a demonstrated faith. So, in response to the question of the reader from Texas -- "Can it be concluded from the Scriptures that Rahab was a righteous person?" -- I would have to say: Yes and No. The harsh reality is: "There is none righteous; no, not one" [Rom. 3:10]. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" [Rom. 3:23]. Rahab was a sinner. Paul goes on to point out in his epistle to the Romans, however, that we can be counted as righteous (justified) by faith. The marvelous gift of God's grace is that for each of us, who are flawed and fallen, our "faith is reckoned as righteousness" [Rom. 4:5]. Yes, this sinful woman, who, in the eyes of the world, was a sinner, was nevertheless, in the eyes of the Father, a saint. How?! By means of an active, demonstrated FAITH. "By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace" [Heb. 11:31].

Our actions, generally, are a reflection of the nature of our heart. "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders" [Matt. 15:19]. When we give ourselves over to the sinful lusts of the flesh, we reveal the focus of our heart. However, when our hearts change, our actions follow. Rahab, for how long we don't know, had been pursuing a fleshly existence. However, through a series of circumstances, the full extent of which we may never know, her heart experienced a transformation. That new, growing focus could be seen in her statements and her actions. We shall notice both in the course of the following account.

As is true in many communities, when strangers appear, word spreads quickly (see the sordid account of just such an incident in Sodom, as recorded in Genesis 19). This is especially true during times of great threat to one's security, which was the case in Jericho. The residents knew about the Israelites; they had heard of their successes. Therefore, when two strangers showed up in town, they were spotted and it was reported. "And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, 'Behold, men from the sons of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land'" [Joshua 2:2]. "Evidently Rahab's establishment was under 'police' surveillance, and it was not long before the presence of the spies was reported to the king" [Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 1439]. "For the most part the towns of Palestine were independent city-states at this time, and their rulers were called kings. The spies had failed in their attempt to remain undetected. The king was always the first to be informed about such important matters. The report that 'some of the Israelites have come' was the worst news conceivable" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 260].

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" [Joshua 2:3]. At this point Rahab does something that has greatly troubled some disciples of Christ. She lies! She practices intentional deception. She had hidden the men on the roof of her house, hiding them under the stalks of flax that she had laid out there to dry. The roofs at that time were generally flat, and were used for a good many different purposes. Some see in this reference yet another indicator that Rahab may have been quite a keen business woman, as she had apparently gathered flax and was drying it on her roof. "She looks for wool and flax, and works with her hands in delight" [Prov. 31:13]. "She was not idle, as the stalks of flax imply" [Pulpit Commentary, vol. 3]. The problem, however, is in her response to the representatives of the king. She informs them that the men of Israel were indeed there previously, but that they had left. She said she did not know who they were, and did not now know where they had gone. However, they could not have traveled too far, so if they hurry they might catch them. "So the men pursued them on the road to the Jordan to the fords" [Joshua 2:7]. The ancient Code of Hammurabi has the following law within it that Rahab clearly violated: "If felons are banded together in an ale-wife's (a prostitute's or innkeeper's) house and she has not haled them to the palace, that ale-wife shall be put to death" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 260]. In other words, Rahab was bound by ancient law to inform the authorities of such men who had come to her, and the penalty for not doing so was death!

The question before us is: how could Rahab be considered "righteous" if she was engaging in willful deception? Doesn't Rev. 21:8, 27 clearly say that liars are lost? Yet, this woman is featured prominently in the Galaxy of the Redeemed [Hebrews 11]. Some have suggested her deception was approved by God because she was on the "right side" of the conflict. "Deception is an important strategy in warfare. Espionage would be impossible without it. Thus, when Rahab hid the spies, she sided with Israel against her own people" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 260]. "Rahab lied as much in what she did as in what she said" [ibid]. Yet, "Rahab the prostitute was considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction" [James 2:25]. Again, this seeming disparity greatly troubles some people!

Some seek to confront this difficulty by appealing to the ignorance of Rahab, suggesting God "overlooked the times of ignorance" [Acts 17:30]. "If her lying to the king's messengers disturbs us, let us remember that she was only emerging out of heathendom, and had much to learn regarding the character of God" [Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 1439]. Dr. Ellicott calls it "a falsehood which evidently left no stain on Rahab's conscience, although all falsehood is sin" [Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 2, p. 109]. Other scholars are less kind -- "There is no excuse for the woman's prevarication; for God could have saved His messengers independently of her falsity. God never says to any, 'Do evil that good may come of it'" [Clarke's Commentary, vol. 2, p. 12]. "We do not excuse the falsehoods she told, nor are they commended in Scripture. They were an outcome of her degraded state, and an infirmity which was graciously overlooked by reason of her faith" [Pulpit Commentary, vol. 3].

Although some don't like the phrase, this is, in my view, a matter where situation ethics should be given due consideration. Frankly, and I don't believe Scripture counters this view, there are times when great human need supercedes established law ... even God's law. For example, Jesus Christ points to the case of David and his companions who "entered the house of God, and they ate the showbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those with him, but for the priest alone" [Matt. 12:4]. Yet, Jesus pronounces no guilt upon these men, and even suggests they are "innocent" [vs. 7]. We have traffic laws in our communities, as another example, that we are required to obey. The speed limit in a residential area is generally set at around 25 mph. However, if your child is bleeding to death in the backseat of your car, legitimate need supercedes established law. You may actually break the set speed limit without incurring guilt or penalty as you rush that child to the hospital.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), the great German philosopher, and the last major philosopher of the Enlightenment, took a very strict stand on the biblical command against telling a lie. It was his position that if a crazed killer broke into his house, and his wife and children managed to hide themselves, he would be bound to reveal their hiding place to the killer, should he happen to ask where they were hiding, rather than misrepresent the truth, even if in so doing it would have saved the lives of his wife and children. I personally disagree with Kant on this. It is my position that one may practice deception if a greater good can be achieved, such as saving a life. Rahab lied. That is a fact. But she did it to save the lives of the two spies. I personally do NOT regard that as being a sin, and Scripture nowhere declares her action to be such!

Let me say one more thing about this concept of man's righteousness. Paul makes a clear distinction between a righteousness based upon law, and a righteousness based upon faith [Rom. 10:1-6]. The focus of the former is upon deeds performed, and constitutes a system of merit. The latter takes the focus off of ourselves, and correctly places it upon the Lord. The Jews, "not knowing about God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" [vs. 3-4]. What is Paul suggesting? I believe he is clearly seeking to convey to us that true righteousness is NOT the sum total of one's deeds, but rather a declaration of one's state of heart. In other words, we are not declared righteous so much for what we do, as for who we are ... and Whose we are! One's deeds, though they may be righteous, are merely reflections and demonstrations of the inner reality of faith. Rahab's righteousness was not so much because of what she did, but her strength of faith that motivated those actions. Understanding this helps us resolve the apparent, though not actual, conflict between Paul's discussion of Abraham {Romans 4] and James' discussion of Abraham [James 2]. The focus of the former was upon his faith; the focus of the latter was upon the necessary demonstration of that faith. Righteousness is not imputed to those who refuse to evidence their faith. Rahab showed her faith, and was counted as righteous. If we seek to judge this woman merely by her deeds, there will be debate on whether the good outweighed the bad; if we judge her on her faith, all such debate ceases! Thank God we are all justified by faith, not by works! [Rom. 3:28].

We know of Rahab's deeds, but what do we know of her faith that prompted those deeds? What was in her heart and mind is clearly evidenced in her great confession of faith to the two spies. "I know that the Lord has given you the land" [Joshua 2:9]. Rahab had heard the accounts of the successes of the Israelites, and she attributed that success to their God, not to the wisdom of their leaders or the power of their forces. She recognized the hand of God. "For the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath" [vs. 11]. Did this woman have an in-depth knowledge of and appreciation for the one true God? Not likely. But what little she did know had convinced her that the God of the Israelites was One worth risking her very life to serve! She had the stirrings of a rudimentary faith, but it was sufficient to prompt her to seek His favor. Much greater depth of understanding would come in time, and I am convinced that in Rahab's case it did. She responded to the limited available light with which she had, at that time, been blessed, and for that response, imperfect though it was, she was richly rewarded. I deal in much more detail and depth with this concept of God's matchless grace as evidenced through the doctrine of Available Light in Reflections #158 -- Grace and the Caveman: Pondering the Parameters of Divine Acceptance of Human Response to Available Light.

Adam Clarke points out that Rahab "made a better use of the light she had received than the rest of her countrymen, and God increased that light" [Clarke's Commentary, vol. 2, p. 12]. "She forsook the sins of her country and her education as soon as she came within the range of a higher light. Though Rahab's faith was as a grain of mustard seed, her conduct clearly showed that she truly possessed it; and in hers, as in every case, to walk by the light she had was a sure prelude to the possession of more" [Pulpit Commentary, vol. 3]. Rahab was truly "a trophy of God's grace" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 280] who "seems to have lived up to her light" [Pulpit Commentary, vol. 3]. "God can travel where no teacher comes, and can enter where no truth is known, and can commend Himself to hearts that seem incapable of appreciating His charms. And so here, without guide, teacher, or companion, she rises to the light of God" [ibid].

Rahab's Request & Reward

Rahab had been gracious toward these two spies. She requests a favor in return. "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]. These two men then gave her their solemn pledge that they would deal kindly and faithfully with her [vs. 14]. However, they required a sign from her -- when the city came under siege, she must place a "cord of scarlet thread in the window through which you let us down" [vs. 18]. It was also required that all those who desired to be saved must be found assembled within the confines of this house; if they should be found outside the house when the city fell, they would perish [vs. 18-19]. Rahab said, "According to your words, so be it" [vs. 21]. "So she sent them away, and they departed; and she tied the scarlet cord in the window" [vs. 21].

Several questions may be legitimately raised at this point in the narrative. First, did the spies have the right to promise to spare the lives of certain residents of Jericho? Was this taking upon themselves an authority they did not truly possess? Some scholars think that to be the case. In Deut. 20:10-18, God instructed the Israelites as to His requirements when they besieged a city in their upcoming conquests. "In the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes" [vs. 16]. Yet, Rahab and her family were told they would be spared. Later, when the spies inform Joshua about this pledge, he agrees to it [Joshua 2:23; 6:17, 22-25]. Thus, Rahab and her family were spared, although with regard to everyone else, "they utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword" [Joshua 6:21]. "The fact that the spies were forced to promise mercy to Rahab necessitated that they compromise God's commandment against sparing the inhabitants of the Promised Land. In this instance Israel quite clearly subordinated strict adherence to Torah to their commitment to the agreement with Rahab" [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 4, p. 33]. This certainly raises some interesting questions, especially in light of the fact that nowhere in Scripture do we find where God either condemns or punishes them for this modification of His command. But, we shall leave further examination of this dilemma for some future study on whether men may acceptably set aside or modify God's commands, and under what circumstances such might be approved.

Many biblical scholars also have questions regarding the significance, if any, of the "scarlet cord" that Rahab was required to hang from her window. Some feel it was little more than a practical identifying marker for the Israelites so they would know which household to spare. Other scholars, however, feel there is a deeper spiritual significance here. "It may not be out of place to notice that Clement, Bishop of Rome, one of the Apostolic Fathers, in his first letter to the Corinthians, sees in the scarlet thread which Rahab bound in her window a type of our Redeemer's blood" [Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 8, p. 368]. Dr. F. F. Bruce points out that Clement of Rome, who was a contemporary of some of the apostles of the Lord, perhaps even a student of Paul himself (Clement's first epistle to the Corinthians is dated around 96 A.D.), regarded Rahab as a prophetess of God, "since the scarlet rope by which she let the spies down from her window on the city wall, and by which her house was identified at the capture of the city, foreshowed 'that through the blood of the Lord all who trust and hope in God shall have redemption' -- 1 Clem. 12:7" [The Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 329]. Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and many other early church writers held the same view.

"In the scarlet cord, the sign of the covenant and the means of deliverance, we can scarcely help seeing a hint both of the blood of the Passover and the blood of the cross" [Pulpit Commentary, vol. 3]. The same connection is seen by The Expositor's Bible Commentary: "Though the scarlet cord reminds us of the blood of Christ, no typological relationship is stated anywhere in Scripture. There are striking similarities to the Passover, however: compare the scarlet cord with the sprinkled blood and the requirement that Rahab's family remain in the house with the command that the Passover be eaten in family units and that no one was to leave the house -- Exodus 12:21-23" [vol. 3, p. 263]. Rahab and her family were to remain in the house if they were to be saved. Some see this as a type of the church of our Lord Jesus. "Like St. Paul's 'except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved' (Acts 27:31), so the spies here declare that to abide in Rahab's house is a necessary condition of safety. The house here is a type of the Church of Christ, not necessarily of external communion of any particular branch of it, but of actual internal membership in the mystical body of Christ" [Pulpit Commentary, vol. 3].

On the seventh day of marching around the walls of Jericho, as the city was falling into the hands of the Israelites, "Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, 'Go into the harlot's house and bring the woman and all she has out of there, as you have sworn to her.' So the young men who were spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and her mother and her brothers and all she had; they also brought out all her relatives, and placed them outside the camp of Israel" [Joshua 6:22-23]. "Rahab the harlot and her father's household and all she had, Joshua spared; and she has lived in the midst of Israel to this day, for she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho" [vs. 25]. We note here that they were "placed outside the camp," at least initially. Why? Because they were considered unclean. This was "a kind of ritual quarantine. The camp of Israel was holy, and nothing unclean could be allowed to enter (cf. Lev. 13:46; Num. 5:3; 31:19; Deut. 23:3, 14). After the passage of time and the observance of appropriate rituals, they were received into the congregation -- see verse 25" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 282].

"It is unclear whether Rahab afterward merely lived in Israelite territory as a sojourner or whether she actually converted, but the prominence of her confession, as well as New Testament and extra-biblical references, strongly suggest that she became a proselyte" [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 4, p. 33]. According to Jewish tradition, she was an extremely beautiful woman! "The Haggadah mentions her as one of the four most beautiful women in the world, who had slept with most of the great men of her day" [Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 13, p. 1515]. The other three most beautiful women in the world were Sarah, Abigail and Esther. "Jewish tradition also viewed Rahab as more than just a sojourner. She was believed to have married Joshua himself, thereby becoming the ancestress of eight priests and prophets, including Jeremiah and Huldah" [ISBE, vol. 4, p. 33]. There is no mention of Rahab's marriage within the pages of the OT, however in Matt. 1:5-6 (although there are a few scholars who are convinced this was a different woman, because the spelling of the name is slightly different in the Greek) we read that "to Salmon was born Boaz by Rahab; and to Boaz was born Obed by Ruth; and to Obed, Jesse; and to Jesse was born David the king."

Dr. F. F. Bruce writes, "In spite of a difference of spelling, there can be little doubt that she is the Rahab who appears in Matt. 1:5 as the wife of Salmon, prince of Judah, the mother of Boaz, the ancestress of King David and therefore also of our Lord Jesus" [The Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 329]. "An honored guest of Israel, she becomes the wife of the head of the tribe of Judah, Salmon. Probably he was one of the two spies, Ephraim and Judah being the leading tribes, and heads of the tribes being chosen for such work. Her child was Boaz, who was one of the brightest and most honorable of all Israel's saints; her daughter-in-law was Ruth the Moabitess; her grandchild's grandchild was David; and Jesus of Nazareth had her blood in His veins!" [Pulpit Commentary, vol. 3]. How blessed was this woman for declaring her faith in God, and casting her lot with His people. And how blessed are we that she did. Her choice, centuries later, resulted in the birth of the Messiah! Praise God for His wondrous mercy and grace.

Reflections on CD
Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

by Al Maxey
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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Maxey, I came across mention of your book -- Down, But Not Out -- on a web site I was reading. I thought at the time that your name sounded familiar, but couldn't think of why. So, I went to your web site and saw your picture, and thought that you looked really familiar. As I scrolled down your web page I saw why! My family moved to Oahu in 1997 and visited the Honolulu Church of Christ for a while (where you were preaching). We ended up at the Pearl Harbor Church of Christ, however, because it was closer to where we lived. I still tell the story of the first Sunday potluck we had there in Hawaii -- it was at your congregation! Someone offered me what I thought was taco salad. As I began eating it I discovered some small tentacles in it. I then learned I was eating tako (octopus) salad! Ick. I was a lot more questioning of food after that!! I just thought it was neat to come across you on the Internet. I will order your book, as the marriage, divorce and remarriage debate is one that my family and I have argued about for years!

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Al, As usual, I printed off your Reflections article, "Churches of Christ in Crisis," and took it to work with me. When I had some spare time, out it came. It was quite a read, and when you concluded the article with the following statement -- "The solution to our decline is, quite frankly, becoming more Christ-centered and grace-oriented. We have preached tradition long enough; it's time to return to Truth. Law is no longer the basis of our relationship with deity, and the more we declare it, the more we decline! To grow, we must elevate grace. It is also time for differing brethren to engage in loving, respectful dialogue, rather than seeking out public debate." -- you nailed it as dead center as it gets! I printed off a second copy and took it to church a week ago Sunday and gave it to my favorite shepherd, who is the shepherd I turn to when I get really frustrated with things. We think so much alike! I handed it to him folded up and simply told him I thought this was something he might want to read. Sunday morning after our early worship assembly, I asked him if he had a chance to read the article I had given him. He had. He laughed and said he was in complete agreement with your conclusion (I figured he would be)! Better yet, he wants more!

From a Reader in Mississippi:

Bro. Al, I just finished reading your Reflections article on "Churches of Christ in Crisis," and I must say the timeliness, at least in my life, is quite appropriate. In fact, after literally a lifetime spent as a child, teacher, deacon and more recently as an elder in the Churches of Christ, I am placing membership with another body of believers tonight. So it was with great personal interest that I read your article on the church in crisis. This has not been an easy decision for me, nor was it one that was made rashly, but it is one that I feel compelled to make. I am sure that there are healthy and vibrant Churches of Christ scattered around our nation, but unfortunately, and to our great shame, I felt there were none in my area. At our core, the Churches of Christ believe the Sunday morning assembly to be THE defining element in Christianity. Whether conservative or liberal, our efforts, our identity, our factions, our energies, and our writings are permeated with this focus. We have become a people who define ourselves, our brothers, and those outside our fellowship, by the sole criteria of what happens in the assembly. And, as you pointed out in your Reflections article, most of the items of contention are merely matters of personal preference. So tonight I find myself leaving an assembly of 120 (and declining) to join a fellowship of over 5000. The numbers are not important. What is important is that this new fellowship has, as its focus and identity, a far different set of priorities. The truth is, Churches of Christ will continue to fall into insignificance until our identity, our conferences, our writings, our energies, and, tragically, our distorted view of the very reason for our existence changes to meet the needs of a lost and starving world. So, Bro. Al, keep fighting the good fight -- heaven knows, there are many captive souls in our brotherhood who need your message! Thanks for all you continue to do. God bless you!

From a Minister in Oklahoma:

Al, I have just now finished reading your article "Churches of Christ in Crisis." Here's a question for you -- Does the effort to preserve a particular heritage or fellowship run the risk of actually promoting the very thing we are trying to overcome: i.e., sectarianism? Shouldn't we begin to practice non-sectarian unity with other Christian heritages that we have come to regard, at least intellectually, as "brothers and sisters" in Christ? If indeed the universal Body of Christ is declining, we had better start holding on to one another (literally), rather than worrying about whether our particular heritage survives! One element of our heritage within the Churches of Christ is legalism. Therefore, we must be very cautious while involved in the preservation of our fellowship, lest we become isolationists and defeat the ultimate purpose of the universal church: i.e., "that we all become one." We must strive for unity of the Spirit, not uniformity in the adoption and practice of what are disputable matters.

From a Minister in New Mexico:

Bro. Al, you wrote: "When God specifies something in His Word, whether for or against, we are obligated to obey. When God speaks, we listen ... and comply." That's true, Al, but with a caveat: the specification must be applicable to those who would apply it. This is a fundamental problem with patternistic thinking. Sometimes we attempt to incorporate in our "pattern" instructions intended not for ourselves, but for those to whom the specification was originally written. It's important to discern whether a specification was intended as universal, or whether it was only intended to be applicable in a specific context or situation. The apostle Paul was very clear in becoming all things to all people in order to save some. His instructions were tailored to the specific needs of specific people in specific situational contexts. What is important, therefore, is that we distill principles from the examples of specific instructions, and apply principles rather than specific patterns. That in itself is what Jesus exemplified in teaching that the specifications recorded in the OT are summed up in one prime directive --- to love God and neighbor!

From a Minister in California:

"The Law of Expediency" was another bell ringer, Al ... one that will really resonate with people whose minds are open to the Truth. Interestingly, most of us who are in the instrumental Christian Churches find this whole expediency thing to be a non-issue. I don't recall ever hearing about CENI or the law of expediency in any of my college courses at Central Christian College of the Bible or at Cincinnati Bible Seminary. Expediency to us is just as practical as breathing. So, I really admire you and other Church of Christ brethren who have fought your way through all the imposing superstructure that has been created to uphold all these extra-biblical traditions. What a struggle it must be, though, for some to let loose of rules they have militantly defended for so long and which have come to be their distinctive identifying marks. Your writing ministry is making a difference, Al. While there are a lot of hardcore legalists who'd truly like to silence your keyboard, there are many, many more grace-driven believers who love you and thank God daily for your testimony. Keep up your great ministry of helping believers enslaved by legalism to find release in Jesus and His grace. Back in the early 80's I got acquainted with Marvin Phillips, and really admired him for his grace under a constant barrage of so-called "friendly fire." I feel the very same about what you are doing -- deepest admiration. God bless you!

From a Author/Minister in Tennessee:

Bro. Al, I was appalled that anyone would call a brother in Christ "a damned liar and a coward." Even when we disagree with one another we can minimally be civil. But, as Christians, we should actually strive to always have the spirit of Christ and to manifest such in our speech.

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Bro. Al, "The Law of Expediency" was another great article, however your earlier Reflections on "Churches of Christ in Crisis" was so powerful that it nearly moved me to tears! I pray that God will bless you with a very long life in His service and a sound mind to continue to challenge us with your writings! And in response to the Indiana MarsList reader, it sounds like he needs to do an intensive study on the nature of our Lord and how He instructed His disciples to respond to people. Shouldn't we be displacing our arrogance with humility and peace, letting our talk be "seasoned with salt" in our interactions with others, particularly those brethren with whom we disagree?!

From a Minister in Kansas:

Bro. Al, One Cup man here. Reflections #261 -- "The Law of Expediency" -- is a great study for all Christians. Over the last 29 years I've heard the term "expedient" used more times than the name of Jesus! I've also noticed it is typically used by the "power brokers" to either permit or prohibit a practice. And isn't it amazing that they are the only ones who know which ones are right or wrong?! Most One Cup brethren could not even tell you why they believe Bible classes are frowned upon; they just blindly follow their leaders. What a sad commentary on the One Cup group, but the very same thing can be said for all segments of the Church of Christ. As for the fellow from Indiana who called you "a damned liar and a coward," that man needs to apologize for his ungodly remarks! God bless you, Al, and keep up the good work!

From a Reader in Louisiana:

Hi there, Al. I really enjoyed this latest article! In the congregation where I grew up, "expedient" meant: "I agree with it." "Non-expedient" meant: "I don't agree with it, and, furthermore, it is probably a sin." I wonder -- have you ever actually met anyone who has successfully put all that mumbo-jumbo from the old 1950's brand of the "Church of Christ" behind them and become normal?! Personally, I keep hoping there are some out there!

From a Doctor in Alabama:
This brother authored Issue #242

Brother Al, That was an excellent article on expediency. I've always found the hypocrisy of our modern Pharisees amazing. They will insist that everything must be done "according to the pattern," and will condemn anyone who deviates from their interpretation of the pattern, yet they constantly deviate from the NT "pattern" themselves, justifying their actions with an appeal to "expediency" (or simply dismissing the relevant passages of Scripture as non-binding). The same people who will demand that you show them what verse in the NT authorizes you to have a kitchen in the church building will scoff if you ask them which verse in the NT authorizes them to even have a church building in the first place! The same folks who insist that Heb. 10:25 commands us never to miss church services, and that 1 Cor. 16:2 commands us to put money in the collection plate every Sunday (and only on Sunday), are more than happy to ignore the command to "greet one another with a holy kiss," a command found in five separate NT passages, or Jesus' command that we should wash each other's feet. The same modern Pharisees who dismiss these practices as nothing more than quaint customs of the first century that don't apply to us today will insist that other practices of the first century church are just as binding today as they were 20 centuries ago. And they're not even consistent about which practices must be followed, and which customs may be ignored. The issue of head coverings from 1 Cor. 11 is a prime example -- you'll often find the Pharisees today fighting with one another over this issue.

And, if they're inconsistent about following commands found in the NT, they're all over the place when it comes to approved examples. Apparently, some approved examples are just as binding as commands (for example, meeting on the first day of the week to break bread -- Acts 20:7), while other approved examples "authorize, but do not bind" (for example, meeting at night in an upstairs room lit by lamps -- Acts 20:7-8), and a few approved examples may be utterly rejected as "inappropriate" in the modern church (for example, having all of the members of the church share their possessions in common, selling their property and giving the proceeds to the church to be distributed to those in need -- Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-35). If you ask these Pharisees how you're supposed to know which approved examples are binding, which authorize, but do not bind, and which are to be rejected as unsuitable for the modern church, you'll never get a straight answer. All they will ever tell you is that it ought to be obvious to anyone who is serious about wanting to obey God. In other words: "Read your Bible and figure it out for yourself --- and if you come to a different conclusion than we do, you're an apostate!" This Pharisaical mindset needs to be exposed for the sham that it is. Thank you, Al, for doing your part to point out the hypocrisy of the legalistic patternists. I know it is helping many people come out of bondage and into freedom in Christ. Keep up the good work!

From a Reader in Barbados, Caribbean Islands:

Al, Thanks for another inspiring and indeed enlightening issue of Reflections. You have pointed out only too clearly that often people who have their own selfish agenda may set out to deceive others concerning the use of expediencies, or, more aptly put, exploit such for their own selfish and personal gain. Thank you for sharing your tremendous insights with us. God's blessings be upon you and yours.

From a Minister in California:

Brother Al, Once again you have taken a very difficult biblical concept and made it practical. You have masterfully challenged some of the strange philosophical gymnastics performed by the legalistic patternists in their pursuit of doctrinal perfection. I find it unbelievably ironic that these legalists can justify banding together on an Internet site, outside of their local congregation, mind you, to spread hatred, slander and lies, but heaven forbid they should ever work together to support an orphans' home or a missionary! While I'm at it, I think I will continue the expedient practice of communicating with my dear friend and brother Al Maxey via email. Praise God for expediency! If it weren't for email and the Internet, it is very unlikely that we would have ever crossed paths. As it is, I feel that my life has been enriched tremendously, even though we've never actually met face-to-face!

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Al, I am back from over two weeks in the mountains of Colorado without a computer. Although it was a wonderful vacation which we treasure every summer, I was excited to read what you had written while I was gone. The three articles took time to read, but I related to every word in them. You always give me encouragement that there is hope for the Churches of Christ if we can just get the focus back on Jesus instead of tradition. May God continue to bless you and your ministry.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, Thanks for the "Law of Expediency" Reflections. I have been reading it for a few days and following the links you provided. Twelve years ago, my wife and I were forced to leave a Non-Institutional Church of Christ because the elders suspected us of approving of instrumental music in worshiping God. We had never voiced our opinions to them on this, or to anyone else in the church, so it was a strange situation. We found another Church of Christ, which did initiate an instrumental service a few years later. That congregation provided a place of healing from the abusive atmosphere found in the previous group. Today we are a part of another Church of Christ that focuses on ministry to people in need, a congregation that the previous healing congregation helped establish. I have personally seen some of the best and the worst of the Churches of Christ, but even in the worst situations, I have seen very godly, merciful, humble, and courageous men and women. In spite of the abusive climates of some churches, some people continue to walk in the Spirit of Christ. When I clicked on your link to the Watchman Magazine web site, and began reading that publication, I started to remember once again the ungodly attitudes of some Non-Institutional leaders. They do not even realize the pain that they cause in promoting self-righteousness, arrogance, and legalism. When such things are cultivated, love for God and love for people dies. The Churches of Christ CAN be strong and healthy. I have seen it when the members "act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God" (Micah 6:8). It can be (and is) the norm among many Churches of Christ. Thanks for letting me ramble, and thanks for provoking my thoughts.

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Bro. Al, I have just finished reading your Reflections article on expediency. Excellent, as usual! While reading your comments on instrumental music in that article, I thought about the tuning fork and the pitch pipe. How can these musical instruments be "authorized" from the two NT passages [Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16] that supposedly restrict our worship in song to the voice only? If those two verses prohibit a piano, which maintains the pitch during our singing, why would they permit a musical instrument to acquire the vocal pitch? If singing excludes the accompaniment of an instrument, why would the passage allow a mechanical instrument to get that singing started? Frankly, the tuning fork and pitch pipe are declared to be "expedients" (i.e., "loopholes") simply because they are something we have always done, and because they are something we want and are comfortable with.

From a Author/Minister in New Mexico:

Dear Al, I've just finished reading your Reflections on "The Church of Christ in Crisis." Excellent! I think you have a copy of my book, "Fellowship of Believers," that was published in 1968. Your weekly Reflections and my book seem to have much in common -- trying to awaken a sleepy, drowsy brotherhood. Though I hesitate to class myself with brothers Carl Ketcherside and Leroy Garrett, several members have said the three of us were "prophets" long before the time our people were prepared to receive the message. But what truly does this old heart of mine great good is the knowledge and blessing of seeing younger men, like yourself, with your great depth of understanding, knowledge and insight, now carrying the torch lit by Ketcherside and Garrett. May our heavenly Father continue to bless you and yours.

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