Inside the walls of Jericho lived a woman who has forever been nicknamed by those who know of her as Rahab “the prostitute.” History has a strange way of remembering people, but in Christ, Rahab “the prostitute” would eventually become Rahab “a daughter of Zion,” and we can be confident that in heaven she is known by that better name. But the transitions from life in sin to salvation often happen on dramatic stages, and Rahab is no exception.
Hebrews 11:30 actually records the destruction of Jericho before the salvation of Rahab. Jericho was something of the Las Vegas of the known world in Rahab’s era. The inhabitants of Jericho were violent, murderous, and idolatrous in the extreme. The evil of the city’s inhabitants was such that God had placed the entire city under His punitive ban; the whole city was to be destroyed. Joshua 6:17 says, “The city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction.” This particular type of judgment was the most severe. The Hebrew phrase behind “devoted to destruction” is used of cities in which everything living was to be put to death. It was to be a dramatic display of hell on earth. The judgment of God would roll through like a wave, and everything and everyone in its path would be put to death—everyone, that is, except for Rahab and her family.
The plan of attack God gives to Israel might make a military strategist scratch his head. The Israelites had already sent in spies on something of a covert intelligence mission, assessing the city’s strengths and weaknesses. It ought to be remembered at this point that this is not the first time we have watched this movie. An entire generation earlier, the same reconnaissance mission took place, with Joshua and Caleb among the spies. Only in that context, despite the confidence of the spies to overtake the inhabitants of the land, the Israelites chose to shudder in fear rather than to walk by faith—and that generation perished in the wilderness. The sad irony is that in their effort to preserve their lives (through unbelief), they lost their lives. This new generation, however, with Joshua at the helm, was ready to follow God’s battle plan no matter how puzzling it might have appeared.
Israel was to walk quietly around the city once a day for six days with no military engagement; no noise was to be made but the sound of the priest’s trumpets. The ark of the Lord and the priests were to join them, signifying that the battle belonged to the Lord. The use of “sevens” was conspicuous. Seven priests with seven trumpets were to march with the people for a total of seven days. On the seventh day, they circled the city once more as before, only this time they circled it seven times, and then with one loud voice, they shouted—and the walls of Jericho fell down. Scholars note the intentional parallel to the creation days; only in this case the emphasis is upon de-creation. There was to be no Sabbath rest for the enemies of God at the end of this sabbatical week, but for Israel, it was the climactic beginning of their entering into the Sabbath rest of the land of Canaan (Heb. 4). God was bringing judgment and the wages of sin (death) upon the people of Jericho who, in their idolatry had declared themselves the enemies of God. There was no mercy, no grace, no hope for any of them—except for Rahab the prostitute.