Elie Assis, «The Choice to Serve God and Assist His People: Rahab and Yael», Vol. 85 (2004) 82-90
This paper presents a series of analogies between Rahab and Yael, both gentiles, who unexpectedly choose to assist Israel against the Canaanites. The analogies are designed to illustrate the surprising and unanticipated means through which divine providence operates. Noteworthy differences between the two heroines indicate the specific significance of each story. Rahab’s conduct is motivated by her recognition of God’s absolute power. Yael’s motives, however, are unclear. Their concealment is meant to detract attention from Yael’s appealing character and focus on the prophetic role played by Deborah who had predicted Yael’s behaviour.
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The Choice to Serve God and Assist His People 87
each character and the particular meaning of each story. Rahabâ€™s motive in
assisting Israel is clear in her words. She feels the danger of the approaching
confrontation with Israel, as they invade Canaan; she decides to help the spies
and hopes that they will return the favor and save her. Rahab is a harlot and
not an accepted member of society, which may explain her willingness to
leave her own people and join another group (16). However, the narrative also
emphasizes Rahabâ€™s deep belief in God (17). In one of the most impressive
statements in the Bible on faith, Rahab expresses the awe-inspiring quality of
the monotheistic conception:
I know that the LORD has given you the land, â€¦As soon as we heard
it, our hearts melted, and there was no courage left in any of us
because of you. The LORD your God is indeed God in heaven above
and on the earth below (Josh 2,9-11).
In these words Rahab expresses the notion that God is sovereign. The
narrator shapes Rahabâ€™s words as a combination of two quotations from the
Pentateuch, one from the Song of Moses at the sea of Reeds and the second
All the inhabitants of Canaan melted and that dread of you has fallen on us,
Terror and dread fell upon them and that all the inhabitants of the land melt in
fear before you.
In the Song of Moses, the feeling expressed is that the greatness of the
miracle will affect the nations of Canaan and they, too, will recognize the
power of God. The presentation of Rahab as a person capable of quoting the
Song of Moses shows that the miracle has affected her according to the
statement in the Song, and she, indeed, recognizes the power of God. This
acknowledgement of Rahab is in contrast to the behavior of the King of
Jericho and his soldiers who pursue the spies.
Rahabâ€™s words are structured in a Deuteronomistic style and they quote
Deut 4,39 Josh 2,9-11
Know therefore this day, I know that the LORD has given you the landâ€¦
And consider it in thine heart, our hearts meltedâ€¦
That the Lord he is God The LORD your God is indeed God
In heaven above and on the earth below in heaven above and on the earth below
(16) See, e.g., E.J. HAMLIN, Inheriting The Land. A Commentary on the Book of Joshua
(Grand Rapids â€“ Edinburgh 1983) 17.
(17) Campbell believes that the main idea of the story of Rahab is the moral choice that
Rahab makes to adopt the covenant with God, and that accordingly she and her family join
the covenant nation. See K.M. CAMPBELL, â€œRahabâ€™s Covenant: A Short Note on Joshua
2:9-21â€, VT 22 (1972) 243-244. Some believe that Rahabâ€™s decision is motivated merely by
her understanding that she is in danger and this is the way to save herself and her family.
See ZAKOVITCH, â€œHumor and Theologyâ€, 90.