This chapter, which focuses on the remarkable faith of a woman named Rahab, seems like an interruption in the flow of this book. But it serves to emphasize the long-range mission of the people of God, a mission greater than conquering Jericho or settling new territory. Israel was destined to be a blessing to all the families of the earth and a light for all nations (Genesis 12:3, Isaiah 49:6). The fact that God saved Rahab and her family out of the idol-worshiping culture of Canaan is a foreshadowing of the grand story of the gospel, the saving message of salvation for all people.
The fact that Rahab was actually a prostitute (zanah in Hebrew) is sometimes disputed, but there is no reason to interpret it as anything other than what it says. At the very least, Rahab had the reputation of being a professional when it came to sexual immorality. But she had heard of the one true God, the God of Israel, and in fact she used His proper name, Jehovah (or Yahweh) when she referred to Him. She knew that God had rescued His people from slavery, parted the Red Sea for their escape, and defeated powerful kings who threatened them (v.8-13). In that God who went to such great lengths to express His love to a nation of slaves, Rahab saw a love that could include even her, a idolatrous harlot.
In Rehab’s courageous assistance of the spies and her request to be spared when Jericho was attacked (v.13), I see her crying out to Jehovah God for salvation — in the best way she knew how. She expressed her faith in hanging the scarlet cord from her home, a symbol (at least in color) of the blood painted on the homes of the faithful Israelites on the night of the Passover (Exodus 12:13). Just as the red blood of the lamb identified the Israelites who would be covered by the grace of God, the red rope in the harlot’s window would identify Rahab as a recipient of that same protecting grace.
God honored Rahab’s faith by sparing her life and the lives of all those in her house. Awesome, huh? But wait! There’s more! God honored Rahab by receiving her into His family and even making her the grandmother of kings an ancestress of the Lord Jesus (see Matthew 1:5)! Additionally, God honored Rahab by selecting her — not Joshua or Caleb — as the representative of this period of Israelite history in the great “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews chapter 11! The grace of God is truly amazing, isn’t it?