Rahab’s Rope: the Scarlet Thread of Redemption in Jericho

Situated in the lowest place on earth, next to the Dead Sea, Jericho is famous for walls that came tumbling down, and a certain prostitute called Rahab. Rahab, as you might know, ended up becoming a Very Important Person. 

You can still see the remains of the city walls today, and evidence of houses that literally were built into the walls, just as the Bible describes. 

Jericho is the oldest city in the world, and it’s remarkable to see these Bronze Age ruins with your very eyes. It is a great privilege to be able to visit the biblical sites like this, but it is also a huge blessing to be able to read the original language that the Bible was written in.

Just as seeing the ancient stones in real life makes the stories come alive, so seeing the choice of Hebrew words brings out priceless gems invisible in other languages.

I want to talk to you about Rahab and her rope.

The men said to her: “Our life for yours, if you don’t report this business of ours. Then it will be when Adonai gives us the land that we will deal kindly and loyally with you.”

So she lowered them down by a rope through the window—for her house was in the wall; she was living in the wall. (Joshua 2:14-15)

Joshua had sent two spies to check out the land, especially the city of Jericho. The King of Jericho was aware that they had gone through Rahab’s house, and told Rahab to hand them over to him. Our guide told us that some houses in the walls would have been almost like gateways to a city, through which people pass through and gossip gets known. But Rahab feared the Lord and covered for them. She let them out the window with a rope.

Here’s the thing about that rope in verse 15. In Hebrew, it’s the word “chevel” (חבל). Chevel in Hebrew, even till today, means a rope or cord, but in the Bible it also pertains to territory because you can mark out territory with lines and cords. It can mean measured portion, lot, part or region, but it can also mean pain, sorrow or travail. We can be bound up with “chevelim”, with sorrows and pains – its a word that crops up in the book of Job a number of times. It can also refer to a noose or a snare, and can even be translated as destruction. It has connotations of birth pangs, and the link between the umbilical cord and this same linguistic root for travail is clear.[1]
So Rahab lets them down on this rope, this chevel.

Then she said to them: “Go to the hill country, lest the pursuers meet you, and hide yourselves there for three days, until the pursuers return. Afterward, you may go your way.”

Three days you say?
That sounds like a typological bell ringing in my ear!

Then the men said to her: “We will be released from this oath that you have made us swear, unless when we come into the land, you tie this line of scarlet thread in the window through which you lowered us down.”

Now here in verse 18, after the three days, she is to let down that same rope to let them back up again.

But this time, the Hebrew word is different. And it's scarlet now too.

It is not a rope (chevel חבל) anymore. It is a cord (tikva תקוה).
Here is what the Hebrew word “tikva” means [2]:

  1. cord
  2. hope, expectation
    • ground of hope,
    • things hoped for,
    • outcome.

See if any of the following paragraph sets off any echoes in your head:

“Gather to yourself in the house your father, your mother, your brothers and all your father’s household— whoever goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood will be on his head and we will be innocent, but whoever is with you in the house, his blood will be on our head if any hand is laid on him. But if you divulge this business of ours, then we will be released from your oath you have made us swear.”

So she said: “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away. After they had gone, she tied the scarlet cord to the window. Then they departed and came to the hill country. They stayed there for three days until the pursuers returned.

It’s rather reminiscent of the blood on the doorframes excercise the Israelites had just had to do to escape death as the Lord passed over the houses. The scarlet color of the cord is symbolic of the lamb's blood that caused death to pass-over the Israelites, and the family all had to be inside to be safe. If they failed to obey the instructions, then they would die along with everyone else. This, of course, also applies to the blood of the Lamb of God, Yeshua the Messiah. If we fail to accept his salvation (offered to us at the cost of his own life) we will perish.

First there was a chevel: marked out, bound-up pain and destruction, then after three days, a lifeline of hope, tikva. Not unlike the Grand Story of Salvation that the Passover was pointing to: the death and resurrection of the Messiah.

The red cord of hope and salvation

Then the two men returned, came down from the hill country, crossed over and came to Joshua son of Nun. They reported to him all that had befallen them. “Surely Adonai has given all the land into our hands,” they said to Joshua.

And indeed, the Lord did give Jericho into their hands. The spies' safe passage was assured by Rahab, and Rahab's family were saved due to her fear of God and willingness to do what they told her to do to be saved. The walls came tumbling down in a manner that is archaeologically observable today, and God got the victory. [3]

Rahab went on to marry one of the tribe – Salmon from the tribe of Judah – and they had a son called Boaz. Boaz, as you may know, went on to marry a woman from another of Israel's enemies, Moab. Boaz and Ruth the Moabite gave birth to Obed, father of Jesse, who was the father of King David—ancestor of the Messiah.

The message of Jericho is this:
There is hope of salvation for all who wish to be rescued from destruction, and an invitation is extended to join God's people.

After we finished our tour of the ancient walls and ruins, I saw a board explaining in more detail what we had seen. The last sentence read,

“The city was destroyed towards 1550 BC, a blow from which it never recovered.”

Follow Rahab's example, and choose salvation! Judgement and destruction will surely come, but the invitation is extended to all: Come under the protection of the God of Israel made available through Yeshua, and he will give you a place among his people. Even more than giving Rahab her life, God bestowed her with honor and put this Canaanite lady-of-the-night onto the VIP list of the Messiah's genealogy. She has been recorded in history for all time, and over 3000 years later, we are still talking about Rahab and her faith.

Hers is a testimony of the extreme goodness of God towards those who fear him and call on him for salvation.

The walls of Jericho where Rahab's house was located, and the red rope sent down for the 2 spies
[1] Strong's number H2256
[2] Strong's number H8615
[3] https://watchjerusalem.co.il/2018/05/22/uncovering-the-bibles-buried-cities-jericho/
Photo by Emmanuel Ikwuegbu on Unsplash

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