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We are told several times that Rahab the harlot was saved when she protected the spies sent from Israel to survey the city of Jericho. Here is one example:

James 2:25: "In the same way [as Abraham, who believed God], was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?"

Another account may be this:

Hebrews 11:31: "By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace."

While Rahab no doubt assisted Israel by concealing the spies, in what way did Rahab fulfill any of the Laws of Moses — or give obedience to/apply faith in God? We are clearly told that Abraham was commanded by God to follow his instructions, but it's unclear to me where Rahab did the same.

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  • See Galatians 5:6.
    – Lucian
    Commented Oct 19, 2021 at 0:50
  • The word "justified" often causes confusion. We often think of justification as something one can do to gain something, and then end up arguing about how this contradicts other scriptures. But really, the conflict is only between the scriptures and our misunderstanding of that word. All the word "justification" means is a demonstration of one's faith. "Rahab was justified by works" simply means that the actions and decisions Rahab made demonstrated her faith, nothing more. Commented Oct 19, 2021 at 1:10
  • Why do you 'presume' that justification is by the law of Moses ? Do not Romans and Galatians make it clear that such is not possible ? Rahab was justified by her works of faith. No mention is made in the text of her doing any legal works at all. She believed the report and she aided the spies - and she was justified.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 19, 2021 at 3:53

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When God delivered Israel from Egypt, a knowledge of His power spread far and wide, and reached the inhabitants of Jericho. Rahab herself informs us of the knowledge of these events.

And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. (Joshua 2:9, KJV)

For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. (Joshua 2:10, KJV)

And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. (Joshua 2:11, KJV)

Centuries later, well after the Exodus, the priests of the Philistines reminded their people of the plagues of Egypt, and warned them against resisting the God of Israel.

And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore. Woe unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods? these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness. (1 Samuel 4:7-8, KJV)

Clearly, the knowledge of these events had been published widely among the surrounding nations.

Rahab, in choosing to harbor the spies--and to trust their promise, put her faith in their God. She even told them plainly: "for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath." (Joshua 2:11, KJV)

She continued to demonstrate her faith in following the directions of the spies to hang a scarlet cord from her window during the assault on Jericho.

Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father's household, home unto thee. (Joshua 2:18, KJV

And she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window. (Joshua 2:21, KJV)

Her actions showed that she truly believed, and this demonstration of her faith was the salvation of her entire family.

Conclusion

Rahab both confessed that the God of Israel was the true God, and followed the directions given her by the spies--whom she had risked her life to save. These actions showed her faith in God.

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  • Your reference to Joshua 2:11 is powerful when combined with Rahab's actions the way you have described. +1 However, I have to wonder if there were any others in Jericho that might have believed and acted similarly. From the passages you have cited (Josh. 2:11, 18, 21), it seems that she may have been something of a prophetess.
    – Xeno
    Commented Oct 19, 2021 at 1:53
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in what way did Rahab fulfill any of the Laws of Moses — or faith in God? We are clearly told that Abraham was commanded by God to follow his instructions, but it's unclear to me where Rahab did the same.

The commandments to do justice or righteousness is the underlying theme of the laws of God.

[Job 34:12 RSV] Of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice.
[Psa 106:3 RSV] Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!
[Pro 21:3 RSV] To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
[Pro 28:5 RSV] Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it completely.
[Isa 1:17 RSV] learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.
[Isa 56:1 RSV] Thus says the LORD: "Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.

  • God has written his law on the hearts of all men.
  • God judges everyone equally impartially.

Acts 10:34-35 ESV So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

Romans 2:6-16 explains that God has his law written in the hearts of men, and thus, even the Gentiles obey the (moral) law through their heart or conscience and are justified. God does not commit partiality, he will judge each according to his works. The unbelievers or who are living in conscious ignorance of God will be equally judged like the believers on the basis of their works.

Rahab was not justified by the law, she was not a member of the covenant of Moses. The whole point of James & Hebrews is to show examples of righteousness/justification apart from the Moses law covenant. She was justified by faith and works, that is obedience to God's call for justice or righteousness. The examples are to point out that Moses covenant is not the sole criteria for justification. And that the covenant has been finished and replaced with a new one.

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