Rahab and Achan
Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 13, Nov 2018
Scripture Reading: Joshua 6:22-25; Joshua 7:1
“Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the harlot’s house and bring the woman and all she has out of there, as you have sworn to her.” So the young men who were spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and her mother and her brothers and all she had; they also brought out all her relatives and placed them outside the camp of Israel. They burned the city with fire, and all that was in it. Only the silver and gold, and articles of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. However, Rahab the harlot and her father’s household and all she had, Joshua spared; and she has lived in the midst of Israel to this day, for she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.”
“But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the LORD burned against the sons of Israel.”
Let’s give a background for our scripture texts.
We can say that Rahab is the woman God took from the dunghill. Three times Rahab is referred to as ‘the harlot’, a woman who yields herself indiscriminately to every man approaching her. We are told that prostitution was not regarded with the same horror then, as now, but the Bible with one voice speaks of harlotry with moral revulsion (disgust) and social ostracism (banishment). Rahab lived in Jericho. Jericho is a heavily fortified city. The wall of Jericho is wide enough for two chariots riding side by side to pass through on the top. It is wide enough for houses to be embedded inside the wall. It is a very wicked city; the reason for God to totally destroy it and never to be built again. It represents the stronghold of bondages in our lives; so wicked that you are ashamed to mention them and difficult to be taken down. Rahab is an example pointing to her harlotry, a moral disgust. Rahab’s house was built against the town wall. Yet it was possible for Rahab to be delivered from such powerful sinful lifestyle simply because she had faith in God. When the two spies came to Jericho, harlot though Rahab has been, intuition from above had been given her that the spies were men of God, the forerunners of His people who were to execute His will, and that to take side with them was to take side with God Himself. She hid the spies and as a result it saved herself and her family.
On the other hand we can say that Achan is the man who brought trouble to his family and a nation. It did not take long for Joshua to discover that his defeat at Ai, after a succession of victories, was due to some transgression of the divine covenant. Thus, as the result of an inquiry, Achan was exposed as the transgressor, and confessing his sin in stealing and hiding part of the spoil taken at the destruction of Jericho, was put to death in consequence. In keeping with the custom of those days, Achan was probably stoned with his immediate relatives, and their dead bodies burned – the latter making punishment more terrible in the eyes of the Israelites.
The stories of Rahab and Achan serve a greater purpose in the book of Joshua when they are understood as literary foils that complement one another and not just as isolated units. A literary foil is a bible character who contrasts with another character, usually the protagonist, to highlight particular qualities of the other character. The story of Rahab and Achan cannot be seen as isolated units. Rahab was written at the end of Joshua Chapter 6 and Achan followed immediately on Joshua Chapter 7:1. You have to understand something about the Bible. Chapters and Paragraphs are not inspired but are put there to follow the original author’s intent. If there is no chapter or paragraph then we can say that these two characters; Rahab and Achan and their fate shed light on each other and make essential points from two opposite ends. They both demonstrate that nobody can presume upon the basis of their bloodline whether the covenant promise of God is for them or not. Let’s study Rahab and Achan.
1. The Promised Land
The Promised Land is an inheritance that rightly belongs to Achan. Canaan represents our rewards while on earth. Canaan also represents our inheritance while on earth. As I read my bible, I realized that Christians are promised a land. Both Rahab and Achan were inside the Promised Land. But did Achan receive his Promised Land. No. The bible says they entered not in because of unbelief. I feel that people did not receive what God had promised them while on earth is simply because in the first place they don’t believe and also secondly because of presumption. I look at Christians today. We have never fully received what God has promised us because of unbelief. I give you an example. If I know my God well, Christians are not supposed to be poor. You may be born poor but you cannot continue to be in poverty once you know YHWH. Because David said so clearly in Psalms 37:5 ‘I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.’ You may be born poor but you cannot stay poor as a Christian. Also, as a Christian we are meant to own a land and not be poor. These are just two of the basic Promised inheritance given to us. Another Promised Inheritance is that we shall be with God eternally. But Jesus also said, ‘Not everyone who call me LORD LORD shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven but he who does the will of my Father in Heaven.’ Can we say that one day we will meet Achan in heaven? How about Joab, Solomon, Judas Iscariot, Demas who loved this world, Alexander, the coppersmith, and a host of many others.
Rahab on the other hand demonstrated her faith and she proves to be a true spiritual descendant of Abraham. We are more associated to Rahab because we are Gentiles like her but became the spiritual children of Abraham.
2. Daughter of Promise, son of Curse
Rahab became a daughter of Promise whereas Achan became a son of curse. There is an obvious contrast between Rahab and Achan. YHWH is no respecter of persons. If a Canaanite prostitute repents and believes, she is included in Israel. If one, even from the royal tribe, is disobedient to the clearly expressed will of God, he and his family are eliminated. I can compare Rahab as an unbeliever but with all the baggage came to church and heard from God and the other one Achan, a long time believer in God who knows God’s ways.
How did this happen? Look at Achan. The bible says, the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully. The verb ‘acted unfaithfully means ‘to act under cover’ or ‘trust-breaking.’ The problem with many of us as children of God is that we acted unfaithfully towards God. In the Hebrew text, the noun form of the verb ‘acted unfaithfully’ is repeated, which intensifies the scandal of the act of rebellion. The nature of the sin is that it is scandal equivalent and an act of rebellion. It is not just rebellion but sustained, continual rebellion. It is willful rebellion and willful disobedience. What many of us did is repeated unfaithfulness to God. And what we did is to the degree of being scandalous. It is even shameful to talk about it. It is a disgraceful thing. It brought terrible shame. And it is actually a rebellion against God. And it is not one time. It is sustained continual willful rebellion and disobedience. Now what did Achan do? Joshua 7:1 says, ‘Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban.’ The phrase ‘under the ban’ is the term ‘herem’ which means it is ‘something dedicated to God’ and therefore, ‘it became too holy for human use’. One example of something dedicated to God and holy is your body. Paul says in I Corinthians 3:16-17 ‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.’ We cannot use our body for fornication, adultery. We cannot use our body for sexual promiscuity and scandalous living. We cannot use our body to put tattoo on. During Halloween, we cannot paint demonic images on ourselves to celebrate with the world. If we do that we are no different from the false worshippers of Baal at Mount Carmel where they cut themselves to bring down rain. I mean the Holy Spirit dwells in you and you use it to defile the body that is holy. Of course another most common interpretation among the Christian circles concerning something that is dedicated to God and is holy is tithing. I am not here to talk about tithing. But I think it has some truth in it. Tithe is dedicated to God and it is holy. Joshua 6:23 says this, ‘They burned the city with fire, and all that was in it. Only the silver and gold, and articles of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD.’ That is a tithe. It has to be put into the storehouse of the house of God. The third example is our lifestyles and character is dedicated to God and is holy. We cannot use it to commit wickedness and treachery and abomination. God revealed to Joshua that both theft and deceit is the lifestyle and character of Achan.
I think many of us know personally what is the thing that is dedicated to God and is holy. The phrase ‘put under the ban’ is from the NASB. The KJV is enlightening. It is called the ‘accursed thing’. So if you are banned from touching it but you insist on touching it that thing becomes a curse. If you continually rebel or disobey this area, Malachi is so clear; you are cursed with a curse already. Do you know what is clear stated will of YHWH concerning intentional rebellion or sin?
a. You cannot stand
b. Turn your backs before your enemies
c. Become accursed
d. YHWH will not be with you anymore
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you have this thing that you are doing that is hidden away where nobody will ever find out about it. Don’t fool yourself that you can just keep it hidden and it doesn’t need to be destroyed in your life and taken away.
The phrase ‘the anger of the LORD burned against the sons of Israel’ is something that we Christian constantly refuse to accept. The Bible that speaks of the tremendous love of God is the same bible that speaks of the burning anger of God. They both speak of the true nature of a personal, holy God. I know that God loves me. But I also experience times the anger of the LORD against me.
Next, look at Rahab. Through the life of Rahab, God has a message for us. God has a message for mankind and for the people who just came to know God. Let’s continue our comparison between Rahab and Achan. One is a female and the other is a male. Females are second class citizen even in many bible stories. If the person that has all the ingredients to succeed in life it is Achan and not Rahab. I like what one bible commentator says about women in the bible. He says that there are many women in places of leadership in the Old Testament; Miriam in Exodus, Deborah in Judges and Huldah in 2 Kings were all called prophetess. Then in the New Testament we have Anna in Luke, Phoebe in Romans, Philip’s daughters in Acts and the widows of 1 Tim 3:11. They all also had positions of leadership in the New Testament. It is true that the norm is that the patriarchal culture is God using a man to lead His people, but that fact that we have these notable exceptions shows that any dogmatic statement about women’s leadership is inappropriate. God’s treatment of women should cause one to think through clearly, biblically, not emotionally, culturally or denominationally. So here is a female Rahab against a male Achan. Rahab has the least possibility to succeed in life. Achan is the best candidate to succeed. I mean he is from the tribe of Judah from whose genealogy comes Jesus Christ. This is God’s message to all the losers. I came from a very poor family. My parents have 9 children including me. The eldest died immediately after birth. My father was a fisherman and later became a truck driver. But he loved to gamble. I cannot forget once when I was so young, that my mum had to hold my hand and I tag along to cross a river to go and find my father late into the night because he was gambling across the river. Once my Dad had a liking for another woman. My mum went to find that woman and tell her in no uncertain term that it is alright with her to get along with my Dad and my Mum would back out but the lady has to be responsible for the 8 children in my family. Of course that lady backed out. My mum had to take up two jobs a day; mopping the floor of a shopping mall and washing the plates for a hawker store. I can never forget vividly imbedded in my mind, my mum would pace the floor of my Nipa house, thinking of ways to get money for food. In my entire life until the age of 22 I have never celebrated a birthday and I never had a toy in my childhood. My aunt would laugh at me because when I ate a pear, I would eat up everything, the flesh, the seed and the stalk. I know that my life story is repeated in many of your households. You can identify with me. But why can’t you follow me (Like Paul says; ‘Imitate me’ and follow the example of Rahab, a loser in life but one who heard about God and place her faith in God.
We see a transfer of blessing from Achan to Rahab. We know that Rahab married a man from the tribe of Judah. I personally believe that one of the two spies married Ruth. His name is Salmon who paid back the life he owed her (because she hid him) by a love that was honorable and true. But it did not happen overnight. When the attack on Jericho began, Joshua in Chapter 6:23 told the two spies to find Rahab and family and ‘placed them outside the camp of Israel.’ Rahab at that point was still a Canaanite and therefore ceremonially unclean, she was removed from the holy people for a time. However Joshua 6:25 shows that she was later fully included in the covenant community. When you come to God, He will change you from unclean to clean. People can change and can be changed. I change when I know God. Rahab changed when she put her faith in God. You can change. Next week if God willing, I like to share of the Spirit of God coming mightily upon you and you changed.
But that is not the end of the story. Salmon fell in love with Rahab. After marriage, Rahab bore Boaz. The son of Rahab, Boaz also fell in love with a Moabite woman, Ruth. Ruth bore Obed. The grandson of Rahab begat Jesse who was the father of David. From the lineage of David came Jesus Christ. It is so powerful. Do you know every Jewish woman in the bible want to be in the lineage from whom Jesus comes? Yet God chose 4 women, all losers, Tamar who became a prostitute and committed adultery with her father in law, Rahab a prostitute, Ruth who came from the descendant of incest and Bathsheba, an adulterer to have that privilege. All because a loser put her faith in God and loves God. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, ‘However, as it is written: “what no eyes has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” – the things God prepared for those who love Him.’
What happened to a life who put his or her faith in YHWH? Now why did God choose Rahab? You must understand God’s love for mankind and if only a person will totally believes in Him, he will exalt him or her to greatness. Why did God choose Rahab? To show his love for mankind and to demonstrate if only a person will totally believe in him, He will exalt him to greatness.
Look at her profession of faith. She said to the two spies in Joshua 2:11, ‘The Lord your God, He is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.’ Rahab hears about God. The word she had heard was one of impending judgment upon the inhabitants of the land, including herself, but it also revealed a God who is powerful to save and abounding in mercy toward his people. By faith she knew that the only way to gain her life was to lose it, that is, to denounce her city of Jericho and her entire land for that matter, and abandon herself completely to the mercy of God. The mercy will fully embrace her (and her family) in the midst of a crumbling city from which she escapes unscathed. From Rahab, God has a message. There is no man here that is too sinful, too low that YHWH is not interested in.
This is Rahab’s acknowledgement of God
a. An affirmation of YHWH’s greatness and power
b. Knowledge of Israel’s supernatural victories with YHWH’s presence and help
c. An element of fear and self preservation
How about you?
3. The concept of Corporality.
The actions of both affected their whole families. The Hebrew term is corporality. We have to understand the Hebrew concept of corporality. The one affects the whole, either negatively or positively. What I did affects my family. The same is true of Rahab positively and Achan negatively. ‘Ai’ seems to be a name to describe ‘a heap’ or ‘ruin’. Ai became the ruin of Achan’s life. It is said that when Achan and his family were stoned, they became a heap and were burned. The story of Rahab and Achan shows the Hebrew concept of corporality. One affects many. Here are a lists of this truth:
1. Adam and Eve’s sin affects all humanity
2. Sacrifice of innocent animals affects humans
3. Korah and Reuben’s sin affects their whole family
4. Jesus, the innocent Lamb of God affects the redemption of fallen mankind.
Although this was only done by one solder, Achan, it was seen as an unfaithful act on behalf of all the people. How about Rahab? Joshua said, ‘Go into the harlot’s house and bring the woman and all she has out of there, as your have sworn to her.” So the young men who were spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and her mother and her brothers and all she had; they also brought out all her relatives and place them outside the camp of Israel. Had Rahab not believed in YHWH her family members and her relatives would have shared the fate of Jericho.
When I was delivered from demon possession and gave my life to Jesus and serve him completely, it affects my family. I am not perfect in my service towards God but I was sincere and make effort to walk obediently. My family members were all affected. They came to know God. I was so blessed recently to know that my elder brother and his wife and I think his children will be going for missions trip for 9 days another country (most likely China) this coming November; this 14th to 23rd of November; this coming Wednesday. And Jan is leading a mission team to come to Iloilo on December 15 to 19. Pastor Lily has always proclaimed that Joy and Jan’s blessing is linked to our service towards God. Rahab was a prostitute and yet was included in the covenant family of God.
How about Achan concerning corporality? It is possible that he hid the accursed things among his family’s possessions; that both his wife and children knew of his theft. Stones were used for capital punishment. As a result Achan and his family were killed. And then he and his possessions were burned and a great heap of stones was raised.
I want to speak to those who are Achan. What are the things you must do before it is too late?
a. Rise up
b. Consecrate yourself
c. Remove the ban