“By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies” (Heb. 11:31). The writer cites Rahab’s act of receiving the spies (Josh. 2:1-14). Let’s review the story in Joshua 2:1-3.
And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, ‘Go, view the land, especially Jericho.’ And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there. 2 And it was told to the king of Jericho, ‘Behold, men of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.’ 3 Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, ‘Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land.’
Why did Rahab welcome the two spies of Joshua? The reason is in Joshua 2:8-11. Rahab had already put her faith in Yahweh, the God of Israel. Read how Rahab explained herself in vv. 8-11.
8 Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9 and said to the men, ‘I know that the LORD has given you the land [emphasis added], and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt [emphasis added], and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.’
Rahab believed in the promises of Yahweh (v. 8). She believed in the power and fear of Yahweh (v. 10). She believed in Yahweh as the only true God in the heavens above and the earth beneath (v. 11).
Then she asked for a favor from the spies (vv. 12-14).
12 ‘Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign 13 that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.’ 14 And the men said to her, ‘Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the Lord gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.’
After the fall of Jericho, the Israelites spared the lives of Rahab and her family. The writer of Hebrews is concerned about how Rahab exercised her faith in God. He notes that by faith, Rahab welcomed the spies. “By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies” (Heb. 11:31). In the Greek, it reads literally, “having received the spies with peace.” (Young Literal Translation) The writer uses the aorist participle—“having received” (dexamene). The aorist participle speaks of time of action simultaneous to the main verb which is also aorist. The main verb “perish” is aorist (sunapoleto). Thus, by faith, having received the spies, Rahab did not perish with the disobedient.
The faith of Rahab is in the act of receiving the spies.