We should be careful in reading 21st century thought into this 15th century B.C. text. It may well have been that Rahab operated a brothel and the spies of canaan went there. But we must allow for another interpretation, equally legitimate. What Rahab operated may have been a tavern, or perhaps an inn. As in all times, prostitutes found it convenient to ply their trade at such establishments – Rahab just owned one. The spies from Israel may have gone there for shelter and food as would be normal in the ancient world. Or not. As one writer puts it, “All the best secrets are learned in bed. One favor deserves another. And where, after all, would a stranger expect to meet the riff-raff prepared to sell their country?”
In fact, so normal was it for spies to meet and be found in these places that there were laws stating that if an inn-keeper knew there were spies in his establishment, he was to turn them in on penalty of death.
Rahab makes her declaration of faith: “The Lord your God is God in the heaven above and the earth below.” She also makes a promise of faithfulness. The end result is that her life is spared, and she finds a home – as we shall soon see – not within Israel, but “”outside the camp.”
The story reminds me of Peter’s declaration: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts people from every nation who fear Him and do what is right” (Acts 11:34-35).
But be careful: While the text may remind us of God’s love for all people, Rahab did not become an Israelite. She had no access to the promise of Canaan, but as a believer, lived under the protection of Israel.