“And now swear to me by the name of Hashem; because I’ve done kindness with you, do kindness with my father’s household and give me a true sign.” In return for her heroic efforts, Rachav asked the spies to spare her entire family from destruction. Her rationale was that one good turn deserves another and her family deserved to be repaid for her kindness. However, the manner of her request requires serious reflection. She introduced her request by demanding an oath from the spies without any indication of its nature. Subsequently she defended herself for making the demand and finally expressed the specifics of her request. It seems logical that she would have begun with her request and the rationale behind it and then follow with the request for an oath.
The peculiarity of this order suggests that this oath flowed naturally from her previous statement of faith. In the preceding verse she proclaimed Hashem as Master of the universe Whose Divine Providence extended into every detail of life. She realized that the pending invasion of the Jewish nation was an open act of Hashem as evidenced by the petrified response of all the Canaanites. It followed logically that the rescue of the spies was yet another great step in this Divine Providence. After all, the spies were obviously directed by Hashem to take shelter in the home of their only ally in the entire land who actually risked her life to save them.
With this in mind, Rachav felt perfectly justified in her request. Her rescue efforts were not merely a favor to the spies, but were in truth a major stage in Hashem’s master plan of rescue. Rachav therefore reasoned that Hashem would undoubtedly repay her for this kindness. Her family’s salvation would now serve as a clear expression of Hashem’s appreciation for all she had done. This salvation would bring glory to Hashem’s name showing the extent of His reciprocity for an act of rescue done on His behalf.
Rachav therefore introduced her request by demanding an oath which would express the absolute authenticity of Hashem. This oath proclaimed that as Hashem is Absolute Truth, so will be the truth of her salvation. Hashem, the Source of Truth would certainly display His truth by recognizing her heroic efforts on His behalf. Through this presentation she convinced the spies of the value and necessity of her request and assured them that Hashem would undoubtedly consent to it.
“And preserve my father, mother, brother and sisters and all that is theirs and save our souls from death.” Rachav expanded her request of reciprocity to include the preservation of her entire family. Although this favor extended far beyond her personal performance, she felt comfortable presenting this request to the spies. Radak explains that a show of kindness is by definition something one does not deserve and Rachav’s act to the spies was no exception. Rachav therefore reasoned that kindness deserved kindness, and, in exchange for her heroic favor, they should provide a similar favor to her entire family although they did not truly deserve it.
When we contemplate the magnitude of this favor, we are amazed at the readiness of the spies to consent. Rachav and her family were originally members of the Canaanite tribes. The abhorrent practices of these tribes had finally reached such proportions that Hashem ordered their total annihilation. The tribes were so entrenched in idolatry that mere association with them could prove fatal to the moral fiber of the Jewish nation. Rachav had fully identified with this immorality until most recently when she began feeling Hashem’s mastery over His universe. Although Rachav had developed in the proper way, what could be said about her family from whom she was probably estranged after abandoning their ideology? Were they also believers in Hashem and on the verge of converting to Judaism? How could their abhorrent practices be continued in the land merely because of gratitude to her?
In answer to this we conclude that Rachav was making a major commitment on behalf of her entire family. Indeed Malbim points to the last words of our verse which say, “And save our souls from death.” He explains that this was a special request for the preservation of her family’s souls. Rachav was making a plea on behalf of their spiritual existence requesting that they be accepted into the Jewish faith. She pledged to produce sincerity from them and guaranteed that every soul remaining in her house would be totally committed to Hashem. Rachav’s profound sense of Divine Providence was convincing and contagious and with her penetrating insights she was perfectly confident that she would transform her entire family into true believers in Hashem.
And how accurate was her understanding of her family’s true potential! Radak in an upcoming chapter (6:25) reveals to us an astounding phenomenon. After describing the actual rescue of Rachav and her family the Scriptures say, “And Yehoshua preserved Rachav and her father’s household and all thatwas theirs.” Radak explains that this preservation refers to a spiritual overhaul of major proportions. Yes, Rachav’s family did convert and their souls were saved. Moreover, Yehoshua eventually married Rachav and, following his example, the greatest men of the generation married her family members. So strong was their commitment to Hashem that they became worthy of none other than the most prominent figures of the entire generation.
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