“And the swift spies came and removed Rachav, her father, mother, brothers and all belonging to her and they removed all her families and placed them outside the Jewish camp.”
The spies kept their promise and rescued every one of Rachav’s family who took shelter in her home. Radak explains that this was only the initial step. Afterwards, each member was required to prove himself. Rachav’s entire household remained outside of the Jewish circle until their sincerity was determined. Finally, after displaying true devotion to Hashem and His Torah they were accepted and welcomed into the ranks of the Jewish nation.
A careful analysis of this passage reveals the extent of this concern and necessary commitment. When tracing Rachav’s initial request for preservation, we discover the specification of her sister’s salvation (see Yehoshua 2:13). The spies responded with their version of this request and intentionally omitted this detail, replacing it with a sketchy statement about her father’s entire household. And when push came to shove, Rachav’s sisters are actually omitted from the verse reflecting the possibility of their absence from the rescue (see 6:23).
This omission underscores the severity of the rescue conditions. Rachav’s initial request included her entire family to which she was emotionally attached. Although she alluded to conversion (see Malbim ad loc.), she did not make it a prerequisite to physical salvation. The spies however approached things differently and expected her to make critical decisions. Their condition was, “And your father, mother….. gather to you into the house” (2:18). This gathering into the house entrusted her with the key decision about the worthiness of each person saved. Rachav was told that only those whom she gathered to herself – totally identifying with her religious commitment – could be saved.
Although Rachav was confident about her parents and brothers, she didn’t feel the same about her sisters. Their husbands controlled their wives and since Rachav was not a blood relative she couldn’t pledge on their behalf. This is reminiscent of the times of Lot and the destruction of Sodom when Lot could not convince his married daughters and respective husbands of the imminent danger awaiting Sodom. Recognizing this concern, the spies omitted Rachav’s sisters from their commitment and, in actuality, it seems that they were not saved.
The peculiar wording of our passage reinforces the above insight. The Scriptures state, “And they removed Rachav, her father . . . . and all belonging to her and they removed all her families.” The salvation of “all her families” seems to stand on its own warranting a separate expression of their removal. This dimension, in fact, catches us by surprise because this description never appears in any previous discussions. In addition we wonder about its redundancy since it is preceded by the salvation of “all that belongs to her.” Wouldn’t “all her families” fall in the general category of “all which belonged to her?”
These questions suggest a powerful definition of the words “belong to her.” Apparently, they do not refer to a familiar relationship; rather, to a spiritual one. Belonging to Rachav meant identifying with her, possessed by that burning faith which she reflected with her every fiber of being. This incredible devotion successfully convinced her immediate family of the authenticity of Hashem and His Torah. However, there were distant family members who remained on the fringe. They seemed to agree with her religious stance but could not make the leap. Rachav was hopeful even for them and sought to include them in her salvation plans. In deference to Rachav’s piety, the spies followed her lead and gave all these members a chance. They, as all involved inhabitants, remained out of the Jewish circles until they proved their sincerity. However, their subtle omission in the upcoming passage (see 6:25) yields doubt as to whether they ever did prove themselves.
“And they burned the city and all therein, save the silver, gold and vessels of copper and silver which were placed in Hashem’s treasury.” This completed the dedication of the Yericho victory to Hashem. In addition to destroying all live beings, nothing could remain of the city. Therefore, every article or vessel was burned and destroyed securing the impossibility of any association with Yericho’s idolatrous practices.
“And Yehoshua provided life for Rachav the storekeeper, her father’s household and all identifying with her and she dwelled in the midst of Israel until this day because she hid the angels which Yehoshua sent to spy on Yericho.” Radak quotes our Sages who explain this verse in reference to Yehoshua marrying Rachav. Although we repeatedly learn of Rachav’s physical salvation, this verse introduces her spiritual ascent. Yehoshua provided her quality life and untold opportunity to excel in her newly gained commitment to Hashem. Radak adds that the prominent leaders of Israel followed Yehoshua’s endorsement and married Rachav’s father’s household.
One cannot help but notice the change of terminology from “all her families” to “her father’s household and all who belonged to her,” This subtlety may suggest that not every one of her family members proved sincere. Although all were given the chance to enter, some may have opted to remain outside of the inner Jewish circle.
(To be continued)
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