James 2:25: Faith and Works, Part 12

Verse 25:[1] Likewise also (Josh. 2:1; Heb. 11:31) was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?

[And Rahab] He joins her to Abraham, so that he might show, either, 1. that no one of any condition, nation, or order was ever reckoned among the just and faithful without works (Calvin); or rather, 2. that Faith, when it is conceived, is operative, not only in more mature believers, but also in those newly believing, etc. (Gataker). The example of Abraham ought to have been sufficient for Hebrews converted to Christ, but, because he also writes to foreigners, he joined the example of a foreign woman (Grotius).

This instance of Rahab is joined to that of Abraham, either to show, that none of any condition, degree, or nation, was ever numbered among true believers, without good works; or else to prove, that faith, wherever it is sincere and genuine, is likewise operative and fruitful, not only in older disciples and stronger, such as Abraham was, but even proportionably in those that are weaker, and but newly converted to the faith, which was Rahab’s case.

[The harlot] Really and properly so called (Estius, Menochius, similarly Grotius). זוֹנָה[2] is properly an innkeeper. But female innkeepers were commonly pursuing such a gainful occupation. See what things are said on Hebrews 11:31, ἡ πόρνη, the harlot. That is, She had been such before her conversion. Thus αἱ πόρναι, the harlots, in Matthew 21:31. A former scandalous life did not at all hinder the salvation of such (Grotius).

The harlot; really and properly so, Joshua 2:1; Hebrews 11:31; though possibly she might keep an inn, and that might occasion the spies’ going to her house, not knowing her to be one of so scandalous a life; which yet the Holy Ghost takes special notice of, that by the infamousness of her former conversation, the grace of God in her conversion might be more conspicuous.

[Was she not justified by works] That is, her Righteousness by them was declared, and received increase (Estius). Did she not by works pursue this, that she might receive the reward of righteousness from God? She alone was preserved by the command of God, while all her people were slain;[3] then she was deemed worthy of marriage to a man eminent among his people, Boaz.[4] The faith by which she acknowledged the true god had preceded, Joshua 2:11, which, as far as it was possible in those most degenerate times, was sufficiently understood from the frequent falls of the Hebrews concerning that very thing. But she supposed that works were to be added to this faith (Grotius).

Justified by works; in the same sense as Abraham was, i.e. declared to be righteous, and her sincerity approved in the face of the congregation of Israel, when, upon her hiding the spies, God gave a commandment to save her alive, though the rest of her people were to be destroyed.

[Receiving, etc., ὑποδεξαμένη, etc.] When she had received (that is, she concealed in her guest room or household, and in hiding places, lest they be able to be discovered; and that with reverence for the one God, whom she had understood to be worshipped by the Hebrews, and whom she understood to be the author of this war with the Hebrews [Grotius]; and on account of her faith in God, which she had conceived in the usual manner, namely, with God teaching her inwardly through human ministry [Estius]) those messengers (sent for this purpose, that they might report what they had seen: He understands κατασκόπους/spies, as it is in Hebrews 11:31,[5] and as certain codices,[6] the Syriac, and the Arabic read here, spies, whom she knew were sent there by enemies: This much on the woman [Grotius]), and by another way (either, than by which they had come [Estius]: or, than by which it was supposed they would go: For she both sent them away through the wall, and showed paths out-of-the-way, lest they be discovered by the men of Jericho: she would not have done all these things, if she had hoped for salvation by bare faith [Grotius]) had sent them out? (Piscator, Beza, etc.), or, had cast them out? (Vatablus). She sent them away unharmed with manifest danger to life and fortune (Menochius, similarly Estius).

When she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way: her receiving them implies likewise her hiding them; both which, together with her sending them forth another way, were acts of love to the people of God, of mercy to the spies, and of great self-denial in respect of her own safety, which she hazarded by thus exposing herself to the fury of the king of Jericho and her countrymen; but all proceeded from her faith in the God of Israel, of whose great works she had heard, and whom she had now taken to be her God, and under whose wings she was now come to trust.

[1] Greek: ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ Ῥαὰβ ἡ πόρνη οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων ἐδικαιώθη, ὑποδεξαμένη τοὺς ἀγγέλους, καὶ ἑτέρᾳ ὁδῷ ἐκβαλοῦσα;

[2] Joshua 2:1b: “And they went, and came into the house of a harlot (זוֹנָה), named Rahab, and lodged there.”

[3] See Joshua 6:17.

[4] Salmon is probably intended. See Matthew 1:5.

[5] Hebrews 11:31: “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies (κατασκόπους) with peace.”

[6] Thus Codex Ephræmi Rescriptus.

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