Near the end of his list of the “spirits of just men made perfect” (12:23), those Old Testament saints who form his “great cloud of witnesses” (12:1), the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of the first pagan that the chosen people encountered inside the Promised Land: “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace” (11:31). Thus, a Canaanite prostitute becomes a model of faith for believing Christians.
In this text the faith of Rahab is contrasted with the unbelief of those who perished. Just who were the latter? The immediate context suggests that they are the other citizens of Jericho, who for seven days beheld the Ark of the Covenant circling their city and listened to the blast of the warning trumpets. They thus had ample opportunity . . .
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