This is from a short paper written for class. A rough draft of course…
חֶ֔סֶד was what Rahab extended and was what Rahab asked for. It wasn’t merely for the sparing of her and her family’s life, but ultimately for inclusion in YHWH’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 24.12)
‘You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing חֶ֔סֶד to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Deuteronomy 5:9-10 NASB)
We must ask first of the importance of Rahab’s action. She was a prostitute, and it must be noticed first the connection between this story and the story as found in Numbers 25. Unlike this time, the spies most likely engaged in some sort of sexual license but remained faithful to the Covenant. Further, they didn’t give a false report, remained strong, and fulfilled God’s commands, reaping God’s rewards. And in this, when God’s covenant was fulfilled, a family of Gentiles were saved through the חֶ֔סֶד showed to Moses and promised to those who would obey God’s commands.
Further, the covenant between Rahab and the spies of Israel explicitly challenged Deuteronomy 7 in which YHWY thunders,
“When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. (Deuteronomy 7:1-2 NASB)
Further, verse three states that no intermarriage between the native inhabitants of Canaan and the Israelites could happen. (We see the enforcement of this principle in Ezra-Nehemiah when the purity of Israel demanded exclusion of all others.) However, in Matthew 1.5, the great Judge Boaz is said to be of a Gentile mother – Rahab. Granted, Boaz didn’t do any better, as he would take a wife of another banned race, the Moabitess Ruth. The inclusion of Rahab must stand as a testimony first to the influence of Deuteronomy in the Pharisaic Community of the Jewish Church and then as a monument to how Matthew interpreted Christ. I would contend that the Beautitudes as found in Matthew 5 corresponds to the Deuteronomic blessing and curse cycle. If this is so, then it may be possible that the ἐλεηθήσονται of Matthew 5.7 is referring to the covenant of Rahab (given that Joshua is of the Deuteronomic school) (cf PsSol 15.13).
Rahab is the example of extending the Covenant to Gentiles through their response to YHWH. Rahab’s speech is a precise reciting of the precepts of the Covenant which acknowledges Israel’s right to the Land, the Exodus story (important in Luke’s Gospel), and the supremacy of YHWH ‘in heaven above and on earth beneath’ (v11). By extending to the spies of Israel the חֶ֔סֶד of YHWH, she was in part re-enacting the Covenant itself. Because of this, it was her right to ask for it to be returned. By placing her in the genealogy of Christ, Matthew is calling attention to the New Covenant which the Gentiles were expected and welcomes to respond to. Further, it answers the racism of Ezra-Nehemiah in that Gentiles were include in the family line not only of the Davidic kings, but now of the Davidic Messiah.