James 2:25
Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
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(25) Likewise also . . .—The second example, brought forward in strange and complete contrast to Abraham, “the father of many nations,” is that of Rahab, the harlot, who received and sheltered in her house at Jericho the two spies sent out from the camp of Israel (Joshua 2). The evil name of the poor woman’s unhappy trade cannot truthfully be softened down to “innkeeper,” nor even “idolater.”

Sent them out.—Literally, hastened, or thrust them forth, showing her haste and fear.

It may not be out of place to notice that Clement, Bishop of Rome, one of the Apostolic Fathers, in his first letter to the Corinthians, sees in the scarlet thread which Rahab bound in her window a type of our Redeemer’s blood. And it is most remarkable, as showing the mercy of God, that this outcast of society was not only saved alive and brought into the fold of Israel, but became a direct ancestress of her Saviour, by marriage with Salmon, the great-great-grandfather of David (Matthew 1:5).

James 2:25-26. Likewise also, &c. — After Abraham, the father of the Jews, the apostle cites Rahab, a woman and a sinner of the Gentiles, to show that in every nation and sex true faith produces works, and is perfected by them; that is, by the grace of God working in the believer, while he is showing his faith by his works: see note on Hebrews 11:31. “Rahab’s faith consisted in her attending to, and reasoning justly on, what she had heard concerning the dividing of the waters of the Red sea for a passage to the Israelites, and concerning the destruction of Sihon and Og. For from these things she concluded that the God of the Israelites was the true God, and sole Governor of the universe; and, firmly believing this, she renounced her former false gods, and concealed the Israelitish spies at the hazard of her life. In this she showed a disposition of the same kind with that which Abraham showed, when he left his country and kindred at God’s command. And as Abraham, for that great act of faith and obedience, was rewarded with the promise of Canaan, so Rahab, as the reward of her faith and works, was not destroyed with the unbelieving inhabitants of Jericho.” For as the body without the spirit is dead — Has no sense or feeling, no vital heat, action, or energy, but is a mere carcass, how fair and entire soever it may appear, and will at length fall into putrefaction and dissolution; so such a faith as is without works is dead also — Now appears as a carcass in the sight of God, is useless, yea, loathsome and offensive. Two things, then, of great importance must be attended to on this subject. 1st, That the best outward works without faith are dead; they want their root and vital principle; for it is only by faith that any thing which we do is really good, as being done with an eye to the glory of God, and in obedience to him. 2d, That the most plausible profession of faith without works is dead, as the root is dead when it does not vegetate, when it produces no fruit. Faith is the root, good works are the fruits, and we must see to it that we have both. We must not think that either of them, without the other, will justify and save us. This is the grace of God wherein we stand, and we must take care that we stand in it.

2:14-26 Those are wrong who put a mere notional belief of the gospel for the whole of evangelical religion, as many now do. No doubt, true faith alone, whereby men have part in Christ's righteousness, atonement, and grace, saves their souls; but it produces holy fruits, and is shown to be real by its effect on their works; while mere assent to any form of doctrine, or mere historical belief of any facts, wholly differs from this saving faith. A bare profession may gain the good opinion of pious people; and it may procure, in some cases, worldly good things; but what profit will it be, for any to gain the whole world, and to lose their souls? Can this faith save him? All things should be accounted profitable or unprofitable to us, as they tend to forward or hinder the salvation of our souls. This place of Scripture plainly shows that an opinion, or assent to the gospel, without works, is not faith. There is no way to show we really believe in Christ, but by being diligent in good works, from gospel motives, and for gospel purposes. Men may boast to others, and be conceited of that which they really have not. There is not only to be assent in faith, but consent; not only an assent to the truth of the word, but a consent to take Christ. True believing is not an act of the understanding only, but a work of the whole heart. That a justifying faith cannot be without works, is shown from two examples, Abraham and Rahab. Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness. Faith, producing such works, advanced him to peculiar favours. We see then, ver. 24, how that by works a man is justified, not by a bare opinion or profession, or believing without obeying; but by having such faith as produces good works. And to have to deny his own reason, affections, and interests, is an action fit to try a believer. Observe here, the wonderful power of faith in changing sinners. Rahab's conduct proved her faith to be living, or having power; it showed that she believed with her heart, not merely by an assent of the understanding. Let us then take heed, for the best works, without faith, are dead; they want root and principle. By faith any thing we do is really good; as done in obedience to God, and aiming at his acceptance: the root is as though it were dead, when there is no fruit. Faith is the root, good works are the fruits; and we must see to it that we have both. This is the grace of God wherein we stand, and we should stand to it. There is no middle state. Every one must either live God's friend, or God's enemy. Living to God, as it is the consequence of faith, which justifies and will save, obliges us to do nothing against him, but every thing for him and to him.Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works? - In the same sense in which Abraham was, as explained above - showing by her act that her faith was genuine, and that it was not a mere cold and speculative assent to the truths of religion. Her act showed that she truly believed God. If that act had not been performed, the fact would have shown that her faith was not genuine, and she could not have been justified. God saw her faith as it was; he saw that it would produce acts of obedience, and he accepted her as righteous. The act which she performed was the public manifestation of her faith, the evidence that she was justified. See the case of Rahab fully explained in the notes at Hebrews 11:31. It may be observed here, that we are not to suppose that everything in the life and character of this woman is commended. She is commended for her faith, and for the fair expression of it; a faith which, as it induced her to receive the messengers of the true God, and to send them forth in peace, and as it led her to identify herself with the people of God, was also influential, we have every reason to suppose, in inducing her to abandon her former course of life. When we commend the faith of a man who has been a profane swearer, or an adulterer, or a robber, or a drunkard, we do not commend his former life, or give a sanction to it. We commend that which has induced him to abandon his evil course, and to turn to the ways of righteousness. The more evil his former course has been, the more wonderful, and the more worthy of commendation, is that faith by which he is reformed and saved. 25. It is clear from the nature of Rahab's act, that it is not quoted to prove justification by works as such. She believed assuredly what her other countrymen disbelieved, and this in the face of every improbability that an unwarlike few would conquer well-armed numbers. In this belief she hid the spies at the risk of her life. Hence Heb 11:31 names this as an example of faith, rather than of obedience. "By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not." If an instance of obedience were wanting. Paul and James would hardly have quoted a woman of previously bad character, rather than the many moral and pious patriarchs. But as an example of free grace justifying men through an operative, as opposed to a mere verbal faith, none could be more suitable than a saved "harlot." As Abraham was an instance of an illustrious man and the father of the Jews, so Rahab is quoted as a woman, and one of abandoned character, and a Gentile, showing that justifying faith has been manifested in those of every class. The nature of the works alleged is such as to prove that James uses them only as evidences of faith, as contrasted with a mere verbal profession: not works of charity and piety, but works the value of which consisted solely in their being proofs of faith: they were faith expressed in act, synonymous with faith itself.


had received … had sent—rather, "received … thrust them forth" (in haste and fear) [Alford].

another way—from that whereby they entered her house, namely, through the window of her house on the wall, and thence to the mountain.

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, 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.

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.

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.

Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot,.... See Gill on Hebrews 11:31 justified by works; this woman was an instance of the grace of God in calling the chief of sinners, and was a true believer; and what she did, she did in faith, Hebrews 11:31 and her faith was shown by her works to be true and genuine; and it was manifest that she was a justified person. This instance is produced with the other, to show, that wherever there is true faith, whether in Jew or Gentile, in man or woman, in greater or lesser believers, or in such who have been greater or lesser sinners, there will be good works; and therefore that person is a vain man that talks and boasts of his faith, and depends upon it, and slights and rejects good works as unnecessary to be done.

When she had received the messengers: the spies that Joshua sent, into her house, with peace and safety:

and had sent them out another way; than they came in, even through the window upon the town wall, Joshua 2:1.

{13} Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?

(13) A forth reason taken from a similar example of Rahab the harlot, who was proved by her works that she was justified by a true faith.

Jam 2:25. To the example of Abraham, that of Rahab is added: But was not in like manner Rahab the harlot justified by works? The form of the sentence is the same as in Jam 2:21.

ὁμοίως δὲ καί] does not signify “even so” (as Frommann explains it in the Stud. u. Krit. 1833, p. 97), but by ὁμοίως the similarity of what Rahab became a partaker with what happened to Abraham is brought forward, whilst by δέ the diversity of the relation is indicated. This diversity is noted by the addition ἡ πόρνη. Rahab, namely, was a πόρνη; nevertheless, on account of the works which she did (namely, her works of faith), she was declared righteous. Thus, by the addition of this example, the truth that a man is justified ἐξ ἔργων is yet further confirmed.[158] The article is not, as some expositors think, demonstrative illa; and πορνή means neither mulier cibaria vendens, nor caupona vel hospita (Lyranus, Grotius), nor idololatra (Rosenmüller).

ὙΠΟΔΕΞΑΜΈΝΗ ΤΟῪς ἈΓΓΈΛΟΥς Κ.Τ.Λ.] This participial sentence mentions the ἜΡΓΑ, on account of which Rahab was justified. The correctness of the assertion, that Rahab was justified on account of her works, consists in this: that, according to the narrative contained in Joshua 2, 6, life was on account of them granted to her, she was formally delivered from that punishment which befell Jericho; see Joshua 6:24. Thus James could with right appeal for the truth of what was said in Jam 2:24 to this fact, since also the future declaration of righteousness will be an acquittal from punishment.

In Hebrews 11:31 the deliverance of Rahab is ascribed to her ΠΊΣΤΙς, but so that her action is likewise mentioned as the demonstration of it. Theile explains ὙΠΟΔΕΞΑΜΈΝΗ = clam excepit; but Wiesinger correctly observes: “The secondary meaning clam is not contained in the word, but in the circumstances;” see Luke 10:38; Luke 19:6; Acts 17:7. In the Epistle to the Hebrews the simple verb δεξαμένη is used, and the ἌΓΓΕΛΟΙ[159] are there more exactly designated as ΚΑΤΆΣΚΟΠΟΙ. ἘΚΒΆΛΛΕΙΝ is not simply cmittcre (Schneckenburger), but has the secondary meaning of force = thrust out; comp. Luke 8:54; John 2:15; Acts 9:40. It denotes the pressing haste with which she urged the messengers to go out of the house. ἑτέρᾳ ὁδῷ] i.e. by another way than from that by which they entered the house, namely, διὰ τῆς θυρίδος, Joshua 2:15. For the local dative, see Winer, p. 196 [E. T. 273].

[158] Bede assigns as a reason why Rahab is here adduced as an example: ne quis objiceret Abrahamum ejusque fidem excelsiorem esse, quam et quivis christianus imitatione eam adsequi possit. Grotius thinks: Abrahami exemplum Hebraeis ad Christum conversis sufficere debebat, sed quia etiam alienigenis scribit, adjunxit exemplum feminae extrancae (similarly Hofmann); and Schneckenburger observes: novum additur exemplum e sexu muliebri sumtum. All these meanings are, however, arbitrary, as there is no indication of them in the words before us. This holds also good against Lange, according to whose opinion Rahab is here to be considered “as a representative of the Gentile Christians in their works of faith.”

[159] Lange strangely supposes that James has chosen this expression “in allusion to the fact that the Gentiles of his time were ready to receive the messengers of the gospel.”

Jam 2:25. Ῥαὰβ ἡ πόρνη: It must probably have been the position already accorded to Rahab in Jewish tradition that induced the writer to cite an example like this. In Mechilta, 64b, it is said that the harlot Rahab asked for forgiveness of her sins from God, pleading on her own behalf the good works she had done in releasing the messengers. The attempts which have been made to explain away the force of πόρνη are futile.

25. was not Rahab the harlot …] The question meets us, What led St James to select this example? St Paul does not refer to it, as he probably would have done, had he been writing with St James’s teaching present to his thoughts, in any of the Epistles in which his name appears as the writer. In the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 11:31) it appears as one of the examples of faith, but this was most probably after St James had given prominence to her name. In the mention of Rahab by Clement of Rome (i. 12) we have an obvious echo from the Epistle just named, with the additional element of a typical interpretation of the scarlet thread as the symbol of the blood of Christ, by which those of all nations, even the harlots and the unrighteous, obtained salvation. A more probable explanation is found in the connexion of St James with the Gospel according to St Matthew. The genealogy of the Christ given in ch. 1 of that Gospel must have been known to “the brother of the Lord,” and in it the name of Rahab appeared as having married Salmon, the then “prince” of the tribe of Judah (Matthew 1:5; 1 Chronicles 2:50-51; Ruth 4:20-21). The prominence thus given to her name would naturally lead him and others to think of her history and ask what lessons it had to teach them. If “harlots” as well as “publicans” were among those who listened to the warnings of the Baptist and welcomed the gracious words of Christ (Matthew 21:31-32), she would come to be regarded as the typical representative of the class, the Magdalene (to adopt the common, though, it is believed, an erroneous view) of the Old Testament. A rabbinic tradition makes her become the wife of Joshua and the ancestress of eight distinguished priests and prophets, ending in Huldah the Prophetess (2 Kings 22:14). Josephus (Ant. v. i. § 2), after his manner, tones down the history, and makes her simply the keeper of an inn. Another ground of selection may well have been that Rahab was by her position in the history the first representative instance of the deliverance of one outside the limits of the chosen people. In this instance also, St James urges, the faith would have been dead had it been only an assent to the truth that the God of Israel was indeed God, without passing into action. The “messengers” are described in Josh, Joshua 6:23 as “young men,” in Hebrews 11:31 as “spies”.

Jam 2:25. Καὶ Ῥαὰβ, and Rahab) Having made mention of an illustrious man, Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, he brings forward a woman (for he addresses men and women; ch. Jam 4:4), and one who was a Gentile, and had led an abandoned life, that no one may require works from Jews only.

Verse 25. -

(4) Fourth point: Proof from the case of Rahab the harlot of justification by works (cf. Joshua 2; Joshua 6:25). Rahab is mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament in Hebrews 11:31, where she also appears as Ῥαὰβ ἡ πόρνη, and is spoken of as having "received the spies," δεξαμένη τοὺς κατασκόπους cf. ὑποδεξαμένη τοὺς ἀγγέλους here. There, however, she is regarded as an instance of faith (see above in preliminary note). The only other place where her name occurs is in the genealogy of our Lord, in Matthew 1:5, "Salmon begat Booz of Rachab (ἐκ τῆς Ραχάβ)." James 2:25Rahab

Also referred to in Hebrews 11:31, among the examples of faith. Dante places her in the third heaven:

"Thou fain wouldst know who is within this light

That here beside me thus is scintillating,

Even as a sunbeam in the limpid water.

Then know thou, that within there is at rest

Rahab, and being to our order joined,

With her in its supremest grade 'tis sealed.

First of Christ's Triumph was she taken up.

Full meet it was to leave her in some heaven,

Even as a palm of the high victory

Which he acquired with one palm and the other,

Because she favored the first glorious deed

Of Joshua upon the Holy Land."


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