Dr. Tom Berry

At the time of this writing many news outlets are reporting the story of Amina Lawal being convicted of having sex outside of marriage by an Islamic court in Nigeria.  Following the precepts of Islamic law, or Shariah, Amina was sentenced to be buried in sand up to her neck and then stoned to death.  Amina gave birth to her daughter, Wasila, two years after she had been divorced.  The prosecutor argued that Amina's pregnancy and divorced status were enough evidence of a crime.  Following the 1999 elections Nigeria adopted Shariah as the law of their legal system.  Muslims believe that Shariah was given by revelation from God to Mohammed

Amina's lawyer pled for her acquittal before an appeals court.  One of his arguments was that she was a poor, uneducated woman from a farming family and no one had explained to her the nature of the offense or the punishment.  At the trial on August 27, 2003, Amina appeared overwhelmed by the mass of riot police, journalists, and rights workers as she arrived.  She said, "I've never been this afraid" as tears rolled down her face.


One of God's Ten Commandments is, "You shall not commit adultery." (Exodus 20:14).  This was  confirmed by Jesus (Matthew 5:27; Luke 18:20) and other New Testament writings. (James 2:11).  God did reveal that adultery had a corrupting effect on those who committed it and on the moral fabric of society. (Leviticus 19:29; Proverbs 6:27-33, and others).  It is also true that in very specific instances the death penalty was to be carried out for adultery. (Deuteronomy 22:13-27).


It appears that Islamic law provides no provision of mercy for the female who commits adultery.  Few people disagree that the New Testament provides mercy and grace for all sins except blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.  Our objective at this point is to see if God had any provision of mercy for adulterers under the Mosaic law.  Perhaps the best example is Rahab, the harlot.


Rahab operated an inn built on the city wall of Jericho.  She provided lodging for travelers and favors to satisfy fleshly lusts.  She was a product and mirror of the culture in which she lived.  In Genesis 15:16, God told Abraham that Israel would not return to Canaan for 400 hears "for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete."  The 400 years had passed and the iniquity of the Amorites was now complete.  Israel was camped on the east side of the Jordan river.  Rahab could see them from the wall of Jericho some five miles to the west.


Joshua, the successor of Moses, sent two spies secretly to spy out Jericho.  This the first city that Israel would attack.  It had a high and massive wall around it and was heavily fortified.  Joshua wanted all the information about the city he could get.

Why did the spies to go an inn operated by a harlot?  The spies had to figure out a way to get into the city and locate a place where they could gather information.  They decided to enter just after sundown.  This would be when travelers would be entering the city and mixing with many people who lived there, but worked outside during the day.  It would also be the time when patrons of Rahab would enter and make their way to her inn.  All this provided them a way to enter the city under the guise of travelers or patrons; have a place of lodging and be in a location where common talk was shared.  It would also be a place of quick escape because it was located on an outside wall.


Rahab was an immoral person among a people of immoral practices...even in their religion.  She carried on her immoral practice with the consent of Jericho's king and civil authorities.
Rahab bore a stigma for her immoral life.  We find that her parents, brothers and sisters lived inside Jericho but she lived alone.  None of her family wanted her living with them while she carried on her trade as a harlot.
Rahab's lifestyle had left her ungratified.  There had been countless expressions of affection but she knew they were meaningless.  She felt that she was not really loved by anyone.  The money she received from her trade enabled her to purchase "things" and spirited camaraderie provided moments of enjoyment, but her heart was still empty.
Rahab was fearful and felt trapped for judgment.  She lived on the wall but she did not consider it a place of protection and safety.  There were over 601,000 warriors of Israel preparing to attack her city.  The wall she lived on would be the first point of the attack.  To her that wall had become a prison that held her captive under a wicked ruler until the hour of judgment arrived.  That wall shut her in with God's enemies and grouped her with those who were under the sentence of death.  To Rahab, that wall was a flimsy obstacle before an Almighty God.  It was also a source of inner conflict because it marked the division between her countrymen for whom she had natural affection and the people of God with whom she had a desire to be identified.


"We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you...and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of Jordan..."  (Joshua 2:10). 

From the lips of pagan patrons; from shoppers in the market and those who gathered to share news at the city gate Rahab heard these things and probably much more.  Most important of all, she believed what she hears.  "I know that the LORD (YEHOVEH) has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us...for the LORD (YEHOVEH) your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath."  (Joshua 2:9, 11).  What a powerful Old Testament illustration of New Testament truth this is!  "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17).  And now it is more than coincidence that the one person to whom these Israelite spies come is Rahab.  Surely, it was with great excitement that they shared what God had revealed to them...God's perfect law, the priesthood, the sacrifices and atonement for sin.


She made a decision for the God of Israel.  She clearly expressed this to the two spies.  Moreover, she hid them from the king of Jericho's search party and lied to the search party in order to save the lives of the spies.  In all this she was risking death to herself.  Understandably, many people have had a problem with her telling a lie.  There is no way to honorably justify it.  We must remember, however, that her entire background had been pagan and she knew nothing of God's perfect law.  She was under heavy duress and had to make an instant decision.  Her decision was that saving the lives of the spies, her life and the lives of her family was more important than telling the truth to her pagan countrymen marked for destruction.  The spies were most likely very happy that she did.

She made a plea for salvation.  "...Show kindness to my father's house, and give me a true token, and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death."  (Joshua 2:12, 13).

It is true that this was a plea for physical salvation but her previous words and following developments indicate she desired physical salvation in order to find spiritual salvation among the people of Israel.

She asked for a true token and the spies gave her a scarlet cord to hang in her window.  This she did and when the warriors of Israel began marching around Jericho she gathered her family into her inn.  When another portion of the wall fell the wall under her inn held firm.  That scarlet cord in her window gave her and her family total protection from the warriors of Israel.

Her faith lifted her out of her sinful life.  She continued to be known as Rahab, the harlot.  (See Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25).  However, she laid aside the life of a harlot and became a redeemed and accepted believer in Israel.  A prince in the tribe of Judah by the name of Salmon was so impressed with her that he took her to be his wife.  She became one of the respected mother's in Israel.

Her faith lifted her to great honor.  She became the great, great grandmother of David, the greatest king of Israel...and her most notable descendant was Jesus Christ.  Matthew 1:5 unashamedly records her name as an ancestor of the Son of God.

Hebrews 11 in an Honor Roll of Old Testament Heroes of Faith, there are only two women listed.  In verse 31 we find that Rahab is one of the two.

The glory of God's mercy and grace is portrayed in 1st Corinthians 6:9-11, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived.  Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you.  But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God."

Yes, there are many today who believe there are some sins so bad that they cannot be forgiven by God nor man.  However, the truth of Scripture is that when the worst of sinners turns from sin; accepts the sacrifice Jesus made for them on the cross and sincerely trusts Jesus to save their soul, that God will give them His mercy and grace.  They will be washed, sanctified, and justified and seen in God's eyes as if they had never sinned at all.

    Copyright 2008 Truth Helpers Inc.