Characters in the Shadows: Shalmon

We’re all human, aren’t we? That means we’re imperfect and deal with imperfection all around us. However, the Lord never lets that get in his way. He accomplishes His plan with imperfect people, living and working in imperfect circumstances.

Imperfect doesn’t mean bad, though. It simply means we don’t know everything and can’t do everything… but God accomplishes His purposes anyway.

We’ve seen before in this series how God lifted imperfect Leah out and established His royal line through her, and not the beautiful, winsome Rachel.

Ever hear the saying: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know? Well, I’ve often wondered: how do you get to know “who you know?”

Knowing The Right People

Shalmon, Nahshon‘s oldest son, was someone who knew the right people.


Remember the diagram of Israel’s camp? (Click the image for a larger picture.)

Israel camp

This layout shows how about 2 million people lived. Even today, that’s not a small city. As a comparison, greater Denver has about 2 million people, and it’s easily 10-15 miles from one side to the other in any direction. And this is without all the cattle, sheep and whatever other animals traveled with them.

When that many people live together, neighborhoods develop naturally. When you step outside of your tent, the first people you meet and interact with are your neighbors. Why would you walk three hours across a hot desert to hang out with someone when you have your immediate family and neighbors at your doorstep?

The diagram shows that Nahshon’s clan had probably the most privileged location in the tent city, given that their tents butted right up against those of Moses and Aaron.

Shalmon grew up rubbing shoulders with the mucky-mucks of Israel in a most natural and comfortable way. Aaron was his uncle by marriage, and Eleazar, the new high priest, was his cousin.

Joshua, being from Ephraim, lived all the way on the other side of town, and was the only person who had to walk a long way to work every day, to be with Moses, his boss. Looking at the camp layout, it’s no surprise that Joshua would forego a 3-4 hour round trip for lunch and just hang out in the tent of meeting between assignments. That, in turn, makes it easy to see that Joshua got to know Shalmon as he and Eleazar chased each other between the tents, growing up before his eyes.

And so, as Moses, Aaron and Joshua looked around them to see who the next generation of leaders would be, it’s easy to see how Eleazar and Shalmon knew the right people, and were in the right place. They couldn’t plan it that way, it just happened in the “natural” course of events.

The Spy

The Bible doesn’t name Joshua’s two spies. However, I believe one of them was none other than Shalmon, and here’s why:


Did you notice that when one of the spies spoke to to Rahab, he spoke not as a youth, chosen for his athleticism and bravery? It had to have been someone senior, with authority. When he interacted with Rahab, he spoke for, and bound, the entire nation: if you do this, we (the mighty nation) will do that. He didn’t send a fax or carrier pigeon back to camp to ask for authorization. He just spoke up on the spot, and he spoke with authority, committing the entire leadership of Israel to save and incorporate a woman about whose character some question might have existed, and her family, into their nation. Not a trivial matter.

Nahshon by this time was dead, because everyone of the earlier generation died before the Jordan crossing, which meant that Shalmon was one of the leaders in the tribal council. The pair in Jericho…

  • … knew the will and ways of the Lord.
  • … knew the will and ways of the nation’s leadership.
  • … had the confident authority that they could speak for both.
  • … had confidence that the Lord and the leadership would back them up.

Who in the nation but Eleazar and Shalmon had that? (The romantic in me just believes Eleazar was the other guy, and he went undercover with his cousin, and that’s why their names aren’t recorded — it wouldn’t do for the high priest to be known to have gone undercover on this exciting mission, would it? But that’s just me.)


The narrative in the book of Joshua omits the end of this particular story, but the genealogies caught it. Call me a romantic, but I believe that when Shalmon and his coworker wandered around Jericho, there had to have been at least the tiniest little spark, that spontaneous thing none of us can explain, between Shalmon and Rahab.

What!? How can you say that?

Why would someone give shelter to the enemy, at great risk to the lives of her entire family? How did Shalmon happen to even strike up a conversation with a woman? (Jesus at the well tells us what a no-no that was back in the day.)

But, biggest evidence of all: who married Rahab, the foreigner, the stranger, the non-Israelite? None other than… Shalmon! My imagination says that’s because he got to know her, in a time of great stress, when our characters get revealed. And he loved her. He had the option to marry anybody in the nation, being he was the number one bachelor in the entire nation at the time. But he married Rahab.


Shalmon, then, emerges as one of those characters in the shadows, unnamed for the most part, who simply did his part, trusting the Lord in all he did, and living in unity with and submission to the authorities of his day.

His faith in the Lord made him do outrageous things, like volunteer to go inside the enemy’s camp, and make outrageous promises, fully persuaded that he was doing the right thing and that he would be backed up by his leaders.

And he got a remarkable woman as his wife. How remarkable? When everyone in her city cowered with fear, she saw the works of Jehovah, the God of Israel, and she believed. So much so that she, a foreigner,  made it into the Hebrews 11 “hall of faith.”

What a remarkable couple that must have been.

Imagine growing up in their house.

Hmmm… that sounds like a great idea. Let’s do that next time. 🙂


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