I recently had to write a paper for my Old Testament Survey class on a character from the Old Testament. I have recently within the past few months been so passionate about the story of Rahab, or if you know from sunday school, Rahab the Prosititute/Harlet.
Today, I am sharing the words written from my paper because 1. I was planning on sharing it from the beginning, and 2. because it is packed with Gospel truth. Buckle up, and get ready for the story of Rahab!
[ I am also posting as it, with references, citations, and all for those of you who are into that sort of thing! ]
OVERVIEW OF RAHAB
The story of Rahab the Prostitute is one that I believe should not be neglected. Rahab is one of the most overlooked characters in the Old Testament and the bible and her story can serve as encouragement for us, whether you are a believer or not. Rahab was known as a Prostitute, hence being tacked on the end of her name. It was by Rahab’s faith that her story was drastically touched and changed by God. Due to Rahab’s immense courage and risking her life to help these Israelite spies, her life and her family’s life was spared when the Israelites took down and captured the city of Jericho. It was by Rahab’s faith and hospitality that God wrote her story into the lineage and genealogy of Jesus. She was and is, an incredible woman of faith. A woman that should be looked up to and used as a role model (May, 1993).
The story of Rahab is found in Joshua chapters 2 and 6, and it takes place in the city of Jericho. Jericho at the time was a Canaanite city and also a pagan city – meaning, there was no trace of the Lord being worshipped within the city. Before Rahab is introduced, it is important to have the context of what was going on with the Israelites, God’s chosen people, and the city of Jericho.
It was also at this point where Moses, the iconic leader and man of God, had died. Joshua, son of Nun, had just assumed as leader over the Israelites (Joshua 1). It is here in the first chapter of Joshua where we find out the kind of leader Joshua has become. Joshua was brave, heroic, had immense faith in the Lord, and was brave. The Lord spoke to Joshua reminding him that God was by his side. Three times, the Lord says to Joshua, “be strong and courageous, do not be afraid and do not be discouraged.” Be strong and courageous was a reminder that the Lord needed to instill in Joshua for the tasks and trials that were to come in moving into their promised land.
THE STORY OF RAHAB
The Israelites were planning on crossing the Jordan River into the land of Cannan, which was their promised land from the Lord, but they had one obstacle – the city of Jericho. Joshua had two spies go into the land to do just that, spy and get inside the city of Jericho. As these two spies were in Jericho they crossed paths with one of the most important women in the Bible, Rahab. The two Israelite spies were helped out by Rahab and she brought them into her home to help aid them. This is completely unexpected for a prostitute to help out these two men because if a woman who was a prostitute had men into her home, it was simply to use them for her means of providing an income. Word got to the king of Jericho and when he found out that Rahab was providing aid to these spies, he asked her to bring them to him. It was at this moment where Rahab had to make a choice, just like she did when she decided to help the spies in the first place. She had to choose to lie for the sake of sparing their lives or give them over to the king of Jericho. She led the king off the trail of thinking that Rahab knew where they were. This poses a huge moral dilemma. Was it okay for Rahab to lie to the king of Jericho to be obedient to the Lord?
So, because Rahab was put into a situation of either lying or facing death, was it wrong for her to lie to help save the two Israelite spies? While both of the outcomes of her decision would have led to sin, lying would be considered the lesser evil of the two. However, lying still requires repentance to God. It is assumed through the text that she had repented for lying. The interesting part about all of this is, is that God had her story written. He had already known that Rahab by faith would make the choice she did and aid the Israelite spies (Jones, 2016). She acted to fulfill the will of God, by her actions of saving the two spies and lying to the king of Jericho (Hutchison, J. C., 2001).
In James chapter 2, James explains that faith without deeds is dead (James 2:26). This is a huge statement to make because you can do good deeds and work all day long, however, if they are not done with faith and right intention then they are meaningless. The verses before are so critical in Rahab’s narrative. James 2:24-25 read…“You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way, was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? Her actions were deemed as acceptable by God and we know this because she is known to have made her choice by faith. By faith, she was counted as acceptable to the Lord (Jones, 2016).
As we come to the end of the Rahab narrative there are some key points to take note of. Because Rahab by faith aided the Israelite spies, she was spared. Joshua spared her life as well as her family’s lives from the future conquering of the city of Jericho by the Israelites (Joshua 6:25). Rahab was spared because of her faith, her kindness, and her obedience. A woman who was completely flawed and who previously was living a life of sin as a prostitute was saved by her faith in her deeds (Lynn, 2014).
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE STORY OF RAHAB
This story is so vital to read and understand. It is a reminder that God’s faithfulness is on every page of the bible, and all pointing to the purpose of Jesus the Messiah coming to earth to save the world. Rahab is a perfect example that regardless of your past and your sin, God outweighs our sin with His grace and perfect love. He can use all of our past and sin, as well as our faith and obedience, for His glory. It is important to know the why behind the story of Rahab, because of her great faith, her life and story were forever changed.
It is interesting that in the book of Matthew, the only book that records the genealogy of Jesus, there are many people in Jesus’ family line that you would be shocked to see, like Rahab. Rahab, a woman who lived in sin, a woman who was a prostitute, a woman who you would think would not deserve to be in Jesus’ family, was in fact written into the family genealogy of the Messiah. In general, the women of the old testament who are in the lineage of Jesus the Messiah further shows and is an example of God’s provision over these women, as well as His grace (John C. Hutchison, 2001). It shows that Jesus came for all people and that He is a global savior. He did not just come for His people, He came for all the Jews and all the Gentiles. This is so key in understanding Matthew chapter 1 because not all the people in the lineage of Jesus were Jewish. Rahab was not a Jew, she was a Canaanite woman, a Gentile. She decided in a moment of choosing to aid the Israelite spies to leave her pagan lifestyle to believe in the God of Israel. God honored this decision. He honored her decision to believe in who He is and what He could do (May, 1993).
HOW RAHAB PLAYS INTO THE REDEMPTIVE STORY OF THE BIBLE
The story of redemption is not just found in the New Testament, but it is from chapter 1 of Genesis, and through to the end in Revelation. One of the main themes and I dare say the true theme of the bible, is the story of redemption. Redemption is a word that can sound very professional in the world of the church, but redemption is simply the act of being saved or rescued from sin or evil. In our case as believers, we have been saved and rescued by Jesus from our sin and wickedness. In the case of Rahab, she was redeemed from her life of living as a prostitute because of her faith, she was counted as righteous before God.
We read in Hebrews chapter 11, otherwise known as the “hall of faith”, that Rahab is remembered by her faith as the woman who saved the Israelite spies. She is not remembered for her sin or her life as a prostitute, she is remembered for her great faith. Along with all of the other Old Testament characters who had sinned greatly, were still remembered in the book of Hebrews for their great faith in God. This serves as a reminder for us that God uses all of us, broken people, for His good and for His plans.
The story of Rahab reminds us that you are never too far gone in your sin to be redeemed, and saved by God. Rahab’s story and her life are meant to be a reflection, for those who read her story, of God’s power in redeeming those who may seem far off or unworthy of His grace.
Hutchison, J. C. (APR 2001). Women, Gentiles, and the Messianic Mission in Matthew’s Genealogy. Bibliotheca Sacra, BSAC(158), 630th ser.
Jones, D. W. (2016). Rescuing Rahab: The Evangelical Discussion On Conflicting Moral Absolutes. Southeastern Theological Review, STR(07:1).
Lynn, N. P. (2014). The Deliverance of Rahab (Joshua 2,6) As The Gentile Exodus. Tyndale Bulletin, TYNBUL(65:1).
May, G. (spring 1993). Who’s Who? Biblical Models of Women in Leadership. Priscilla Papers,PP 07:2. Retrieved October 10, 2020.