Her neighbors called her a woman of the night.
The Lord God called her a heroine of the faith.
And a man named Salmon gladly called her his wife.
Meet our amazing sister Rahab, a former prostitute who was decidedly Bad for a Season, but Not Forever.
Chapter 7: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
Joshua 2:1-24, 6:1-25
Her dramatic story began like a James Bond movie, with Joshua sending “two men to spy secretly” (Joshua 2:1) on an exotic foreign location 825 feet below sea level—Jericho, the lowest city in the world.
Where did the men lodge once they arrived? “The house of a prostitutenamed Rahab” (Joshua 2:1). Make no mistake. She was “a woman who sold the use of her body” (NLV). We can’t clean this up, we can’t wish this away, we can’t pretend she was really just an innkeeper.
She was “a woman whore, Rahab by name” (WYC). And she was chosen by God to be rescued from certain death and included in his Son’s family tree.
No wonder we’ve loved her story for more than three thousand years.
News traveled quickly in Jericho. That very night the king sent his own men to Rahab’s house, built into the walls of the city near its gate. The king’s men demanded she bring out the spies. But she was too clever for them, having hidden Joshua’s secret agents beneath the stalks of flax drying on her roof.
“Yes, the men came to me” (Joshua 2:4), she admitted, then spun a tale about not knowing where they’d come from or where they’d gone at dusk, when it was time to close the city gate.
So, Rahab fibbed? Yes, she did. But not like Sapphira, who lied to God. Instead, Rahab lied to the bad guys to protect the good men God sent her way.
Once the king’s men took off, Rahab joined her guests on the roof, where they were hiding beneath long, wet stalks of flax, a plant used to make linen.
To break down and separate the fibers, the flax was soaked in stagnant water, then laid out to dry. Imagine the smell, the sogginess, the muck. Ewww. No one would go looking for those spies under such a nasty wet blanket.
Rahab rescued them in more ways than one, then confessed, “I know that the Lord has given this land to you” (Joshua 2:9).
Stop right there. How could a Canaanite prostitute know about the one true God? The only explanation is revelation. As Jesus would later say to Peter, “This was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). God had shown Rahab who he was, and she had embraced that truth.
After summarizing what Jericho had heard about God’s people, Rahab made the most shocking statement of all.
“For the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:11). There it is: “Your God is God.” Unmistakably a statement of fact and a confession of faith. Rahab told these spies what they already knew: “your God is the supreme God” (NLT). Not just an earthly God, but the One who “rules the heavens above and the earth below!” (ERV).
Her faith and her confession led to her salvation. So it is with us: “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved” (Romans 10:10).
Saying it once is sufficient, yet I joyfully repeat my confession of faith whenever I’m with others who are speaking that truth for the first time. Yes, Lord Jesus. Again, Lord Jesus. Always, Lord Jesus. Yours, and yours alone.
Not only was Rahab a hero to God; she was also a hero to her family. She told the men, “Spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them” (Joshua 2:13). This is faith lived out: thinking of others, putting their needs ahead of our own.
The two spies were impressed. She’d already risked everything to protect them, so they rightly said, “Our lives for your lives!” (Joshua 2:14), “provided you don’t betray our mission” (CJB). Rahab sent them on their way, then at their request, tied a scarlet cord in her window.
Why scarlet, we wonder? Does it represent the blood of the Passover lamb? the sacrifice of Christ? Some commentators go there, others not. From a practical standpoint, scarlet was a common dye, and the bright color would be visible against the clay outer walls of her house.
Rahab didn’t know precisely what sort of destruction would befall her city, nor had the spies yet been told. But God knew. That night in Jericho, her salvation was assured.
This is how God works, beloved—revealing his truth to those whose hearts are open, doing his mighty deeds through his people, showing his hand when necessary. If we have ears to hear, his voice is easily heard. If we have eyes to see, we see him everywhere.
You know what comes next. Seven priests, seven trumpets, seven days, seven times around the city, marching without speaking. A silent army, waiting on the Lord, the number seven a reminder that their victory was already a completed work, from God’s viewpoint.
At last Joshua commanded, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!” (Joshua 6:16). Even in the heat of that moment, Joshua made certain God’s will was accomplished and our Bad Girl was saved: “Only Rahab the prostituteand all who are with her in her house shall be spared” (Joshua 6:17).
When the trumpets sounded and the walls came tumbling down, Rahab was still standing, and all her family with her. What a woman!
Let’s linger on the last verse, which gives us all hope. Like this beautiful spring oasis in the Judean Desert at Wadi Qelt near Jericho, it’s never too late to be made new.
“But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.” Joshua 6:25
Putting it bluntly, “Joshua made Rahab the whore to live” (WYC). Yet he did so by God’s design. It wasn’t coincidence that the two spies ended up at Rahab’s house of ill repute. God had plans for Rahab from before the beginning of time.
Because of his generous mercy and boundless grace, the Lord also spared “her father’s household” (ASV) and “all who belonged to her” (NRSV). The people that she loved, God loved.
This truth gives me pause: would I beg God to save my whole family, and risk my own life doing so? Yes, I pray for my loved ones, and gently (I hope) speak truth into their lives. But would I risk everything to save them, as she did? The spies might have said, “No way are we rescuing your whole family, Rahab. Just you.”
Because of her courage and strength, “her descendants have lived in Israel to this day” (GNT). Think of it! Thousands upon thousands of people, tracing their lineage back three millennia to this brave woman, who was “faithful to the spies [Joshua] had sent” (VOICE).
There is One Name above all the others in her bloodline which is most dear to our hearts. When Matthew rolls out the lineage of Jesus in the first chapter of his gospel, we come to “Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab” (Matthew 1:5). Only five women are named among a long list of men.
First came Tamar, who dressed as a prostitute to seduce her father-in-law Judah, and proved “more righteous” than he (Genesis 38:26). Now, here’s Rahab, next in line among the women named in the Christ’s family tree. Her faith is celebrated in Hebrews 11:31, and her righteousness in James 2:25.
Take this and run with it, beloved: It isn’t who you were that matters God. It is who you are in him. And who you are becoming by the power of his Spirit.
Like Rahab, toss out that scarlet thread and say with conviction, “Here I am, Lord. Save me!”
Here’s Our Discussion Question
Transformed by God from harlot to brave heroine, Rahab is an inspiration for us all, demonstrating how we can leave behind our shameful pasts and walk forward in grace. Are there any Rahabs in your life—that is, women with a past who need to know they are loved by God no matter what their history? If you believe they’re forgiven completely, how might you communicate that truth to them with your words? And with your actions?
I’ll offer my answer first, for what it’s worth, then it’s your turn.
As it happens, I meet Rahabs on a weekly basis. Women who find me at a conference, or reach out to me via email, or message me on Facebook. With tears in their eyes and pain in their words, they tell me their stories of promiscuity and infidelity, of dancing in strip clubs and selling their bodies, of performing in X-rated movies and posing for pornography.
With tears in my own eyes and as much love as I can possibly pour into my words, I assure them of God’s abundant love, mercy, and grace. “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us” (John 1:4:15-16).
God loves the Rahabs of our world. So must we. With our eyes, our smiles, our hands, our hugs, our hearts, our homes, our lives.
Might you have a story to share, or encouragement to offer? Add your response under Post a Comment at the bottom. You can be sure I read and appreciate each one.
And do take a peek at Rahab’s vibrantly red Pinterest board. http://www.pinterest.com/lizcurtishiggs/rahab/. Definitely delicious.
Next week we’ll take on the baddest of the Bad Girls, Jezebel. Evil as she was, she still offers us lessons worth learning. Until then, BLESS YOU for making time for God’s Word in your busy life!
Your sister, Liz
P.S. If you and your small group are interested, here’s a helpful PDF:
How to Use the Women of Christmas as a Bible Study