Bad Girls of the Bible: Rahab

Bad Girls of the Bible | Liz Curtis Higgs

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.

Rahab the Harlot

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.

The Walls of Jericho

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.

Flax Plants

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.

Night Sky over Jericho

“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.

Ancient Windows

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.

Oasis near Jericho

“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. 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

The Women of Christmas | Liz Curtis Higgs

38 Responses to Bad Girls of the Bible: Rahab

  1. Christina Anderson October 16, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    Thanks Liz! I was that Rahab. Though raised in a Christian home, I went my own way. Married and divorced three times, numerous affairs. I used men. They used me. And God convicted me of my shameful behavior and I confessed to Him in tears and asked Him to forgive me. He has. I am single and alone now, (except for my beloved cats). I tell the men who hit on me that it is wrong to have sex with someone outside of marriage and I give them the old “heave-ho”. I didn’t want to grow old alone, but I have God for my father and my husband. He has sustained me and looked after me all these years and I believe he will continue to do so. I will be sixty-six this month and I only want to live my life for God. I’m done poking around in all the wrong places on my bull-headed own!

    • Angela Marks October 18, 2013 at 9:24 am #

      God Bless you Christina! Oh, How He love us! His love is so amazing that it covers us while he waits on his girls to come home! 🙂

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 19, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

      Your name may be Christina, beloved, but you are like Anna in the New Testament, living only for God. It is GLORIOUS to behold what your Heavenly Father has done in your life. Rejoicing with you!

  2. Kathy T. October 16, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    Oh how I love this Bible story. It speaks to me because it shows us that God truly is forgiving. Years ago when my children were young, we invited a young girl (14) into our home. She lived with us for a season and how we tried to help her. She had so many hurts, she had no clue how to be good. My oldest son would claim we wouldn’t even allow him to have a friend like her and she was living with us. Now we smile about that statement. This young woman grew and developed and the day came when we had to let go. She moved back home with her mom and for about 5 years we never heard from her. Time passed and one day she came back into our lives. She wanted us to meet her fiancé , she wanted our approval. She was going to church. It’s 30 years later, she has three daughters now, she is secure in God’s love and we all lived happily ever after. God redeems anyone who will ask him into their hearts.

    • Angela Marks October 18, 2013 at 9:27 am #

      Amazing Story!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 19, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

      Oh, how we love a happy ending! Thanks for sharing her story…and yours, Kathy.

  3. Angel @ Finding The Inspiring October 16, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    This is a beautiful story from the Bible because it reminds us that we are all like Rahab, sinners saved by grace. And when we really understand that and take it to heart, we can offer that same grace to others. We can talk not of their past but of their future. We can put our arms around them and call them our sisters in Christ. Thank you for this great series Liz. Blessings!

  4. Susan Ireland October 16, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

    Rahab; a woman of many colors. To her family she is kind, good, possibly has children she sings to sleep. To the world after the sun goes down, she is every fallen man’s fantasy, a woman who makes him feel like a King. And he talks to her like a Queen until he walks away when the sun comes up. Rahab is like millions of women down through history. Some by choice and some by necessity. She was brave and she trusted in their God. God knew her heart!!! I love this story, Cinderella of the Bible. I love you God!!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 19, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

      A good reminder. to look at her through different sets of eyes. Thanks, Susan.

  5. Courtney October 16, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

    I was Rahab. The man that I was suppose to trust and show his little girl how her future husband should treat her betrayed and abused me, my father. I spent the next decade using men and being used to feel I had some sort of control and power over the acts that had been taken my childhood. I did realize in trying to hurt the one who hurt me I was only hurting myself. I am no longer using multiple men but am living with someone out of wedlock and still trapped in the sin of putting a man above God. My father in heaven however is gently and lovingly convicting me and I am beginning to make decisions to get my life back into His service and trust Him to be the only man I need. Liz you are such a gift fromthe Lord with your testimony and loving encouragement. I enjoyed you at WOF this weekend in Charlotte. Please pray for me that God will give me the strength to walk away from a situation I have so desperately clung to instead of Him!

    • Tina W. October 17, 2013 at 8:56 am #

      “Dear Lord- We lift up our sister, Courtney! Jesus give her your supernatural power and strength. Help her to walk away from this situation she is in and learn to rely more and more on You! I pray that she finds help, fellowship and accountability with a strong group of believers! Help her to continually be seeking Your will and Your plan for her life.” In Your Precious Name, Amen!” Blessings to you Courtney and to you too Liz!!

      • Kathy T. October 17, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

        Dear Jesus, where two or more are gathered and believe , we stand together for Courtney. Guide and direct her path, show her the way. Give her strength and boldness to do what is right. Thank you Jesus . Tina and i pray and believe this in your precious name. Amen and amen

    • Sarah October 17, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

      I’ll be praying for you Courtney.

    • Angela Marks October 18, 2013 at 9:31 am #

      Father, I stand with Courtney and the rest of my sisters who have agreed in prayer! You are the same God that delivered me and set my heart free. I pray that you will do the same for Courtney. Give her courage and strength through your son Jesus to walk away feeling complete and whole in you! Restore her heart and make it new again. Her old life has passed away and behold you have a new life waiting for her to walk into. We agree and we praise you for what you have already done for her. In Jesus Name! Amen!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 19, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

      Dear Courtney, the prayers of your sisters here are beautiful and real. We care about you and praise God for what he is already doing in your life. I loved our time together in Charlotte, and add my prayers to all those who kindly posted here and the many others who paused to pray for you. You are loved, and you are on the path to wholeness in Christ. Keep walking forward and (as we learned from Lot’s Wife) don’t look back.

  6. cathy gross October 16, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

    In this day and age I think most women are Rahab to some extent. I sure was when I looked for love and had no idea what I was looking for. I was so mixed up and settled for less. Now it is different…my name is Daughter now. I still carried the stigma of my past for along time and heard the enemy whisper…”who do you think you are”. Then I learned to ask God to cut the cord that held me to that memory. I believed He would and He did. I know in my head what my past is. My heart and soul don’t care though. I no longer wear scarlet. Covered by the blood of Jesus, I am the woman in white.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 19, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

      You look good in white, Cathy! Washed clean by his blood, by his Word, by his Spirit. May we all see ourselves so beautifully dressed like a bride for our Bridegroom.

      • cathy gross October 21, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

        Amen, sister, amen!

  7. Crista Simmmons October 17, 2013 at 8:09 am #

    I have made some really bad choices in my life; both as a non-Christian and as a Christian. What I know to be true, in one of my darkest hours, is: “My grace is sufficient for you….”
    I also know that those of us who’ve been forgiven much, love much. The Lord has healed me so much over the course of these past 20 yrs. from the emotional and sexual abuse in my past. I am now 60 yrs. old and remarried. It’s been a very long haul, but I can say with confidence that nothing, absolutely nothing is impossible with God, for what is not possible with man IS possible with God. In 1990 during my first psych. hospitalization, the results of my psychological MMPI read: “Crista’s self-esteem is so non-existant that she will probably be successful in terminating her own life within ten years.” And Liz, that was 23 years ago!!!! Praise God!!!! So, I will shout it from the rooftops that there IS victory in Jesus! Hallelujah!!! And I will reach out to any woman who needs an encourager along her way to healing in Christ! May God bless you greatly in your own spirit for all you have done for so many of us who were once Rahab. Ever yours in Christ, Crista

    • Angela Marks October 18, 2013 at 9:33 am #

      Crista, I’m in tears! God bless you! Your testimony is amazing! I praise God for you!!! God your are good and your mercy reigns forever!!!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 19, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

      Shouting from the rooftops with you, dear Crista! HE IS FAITHFUL.

  8. Linda H October 17, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    Rahab’s story hits hard for me as I know a Rahab who needs to truly be made clean and to be forgiven. The pain this person is inflicting on her kids and those who loved her makes it a difficult journey. She has no shame and no remorse. The wounds are deep, but there is nothing impossible with God. He can do what I can’t. He will help me on this road of forgiveness when so much destruction continues. In this woman’s case the walls of Jericho need to be torn down. Who knows who God will use to bring that message to her…? God’s word and His love is amazing! So thankful Liz for you and your witness and insight.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 19, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

      Praying for those walls to come tumbling down. God alone can accomplish that, just as he did in Jericho. Thanks for your honesty, Linda.

  9. Julie Sunne October 17, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    The faith of Rahab is astounding! To have no one to be an encourager, yet cling to the truth of who God is and to risk everything in obedience to Him–that is difficult enough for those of us raised to know His love and faithfulness! Oh to claim a faith so strong! Your posts continue to be inspiring, Liz. Blessings!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 19, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

      That’s so true, Julie. We have nothing in the biblical record to suggest that Rahab had anyone encouraging her to embrace the one true God. Clearly he reached out to her, revealed himself to her, then brought the two spies to her door to rescue her. HOW GOOD IS OUR GOD!

  10. Susan Gruener October 18, 2013 at 2:59 am #

    This is a great story of the bible to understand God’s redeeming love for each of us. I think we may come across ‘Rahab’s’ in our lives and not even know it…but God does. That’s why we must always be ready to share the Gospel…and it may be as simply telling ‘our story’…what Jesus has done for us!
    Thanks once again Liz, for making the stories of the women of the bible so real for us living today. You tugged at my heart with your words.
    Blessings to you,

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 19, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

      Rahab’s story touches all our hearts at some level. We either were a Rahab, are a Rahab, know a Rahab, or long to see a Rahab set free. Timeless, powerful truths in those verses from Joshua 2 and 6!

  11. Angela Marks October 18, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    This has truly blessed me today!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 19, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

      Thanks for encouraging our sisters this week, Angela. I was on the road and offline, so trusted my blog followers to stand in the gap. And you did!

  12. Donna Hughes October 19, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    I can’t see for tears. Thank you for sharing your stories, cos each of us has a story to tell.I was a Rahab and now I am a princess through his grace and mercy. Blessings and prayers to all of you.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 19, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

      Rejoicing in the crown he has prepared for you, Donna.

  13. Eleanor October 20, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    Crista hit the nail on the head, Luke 7:47, “Because of this, I tell you that her sins — which are many! — have been forgiven, because she loved much. But someone who has been forgiven only a little loves only a little.” Makes me want to sing this, so I share this with you…

  14. Angela October 20, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    I don’t have too much to say, other than… I love your blog! It’s such an encouragement… Lots of love, a transitioning Rahab 🙂

  15. Brenna Camp October 20, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

    Thank you, Liz. I was thinking about why God might choose a prostitute. She probably did not have much to “lose” when she lied on God’s behalf. Her reputation was already shot and her acts were known and not secret. The only difference with me is that I can “cover” my sin because I know how to look good on the outside. God has used His refining fire to help me let go of things that I hold onto in order to keep my reputation! I have fibromyalgia and can’t be the “do-gooder” I once was! This has forced me to choose God, especially in the things that nobody else can see or in things where others may even judge me, like choosing to homeschool my kids. These choices were because I no longer could keep up with the fast-paced schedule and live each day for God, and be loving (vs. snappy and always in a hurry and not having time to truly live for what matters!)

  16. Becca October 21, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    Wow! I stand in awe at the stories that have been posted here. God brings us out of these places to share with others who are still in these places. Ashamed of my own past, I have tried helping young women/girls in the same situation I had found myself in. I thought I had failed in so many ways but God has shown me that the relationship that I built with those women/girls is what He uses to return them to him. If you know a Rahab ladies, although prayer is major part, don’t just pray for her. Build a relationship with her the way Christ has built a relationship with you….. that’s what brings us all to His feet!

  17. monica December 2, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

    Awesome to read these, I am so glad I found ur blogs you are helping me so much and don’t even know it. I long for fellowship, with real women who have experience what I have and can be transparent enough to help others without judgment or looking down on them. I too have some ways of rahab, slowly but surely he is allowing me to finally and solely be set free from the things in my past that haunts me. I look forward to the days were im compel free and can look back at ur blogs, and be completely free. Keep blessing us women of god, hopefully one day you visit Chicago where I can speak with you or others that are apart of your ministry.


  1. Bad Girls of the Bible Study-Rahab - October 16, 2013

    […] “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.” -Liz Curtis Higgs […]