Character Study: Rahab

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“And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, ‘Go, view the land, especially Jericho.' And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there.” (Joshua 2:1, English Standard Version)

Oh, how often we are defined by things in our lives that we wish everyone could see past. I’ve never been a prostitute, but I can still relate with Rahab. 

I often feel like who I am now is who I will always be. I often feel the weight of my mistakes or the injustice of facing circumstances out of my control that didn’t nudge but shoved me onto a life-path I never planned for myself. I know how it feels for others to see that one bad thing in your life while you’re trying so hard to find a way to heal and move on. I know how it feels to be known as, “That girl who…” with a specific tone of voice behind the words. 

That’s why my heart goes out to Rahab, and to those of you who understand these feelings all too well. 

If you’ve never read the story of Rahab, I encourage you to. You can find it in the book of Joshua in chapter 2 and 6:22-27. We drop into the beginning of the well-known story of Joshua and the Israelites conquering Jericho. Joshua sends two spies into Jericho to see what they’re up against and they end up knocking on Rahab’s door, whether by accident or not I have no idea. I won’t speculate.

Rahab hides these two men on her roof and lies to the guards who come searching for the spies to send them in the opposite direction. Once the guards are gone, Rahab goes up to the roof and says to the spies, “I know that the Lord has given you the land.” (Joshua 2:9, ESV) She continues to tell them that she and the other people of Jericho fear the Israelites and their God because they have heard of the many miracles and victories God has provided. In verse 11 she declares, “…for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” Mere seconds after lying to the guards, who are her people to protect, about these spies that her people fear, Rahab declares the God of Israel is the One True God. 

Although Rahab’s house was built into the walls of Jericho, she couldn’t have been less a part of the community. She was the outcast, the misfit, the house that people only entered and exited shamefully under the cover of night. After feeling that way for so long, can you imagine the hope that was ignited with the fear when she heard the stories of the Israelite God? Maybe, just maybe, this God could perform a miracle in her life too.

At Rahab’s request, the spies agree to protect Rahab and her family when the time comes for the Israelites to take Jericho. She is to tie a scarlet rope in the window to signal which house is hers, the same scarlet rope she uses to help them climb through the window and rappel down the wall. Time passes, she watches as the Israelites march around the walls of Jericho day-after-day. And when war breaks out I’m sure she fears that she will be forgotten in the chaos. Nonetheless, she brings her family into her house and ties the cord in the window. And as promised, they are spared and saved.

So, what is the point here? What can we learn from Rahab? The typical answer is that God can use anyone, no matter what they’ve done. And that’s true. But as a woman, I tend to admire much more than that about Rahab.

I see how she was quick thinking in a moment of unexpected pressure.

I see how she was courageous despite heart-racing fear.

I see that she was kind-hearted and thinking of the safety of her family.

I see that she was tired of things being the way they had always been, that she was terrified of what the future held, and that she chose to believe that a different life was possible, that she could get out of these less than ideal circumstances.

And as a result, I see that her obedience paid off, not only for her and her family in the moment, but for generation after generation, all the way to you and me.

…and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.” (Matthew 1:5-6, ESV)

Rahab, a former prostitute, is a part of the lineage of Jesus. Her decision to act in faith despite fear led to the birth of Jesus. That not only tells me that her story matters, it tells me that yours and mine does as well. The story of Rahab shows me that we can use our strengths as women for the glory of God. She shows me that small decisions make a difference. And most of all, Rahab shows us that faith in the God of our salvation is enough to change the course of an entire family tree.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.