The Old Testament Book of Joshua gives us the story of the prostitute Rahab, who lived in the city of Jericho. God had given this pagan city over to the Israelites, and after winning the Battle of Jericho, the children of Israel would finally begin to live in the Promised Land. God had commanded the Israelites to burn the entire city and everything in it. Rahab’s life, and that of her family, was spared because of the great faith of this woman. At first glance, this seems an unlikely ending for this woman, but God has always used people of faith to help carry out His purposes.
Scripture does not tell us how Rahab came to be a prostitute, it could have been the only way that she could have provided for herself and her family. The Bible does not seem to judge her for this questionable career choice, instead it reminds us several times that it was her faith in Israel’s God, that made her remarkable.
If you had met Rahab before her encounter with the two men sent to “spy” out the land of Jericho, you probably would have written her off as someone that would never know God. In her own pagan society, her social status was very low and she was not regarded as someone of any importance. It was her faith in a God that she had only heard stories about that completely changed her life. Maybe Rahab was so tired of the life she was living, she knew that trusting in a God who had performed many miraculous signs was the only way out of this kind of lifestyle.
The two “spies” managed to get into the walled fortress of Jericho and they came upon Rahab’s house, which was part of the city wall. Her house provided an excellent location for the two men to assess this city’s defense system. Scripture tells us that the presence of the spies was detected almost as soon as they had entered Rahab’s house. Rahab was faced with a choice, turn the foreign spies in and possibly receive a monetary reward, or “lie” and hide the spies, and hopefully spare the lives of herself and her family. If the king of Jericho found out that she was lying to him, Rahab and her family would probably not survive anyway.
Rahab lied to the king’s messengers and sent them off in a different direction. She then gave instructions to the two spies on how to evade the king’s men and return to the Israelite camp on the other side of the Jordan River. The men made an oath with Rahab and told her to tie a scarlet cord in the window of her home, which would be a signal to the Israelites to not harm anyone in that house. Rahab saved herself and her family from destruction and death, as the entire city of Jericho was burned and everyone else was put to death.
Many biblical commentators don’t know what to do with Rahab’s “lie.” The Bible does not either condone or condemn her lie, rather it recognizes or points to the great faith of Rahab. Rahab, the prostitute, is mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 1, in the genealogy of Jesus (Rahab was the mother of Boaz, the great-grandfather of King David.) She is also listed among the “heroes of faith”, in the book of Hebrews. Hebrews 11:31: By faith, the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. The book of James (2:25) also recognizes the faith of this woman: In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?”
Like all of us, Rahab did not lead a perfect life, she had her many faults. She is pointed out however, as someone who had faith and who also acted upon that faith. Her faith is what scripture points to and holds up to us as an example for each of us today. Her story reminds us not to give up on people or to “judge” them for what we perceive them to be. God can redeem and use anyone who is willing to follow Him in faith.
The “heroes of faith” in the book of Hebrews lists Rahab among those who faithfully answered God’s call. In the book of Hebrews, chapter 11, we find the names of those who are listed as people of great faith. Hebrews 11:1-2 reminds us that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.”
I encourage you to read the story of Rahab from the Old Testament Book of Joshua, chapter 2.