Rahab: Rising From the Ashes

Posted on January 17, 2019

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By David Ettinger

From the account of Joshua Chapters 2 and 6.

Unflattering Introduction
It’s sometimes startling just how stark the Bible can be.

When we first meet Rahab, we are told that two Israelite spies “went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab” (Joshua 2:1). Hardly the introduction that makes us want to get acquainted with her.

And yet, though we know nothing of her past, we certainly know what became of her – how the Lord spared her family and her place in the genealogy of Jesus.

rahab

Rahab was a prostitute. Despite Hollywood’s attempts to glorify the practice, the Bible considers it shameful. The author of the Book of Joshua tells us directly and without comment that this was the occupation Rahab engaged in.

She was who she was. This fact proved strategic for the two men dispatched by Israel’s leader Joshua to spy out the city of Jericho, where Rahab lived. Foreigners in a small city such as Jericho would be easily noticed and perhaps attract unwanted notice.

However, going to the home of a harlot would relieve concern as Rahab no doubt entertained many foreigners over the years. Two more would be no cause of suspicion.

The Story
These men, however, did not come seeking Rahab’s services. They were there to spy out the city and report back to Joshua about its weaknesses and how it could be defeated. Once they were discovered (Joshua 2:3), they had no choice but to explain to Rahab who they were and why they were in Jericho.

She agreed to hide them, displaying amazing faith considering her pagan background. “I know,” she said, “that the LORD has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you … for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (2:9, 11).

These men, however, did not come seeking Rahab’s services. They were there to spy out the city and report back to Joshua about its weaknesses and how it could be defeated. Once they were discovered (Joshua 2:3), they had no choice but to explain to Rahab who they were and why they were in Jericho.

She agreed to hide them, displaying amazing faith considering her pagan background. “I know,” she said, “that the LORD has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you … for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (2:9, 11).

jericho

A Real Faith
That Rahab knew of Israel’s triumphs was no mystery – tales of the nation’s exploits became widespread.

However, it is her faith in the God of Israel which is amazing. How did she come to such a faith? There can only be but one explanation: God gave her the faith to believe in Him. It’s that faith which prompted her to risk her life by defying the king’s orders to turn the spies over to him.

Instead, she agreed to hide the spies on the condition they “spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them – and that you will save us from death” (v. 13). The spies accepted Rahab’s terms, but with two stipulations: 1) Rahab’s entire family must gather in her home, which was built into the city wall, and 2) that she hang a scarlet cord from her window, identifying her as the woman who faithfully helped Israel’s cause.

A week later, the walls of Jericho came tumbling down, but Rahab and her family were spared.[1]

What became of Rahab?
We get our answer in the book of Matthew. As part of Jesus’ genealogy, we read that, “Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David” (1:5, italic added).

This is pretty amazing stuff. First, Rahab is one of only three woman (Tamar and Ruth are the others) mentioned by name in Jesus’ genealogy. (A fourth, Bathsheba, is referred to, but not by name.) This is lofty praise for a woman who is introduced to us as a prostitute.

Second, there is her husband, Salmon. Who was he? Tradition holds that he was one of the two spies. Though this cannot be proven, one thing we know for certain about Salmon is that he was of the tribe of Judah and hence a forefather of Israel’s Messiah.

Third, Rahab was an ancestor of King David, Israel’s greatest monarch. It should be noted that the above genealogy excerpt is not entirely accurate. Salmon and Rahab were not the actual parents of Boaz (who married Ruth) because about 250 years separated the times in which they each lived. However, Rahab was a “mother” to Boaz in the genealogical sense.

The Lesson for Believers
The real question, however, is, why would God use a heathen prostitute to carry out His will? We all might as well ask why God chose us to be saved through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

We don’t know why God chose Rahab and raised her from the ashes, but one thing is clear: God sovereignly chose to make Himself known to a woman of low social status and save her from her life of sin.

Just as He chose us all.

[1] Joshua 6