We met Rahab in Joshua 2, and I’m getting ready to share something with you–if you are like many Christians–do not realize about this woman and scripture’s witness about her. Here goes.
We met the Jericho prostitute Rahab in Joshua 2 when Joshua had sent two spies to scout the city. They entered her house, and we presume it’s because as entering houses goes, getting into a house of ill repute is one of the easiest for men. Regardless of what might have happened there, scripture records the important parts of the story, that the King of Jericho had intel that spies were in the city and sent officers to check it out. They tracked them to Rahab’s house and here is the first thing we learn about Rahab. She had a reason to do something outrageous, seditious, and dangerous: defy her king. Not only that but she hid the two men, and not only that but she sent the king’s servants the wrong way in pursuit of the men. Then Rahab went to the roof where she’d hid them and told them an amazing story.
Before they went to sleep, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men: “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that dread of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites that were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. As soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no courage left in any of us because of you. The Lord your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below (Joshua 2:8-11).
This is truly an amazing story she tells, because going back to the twelve spies Moses sent, including Joshua and Caleb, ten of those spies claimed that Canaan was full of giants and that the spies were as grasshoppers to them. Turns out, says Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the other way around, that the hearts of the Canaanites were the ones melting and feeling small at the prospect of the God of Israel: “For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites . . . as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no courage left in any of us because of you. The Lord your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below” (Joshua 2:10-11).
Rahab went even further. She said she wanted to be saved and somehow join the Israelite people and not face certain destruction that was coming to Jericho. The spies thought this was a good idea and took the vow very seriously, and they came up with a sign to seal this and remind them when they returned with the armies of Israel to spare Rahab and her family. They decided on her tying a crimson cord to her window.
Now, that brings us to Joshua 6 and God’s command for Israel to march around the city of Jericho. They must have seen that crimson cord each time they marched around. And it must have been an act of God that at least a critical wall or gate fell that allowed Israel to enter and the city was destroyed. Rahab’s family, however, was spared. She and her parents and siblings and “all who belong to her” (Joshua 6:23), and “they set them outside the camp of Israel.” The city was burned to the ground, but “Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, Joshua spared. Her family has lived in Israel ever since. For she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.
More than physical walls fell in Jericho. The wall between Israel and Rahab fell. A Canaanite woman joined the ranks of Israel. Want to know the rest of the story?
THE REST OF THE STORY ABOUT RAHAB
“Her family has lived in Israel ever since” (Joshua 6:25)
What happened to Rahab after Joshua, the two spies, and Israel’s armies spared her and her family? What happened after the city of Jericho fell and she and her family started living with Israel?
Rahab is mentioned three times in the New Testament. I’ll go backwards starting with James, who says her life is an example of how faith must be accompanied by good works. She believed in the God of Israel, feared this new God, but her act of hiding the spies was considered an act of works that proved her faith. Then in Hebrews 11, Rahab is lifted up along with Moses, Samson, and many others for her faith in God. This is very significant that she is mentioned, but even more significant is the first mention of Rahab in the New Testament.
In Matthew 1:5, Rahab is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus. Biblical scholarship can never fully be sure when a name is mentioned one place that a later reference hundreds of years later is the same person, but it seems this is the same Rahab.
“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 King David” (Matthew 1:5-6 NRSV).
This is incredible! Rahab’s newfound fear and faith in the God of Israel, defying the king of Jericho, action to hide the spies and let them down the side of the city wall, then tie a crimson cord on her window and gather her family into her home to be spared led her to be an important person in the line of David. She was the great, great grandmother of King David.
And if this is true, the same Rahab gave up Canaanite ways of idolatry and her profession of prostitution, married Salmon in Israel, gave birth to Boaz, who became the kinsmen redeemer of Ruth in that amazing story.
Not only that, but this means, according to the genealogy in Matthew 1, that Rahab the prostitute is the ancestor of none other than Jesus Christ. Amen!
How very like our God to take a woman with a past and give her space and time to tell her story and allow that to live on in this incredible narrative of the story of Jericho. It’s embedded in a story we often tell of Joshua and walls falling down in Jericho, so it often gets forgotten or we are too embarrassed to tell it. Then we miss the incredible power of the gospel. Let’s not miss it anymore. What a joy to tell this story of Rahab.
And now, you know “The rest of the story about Rahab the prostitute of Jericho who became the great, great grandmother of King David, ancestor of Jesus the Messiah.”
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ. Greg’s wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.