From harlot to heroine. From a woman who walked in the night to a woman who walked in the light. From a house of shame to God’s hall of fame. These are catch lines that describe one of the most unsuspecting women of faith found in the Bible: Rahab.
Probably more famous than her act of faith was her profession. She was a working prostitute. How could someone with such a scandalous line of work end up in the lineage of Jesus Christ? We will look at who was Rahab in the Bible and how she is a shining example of God’s amazing grace.
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Who Was Rahab In the Bible – Rahab Bible Story
Rahab is introduced in Joshua chapter 2. She is a Canaanite prostitute whose home was attached to the wall of Jericho. The Canaanites were a wicked and idolatrous people that were enemies of the Israelites and refused to obey God.
After Moses’ death, Joshua (Moses’ successor), sent out two spies from the Israelite camp to scout out the land on the other side of the Jordan river, instructing them to focus on the area around Jericho. When the spies entered Jericho in the evening, they stayed at Rahab’s house.
The king of Jericho received word from someone that Israelite spies had entered and were at Rahab’s home. When the king of Jericho ordered Rahab to bring out the spies, she told the king’s men that they left the town at dusk, when in actuality she had hidden them on her roof under some bundles of flax.
After the king’s men had left and the town gate shut, she went to talk to the spies saying that she knows the Lord has given them the land and that everyone in Jericho is terrified of them.
Before helping them escape through her window and giving them instructions on how to flee safely, she pleaded with the spies to take an oath. In return for helping them, she wanted to ensure the safety of her and her family when Jericho is conquered.
The spies agreed with the stipulation that she leave the scarlet rope which let them down hanging from the window and that all her family members must be inside the house. We see later in Joshua 6:22-23 that Rahab and her family were saved during the fall of Jericho.
Rahab is also mentioned in Matthew 1:5 in the genealogy of Jesus as Salmon’s wife and Boaz’s mother. Most people recognize Boaz as Ruth’s husband.
The well-known “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 mentions Rahab in verse 31 as someone who was not destroyed with her people because of her faith in God by giving a friendly welcome to the spies.
James 2:25 cites Rahab as someone who was shown as a person of faith and right with God because of her actions.
Rahab (pronounced rey-hab) is a female name that is not very popular in nature although its definition is not entirely bad. It is the anglicized form of the Hebrew name Rachab. The name Rahab can be translated to mean “ample, large, wide, spacious, or broad.”
But the name Rahab is also found in Isaiah 51:9 and Isaiah 30:7. In Isaiah 51 it is referred to as a mythical, chaotic sea creature that represents Egypt in a derogatory way. In Isaiah 30 the name Rahab directly alludes to Egypt, which was proud and powerful under Pharaoh’s reign.
You also find the use of Rahab in a faintly different way in Job 26:12-13 and Psalm 89:9-10. In these verses, Rahab is used in the context of untamed seas and how an all-powerful God is able to bring order from chaos and His enemies under His command.
But in these other places where the name Rahab is found has a slightly different spelling in Hebrew than the name of Rahab found in the book of Joshua.
Lessons We Can Learn From Rahab in the Bible
Through Rahab, we learn the nature of God’s love and the necessary component for salvation. Although her past before she hid the spies may not be worthy of recognition, her future in God is one to be esteemed. Here are five lessons we can learn from Rahab in the Bible.
Our sin no longer needs to define us
Sometimes the only person getting in our way is ourselves. Rahab could have counted herself unworthy of receiving or helping the spies because of her background. But more importantly than what she thought of herself was what she believed about God.
She believed in God as being the supreme Creator and was, therefore, able to save her and her family from destruction. Her sin did not hold her back from believing and following the Lord. No matter how ugly our pasts are, there is no sin too great that God can not redeem and forgive.
Saving faith shows up through actions
Not only is Rahab praised for her faith, but Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 both mention that her actions proved her belief. Although it is only by faith we are saved, faith without good works is dead.
A change in heart will show up in a change in what we do and how we live. There will be many things that God will instruct us to do as Christians, and most of these things will take strength, courage, and sacrifice to accomplish.
But having faith in the God of the heavens and earth gives us the ability to live boldly and righteously just like Rahab, who risked her life by hiding the spies.
When Rahab believed that her life would be spared by God through the Israelite spies, she did not think only of herself, but she asked the spies to spare the life of her family and relatives as well. Life is precious and eternal life even more.
The thought of her loved ones perishing moved her to make a request to the spies to whom she was probably intimidated by and possibly even feared. But no amount of unease stopped Rahab from wanting to share her salvation with others.
Salvation in Christ is so valuable that we need to share it with others once we have received it.
None are so bad that they can not be saved
Out of everyone in Jericho, why would God choose a prostitute? He could have picked the king, a doctor, or a laborer to save. But occupations or social status does not determine value in the Kingdom of God.
In God’s eyes, everyone is equal and He is only looking for a willing heart. Even though the people of Jericho were terrified of the Israelites, they still refused to obey the God of the Israelites. But Rahab was different.
Even though she was living a sinful lifestyle, when she was presented with the opportunity to express her faith, she confessed with her mouth that she believed that God is the supreme God and LORD.
In Matthew 21:31 Jesus said to the religious leaders who thought they were righteous that the tax collectors and prostitutes were entering the Kingdom of God ahead of them. No matter what a person has done, they are never out of reach of God’s grace.
God always stops for the one
The whole town of Jericho could have been destroyed. The spies did not need to meet Rahab in order to give a report to Joshua on the condition of the city. But staying at Rahab’s house and agreeing to spare her and her family’s life was not a coincidence.
It was a God-ordained event. God saw one woman who believed in Him in the whole city and orchestrated everything so that she would be saved. Even Jesus traveled through a town named Samaria, which was disliked by the Jewish people at that time, to meet with the one woman at the well.
Luke 15:10 says that the angels rejoice when one sinner repents. God saw Rahab’s heart and stopped for her, even if she was the only one in all of Jericho who believed in Him.
Characteristics of Rahab in the Bible
Rahab’s salvation story is nothing short of incredible, encouraging, and to some, disbelieving. She was a prostitute who is later praised as a person of faith besides the biblical characters Noah, Abraham, and Moses.
While some scholars want to disprove the fact that she was indeed a harlot, the Bible clearly says that Rahab was a prostitute. The fact that her occupation causes some of us to speculate, amplifies how God’s ways are higher than ours.
He saves undeserving people. Rahab was a woman who believed in the Lord God and thus earned a good reputation because of her faith, not her occupation. Her life is a beautiful illustration that it is not who we were before Christ that matters but rather it is who we are in Christ that does.
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