Unlike our first two studies of Esther and Ruth, the story of Rahab is found across different books in the Bible. The main story takes place in Joshua 2 and Joshua 6:17, 22-25. She is also mentioned in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25.
The Story of Rahab
The story of Rahab is one of espionage, impending warfare, and an unlikely courageous heroine.
The book of Joshua recounts the quest of Joshua to finally lead the Israelites to the land God has promised them, and he finally conquers Canaan. To prepare for a war, Joshua secretly sends two spies to Jericho. He does it this way, because the last time Moses sent twelve spies to Canaan, ten of them returned with terrifying reports while only Joshua and Caleb returned with faith that the Israelites would claim the promised land.
The two spies arrive in Jericho and take shelter in Rahab’s house. In those days the city wall consisted of two parallel walls three to five meters apart. Rahab’s house was probably built on top of such a wall. Rahab was a prostitute/innkeeper and her house was probably a commonplace for travelers to stay. Rahab hides the two spies on the roof between the flax that has been harvested. The king’s men come knocking and enquire if Rahab has seen the spies. She tells the men that the spies were at her house, but she has no idea where they might have gone. The king’s men leave Rahab and go in search of the spies outside of the city gates.
Rahab goes to tell the spies that the authorities have left. She also explains to them that the people of Jericho know that the Lord has given their land to the Israelites and were very afraid. She had heard how the Lord dried up the Red Sea when they came out of Egypt and how He had helped the Israelites destroy other kings. She describes to the spies how their “hearts melted” and they were afraid of the Israelites, “for the Lord your God is above all.” Joshua 2:11.
Rahab pleads with the spies to swear by their Lord that they will repay her kindness and save her and her whole family when they invade Jericho. The spies tell Rahab that if she keeps their secret, they will spare her and her family.
Rahab leads the spies down a rope through the window of her house to the outside of the city wall. She instructs them to go into the hills and wait for three days before returning to Joshua. The spies assure Rahab that if she hangs the scarlet rope outside of her window when they invade Jericho and ensure that her whole family is inside the house, she will be saved together with her whole family. If she doesn’t keep the secret, then the oath would be broken.
The spies go into the hills and wait for three days before returning to Joshua. They tell him that the Lord has given the Israelites the land because the inhabitants are afraid of them and will “melt away” before them.
During the invasion of Jericho, Joshua spares the lives of Rahab and her family.
Lessons from Rahab’s story
Confessing our faith will save us
Rahab is a gentile and a prostitute. She finds herself at the edge of society, almost rejected. Yet she displays faith in the God of the Israelites and his ability to save her and her family.
Rahab is even one of the few women mentioned in the Hebrews Hall of Fame in verse 31:
“By faith Rahab, the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to spies.” (Hebrews 11:31)
God did not look at her position but saw her faith and thus rescues her and her family when the Israelites take over Jericho. After the invasion, Rahab becomes part of the Jewish society and marries a faithful man. Out of this union, Boaz was born, who married Ruth and gave birth to Obed. So, Rahab becomes the great-great-grandmother of King David and is named in the lineage of Jesus. What a blessing for a gentile prostitute.
It is easy to look at Rahab’s natural position or lack thereof and judge her. But she professes her faith in God’s almighty power and confesses her sins to receive mercy from God. (Proverbs 28:13)
We read in Romans 10:10 that when we believe with our hearts we are made right with God, “and it is by confessing with [our] mouth that [we] are saved.” Do we confess our salvation with our mouths and our hearts?
It doesn’t matter who we are or what path we have chosen in life, faith is an undeserved gift from God. In Ephesians 2:8-10, Apostle Paul explains how we are saved by grace because we believe, and we cannot take credit for this because faith is a gift from God. It is not a reward for anything we have done.
We should be very careful to judge the worthiness of people we meet by their outward circumstances. We cannot see the work the Lord might be doing on their hearts with our human understanding. Never underestimate his gracious power to save anyone who confesses their faith in Him, and to use them in his plan of salvation. He can take a gentile prostitute and give her a place in the lineage of his Son, Jesus Christ.
Faith without works is dead
No, I’m not contradicting myself. Give me a minute…
We cannot earn faith because it is a gracious gift from God, but if we have faith we will want to do works for God. Faith without works is dead and works without faith is dead (Romans 14:23).
The other place in Scripture where we read about Rahab is in James 2:25 where James uses Rahab as an example of faith in action: “She has shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away.”
If we have faith in God we will want to grow in faith and love, and we will want to serve him, obey him and trust in his word. If we don’t have the desire to grow as followers of Jesus, then our faith is dead. This faith should produce obedience in those who are justified because of the work of Christ.
This is a very important lesson for those of us who keep ourselves busy in the church. Everything we do should be born out of our faith in Jesus and gratitude for his sacrifice and not because we want to earn his favour. We already have his favour, there is nothing we can do to earn salvation or earn more faith. It is all a gift from God.
And for those of us who do not yet use our talents to the honour and glory of God – we should examine our hearts to see why our faith does not motivate us to do works for His glory.
How does the story of Rahab resonate with you?
This post was part of a Bible Study series that I wrote to connect with my friends during the COVID-19 lockdown.
I am not a pastor, nor do I have theological training. I am a follower of Jesus and the daughter of my Heavenly Father that enjoys studying and discussing Scripture with others.
The resources I used for this study are listed below.
All colour illustrations are from www.jw.org