My name is Rahab, wife of Salmon, mother of Boaz. Life these days is wonderful, with a loving husband and sweet son. However, my life wasn't always so pleasant; I have what could be called a "colorful" past. You see, I wasn't born among the Israelites. I was a prostitute from Jericho whom the LORD redeemed and gave a second chance...
Rahab's early life is certainly not one we'd like to emulate, so why would we study her? Because hers is an example of how wonderfully God can change a life. We've all made mistakes we'd like to forget, things we wish we'd never done. For some, maybe you have years you'd like to forget, things done before you met Christ or during a time of back sliding. Rahab's story gives us all hope that God can forgive all sins - little or big - and go on to use us mightily for Him.
We first meet Rahab in Joshua 2; the Israelites have finished their 40 years of punishment in the desert, and, now with Joshua as their leader, are preparing to enter the promised land. However, the promised land is not just sitting there ready for them to walk in and settle down. No, it's full of cities of fierce people that have no intention of giving up their land.
Thus, Joshua sends two spies across the Jordan River, saying, "Go look over the land, especially Jericho." (Joshua 2:1) So the spies went and entered the house of the prostitute Rahab, and stayed there. The question has to be asked: Why in the world did these two good, Israelite men go to the house of a prostitute?? My NIV Quest Study Bible has a note that says that it was most likely a good place to find out information and blend in with other travelers with no questions asked. Also, a house on the city wall would be good for a quick escape. The word can also be translated as innkeeper, so maybe her house was an inn of sorts.
Evidently someone noticed the spies weren't quite from Jericho, however, and the king of Jericho sent a message to Rahab, telling her to turn over the spies. Rahab was a bold woman, though, for she had hidden the two men, and even when asked by the king had no intention of letting them get captured. She sent this reply: "Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. I don't know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them." (Joshua 2:4-5)
She definitely threw the guards off the trail, but the method she used - lying - was certainly not the best. God never condones lying, but Rahab, a pagan, was commended for her faith. In face, twice she is used as an example in the New Testament. Hebrews 11:31 says, "By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient." Rahab was one of very few women included in Hebrews "Hall of Faith". Likewise, James 2:25 says, "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?" Rahab's motives were right before God, and He blessed her for it.
The next passage of Scripture shows us that God had indeed touched Rahab's heart, and that, though perhaps just in fear, Rahab believed that the LORD was the true God. "Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, 'I know that the LORD has given this land to you 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. We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heave above and on the earth below. Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to your family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will 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." (Joshua 3:8-13)
The men were grateful to her for saving them, and assured her, "Our lives for your lives! If you don't tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the LORD gives us the land." (Joshua 2:14)
So Rahab let the men down by a rope through the window of her house, for she lived in a part of the city wall. Then she gave them a tip: "Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return and then go on your way." (Joshua 2:16) Before the men left, they gave her the conditions of how she could be saved: if she left the scarlet cord tied in the window and did not tell on the spies, she and her family would be saved, but only if they remained inside her house. She agree and tied the scarlet cord in the window while the men escaped.
Time passed, and I'm sure Rahab wondered what would indeed happen. How would the Israelites take Jericho? Would her family really be saved? AS the Israelites sought God for instructions and prepared for war, the people in Jericho became more on edge. Joshua 6:1 says "Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in." After days of waiting, the Israelites finally advanced. However, instead of rushing forward with weapons drawn, they simply carried the ark of the covenant and marched around the wall without saying a word. Then they left. The next day they did the same thing... and the next... and the next... until six days had passed. Who knows what the attitude inside Jericho was during those days! Some were probably even more nervous because of the strange behavior; others probably made fun of the "crazy Israelites" and went back to life as normal. Rahab and her family simply stayed inside their house, watching, wondering, and waiting.
On the seventh day, things changed. Instead of marching once around the city, they did it again and again, circling the wall seven times! Then, at Joshua's command, the trumpets sounded and the people shouted, and the mighty walls of Jericho collapsed! Following Joshua's orders, the Israelite army destroyed the inhabitants of the city and set aside the treasure for the LORD; but they spared Rahab and her family because she had sheltered the spies.
So the two spies went to Rahab's house and took her and her entire family to a place outside the camp of Israel. It doesn't say what happened to Rahab's family, but Joshua 6:25 says that (at the time the book was written) "she lives among the Israelites to this day."
The faith and courage of one woman, a harlot and among the least respected of women, saved her entire family and helped the Israelites take the great city of Jericho. Rahab turned her back on her sinful ways and embraced the One True God, becoming apart of the Israelites and eventually marrying one of their men. She also raised up a Godly son, Boaz, who became a respected man in Bethlehem and the kinsman-redeemer of Ruth. Finally, generations later, the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, was born through her family line. In fact, she's one of only five women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus (see Matthew 1:5).
Never think that God has given up on you, or that you are beyond His help. Don't give up on others, but instead offer to them the saving power of Jesus. There's no sin so big that He can't forgive. God can use anyone, and often uses those who you'd think would be the least likely, the least "deserving". Move past your mistakes, ask God's forgiveness, and go on to do great things.
Read all about Rahab in Joshua 2 and 6; Matthew 1:5; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25
Read about more Women of the Bible here.