Throughout the Bible, there are many stories of strong and heroic women. In this series, we explore a story of faithful biblical woman each month. With their strong faith, the women of the Bible continue to teach us how to live authentic, faith-filled lives. No matter what our circumstances are, we can find ourselves in their stories.
The book of Joshua introduces one of the most unusual and thought-provoking heroines of the Old Testament. Rahab, a prostitute of the Canaanite city of Jericho, is known for helping the Israelites defeat the pagan city of Jericho and for her place in the lineage of Jesus Christ. Rahab’s story begins during the invasion of the city of Jericho by the Israelites.
Jericho was a large Canaanite fortress city, and it was directly in the path of the Israelites, God’s chosen people, who had just crossed the Jordan River. Before proceeding into battle, Joshua sent two spies into Jericho. The king of Jericho heard two Israelite spies were in the city and sent troops to search for them.
Although Jericho was a fortress, the less-fortunate people lived outside of the walls of Jericho. Rahab and her family were poor and ran a tavern right outside of Jericho’s walls. Rahab was known to be a prostitute, and many men visited the tavern. One evening, two strangers came into her establishment. She was a smart woman and realized that these men were spies. She knew there would probably be an attack on Jericho and would have to take action to survive. She told the spies how the citizens of Jericho had been fearful of the Israelites ever since the Egyptians were defeated during the Red Sea saga. She agreed to help the spies escape, if she and her family were spared in the upcoming battle.
Rahab hid the two men on the flat roof of her house, under large bundles of flax. When the soldiers arrived to look for the spies, Rahab told them that they were not there. The soldiers searched the tavern, but Rahab had hidden the spies well. The spies agreed to protect her and her family but explained that she must hang a scarlet rope out of the window so the Israelites would know which home to spare.
The Israelites crossed the Jordan into Canaan and attacked the city of Jericho. The city was destroyed with only Rahab and her family spared. Ultimately, Rahab married Salmon, an Israelite from the tribe of Judah. Her son was Boaz, the husband of Ruth. Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus, is her direct descendant.
Rahab was not a likely candidate for a hero of the faith. She was a prostitute in a corrupt, pagan city that was under God’s condemnation. Spiritually, Rahab was not in an ideal circumstance to come to faith in God. However, Rahab had heard that Israelites were God’s chosen people. Her actions to save the spies and align with God’s people saved her and her family.
Like Rahab, once we become Christians our pasts are forgiven, the slate is wiped clean. Rahab was no longer viewed as an unclean prostitute, but as one worthy through God’s grace to be part of the lineage Jesus. The life of Rahab is an inspiring story for all sinners who have been saved by grace.