Women of the Bible: Rahab
Rahab’s is a little different than the other women I have been featuring in this series. Her story is, in many ways, a nail-biter. She is a very strong woman who risks her life for what she believes in, and is forever rewarded for her courage and faith. So let’s take an in-depth look at this wonderful Biblical example of not only womanhood, but also a life lived by faith.
Rahab puts her life in danger because of what she believes in. When Joshua sends two of his spies to Jericho to scope out the land, they hide themselves at Rahab’s house. According to my Bible, there is some discrepancy as to Rahab’s profession: she may have been a prostitute, or she may have simply been an innkeeper, but either way it would not have been difficult for the two spies to get into her house. The danger for Joshua’s men lay in the fact that someone saw them enter the city, and informed the king that they were in Rahab’s house. The king sends Rahab a message, telling her to bring out the men. At this point she makes a decision that, if discovered, could result in the death of herself and her family: she lies to the king. She tells him that the men did come to her house, but she did not know who they were and at dusk, before the city gates closed, they left. In reality, she has hidden them on her roof beneath some flax, but she is so convincing that the king’s men do leave the city walls in search of the two spies. Rahab then goes up to the roof to tell the two men why she has made such a dangerous decision.
Rahab’s actions stem from a heart changed by God. In Joshua 2:8-11, Rahab provides a very astounding and moving confession in God – the God of her enemies, in this case. She explains that she knows and believes that God has given the land of Canaan (her homeland) to the Israelites. She explains that everyone has been living in fear of the Israelites because of this. She explains that they have heard of the great deeds God has done, such as drying up the Red Sea, and this confession indicates that to Rahab it is not just a story, but something she knows must be true. For her, this is evidence that the Israelite God is the true God. She ends her confession by saying that everyone in Jericho’s hearts have “melted” (v.11). She also concludes by giving her personal confession that “the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” I find this last part of her confession quite significant because a person like Rahab would have most likely believed in many false gods, or idols, but by confessing that the Israelite God was God in heaven and on earth, she is expressing her belief that this God is above any other god she may have once believed in. He is above it all.
Rahab’s faith is remembered forever. On the surface, Rahab was simply a prostitute who risked her life to help two Israelite spies take over and destroy her homeland. Significant, yes, but is she really that significant in the grand scheme of things? God seems to think so! We can find Rahab being praised all the way over in the New Testament, both in Hebrews and in James. In Hebrews, she is featured in Chapter 11, or the “Faith Chapter” alongside “Bible greats” like Abraham and Moses! Hebrews 11:31 states, “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” As we have already seen from Rahab’s confession, she had faith in a God whose amazing feats she had only heard about, a God who others in her town and culture rejected, but her faith-inspired choice to harbor spies is meant to serve as an example and encouragement for Christians for generations to come. I like the passage in James even better! James 3:25-26 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? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” Here, James is using Rahab as an example of what the active Christian life should look like. Faith alone is simply not enough – actions must accompany faith – and Rahab is given as a supreme example. Could she have believed what she had heard about the Israelite God but still chosen to protect herself and her family by not letting the spies in her home? Sure. But she didn’t. She acted on her faith, and is uplifted as an example for all of us to follow.
So what can we take away from Rahab’s story? I think there are a couple of points we should remember. First, we should do right. Always. Our basketball team at the school at which I teach has “Do right” as their motto. It’s what they strive to do both on and off the court. This could perhaps have been Rahab’s motto as well. She did right. She didn’t do what was easy, or what was convenient, or even what was safe. She did what was right. The end result was life for her and her family and a newfound belief in the true God. Secondly, we should strive to live by Rahab’s example of faith, as reinforced by those passages in Hebrews and James. Rahab acted on faith alone, proof that her faith was real and personal and a strong presence in her life. She had actions to accompany her faith, keeping her spiritually alive. One last point that I failed to mention elsewhere: each time Rahab is mentioned, it is also mentioned that she is a prostitute. I don’t think this is a coincidence. For me, this reinforces the fact that God can use anyone for his plan. If you are familiar with the New Testament then you probably know that Jesus spent much more time with outcasts like prostitutes and tax collectors rather than the religious scholars. Just as Jesus sought out social outcasts for his ministry, God’s all-encompassing plan included a prostitute playing a vital role. Her past sins did not matter. As she says herself, her heart had been melted, and she was transformed. Oh, and did I mention that Rahab’s name can be found in the Matthew 1 genealogy of Jesus? If a prostitute can be part of God’s plan, then surely you and I can, too.