Her story found in Joshua 2:1-24; 6:22-25
Rahab’s story came at a time when the Israelites were waiting to go into their Promised Land. Joshua didn’t want to charge into the city without knowing what he and his army were in for so he sent two spies into the city of Jericho to gain inside information about the city. He did this discreetly so that no one could question his authority like he’d already seen before (read that story from Numbers 13:1-14:1-45). Rahab helped the Israelites by going against her kind and everything she knew. She had heard what had happened in the camp of Israel which encouraged her to place her faith in their God.
Think of it: Rahab – a prostitute – a woman at the bottom of the social hierarchy – most probably cast out of the hierarchy because of her profession is mentioned in the Bible! Immediately that should highlight that God had no favourites then, and as He is the same God yesterday, today and forever, He has none now. Everyone – men and women of all ages, from all classes, ethnicities, professions and socioeconomic backgrounds have been included in the Bible we read today. This should give us hope.
I think it’s good to acknowledge Rahab because this woman was someone who displayed an immeasurable amount of faith in Someone she had never personally witnessed or known for herself. But what made this woman trust in the God of the Israelites and deny her own gods? Let’s read Joshua 2:
“We are all afraid of you. (She said this as she spoke with the Israelite spies in her house). Everyone in the land is living in terror. For we have heard how the Lord made a dry path for you through the Rea Sea when you left Egypt. And we know what you did in Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River, whose people you completely destroyed. No wonder our hearts have melted in fear! No one has the courage to fight after hearing such things! For the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below. Joshua 2:9-11
Let’s back track – the Israelites had been a prosperous nation for years until Joseph’s death. They had multiplied drastically. Pharaoh, at the time, saw the size of the Israelites and was threatened by their number and their power and so he order the Egyptians to restrain the Israelites by making them slaves (see Exodus 1). After a long time as slaves, God, through Moses and Aaron, had released them (you can read the story in Exodus from chapters 1-14) and so the Israelites went into the “Wilderness” where they wondered there for 40 years (the rest of the story dips in and out of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy).
Rahab had most probably grown up hearing about the events that had taken place over the last 40 or so years. Now she was living during the time when the new generation of Israelites were on the horizon fiercely waiting to take her city. Perhaps, hearing such things made Rahab question her life. Maybe, she wanted to be a part of community that had a real God who displayed such power and these events made her realise how insignificant the gods Canaan served were. Whatever made her place her faith in God her faith was indeed grounded in Him.
Notice her declaration at the end of her conversation, for the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below. Even though God was a stranger to her, she was assured that He had accepted her heart, forgiven her past and recognised her heart for who she will be. Maybe Rahab had experienced a gentle acknowledgment that God had heard her inquiries in her heart to know more about the God of Israel. God looks at our hearts as he ‘doesn’t see things the way [we] see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” 1 Samuel 16.7.
In Matthew 1:5 we see that Rahab’s act of kindness towards the spies put her in the genealogy of Christ’s birth. Rahab was neither a Jew nor was her past a socially “acceptable” one. However, Jesus’ genealogy clearly highlights that all the people who were included, were sinners.
God sent his Son as Saviour of all people – Jews, Gentiles, men and women. No matter what the sins of the people, God’s plan was never thwarted. It continues to unfold. That plan includes you. Matthew 1:3-6 Footnote NLT
This is part of the Bible Focus series: acknowledging those “smaller” but significant people in the bible.