Rahab’s story is found in Joshua 2:1-24, 6:20-25, but she is also mentioned in Heb.11:31 as one of the heroes of the faith, and in James 2 and Matthew 1. She is usually referred to as Rahab the prostitute, which is a strange title. If her main identifying characteristic was her sex trade, how did she end up on the Hebrews list of faith?
Rahab lived in Jericho, a fortified city at the entrance to the land that God had promised to the Isrealites. Joshua sent spies to check out the city and the people. Rahab’s house was built in the city walls. It would probably have been an inn, also offering Rahab’s other services. Because it was on the edge of the city, people would ask less questions, so it seemed a good place to stay.
In The Lord of the Rings books, Frodo and his companions set off for Rivendell and stay at the Inn of the Prancing Pony in Bree. They are supposed to be inconspicuous, but fail miserably. It is only through the intervention of Strider that they are not murdered in their beds. Joshua’s spies weren’t any better. The authorities soon knew there were spies in the city and came looking for them.
Rahab hid the spies under the rushes on her roof, let them down the city wall from her window, and told them where to hide and for how long. The report the spies brought back to Joshua was based entirely on what Rahab had told them.
This is a strange story: Rahab lied and betrayed her own people in a time of war. But it’s the story of God making a place for his people. Unlike the city, she recognises the God of Israel and takes the opportunity to work for him. God doesn’t let her job stand in the way of her willingness. James uses her as an example of the faith demonstrated by works (James 2:25)
In helping the spies Rahab wasn’t going to an easy life: she and her family had to stay outside the camp because they were pagans. But Matthew’s genealogy shows she did come into the people of God and was an ancestor of David and Jesus (Matt.1:5).
She was sure of what she could not see (Hebrews 1:1).
Her past didn’t determine her future.
[adapted from a sermon by John Rogers at Pantygwydr Baptist Church. Pictures from Wikimedia]
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk