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The harlot, Rahab, is an ancestor of Jesus Christ and her name is listed in Hebrews 11 as an example of faith and belief in a forgiving and merciful God.
After the Israelites left Egypt and Moses had died, Joshua led Israel on the final part of their journey to the Promised Land. As the multitude was approaching Jericho, a heavily fortified pagan city, Joshua sent spies to ascertain the strength of the fortifications. It was a very dangerous assignment.
The whole city had already heard the news about the miraculous events and conquests of the wandering nation of Israel, yet Rahab was the only person in Jericho who believed it. Halley’s Bible Handbook suggests she may have been a temple prostitute, which in Canaanite eyes was a respectable line of work (2000, p. 190), but she had obviously come to have faith in the one true God.
Rahab demonstrated her faith and resolve in Israel’s God to the point of risking her own life to hide the spies from the soldiers of Jericho. “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace” (Hebrews 11:31).
When the king of Jericho heard that spies from Israel had entered his city, he immediately sent soldiers to Rahab's house. Word got to Rahab that the king's men were coming and she hid the spies under the drying flax on her rooftop.
"I know that the Lord has given you the land…and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For 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 the two kings of the Amorites…Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed…for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath" (Joshua 2:9-11).
When God gave Jericho into Israel's hands by flattening its walls, Rahab's house was left standing. Rahab and her family were delivered, and they made their home with Israel from that day forward.
As Christians we are all to grow in obedience to God’s way of life, and we should note that Rahab's response was not perfect. She lied to protect the spies' whereabouts. Some have used this to excuse lying when, in their determination, it's for a good cause. However, God makes it clear lying is never acceptable (Leviticus 19:11; Proverbs 12:22). Rahab is commended for her faith in Hebrews 11:31, not her lying. Over time, she would have learned the laws of God and come to serve Him more completely.
Being a Canaanite and a former prostitute, Rahab must have convincingly changed her life because she married Salmon, the son of Judah's tribal leader, and their son Boaz was a faithful man of God, who married Ruth (of the book of Ruth). Their son Obed was the father of Jesse, the father of King David from whom would descend the Savior of all mankind, Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5-6 and 15-16; Ruth 4:21-22; 1 Chronicles 2:10-15).
The Good News magazine (Mar-Apr 2002)