Who Was Rahab The Harlot?

Rahab and the Battle of Jericho

"I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you...as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the LORD, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father's house, and give me a true token, and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death." -- Joshua 2:8-13

Many might think of Rahab as a harlot; an immoral woman who used manipulation to escape the inevitable fate of the city. Josephus and other Biblical scholars describe her as an innkeeper; a smart business woman who used keen negotiating skills to secure her safety. Regardless of her profession, or her intentions, one fact remains: Rahab was a woman of incredible humility and faith. And they were the keys to her redemption.

Men who travelled through the city would find accommodations at Rahab's home. And people talked. Rahab had heard many stories about the God of Israel over the years. She knew about the parting of the Red Sea, and the destruction of the Egyptian army. It had been more than 40 years since God had led Israel out of Egypt, but the fear of the people was still fresh. Rahab also knew of the fates of King Sihon and King Og. All of Jericho was terrified of the Israelites and what they had done to those two kings and their nations on the other side of the Jordan River.

Rahab was perceptive. She was also a good listener, and yet her listening went deeper than her head. She heard with her heart what people had said about this God. And Rahab understood that He was like no other god in history.

Rahab knew the Israelites would soon cross the river to take over Jericho. But before the Israelites had even stepped foot in the Jordan, she had made her decision. In her heart, Rahab believed that God had the power to show mercy. And for that mercy, she was willing to betray the entire city in order to spare not only her own life, but the lives of her entire family.

Rahab saw two strangers from her window and quickly realized they were not of her people, and that they were in danger. She invited them into her home, which doubled as her place of business. When Rahab realized who they were, she hid them to protected them from the soldiers. In return, the men promised to save her household when the battle of Jericho ensued.

When the battle began, Rahab hung the scarlet cord from her window as the spies had instructed her to do; the indication that her home was to be spared. With nothing but time between her circumstances and her freedom, Rahab had to trust that the spies would do as they promised. Rahab had to trust that God, despite her pagan, Canaanite heritage, would look upon her with favor.

Rahab was sure that if God had the power to lay waste to the entire Egyptian empire in order to rescue His people from their bondage, certainly He had the power to uphold her section of the wall of Jericho long enough to rescue her family from destruction. By hanging the scarlet cord, Rahab declared her trust in the oath of two Hebrew spies, and sealed her deliverance from certain death.

With her acts faith and obedience, God provided protection for Rahab and her family. In addition, He offered a chance for a new life with His people -- and the privilege of being named in the genealogy of the promised Messiah.

Written by: Amy Miller