Rahab, Wife With a Past is part of an ongoing series, Portrait of a Godly Wife.
I love a good heroine. I gobble up books with strong female leads. I also love stories of redemption, second chances, and true love. In the book of Joshua, we get all of that in the story of Rahab, the wife with a past.
We meet Rahab in Joshua 2 as the children of Israel position themselves to take the Promised Land. Joshua sends spies into Jericho to see what they are up against. The king of Jericho gets word that Jewish spies are in the city and they are hiding in Rahab’s house.
Our heroine is introduced occupation first: “a prostitute whose name was Rahab” (Joshua 2:1). There are times I introduce myself title first. When at the hospital I am “your Occupational Therapist, Kelly.” At my daughter’s school I am “Claire’s mom, Kelly.” When I meet my husband’s coworkers, “David’s wife, Kelly.” I doubt Rahab extended a hand of greeting with, “Hi! I am the town prostitute, Rahab.” But, this is how the inspired Word of God wants us to know her. We need to know that she comes from a place of shame.
Despite her seedy occupation, Rahab believes in Israel’s God. She hides the spies on her roof and sends the king’s guards on a wild goose chase with a lie (read more on that here). Joshua 2:8-9 says, “Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men,’I know that the Lord has given you the land.'” She goes on to say, “The Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath” (Joshua 2:11). This prostitute in a pagan land declares her allegiance to the God of Israel.
The rest of the story unfolds like a good James Bond movie. Rahab, the Bond Girl, devises a plan for the spies to return to their camp safely. She hangs a red cord from her window so the Israelites can repay her for her bravery and kindness by sparing her family when the walls come down. After a seven day march and a trumpet concert, Jericho is delivered into the hands of God’s people (Joshua 6:1-21). All of Jericho is destroyed. Except the prostitute.
But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. Joshua 6:25
Rahab’s story continues on the pages of the New Testament. Somewhere along the way, Rahab became the wife of Salmon of the tribe of Judah. This prostitute-turned-wife gave birth to Boaz. Boaz married Ruth who gave birth to Obed. Obed fathered Jesse. Jesse fathered David. As in King David. Follow that line to it’s end and you see in Matthew 1:5, the prostitute whose name was Rahab is included in the genealogy of Christ.
One declaration of faith. One act of bravery. This woman with a past and no hope for the future enters the blood line of the Hope of the world.
In my imagination, Rahab struggled through the change in identity. The road from harlot to Mrs. Salmon must have been full of doubt and conflict. I am sure Salmon had to remind her time and again that she was made new, loved, a daughter of Israel’s God. She can now be introduced as Salmon’s wife, Rahab. Boaz’s mother, Rahab. King David’s great-great grandmother, Rahab.
The wife with a past became a mother of Redemption.
Is there a label you carry around? Is there a pain or a sin from your past that haunts you? You may not introduce yourself with the label, but you are painfully aware that it is there. Promiscuous, abused, liar, abandoned, thief, adulterer. It causes shame in the quiet place of your heart.
You, dear and beloved, can lay that label at the foot of the cross. You do not have to be known by the label that you wear with shame. With one declaration, you enter the blood line of Hope. You have a new name. You are a daughter of the King. You are redeemed.
Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
For a moving dramatization of the life of Rahab, read Unashamed: Rahab by Francine Rivers. I love to get lost in Bible stories for grown-ups. Few writers craft “biblical fiction” as well as Rivers.
Andrew Peterson’s The Ballad of Matthew’s Begats is one of our favorite Christmas books. The talented Peterson put Matthew 1 to music (who does that?!). My kids and I love to sing along with the song as we work our way from Abraham to Jesus. Our heroine, Rahab, also makes an appearance. Check out the song here:
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