Most of us have heard the story of Joshua and his army marching around the city of Jericho for seven days. At God’s command on the seventh day, the men blew their trumpets and shouted. The high walls crumpled to the ground, leaving Jericho’s population defenseless. They were now easy prey for the Israelites. All but one clan: Rahab and her relatives.

Oh, did I mention that Rahab was a prostitute?

Hiding Spies

When Joshua took over from Moses as leader of the Israelites, he sent two spies into Jericho, a heavily fortified enemy city. The spies stayed in the house of a prostitute named Rahab, built into the city wall. We mustn’t assume that the soldiers sought her company. Most likely they hid in Rahab’s inn to avoid suspicion, as the citizens of Jericho probably thought nothing of seeing strangers come and go at all hours to her establishment. 

Further, we mustn’t assume that this was Rahab’s chosen vocation. Unmarried women in that ancient society had no career options. Perhaps she was a victim, like many women today. With lavish love and mercy, God reached out to Rahab. 

The Israelite spies told Rahab their mission. She explained how the Israelites’ reputation for conquering the lands God had promised them preceded them. “I know that the Lord has given Israel this land. Everyone shakes with fear because of you” (Joshua 2:9 Contemporary English Version). She hid the spies under stacks of flax on her roof, and then asked them to protect her and her family when they overtook the city. 

When the king of Jericho heard that Israelite men had been spotted going into Rahab’s house, he demanded that Rahab turn the men over. Rahab lied and sent the king’s men on their way. Upon hearing the spies’ story, Joshua gave orders to his soldiers to spare Rahab’s clan on the day they conquered Jericho. In a dramatic rescue operation, the Israelite soldiers took this woman’s family into their tribe, and Rahab became a Jew. She married Salmon, who became the great-great-great- … (15 times over) grandfather of Jesus. 

God used a former prostitute to help His chosen people. He saw in Rahab a brave heart and a strong soul. He wiped away her past labels and allowed her the honour of being in the same family tree as His Son (see Hebrews 11:31). 

How Deep Is God’s Grace?

Many of us have a dark past, shameful things we’ve done or former lifestyles we don’t like to talk about. When we realized we were sinners and turned to Jesus for forgiveness, God wiped away the labels of our past. He erased every sin. Took us into His family. Made us new people (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). 

But sometimes, when we recall our past, we feel unworthy to serve God and share His good news with others. Thoughts like, Who do you think you are? and You’re not worthy to call yourself a Christian rattle our confidence. Our hearts sink with condemnation. 

That’s when we need to remember Rahab. 

Although she started out as an immoral woman, we see that she believed in the one true God to save and keep her. She bravely risked her own life to shield the Israelite spies. Faith in God changed her heart and entire life from dark to light. Rahab’s story reminds us that God’s grace—His willingness to forgive us and let us start over—is deeper than any wrongdoing in our past. Those old accusing labels don’t apply now. Like Rahab, we are part of God’s family. 

He always allows us to turn the page on our past. And by His love, He sets us free.

All About Rahab

Read Joshua 2 and 6:17, 22-23; Matthew 1:5-6; Hebrews 11:31.

  • Who: A prostitute who hid Israelite spies in exchange for her family’s safety
  • When: About 1400 BC
  • Where: Jordan, on the West Bank of the Jordan River

Illustration: Woodcut by Gustave Doré (1832-1883), courtesy of The Doré Bible Gallery

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On Monday, March 11, 2024, Cathy Stevens said:

Rahab was a prostitute used here for political or military service, not just for fun or money.

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