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Women in the Lineage of Christ: RAHAB

We live in an age where word travels fast. Within nanoseconds, you can tell people on the other side of the world what you had for breakfast, or the score of the soccer game, or post a picture of what your kids wore for picture day. Not that they particularly care about these details, but it’s possible to do it in 2022. Mind-blowing - this rapid transfer of information!

In the ancient world, word traveled, well … muuuuch slower. Sans internet, radio waves, television, or the printing press, it was all about word of mouth. And word traveled about as fast as legs could walk – human, camel, donkey, or otherwise. As the stories were passed from city to city and person to person, across rivers and deserts and city walls, I can imagine the ripple effect they could have. If you lived in this era and you heard something suspicious, there was no way to fact-check, no to cut/paste the rumor into. Do you trust your gut to believe or reject the stories? What if the fallout could be catastrophic, ending your own life?

When I read Joshua 1-2, I can picture groups of people talking in the bustling streets of the pagan city of Jericho, referred to in Deuteronomy 34:5 as the “city of palm trees,” a city where the worship of many gods, child sacrifice, incest, adultery, and prostitution was commonplace. In my mind’s eye…


Small groups have formed in the dusty streets – discussing news from far-off travelers about recent miraculous events. Voices are casual at first, and then as more details are shared, the pitch of the voices rises, hands start gesturing, and people talk over each other. What was at first just curiosity morphs into undertones of concern and then gives way to full-blown fear. Doubt. Questioning. Wait, what? Did that really happen? The God of Israel dried up the water of the Red Sea? Gave victory to the Israelites over the powerful Amorites? Has He promised His people OUR land…the land we currently are standing on? Who is this God anyway? Can our gods save us? As quickly as that question forms, the sinking feeling in their hearts gives away the answer…

Rahab avoids eye contact with people, especially men, as she briskly walks through the streets. Not included in their circles, but hearing enough fragments of conversations to feel an uptick in her pulse and pace – feet accelerating as if of their own volition. She gathers her skirts around her and tries to balance the provisions she was carrying from the market, resisting the urge to sprint back fully to her home. She reaches her door and scrambles inside, tossing aside her load and leaning hard against the back of the door, breathing heavily, heart pounding.

Then a knock.

It’s the middle of the day…who could it be at this hour? My usual, um, “visitors” don’t typically come until dark.

Rahab cracks the door a few inches and gasps at what she sees. These men walked right out of her worst-case-scenario daydream into real life and stood at her door – these men backed by a God she couldn’t even fathom. What now?


If you’ve read Joshua 2, you know the rest of the story. Rahab courageously provided shelter for the two spies from Shittim and even assisted them in a life-saving episode of “hide and seek.” Joshua had sent the spies to look over the land and return with intel to inform his battle plan. In her discernment, Rahab could see a few steps ahead – she knew how this was going to play out. Step 1: Spies come. Step 2: Army comes. Step 3: We all die. Time for some damage control!

In an instant, Rahab shifted her loyalty from her king to an unseen God when she hid the spies and crafted a plan for their safety. She brokered a deal to save her own life and the lives of her family members in the process. As she offered covering to the spies, she gained covering for herself. The spies instructed her to continue keeping their presence a secret, to tie a scarlet cord to her window, and to keep all of her family safely inside the house. If she stayed faithful to her word, her home and her family would be spared when the battle came.

We read about the fall of Jericho and Rahab’s deliverance in Joshua 6:25 “But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho – and she lives among the Israelites to this day.”(NIV) A new identity, a new people, a new God, a new future. And even a future that contained marriage and child-bearing - not the typical happy ending for most prostitutes! Rahab married Salmon and mothered Boaz, another main character in Jesus’ family tree (Matthew 1:5).

So how did this redemptive transformation take place? The story’s turning point was when Rahab beautifully and humbly admitted defeat before the battle even happened. I love her speech to the spies, “I know that the Lord has given you this land…our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2: 9, 11 (NIV), excerpts). It was at that moment that her allegiance changed. Did you catch the pronoun? She says, “YOUR God,” referring to the spies’ faith. But in the same breath, she acknowledged God’s sovereignty when she said, “…is GOD in heaven above and on the earth below”. In that one holy moment, the “your” became “my.” Your God is God in heaven and earth. That sentence renounces all the false gods she had spent her life fruitlessly praying to.

After this courageous act, Rahab’s life never looked the same again. She stayed hidden in her home until the Israelites arrived, then she was placed under the protection of the Israelite army and spent the rest of her life living among the Israelite people. Her name is mentioned not only among the lineage of Jesus in Matthew 1, but also in the “Faith Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11 (find her in verse 31) and as an example of righteousness in James 2:25.

Rahab and her family were saved by obedience and faith through a covenant. In many ways, it’s a shadow of the coming salvation coming through Jesus! The cord in the window represents a new identity, a new loyalty, and the color is a nod to the blood on the door of the Egyptian homes just before the Red Sea exodus. We can find symbolic meaning even in the location of her home – built on the wall – LITERALLY on the edge between bondage and freedom, death and life!

Through Rahab, God was keeping his promise to Joshua and the Israelites when he announced their soon-coming conquest in Joshua 1. She played a role in the “success story” that God wrote about His people occupying the land flowing with milk and honey.

But here’s the kicker: God could have used anyone in the massive city of Jericho, and he chose a prostitute. I’ll ask the question on everyone’s mind when they read this story: WHY HER?

Maybe proximity – her house was in the wall. It made for a quick getaway—the most practical of guesses.

Maybe her profession lent itself to her “cover” – men were seen going in and out of her house all the time, so it wouldn’t be too unusual or attention-getting when the spies arrived on the scene. Again, a reasonable guess.

But God is not just practical. He’s also loving. And He sees the heart. So maybe (and this is the possibility I love the most) God chose to use Rahab because He looked at her with mercy and compassion, seeing that in her deepest heart, she wanted a different life. Maybe in His omniscience, He knew she was on the brink of believing. Perhaps He knew that her heart would be tender towards Him. Fearful, too, yes, but also pliable. Willing. Open. Perhaps she had grown tired of the pagan practices that surrounded her – maybe she wanted a way out, and God was providing it.

And one more theory. Maybe, just maybe…God picked Rahab because He had chosen in advance to include all different types of people in the lineage of Jesus. Let’s not rush through the names when we read Matthew 1. Naming a harlot among kings and priests sends quite a message, and we don’t want to miss it. The message is this: God will use anyone willing to tie the cord in the window – anyone willing to make a new allegiance with counter-cultural courageous obedience and an open heart. And in return, He offers an entirely new life!

This Christmas season, let’s remember the courage and openness of Rahab. And let’s remember that God uses anyone to accomplish His purposes … for sinful humans are all He has to work with on this earth. Like a painter that can exquisitely craft a masterpiece from three primary colors - mixing and layering them to become something different than they once were - God can use imperfect, willing souls to live His story and bring His Kingdom on earth.

And if you’re like Rahab 1.0 – the version of her that didn’t quite believe yet, but longed for a new life, I lovingly suggest that you allow yourself to wonder, “What if it’s all true?” Pull at that thread and see what happens. It might just be a scarlet cord leading to a whole new life.

Tricia McCorkle is a Contributor for Humble Faith Ministries, Jesus follower, Southern California wife and mom of three who loves writing, teaching math, singing in choir, and making cakes. Tricia has a passion for all people to know God's love and feel included in circles of faith.

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