Rahab’s Role in Our Redemption

Kelly Ladd Bishop


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The story of Jericho is a gruesome one. When the Israelites took the city they destroyed the inhabitants, men, women, children, and animals, and burned it all. Sin, destruction, and loss of life abounds.

But in the midst of the chaos, destruction, and calamity, the story of Jesus is there – in Rahab.

Before the destruction of Jericho, in Joshua 2 we are introduced to this wise and faithful woman. She seems like an unlikely candidate to take center stage in God’s narrative, yet there she is – a sex worker in a pagan city, living in the city wall, likely the equivalent of a modern slum.

Joshua sends spies to check out the city, and they end up in Rahab’s home.

In her wisdom and fear of the Lord, she hides the Israelite spies, saving them from their pursuers, and guarding their lives. Then she approaches them boldly saying,

I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 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 Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, 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.

Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.” (Jos 2:9-13 NIV)

They made an oath promising that she and her family would be saved.

She is instructed to hang a red cord in her window so that they could be located during the invasion. When the time came, the Israelites followed God’s instruction, and marched around the city once a day for six days.

On the seventh day they marched seven times around the city, finally blowing trumpets and yelling, as the city wall crumbled to the ground… except for the part of the wall containing Rahab’s house, where she and her family waited faithfully (Joshua 6).

Rahab and her family were spared. Through her wisdom, her understanding of God, and her confession of faith in “God in heaven above and on the earth below,” they are saved. Through these events, God artfully paints a picture for us of his greater plan.

Here, at the walls of Jericho, we see the curse of Genesis 3 unraveling.

While Adam and Eve fell under the curse, and sin took hold, Rahab is lifted out of the ashes of Jericho, and held up by God as a symbol of his grace. God’s choosing of Rahab shows us the fullness of his redemption and restoration.

Rahab is a picture of all that is to be restored.

She is an outsider, a pagan, a prostitute, and a woman.  All barriers are to be broken down, ethnic, social, and gender:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28 NIV).

Another story comes out of Jericho as well – the story of Achan.

In Joshua 7 we read that Achan was an Israelite from the tribe of Judah, and he disobeyed God. He took things from Jericho during the siege, things that were devoted to destruction. He became his own god, making his own decision, deciding that what he wanted was more desirable than God.

  • Achan was a man and an Israelite, but his turning from God brought on him the same fate as the inhabitants of Jericho. Achan and his family were destroyed.
  • Rahab was a woman and a pagan, and her turning to God brought on her salvation and safety among God’s people. Rahab and her family were saved.

When we turn to the gospels we see Rahab again, in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

The mother of Boaz [1] who married Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David – there in the blood line of Jesus is Rahab. She is not only saved, but made worthy of the family line of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1).

God chose a pagan woman, a prostitute, rejected, unclean; he chose this woman to show us the fullness of his redemptive plan. He chose this woman to show us his grace. He chose this WOMAN to show us Jesus.

In a world darkened by sin, where terrorists murder, wars rage, relationships crumble, the helpless are exploited, and women and girls absorb an unequal amount of despair and mistreatment – in the Jericho that surrounds us…

We deserve the story of Achan, but we are promised the story of Rahab.

We hold out hope for the restoration work that God is doing. As the Church, we strive to live out that work, to breathe it, to show it to the world. We should be the first to break down ethnic, social, and gender barriers. As we invite all people, both men and women, into the fullness of God’s ministry –

Rahab’s story echoes through time, and glimpses of God’s restoration break through.



[1] Biblical scholars note that genealogies of the time often skipped generations. In this case, it appears that Rahab was more likely a grandmother or great-grandmother of Boaz. Nevertheless, Rahab was definitely an ancestor of David. See Telescoped Genealogies: Was Rahab the Mother of Boaz? for more information.

For more on Rahab see this post.

Kelly Ladd Bishop

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  • I love this! Really lovely and well articulated. I was recently reading Matthew and got really interested in the five women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus, and almost the next day, the Junia Project announced the Advent meditation on those five women. It was most serendipitous.

    I have heard that the word often translated “harlot” in reference to Rahab may also be translated as “innkeeper.” Do you know anything about that?

    • So glad you liked the series! I have read the “innkeeper” was used by Josephus, but haven’t been able to find much else on it. Apparently the Hebrew is pretty clear that she was a prostitute – and it seems that she also ran a boarding house or inn of sorts. Here is one scholar who thinks innkeeper is possible, but he’s the only one I’ve found so far! http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/rahab-the-harlot/

      • thanks for this!

        when I was very small, I asked my mother what a harlot was and she told me it was “a woman who pretended to be different men’s wife.” I went on for several years thinking Rahab was a professional fugitive-hider, who pretended fugitives were part of her household for a fee.

    • Interesting! My understanding is that everywhere else the word is used in the Old Testament it means harlot or whore. It is used at least 19 times, most often meaning a women dedicated to prostitution for pagan worship. The prophets warn against associating with these women or their wages.

  • I love how God is always pointing us towards his bigger plan of redemption – for the whole world!

  • Yes thank you Kelly, Rehab brings a lot of surprise and comfort to a lot of women out here and just shows the love and graciousness of our wonderful God and Father, Bless you

  • Kelly, I appreciated the tie-in to the overturning of the curse as I hadn’t made that connection before. Great post!

  • Hey Kelly,

    I love the way you’ve made it so clear that Achan is about getting what we deserve, but Rahab is about getting something infinitely better than we could ever imagine! How awesome.

    And God has done great things.

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