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Rahab: The Woman We All Need to Know

Updated
Nov 11, 2023 11:32 PM
Tags
Character StudyRahabWomenSexual ImoralityJoshuaFaith
Bible References
Joshua 2; 6; Matthew 1:5; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25
Status
Done
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Back in 2022 I kicked off the Women of God Series on my YouTube channel because I wanted to focus on what the Bible says about women. Leading up to its inception, I witnessed the rise of people like Kevin Samuels and started to see the influence of the manosphere and red pill community. Even before these movements, I would hear Christian men attribute tradition that had nothing to do with the Bible to the Bible. And as the law of physics would have it, there was an equal but opposite reaction in extreme feminism. Even though I wasn’t seeking out these conversations they kept finding me. Whether it was someone leaving a rant on some of my videos, or people I knew sharing their opinions on Facebook, or YouTube recommending the content (just the thumbnail and title is enough).

I found myself wanting to not think about the topic at all—which makes it hard to do a series on what it means to be a woman of God! Back in June or July, I did a poll on my YouTube channel and the Woman of God series was the standout for what the people want. So, I started praying. It took a while—maybe due to my own scatterbrained-ness and lack of consistency—but God brought me to Rahab. Rahab is the perfect woman for any of us to be studying

Introduction

When you read the name Rahab, what’s the first word that comes to your mind? it prostitute? If you said yes, you aren’t alone; before I started this study, I also would say prostitute. I’m pretty sure in church she’s been referred to as “Rahab, the prostitute.” It’s interesting to me, though, that of all the things she could be remembered for that’s what we have collectively chosen. People remember David for being a king or a man after God’s heart; not the adulterous murderer. Rahab protected and saved the spies of Israel, allowing them to return safely to the camp and divulge information that would help them conquer the city. She’s a hero and a savior. Rahab earned life and freedom for her whole family with her faith. She is a rock. Rahab was the mother of Boaz, an ancestor to David, and an ancestor to the Messiah, Himself. She is in the lineage of Christ! Rahab was a prostitute living in the city of Jericho.

The Name of Rahab

Did you there are two different Rahab’s in the Bible? If you use the search feature on a digital Bible, you’ll find verses like Job 26:12 which is clearly not about the Rahab we read about in Joshua:

By his power he stirred the sea, and by his understanding he crushed Rahab. 📚 Job 26:12 CSB

I was intrigued, so I had to dig deeper. The first thing I discovered is that its not actually the same name. English translations are writing the same letters for two distinct Hebrew words: רַהַב and רָחָב. The one used for Rahab in Joshua (רָחָב) is closer to Rachav in terms of pronunciation. The one used in Job (רַהַב) would be pronounced Rahav.

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Interestingly, the Rahab spoken of in Job, Psalms, and Isaiah is some sort of water demon. I’m likely going to do a study on this soon. Even though I did studies on the passages that contain reference on this Rahab, I don’t think I paid it any attention then (or I forgot what I learned 😔).

Rahab (רָחָב) means wide.

Was She Really A Prostitute?

One thing I always ask myself when reading the Bible is does it say what I think it says. Rahab is called a harlot in most older translations or a prostitute in newer translations, but harlot was a word used for idolatry too. Israel is called a harlot in Isaiah 1:21. Context is key. For instance, in Genesis 34:31, Jacob’s sons ask if they should treat their sister as a harlot; this question comes after she has been raped so we know they’re not using the term in a metaphorical context. In Jeremiah 3:1 on the other hand, God introduces the concept of a harlot before stating that Israel is playing the part of the harlot by worshiping other gods.

Joshua is a little more difficult when talking about Rahab. There is no obvious sexual references but there aren’t any obvious idolatry references either. The general consensus is that Rahab really was a harlot, but that still leaves the question is a harlot a prostitute?

In Jeremiah 3:1, the description of a harlot is simply sexual immorality. In this instance a woman has left her husband, gone to another man, then come back to her husband. This is more like adultery than prostitution. In contrast, Judah believes Tamar to be a harlot in Genesis 38 so he propositions her for sex and offers payment—what we would define as prostitution. Which of these versions of harlotry applied to Rahab?

Based on the text, I would assume that Rahab did not have a husband. I make this assumption because she ends up marrying an Israelite and birthing the line that includes Boaz, David, and Messiah. In addition, when she is introduced, we are told that the men went to “the house of a harlot.” The Jeremiah 3:1 harlot isn’t taking in random men but a specific man that is not her husband, whereas the Genesis 38 harlot is engaging with strangers (well perceived strangers if you want to be specific).

So, to answer the question: probably.

The Beauty of Rahab

The red pill and manosphere communities often talk about body count. Purity culture talks about virginity and purity. Christian women get an earful of content that tells them their value is in their sexual purity. There are many stories of women—Christian or otherwise—who experience of crisis of worth after sexual assault or from believing they’ve had too many partners. However, to quote Aretha Franklin, a rose is still a rose and Rahab’s story illustrates that beautifully.

Rahab was a prostitute. So we know she wasn’t a virgin. She had a house, which meant she probably did well at her occupation. Not only was this a time in which is wasn’t normal for women to own property, but I doubt she would have been permitted to work as a prostitute in her family’s house. That means she either had a high body count or some really wealthy clients. Rahab was exactly the type of woman these communities lambast. Yet God used Rahab to bring victory to Israel and birth its kings. God saw an innate value in someone the world had no respect for.

Genealogy & Progeny

Not much is known about who Rahab’s forefathers were; all we know is that she was a Canaanite (or at least people assume she was a Canaanite since she lived in Jericho). The more interesting part of Rahab’s lineage is her progeny. Rahab is the mother of Boaz and thus the mother-in-law of Ruth. David, Solomon, and the entire line of Judah’s king—including the Messiah—are direct descendants of Rahab. She is one of four (Tamar, Ruth, and Bathsheba being the other three) women listed in the genealogy of Christ and one of the few non-Israelites (male or female) to be spoken highly of in scriptures.

The Story of Rahab

Joshua 2; 6 is where the bulk of information about Rahab is found; I covered these verses in

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Joshua 6: The Battle of Jericho
. Essentially, when Joshua sends spies into Jericho to prepare for battle, they end up at the home of Rahab. People saw them enter the house and word got back to the king of Jericho that Rahab was harboring Israelite spies. When the king presses Rahab for their whereabouts, she lies to through him off their trail. Rahab is able to help the men to escape and confesses that she helped them because she knows their God has given them the city. Similar to Ruth, Rahab recognizes YHWH as the true God and asks to be delivered from the fate of Jericho. Rahab asks the spies to spare her and her family during the siege, to which they oblige. We are not given great detail about Rahab’s life after the siege but we know she joined the Israelites and married one of them, hence her being the mother of Boaz.

References & Footnotes

  1. Strongs H7294. רַהַב”. Blue Letter Bible; visited November 2023
  2. Strongs H7343. רָחָב”. Blue Letter Bible; visited November 2023

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