The story of Rahab in the Bible is filled with excitement and hope. It’s one of those feel good stories in the Scriptures.
In this post we will look at the life story of Rahab the harlot who lived in Jericho. We will explore her characteristics and the lessons we can learn from the little we know about her life.
Where is the story of Rahab in the Bible
The story of Rahab is found in the book of Joshua in the Old Testament. These are the Bible verses that tell her story:
- Joshua 2:1–24
- Joshua 6:2–5
- Joshua 6:20–25
Summary of the story of Rahab in the Bible
The story of Rahab and the spies from Israel is one of the most popular in the Bible.
She is popularly known as the prostitute who helped the Israelite spies.
When the Israelites were finally ready to occupy the land which had been promised for more than 400 years, God brought them to the city of Jericho.
At that time, Moses had died and Joshua was now in charge. He sent men to spy out the land.
When they went into Jericho they ended up at Rahab’s home and business place where she frequently hosted guests and visitors.
News got around to the King of Jericho that there were spies in the land and there was a threat of war.
Soldiers came to Rahab’s house to ask about the Israelite spies but she hid them on her roof and lied to the soldiers.
She told them that the spies had been there but that they had left.
This sent the soldiers in a different direction to search.
Rahab told the spies that she had heard about the Israelites and how God had done great things for them.
She was confident that their God was going to defeat Jericho too. So begged them to save her, her parents and siblings in return for the protection she provided to them.
The spies agreed. They told her to tie a scarlet thread on her window so that the Israelite warriors would not attack her home during the war.
When Jericho was destroyed, Rahab and her family were saved.
FAQs about the story of Rahab in the Bible
Sometimes the more details we have about a character, the more we can truly appreciate their journey and what they have to offer. Here are three details to keep in mind about her life.
How many times is Rahab mentioned in the Bible
Rahab, as a character, is mentioned four times in the Bible.
Along with her important role in the book of Joshua, she is mentioned three times in the New Testament:
- Matthew 1:5
- Hebrews 11:31
- James 2:25
Who did Rahab marry?
Rahab married one of the two spies she protected. Rahab’s husband was Salmon.
He was a prince in the tribe of Judah. Rahab married into royalty in Israel.
Who are the descendants of Rahab?
Rahab gave birth to Boaz. It is interesting that Boaz married Ruth who was also a woman with a pagan background but who came to accept the Israelite God.
Boaz and Ruth had Jesse who became the father of King David. It is through the line of David that Jesus is born.
What does the name Rahab mean?
Rahab’s name came from the Egyptian God Ra. It means insolence or fierceness.
Characteristics of Rahab in the Bible
There are quite a few outstanding qualities of Rahab. I’m glad we know her name. Let’s take a closer look at her.
Rahab was a woman of means
The most well-known detail about Rahab is that she was a prostitute.
But if you look closer at her life you will see that she was more than that.
Rahab was a successful business woman. She had something like a motel it seems.
Plus, she had a linen business. When she hid the spies on her roof, she put them under flax.
Flax was used to make fabric. Rahab had a business similar to Lydia in the New Testament.
Rahab clearly had no husband. She had no covering in a society where women largely depended on the men to provide for them.
We know that Rahab had a family but she took care of herself, all by herself.
By today’s standards, Rahab would be considered an independent woman.
A girl boss if you please.
Rahab was extremely hospitable
In Bible times, much like some cultures today, being caring towards strangers was very important.
But even more important is making sure no harm comes to the guests in your house.
Protection was the responsibility of the host.
Do you remember that very horrifying Bible story of the man who was willing to give up his daughters to be abused rather than allow his visitors to suffer that fate?
Well, Rahab’s hospitality still topped that.
Rahab was willing to give up her own life to hide her visitors.
More on that later.
Rahab believed in the God of heaven
Rahab was raised as a pagan. But due to her line of work she heard of
the Red Sea event and other wars that God fought for the Israelites.
Because Rahab kept an inn, travelers passed through often so she was in a position to hear many stories from different perspectives.
Her faith in the God of heaven was kindled.
No doubt she heard enough to determine the truth of the Israelites’ God.
Rahab more than likely worshipped many different gods who were believed to be in charge of different things.
The earth. The sea. The sky. Fertility. And the list goes on.
But when she came to believe in the God of heaven, she acknowledges Him as the God above all others gods and in charge every single thing
“…for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” (Joshua 2:11)
Rahab’s confession gives us a window into her understanding of how all powerful God was.
She believed that He could save her life, no matter how difficult things looked.
Rahab’s faith was imperfect
Although she believed, there was a little problem.
Rahab’s problem was that her faith was built on fear.
“When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you…” (Jericho 2:11)
But still, here again is an unlikely faith like that of Naaman.
Her faith wasn’t perfect but it was enough to get God’s attention.
Rahab believed without seeing. She had more faith than even many of the Israelites who were eyewitnesses to some of the events she mentioned.
She believed so much that she put her very life on it.
What’s the measure of your faith?
Rahab had a divine appointment because of her faith
Once God knows your heart, He will use your faith.
God brought the spies to Rahab because He knew the state of her faith. He knew Rahab would give them what they needed to make His will come to pass.
By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. (Hebrews 11:31)
It was providence and it was destiny just because of her faith.
Her faith triggered a divine appointment. And when that appointment came to fulfillment, she was ready to take action.
And her life was saved in the process.
God will do the same for you if you’re ready to really trust Him.
Rahab had courageous faith
Rahab’s faith was imperfect but it was courageous.
When she chose to lie and hide the spies, she could have been killed for treason but she hid the spies anyway.
She had betrayed her country and this was punishable by death.
Her allegiance was with the God of heaven whom she hardly knew but she knew enough about Him to believe He was worth the risk to her life.
Rahab is one of two women listed in the hall of faith next to Sarah who was the wife of the father of faith.
Her faith wasn’t whimpy.
It was bold and daring.
LEARN MORE: Women of faith in the Bible: Characteristics and lessons
Rahab desired better things for herself and her family
Rahab was a wise woman. She saw the state of affairs in Jericho.
And because of her faith, God allowed her to get the inside scoop on the future of Jericho.
Jericho was on the brink of destruction so technically, there was no future.
Yes, she was a prostitute but even prostitutes have smarts and dreams too.
Rahab realized that this was her opportunity to leave that life behind.
She was willing to lie and risk her life to get out of the life she was living.
She asked the spies to swear that she and her family would be saved.
In those days, asking someone to make an oath was serious business.
But this was her chance to start over. This was her chance for a fresh start.
God gave her the better she was seeking.
Not only was her entire family saved, but Rahab married a prince.
Talk about a Hollywood love story.
Rahab was obedient
Rahab received specific instructions from the spies.
They told her to tie a red cord on her window.
That cord would tell the Israelite soldiers that those living in that house should not be attacked.
The spies warned her to ensure that she gathered her family in her house and tie that red cord in a visible place.
Otherwise, both she and her family would be killed.
Rahab listened to these instructions and followed them.
It was in her best interest if she was going to receive the things she desired by faith.
Rahab acted on her faith by following instructions to tie the scarlet cord on her window.
Although she had faith, if she did not obey, her life would have been lost.
Action needed to follow faith.
Faith and obedience go hand in hand.
If you are expecting God to do something for you, He is expecting you to do something in regards to his instructions.
God will work in your life as far as you will listen to his voice and surrender to His will.
James 2:25 tells us that Rahab’s faith was followed by actions.
Is there something God has been calling you to obey, to take action on?
Your desires and progress are wrapped up in your obedience to that call.
Lives are waiting to be saved as a result of your obedience.
LEARN MORE: Women of faith in the Bible: Characteristics and lessons
Lessons from the story of Rahab in the Bible
What can we learn from Rahab’s story? Too many things to talk about in this post. But here are a few lessons to think about.
Lesson #1 – God accepts imperfect faith
Like so many other Bible characters, like the Woman with the issue of blood for example, Rahab’s faith pleased God although it was imperfect.
When it comes to faith, God is looking for progress, not perfection.
No matter where you are with your level of faith, if you decide to flex that tiny muscle, God will honor that.
But if you never ever ever make use of the little faith you have, God has nothing to work with.
What have you been afraid to trust God for?
Lesson #2 – God gives good gifts regardless of passed sin
Sometimes we are inclined to think that God punishes us for our sins in such a way that our success in this life will never become a reality.
That’s far from the truth.
Do we often have to face the consequences of our sins?
But that’s the law of life.
That has nothing to do with God’s judgment.
But what is true is that God is always ready to lavish good things on us.
The question is: are we doing our part to set ourselves up to receive it?
Rahab’s faith and obedience and her desperate desire for better opened the door for her.
Rahab’s reputation did not prevent God from blessing her with good things.
In the story of the prodigal son, the father restores the son completely.
This happens to Rahab too. Her husband was a prince. Despite her past, she became a princess. A woman of influence.
Someone who young girls would admire. Someone they would look to for an example and for advice.
Talk about a Richard Gere and Julia Roberts moment in the Bible (if you know the movie Pretty Woman).
Lesson #3 – God is interested in saving anyone who believes in Him
Over and over in the New Testament we see Jesus calling people to believe.
More than anything, that’s what God really wants from us.
For us to believe and act on that belief.
But we see God honoring faith in the Old Testament too.
Rahab believed just from hearing stories. God saw her heart.
It was bursting with this brand new experience. Rahab risked her life for this new faith she found.
And God saved her.
Do you believe?
God is ready to take you from where you are and pour some grace and salvation all over you.
Lesson #4 – God can reach anyone no matter where they are
Jericho was the worst city in Canaan yet faith was found there.
Rahab is perhaps the very last person whom anyone would expect to become a believer.
But God has his way of reaching people, especially those who are ripe and ready to receive him.
Her primary business did not earn her the respect and admiration of the other women in town.
But it very much brought her the stories of the Israelite God. And the seed of faith was planted.
Right there, in her life of sin God was able to reach her.
God does not need human ingenuity to save his people.
He can do it himself.
But it would be nice for him to have your help with all your wonderful gifts and talents.
Lesson #5 – God is not concerned with your reputation
When Rahab came to faith, God fulfilled her desire for her life to be saved.
Regardless of the type of life she lived before, God showered her with good things.
God did not withhold anything from her because of her reputation
God is just not into that. His restoration is complete. His expression of love is unconditional.
Even in the New Testament Rahab is still called the harlot by the Bible writers.
But the faith she showed qualified her to be named among the giants of faithful men in the Bible. Among the likes of Abraham and Joseph.
What are the odds that God has allowed her name to appear here?
God is neither afraid nor ashamed of being associated with the less desirables of society.
Your reputation does not matter to him. What’s His interest?
Your heart. Your faith.
So in case you’re thinking God is thinking about what you did yesterday, last night, or even this morning, perish the thought.
He’s so over all that already. He’s that into you that He will forget it as soon as you repent.
Lesson #6 – God will use anyone who makes themselves available
God is always on the mission of saving souls and fulfilling his promises to his people on the earth.
And so He’s always looking for willing people.
Rahab was one of those people. She was available.
Regardless of the measure of her faith. Regardless of her morality. Regardless of her reputation. God used her.
Through Rahab the spies’ faith and confidence was boosted.
When they heard of the fear and paranoia in Jericho they were affirmed in their faith that God would indeed defeat the city for them.
They just needed to show up and do their part.
Rahab’s story of salvation and deliverance was barely birthed.
But she was showing up to be used by God anyways.
How about you? Are you available? If not, what’s standing in your way?
Is it your insecurity about what people think of you? Is it your hang ups with your past? Is it the negative voices in your head?
Know this: God is not concerned with all that.
- Other women of faith you might like:
- Mary the Mother of Jesus
- The Widow of Zarephath
- The Canaanite Woman
Conclusion to lessons from the story of Rahab in the Bible
This was such a juicy study about Rahab! I hope you gave been encouraged and empowered.
Rahab stands out as a faith giant, not because she was perfect but because she used the little she had to do great things.
Her life only got better from there on. The Rahab we meet in the book of Joshua is not the same Rahab who shows up in other places in Scripture.
God wants to do in your life what He did for Rahab.
How do you feel about that?
Rahab Bible study
Need to extend your study on Rahab? Here is a Rahab Bible study to try.