Rahab was a Prostitute Who somehow Landed On Matthew’s List. What was He THINKING?

Rahab the Harlot was a Prostitute Who Changed History. Why on earth would Matthew have included HER in the Messiah’s genealogy? What’s HER story?

“Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there. (Joshua 2:1 NIV) [Rahab said] “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.” (Joshua 2:12-13 NIV)

Rahab

Rahab of Jericho is another very unusual entry in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus. Not only is she a non-Hebrew woman, she is also a prostitute. By most cultural standards, she didn’t exactly possess the desired pedigree a king would normally want to claim… And if you think about it, she wasn’t just a prostitute, she was a traitor who sold out her own city. She harbored spies! She negotiated her freedom with an invading army!
How on earth is she worthy of being mentioned in the Messiah’s lineage? Why would Matthew include HER? (Surely if he wanted this genealogy to be palatable to Jewish readers, he could have left her out, or even made up someone who better fit into the Hebrew paradigm. This is one of those details that speaks to the authenticity of the Bible. Matthew could have left it out or written around it, but he brazenly tells us that one of Jesus’ forebears was a lowly female who was an even lowlier prostitute who betrayed her city.)

Why did Rahab make this list? Well first of all, she believed God. She had heard what was going on with the Israelites and believed it was true. This option was open to everyone in the city, by the way, but only Rahab took it. And second, she asked for redemption not only for her life, but for the lives of her entire family. What do you think would have happened to her if the king of Jericho had discovered her deception? She put herself at risk to save them all. She traded her past, she traded her citizenship, and she traded her future to the God of the Israelites.

And what is the rest of Rahab’s story? She was the mother of Boaz, and the great-great grandmother of King David, arguably the greatest king in Israel’s history. Pretty impressive for a lowly prostitute… How on earth did that happen? What was her secret of success, and what does it have to do with us?? If you look in Hebrews 11, among the great heroes of the faith, where the list includes Abraham, Joseph, Moses, you find this: “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” (Hebrews 11:31 NIV)

Apparently EVERYBODY in Jericho had heard what God was doing, but no one else became obedient to Him because of it. Scripture infers that Jericho’s citizens (Jerichonians?) were killed because they were disobedient. They had the same information that Rahab had. In Joshua 2:9-11, she tells the spies as much when she says, “All who live in this country are melting in fear because of you”. But only Rahab had faith in God, and acted upon it at great risk to herself. As a result, we got Boaz, Obed, and Jesse. We got King David (yeah, of “David and Goliath”). And oh yeah, we got the PSALMS. And the Messiah. Ask yourself: if God could do that much through a prostitute in Jericho, what on earth could he do through YOU? Have some faith, and obey. Maybe someday they’ll write a book about you!

Rahab

Jericho was a fortress strong, with walls as tall as they were long!
So Joshua sent two men to seek and find if the defense was weak.
A Prostitute then took them in, a woman shamed and hurt by sin,
Who knew about this God they served. The city was a bit unnerved,
So Rahab risked her life to hide the spies she harbored there inside.
“Before you men complete your task, I have one thing that I must ask:
When Yahweh gives you victory, I ask that you remember me.”
So Rahab’s family was spared, since she believed and since she dared!
A lowly harlot came to be in Matthew’s genealogy,
A prostitute who cheated death because she had obedient faith.
Her faithfulness would somehow bring to Israel her greatest king,
And Rahab’s risk-despite her qualms- resulted in the book of Psalms.
It’s just the same with you and me. The Lord can alter history,
Perhaps just based on what you do. In Rahab’s life we know it’s true:
What book will someday come from YOU?

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Not Your Average Genealogy. Not Your Average Result

The Bible is the story of the coming Messiah, but average person in 7 BC  certainly didn’t see THAT Coming! Heck, even the above average Bible scholars missed it, too! I mentioned recently that Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus was distinctly different than most Hebrew scholars would have expected. Here’s why:

The fact that Matthew’s genealogy included women was highly irregular in a patriarchal society. Since their inclusion was such an unusual thing to do, we are going to take a closer look at those women to see why on earth Matthew flaunted convention to mention their names…

Tamar was the first woman mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy, and has perhaps the most unusual story, from Genesis 38. She was a Canaanite woman married to Judah’s son Er, who died prematurely (it says the Lord ended his life because he was evil). In that culture, it was incredibly important to honor God by having offspring to carry on the family name.

Your average family today would have a hard time relating to what came next: Judah instructed Er’s brother Onan to fulfill his duty by impregnating Tamar. He had sex with her but stopped short of impregnating her. Apparently God took this very seriously, because He ended Onan’s life then and there. Judah had a young (remaining) son Shelah, but he didn’t want to risk him, so he sent Tamar home, hoping she’d forget all this and go away.

The young widow Tamar– alone, traumatized, used, rejected by Judah and his sons, separated now from Yahweh’s people, and mistreated in the eyes of the law — could have slunk home and into obscurity. But she apparently wanted God’s blessing and favor so much that she’d do anything to get it.

average

So she veiled herself, posed as a prostitute, and got Judah to stop while traveling and have sex with her. Apparently it was not unusual for an average guy to take a “rest stop” while traveling. Because she was veiled, he did not recognize her, and she required him to leave his ring, his corded belt and his staff as payment. (I said it was an unusual story).
Normally for her to act as a prostitute would be punishable by death. But Tamar’s motives were pure, and in this circumstance she was acting to fulfill God’s law and honor God’s intent. Upon being found pregnant, she revealed her actions to Judah: “As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.” Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again. (Genesis 38:25-26 NIV)
Tamar was restored to honor, and her son Perez is listed among Jesus’ forefathers. Long story to say this: by including women at all, Matthew has broken more than just traditional genealogical lines. He has served notice that the coming Messiah is not necessarily what the Elders expected. His lineage not only involved a woman, but a NON HEBREW woman. It was not a random, pristine royal birth, but an incredibly complex series of events, woven into a human history replete with evil men and messy circumstances. God’s preparation for the coming one was amazing in its details and astounding in its intent. This Jesus, born in Bethlehem, did not have your “average” genealogy. But then, he was not your “average” guy.

Tamar

This story in the Bible has me just a bit confused;
It seems to be about a girl who’s sexually abused.
There’s cheating and betrayal, there is intrigue and there’s lying;
Men are out on business trips with hookers! Men are dying,
And this story’s in the BIBLE! The Messiah’s family tree!
The Bible says some stuff that I just didn’t expect to see!
It’s honest and it’s real, and I believe it must be true;
I wonder, when you read, what does the Bible say to YOU?

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Genealogy Matters: Ordinary People Who Resulted in an Extraordinary Genealogy

The whole genealogy thing is really popular right now. People are looking at their DNA to see where they came from, what their genetic makeup is. Apparently there are hidden clues for each of us that can help us understand who we are!
Well, if that’s so, think about this: have you ever wondered who Jesus of Nazareth really was? Where he came from? If you’ve ever read his teachings, you know he was something special, but I find it fascinating that his ancestry was preserved with such passion and detail. Look into it, and you will find Ordinary, Everyday People. And an Extraordinary Genealogy.

“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1, NIV) Mathew (also known as Levi, the former tax collector) begins his biography of Jesus in a logical Hebrew fashion: he recounts his genealogy. This makes sense because patriarchal lineage was incredibly important in Israel, and every schoolboy could tell you who his father’s father’s father was, going back through multiple generations. Patriarchal Lineage was important. “Who’s your Daddy?” was important in Jerusalem two thousand years ago…

genealogy tree

In Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, however, there is something very surprising. Read it and see if it stands out to you: “Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar… Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother (Bathsheba) had been Uriah’s wife…” (Matthew 1:3, 5-6 NIV)

What do Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and then Mary have in common? If you read Matthew 1, you’ll find they are the only women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus. It’s not an aberration that there were so few; what is remarkable is that a Jewish genealogy mentioned ANY. Luke’s genealogy doesn’t mention females. Hebrew family trees were usually only traced back through the fathers, so they did not normally include any women.

Matthew, whose gospel was written for a Jewish audience, presented Jesus as the Messiah who had been foretold in the Scriptures, as the promised King who would lead Israel… Yet he departs from Hebrew tradition in the opening stanza of his narrative. It might be instructive to look at their stories and ask, why does Matthew include females in a patriarchal list normally populated with only men? Why do these women stand out? Why are they mentioned specifically and centrally in the most amazing story within the best-selling book of all time? Why are these women, normally marginalized and relegated to the kitchen in ancient Middle Eastern culture, placed upon center stage in Matthew’s Jewish gospel?

As we enter the season of Advent, it is worthwhile to consider the circumstances around the birth of Jesus. Matthew’s unique introduction gives us something to ponder as we look at the arrival of the baby whose birth in an obscure place in a relatively primitive time has absolutely changed all of human history.

As you read the story of Jesus, never forget that God often chooses unlikely and little-known candidates to change history. Never forget that the next candidate might be YOU. Perhaps your influence in the unfolding drama of history is even now being scripted and will yet bear fruit beyond your wildest expectations. After all, it happened to Mary and Joseph. It could happen to you or one of your children’s children. Remember: you read it here first.

Genealogy Matters

The mystery of history is that the genealogy
Of Jesus out of Galilee defied conventionality,
The cultural philosophy, and practice of philology.
Matthew’s careful document somehow put several women in it!
The genealogy was bent, a thing which he could not have meant
To prove the Christ was heaven-sent!
Yet there they are, genealogical sleuth:
Bathsheba, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, recorded in the book of Truth!
Perhaps, if this was meant to be, it means God changes history
With folks who aren’t celebrities, but people just like you and me.
Within your genealogy, what changes will yet come to be?
What names will people someday see, and what will be your legacy?
They say the truth will set you free: investigate this, friend, and see…

 

My book contains a full month of Advent reflections and interesting facts about the birth and life of Jesus. To purchase Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread