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?
The Prostitute Who Betrayed Her People
“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 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!
As Low As it Gets?
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.)
Risking Everything to Get Everything
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.
Somehow, when you connect the dots, Matthew gave a lowly prostitute a place of honor in the genealogy of 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!
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?
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