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Live By Faith: Rahab the Faithful

The next hero of the faith introduced by the author of the Hebrews is Rahab. Rahab’s story is found in Joshua chapters 2 and 6. Here’s what the Hebrew writer says about this courageous woman: By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. Hebrews 11:31

The next hero of the faith introduced by the author of the Hebrews is Rahab. Rahab’s story is found in Joshua chapters 2 and 6. Here’s what the Hebrew writer says about this courageous woman:

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. Hebrews 11:31 NIV

The Backstory

Rahab’s story reads like a great made-for-TV movie. The Israelites, after wandering in the desert for 40 years, are about to enter the Promised Land. Jericho is the first city of their conquest. Joshua sends two spies into the city to gain intelligence. They find a collaborator in Rahab, possibly a prostitute, or maybe the keeper of an inn that doubled as a brothel. We’re not completely sure what Rahab’s profession was, but it’s not unusual for spies to seek out information in the seedy underworld where people tend to be in the know. Her house was built into the wall that protected Jericho, and it had a window that provided a means of escape to the outside world.

Word about the spies got out, and the king sent men to Rahab’s house. She hides the spies under some stacks of flax she has drying on her roof and then spins a tale to send the king’s men on a wild goose chase. She then helps the spies escape through her window, but not before striking a deal with them to save her and her family. To make a long story short, the Israelites overthrow the city, but Rahab and her family are spared.

A Name Tarnished

According to the Jewish Talmud, Rahab is named as one of the four most beautiful women ever to walk the earth. The other three are Sarah, Abigail, and Esther. I’m aware of a lot of people named Sarah, Abigail, and Esther, but I’ve never heard of one named Rahab. The title of prostitute or harlot has forever tarnished her name. How sad for a woman of such courage and chutzpah.

The story of Rahab is a powerful demonstration of faith and redemption. Rahab lived in difficult circumstances, likely beyond what we can imagine. She seems to be a survivor — doing whatever was necessary to eke out a living in the cesspool that was Jericho. And make no mistake — Jericho was a cesspool. Why else would God command the Israelites to kill all the inhabitants and incinerate the town?

A Tough Lady

In addition to being a prostitute and possible madam, the bales of flax stacked on her roof could mean she made linen cloth. And the scarlet cord mentioned in the story hints that she also dyed cloth. Maybe this tough-survivor woman was earning money in any way possible to escape Jericho with her family. Her collaboration with the spies and her cool-headed and treasonous subterfuge against the king of Jericho reveal that she was ready for the freedom she could see every day from her window in the wall.

And she was done with the false gods and abusive cultic rituals of Canaan. Sadly, her prostitution may have been a part of pagan worship — a form of worship that was degrading and meaningless. After hearing the stories of Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea and their conquests of kings Sihon and Og, she determines that the God of the Israelites is the true God — a God who actually did something. That faith becomes the tipping point in her life.

Rahab’s testimony of faith is found in Joshua 2:11, “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.” The Hebrew writer and James (2:25) each recognize the life-saving power of her faith — but both mention her tarnished reputation.

A Name Redeemed

But Rahab is also mentioned by the gospel writer Matthew. As he carefully traces the lineage of Jesus Christ, he includes Rahab — and he is the only one who does so without mentioning her dark past. (Matthew 1:5)

In God’s sovereign and redemptive plan, after surviving Jericho, Rahab marries a Jewish man named Salmon. That marriage produces a child named Boaz. Boaz marries a Moabite woman named Ruth, and their marriage produces a son named Obed. Obed has a son named Jesse, and then Jesse has a son named David. That’s right, King David.

So Rahab, the tough Canaanite pagan prostitute side-hustle survivor who placed her faith in the God of Israel, becomes the great, great grandmother of King David and a member of the family line of Jesus Christ — the King of Kings! Certainly, one of the great redemption stories of all time. That’s why I believe we should remember her as Rahab the Faithful.

The heroes of the faith remind us over and over again that when God is about to do something important, He starts with the impossible. Rahab’s faith not only set her free from the awfulness of Jericho, but it also allowed God to completely redeem her story — even the parts of it that could easily have destroyed her.
When God’s sovereignty and our faith collide, the impossible becomes possible. Do you believe it? Have you given up on your story? Do you believe you are trapped in a world of circumstances, failures, and consequences that have stolen your hope and your potential? If so, then I have good news for you: God can redeem anything! He did it for Rahab, and He can do it for you. Do you believe it? Why not place your faith in God today? He is ready to redeem your story!

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