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Lessons for Life from the Old Testament: Rahab

Updated on July 23, 2020
Johan Smulders profile image

Johan Smulders has a . B.A, B.ED and M.A in Education, Theology and Counselling. Works as an evangelist and counsellor.

Lessons for Life from the Old Testament: Rahab

It is time for a look at one of the really interesting women characters in the Old Testament and see what we can learn from her life. Most people know the story of how Rahab hid the spies on the roof of her house in Jericho, as found in Joshua chapter 2 and 3. Not so many know that she is included in the genealogy of Jesus as listed in Matthew (1:5). She was the wife of Salmon and both are mentioned there. She is also mentioned in Hebrews 11:31: “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace”. (NKJV)

One thing about the Bible is that it tells the story of God’s hero’s warts and all. While it is true that in the historical accounts in the books of Kings and Chronicles, the latter writings (the priestly account), tends to sanitise the lives of the kings. In general however, one can say that the accounts of the Biblical writers, unlike those of the accounts by other nations of that time, are much more open to the true story. They even record the losses and failures of the nation and individuals.

So here in Joshua 2, we see that the spies, who crossed over the Jordan River to have a closer look at the enemy, find their way into the house of Rahab the harlot. It is said that the house of ill repute in those days was also the boarding house or the” bed and breakfast” in modern terms. What however, sets Rahab apart from the other people in Jericho is that she believed in the God of Israel; “..for the Lord your God. He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Joshua 2:11). All had heard about the wilderness wandering nation that was approaching from the East. All had heard about the powerful God of Israel and how He had brought them out of Egypt. But this woman believed that God was the only God, as the Israelites claimed. This belief led to her hiding the spies under the flax on her roof and eventually helping them to escape and return to Joshua.

It is always good to listen to the voice of God. Sometimes it is spoken or written, but often graphically illustrated in the lives and actions of believers. So a promise is made and when the army marches around the city she hangs the red sash out of her window, having gathered her family together in her house and so was saved. We do not know much more about the life of this remarkable woman but the testimony in the book of Hebrews tells us that she was included in God’s roll of honor as a hero of faith. The fact that she was a link in the genealogy of Jesus indicates that she became a part of the history of David’s family that brought into history the Messiah.

So what can we learn about life from Rahab?

Firstly it is clear from her example that God gives second chances. Many of his hero’s of faith came from somewhat ordinary backgrounds and some even did extra ordinary bad things in their lives. Think of David as an example: adulterer, murderer and breaker of the ceremonial law. But God sees in him a person “after His own heart”. God did not create anyone perfect and left some room for improvement in every life. He uses imperfect people to achieve His will. This does not in any way suggest that He approved of evil and sin. At the same time He sees potential in places we may not see it. Rahab seized the opportunity offered her to get on God’s side, and that saved her and her family.

Secondly we see clearly her courage. Hiding spies is a serious situation in every age and so if she was caught it is certain that no mercy would have been shown to her. At times all followers of God are called on to stand against evil. So as we look closely at the many heroes of faith in the Old Testament we see that courage is called for in every life. The Hebrew writer mentions some of those acts of courage in Hebrews 11:17: “they were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, were slain by the sword”. Following God was never meant to be an easy path. It often led to serious challenges. But the follower of God’s way keeps going and has the certainty that there is a reward waiting. This is after all what faith is all about: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.

It is interesting to imagine this woman faced with some difficult choices as the two spies arrive at her house needing help. How she reacted with great skill and even subterfuge to hide them and eventually help them to escape. How she seized the moment and began a new journey in her life that must have been more fulfilling than what it had been up to that point. God meets us where we are and challenges us to change our lives for the better. Sometimes the road seems difficult and challenging and even fraught with danger. At the same time it leads to real fulfilment because God’s way is always the right way.

Rahab stepped out in faith and enjoyed the reward that came with that choice. We need to do the same.


NKJV Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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