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Rahab: A Harlot in Jesus' Family Tree

Dr. Ray Pritchard
Dr. Ray Pritchard
2016 6 Dec

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab (Matthew 1:5).

Many first-time Bible readers are surprised to learn the New Testament begins with a genealogy (Matthew 1:1-16). They are even more surprised when Rahab shows up on the list.

Most of us know about her. She is almost always mentioned in the Bible as “Rahab the harlot.” But that’s not all. Rahab was also a Canaanite—who were the hated enemies of Israel. Her most exemplary deed was telling a lie. Think about that. A Harlot, a Canaanite, and a liar. You wouldn’t think she would have much chance of making the list, but there she is.

You can read about Rahab in Joshua 2 and Joshua 6. Then take a moment to read Matthew 1:1-16. See if you can find Rahab’s name on that list. Here’s a hint. She’s the great-great-grandmother of King David. 

It’s a great story with many lessons, but we mustn’t miss the point that Rahab was a harlot. That was her “trade.” The men hid at her house because people would be accustomed to seeing strangers come and go at all hours. We also can’t deny the fact Rahab told a lie. Is there anything good we can say about her? Yes! She was a woman of faith. You don’t have to take my word for it. Hebrews 11:31 says, “By faith Rahab.” She was a believer! Rahab is part of Jesus’ family tree. If you know Jesus, one day you will meet her in heaven. And there at last she will be no more Rahab the harlot. She will forever be known as Rahab the child of God.

Many people are intimidated by Jesus Christ. They mentally connect him with a lot of religious paraphernalia—big sanctuaries, stained glass, beautiful choir, pipe organs, formal prayers, and all the rest. When they look at the trappings, it’s all very intimidating to them. Jesus seems too good to be true.

This genealogy is in the Bible to let us know he had a background a lot like yours and mine. He called himself “the friend of sinners,” and he said he didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. He said, “The Son of man has come to seek and to save that which is lost.” (Luke 19:10)

No matter what you've done in the past, Jesus can save you. No matter what your past looks like, or your present feels like, no matter where you've been or what you've done, God can give you a fresh start. The same grace Rahab experienced is now available to you.

I invite you in Jesus’ name to come and be forgiven. He’s already made the first move. The next step is up to you. 

Lord Jesus, if you were not the “friend of sinners,” we could not be saved. Help us to love the unlovely as you have loved us. Amen.

 Musical bonus: Keith and Kristyn Getty have produced an exuberant version of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.

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