Who Was Rahab in the Bible?

You may be surprised to learn that Rahab was an ancestor of Jesus. Discover how, despite being a harlot, Rahab found favor from God and survived the conquering of Jericho.
Christianity.com Editorial Staff
Who Was Rahab in the Bible?

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

Many first-time Bible readers are surprised to learn that the New Testament begins with a genealogy (Matthew 1:1-16), the lineage of Jesus’ family tree. Those same readers are even more surprised when Rahab shows up on the list.

So who was Rahab in the Bible? She is almost always mentioned in the Bible as “Rahab the harlot." But her story goes far beyond simply being a harlot, or "loose woman". 

Rahab was also a Canaanite, who were the hated enemies of Israel. The most remarkable deed of Rahab was actually telling a lie, to protect two spies of Joshua. Hence, it is strange that a Harlot, a Canaanite, and a liar is known as a distinguished Bible figure. You wouldn’t think she would have much chance of making the list of renowned biblical characters, but there she is.

The Story of Rahab

From the Book of Joshua, when the Hebrews were camped at Shittim, in the Jordan valley across from Jericho, Joshua sent out two spies to examine the fighting force of Jericho. The spies hid in Rahab's house, which was constructed into the city wall. The men who were sent to seize the spies asked Rahab to bring them out. Rather, she covered them under bunches of flax on the roof, protecting them from capture. Rahab said to the spies:

“I know that the LORD has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. 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. “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 2:9-13 NIV

After escaping, the spies agreed to spare Rahab and her family after conquering the city. By placing a red cord out her window, Rahab secured her and her family's safety. 

When the city of Jericho fell, Rahab and her whole family were saved from the agreement of the spies and were included among the Jewish people.

Rahab in the Genealogy of Jesus Christ

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse... Read the full lineage of Jesus in Matthew 1

What We Can Learn From Rahab

Rahab's life is 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 there because people would be accustomed to seeing strangers come and go at all hours of the night. We also can’t deny the fact that Rahab told a bald-faced 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!

“And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?” (James 2:25)

Many people are intimidated by Jesus Christ. They align 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. To many in the world today, Jesus seems too good to be true.

This genealogy is in the Bible because it lets us know that 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)

The same grace that Rahab experienced is now available to you and me. 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.

Excerpts for this Article taken from Rahab: Harlot, Liar... Ancestor of Jesus? by Ray Pritchard


Originally published April 01, 2019.