The Scarlet Woman of Christmas
By Patricia Chadwick
Rahab’s story is told to us primarily in the book of Joshua chapters 2 and 6. Chapter 2 begins with two men being sent as spies to Jericho:
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. The king of Jericho was told, “Look! Some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.” But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut. Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the LORD has given this land to you 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 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.” “Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the LORD gives us the land.” So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. Now she had said to them, “Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.” The men said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. If anyone goes outside your house into the street, his blood will be on his own head; we will not be responsible. As for anyone who is in the house with you, his blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on him. But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.” “Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.” So she sent them away and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window. When they left, they went into the hills and stayed there three days, until the pursuers had searched all along the road and returned without finding them. Then the two men started back. They went down out of the hills, forded the river and came to Joshua son of Nun and told him everything that had
happened to them.
We now jump to Chapter 6 of the book of Joshua when the Israelites are about to conquer the city of Jericho:
The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the LORD and must go into his treasury.” When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city. They devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it–men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys. Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.” So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel. Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house. But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho–and she lives among the Israelites to this day.
When she is mentioned in the Bible, Rahab is always referred to as Rahab-the-harlot. But this woman, Rahab, is mentioned as part of the genealogy of Jesus Christ as well as in the Hall of Fame of the Bible (Hebrews 11:31). This signifies to us that there was a miraculous change in Rahab’s life. She has a before and after story to tell.
Before Rahab became a believer in the one true God, she lived a life of idolatry. Consider her name. Ra was the name of an Egyptian god, and Rahab’s full name means “insolent and fierce”. Besides the
negative connotations of her name, the Bible tells us that Rahab was a harlot; a prostitute. But God, who is the transformer of lives, touched Rahab’s heart and transformed her into a brand new woman.
At some point God revealed Himself to Rahab and she believed that He was the one true God. When the soldiers were looking for the spies in Rahab’s house, she protected them? Why would she take this risk? Her conversation with the spies reveals her heart of faith:
- I know the Lord has given you the land.
- I have hard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt.
- The Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on theearth beneath.
Rahab’s statement of faith clearly reveals her knowledge of God. She obviously knew who God was and what He had done for His people. She knew God was about to give them the city in which she lived. With this knowledge, Rahab was faced with some choices. And she exhibited faith by the choices she made. Her choices, and her faith, affected both her human and eternal destiny.
Rahab was an amazing woman. She showed courage by standing up against her king and betraying her city knowing that God was in it. She acted boldly by choosing to save the two men who represented God’s people. She showed faith by believing her country was destined for destruction and that God and his people would prevail. She showed creativity by thinking quickly, hiding the spies and sending the pursuers in another direction, and secretly helping the spies escape. She showed kindness by helping the spies escape.
Rahab’s remarkable story of transformation doesn’t end here. Rahab was greatly blessed. She and her family were spared during the destruction of Jericho and she lived among the children of Israel for the rest of her life. She married an Israelite named Salmon (Mathew 1:5), who tradition tells us was one of the two spies. She was the mother of Boaz…who married Ruth…who bore Obed…whose son was Jesse, the father of David…through whose line came Jesus, the Savior of the world.
We may wonder why Rahab is always referred to as a harlot wherever she is mentioned in the Bible. Did God want to keep that shame ever before her? Didn’t He forgive her? On the contrary. I think it is a reminder that God can cleanse even the vilest sinner. He is in the business of changing lives. He took an immoral woman and made her respectable. Rahab went from living in darkness to living in glorious light. She became part of the line that would give birth to the true Light of the world that first Christmas.
Excerpt from Old Fashioned Holidays from History’s Women written by Patricia Chadwick. It is available in ebook format at www.HistorysWomen.com/shop.