Jacked-up Bible Stories: Rahab the Prostitute

Jacked-up Bible Stories are real stories of real people from the Bible. They are the real, raw, unfiltered stories of people, places, and events from the Scriptures. They are stories so messed-up that someone said, “Wait! I have to write this down or no one is ever going to believe it!” They are the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction stories of people of whom God said, “Their story needs to be included in My Story so that everyone can see that you are never too far-gone, broken, or lost that I can’t redeem you and use you.”

The back-story

In my previous post, I told the jacked-up Bible story of Judah and Tamar. Later on, Judah, along with his brothers, and their father, Jacob, all end up moving to Egypt to live with Joseph who they sold into slavery. In a plot twist that only God could write, Joseph, the snot-nosed little brother, is now the highest-ranking official in the Egyptian government, second only to Pharaoh!

(It’s a wild story! You have to read it for yourself in Genesis 37 – 50).

Over the generations, Jacob’s family (whose name is also Israel) grows to be quite large. So large, in fact, that the Egyptians feel threatened by their sheer numbers. So they decide to be proactive against any possible revolt by the Israelites and they make them their slaves. For 400 years the Israelites are held captive by the Egyptians until God chooses a man named Moses to lead them out of bondage to a new land that will be their own. This new place is often referred to as the Promised Land because it was the land that God promised to Abraham hundreds of years earlier. But because of the ungratefulness and rebellion of the Israelite people, God doesn’t lead them directly to the Promised Land, but causes them to wander about in the wilderness for 40 years until all of the gripers and complainers are dead  (This story is told in Exodus).

Only two men from that generation remain – Joshua and Caleb – because they believed what God said and were grateful for what He did. One of these men, Joshua, becomes the new leader of Israel after Moses dies. He is the one charged with actually bringing the Israelite community into this new land. The only problem is there are already hostiles in the territory and they aren’t going to go without a fight.

And that is where this jacked-up Bible story begins.

Rahab the prostitute

Joshua sends two spies to scout out the new land. We’re not given any details, but somehow these two men end up at the house (i.e. “brothel”) of a prostitute named, Rahab, and they (*ahem*) spend the night. Now, I’m not sure what the narrator is trying to say here, but he sure leaves a lot to the imagination. If you’re told that Bill and Bob spent the night with a prostitute, you pretty much only assume one thing, right? You can imagine the Jewish listeners at this point dropping their jaws in shock. The narrator is intentionally trying to build some tension in the story.

The king of Jericho gets word that Rahab might be harboring some potentially threatening people so he tells her to “bring out the men you’re hiding.” But Rahab is good at more than just one thing. She’s also an accomplished liar. She tells the king,

“There were some men here earlier, but I didn’t know who they were or where they came from. They were just like any of the other men who come to see me on a daily basis. And just like all the other men, they’re gone. But if you hurry, you can probably still catch up to them.” (Joshua 2:4-5)

So the king’s cronies take off to find the men.

With the crisis diverted, we discover that Rahab does indeed know who the men are and where they come from and they are still in her house. She is hiding them under bundles of flax on the roof of her house.

Before they go to sleep that night she tells them,

“I know the One True God has given you this land. His reputation precedes you. We’ve heard of all the tremendous things He’s done in leading you out of captivity in Egypt and everyone here is in deep fear knowing what’s coming. I know that your God is the Supreme God and we don’t stand a chance against Him, so swear that you will save me and my family just as I have saved you. Give me your word that when you conquer our city, you will spare me and my family just as I have spared you.” (Joshua 2:9-12)

The spies agree.

“Just as you have been kind to us, we will be kind to you when the Lord gives us this land.” (Joshua 2:14)

Then Rahab helps the men escape.

Back then every city was surrounded by a huge thick wall that was virtually impenetrable (archeology reveals that the walls of Jericho were 30 feet thick!). It was not uncommon for houses to be built into and on top of the walls and that’s where Rahab’s house is. She lets the men down on a scarlet rope (most likely used to advertise her services) through her window that is on the outside of the wall and they escape undetected.

Before we go any further, let’s just think about what Rahab has done. She is a Canaanite, not an Israelite. She is a citizen of Jericho. She has just lied to the face of her king and betrayed her own people. So she can now add traitor to her resume along with prostitute.

How can she live with herself knowing what she has done?

The spies return to Joshua and tell him God has indeed given us the whole land because the people there are in deep fear of what’s coming.

When the Israelites attack the city, they make good on their word.

“Meanwhile, Joshua said to the two spies, ‘Keep your promise. Go to the prostitute’s house and bring her out, along with all her family.’ The men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, mother, brothers, and all the other relatives who were with her. They moved her whole family to a safe place near the camp of Israel.” (Joshua 6:22-23)

Rahab the prostitute, along with her entire family, lived with the Israelites for the rest of their days. And, in another unlikely twist that only God could orchestrate, Rahab becomes the great (x28) grandmother of Jesus!

Labels

Throughout this story Rahab is continually labeled “the prostitute.” It’s easy to look at people from the outside and give them a label.

She’s a…

Slut. Liar. Witch (and rhymes with “witch”). Whore.

He’s a…

Loser. Cheater. Jerk. A-hole.

You’ve probably done that to people, haven’t you? (I know I have). You’ve given someone a label because of a particular behavior.

And people have probably done that to you, too, haven’t they?

What’s your label?

Maybe you’ve labeled yourself. You’ve done something – maybe that nobody else even knows about – and you’ve let that behavior define you.

I’m just an…

Addict. Failure. Screw-up. Good-for-nothing.

You see, Rahab’s story is not all that different from yours, is it?

But just like God wasn’t done writing Rahab’s story, so God isn’t done writing your story.

“It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” (Hebrews 11:31)

Hebrews 11 is considered to be the “Hall of Faith.” The author lists such heroes as Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and… Rahab? Yes, Rahab, the prostitute.

“All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.” (Hebrews 11:39–40)

Rahab the prostitute with a bad reputation earned a good reputation because of her faith! In the end, it wasn’t her behavior that defined her, but her faith. But even so, the author says, she did not receive all that God had promised, because her label remained.  

There’s a misconception that you have to rip off your label before you can come to Jesus or to church. That’s simply not true. It’s not true because it’s not possible. You can try and try and try, but you will never be able to take it off.

Jesus wants you, “label” and all.

He’s the only one that can rip it off.

He’s the only one that can give you a brand new label that says:

Forgiven.

Free.

Accepted.

Renewed.

Mine.

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