Why Rahab?

Joshua 2:1 (ESV)

"2 And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” And they went and came into the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab and lodged there."

The story is familiar to those who have read their Bibles: because of her faith in the God of Israel, Rahab provides assistance to the two spies and in doing so, secures her and her family’s safety during the ensuing raid (Joshua 2:12–21).

Joshua sent spies—this time only two—to spy the land of Canaan. This brings back remembrance of Israel’s faithlessness in Numbers 13:25-33 with the unfavorable report of ten of the twelve spies and the punishment that followed. However, this time Joshua shows his military leadership by informing the spies that they are only to report back to him directly. Remember, it was Joshua along with Caleb who were the only two who reported favorable news in that episode.

But why Rahab? Why did the spies go to her of all people?

Here the sovereignty of our Lord is on full display. The men of Jericho, much the same as any immoral man, would naturally gravitate towards women like Rahab. They seek not only fulfillment of their fleshly desires but also a confidante where they can talk openly about other matters. The nature of Rahab’s vocation would clearly be a source for a vast amount of information about the city and its fortresses.

In the face of pending judgment, it is Rahab’s pronouncement of faith that saves her—a faith that clearly spread to her family as well. This is only possible through the unmerited grace of God.

How many times do we see in Scripture those with checkered pasts being redeemed and playing a vital role in the history of Israel and the journey towards the Messiah? The faith of Rahab presents an anticipation of the salvation that will be available to the Gentiles through Jesus Christ. Rahab did not need to be redeemed from her reputation, but only needed to have faith in God to be saved. Our Lord seeks the lost, the liars, the cheats, the thieves, and even the prostitutes, to turn to Him.

The story of Rahab is also a reminder that the destruction of the peoples of Canaan was not about ethnic cleansing, but about those who have rejected Him and worshipped false gods and practiced abomination. Despite the clear directive in Deuteronomy 23:3-6, Rahab is spared solely because of her allegiance to the God of Israel.

And thus, the Messianic line flows through the Canaanite prostitute. Rahab would give birth to a son called Boaz, the same Boaz who redeemed Ruth the Moabitess. Is it any wonder the character of Boaz would be favorable to an outsider such as Ruth, given his mother’s influence?

Interestingly, later in Joshua we read the sad story of Achan. The parallel between Rahab and Achan drives home that God seeks loyalty from a heart truly transformed and will not always find it among the ones who claim to be God’s chosen ones. Instead, faith will sometimes radiate from those places least expected, even the house of a Canaanite prostitute.