Rahab the Prostitute


As the Israelite army under Joshua besieged Jericho two spies were sent to gage the strength of the city. They found their way to Rahabs house, whilst there the King of Jericho sent men to capture them. But Rahab denied the spies were in the house and hid them. Then having got an agreement from the spies to save her families lives when the Israelites captured the city, she let them escape over the city walls. It could be argued she saw the writing on the wall and struck a deal with the Israelites which not only saved her but her whole family. Equally there is an argument to ask, ‘Was there a better person for God to use in his quest for equality and truth?’

In the story of Rahab it’s easy to find the obvious parallels between the public face and the darker side of the human experience. Our need to be honourer and loved and thought of as a ‘good’ person and the realities only each human being and God know about are true in each one of us. Good works and devotion are the ticket into heaven whereas desire and greed are not of God but of the Devil.

In Rahab we have both sides of the human condition for all to see, and comment upon. Rahab is described as a prostitute, a harlot. A women who sells her body for money. Yet this same women is also described as ‘righteous’ and ‘an example of active faith’. Rahab is both sides of the coin. Yet she is a women of the world. She understands both the honour and desires of men. She knows how to set the scene and make a living. In that should we ask how different is she from the rest of us? Don’t we do the same for our own ends?

But God knows a good metaphor when one presents itself. Rahab, as a women has disadvantages which actively, every day, make her life different from that of men. She is seen as unclean, a gossip and a seducer of ‘good husbands’ Worse she is disadvantaged and despised by both men and women who see her kind as both guilt and desire. Yet God knew her and loved her. Loved her enough to give her the chance, not to amend and do penance for her trade, but to give practical help to the spies and fore fill the prophecy. This is not the vengeful and unfeeling God the Old Testament likes to portray, this is God who sees us for what we are and what we do, for our goodness our guilt and our desires. Later in life Rahab married Salmon and became, through King David, an ancestor of Jesus.

During Lent, Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, we are asked to follow the example of Jesus. To resist temptation, to fast and to learn more about ourselves. But if this is all we do, all we have ambition for then surely we should see Rahab as a better person. She knew God because she understood guilt and desire. Rahab saw only a complete change in our lives was good enough and she bought that change about.

By Mike Willis


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