How is it that Rahab became a mother of Israel? She was a Canaanite prostitute. Yet quite unexpectedly-particularly to the Jewish readers for whom Matthew's gospel was originally intended-she appears in the royal line of Israel's Messiah, the Savior of the world:
"The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king" (Mt 1:1-6).
Beyond the events of the conquest of Jericho, Rahab is not mentioned in the rest of the Hebrew scriptures. Other uses of the word appear, but they do not refer to her. The final reference is in Joshua 6:25: "And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father's household, and all that she had. So she dwells in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.“
Other than stating "she dwells in Israel to this day," the Old Testament provides no direct indication of Rahab's fate. The Jewish genealogies mention the family into which she married, but they never mention her. The only direct indication of her inclusion in the royal line comes in Matthew 1. Her son Boaz was a key player in the book of Ruth. What a godly son she reared. This wealthy, righteous leader in Bethlehem was a respected businessman who showed compassion for Ruth, a widowed, downtrodden foreigner.
Rahab never could have known how her decision to aid the Israelite spies would impact the future of the world. God took this formely pagan woman and inserted her directly into the genealogy of his beloved Son.
How many women have reared godly children in similar anonymity? How many women are asked to rear godly children in similar anonymity today? When we serve the Lord in ways the world cannot see, we can be encouraged that He records every act of devotion. Not only is Rahab placed in Jesus' genealogy as a respected mother of Israel on the very first page of the New Testament, but she also is promoted in status as an icon of the faith.
The book of Hebrews places her alongside spiritual giants (11:31). And the book of James associates her with what may be the greatest example of faith in the Hebrew scriptures: Abraham's willingness to sacrifice to God his son Isaac. Both passages use Rahab's action as an illustration of the true nature of faith. However, threre are two problems here:
How could Rahab express faith while breaking the ninth commandment? Her faith was executed through the lie she told to protect the spies. And how could James say she was justified by works? "Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?" (Jas 2:25).
The answer to the first question is that new believers sometimes express their faith through what may seem crude behavior to mature believers. Lying is always wrong. There is no such thing as an acceptable lie. But Rahab did what she probably had done hundreds of times: She lied to protect herself. New believers sometimes lie or take God's name in wain, even when trying to serve Him. Such behavior is always wrong. <To Be Continued>