Have you ever done something so awful that it stings when you remember it? The memory of it brings your head down low and it becomes a wave of shame. When I think of Rahab, that is what I imagine she must have felt. In this month’s Torah portions, we have the haftarah portion of Shelach, which includes the story of Rahab. The story of Rahab is found in Joshua 2:1-24. Joshua is now in charge of the Israelites and they are ready to go into the Promised Land. He sends two spies to enter the city of Jericho to give him a report. While the spies are in Jericho they are hidden by a prostitute, Rahab. She hides them from the king of Jericho in return for their promise of protection for her and her family during the Israelite invasion.
In v. 9 Rahab makes an important statement to the spies. She says, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you.” Then in v.11 she says, “for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” Rahab has had a very important revelation about God that she is willing to act upon. She is willing to put her life and her family’s life in jeopardy because she believes that the Israelite’s God, “He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath”. For Rahab to have come to this conclusion is pretty astounding. Remember who she is. She is a Cannanite, a woman and a prostitute! As a Cannanite she was raised believing in multiple gods and goddesses. As a woman in her culture she had very little power over her life, and as a prostitute she was marginalized even further. Yet, God positioned her on that wall so that she could take a stand for Him. Out of all the people in the city of Jericho God chose Rahab because He knew she would respond.
As the Israelites conquered the city of Jericho, they remembered the promise that they made to Rahab the harlot. As they burned the city to the ground, Rahab was safely removed along with her family and her possessions. She stood there as someone who had taken a stand for God and helped them in their victory, but, she was still Rahab the harlot. Even today she is known as Rahab the harlot. Have you ever noticed that sometimes you have made terrible choices in your life and others/yourself continue to remind you of your bad judgment? Rahab was living now in a community where everyone knew what she had been and that she was an outsider. When Rahab watched the city of Jericho burn, I don’t think that she thought she had a future that would unfold for her life. But, the first thing that God did was to reward her faithfulness with a husband. I’m sure that Rahab thought that no man would ever want her, but, God provided a husband for her! If we look at Matthew 1:5, “Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab…..” God provided an excellent man to be a husband to Rahab. As Salmon and Rahab nurtured their son Boaz, we can only imagine what they taught him about condemning others. We can only imagine that they spoke to their son and encouraged him to be loving, merciful and kind. As others perhaps ridiculed Boaz because of Rahab, it created in Boaz a strength of character that God would use in his life. When Ruth the Moabitess returned with Naomi to Bethlehem, Boaz didn’t just look at her as a foreigner but, as a woman of integrity. He knew from his experience with his mother Rahab, what it was like to have a past and to be an outsider.
When Rahab made the stand for God she didn’t know that the God of Israel would forgive her past, give her a present and give her a future. In Matthew 1:5-6 we see the future that God gave her, “… Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, Jesse was the father of David the king.” Because of the stand that Rahab made, God allowed for her children to be in the lineage of King David and ultimately the Messiah.
No matter what our past is our God desires to forgive our pasts, to give us a now that has meaning and a future that is full of promise. Rahab had no idea how her life would change when she made the stand for God, none of us do!
Diana Levine is the Rebbetzin of Kol Mashiach Messianic Synagogue in Melbourne, Florida. She has spoken at national conferences, regional conferences, women’s retreats and bible studies. She is also the co-founder of the Daughters of Righteousness Conference. Keep in touch at https://www.facebook.com/DianaLevineBlog/