The Faith of Rahab

Who are the only two women mentioned by name in the list of the faithful in Hebrews 11?  If you were to choose two to include, who would they be?

1)  The first mentioned might make our list as well – (vs. 11) Sarah, the wife of Abraham. What was the character of her life?  She was the faithful wife of the father of faith. She traveled all those miles with her husband. She eventually received the fulfillment of Yahweh’s promise to her that she would bear a Son of Promise, Isaac. We would expect Sarah to be mentioned!  Heb 11:11 By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.

  • Gen 17:16 – 6 And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.”

2) The other female named in Hebrews 11 might not make our list. It is Rahab.  Heb 11:3131 By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.  

  • Some people in the Bible are mentioned in connection with their occupation: Abel was a shepherd; Matthew was a tax-collector; Peter was a fisherman; Saul was a tentmaker. What was Rahab?  Five times in the scriptures we are told that Rahab was a harlot, or prostitute.   When we meet her, Rahab’s character is the polar opposite of Sarah and the others mentioned in this chapter.
  • She was not an Israelite or of the family of Abraham.  She is definitely an outsider, both in heritage and in character.  The fact that this woman, Rahab, makes God’s list here is significant to understanding the character of God; and the character of faith itself.  

 I.  Rahab’s Story:  Last week we recounted the fall of the city of Jericho. Israel’s first conquest upon entering the land of Canaan was God’s work, not theirs. The fall of Jericho was a gift appropriated through the faith they closely followed God’s unusual instructions.  But Israel’s faith was not the only faith that God honored in the fall of this city.  It is here that we meet Rahab.

A.  The test of her faith: Josh 2:1-3 – Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there. And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, “Behold, men have come here tonight from the children of Israel to search out the country.” 3 So the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the country.”

      note: Rahab is the only person we know by name in the whole city of Jericho. The Bible does not mention the name of the king, or of any great warriors or statesmen. It is no accident that these spies end up at her house. God recognizes her emerging faith and is willing to put it to the test.

1. What would possibly entice this Canaanite prostitute to help these enemy spies? The biblical answer is “faith”.  She had come to be a believer.

B.  The response of her faith:  She answered the request of the king. Josh 2:4-6  4 Then the woman took the two men and hid them. So she said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from.  5 And it happened as the gate was being shut, when it was dark, that the men went out. Where the men went I do not know; pursue them quickly, for you may overtake them.” 6(But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof)

1.  It becomes immediately evident that Rahab lied to the Jericho militia about the whereabouts of the two men. This has led to some pertinent questions about God’s commendation of her faith on this occasion. Did God condone her lie?  Did the situation justify her lie? We will consider this in a future lesson. I want to focus first on how she expressed her faith.

b. Recognize the enormous risk she takes here. But her concern is not just for these strangers, but her own family as well.

2.  After the men of Jericho are gone, Rahab goes to the roof and speaks to the spies. Josh 2:9-13  said to the men:”I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. 12 Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, 13 and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”  

3.  Rahab’s words here help us understand the development of her faith in this time of crisis. She, as well as others, had heard how God delivered the Israelites from Egypt and how He had miraculously sustained them in victory over the Amorites. She is convinced that Jehovah, the God of Israel, is about to conquer her city as well.  She wants to enter into an agreement with these spies and their God. She believes that Jehovah can save her and her family and is willing to beg for His mercy.

C.  The Nature of her faith: In the text of Hebrews 11 Rahab is contrasted with those who “did not believe” implying that others may have had the opportunity to respond as she did, but were not convinced.

1.  She received these spies as the representatives of the God she now believed in. But how difficult was it for Rahab to become a believer?

  • She lived in a great walled city that had stood for hundreds of years. They had an ancient culture as a way of life, and worshipped many gods. How could all this come to such a violent end in just a matter of days?  Yet she did believe that Jehovah would prevail.
  • Rahab didn’t believe just in the existence of God, she literally believed what He revealed. That is, she believed it was He who was bringing Israel into the Promised Land. Risking her very life, she had no more evidence to go on than the reports from others, and thus was walking by faith, not sight.  John 20:29 – …Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  Notice her marvelous confession of faith she made in vs. 11 “The LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”

2.  Rahab is also mentioned as an example of faith in James 2:25-26 – 25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. This passage characterizes her faith in terms of her actions. We can certainly conclude that if she had not acted upon her conviction, she would have perished with the others. Faith that does not act is dead faith.

3.  Rahab had to believe that Jehovah was a God of kindness and compassion to foreigners and aliens. She was convinced that her act of kindness to these men would be rewarded by God.

4.  She pleaded for mercy, recognizing that she had to rely upon God to save her. She could not save herself. These are the elements of our faith as well.

 II. Rahab’s Deliverance: Josh 2:14-21  14 So the men answered her, “Our lives for yours, if none of you tell this business of ours. And it shall be, when the Lord has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you.” 15 Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall; she dwelt on the wall. 16 And she said to them, “Get to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you. Hide there three days, until the pursuers have returned. Afterward you may go your way.” 17 So the men said to her: “We will be blameless of this oath of yours which you have made us swear, 18 unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household to your own home. 19 So it shall be that whoever goes outside the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we will be guiltless. And whoever is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him. 20 And if you tell this business of ours, then we will be free from your oath which you made us swear.” 21 Then she said, “According to your words, so be it.” And she sent them away, and they departed. And she bound the scarlet cord in the window.

A.  The covenant of her deliverance had conditions.

  • She, and he family, had to tell no one of the spies’ activities or plans.
  • She had convince her family to her own home and remain there throughout the invasion.
  • She had to leave that scarlet cord in her window until it was all over.  If she failed to do all of these would she have been saved? What does that tell us about faith & obedience.  “Then she said, “According to your words, so be it.” – This is the voice of faith.

B.  Fast Forward to Joshua 6 – recall the unusual manner in which God took the city.  Can you imagine Rahab’s thoughts (anxiety) as she watched the Israelites march around the city for 6 days? She never took down the cord. She alone understood what it meant. It was the sign of her faith and deliverance.

1.  The people were to march around the city once a day for seven days. Then, on the seventh, they were to encompass it seven times, seven priests were to blow trumpets of rams’ horns, and the people were to shout. Josh 6:20-25 – 20 So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. 21 And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword. 22 But Joshua had said to the two men who had spied out the country, “Go into the harlot’s house, and from there bring out the woman and all that she has, as you swore to her.” 23 And the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, her mother, her brothers, and all that she had. So they brought out all her relatives and left them outside the camp of Israel. 24 But they burned the city and all that was in it with fire. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. 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.

2.  God did exactly as the spies promised. Her faith was rewarded.

C.  The thing that made this outsider who had no claim to the promise made to Abraham so long ago into an insider was divine grace. But the exercise of God’s grace was in response to her faith. She was saved just like us.. by grace, through faith.

1.  Although she lied in the process, God no where condones her lies. She was also a prostitute at the same time she was a liar. I am absolutely convinced that she had to change professions in her life as a servant of The True God. So she had to learn about lying as well.

2.  The inclusion of Rahab in the list of Hebrews 11 speaks volumes about God. He truly looks inward and sees faith wherever it is to be found.  He challenges that faith with the call to trust Him more and obey. When we obey He rewards our faith.



Conclusion:  Who was this Rahab?  At one time she was an obscure prostitute in a doomed city. But who was she really – after God’s deliverance?

Joshua 6 tells us that she continued to live in Israel, as a servant of the true God. Leaving her pagan past, she learned to live righteously. The influence of her faith is evident in the rest of the story.

She is mentioned in the N.T. in genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1:5.

She married a man named Salmon, who bore a son named Boaz, the husband of a woman named Ruth. Who was the mother of Obed, the grandmother of Jesse, the great- grandmother of David. So this Rahab was the great–great grandmother of David. In the seed of the Messiah, Jesus.

The story of Rahab is a story of hope. It does not matter where you are from, or even what you do for a living, God can deliver you and give you a new life. Do you have the faith of Rahab? Are you willing to obey God, even at great risk, in the confidence that He will save you?


  • Mark 16:16 –   16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
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