The Harlot Who Pleased God: the Story of Rahab

Rahab the harlot's story

As Christians, we are taught that we should live lives that please God. And the Bible does a good job of showing us what to do but with so many male leads it’s sometimes hard to visualize what a woman who pleases God looks like.

A lot of the women featured in the Bible are walk-on characters who weren’t even given a name let alone enough screen time for us to really know anything about them. Either that or they seem to be such perfect paragons of virtue (like Hannah who prayed when she was provoked instead of punching her aggressor in the face).

Don’t get me wrong, Hannah’s my girl–the woman I want to grow up to be when I grow up and over the years, I’ve come to a have reluctant compassion for Penninah. But the lesson I want us to focus on today is the story of Rahab.

How a Harlot Pleased God: the Story of Rahab
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A Summary of The Story of Rahab

Rahab’s story isn’t long though it’s longer than many stories in the Bible, but what little there is of the story is profound. We first meet Rahab in Joshua chapter 2. She falls smack in the middle of the children of Israel’s march to conquer the Promised Land.

The people’s beloved leader Moses is dead and Joshua, the new guy in charge, sends two spies to check out the land of Jericho which is the first barrier between the Israelites and Canaan. The two spies walk up to a house that’s set in the wall of Jericho and meet a woman, Rahab. Now, this isn’t just any woman, she’s a harlot.

The word translated as harlot or prostitute in our English Bibles is the Hebrew word zânâh (pronounced zaw-naw’). Now, there’s no pretty way to translate it, the word refers to a whore or someone who has behaved wantonly and committed adultery. By Hebrew definitions, she should be dead. Yet, this is the woman whose door the two spies chose to knock on.

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But there was no hanky-panky between Rahab and the spies, she had been able to see through their disguise and knew there was a greater force at work. Rahab hid the spies and saved them from the king in exchange for her life and her family’s.

Rahab helped the spies escape over the city wall with the aid of a crimson cord lowered through her window,  but not before the spies told her that she needed to hang that same scarlet cord in her window when they invaded. If she didn’t, they’d be free from their promise to her. Rahab also had to convince her whole family to move into her house if they wanted to be saved.

Fast-forward a couple of hundred years and the next place we find Rahab is in the genealogy of Christ. We find two names linked in holy matrimony: Salmon and Rahab.

Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, (Matthew 1:5 NKJV).

How could it be that Rahab the prostitute became Rahab, the mother of Boaz? Now, this may not seem important to you until you realize that there were only three women listed in the genealogy of Jesus and one of them was Rahab, the prostitute.

What Does the Story of Rahab Teach?

You may get so hung up on the idea that there’s a harlot in the lineage of Christ that you may never fully stop to consider the lessons we can learn from Rahab. So let’s take a moment to consider them here.

The Characteristics of Rahab

The Bible calls her Rahab the prostitute because that was her defining trait. The Bible used the word harlot not only to refer to prostitutes but also to anyone who worshipped idols–those who prostituted themselves before pagan gods.

I imagine that being a harlot in Jericho was a life that came with its own stigma. But we see Rahab taking a bold step towards her destiny leaving her past behind. A lot of times when we read Rahab’s story we get hung up on the lie, but are there more lessons that can be gleaned from the story of Rahab?


The Faith of Rahab

The Bible talks about Rahab’s faith. How did Rahab show faith? Let’s imagine it together. For years, the people of Jericho had existed behind their thick walls. None of their neighboring countries had been able to penetrate their walls and so they felt safe. Then they heard about the Israelites.

For forty years, the children of Israel had wandered in the wilderness without a home. There were whispers that they had been promised the land of Canaan. Still, the people of Jericho may have felt as if they could hide behind their walls. Then they heard about the kings of Sihon and Og who were obliterated in battle (Numbers 21:21-26, 32-35).

Miraculous stories trickled into town about the way the Hebrew God had dried up the Red Sea. Years earlier, He had delivered His people from slavery in Egypt. It must have been an interesting time to be alive because though there would have been fear, a lot of persons would have stubbornly stuck to their old ways. But not Rahab.

By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe when she had received the spies with peace (Hebrews 11:31 NKJV).

It took a lot of faith to acknowledge that the Hebrew God was greater than any of the gods of Jericho. When your city has fortified walls, it’s easy to believe your city is impenetrable. But Rahab believed in the power of the Hebrew God, all she had heard were stories but she believed He was powerful enough to deliver Jericho into the hands of His people.

“I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you” (Joshua 2:9 NIV).

The story of Rahab reminds us that faith doesn’t always make sense (in my experience, it never does). But as hard as it is to have faith, there are rewards in the end.

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Rahab, the Brave

We often think it takes a lot of courage to be brave but the best definition of bravery is doing what needs to be done, not because you don’t have any fear but in spite of it. It took a lot of courage to defy a king. Rahab was a prostitute. She wasn’t a woman in the highest echelons of society, yet she was willing to risk her life for what she believed. 


Rahab, Creative Problem-Solver

How many persons would have thought to hide someone under stalks of flax (Joshua 2:6)? Rahab was a creative problem solver. The story of Rahab and the spies would have been very different if she hadn’t been a quick thinker. Would the king’s men have found the spies if they had decided to search the house? I’ve always wondered, but I think Rahab had enough flax to completely cover the two Israelite spies.


Bold Rahab

If you’ve ever had to deliver a speech before an unknown audience you understand how much nerve it takes to speak up for what you want. Rahab the prostitute knew her only chance for survival was to ask the spies to protect her. She asked for what she wanted knowing the Hebrew spies had no reason to give it to her.

By her own admission, the Hebrew God had already given the Israelites the city of Jericho. Even without her intervention, their victory was sure. Still, she boldly asked them to spare her life. She pleaded for the lives of her family. 

What does the story of Rahab teach us? The character study on Rahab the harlot uncovers some key lessons. #hebrews12endurance Click To Tweet

Rahab the Considerate

One of the things I love most about Rahab is how considerate she was. When she was bargaining with the spies for her life, she wasn’t selfish about it. She also bargained for her family. We don’t know how many persons were in her family, but I loved the fact that she thought of them all.

One of Rahab’s greatest characteristic was that she didn’t only think about saving herself, she also had compassion for her father’s household and made plans to save them as well.


Persuasive Rahab

What did it take to convince her entire family they would be better off living in a whorehouse? Forgive my blunt language but when it all boiled down to it, that was the choice Rahab’s family had to make:

  • Take the word of a prostitute and spend an indeterminate time living in her house waiting for the Israelites to attack.
  • Or remain where they were and trust in the security of the city walls and the strength of their army.

To save her family’s lives, Rahab managed to convince her whole family two things:

  1. that danger was imminent
  2. to move into the home of a harlot in order to save their lives

How Rahab Pleased God

The story of Rahab is about one woman’s courage and her actions that saved her entire family. But more than anything, Rahab’s story is about a woman whose ways pleased the Lord. The story of Rahab is one about faith. The Bible tells us that we can’t please God without faith:

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6 NKJV).

In this short verse, we learn a few things about God and faith:

  1. We need faith to please God. 
  2. Faith requires a belief in God and that God exists.
  3. Faith accepts that God rewards those who pursue a relationship with Him.

Rahab displayed all of those characteristics. She chose to believe in the God of the Hebrews over the gods of her own people. She chose an unknown God because she believed He was greater than all that she had known. Rahab chose to have faith that God existed and that He was faithful to deliver the land He had promised to His people.

Finally, Rahab believed that God would reward her for helping the two spies, her, Rahab the prostitute. She trusted that God would see beyond what everyone else saw and choose to save her over all the people in Jericho. Not only that, but this unknown God would save her family as well so she wouldn’t live the rest of her life mourning them.

Did she expect that she would one day be the ancestor of Christ? I doubt it. But she knew that she needed to trust God at that moment and so she did. My friend, you can be like Rahab the prostitute, you can choose to live a life that pleases God. You can choose to have the faith of Rahab.

Rahab Woman of Jericho Review

When we read the story of Rahab we assume that she was a Canaanite. The Bible doesn’t give any conclusive evidence and it is in this gap that Ms. Taylor pens her story Rahab Woman of Jericho.

What if Rahab the harlot wasn’t a Canaanite? What if she was actually the descendant of Joseph, a member of the Ephraimite tribe? This is the perspective taken in Rahab Woman of Jericho and it’s an interesting one. While I don’t support this viewpoint, it was fascinating to get a glimpse of what life may have been like for Rahab, not only as she lived behind the walls of Jericho, but later when she was integrated into the Israelites camp.

Know God–what do you know and believe about God? Too often our opinion of God is based on what other people–our family, pastor, church members, the world–says about Him. But what do you know about God? What has been your experience?

As Rahab lived in the wilderness among the Israelites, she had to wrestle with this question. She had to decide what she believed about God. Like Rahab, we have to determine what we will believe about God. As Christians, we will need to spend time in His Word doing the work to learn more about His character.

Know yourself–what if Rahab hadn’t accepted that she couldn’t save herself from the invading army? What if she had had an unrealistic impression of her own strength? We wouldn’t have had that awesome story of Rahab’s faith in the Bible. She wouldn’t have made it into the lineage of Christ.

I’m sure that someone who had a reputation as a prostitute would have had difficulties shaking off the labels placed on her by society. It would have been hard to step into the identity God had planned for her.

Run your race–In Rahab Woman of Jericho, the main character had to resist giving in to the expectation of others, including her family. She knew what she wanted for her life and she had to remain focused on it.

What is the path that lies ahead of you? Do you have the courage to stay the course? Each of us has to run the race set before us if we are going to accomplish what God has given us to do.

Rahab Woman of Jericho will give you insight into what life may have been like for the people who remained in the camp while the Israelite army fought their enemies. It will give you a glimpse into what life may have been like for those first families who had to settle the land while the army remained on the move.

But more importantly, it may give you a desire to revisit the book of Exodus to experience once again the wondrous things God did on behalf of His people. You will want to dive into the story of God’s people to remind you of His awesome power.

I received an advanced reader’s copy from the publishers through Celebrate Lit; a positive review was not required. Get your copy of Rahab Woman of Jericho


About Rahab Woman of Jericho

Rahab, Woman of JerichoBook: Rahab, Woman of Jericho
Author: Diana Wallis Taylor
Genre: Biblical Fiction
Publisher: Whitaker House
Publication Date: August 4, 2020
Print Length: 234 pages

Some biblical scholars maintain that Rahab, the woman who hid Joshua’s two spies, was a harlot or prostitute. So how did she become one of the ancestors of Jesus Christ? Wouldn’t the Father ensure a pure lineage for His Son?

In this historical fiction, author Diana Wallis Taylor offers a beautiful story of intrigue that suggests Rahab was a descendent of Ephraim, one of the ten lost tribes of Israel. With no available Jewish men in her town, she marries Radames, a young Egyptian officer who is the new governor of Jericho.

When the Israelites approach Canaan with their army, Pharaoh sends word that he is withdrawing his troops. Radames fabricates a story to tell Jericho’s king, but Hammurabi doesn’t believe it…and he has his eye on the beautiful Rahab.

What will happen to Rahab after the lecherous king poisons her husband? How can she save her family from the invading Israelites? God parted the waters of the Jordan River for them—will He likewise provide miracles and blessings to her Ephraimite clan if they can rejoin their people?


About Diana Wallis Taylor

Diana-Wallis-TaylorDiana Wallis Taylor is an award-winning author of more than a dozen books, including such novels as Hadassah, Queen Esther of Persia; Lydia, Woman of PhilippiMary, Chosen of GodRuth, Mother of KingsMary Magdalene; and Journey to the Well. She is also the author of Halloween: Harmless Fun or Risky Business?

Diana’s additional published works include a collection of poetry, Wings of the Wind; an Easter cantata, “Glorious,” written with a musical collaborator and available on Sheet Music Plus; and contributions to various magazines and compilations.

She received her B.A. in Elementary Education at San Diego State University and was an elementary school teacher for twenty-two years. She operated two coffee house/used bookstores and later retired from a private Christian college as Director of Conference Services.

Diana makes her home in San Diego, California. Readers are welcome to reach out to her and read her blog at


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4 thoughts on “The Harlot Who Pleased God: the Story of Rahab”

  1. I found the story of Rahab very touching and it’s boost my faith and trust in God.

    1. Rahab’s story is one of my favorites! I’m glad your faith was boosted by Rahab’s story.

  2. Rahab was afraid of Hebrew God.women are very intelligent.first God is great he never considered her corector.he used her in his plan.praise God.

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