In the story of Rahab we have a picture of a sinner's deliverance from the judgment of God against sin. Rahab was a harlot, although some scholars try to evade the fact by suggesting that the Hebrew term could mean no more than an innkeeper. However, even if this were true, their case is not proved, for Rahab is referred to twice in the N. T. where her occupation is also mentioned and the word used is porne, which unquestionably means harlot or prostitute. In fact it appears that the New Testament deliberately calls our attention to her immoral way of life as though to give more force to the writer's statement:
"By faith, the harlot Rahab perished not with them that
Even in the heathen city of Jericho, Rahab's way of life must
have set her apart from the decent people of the city, otherwise
there would have been no point in stressing the fact that she
was a harlot. When we free our minds from the purely sexual
aspects of Rahab's occupation, we can perceive that harlotry is
the sin of degrading that which is noble to a base purpose. The
harlot's entire way of life is centered in the flesh, and lived
entirely on the level of the flesh, and the sexual act, in such a
relationship, is merely a means of gratifying the lust of the
flesh. Thus the sexual act is degraded to the level of animalistic
behavior, a thing which is an abomination to the Lord.
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Yet Rahab, the harlot, is a picture of every individual
who is without Christ. No matter how cultured, educated,
cultivated, gentle, or moral a man may be, his life is lived
entirely on the level of the flesh. He prostitutes his body, which
should properly be devoted to the service of God, to the service
of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Though difficult for some
to understand, it is a solemn truth that the unregenerate man
can, and will, do nothing to please God, and though he may
appear great in the eyes of his fellow men, yet, like Naaman, he
is a leper in the eyes of God. See II Kings 5:1.
To Rahab's home came the two Hebrew messengers (Hebrew: Maleach = angel or messenger) bringing a message of judgment but also providing a way of escape. Even in this age of grace, it is necessary to proclaim the judgment of God against sin in order to lay a foundation for the preaching of grace. To preach grace apart from judgement is to offer people something for which they feel no need. No one is interested in pardon for sin until he has become conscious of the penalty for sin. The message of judgment, then, must precede grace, just as the law with all its severity and inflexibility was the forerunner of grace.
Having heard the message of judgment, Rahab was faced
with a decision. She could turn the Hebrew messengers over to
the king of Jericho, in which case she would have earned the
gratitude of the king, and could go on living her life of
prostitution; or, she could risk the wrath of the king and
jeopardize her very life by hiding the men in return for
deliverance in the day of destruction. The prospect of God's
judgment overshadowed that of the king. Her decision to hide
the men was not based on mere kindness and compassion. She
believed the message of judgment and desired to flee from the
wrath to come. It is this faith of Rahab's in the word of God
that is commended to us in Hebrews 11:31. She put her trust
completely in the God of Israel and renounced all allegiance to
her former sovereign.
Rahab asked the men to give her a true token (Heb. oth, from a root meaning to come - therefore a sign of something to come) and was told to tie a line of scarlet thread in the window. In this circumstance are pictured the elements of the plan of salvation which is available to everyone:
Rahab, then, was told symbolically to put her hope or
expectation in the pierced or mortally wounded one - a work of
faith. When the Israelites took and destroyed the city of
Jericho, Rahab and her family were safe from that destruction
because of the scarlet line in the window. When the sinner
today puts his hope in the pierced One, he too will find
deliverance in the day of judgment.
Rahab then became the bride of the prince of the tribe of Judah whose name was Salmon (clothed). Her name, Rahab (enlargement, freedom of walk), then became a reality when she was joined to the clothed one. As the wife of Salmon she became the mother of Boaz, the mighty man of Bethlehem, and an ancestress of the pierced One. See Matthew 1:5.
John H Mattox