The Life of a Queen
For the past month or so, I’ve been thinking about people in the Bible we don’t talk about often. The ones we don’t pay as much attention to. In light of International Women’s Day, I started wondering who in the Bible would be considered a “queen” by today’s standards. I was looking for someone more obscure, someone that we might have forgotten about. Initially, I thought of Esther, who literally became a queen, and then of Ruth and several others. However, they have whole books written about them (and not just in the Bible). In all my pondering, I kept going back to one name. One person who isn’t talked about as much as any of the others: Rahab.
I’ve only heard one, maybe two, sermons which briefly talked about Rahab. Yet I never heard one that really discussed her character or the impact and implication of her decisions. I couldn’t shake this feeling that there was something in her character and life that I kept missing because I never thought to look before. So, I decided to look closer and realized that Rahab was the “queen” I’d been subconsciously looking for.
There are five characteristics that define a queen. A queen is not only brave, but must also have grit, is simultaneously tough and tender, constantly learns and tries new things, is calm while under adversity, and takes care of herself (or so a basic Google search claims). Rahab does all these things and more.
Rahab’s story begins in Joshua 2 and then picks back up in Joshua 6:20-25 when the walls of Jericho fall, and the Israelites take the city. Let me summarize the story for you in my own words (however, I still encourage you to go and read the passages yourself too). In Joshua 2, two Israelite spies sneak into the city of Jericho and hide out at Rahab’s house. Rahab is known as a harlot (or prostitute, depending on the translation), so this is a good place for a couple of spies to hide since it will look normal for men to come and go from her house at all hours. Nevertheless, the king of Jericho hears that the spies went to Rahab’s house and thus sends his men to tell Rahab to hand over the spies. Rahab, ever the hospitable host, claims that the spies did come to her house but have since then left. She subsequently gives these men false directions, effectively leading them on a wild goose chase looking for the spies … which Rahab has hidden on her roof. This portion of the story exemplifies how Rahab remained calm under pressure, took care of others (not just herself), and acted bravely in the face of danger.
Rahab then went and spoke to the spies and asked them to show her the same kindness she had shown them. She requests that, when the Israelites invade the city, they will spare her and her whole family. These actions demonstrate how she is taking care of both herself and her family and how she shows these men, who could easily be her enemies, tenderness in protecting them and toughness in leading astray their enemies (more traits a queen possesses). Rahab also confesses what she has heard about their God and acknowledges Him as the God of heaven and earth. Let me pause here to point something out that I missed in the past. Rahab’s confession here reminded me of Romans 10:9, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” There is a parallel between Rahab’s confession and acknowledgment of who God is and the way in which we confess Jesus as Lord and follow Him. And it doesn’t stop there.
The spies agree to Rahab’s request and instruct her to hang a scarlet cord from her window (the same window that she is about to lower them down from so they can escape the city). The spies promise that if the scarlet cord hangs from the window, then whoever is in her house with her will be spared along with all they had. Notice another parallel? The scarlet cord points forward to the blood of Jesus and his death on the cross. In telling her family how they can be saved from destruction, Rahab does what we are called to do for the people in our lives. Rahab was instructed to bring all her family into her house and hang a scarlet cord as a testament to her actions and the promise, or covenant, she made with the spies. Meaning that if she wants to save her family, she must tell them how they can be saved. Doesn’t this sound a lot like Matthew 28:19 and Romans 10:13? – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” and “For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”
I want to point one more thing out before moving on: did you notice where Rahab lives when you read the passages? She conveniently lives in a home built into the wall. The wall that surrounds the city of Jericho. This is just another example of how God orchestrates things behind the scenes. Rahab was in the perfect place to help the spies. Literally. It took every ounce of courage for her to choose to do this and turn her back on her peoples’ customs and culture. Rahab continuously demonstrates the qualities of a queen through her actions: brave and courageous, tough but tender, willing to learn and try new things, maintaining calmness under adversity, and the ability to care for herself and others. Now, back to the story.
Rahab agrees to follow the directions the spies gave her and promises not to betray them. The spies leave and we don’t hear of Rahab again until chapter 6, after the walls of Jericho have fallen with the final trumpet blast. Yet, before that, Rahab has nothing to go on, except the word of the spies, that her life and her family’s lives will be spared. Rahab didn’t know what was going to happen, but she trusted in God to deliver her and her family through the hands of the spies she helped. As it turned out, this was the best move she could have made. In Joshua 6:20-25, we see that the same two spies are sent to get Rahab and her family and bring them to safety before the city is destroyed. Verse 25 ends by saying that Rahab and her family lived with the Israelites from then on. This sounds like the end of Rahab and her significance, but it’s not.
Rahab is mentioned again in Matthew 1:5-6, “Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king.” In other words, Rahab became the great, great grandmother of King David who, as we know, is of the lineage that brings us to the birth of Jesus. From this woman who was once a harlot and prostitute, comes the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Rahab left behind everything she knew – her people, her culture, her way of life – to follow the God of heaven and earth. Because she did this, because she made herself available, God used her despite her checkered past. In leaving behind her culture, life, people, and past, she became part of God’s people and of the lineage that led to Jesus. Furthermore, the scarlet cord that Rahab hangs from her window (which could literally look like a blood line/cord visually) not only points to salvation but additionally signifies how Rahab and her descendants were grafted into the lineage that produced Jesus. The same way we are grafted into the family of God when we give our lives to Him.
The next place we see Rahab mentioned is in Hebrews 11:30-31, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.” Hebrews 11 is often referred to as “The Hall of Faith.” The fact that Rahab makes it into the Hall of Faith is quite significant. Few women are even mentioned in it, but we see Rahab right there along with Sarah (Abraham’s wife). In fact, these are the only women mentioned in the Hall of Faith (check it out for yourself!). Moreover, Rahab is the last person mentioned by name in this section. There are a few names that follow right after (all of which are men), along with some of the stuff they did, but these men aren’t given the same attention or figurative place of honor that Rahab receives. They feel more like honorable mentions whereas Rahab (who is often preceded or followed by “the harlot”) is seemingly given a higher place of honor. I am almost positive that it’s because of what is said in James 2:25.
James 2:14-26 talks about how faith without works is dead. This is also the next section of Scripture where Rahab’s name pops up. James 2:25 says, “Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers [spies] and sent them out another way?” Rahab was a woman of faith – as shown through her decision to leave everything behind and follow the one true God. Now, this passage tells us that she was justified by what she did. In a passage that shows how faith without works is dead, the writer takes us back to Joshua 2 to show us how Rahab demonstrated both faith and works. She had faith to leave everything behind and exercised her faith, or worked it out, by hiding the spies and helping them escape. In other words, she behaved like a true queen. Brave and courageous, tough but tender, willing to learn and try new things, maintaining calmness under adversity, and the ability to care for herself and others.
Additionally, in both this passage and in Hebrews 11, Rahab is mentioned last. This may seem strange at first, but what it shows is how what is mentioned last tends to stick with you. For instance, what do you remember most in a book or movie: the beginning, middle, or end? There’s a reason screenwriters and authors agonize over the perfect ending. The fact that the authors of Hebrews and James put Rahab at the end demonstrates the impact she had and continues to have. She was put last so that we would remember her story, her choices, her past and future. Because she’s last, her name sticks out and is easier to remember. In this way, God honors her for what she did by ensuring that we can never forget her. But, most importantly, God uses her story to show us that we are never too far gone, too different, too much of an outsider or outcast, or not good enough for His love and salvation.
Rahab was a harlot, a prostitute, a liar (remember how she lied to protect the spies? That was never condoned or applauded). But she heard of the God of heaven and earth and made a choice that changed not only her life, but the lives of her entire family. She had courage to leave behind all she knew, had faith to follow God, and didn’t let her past define her. She went on to become a faithful wife who was part of the lineage that led to the birth of Jesus, our Savior. She begins her story as a harlot, prostitute, and liar, but ends as a child of God. She ends as a figurative queen: Brave, courageous, tough but tender, always learning, calm under adversity, and taking care of herself and others.
God didn’t deem her unworthy of His love and salvation because of her past nor did her actions save her. What saved her was the decision to surrender her life to Him and accept the love He willingly offered. Rahab’s story is a story that points back to the redemption we have in Jesus Christ through His sacrifice for us on the cross. It is a reminder that it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’ve come from, or what you’ve done – because you are loved, you are cherished, you are accepted, you are redeemed by God. When we, like Rahab, have the courage to leave behind our old way of life, when we have the faith to follow God, and when we don’t let our past define us, God can use us in amazing ways.