By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
The final person whose story is recited among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 is an individual named Rahab. Rahab’s story can be read in Joshua 2. In this story, Rahab, a prostitute from the city of Jericho, provided protection for a couple of incompetent Israelite spies as they searched her city. She didn’t have to do this.
In fact, we know of laws from the ancient Near East which said that people could be put to death for providing protection for spies like she did. In spite of these laws, Rahab risked her life for these spies because of her faith in God. In doing so, she helped ensure the success of the Israelite army in the city of Jericho.
One of the many remarkable things about Rahab’s role in the book of Joshua is how utterly unique it is within the larger literary context of the ancient Near East. Archaeologists have uncovered many ancient conquest accounts like the book of Joshua. In these accounts, kings wrote about how they conquered lands just like the Israelites did in the book of Joshua. What is missing from those accounts, and what makes the book of Joshua so special is that it includes a tale of a foreign, female prostitute sweeping in to save the day when the conquerors floundered. Her story stands out among ancient conquest accounts, and it shows that God wanted to make sure her name and story were remembered. God wanted future generations to know that any person, no matter their ethnicity, gender, or past, could make a difference and leave a legacy of faith.
In Hebrews 11, the writer of Hebrews could have stopped short of recounting the story. Just like the book of Joshua, the writer included it so that readers would know that stories like this can and should inspire us. This was undoubtedly significant for the original readers of Hebrews. Although they likely shared a Jewish religious background, we can safely assume that the original readers were of diverse occupations, genders, and ethnicities. The story of Rahab is a reminder for each of us that it doesn’t matter where you are from, what you look like, or what you’ve done in the past. Anyone can leave a legacy of faith.
24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.
31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered
kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned some- thing better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
In Hebrews 11:24-26, Moses is remembered for choosing to identify with the Israelites instead of the Egyptians. This was a huge decision because Moses was essentially royalty and would have had access to immense wealth had he identified with the Egyptians. Why do you think he did this? What motivations drive your decisions? Is it comfort or wealth? Or something greater?
In Hebrews 11:31, Rahab’s story is a powerful reminder that we all leave a legacy behind when we die. The good news is that it doesn’t matter what our gender is, what our ethnicity is, or how bad our past is—all that matters is how we lived with faith. What legacy of faith do you want to leave? What do you want people to remember about you long after you’re gone?
One common misconception of the Christian life is that because we have Jesus, we won’t experience pain or suffering. Hebrews 11:35-39 reminds us that God allowed Christians to experience pain or suffering for their faith. When suffering occurs today in our lives, we often ask, “Why me?”, and we feel as though God has deserted us. However, in reality, we live in a sinful world full of suffering, even for believers. How do you think our pain can actually help us grow closer to Christ and become more like Him?