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Rahab the harlot and the inner life of Old Testament women – by Karla Chase

The story of Rahab is found in Joshua 2 and 6:22-25, click here for Joshua 2 or here for Joshua 6:22-25 or see below.

I’d like to see women in the Old Testament (OT) portrayed as more valuable (there are exceptions), than just inventory in a man’s lineup of marriage options. How awful to be poor Leah, where your father has to trick Jacob into marrying you, because your poor appearance leaves you with few (if any) marriage options.

What about Bathsheba? Didn’t she hate David for killing her husband? Then she has to marry David. The OT, except for books like Ruth and Esther, does a lousy job of telling how women caught in the passions of men think about things.

Rahab is an interesting case. The story of Rahab– her redemption, courage and place in history— is very beautiful. Obviously, God looks out for the provision of women in the OT, even if the culture does not. (Ex. Hagar when God comes to her after she is kicked out by Sarah.)

But, the story of Rahab also shows the low status of women in OT culture. Did she purposely want to be a harlot, or more likely did she have no other options? There weren’t a lot of options for women (in that culture) besides getting married or having relatives take care of you.

The story of Rahab, like Bathsheba, is an example of God bringing good out of a bad situation. In this way the two stories are similar.

I’m sure God does not endorse the type of culture that places low value on women-though he allowed/allows it to occur.

According to the Bible this whole mess (cultures devaluing people) started by humans getting kicked out of Eden and being given free choice to live the way they want to. We’ve never quite recovered since.

– Karla Chase

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Joshua 2 (New International Version)

Rahab and the Spies

1 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.

2 The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” 3 So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.”

4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. 5 At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” 6 (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) 7 So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.

8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, “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. 10 We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea[a] for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.[b] 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

12 “Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign 13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.”

14 “Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the LORD gives us the land.”

15 So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. 16 She said to them, “Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.”

17 Now the men had said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us 18 unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. 19 If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them. 20 But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.”

21 “Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.”

So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.

22 When they left, they went into the hills and stayed there three days, until the pursuers had searched all along the road and returned without finding them. 23 Then the two men started back. They went down out of the hills, forded the river and came to Joshua son of Nun and told him everything that had happened to them. 24 They said to Joshua, “The LORD has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.”

Joshua 6

22 Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.” 23 So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother, her brothers and sisters and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel.

24 Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the LORD’s house. 25 But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.

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