by Rahab the harlot

It’s only in Matthew’s genealogy and nowhere else in the Biblical record that we learn that Rahab was an ancestor of the Messiah - the harlot who gave the two spies (who had been sent into Canaan at Jericho to find out the strength of the opposition and how the land lay) a friendly welcome by protecting them from the authorities in the city and sending them out unharmed after she’d put herself in a position of danger.

It seems correct to suggest, therefore, that Rahab gave up her livelihood as a prostitute (though this does still remain conjecture) and settled down in the promised land with an Israelite husband to produce offspring.

The incident is commented on twice in the NT. Heb 11:31 speaks of Rahab’s faith in the purpose of God that He was bringing the Israelites in to take possession of the land of which her home was a part (Joshua 2:8-13) - and, subsequently (though not mentioned in the Hebrew passage), the need for faith in the word of the two spies as they told her what to do to be protected when they didn’t yet know how God was going to command them to take the city (Joshua 2:17-20).

Also James 2:25 mentions Rahab where the same incident is in mind, but James uses it to show his readers that faith isn’t a passive concept that remains static and undemonstrative. Rahab’s faith in the purpose of God showed itself in her ‘work’ of protecting the spies by hiding them when they were being hunted down to be killed.

The reason for Rahab’s inclusion in Matthew’s list and the implications of her profession while resident in Jericho will be outlined in part two of these notes.