Rahab of Jericho
In my office, I have a framed picture called, The Four, by Tricia Robinson. It depicts the four women mentioned in Matthew's genealogy of Christ at the opening of his gospel. In a time when men were the only people of record, Matthew deems it important to note four women from whom Jesus can trace his roots. One would think that these four women would be pillars of his past and women of great historical significance because of this honor. However, even by today’s standards, these women might be more suited as the black sheep of the family than the matriarchs of the Son of God.
Take the second woman mentioned by Matthew: Rahab. Rahab is a prostitute. This is not a euphemism or a bad translation; the second woman in Christ’s genealogy is a known prostitute and Canaanite too. Neither of these things make her the kind of woman that a first century Jew would look upon favorably. In a genealogy that is supposed to highlight the fulfillment of prophecy and the indisputable worthiness of the Messiah, why does Matthew include a prostitute from a cursed lineage?
When we meet Rahab in the book of Joshua, she is living in a house in Jericho and harboring Joshua’s two spies. They spent the night with her, and the king of Jericho ordered her to turn them over. Without any prompting noted, she hides the two men on her roof and lies to the king’s men, sending them out of the gated town on a wild goose chase. She then meets with the spies and tells them that the Lord God that parted the Red Sea and destroyed their enemies is the same God that she calls her own. She boldly brokers a deal with the spies to get them out of Jericho safely so that, in return, her family will be spared. Shortly before the city is burned, the two spies return to Rahab’s home and safely escort her and her family to the camp of Israel. She then goes on to marry Salmon and give birth to Boaz.
Rahab is a broken woman. She is a sinner. She is a woman of great faith and a woman who cares for her family. Matthew does not shy away from this; he highlights it. Because Christ comes from kings, but he also comes from people who know struggle and pain. He was born of the Virgin Mary, but he is from a line of imperfect and utterly human ancestors. Matthew is highlighting her because he is previewing the people that Christ will use throughout his ministry on earth. He is highlighting her because these are the people that Christ is still using to do his work today. We are all broken in our own ways, but we are all capable of being the hands of Christ too.
Rahab is a woman that was saved by her faith in God. She is a powerful reminder that even the most shameful moments in our past are redeemable through Christ. She is unapologetic about who she is and confident in the woman she will become. She sees an opportunity that God has given to her and seizes that moment. She is brave and vulnerable and loving and passes those characteristics on to the Messiah she knows to be coming, Jesus Christ. In Christ, she is no longer a woman with a sordid past, but a woman of faith and fortitude whom Jesus is proud to claim as his own. And isn’t that what Christ sees in us all?