by John Sowalsky
Rahab is an intriguing and instructive figure in both the Old and New Testaments. Her story, as related in the Book of Joshua, illustrates two important points. The first is the fact that God -- the "God of Israel" -- has always welcomed those who welcome Him, and has never rejected any who seek Him in deference and humility. The Abrahamic Covenant did not, in fact, trace a bloodline, although a bloodline was included within it. The injunction given to Abraham was to circumcise all the males in his household, not simply all the males of his bloodline. It is, thus, only natural that Rahab, serving God and His people, was welcomed into their tribe, without condition or prejudice. As illuminating as these facts are, what is, arguably, of even greater importance is how Rahab acted.
In her patriarchal culture, she might have been expected to run to the men of her household, to defer to them, and to allow them to make whatever determination they deemed appropriate. Instead, as an independent agent of change, she acted on behalf of her entire household. Although the text is short on specifics, one can easily imagine Rahab, under the pressure of time to make a snap decision, recognizing the very necessity of her choice as the only means of sustaining the lives of her family. This not only affirms her awe of, and belief in, the power of God, it flies in the face of the assertion that God has a patriarchal bent, that only the leadership of men is acceptable to Him. Mind you, this is the Old Testament we're talking about here!
Rahab's story then plays out in an even more remarkable way in the New Testament. Consider that the genealogy of Jesus is traced from Adam through David, and then from David through Joseph. It is notable that Rahab also figures into this genealogy. There is a message of deep significance here: Rahab was adopted into the Tribe of Israel, and into the house which gave rise to David. And this is profoundly important because it means that each of us, Jew or Gentile, woman or man, can be adopted into the same house, the same tribe, the same family.
Rahab, aside from being a strong, decisive leader, also foreshadows the idea that salvation is available to all. Now that's a woman to admire!
John is a native Washingtonian and long-time resident of Montgomery County, MD, who has studied cultural anthropology and music composition; previously spent 12 years as a database developer; currently works in the creative arts ministry at Seneca Creek Community Church (where he also plays drums); and self-produces his own comedic stage plays from time to time. He is a very proud uncle twice over, and enjoys musty old books, crusty old music, and dusty old movies.