Rahab – From Harlot to Heroine


Text: Joshua 2


Rahab appears to be one of the most unlikely of candidates for salvation in the entirety of the word of God. What we have to acknowledge is that salvation is not gauged upon what a person used to be or what they have done. Instead it is based upon the free gift of God’s grace which is received by faith in what He has promised. Therefore, though Rahab was a prostitute, probably one of the most debauched citizens of a doomed people, she was saved from destruction by the will and grace of God alone.

The sign

Rahab knew that she deserved to perish along with everyone else in Jericho. We do not find her pleading that she was really a good person that found herself in unfortunate circumstances. She merited God’s judgement, full stop. Some believe that those who are destined to be saved, will be saved, and those preordained to go to Hell will end up there. But the fact is, we all deserved to go to Hell. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). This in turn means that only sinners can be saved. Rahab understood her sinfulness and the wrath she deserved, yet she was also convinced that the God of Israel was the true God. “And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you:for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath” (Joshua 2:11).

Notice that she did not ask for protection for herself, but for others of her family. “Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the Lord, since I have shewed you kindness, that ye will also shew kindness unto my father’s house, and give me a true token: And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death” (Joshua 2:12-13). She asked for a token that God’s promise would hold true for them. She received the sign of her own salvation too.  

A scarlet thread in the window. So simple, even a child could do it. What is complicated about faith? It is religion, legalism and tradition that makes it too hard for us to truly have it. This red cord reminds us of the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of the Israelite homes in Egypt. Again, what a simple way to express faith! The Cross of Jesus Christ is no less simple. Trusting in the finished work of Jesus on Calvary is all that is required for both salvation and sanctification. “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Faith in His precious blood secures our eternal salvation, and just as with Rahab, it has nothing with what we were or what we could do. Simply by faith. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

The salvation

Rahab did exactly what she was instructed to do. “Behold, when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by:and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household, home unto thee. And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless:and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him” (Joshua 2:18-19). This is what James 2:25 is referring to. “Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?” A proper faith that pruduced proper works, that is, there was visible evidence of her faith; in other words, dynamic faith. Before she tied the red cord to the window, she was lost. As soon as she tied it there, she was saved. She did not think up this plan to save herself. Who would think up such a foolish way to redeem the lost anyway! The details were given to her, she simply needed to act in faith. The cross of Calvary is just as foolish to those who do not accept salvation through Christ. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Rahab’s faith in the promise moved her from predestination to death to predestination to life. It is worthy of our notice that she had to trust in the word of another rather than her own ability. That scarlet thread was her salvation. The only assurance she had was her faith in that length of cord, yet in it was her deliverance when the wrath of God fell upon Jericho. That outward sign gave her inward peace. That is exactly what the blood of Christ does for all who believe in the finished work on the Cross. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). What do we have to boast about? Our glory is in the cross of Christ because we believe Him when He cried, “It is Finished!” (John 19:30). Like Rahab we are all unworthy of the grace of God, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). There is nothing left but to trust in God’s promise of salvation through Christ. “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). Here is the New Covenant that the Father and the Holy Spirit made with Jesus in eternity past. “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Ephesians 1:4).


Rahab, the harlot, who was destined to perish along with the Canaanites, became a child of God through simple faith. She married Salmon of the tribe of Judah and thus became one of the ancestors of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5). She is mentioned as a hero of faith in Hebrews 11:31, “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.” See what faith can do in a person’s life! Look at what God can do with someone who truly believes! The power of the gospel of Christ radically transforms lives. No wonder the apostle Paul wrote, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Nothing else saves and sanctifies, therefore we ought to keep our faith in what God chose to save us with. For Rahab it was the scarlet thread, but for us it is the precious Blood of Christ on Calvary’s Cross.