Hebrews 11 list a number of people that Hebrews 12:1 calls a "great a cloud of witnesses". Among them are the usual suspects: Noah, Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. But there are also some lesser names, including Abel, Enoch, and Rahab:

By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.—Hebrews 11:29-31 (ESV)

Joshua 2 gives an account of how Rahab welcomed them. (By the way, there's little evidence she offered them sexual favors.) She was afraid for her life because of the Hebrew's military victories and betrayed her home town when she hid the spies. Is that really a sign of her faith? Why isn't it the spies that are honored? Why was Rahab listed?


I think this is a superb answer so I do not intent to supplant it, but perhaps supplement.

Rahab has a couple of notable mentions in the New Testament: Hebrews 11 (which you've identified) and James 2. James 2 is almost more shocking than Hebrews 11 since she's held on par with Abraham as an example of saving faith.

Looking back at the actual story in Joshua 2, I'm inclined to understand Rahab's inclusion in these two accounts as a function of her response. We see in vv. 8-13 that the fame of YHWH had spread to Jericho. The way the story is constructed, Rahab is the only one of the city who both trusted (had faith) that YHWH could achieve the results that YHWH expects and responded in a manner that accented to what YHWH was going to do - and assisted.

  • don't forget she is in the line of David, and therefore Christ, too – warren Aug 31 '12 at 13:42
  • 1
    but how is that a demonstration of faith? – swasheck Aug 31 '12 at 14:06
  • it isn't necessarily - I was merely pointing-out she's included elsewhere and prominently, too – warren Aug 31 '12 at 14:18
  • Fascinating. I wonder who this RK Phillips character is. I can't find him anywhere and the link in Wikipedia is dead so I can't evaluate the source. – swasheck Sep 2 '12 at 3:54

Her faith is that she changed sides, at a time when that was very risky.

  • She disobeyed the king of Jericho and lied to him (v4-6), which would have resulted in a sticky end if she had been caught.
  • She knowingly acted against her own people.
  • And made a covenant with the enemy. (And we have the curious situation where she could save as many relatives as she wanted, but had to convince them to change sides too – none of them could tell outsiders or the deal was off.)
  • It seems that their imminent defeat by Israel was common knowledge in Jericho (v9-11), but Rahab acted on what everyone knew. That is faith.
  • Nice job in marshaling the scriptural evidence, Russell. Welcome to the forum. – Dieter Jun 14 '18 at 2:29

Perhaps a better question would be, "Why was Rahab included in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus Christ (in Matthew 1)":

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac,Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.

In addition to all the reasons given by providers of the above answers, I suggest that Rahab's mention is Hebrews may be because she figured to prominently in the genealogy of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

If I were Matthew, and I also happened to be the author of Hebrews, I guess I'd have included Rahab in my Hall of Faith instead of the spies, as full of faith as they likely were. Moreover, given a limited amount of space, the author of Hebrews by selecting a limited few stalwarts of faith was at the same time deflecting the names of other stalwarts. He included them, to be sure, but collectively, not individually, as in the following verses:

Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—-the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect (Hebrews 11:35-40 NIV, my italics).

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