Rahab was referred to in the Bible as “the harlot of Jericho.” She and her family were the only people living in Jericho that survived the destruction of the community. One legend asserts that she married Joshua; another states she wed Salmon, one of the Hebrew spies sent by Joshua that she protected. If the latter legend were true, then she would have been among the line from whom Jesus was descended. Regardless, she came to be honored among women for her courage on behalf of the Hebrew people.
To set the stage for her story, it is first necessary to present a little background. Moses, the leader of the Hebrew people, was dead and Joshua, the son of Nun, had taken his place. While the Hebrews camped at Shittim before crossing the Jordan River into Canaan, the Promised Land, Joshua dispatched spies to provide information on the strength of the forces of the King of Jericho, since the Hebrew encampment stood just opposite Jericho.
“And they went, and came into an harlot's house, named Rahab, and lodged there” (Joshua 2:1). Soon, the King of Jericho was told about the men at Rahab's house. The king promptly sent for the harlot.
Rahab told the king that she had seen the men come in, but they had left and she didn't know where they went. She told the king to send out his men in a hurry, and perhaps he would find the spies. In truth, however, she had taken the men up onto her roof and hidden them with stalks of flax. But before she hid them, Rahab voiced a request.
Rahab Strikes a Deal with Joshua's Spies
She told the men that she had heard how powerful the Hebrew god was, and that she understood that they had come to take over the land in which she lived. She asked them to show kindness to her as she had to them, and to spare her family. The men told her they would protect her family if she helped them.
The Spies Escape
Joshua's men climbed to safety down a scarlet cord hung from Rahab's window. She told them to hide for three days until the king's men gave up their search. When the spies returned to their camp, they told Joshua of their promise to spare Rahab and her family.
Rahab's City Is Captured
The Hebrews readied themselves for the crossing of the Jordan, and the river dried up so that the children of the Lord could cross over. The people surrounded the city of Jericho. Trumpets blared and the people shouted, and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. The Hebrews went to claim Jericho, destroying men, women, children, and animals “…with the edge of the sword” (Joshua 6:21).
Joshua Spares Rahab and Her Family
Joshua told his spies to go to Rahab's house and get her and everything she had with her, including her family. The men did as they were told, taking Rahab and her relatives to a place outside the camp of Israel. They then torched the city. “And Joshua saved Rahab, the harlot, alive, and her father's household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho” (Joshua 6:25).