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How Did a Canaanite Prostitute End Up in Jesus' Genealogy?

Can fear lead to faith?

by Andy Davis on December 05, 2023

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. Matthew 1:5-6
By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. Hebrews 11:31


The story of Rahab is one of the most remarkable testimonies of God’s electing and saving grace in all the Bible. She was a Canaanite prostitute, a woman whose lifestyle would have been scandalous to any upright Jewish man or woman. Given how deeply corrupted were the practices of the seven pagan nations that God sent Joshua and his army in to slaughter, it doesn’t take much imagination to speculate on what her daily life consisted of before her transformation. But everything changed for Rahab when reports reached her of how the Israelites had been dramatically rescued from slavery in Egypt by the outstretched arm of Almighty God. Her heart had melted in holy fear when she heard of the stunning destruction of Pharaoh’s mighty army at the Red Sea, how the water had walled up on the right and left, allowing the Israelites to cross on dry land, and then how the Egyptian host had all drowned when they tried to pursue. After that, the Jews had easily defeated Sihon, King of the Amorites, and Og, King of Bashan. This caused all the inhabitants of Jericho to melt in terror, knowing that the Jews were coming to dwell in their land... and nothing could stop them.

I don’t know when fear moved to faith in Rahab’s heart. That is a mysterious working that only the Holy Spirit can do. As the hymn states so plainly, “‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved.” The movement from fear of righteous destruction to a hope of salvation is something the Spirit does within the heart of an elect person. Perhaps it was when the two spies came to her home desperately seeking refuge from the Jericho authorities. Maybe she saw her opportunity then... faith sprang up in her heart of salvation from the sword of destruction that hung over all their heads. So, she acted in faith, hiding the spies, eliciting a promise of safety from them for her and her family, and then sending them off in a direction different from their pursuers. James 2 and Hebrews 11 make it plain that faith moved Rahab to take these actions. And God (through Joshua) miraculously spared Rahab and all her family. Despite the fact that her house was built into the city wall, and the walls all crumbled as in an earthquake, Rahab and her family were spared. They stayed alive that day because of Rahab’s faith.

"But God took her spark of faith-filled fear and expanded it to an infinite dimension... she was included in the family line of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world."

But amazingly, God had bigger plans for Rahab’s future! Though we do not learn of it in the pages of the Old Testament, we find out in Jesus’ genealogy that Rahab eventually married a Jewish man named Salmon, of the tribe of Judah, and became the mother of Boaz. This Boaz was the godly Jewish man who married another Gentile outcast named Ruth, a Moabitess, and together they had a son named Obed... the father of Jesse, the father of King David. All Rahab wanted to do was stay alive when the Israelites conquered Canaan. But God took her spark of faith-filled fear and expanded it to an infinite dimension... she was included in the family line of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

Jesus was not ashamed to include such a woman in his genealogy and to spend eternity with her in his kingdom. Such is the grace flowing through the Christmas message of salvation that is extending to the ends of the earth and to the end of time.


Tags: faith, fear, conversion