Grades 3-6 Sunday School Lesson
Rahab the Heroine
Author’s Notes: This week, we’re continuing a series of lessons on heroines in the Bible. The Bible tells us of many great women who were full of faith, courage, and conviction. We’ve already studied two of them – Deborah and Esther; and discovered great examples of what God is looking for in His servants, even today. This week we’ll be looking at the courage of Rahab. And we’ll see how her faith and courage transformed her from Rahab, the harlot to Rahab, the heroine!
Do you have any nicknames? Perhaps your name is a long one, and most people just use a shorter version when they’re talking to you. For instance, if your name is Daniel, your friends and family might call you Dan or Danny. If your name is Elizabeth, they might call you Liz or Lizzy.
Sometimes people are given nicknames because of some characteristic they have. The United States had a very famous President whose name was Abraham Lincoln. The story goes that as a young man, Abraham Lincoln worked as a store clerk. And on one occasion, he realized he’d given a customer the wrong amount of change. So to make it right, he walked a long distance just to give the customer the rest of the change he was due. And for the rest of his life, he was known as “Honest Abe.”
But sometimes those nicknames are not so nice. Years ago, when a child got new glasses they would often be called “four-eyes.” And if they got braces to straighten their teeth, it earned them the nickname “tinsel-teeth.”
There was a woman in the Bible who also carried a nickname with her throughout her life, and even into Bible history. She was known as Rahab, the harlot. Unlike Abraham Lincoln’s nickname, Rahab’s was not a nice one. It referred to her sinful lifestyle before she came to trust in God. We find her referred to as the harlot, Rahab, when we first meet her in the book of Joshua (where our lesson is from, today). And she is still known that way in the New Testament book of Hebrews, where she’s listed among the great men and women of faith. Hopefully as she learned to love God more and more, that name was not a discouragement; but was, instead, a reminder of all that God had saved her from.
So let’s look at the life of Rahab, the harlot; and find out how God transformed her, because of her faith and courage, into Rahab, the heroine.
Today’s memory verse may be a familiar one to you. It describes what happened to Rahab, and what can happen to each of us if we, too, trust God as our Savior and Lord.
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
2 Corinthians 5:17
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for Your Word, The Bible, where we can learn new truths about You, and Your plans for us. Help each one of us here, today, to be attentive to what You would have us learn. Give us open ears and hearts, ready to listen to Your words. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: Rahab the Heroine (Joshua chapters 2 and 6 )
Today we’re going to learn about a woman named Rahab. In Joshua chapter 2, we find her described as “a harlot.” And while that name suggests a very sinful lifestyle, we don’t find any record of her sin in the Bible…other than its being linked with her name. From the time we meet her, the story is not about Rahab’s sin, but about her faith in God, and the courage she displayed because of it. Let’s take a look at this unlikely heroine, and find out what she did that earned her a spot in the book of Hebrews “Hall of Faith.”
Rahab’s story is also the story of the Israelites’ first great military victory, once they entered the Promised Land. It begins in Joshua chapter 2, with Joshua, the leader of the Israelites, sending spies into the Land ahead of the Israelite nation. Let’s open God’s Word to the book of Joshua, and join the spies on their way into the city of Jericho.
1 And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot's house, named Rahab, and lodged there.
2 And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither to night of the children of Israel to search out the country.
3 And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country.
Had the two Israelite spies gotten into Jericho without being seen? No! Someone in Jericho reported to the king that Israelite spies had been seen entering Rahab’s house. We aren’t told if Rahab realized where the spies had come from when she let them in, or why the spies chose to hide there. But since they had been seen, they were in a great deal of danger. And so was Rahab, if it were proven true that she was hiding enemy spies!
What do you suppose they would do with the spies, and with Rahab, if they were caught? They would probably have killed all three of them! And why would Rahab have any reason to protect the men? They were, after all, her enemies. Let’s read on, to see what she did.
4 And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were:
5 And it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them.
6 But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof.
Did Rahab admit that the men had gone into her house? Yes, she did. But she said she didn’t know who they were, or where they’d come from. But the fact that she felt like she needed to hide them probably means she had a pretty good idea what was going on. So what was Rahab’s story about what had happened to the spies? She claimed that once it got dark, the men had secretly left her house; and that she had no idea where they had gone. She then suggested that they probably had not gotten far. And that if the soldiers hurried, they could probably catch up with them.
Had the spies really left her house? No. Where were they? They were hiding, up on Rahab’s roof; probably waiting for the sound of the soldiers footsteps coming up to look for them. But Rahab’s story was so convincing that they didn’t need to worry. The soldiers believed her, and took off after the spies.
7 And the men pursued after them the way to Jordan unto the fords: and as soon as they which pursued after them were gone out, they shut the gate.
We’re going to pause the story here, for just a moment, to make one thing clear: lying is not okay. God did not need for Rahab to tell a lie in order for the spies to escape. Her lie did not save them, God did. It was God who put it in the soldiers’ hearts not to search for the men. We must remember that at this point, Rahab did not yet know God personally. All that she knew about Him was from what she had heard others say. So some of the things she did may not have pleased Him. But God was able to use her, anyway, to accomplish His will.
And whether or not she did it the right way, what Rahab did in hiding the spies was incredibly courageous! She was willing to risk her own life to save two enemy spies. Rahab’s heart was in the process of changing. She was a woman of great courage. And she was becoming a woman of great faith. We can tell this from what she said next, to the spies.
8 And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof;
9 And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.
10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.
11 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.
Rahab lived in a pagan city. If she worshipped any god at all, it would have been an idol. And yet, what did she say about the God of the Israelites? She didn’t say, “He is another one of the gods.” She said, “he is God!” Rahab recognized that there was really only one, true God, and that He was the God of the Israelites. That’s what gave her the desire and the courage to help the spies. She was able to look ahead to see who was going to be on the winning side, God’s side. And she wanted to join them!
But there was another step that needed to be taken before the spies could get away safely. They needed to get out of Jericho without being seen. So sensing the destruction to come for Jericho, Rahab made a deal with the spies.
12 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:
13 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.
14 And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the LORD hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee.
What was the deal Rahab made with the spies? In return for the kindness she had shown to them, she asked the spies to guarantee her that she and her family would be spared when Jericho was destroyed. And did they agree? Yes! The spies promised, on their own lives, that if she would keep their secret, she and her family would be saved. But there were three conditions. Let’s find out what they were:
15 Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was upon the town wall, and she dwelt upon the wall.
16 And she said unto them, Get you to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you; and hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers be returned: and afterward may ye go your way.
17 And the men said unto her, We will be blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear.
18 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.
19 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.
20 And if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear.
21 And she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window.
How did the spies escape out of Jericho? Rahab used a cord to lower them down to the ground, outside of the city gate, from a window in her house that was on the wall. Again, she was risking her own life. If anyone had seen them, she would certainly have been put to death for being a traitor.
And what were the three things Rahab had to do for the oath to be binding?
- She had to keep their secret.
- Those family members who she wanted to save would have to remain in the house, with her, when the Israelites came to take the city.
- And she had to hang a red cord from her window on the wall
The first two things might not have been too hard. But why would the third one be difficult? Her window would have been visible to anyone outside the city gate. And it wasn’t like the color of the cord blended in with the color of the wall. Scarlet is bright red! It would have been clear for anyone to see. By hanging that cord from her window, Rahab was choosing sides, and declaring her allegiance with the Israelites.
When we get saved, and ask Jesus to come into our hearts and lives, we must do the same things that Rahab did. We don’t literally have to hang a red cord out our windows. But we must start where she did: acknowledging that God is the one, true God. And that without His help, we won’t be saved. Then we need to act on that faith, and be willing to choose Him as the Lord in our lives. Then, Romans 10 tells us that in addition to believing, we must also confess that Jesus is Lord. That confession is like the red cord Rahab hung out her window for all the world to see. When we make that declaration, we hang that cord for all to see… that we have chosen Jesus Christ to save us.
Because Rahab was willing to hang that cord, she not only became a hero in the eyes of the spies, but she also became a heroine of faith, in God’s eyes. Hebrews 11 is a chapter in the New Testament devoted to Old Testament believers who displayed great faith in their lives. Only two of those mentioned by name are women; and Rahab is one of them. Hebrews 11:31 says, “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.” Why did she do it? Because she believed that their God was the one true God. And that only He was able to save her.
So what happened after the spies escaped down the wall? Let’s find out.
22 And they went, and came unto the mountain, and abode there three days, until the pursuers were returned: and the pursuers sought them throughout all the way, but found them not.
23 So the two men returned, and descended from the mountain, and passed over, and came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all things that befell them:
24 And they said unto Joshua, Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us.
The rest of the story can be found if we jump ahead to Joshua chapter 6, as Israel marched into the Promised Land, and around the city of Jericho. Many of you already know the story of Jericho - about how God knocked down the city walls simply by having the children of Israel march around it for seven days.
Just to remind you, God had promised to give Joshua and the people of Israel the victory over Jericho. And He gave them very specific instructions on what they were to do, including walking around the city one time each day for six days, without speaking a word. Only the trumpets were to make noise. But on the seventh day, they were to walk around the city seven times.
And that is where we’re going to pick up the rest of the story: on the seventh day of marching around Jericho:
16 And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city.
17 And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.
At that great moment where Joshua was about to lead the Israelites into a great victory at Jericho, who did he take the time to remember? He remembered Rahab, and the oath his spies had given her. Perhaps the Israelites could look up, even at that moment, and see the scarlet cord hanging from her window. Do you think maybe she was watching them, wondering what was going to happen to Jericho; and whether or not they would remember what she had done for them? If so, she wouldn’t have to wait long to find out.
20 So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.
21 And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.
22 But Joshua had said unto the two men that had spied out the country, Go into the harlot's house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as ye sware unto her.
23 And the young men that were spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; and they brought out all her kindred, and left them without the camp of Israel.
25 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.
Rahab had kept her word; and the Israelites kept theirs, too. When the walls of Jericho came down, one family survived…Rahab’s. The spies went into her house, and brought her out, along with all the family members who were with her. Do you suppose that she shared what happened with them, and that they believed, too? Whether or not they believed for themselves, the fact was that they were all alive because of Rahab’s courage and faith in God.
And God took note of Rahab’s faith and courage, too. If we were to look at the genealogy of Christ in the book of Matthew, we’d find a very unusual person listed there. Genealogies, at that time, almost always listed just the men in the family. But Christ’s includes a woman. Can you guess who? Yes, Rahab was in the line of Christ. She was, in fact, the great-great grandmother of King David. What a great example of someone who had been made a new creature by her Heavenly Father! She may have kept the nickname “Rahab the harlot” through Bible history. But to God, she was a changed woman; worthy to be included in the line of Jesus Christ, Himself; and worthy to be named as a hero of faith!
There are many instances of God changing people’s names, in the Bible. In the Old Testament, Jacob’s name was changed to Israel. That meant in God’s eyes, he went from being a deceiver to a prince. And Jesus’ disciple Simon became Peter, a rock.
Scripture tells us that when we get to Heaven, God will give us a new name, too. Revelation 2:17 says, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” Don’t you think Rahab must have been more than thrilled to get rid of her old nickname, and get a brand new one?
And what about you? If God were to give you a nickname today, based on the way you act or things you have done, do you think it would be a good one? Could He call you Joyful Joseph or Forgiving Francis? Or would it be something more like the one Rahab was stuck with her whole life?
If you have not yet been made a new creature in Christ, then you haven’t been transformed. And God has not yet changed your name. Wouldn’t you like to have Him do that today?
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the example of Rahab, and her courage to help even her enemies, because she could see You, in them. Help us, too, to be like Rahab – willing to risk our own comfort to help others, and willing to take a stand for You. Lord, if there’s anyone here today who has not yet been changed, as Rahab was, help them to see You as their one, true God just as she did. For we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Activity: (Review Questions)
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. The Israelite spies were able to sneak into Jericho without being seen. (false – the king was told they were there)
2. Rahab lied, and told the king’s soldiers that the spies had left the city. (true)
3. When she was questioned, Rahab turned the spies over to the king’s soldiers. (false – she hid the spies)
4. Rahab helped the spies escape by lowering them out of her window. (true)
5. Rahab was the only person from Jericho that was spared. (false – her family was spared, with her)