Skip to main content

(cross-posted from The Ones You Didn't Hear in Sunday School and re-cycled from the D'var Torah series)

The Gospel of Matthew starts out with a lengthy genealogy of Jesus, tracing his line back to Abraham.  It seems likely that the author of Matthew was writing for a predominantly Jewish audience, because he frequently connects events from the Gospel narrative to prophecies in Scripture.  As a kid, I found the genealogy in Matthew chapter 1 both boring, (there are a awful lot of "begats" in there) and fascinating, (trying to pick out the names I recognized from Sunday School).

The genealogy, not surprisingly, is mostly a male one, with Fathers begetting Sons begetting more Sons after that unto the umpteenth generation.  But the author of Matthew does pick out four women to mention in the lineage of Christ.  And these aren't necessarily the ones you'd expect.  He makes no mention of Rebekah, or Rachel, or even Sarah the Mother of Nations.  

No, the ones Matthew chooses to honor are Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba.  One an adulteress.  One a prostitute.  Two are widows, one of which pretended to be a prostitute.  And all of them foreigners.  Four Inconvenient Women of the Bible, women who don't seem to fit the expectations we have of The Virtuous Woman.

We get Rahab's story in Joshua chapter 2.

Forty years have passed since the Children of Israel paused just outside the Promised Land and Moses sent spies to scout out the Land of Canaan.  The spies had given a discouraging report, (“Those guys are freakin’ Nephilim, man!  They’re huge!”) which dismayed the Israelites, and the people’s lack of trust angered the Lord. Now Joshua, one of the original twelve spies and one of the two who gave the land a good report, leads Israel and sends another pair of spies into the city of Jericho.

The spies come to the home of a woman named Rahab, whom the text tells us is a prostitute.  Or was she?  Some scholars have argued that the word used to identify Rahab can also mean “innkeeper.”  This may be true. I suspect, though, that these scholars are chiefly looking to sanitize the story.

When soldiers show up looking for the spies, Rahab hides them and gives the soldiers a false trail to follow.  She offers to help the spies sneak out of the city and asks them to promise to protect her and her family when the Israelites attack.  

Why did Rahab hide the spies?  Perhaps as prostitute she was considered a social outcast and therefore had little loyalty to the city she lived in.  And I have to admit, the romantic in me likes to think that something happened between her and one of the spies.  That's the way it would work in a James Bond movie.

The reason she gives the spies is a pragmatic one:  she has heard about how the Lord had led the Israelites through the Red Sea and defeated the Amorites, and she recognizes that the people of Israel have divine backing.  In fact, she tells them that the whole city is terrified of their approach, which is why the king of Jericho has his men searching for spies.

The spies arrange for Rahab to tie a scarlet cord to her window and have it hanging out, so that the Israelites will know which home to spare.  They want to make sure nothing goes wrong.

It occurs to me that Rahab's scarlet cord parallels the blood the Israelites were commanded to place on their door and lintels the night of the First Passover, so that the Angel of Death would spare their homes.  Which was probably where the spies got the idea.

Thanks to Rahab, the spies make it safely back to their camp and give Joshua their report.  And later on, when the walls come a-tumbling down and the Israelites conquer the city, Joshua honors the vow his men made and spares Rahab's family.  The text tells us that she lives among the Israelites to this day.

That's the last mention we have of Rahab in Joshua.  According to the genealogy in the Book of Matthew, Rahab married Salmon, who was the great-great grandfather of King David.  I don't know where Matthew got that.  The only genealogy I can think of covering that period is the one in 1 Chronicles, and that one only traces the male lineage.  Perhaps he was following an oral tradition about Rahab not written down in Scriptures; or perhaps he inserted her into the genealogy for other reasons.

She is mentioned two other places in the New Testament.  The author of the Book of Hebrews includes her in the epic chapter listing the heroes of faith in Israel's history (Hebrews 11:31), and the Apostle James cites her as an example of a person whose actions demonstrated her faith (James 2:25).

And who was this heroine of faith?  A harlot and an outsider; but also a loving woman protective of her family, and a woman who recognized the hand of the Almighty; and ultimately she became a part of the community of Israel.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar of Jericho (12+ / 0-)

    One parenthetical thought occurs to me.  When Moses sent spies to scout out the Promised Land, he chose twelve, representing the Twelve Tribes.  When Joshua sent his spies in forty years later, he only sent two.  I wonder if this was because he decided, "Screw the symbolism, I'm choosing a couple guys I know I can rely on!"

    Next time:  Foreskin Wars!

    I live for feedback!

    Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at

    by quarkstomper on Sun Jun 29, 2014 at 11:48:10 AM PDT

  •  Foreskin Wars? (4+ / 0-)

    I just have to say, realitybites!

    You can't take the sky from me!

    by wrights on Sun Jun 29, 2014 at 02:30:20 PM PDT

  •  Cool story! n/t (4+ / 0-)

    ALL of our institutions have been hollowed out by the greed ethos. There are none left with heart intact or souls for that matter. So the zombie is all around us - me

    by glitterscale on Sun Jun 29, 2014 at 04:01:33 PM PDT

  •  The thing that got me about the genealogy of Jesus (5+ / 0-)

    in Matthew is that it is, before that, a genealogy of Joseph, who according to the tale in Matthew and Luke, but not elsewhere, was not his father.

    As to Moses, Joshua, Rahab, David, and the rest, there is no historical evidence for such people, and a great deal against. These stories set in the 10th century BCE were not written down in Torah, Joshua, Judges, and Kings/Chronicles until at least the reign of King Josiah in the 7th century BCE, and more likely during the Babylonian Exile in the 6th century BCE or even later.

    Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

    by Mokurai on Sun Jun 29, 2014 at 05:22:45 PM PDT

    •  Where's His Long Form Birth Certificate? (6+ / 0-)

      "Son of Joseph" is what it would have said on his birth certificate, so that's how Matthew reckons his lineage.  But I strongly suspect ol' Matthew took liberties with his genealogy in order to get the generations to line up the way he wanted.  

      In any case, I think Matthew's purpose with the genealogy in Matt. chapter 1 is not chart out a definite timeline, but to establish a connection between Jesus and the Jewish tradition preceding him.  Of all the Gospel writers, Matthew is the one most likely to see links between the events he writes of in the story of Jesus and things written by earlier prophets.  This could be why the Early Church Fathers placed Matthew first in the New Testament, even though Mark was probably written first.

      As for the historicity of various Bible figures, yeah you have a point there.  And that's one of the reason I'm posting these pieces to the Street Prophets group and not to History for Kossaks.  I think that parts of the Bible do pre-date the reforms of Josiah at which point it is believed that the Book of Deuteronomy was compiled and/or discovered; but I have no scholarship to back up that opinion, so I won't try to argue it.  I'm just here to tell some stories.

      Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at

      by quarkstomper on Sun Jun 29, 2014 at 06:39:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary, thanks quarkstomper. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    quarkstomper, FindingMyVoice

    When is the Foreskin Wars! diary scheduled for?

    •  Timing is Everything. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...I've been trying to post these pieces here the week after I post them on my blog.  But I haven't actually finished my next blog piece yet.  I got distracted over the weekend.  So I might be skipping a week again.

      Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at

      by quarkstomper on Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 04:13:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary -thanks!! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    can't wait for Foreskin Wars :)

    Comfort the afflicted. Afflict the comfortable.

    by FindingMyVoice on Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 04:37:26 AM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site