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The Women of Jesus' Family Tree: Rahab

Community Group Study Guide — The Women of Jesus’ Family Tree: Rahab
Joshua 2:8-18, 6:22-25

Study Information:
In the genealogy of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew we get a list of broken sinners who make up Jesus’ family tree. Matthew’s point was to tell his readers that Jesus was the fulfillment to God’s promise to Abraham and God’s promise to David. Specifically that blessing would go out from the people of God to the nations (Genesis 12) and that God would send an eternal king who would lead his people forever (2 Samuel 7). As we’ve been exploring this family tree we’ve also learned that Matthew highlighted the shady and sinful past of the people who make up this family line. We know this because he called special attention to 5 women and genealogies normally did not include women. This was Matthew’s way of highlighting these names and specific stories for us to notice. Each of whom had hint of sexual scandal and 4 of the 5 were not even of the nation of Israel; they were social and cultural outsiders and they were each part of God’s redemptive plan. 

This study guide will examine the story of Rehab and how God delivered his people from a stronger enemy through the faith of a prostitute who trusted in a God she only heard rumors of.  

Faith in a God She’s Only Heard Rumors About
Joshua 2:8-18
The backstory to this moment was that God had delivered his people from slavery in Egypt and freed them to the wilderness where they received his provision, presence and his Law. God provided for them with manna, water and quail. He also manifested his presence with the pillar of smoke and fire and the tabernacle. Finally God gave them his commandments to help them walk in holiness and to be distinct from the nations. Despite all these miraculous acts they struggled to believe and trust God. When it came time to go into the promised land (Canaan) they sent out twelve spies to scout the land. Ten of those scouts came back with a fearful report of how there were giants in the land, superior military power and how they should not go in. The people doubted God’s power to save and refused to go into the land, which led to God giving them over to their fear and they remained in the wilderness for 40 years until that unfaithful generation died off. 

40 years had passed and now they were ready to enter the land again and God was going to fight for them. Remember this was not a trained army with military weapons and might, they were made up of the children of former slaves who were placeless and they’d get wiped out against another army if not for God. The first city they encountered in Canaan was Jericho, which was likely a military city with high walls and fortified defenses. The people once again sent out scouts, except this time Jericho was on alert and had heard about the movements of Israel across the Jordan River (Joshua 2:2). The scouts were in trouble and had to rely on the help of a citizen from Jericho in order to not be caught, specifically a prostitute named Rahab hid them and mislead the soldiers so the spies could go free. 

Rahab’s reason for risking her life and lying to the soldiers from Jericho was “I’ve heard of your God!” Joshua 2:10-11 tells us that the powerful works of God prepared a way for the people of God and the hearts of those in Jericho melted and their spirit dried up; in everyone except one person, Rahab. What we see with Rahab is that she looked at her desperate situation and cried out to the people of God to deal kindly with her and her family. Rahab hid the spies and mislead the soldiers from Jericho and provided for the spies to go back safely to their camp and in exchange she is granted freedom and salvation when Israel conquered Jericho. 

This kind of trust in God was so great that Rahab was highlighted in Hebrews 11 among the “greats” of Israel like Abraham, Sarah and Moses (Hebrews 11:29-31). She was able to trust in God with much less evidence than many of us demand or require.

Why Did Matthew Highlight Rahab in the Genealogy of Jesus?
First, Rahab is another example that salvation comes from faith and not works. Rahab was a prostitute and part of an enemy nation of the Israelites and she was saved because of her faith in God to protect her and her family. Jesus came for even the worst of sinners and like Rahab we are saved through faith and not because we are already good people “worth saving.” Matthew highlighted both the heroes and the scoundrels in the genealogy to make sure we understand that faith is what saves. 

Second, Jesus came to save people from the nations. God did not make a plan of redemption and salvation for just Israel but wanted the good news to go out to the end of the earth and that plan was made clear in the Hebrew Scriptures. Matthew highlighted that Jesus was both Son of Abraham and Son of David. We looked at the title “son of David” in our study guide on Ruth because “son of David” means “king” and Jesus came to be the promised eternal king we needed. Son of Abraham is Matthew’s way of recalling for us the promise God made to Abraham to bless him and his family in order to bless the world (Genesis 12:1-3). God promised to send an offspring in the line of Abraham’s family to be the means of that blessing to the world. Rahab did not know this when she put her faith in God’s promise, but she became an example that Jesus came to save people from every tongue, tribe and nation. Out of the 5 women in the genealogy, 4 of them were outsiders to the nation of Israel, Matthew intentionally highlighted how God’s promise extended to the outsider and foreigner and that one was not saved by being born into the right nation or family. 

Finally, we have something better than Rahab. Rather than having rumors of God we have a God who has manifested itself and his grace and truth in a person. Jesus came to reflect God’s glory and character to the world and to show us the heart of God and plan of salvation. On that silent night Christ was born as a child to make those who were far off from God part of his family. God the son became a child so we could become children of God through faith (John 1:10-13). The apostles were clear that what we have in the person of Jesus is invaluable in terms of how God has revealed himself. In the past he spoke through the prophets, wrote the writer of Hebrews, but today he has spoken through his son. 

This advent season, know that God the Son came for sinners like you and came in the flesh to be our substitute and to show the grace and truth of God. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:

What are some reasons you think that Matthew included Rahab in the genealogy of Jesus?

Read Joshua 2:8-18 and Hebrews 11:29-31, what did Rahab hear about God and how did she respond? How was this response different than everyone else in Jericho?

Rahab had a lot of faith with very little personal experience of evidence for that faith. Do you think that is normal for most Christians? Do you feel like your faith needs a lot of evidence and if so how have you searched for that?

What are some reasons that God manifesting himself in the person of Jesus so beneficial for us to know God more fully? Look at passages like Hebrews 1:1-4, 1 John 1:1-4 and John 1:10-18 for examples.