With respect for the Spirit-inspired authors of the New Testament, it has always bothered me that Rahab, the woman who sheltered the Jewish spies (Joshua 2), is twice-mentioned as “Rahab, the harlot” (Heb. 11:3; James 2:25). It seems irreverently out of step with her place in the genealogy of Jesus—His great, great, great-grandmother (Mat. 1:5). If anything, it seems to me she should be called “Rahab, the redeemed harlot.” Why the name? Because Rahab the harlot’s name tells us God is a redeemer.
Rahab let the spies down from her window on Jericho’s wall with a scarlet cord. And for her help, they promised that when they returned to destroy the city, she and her household would be saved (Joshua 2:18)—but only if the scarlet cord was hanging from her window. What is the meaning of the scarlet chord? The scarlet chord represents the blood of Jesus. When the tabernacle was built, its walls and curtains were interwoven with scarlet thread. The red thread was a reminder of the blood covenant and the forgiveness of sins. By hanging the scarlet rope from her window, Rahab was looking to God to save her. Thus the name Rahab the harlot serves to remind us that God is a redeemer.
Rahab was an outcast in her culture and an outsider to the Jews. By recalling to us that she was a harlot, the New Testament writers are reminding us that even the worst skeleton in your closet is buried under the blood of Jesus. Because Matthew had come to understand that Jesus, the Lamb of God, had come to redeem mankind, he was not afraid to tell us there was a harlot in the house.