You know all those Buzzfeed quizzes that everyone takes and shares on Facebook when they finally get the result they are proud of? Yeah?….well, I love those thing–they are so incredibly amusing and are a great way to waste time and put off homework. However, they are completely ridiculous. I mean, how can my favorite song (out of a list of songs I only moderately like), combined with my favorite movie and ice cream, tell me what character of FRIENDS I am based off my personality? They don’t even know me! (I got Charlie, by the way, and I don’t even know who that is…Kate Hollman, help me out!). However, as ridiculous as they are, they usually seem to have pretty accurate descriptions about why you relate to the result they gave you–It’s actually kind of freaky.
Anyway, the reason I’m talking about Buzzfeed is because I recently took one quiz that really caught my attention: “Which Biblical Heroine are you?” First of all, it caught my attention because it’s not the type of quiz you would expect to see on a popular social media website, and secondly it got my attention because I was curious to see what type of questions they would ask and how they would describe whoever I got as my result, so I took it.
The questions had nothing to do with anything biblical or religious or spiritual–they were just the normal questions: pick a flower, how do you unwind, pick a Disney movie–you know, real deep stuff. Well, I ended up getting Rahab. If you don’t know Rahab, I’ll tell her story in a bit, but she was, as my fellow Raven Mark Powell put it, a “dirty girl turned heroine.”
Now, I just want to put this out there–I don’t know what message I’m supposed to be getting from the universe, but I find it a little ridiculous that so far in my life I have been connected to 2 Biblical women: Mary Magdalene (whom I was named after) and now Rahab. Two women who were mainly known for their, um…well let’s just say they were known for their “unconservative” lifestyles.
Lucky for me their stories didn’t end with their shamed reputation, but rather with their new glorified beings.
I have to admit, I knew Rahab was a women mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments, but I couldn’t really remember why she was important, so I did some digging and found out she was a pretty cool chick.
Rahab lived in Jericho during the time Joshua and his people were wandering the desert, waiting to enter the promised land. Now, Jericho and the Israelites didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye, so when Joshua sent spies into the city, they were going into pretty dangerous territory. In this account (told in Joshua chapter 2) the King of Jericho found out about the spies and sent men to kill them. The men took refuge in Rahab’s house, who in turn lied to the King’s men and sent them in the wrong direction. In doing so she risked her own safety to save the lives of Joshua’s men. In thanksgiving for her bravery and her sacrifice, Joshua’s men promised to spare her and her family when they destroyed Jericho.
So, clearly she is pretty awesome. Without her help, the plan to take over Jericho may not have gone the way it needed to and the lives of the men would have been taken–she really saved the day. BUT WAIT, THERE IS MORE!!! This is what is so cool about the Bible, there is always more to the story (oh and the fact that it is the inspired Word of God is pretty groovy too.)
See, God’s plan for Rahab didn’t end at Jericho, that was only the beginning. Rahab is mentioned three more times in the Bible, and all those three times are in the New Testament.
The last two times are in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 and they talk about her actions and her obedience to the Lord by helping the spies, but the main part I want to focus on this the first time she is mentioned in the New Testament, which is Matthew 1:5. This part of Matthew is when he is going through the genealogy of Jesus, starting at Abraham and following the line through Solomon to David and then to Jesus.
Since I am obsessed with the past, I find genealogies extremely interesting and exciting. This one is already exciting because it is the genealogy of Jesus, but what also makes it interesting is that it includes women–five women, in fact–which would have been very odd and rare at the time Matthew was writing it. These five women are: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (referenced as the “wife of Uriah”) and Mary.
Now, it makes sense why Mary is included, after all she is the sinless mother of the Lord, but what about the other 4? I mean, why would Matthew include the Harlot of Jericho in the same context as Jesus Christ?
If her role had ended at Jericho, I think it would be hard to imagine that Matthew would include her, but he did–he distinctly wrote “and Sal’mon, the father of Boaz by Rahab”–he didn’t have to include the mother, because the father was already there–so clearly there is something else going on here.
For this next part I had to dig up some old theology notes from my Synoptic Gospels class I took a few semesters ago, but thankfully I had Dr. Zia for this class and he made sure we knew our stuff, so I was able to recall it quite quickly.
Dr. Zia presented us with three main theories of why the 4 other women were included.
- They were included because they were sinners and the human Biblical author (Matthew) wanted to show that even sinners are included in God’s salvation.
- They were included because they were all foreigners and Matthew wanted to show that the salvation of Christ belonged to all people of all nations.
- They were included because they were all initiators of a course of events that are essential to the salvation of mankind.
Well, as nice as No. 1 sounds, it can be thrown out very quickly because while Tamar, Rahab and Bathsheba could have been easily seen as “sinners”, Ruth was not. She is one of the few women in the Bible who is described with the same language as the “Godly wife”in Proverbs–she is essentially perfect. Also, the sin of Bathsheba is questionable because it is unknown whether or not she was willing to enter into relations with David. So, theory No. 1 is taken out of the running.
Theory No. 2 is true in the sense that Christianity is not limited to one race or culture, but is meant for the whole world. If this genealogy was found in Proverbs or one of the other Wisdom literature books, this theory would hold up because the Wisdom literature books have a strong emphasis on the unity and the international aspect of God’s salvation. Matthew, however, did not write the genealogy to show the universality of salvation–he wrote it to show that Jesus is God. And so, theory No. 2 is out of the running. At least for this particular instance.
And so we are left with theory No. 3, the initiative taken by the women in an event that was essential to salvation.
- Tamar took the initiative to keep the tribe of Judah alive by producing an heir through undesirable measures (relations with her father-in-law)
- Rahab took the initiative to lie to the King’s men and hide the spies.
- Ruth took the initiative to marry Boaz (son of Rahab, remember!) who was the great grandfather of David
- Bathsheba took the initiative to beg David to make their son, Solomon, the heir to the throne, even though he was not the eldest.
All these actions helped keep the path through the tribe of Judah open and lead us to “Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who was called Christ.” (Matt. 1:16) *It may be important to note that while May did not initiate her mission, she did freely accept it.
All of these women would have been viewed as heroines to the Jewish people because without them the line of Judah, which was ultimately the line of David, would have been broken.
Isn’t the Bible so cool??
I guess the point I’m trying to make through all of this is that it doesn’t matter who you are or what choices you have made in the past, God still has a beautiful and glorious role for you to play in His plan for worldwide Salvation.
“What would be ugly in a garden, constitutes beauty in a mountain.”
What we see on earth is only the smallest portion of the eternity that God sees. We only see the garden and He is the mountain. We may only see our ugly sin that we have committed in our lives and that gives us the idea that we are not good enough or worthy enough for God’s love and forgiveness. But just remember, God took a harlot and used her to help Him clear the path for His Son to enter into the world. And if you didn’t know, a harlot is about as bad as you can get for a woman in the Bible. All throughout the Wisdom literature (and I’m sure other places in the Bible), the Biblical authors warn people to stay away from sin and harlots. So if God can take a woman who is identified solely by her sin and turn her into a heroine, imagine what He can do with you.
God made us to be the best version of ourselves, and the only way to do that is by allowing him to work in us to achieve our greatness. Matthew Kelly, in his book “Rediscovering Catholicism”, wrote that “In any moment that you choose to be all you can be–you are holy…but as quickly as this holiness can be found, it can be lost, because in any moment that you choose to be less than the-best-version-of-yourself, you become unholy.”
So strive for that holiness, friends, because God has great plans for you!
*Oh and for anyone who is interested, this is the description Buzzfeed gave about Rahab
“Quick-witted, feisty, and fun-loving, you make absolutely no apologies for yourself or your life. You do what you want and look out for yourself as you make your way through the world. You have remarkable self-persevation instincts and take whatever life throws at you with a devil-may-care grin. Ambitious and driven, you know what you want and you’re not afraid to go after it. People aren’t really your “thing,” but you have a close circle of family friends that you love more than anything. You’re confidant, smart, streetwise, and successful and you’re going to leave your mark on the world.”
-I don’t know how they got all that from the Gospel of Matthew, but I guess I’ll take it. 🙂