There are two women listed as ones who lived by faith in the heroes of faith chapter Hebrews 11, Rahab and Tamar.
Hebrews 10:38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
Jericho was the first city the Israelites were told to completely destroy when they went into Canaan. God told them to march around the city once each day for a week. On the seventh day, they were to march around it seven times and after the last time the city walls fell when they blew the trumpets and shouted.
Hebrews 11:30-31 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.
When Rahab hid the spies, they promised to not destroy her but to return for her and her family. Rahab’s home was on the wall so that part of the wall didn’t fall. Everyone in Jericho heard the same thing about the Israelites, but they didn’t all believe. Regarding Rahab being a harlot, in Josephus the footnote says “And observe, that I still call this woman Rahab, an innkeeper, not a harlot; the whole history, both in our copies, and especially in Josephus, implying no more. It was indeed so frequent a thing, that women who were innkeepers were also harlots, or maintainers of harlots, that the word commonly used for real harlots was usually given them.”
Joshua 2:1-11 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. 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. And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men…which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country. And the woman…hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were: And…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. 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…and as soon as they which pursued after them were gone out, they shut the gate. And before they were laid down, she came up…And she said unto the men, I know that the Lord hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us…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…whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard…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.
We have to believe God’s word like Rahab believed what she heard. God’s grace appeared (Titus 2:11) to Rahab so she believed in God as the true God. She willingly put her life in danger for the spies because she knew they were God’s chosen people. She hid the spies on her roof in the flax that drying to make into linen for clothes. Rahab unselfishly asked not only for herself but for all her family and their stuff.
Joshua 2:12-13 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: 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.
They promised to return and told her to hang a scarlet rope out her window so the army would know where she lived.
Joshua 2:14-24 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. Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was upon the town wall…And she said unto them, Get you to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you; and hide yourselves there three days…afterward may ye go your way. And the men said unto her, We will be blameless of this thine oath which thou hast made us swear. 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. 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 if thou utter this our business, then we will be quit of thine oath which thou hast made us to swear. And she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away…she bound the scarlet line in the window. And…pursuers sought them throughout all the way, but found them not. So the two men returned…to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all things…Truly the Lord hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us.
We’re saved by faith not by works, but faith without works is dead. Rahab had works with her faith – she risked her life and hid the spies. Just believing is not enough. God is looking for more than saying we believe. He wants to see righteous works.
James 2:17-20 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
James 2:25-26 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Abraham believed God was able to raise Isaac from the dead when God asked him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. It didn’t sound reasonable but he believed God by faith. The wall of Jericho fell but not where Rahab was because the spies went back to her house to bring her and her family with their possessions out of Jericho as they promised.
Joshua 6:22-25 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. 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. And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury…Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had…because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.
In the lineage of Jesus, Salmon married Rechab (Rahab) and they had Boaz who married Ruth.
Matthew 1:5-6 And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;
The levirate law required a man to marry his brother’s widow and the inheritance would then go to the firstborn son for the inheritance of the first husband.
Deuteronomy 25:5-6 If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her. And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.
Boaz had the right to marry Ruth after another relative according to the levirate law.
Ruth 2:19-23 And her mother in law said…Where hast thou gleaned to day?…blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee. And she…said, The man’s name with whom I wrought to day is Boaz. And Naomi said unto her daughter in law, Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead. And Naomi said unto her, The man is near of kin unto us, one of our next kinsmen. And Ruth the Moabitess said, He said unto me also, Thou shalt keep fast by my young men, until they have ended all my harvest. And Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter in law, It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, that they meet thee not in any other field. So she kept fast by the maidens of Boaz to glean unto the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest; and dwelt with her mother in law.
The custom to uncover the kinsman’s feet while he slept isn’t something we’d do today, but that was what they did.
Ruth 3:1-5 Then Naomi her mother in law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee? And now is not Boaz of our kindred, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to night in the threshingfloor. Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the floor: but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking. And it shall be, when he lieth down…thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do…
Boaz knew that Ruth was a virtuous woman because she didn’t go after all the men, so he was willing to perform that duty. God knew Ruth was righteous, holy, and pure to be in the lineage of Jesus.
Ruth 3:11-18 And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou requirest: for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman. And now it is true that I am thy near kinsman: howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I. Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman’s part: but if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee… lie down until the morning. And she lay at his feet until the morning: and she rose up before one could know another. And he said, Let it not be known that a woman came into the floor. Also he said, Bring the vail that thou hast upon thee, and hold it. And when she held it, he measured six measures of barley…And when she came to her mother in law, she said, Who art thou, my daughter? And she told her all that the man had done to her. And she said, These six measures of barley gave he me; for he said to me, Go not empty unto thy mother in law. Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.
Boaz asked the near kinsman if he’d buy their brother Elimelech’s land and perform the duty of the kinsman to marry Ruth. The kinsman didn’t want to ruin his own inheritance so he wouldn’t do it. According to the levirate law, the inheritance would go to the first born son of Ruth.
Ruth 4:1-8 Then went Boaz up to the gate, and sat him down there: and, behold, the kinsman of whom Boaz spake came by; unto whom he said, Ho, such a one! turn aside, sit down here. And he turned aside, and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, Sit ye down here. And they sat down. And he said unto the kinsman, Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth a parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech’s: And I thought to advertise thee, saying, Buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it: but if thou wilt not redeem it…for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee. And he said, I will redeem it. Then said Boaz, What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance. And the kinsman said, I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance: redeem thou my right to thyself…Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming…to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour: and this was a testimony in Israel. Therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee. So he drew off his shoe.
Boaz was Rahab’s son and from the family of Judah (the fourth son of Jacob). Prophecy said that Shiloh or Jesus the Messiah would come from the family of Judah (Genesis 49:9-11).
Matthew 1:3-5 And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon; And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;
Tamar was married to Er who died because of his wickedness. His brother Onan married Tamar but didn’t want a son because the inheritance would go to Tamar’s son for the inheritance of Er. Onan died and his father Judah was supposed to give his son Shelah to marry Tamar according to the levirate law. Tamar was faithful to remain a widow but Judah didn’t give her Shelah because he was afraid his last son would die too.
Genesis 38:6-24 And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked …and the Lord slew him. And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and…when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also. Then said Judah to Tamar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father’s house, till Shelah my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house. And…Judah’s wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up unto his sheepshearers to Timnath …And it was told Tamar…And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a vail, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife. When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face. And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me? And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it? And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her…and she conceived… And she arose, and went away, and laid by her vail from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood. And Judah sent the kid…to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand: but he found her not. Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the harlot, that was openly by the way side? And they said, There was no harlot in this place. And he returned to Judah, and said, I cannot find her; and also the men of the place said, that there was no harlot in this place. And Judah said, Let her take it…lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her. And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt.
Tamar was being faithful to the levirate law to have a child by the family of Judah so the family name could continue. The blessing Jacob gave to Judah wouldn’t continue if there was no son to inherit it. Tamar had twins. During birth Zarah’s hand came out and the midwife tied a scarlet thread on it, but Pharez was born first so the inheritance was through him.
James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
Judah acknowledged that Tamar was more righteous than he was because he didn’t do what the law said, to give Shelah to marry Tamar. Tamar was faithful to what she could do. We wouldn’t do what Tamar did but it was acceptable then.
Genesis 38:25-26 When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child…Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff. And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more.
(Notes from the Mature Class Bible Study, teacher Edith Tolbert)