As we talk about Rahab and her reputation, a question arises: why did the people of Jericho come to Rahab to inquire about the Israelite spies?
It's possible that they were going to all of the townspeople, or perhaps to everyone who lived in the wall and had a vantage point to see things, but the Scriptures only say that they came to Rahab and asked where the spies went.
Now, if they singled Rahab out to ask this question, then there are really three major reasons why they might have done this.
Maybe they knew that Rahab was the kind of woman who would automatically notice any strange men who came into the town and would be marketing herself toward them. This would confirm her reputation as a prostitute - it would mean that the people of her town knew her as a prostitute first and foremost and that they believed there wasn't a man she could keep her hands off of (whether for pleasure or for money). Certainly, a woman in her line of work is going to notice every traveler and know exactly what they're doing while they are in town.
Or maybe the townspeople knew she was a prostitute and thought that all men, even men of God, just solicited prostitutes. It's just what they did. So they thought, perhaps, that the spies would have sought her out and come and introduced themselves and offered some action.
This is a problem, of course, when we talk about what it means to live as a faithful people in the world. We know that we have a bit of a reputation for being hypocrites, for talking a bigger game than we live, but in some cases, the truth is that we're not talking a game at all. Too many Christians look so much like the world that it's impossible to tell them apart. It could be that the people of Jericho had no frame of reference for the standards of living that the Israelites had and didn't understand what a group of most faithful men showing up in their town really meant. It could be that they didn't expect the men of God to be different than any other men they'd ever encountered, so they just figured these men would seek out the prostitute while they were in town.
And that would mean, again, that what the townspeople most knew about Rahab was that she was a prostitute.
These are the narratives that come easily to our heads when we think about this and read this story (primarily, we must say, because of what we think about prostitutes). But is there maybe another narrative?
There could be.
What if the people of Jericho knew Rahab was a redeemer?
What if the people who knew her best knew that Rahab was the kind of person who would help foreign spies escape safely? What if they knew she was the kind of person who would put up weary travelers, even weary travelers from another people? What if they believed that if anyone was looking to escape certain capture and death, Rahab would be the one to lead them to freedom?
What if the thing that the people of Jericho most knew about Rahab was not that she was a prostitute, but that she was a redeemer? What if what they most knew about her was not her profession, but her heart?
That certainly changes the story. Doesn't it?