Leadership Lessons from the Life of Rahab


Rahab was a prostitute who lived in the city of Jericho. As a matter of fact, her house was on the city's wall. We know she was a prostitute because the Bible says that she was. What we do not know however, because the Bible does not mention it, is that Rahab was a leader and possibly a better leader than the reigning king of Jericho. This article clearly highlights her leadership qualities and the lessons we can learn from the life of this great woman.

The Bible first mentions Rahab in the second chapter of the book of Joshua. At this time, Joshua had become the leader of the nation of Israel, following the death of Moses. He sent two spies to the city of Jericho to search out the entire land as the children of Israel got set to invade the land and conquer it. These men upon their arrival in Jericho entered into the house of Rahab and lodged there.

While they were with her, information reached the king of Jericho and he sent a message to Rahab asking her to bring forth the men as they were spies who had come to search out the land. Rahab realised that this action would be detrimental to her and so she hid both men and sent back to the king saying that the men had long departed and advised that he send people after them. Men were sent to pursue after them.

Immediately afterwards, and without hesitation, the Bible records that Rahab went to her roof top where she hid these men and said unto them (Joshua 2:9-13):
“I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”

Both men entered into an agreement with Rahab that it would be as she had requested on two conditions; one, she was to tie a scarlet thread on her window and ensure that when the children of Israel invaded the city of Jericho all her family were inside the house and two, she was not to utter any of their business. Rahab kept to her part of the deal and when Israel eventually invaded the city of Jericho, the Bible says concerning Rahab (Joshua 6:25): "And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father’s household, and all that she had. So she dwells in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho."

Leadership Lessons

Leadership Lessons from the Life of Rahab are as follows:

1). You do not need to fight in every battle.

If the king of Jericho had half the wisdom Rahab possessed, he would have preserved his life and those of his people. He failed to protect his own and let them perish because his strategy was wrong. Rahab however, was able to save her own life and those of her family members because her strategy was right. She knew she could not fight the children of Israel. She knew she could not keep them out of Jericho or stop them from taking over the city. Based on all she had heard about this unique set of people she knew it was an exercise in futility trying to come against them. The only way out was to collaborate with them.

Wise leaders pick their battles carefully. They understand that not every battle must be fought as some battles are won without a fight.

2). She did not procrastinate.

As the spies departed, they said to her, "thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by." With this scarlet in her window, the men would be able to identify her house and ensure it was not destroyed when they attacked Jericho. Rahab wasted no time carrying out this life-saving instruction. The Bible says, "And she sent them away, and they departed and she bound the scarlet line in the window." She did it as soon as they left. She did not procrastinate or put it off. She did it immediately.

Leaders are disciplined and do not put off until tomorrow what can be done today.

3). Be clear about what you want.

Someone has said that fuzzy ideas lead to fuzzy actions. Clarity of goals and expectations is key to the achievement of same. Rahab knew exactly what she wanted and expressed this without much ado.

Leaders who succeed are those who know precisely what they want and go after it.

4). Take the initiative.

Rahab took the initiative; the initiative to lodge the spies in her home, the initiative to hide them, the initiative to give the king a contrary report, the initiative to cut a deal that would save her and her family.

Leaders take the initiative, they are always one step ahead, and that is what makes them leaders.

5). Learn to negotiate.

Rahab negotiated with the spies. She let them know what she wanted in return for showing them kindness. They in turn let her know what they expected of her in order to help her. Both parties reached an agreement and Rahab got what she wanted.

Leaders are negotiators.

6). Look for and see opportunities in every situation.

When the spies came to Rahab's home, she immediately saw an opportunity to form ties with them which would ultimately save her life and the lives of her family members from a destruction that was imminent.

Leaders see opportunities in every situation.

7). Nothing of value is ever free.

Rahab understood this and every great leader knows this. You will never get anything of value without giving up something of value to get it. In other words, there is no such reality as a free lunch. Rahab wanted to save her life and that of her entire family but she had to pay a price for what she wanted. She hid men who had come to spy her land with the intention of invading it. She mislead her king and she took a risk of being killed if discovered. She paid a price because she knew it was the only way to escape the destruction that was to come.

Followers look for freebies but leaders know there is a price for everything valuable. Leaders pay a price for what they want.

8). Discernment is key to making right decisions.

Rahab made a decision to join forces with Israel against her people. This was the right decision as it would afford her and her family a chance to live. This decision was not just based on what her physical ears heard or physical eyes saw. It went beyond that. This decision was based on discernment. She discerned that joining Israel and hiding the spies was the right thing to do. She made her decision based on that and she was not wrong.

Leaders know the importance of discernment. They understand that sometimes facts and figures are not enough to make the right decision; discernment is needed.

9). Relationships are built on trust, therefore integrity is key.

Rahab, like many other leaders before and after her, knew the importance of trust. The spies promised to save her and her family on the condition that she did not utter their business. She honoured her side of the agreement. She did not utter their business. She had integrity.

Leaders who break trust have no integrity and sooner than later lose their influence. And a leader is not a leader without influence.

10). Sometimes, you have to work alone.

Rahab acted alone. Those close to her were not aware of what she was doing. This woman single-handedly saved her entire family. She did not require anyone to stand with her; she stood alone. She did not require anyone to advise her; she counselled herself. She did not require anyone to motivate her; she was self-motivated. She did not require anyone to assure her she was doing the right thing; she knew she was. She was able to manage herself and her affairs. This is a major requirement for great leadership as no one can lead others until they are able to lead themselves.

Leaders, lead themselves first.

Finally, Rahab was a woman but she did not allow this stop her from taking actions to preserve her life and the lives of her family members. And if she did it, then no man, and of course no woman, should have any excuse not to take actions that preserve lives. Her story is a powerful message to all women; one that says, "You can do it too."

About the author
Eturuvie Erebor (AKA Gabriella) is a writer, speaker, trainer and coach with a strong passion to transform the lives of women and youth not only in her native country, Nigeria and the United Kingdom, where she was born, but all across the world. She has spoken to women and youth groups in churches.

Joshua Chapters 2 and 6