Rahab and Lydia: Two Faith-filled Bible Women

I am grateful to Adele Hebert for pointing out to me several of these similarities between Rahab and Lydia.

Rahab in the Old Testament, and Lydia in the New, are separated by thousands of years and by thousands of miles.  Despite different cultures and different circumstances, there are some intriguing similarities and comparisons between these two women who are mentioned in the pages of Scripture.

Work

Rahab was an independent business woman.  As well as being an innkeeper,[1] it seems that Rahab worked with flax (Josh 2:6).  Working and weaving with flax was labour intensive, but it was an honourable trade.

Lydia was also an independent business woman, and was also involved with textiles.  Lydia was a dealer of expensive purple cloth (Acts 16:14).

Family

Rahab wasn’t married, but she did have a family – a father, mother, brothers and sisters.  Rahab cared for her family and they were saved by her actions (Josh 2:13).

There is no mention that Lydia was married, but she was the mistress of her own household.  The other members of her household probably included some family members as well as slaves that worked in the business.  Following Lydia’s lead, all of her household were saved (Acts 16:15).

Faith Communities

Rahab was the first Gentile to join the community of Israel in the Promised Land, and God used her to play a pivotal role in helping Israel have the faith to enter the Promised Land and conquer Jericho (Josh 2:11 cf 2:24).

Lydia was also a Gentile and was the first Christian convert in Europe.  God used Lydia to play a pivotal role in establishing the first church in Europe, at Philippi.

Faith and Action

Before the spies arrived at her door, Rahab had already heard about the God of Israel, and God had caused Rahab to have faith in him.  She was ready to make a life-changing commitment to the God of Israel and put her faith into action.  God had strategically provided the Israeli spies with a courageous ally in Rahab.

Before Paul and Silas arrived at Philippi with the Good News about Jesus, Lydia had already accepted the Jewish faith.  In Acts 16:14 Lydia is referred to as “a worshipper of God”.  This expression means that she was a Gentile convert to Judaism.  Lydia was with other women at a Jewish place of prayer (i.e. a synagogue) when Paul found them and told them all about Jesus.  “The Lord opened her heart” to Paul’s message (Acts 16:14b).  Lydia listened and God gave her faith – faith that she put into action by persuading Paul and Silas to stay in her home (Acts 16:15, 40).

Hospitality 

Rahab seems to have been the mistress of her own home and she is honoured by the Jews for her hospitality (cf James 2:24-26).  She willingly risked her life by welcoming, sheltering and protecting the two spies in her home.

Lydia was the mistress of her own home and she welcomed the two missionaries, Paul and Silas, into her home (Acts 16:15, 40).  It is likely that the first Christian congregation in Philippi continued to meet in Lydia’s home, probably led by Lydia, when Paul and Silas left to continue their mission elsewhere.[2]

Salvation

Rahab wanted salvation for her entire household and she cleverly secured this by making a deal with the spies (Josh 2:12-14; 6:17, 22-23).

… Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day. Joshua 6:25

Rahab later married Salmon.  They had a son called Boaz who married another Gentile woman – Ruth.  Both Rahab and Ruth are ancestors of Jesus (Mat 1:5).[3]

Because of Lydia’s faith, her whole household was saved and baptised.  Lydia probably became the first house church leader in all of Europe.  Paul later wrote to the Philippian church and referred back to their first day.

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:4-6

God used these two faith-filled women for his purposes – to bless the community of his people.  God could have chosen men, but in these cases he chose women.  Perhaps he saw in these two women a readiness for true faith and action.  God is still choosing to use faith-filled women who are courageous, capable and ready to bless his people.


Endnotes

[1] Female inn keepers traditionally provided more than just food, drink and a place to sleep.

[2] If Lydia didn’t lead the fledgling church, who did?  Another member of her household?  The unnamed jailor?  Or a member of his household?  Lydia is the only Philippian convert who is named, and we know that the first few meetings of the Philippian church were held in her home, so she seems to be the most likely person to have led or coordinated the first congregation at Philippi.  Some speculate that “Lydia” was a kind of nickname showing her place of origin but that her real name may have been Euodia or Syntyche (Philippians 4:2).

[3] Rahab was the great grandmother of King David; Ruth was the grandmother of King David (Mat 1:5-6).

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Posted July 13th, 2012 . Categories/Tags: Christian Living, Equality and Gender Issues, Equality in Ministry, Women in Ministry, , , , ,

14 comments on “Rahab and Lydia: Two Faith-filled Bible Women

  1. These are some great comparisons. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Marg says:

    I thought these comparisons were interesting. :)

  3. TL says:

    Great observations. God often does the unexpected, choosing the less desirable in human standards. But God looks on the heart and soul where many don’t even think of considering. :)

    looks like there are no more hacker problems. \o/\o/\o/

  4. Marg says:

    I really get the feeling that God looked at Rahab and Lydia and thought, “These women are going to do a great job of helping my cause; I’m going to increase their faith and use them.”

    It turned out to be an out of date plugin that was incompatible and causing problems. Paula fixed it for me.

  5. [...] Rahab and Lydia: Two Faithfilled Bible Women [...]

  6. [...] The Bible has many examples of women who were willing to risk their lives to help others. Brave Bible women include: Jael (Judges 4:21; 5:24-27); the woman who killed Abimelech (Judges 9:53); Rahab (Joshua 2:1-6); Abigail (1 Samuel ch 25)[4]; the servant girl who was given a dangerous task (2 Samuel 17:17-18); the woman of Bashurin (2 Samuel 17:19-20); Esther (Esther 4:11, 16); and Priscilla, who risked her life for Paul’s sake, as did her husband Aquila (Romans 16:3-4). [...]

  7. [...] Rahab and Lydia: Two Faith-filled  Bible Women [...]

  8. [...] Lydia is the only Philippian Christian named in Acts 16 and she seems to have been especially involved in the birthing of the Philippian church.  Lydia was most likely one of the leaders of the church and she must have been one of the people who preserved Paul’s apostolic teaching in the critical early days once Paul and Silas had moved on (Acts 16:13-15, 40).  More on Lydia here. [...]

  9. [...] a few women did become involved in wars and even won victories for their people: Deborah, Jael, Rahab, the woman of Thebez, the Wise Woman of Abel Beth Maacah, [...]

  10. […] (5) Commit treason against your own people in order to help Israel, and cut a shrewd deal to rescue your family: Rahab (Josh. 2:1ff; 6:22-25).  More here. […]

  11. […] Rahab and Lydia: Two Faith-filled Bible Women […]

  12. […] Rahab and Lydia: Two Faith-filled Bible Women […]

  13. […] Rahab and Lydia: Two Faith-filled Bible Women […]

  14. […] Rahab and Lydia: Two Faith-filled Bible Women […]

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