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For the monster of the Red Sea, see Rahab (demon).

Rahab, (Heb. rachav; i.e., "broad," "large") was, according to the book of Joshua, a woman who lived in the city of Jericho in the Promised Land and originally worked as a prostitute.


[edit] Introduction

In Jericho, a prostitute named Rahab assisted Israelite spies with her knowledge of the current socio-cultural and military situation due to her popularity with the high ranking nobles she serviced, among others.

The spies, in return for the information, promised to save her & her family during the planned military invasion as long as she fulfilled her part of the deal by keeping the details of the contact with them secret & leaving a sign on her residence that would be a marker for the advancing soilders to avoid. When the people of Israel conqured Canaan she left prostitution, converted to Judaism and married a highly prominent member of the Jewish people. She is the subject of a disussion in one section of the Talmud.

[edit] Rahab in the Old Testament

According to the book of Joshua (Joshua 2:1-7), when the Hebrews were encamped at Shittim, in the "Arabah" or Jordan valley opposite Jericho, ready to cross the river, Joshua, as a final preparation, sent out two spies to investigate the military strength of Jericho. The spies stayed in Rahab's house, which was built into the city wall. When soldiers of the city guard came to look for them, she hid them under bundles of flax on the roof. After escaping, the spies promised to spare Rahab and her family after taking the city, even if there should be a massacre, if she would mark her house by dangling a red cord out the window.

"Rahab's being asked to bring out the spies to the soldiers (Joshua 2:3) sent for them, is in strict keeping with Eastern manners, which would not permit any man to enter a woman's house without her permission. The fact of her covering the spies with bundles of flax which lay on her house-roof (2:6) is an 'undesigned coincidence' which strictly corroborates the narrative. It was the time of the barley harvest, and flax and barley are ripe at the same time in the Jordan valley, so that the bundles of flax stalks might have been expected to be drying just then" (Geikie's Hours, etc., ii., 390).

When the city of Jericho fell (Joshua 6:17-25), Rahab and her whole family were preserved according to the promise of the spies, and were incorporated among the Jewish people. She afterwards became the wife of Salmon, a prince of the tribe of Judah (Ruth 4:21; 1 Chr. 2:11). With him she had a son Boaz, who was an ancestor of David.

Rahab is curious ethically: not only did she follow a profession that is deprecated in Judaic Law--although not totally condemned--but she has mixed allegiance: She betrays her own city (which may or may not be ruled by a tyrant); and she buys favorable treatment for her own family by doing so. In so doing, she gains a place of honor in Scripture.

This entry incorporates text from the public domain Easton's Bible Dictionary, originally published in 1897.

[edit] Rahab in the New Testament

Rahab is also mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew as one of the ancestors of Jesus. This can be found in the Genealogy of Jesus in chapter 1. In the King James version of this genealogy, her name is spelled Rachab. She married Salmon of the tribe of Judah and was the mother of Boaz. Subsequent mentions are as an example of a person of faith (Hebrews 11:31) and good works (James 2:25).

[edit] Rahab in other places

According to one Jewish tradition, she was married to Joshua himself after the siege of Jericho.

Rahab identified her house with a scarlet cord. According to some, this was later adapted by prostitutes to become a red light that was placed at their windows to indicate the nature of their business to potential customers.

Rahab's story is possibly the inspiration for the euphemism "the world's oldest profession" for prostitution.

Some have theorized that the Rahab described in Joshua is not the same person as the Rachab mentioned in Jesus Christ's genealogy. This is based on linguistic and textual evidence. (See R. K. Phillips, Rahab and Ruth, Who Were They?.) Jewish legends claim that Rahab of Jericho married Joshua Bin Nun, a descendant of Joseph. This can also be seen as an argument against her being the same Rahab in the Matthean genealogy - unless she married twice, to two different Israelite leaders of different tribes. This is possible, but not very likely. (see Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews.) Rahab who married Joshua was ancestress to Huldah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and other prophetesses and prophets. Rahab who married Salmon was ancestress to KIng David, all the kings of Judah, and Jesus.

Rahab appears as a character in Robert A. Heinlein's 1984 novel Job: A Comedy of Justice.

Rahab is also the name of a sea deity in some ancient religions, according to Malcom Godwin.

[edit] Resource

  • Burton, Ann. Rahab's Story. ISBN 0-451-21628-8; a fictionalized account of Rahab's early life and meeting with the Hebrew spies, Book 2 in Burton's "Women of the Bible" series

Rahab - insolence; pride, a poetical name applied to Egypt in Ps. 87:4; 89:10; Isa. 51:9, as "the proud one."

[edit] See also

fr:Rahab he:רחב nl:Rachab ru:Раав sv:Rahab


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