Rahab, (/ˈreɪ.hæb/; Hebrew: רָחָב, Raẖav, Rāḥāḇ; "broad," "large") was, according to the Book of Joshua, a prostitute who lived in Jericho in the Promised Land and assisted the Israelites in capturing the city. In the New Testament she was lauded as an example of living by faith, while being considered righteous by her works.
Although Matthew 1:5 in the King James Translation uses the name Rachab, Biblical literature commonly refer to Rachab and Rahab as two names of the same person such as the Strong's Concordance of the Bible and the Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible. However, some interpreters do not agree. Some people think that Rahab should not be included in the genealogy of Jesus because of her race and immoral profession: a Canaanite prostitute. However, God accepts and loves sinners not by their pedigree, but by their religious practices and righteous works. When sinners repent and come to Him by faith, they even receive His grace of salvation. When an opportunity was presented to Rahab, she made a decision of faith by helping the Israelite Spies to escape. By her faith, Rahab came to the side of God and left her old life living on the Jericho wall. Once a Canaanite prostitute, Rahab became a hero of faith as commended in the book of Hebrews,
To some interpreters, a different woman (see below) named Rachab (spelled as in King James Translation) is reckoned among the ancestors of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. It is transcribed as Rahab in most Bible translations.
The Hebrew אשה זונה, used to describe Rahab in Joshua 2:1, literally means "a woman, a prostitute". Rahab's name is presumably the shortened form of a sentence name rāḥāb-N, "the god N has opened/widened (the womb?)" The Hebrew zōnâ may refer to either secular or cultic prostitution, and the latter is widely believed to have been an invariable element of Canaanite religious practice. However, there is a separate word in the language that could be used to designate prostitutes of the cultic variety, qědēšâ.
The 1st century AD historian Josephus, mentions that Rahab kept an inn, but is silent as to whether merely renting out rooms was her only source of income. It was not uncommon for both an inn and a brothel to function within the same building, thus going into Rahab's building was not necessarily a deviation from Joshua's orders, and, as Robert Boling notes, "where better to get information than a bar?" A number of scholars have noted that the narrator in Joshua 2 may have intended to remind the readers of the "immemorial symbiosis between military service and bawdy house".
In the Christian New Testament, the Epistle of James and the Epistle to the Hebrews follow the tradition set by the translators of the Septuagint in using the Greek word "πόρνη" (pórnē, which is usually translated to English as "harlot" or "prostitute") to describe Rahab.
William L. Lyons has observed that biblical interpreters have viewed Rahab as a model of hospitality, mercy, faith, patience, and repentance in her interaction with Joshua's spies. Thus the harlot of Jericho became a paragon of virtue.
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. The soldiers sent to capture the spies asked Rahab to bring out the spies (Joshua 2:3). Instead, she hid them under bundles of flax on the roof. 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".
Rahab told the spies (Joshua 2:9-13):
I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 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 Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death.
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 hanging a red cord out the window. Some have claimed that the symbol of the red cord is related to the practice of the "red-light district".
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. (In siege warfare of antiquity, a city that fell after a prolonged siege was commonly subjected to a massacre and sack.)
Michael Coogan claims the book of Joshua, more than any other book of the Bible, contains short etiological narratives that explain the origins of religious rituals, topographical features, genealogical relationships, and other aspects of ancient Israelite life, and that the legend of Rahab is such an example. The story of Rahab would therefore provide an answer as to how a Canaanite group became part of Israel in spite of the Deuteronomistic injunction to kill all Canaanites and not to intermarry with them (Deut 20:16-18)(Deut 7:1-4)
In the midrash, Rahab is named as one of the four most beautiful women the world has ever known, along with Sarah, Abigail, and Esther. In the Babylonian Talmud, anyone who mentions Rahab's name immediately lusts after her (Megillah 15a). Rahab is said to have converted at the age of 50 and repented according to three sins, saying:
Master of the Universe! I have sinned with three things [with my eye, my thigh, and my stomach]. By the merit of three things pardon me: the rope, the window, and the wall [pardon me for engaging in harlotry because I endangered myself when I lowered the rope for the spies from the window in the wall]." (Babylonian Talmud, Zevahim 116a-b).
A similar tradition has Rahab declaring, "Pardon me by merit of the rope, the window, and the flaxen [the stalks of flax under which she concealed the spies]."
The rabbis viewed Rahab as a worthy convert to Judaism, and attested that Rahab married Joshua following her conversion; their descendants included the prophets Jeremiah, Hilkiah, Seraiah, Mahseiah, and Baruch, and the prophetess Hulda, although there is no report in the book of Joshua of the leader marrying anyone, or having any family life. Rahab often is mentioned alongside Jethro (Yitro) and Na'aman as "positive examples" of the converts who joined Israel, and another midrash has Rahab acting as an advocate for all nations of the world.
In the New Testament, Rahab (Greek Ῥαάβ) of the Book of Joshua is mentioned as an example of a person of faith (Hebrews 11:31) and good works (James 2:25). Rahab is referred to as "the harlot" in each of these passages.
A different woman, Rachab (as transcribed in King James Translation of Greek Ῥαχάβ) is mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew as one of the ancestors of Jesus (Matthew 1:5). She married Salmon of the tribe of Judah and was the mother of Boaz. Most other English Bibles transcribe her name as Rahab.
Linguistic and textual evidence suggests that the two women were not the same.Rahab is depicted as a virtuous soul (in The Third Circle of Heaven) in Dante's Divine Comedy of Dante (Paradiso 9.112 ff.)
Rahab is a figure in the mythos of William Blake. She is pictured as a harlot, akin to the whore of Babylon, and figures alongside Blake's character of Tirzah, as representing materialism, false religion, and fallen sexuality. Rahab's embrace of Urizen, who loosely represents fallen reason, is seen as the consolidation of error necessary to bring about the Final Judgment.
Afshar, Tessa. Pearl in the Sand (2010), ISBN 978-0-8024-5881-0; fictional account of Rahab's life, including leaving Jericho, becoming a Hebrew, and marrying Salmon.
Burton, Anne. Rahab's Story (2005), ISBN 0-451-21628-8; a fictional account of Rahab's early life and meeting with the Hebrew spies, Book 2 in Burton's "Women of the Bible" series.
Havel, Carlene and Faucheux, Sharon. The Scarlet Cord (2014), ISBN 1940099692; fictional account of Rahab's life.
MacFarlane, Hannah. The Scarlet Cord (2009), ISBN 1844273709; fictional account of Rahab's life.
Morris, Gilbert. Daughter of Deliverance. ISBN 0-7642-2921-4; fictional account of Rahab's heroic act and later life among the Hebrews. Book 6 of "Lions of Judah" Series.
Rivers, Francine. Unashamed: Rahab (2000), ISBN 978-0842335966; fictional account of Rahab's life, Book 2 in Rivers', "The Lineage of Grace" series.
Slaughter, Frank G. The Scarlet Cord: A Novel of the Woman of Jericho (1956), ISBN 0671774980; fictional account of the life of Rahab.
Wolf, Joan. This Scarlet Cord: The Love Story of Rahab (2012), ISBN 1595548777' fictional account of Rahab's life.
Rahab is portrayed by Lisa Gaye in the 1967 TV series The Time Tunnel.
Rahab is portrayed by Stephanie Leonidas in the 2013 TV miniseries The Bible
Smith, Jill Eileen. The Crimson Cord: Rahab's Story (2015). ISBN 978 0 8007 2034 6; fictional account of Rahab's life, Book 1 in Smiths, "Daughters of the Promised Land" series.