RAHAB ( = "broad").

—Biblical Data:

A woman of Jericho who sheltered the spies sent by Joshua to search out the land. Having arrived at Jericho, the two spies remained at Rahab's house, situated in the wall of the city and having a window on the outside (Josh. ii. 1, 15). Rahab was ordered by the king, who had been informed of the arrival of the spies, to deliver them to him; she, however, hid them on the roof and declared that they had come and gone without her knowing who they were (ii. 3-6). In her conversation with the spies upon the roof, Rahab proved to have been well informed of the progress of the Israelites since they had crossed the Red Sea. She told them that she was certain of their final conquest of the land, and asked them to reward her by sparing herself and her whole family—her father, mother, brothers, and sisters, all of whom lived in the interior of the city (ii. 8-14). After she had let the spies down through the window of her house, they enjoined her to take her whole family into her house, which she should distinguish by placing a scarlet string or rope in the window through which they had made their escape (ii. 15-21). At the conquest of Jericho by the Israelites, Joshua ordered the two spies to rescue Rahab and her family, whose descendants thenceforward dwelt in Israel (vi. 22-23, 25).

E. G. H. M. Sel.—In Rabbinical Literature:

Rahab was one of the most beautiful women in the world, the mere mention of her name exciting inordinate desire (Meg. l5a; Ta'an. 5b). Later Jewish commentators, Rashi among them, interpret , the Hebrew term for "harlot," as "one who sells food," basing their view on Targum Jonathan (to Josh. ii. 1), which renders it by (= "innkeeper"; comp., however, David Ḳimḥi ad loc.). In the Talmudic literature, however, it is accepted that Rahab was a harlot. She was ten years old when the Israelites came out of Egypt, and she pursued her immoral calling during the forty years that the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness. There was not a prince nor a ruler that had not had relations with her; and she was therefore well informed of what was going on outside Jericho (Mek., Yitro, 'Amalek, 1; Zeb. 116b). At the conquest of that city by the Israelites, Rahab became a sincere proselyte to the cult of Yhwh. She then married Joshua and became the ancestress of eight priests who were prophets as well, Jeremiah among them, and of the prophetess Huldah (Meg. 14b). Rahab was also one of the proselyte women styled "the pious" ("ḥasidot"; Midr. Tadshe, in Epstein, "Mi-Ḳadmoniyyot ha-Yehudim," Supplement, p. xliii.). The words "and the families of the house of them that wrought fine linen," etc. (I Chron. iv. 21), are considered by the Rabbis to refer to the house of Rahab (Ruth R. ii. 1).

The conversion of Rahab is regarded by the Rabbis as more complete than that of Jethro and Naaman; for while the latter two did not free themselves entirely from a belief in other gods, Rahab acknowledged that Yhwh was the only God both in heaven and on earth (Mek., l.c.; Deut. R. ii. 19). This acknowledgment of Rahab called forth the admiration of God Himself, who said: "On earth thou couldest see with thine eyes that there is no other God besides Me; but to acknowledge also that I am the only God in heaven needs special faith. I promise thee, therefore, that one of thy descendants [referring to Ezekiel] shall see what no prophet before him shall have seen" (comp. Ezek. i. 1); thus making Ezekiel also one of Rahab's descendants (Midr. Shemuel, in Yalḳ., Josh. 10). Rahab's reward was alluded to by Hezekiah in his prayer for recovery from his sickness (comp. II Kings xx. 2), when he said that as Rahab was greatly recompensed for the rescue of only two men, he who rescued so many from idolatry certainly deserved some reward (Eccl. R. v. 2).

E. C. M. Sel.
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