Joshua 2:3 - 7
ESV - 3 Then the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, "Bring out the men who have come to you, who entered your house, for they have come to search out all the land. 4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. And she said, "True, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from.
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Rahab, whose story in the Old Testament is found in Joshua 2 and Joshua 6, lived in Jericho in the land of Canaan. Although translations of the Bible commonly refer to her as a harlot or prostitute, Aramaic translations of the Hebrew text indicate that she may in fact have been an innkeeper. She knew that God was with the Israelites following their exodus from Egypt, and she was willing to defy the rulers of the city by giving shelter to the Israelite spies who had been sent to scout out the city in preparation for Israel's conquest of it, and to mislead the authorities (who were looking for the spies) about where they were. In return for her aid, she and her extended family were spared by the Israelites when God caused the walls of Jericho to fall, allowing the Israelites to overrun the city and kill its inhabitants. In addition, she is mentioned multiple times in the New Testament. Matthew's genealogy of Jesus through Joseph indicates (in Matthew 1:5) that she married Salmon, and was the mother of Boaz. She was therefore also the great-great-grandmother of King David, and was thus an ancestor of Jesus through both His mother and His earthly father. She is spoken of favorably in the epistle of James (James 2:25) and in the epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 11:31) as well, as someone who gave witness to her faith through her actions.
Rahab was a resident of Jericho when the spies were sent from Joshua. In most Bible versions, Joshua 2:1 says that Rahab was a harlot or a prostitute. The Hebrew “zona” and the Greek “porna” frequently mean a harlot. However, “The Jewish Bible” commentator Rashi did not believe she was a harlot. She may have been an innkeeper as D. J. Wiseman wrote in “Rahab of Jericho.” The commentator Adam Clarke wrote that historians among the Greeks and Egyptians seem to have called harlots and innkeepers the same name. He also noted the Chaldee Targum translated it, ‘ittetha pundekitha,’ ‘a woman, a tavern-keeper.’ Some think when Josephus wrote about Rahab the ‘innkeeper,’ he was using a euphemism for harlot, but as a historian, he meant ‘inn-keeper.’ It was not uncommon for a woman to be an innkeeper with a family living with her. Inns were located on the roadside or at the gate of a city while prostitutes were not allowed to live in the city. If she were a harlot, the spies would not know to lodge at her place as it would not be conspicuous, but an inn was marked as such and easy to locate. Besides the spies were not of low character to choose such a place. The way the king demanded Rahab to bring out the men she was hiding was the usual way. If she were a harlot, the authorities would not ask but walk in to arrest the spies. She had to be considered dependable for the representatives of the king to be deceived by her. Adam Clarke wrote that the harlots, the same word, of I Kings 3:16, who were before Solomon were likely hostesses or innkeepers. He wrote, “It is well known that common prostitutes, from their abandoned course of life, scarcely ever have children; and the laws were so strict against such in Israel, (Deuteronomy 23:18), that if these had been of that class it is not at all likely they would have dared to appear before Solomon.” Rahab seems to be an honest, industrious woman earning her way legitimately, as indicated by the stalks of flax, essential for making linen, important in running an inn. Even though ‘porna’ comes from ‘porneo’ meaning ‘to sell,’ it does not mean she was selling herself, but goods she had. There is no evidence that she was ever a harlot. If she were an innkeeper, Rahab would be in an advantageous position to gather ‘news’ especially about Israel and their powerful God. Adam Clarke wrote, “But what completes in my judgment the evidence on this point is, that this very Rahab, whom we call a harlot, was actually married to Salmon, a Jewish prince, see Matthew 1:5. And is it probable that a prince of Judah would have taken to wife such a person as our text represents Rahab to be?” Rahab, an ancestress of Christ, was saved and is known for her faith in the Lord, Hebrews 11:31, James 2:25.
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