RAHAB (rā'hăb, Heb. rāhāv, broad, Gr. Rhachab). 1. A woman best known for her prominent role in the capture of Jericho during the days of Joshua (Josh.2.1ff.; Matt.1.5; Heb.11.31; Jas.2.25). The spies sent by Joshua were received into the house of Rahab prior to the siege of the city by the army of Israel. When the king of Jericho sent a posse of men in search of the spies, Rahab refused to betray their whereabouts. As a reward for her fidelity in this affair, she was promised by the two spies her own safety and the protection of her family, on condition of her continued loyalty and secrecy (Josh.2.14-Josh.2.20). True to the promise that the spies had made to her, Joshua and his men spared Rahab and her family after they captured the city (Josh.6.17). Jewish tradition has held Rahab in high honor, one tradition making her the wife of Joshua himself.

According to Matthew’s genealogy, she is not only one of the four women mentioned in the family tree of the Savior, but also the mother of Boaz, the husband of Ruth, and the great-grandmother of King David (Ruth.4.18-Ruth.4.21; Matt.1.5). The author of Hebrews speaks of her as a shining example of faith (Heb.11.31). James shows his appreciation of her as a person in whom faith was not merely “theological” but also practical (Jas.2.5).

2. A mythical monster of the deep. In such passages as Job.9.13 and Ps.89.10 the motif of the slaying of the dragon appears. In Isa.51.9 the Lord’s victory is complete because he has cut Rahab, the monster, to ribbons. This poetic symbolism has much in common with the Ras Shamra literature and may be the prototype of legends like St. George and the Dragon. The Rahab Yashab (“Rahab the Do-Nothing”) of Isa.30.7 portrays the impotency of the monster of Egypt (symbolized by the crocodile) in the day of invasion.

RAHAB rā’ hăb (רָחָ֨ב, meaning storm, arrogance; Gr. Ραάβ, Ραχάβ [Matt 1:5]).

The person.

Rahab was a harlot of Jericho, at whose house two spies stayed just prior to the conquest of Pal. by Joshua (Josh 2:1-21). Terrified by the approach of the Israelites, she made an agreement with the spies to protect them if they would guarantee the safety of her family and herself. She concealed them from the agents of the king of Jericho, and helped them to escape through her window on the city wall. At the fall of Jericho Joshua spared Rahab and her relatives (Josh 6:17, 22, 25).

According to the genealogy given by Matthew (Matt 1:5) she became the wife of Salmon and the mother of Boaz. The author of Hebrews cited her as an example of faith (Heb 11:31), and James refers to her demonstration of faith by good works (Jas 2:25).

A monster.

In the poetical books of the OT the name is applied to a monster or demonic power. The allusions occur in the context of God’s power in nature: He overcomes Rahab in a contest of force (Job 9:13; 26:12; Ps 89:10; Isa 51:9). Each of these passages is connected with the creative act of God in restraining the sea, and as a demonstration of His supreme power. The episode was applied to the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, when God opened the waters of the sea to provide a safe passage for His people (Isa 59:10).

A name for Egypt.

Possibly because of the aforementioned association with the Exodus, Rahab became a symbolic name for Egypt. It is included in the list of hostile nations cited in Psalm 87:4, and is definitely connected with Egypt by Isaiah (30:7).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


(1) (rachabh, "broad"; in Josephus, Ant, V, i, 2, 7, Rhachab; Heb 11:31 and Jas 2:25, Rhaab): A zonah, that is either a "harlot," or, according to some, an "innkeeper" in Jericho; the Septuagint porne, "harlot"). The two spies sent by Joshua from Shittim came into her house and lodged there (Jos 2:1). She refused to betray them to the king of Jericho, and when he demanded them, she hid them on the roof of her house with stalks of flax that she had laid in order to dry. She pretended that they had escaped before the shutting of the gate, and threw their pursuers off their track. She then told the spies of the fear that the coming of the Israelites had caused in the minds of the Canaanites--"Our hearts did melt .... for Yahweh your God, he is God in heaven above, and on earth beneath"--and asked that the men promise to spare her father, mother, brothers and sisters, and all that they had. They promised her to spare them provided they would remain in her house and provided she would keep their business secret. Thereupon she let them down by a cord through the window, her house being built upon the town wall, and gave them directions to make good their escape (Jos 2:1-24). True to their promise, the Israelites under Joshua spared Rahab and her family (Jos 6:16 the King James Version); "And," says the author of Josh, "she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day." Her story appealed strongly to the imagination of the people of later times. Heb 11:31 speaks of her as having been saved by faith; James, on the other hand, in demonstrating that a man is justified by works and not by faith only, curiously chooses the same example (Jas 2:25). Jewish tradition has been kindly disposed toward Rahab; one hypothesis goes so far as to make her the wife of Joshua himself (Jew Encyclopedia, under the word). Naturally then the other translation of zonah, deriving it from zun, "to feed," instead of zanah, "to be a harlot," has been preferred by some of the commentators.

(2) (@Rhachab): Josephus, Ant, V, 1, 2, 7, so spells the name of (1) Septuagint and New Testament contra). The wife of Salmon and mother of Booz (Boaz) according to the genealogy in Mt 1:5. Query, whether there was a tradition identifying (1) and (2); see Lightfoot, Horae Hob on Mt 1:5.

(3) (rahabh, literally, "storm," "arrogance"): A mythical sea-monster, probably referred to in several passages where the word is translated as a common noun "pride" (Job 9:13), "the proud" (Job 26:12; compare Ps 89:10). It is used in parallelism with tannin, "the dragon" (Isa 51:9). It is most familiar as an emblem of Egypt, `the boaster that sitteth still’ (Isa 30:7; Ps 87:4; compare Ps 89:10). The Talmud in Babha’ Bathra’ speaks of rahabh as sar ha-yam, "master of the sea."