In the Babylonian Talmud there’s a description of the most four beautiful women in the history of the world. One the women mentioned, whose name has no specific Jewish or Israeli context in the Hebrew Bible is Rahav- רָחָב. The other three, by the way, are Esther, Abigail and Sarah. It is assumed that at some point she converted became Jewish like other Biblical women, such as Boaz’s wife Ruth, Joseph’s wife Osnat and several others. The Babylonian Talmud tells us that Rahav eventually married Joshua and that she had ten famous descendants, one of whom is the famous prophet, Jeremiah.
What was it about Rahav that made the sages of Israel sing her praises so highly? Today we shall examine some important verses that shed light on her character. Let’s start with her meeting with the two spies in Jericho, as written:
“Then Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and [a]lodged there. It was told the king of Jericho, saying, “Behold, men from the sons of Israel have come here tonight to search out the land.”(Joshua 2:1-2)
Rahav and the two spies
Unlike Joshua, who didn’t trust God’s promise of the land to him and his people, it was Rahav – who the sage Rashi suggested was not actually a harlot as she is often understood to have been, but rather an innkeeper – who trusted God with a full heart. Rahav knew exactly how to speak the two spies, in their language, about the miracles God had enacted for them at the Red Sea, making clear to them the sincerity of her intentions and her belief in the one true God.
In Joshua chapter two, it seems that while the city slept, Rahav was the only one to figure out that in order to save her family from God’s proposed destruction she had to go undercover and appear as if she was working for both sides, to be a friend unto the spies but still a loyal citizen of the city. When the people of Jericho came to her to inspect the spies, she could have exposed them, delivering the two spies to the wrath of the people. However, by doing so, she would only gain a respect and dignity for few days. Rahav, whose name in Hebrew means ‘wide’, acted differently; she had the two spies swear that they would save her family, and as we can see in Joshua 6, her family was saved, as written:
“However, Rahab the harlot and her father’s household and all she had, Joshua spared; and she has lived in the midst of Israel to this day, for she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.”(Jos. 6:25
In the New Testament, Rahav is described as a woman that displayed grace and faith. In in the Book of Matthew 1:5 she is described as the mother of Boaz, Ruth’s husband and David’s great grandmother. Another beautiful passage about Rahav appears here-
“By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.”(Hebrews 11:31)
The character of Rahav teaches us that first impressions can be fleeting; when you judge a person merely by their occupation and not upon their actions and merits, you can be severely misled. For that reason we should all try to open our minds and hearts up as wide as Rahav’s, be accepting of others, less judgmental and more tolerant. Then, perhaps, we’ll have greater perspective and be able to do good for ourselves and our families, just as Rahav did!
Wishing you a blessed week, dear friends,