Who Was Rachav?

In the Haftara for Parshat Shlach, Joshua 2:1-24, Joshua sends two spies to see what was happening in Jericho. The spies went straight to the house of Rachav and stayed there.


Who was Rachav?


In sentence 1, Rachav is described as an “isha zona” which literally means a harlot. Radak says that in fact she was a harlot. Targum Yonatan brings the opinion that she was an innkeeper who sold food, “mazon”, from the same root as “zona”.


In any case, she had an inn where most travelers who visited Jericho stayed.


The King of Jericho heard that the two men were at Rachav’s inn and he told her to send them out as they are spies.


Rachav admitted that the men had been there but she then said that they had already left the city (even though she was really hiding them on her roof).


Rachav then told the spies (sentence 9) “I know that God has given you the Land and that your terror has fallen upon us and that all of the inhabitants of the Land have melted because of you. For we have heard how God dried up the water of the Sea of Reeds before you when you came out of Egypt and what you did to the two Amorite kings across the Jordan- to Sichon and to Og- whom you utterly destroyed. When we heard our hearts melted- no spirit is left in man because of you, for God , He is God in the heavens above and on the earth below.”


Rachav then asked the men to save her and her family. The men made an oath and agreed to save Rachav and her family. Rachav hung a scarlet cord in her window so that they would be able to find her home when they would return to the city with Joshua.


When the men returned to Joshua they said (sentence 24) “For God has given all the Land in our hands; also all of the inhabitants of the Land have melted before us.”


Due to the information that they received from Rachav, B’nai Yisrael knew that it was the right time to conquer Jericho.


Rachav was a woman who was not Jewish, yet she went out of her way to help the Jewish people knowing that if she were caught she would be put to death.


According to Malbim, when Rachav said “For God, He is God in the heavens above and on the earth below” she accepted God’s sovereignty and converted to Judaism.


In Joshua 6:25 we read: “And Joshua saved Rachav the harlot alive and her father’s household and all that she had; and she dwelt in Yisrael to this very day because she hid the messengers, whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.”


According to Kli Yakar, at this point Rachav’s whole family converted to Judaism.


The Gemara in Megila 14b states that we learn from here that Joshua married Rachav.


Rachav was willing to risk her life in order to help the Jewish people. Although she was not born Jewish, she came to recognize God. She changed her lifestyle and was rewarded.


Rachav was a courageous woman who can serve as an inspiration to us all.