Biblical Archaeology Review 39:5, September/October 2013

Was Rahab Really a Harlot?

By Anthony J. Frendo

Did Rahab live on the wall or in the wall?

Rahab is a Biblical heroine. She is also, according to the text, a harlot. It all happened when Joshua sent two men to spy out the land before the Israelites entered the Promised Land. They stayed at Rahab’s house. The king of Jericho learned of this and ordered Rahab to produce the spies; instead, she hid them. To the king of Jericho, she prevaricated: “I didn’t know where they were from.” And they have left anyway, she told the king’s men. In fact, she had hid the spies on the roof.

Thus misled, the king’s men pursued the Israelite spies toward the Jordan River, and the gate of the city was closed for the night. Rahab then “let [the spies] down by a rope through the window.”

The spies had given an oath to Rahab to spare her and her family when the Israelites invaded the land. They would be released from this oath, they told her as they left, unless she tied to the window the crimson rope by which she had let the spies down.

Alerted by the crimson rope, when the Israelites conquered and destroyed the city, they spared only Rahab and her family (Joshua 2:1–24; 6:22–25).

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