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The name Rahab appears in English versions of the Bible as belonging to a woman who features in the book of Joshua, and to a mythical sea monster that features in the poetical books. But in the Hebrew Bible the two do not share the same name. There is a difference in spelling.

A woman in Jericho

Before Joshua opened his attack on Canaan, he sent two men to spy out the first city they would meet, Jericho. In Jericho the men met Rahab, a prostitute whose house was attached to the city wall. Rahab had heard sufficient of Israel’s God to fear his power, but she believed in his mercy to save her. She protected the spies from the local authorities, and in return asked protection for herself and her family when the Israelites attacked Jericho (Joshua 2:1-14; Hebrews 11:31).

Rahab further demonstrated her faith by being obedient to the instructions that the spies gave her. She protected the spies as requested, and did as they had told her in preparation for Israel’s attack. As a result the Israelites preserved her and her family when Jericho fell, and accepted them into Israel as part of the nation (Joshua 2:15-24; Joshua 6:17; Joshua 6:22-25; James 2:25). If this Rahab is the person of that name who married Salmon, she was mother of Boaz and an ancestor of Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 1:1; Matthew 1:5-6).

A mythical sea monster

Rahab the mythical sea monster was considered by people of the Middle East to symbolize the forces of chaos over which God had victory in creating an orderly world (Job 9:13; Job 26:12; Job 38:8-11). Poets at times wrote about God’s overthrow of Egypt in the Red Sea as if it were the overthrow of the sea monster Rahab (Psalms 89:9-10; Isaiah 51:9-10). From this there developed the poetical usage of ‘Rahab’ as another name for Egypt (Psalms 87:4; Isaiah 30:7).

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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Rahab'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. 2004.

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