RAHAB, rê'hab: A Canaanitic woman of Jericho, who received the spies sent by Joshua. It is stated in Josh. ii. 1-21 that Rahab, a prostitute, received into her house in Jericho the two spies sent by Joshua to reconnoiter the enemy's country. When the messengers of the king of Jericho arrived at Rahab's house to arrest these spies, she first concealed them and then aided them to escape, asking as a reward that she and her family should be spared if Jericho fell into the hands of the Israelites: as a token of recognition she received a red thread to hang from her window. This promise was kept when Jericho was taken, and Rahab and her family were received into the community of Israel.
Not only did the Jews dislike to bring their ancestors into contact with a prostitute, but some Christian expositors have also taken pains to give the word zonah or its Greek equivalent pornē another explanation, although these words always signify prostitute. Josephus (Ant., V., i. 2, 7) describes Rahab as the hostess of an inn. Jewish tradition asserted that eight prophets were descended from her (J. Lightfoot, Hor Hebraic, on Matt. i. 5). She was said to have married either Joshua himself or else Salma, thus becoming the mother of Boaz and therefore an ancestor of David. The latter supposition seems to be accepted by the genealogy of Jesus in Matt. i. 2-19 (cf. I Chron. ii. 4 sqq.; Jerome, on Matt: i. 5). The author of the epistle to the Hebrews offers Rahab as an example of faith, and in James ii. 25 she illustrates the value of good works. Finally, Clement of Rome (I Epist., i. 12) sees in the red cord a symbol of salvation by the blood of Christ.