Was Rahab the Harlot in the Line of Jesus?

If Rahab the harlot married (or continued to have marital relations) after her conversion while her former sex partners were alive, then we can come to one of the following conclusions:

(1) Since sex equals marriage, Rahab was living in adultery after her conversion; thus, believers can live in adultery;


(2) Rahab was not living in adultery after her conversion; thus, sex does not equal marriage.

Obviously, believers cannot be adulterers or adulteresses (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), so this eliminates #1. Thus, if Rahab the harlot married (or continued to have marital relations) after her conversion while her former sex partners were alive, then this alone is enough proof that marriage does not equal sex and that marrying after having sex with at least one other person (while the previous partner(s) is/are still alive) is not adultery. It would seal the deal.

But is it not obvious that she married or continued to have marital relations after her conversion, since she is mentioned in the line of Jesus (Matthew 1:5)?


First, here is part of John Gill's commentary on Matthew 1:5:

"That Salmon begat Boaz, is affirmed in Ruth 4:21 but it is not there said, nor any where else in the Old Testament, as here, that he begat him of Rahab, that is, of Rahab the harlot. This the Evangelist had from tradition, or from the Jewish records. That the Messiah was to spring from Boaz is asserted by the Jewish writers (s); and they also own that Rahab was married to a prince in Israel, which some say (t) was Joshua: they pretend that she was ten years of age when the Israelites came out of Egypt; that she played the harlot all the forty years they were in the wilderness, and was married to Joshua upon the destruction of Jericho. To excuse this marriage with a Canaanitish woman, they tell us, she was not of the seven nations with whom marriage was forbid; and moreover, that she became a proselyte when the spies were received by her: they own that some very great persons of their nation sprung from her, as Jeremiah, Maaseiah, Hanameel, Shallum, Baruch, Ezekiel, Neriah, Seraiah, and Huldah the prophetess. The truth of the matter is, she became the wife of Salmon, or Salma, as he is called, 1 Chronicles 2:11. And in the Targum on Ruh 4:20 is said to be of Bethlehem; he was the son of Nahshon or Naasson, a famous prince in Judah, and the head and captain of the tribe, Numbers 1:7, Numbers 7:12. And from Rahab sprung the Messiah, another instance of a Gentile in the genealogy of Christ; and a third follows."

And here are excerpts of another article I found online:

"Who, then, was this female ancestor of our Lord -- Rachab -- who is stated, in Matthew 1:5, to have married Salmon the son of Naashon, a prince of the Royal line of Judah, some time either before or after the Israelites occupied the Promised Land?

Every Bible translator and commentator, without exception [this person obviously didn't read Gill -mdc], associates her with, or directly identifies her as `Rahab the harlot' who was saved alive from the massacre of Jericho. ...

Several attempts have been made:

a. to identify Rahab as an Israelite descendant of Sherah, the daughter of Ephraim, who went to Canaan about two centuries or so before the Exodus -- 1 Chronicles 7:24 -- and built the strongholds of Beth-horon and Uzzen-sherah some 25 miles west of Jericho

b. to clear her name of the term "harlot" by describing her as a `widow' or an `innkeeper' or as a `trader in flax'.

But the term `harlot' is not only used by Joshua in the Old Testament; it is used again both by Paul and James in the New Testament 1500 years later. Thus there had been ample opportunity since Joshua's day to clear her name from that obnoxious designation if there had been no justification for it. ... Moreover Joshua, himself, was a ninth generation descendant of Ephraim (1 Chronicles 7:24-27) and would have been related to Rahab if she was, in truth, a descendant of Ephraim's daughter Sherah.

Therefore not only would Joshua have given his two spies careful instructions for rescuing Rahab on the grounds of consanguinity but he would also have cleared her name of any undeserved accusations of being a harlot had they not been true. ...

Joshua 6:25 states that Rahab was given land in the midst of Israel in return for risking her own life by hiding the two spies that were sent to Jericho. Josephus in his "Antiquities of the Jews", Book 5 chapter 1, sections 2 and 7, records the same story but neither he nor Joshua make any reference to a marriage taking place between Rahab and Salmon. That deafening silence is itself the strongest proof that no such marriage did take place. ...

However, let us assume for a moment that Salmon did marry Rahab the harlot within a year or so of the fall of Jericho, and that Boaz was born a year or so after that. If such were the case, then Boaz would have been about 115 years old when he married Ruth! On the other hand, if we assume that Rahab was about 30 years of age when Jericho fell, and that Salmon did not marry her till 30 years or more later, then not only would Rahab have been at least 60 years of age and no longer able to bear children, but Boaz, even if born 30 years after the fall of Jericho, would still have been 85 years of age when he married Ruth. ...

... Thus all the evidence confirms the fact that Salmon did not marry Rahab the Canaanite harlot. In fact, the Bible states, in plain writing, that Salmon married a different woman altogether. A woman with a different name, and without any distinguishing appellation, obnoxious or otherwise, attached to her name. It is the religious translators and commentators who have made the mistake in translation and identified Salmon's wife as the harlot of Jericho.

But the most surprising fact is that the harlot's name is NOT Rahab after all, for there is NO woman with the name of Rahab in the whole of the Bible! In the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, Rahab is a poetic or metaphorical name applied on three occasions to the land of Egypt, with the meaning of being 'haughty' or 'proud', (see Psalms 87:4, 89:10 and Isaiah 51:9). But these three passages have nothing to do with Joshua, Jericho, or the harlot who lived there. The same Hebrew word 'rahab' is, in fact, quite correctly translated in the Authorized version as 'proud' in Job 9:13 and 26:12, but in Isaiah 30:7 it is incorrectly translated as 'strength'. This verse reads -- in the Hebrew text -- "Egypt's help is vain and worthless therefore I have called her Rahab sitting still" -- (or 'Egypt the motionless').

The harlot's name is 'Rakhab' (English pronunciation: 'Raackharb') A different Hebrew word to 'Rahab', with a totally different meaning of "to widen" or "to make broad". It is not spelt with the Hebrew letter 'He' as in Rahab, but with the letter 'khet' (which has a hard gutteral aspirated sound like the 'ch' in 'loch' or in the German 'macht'.

The Greek alphabet, however, has no equivalent letters corresponding to either 'he' or 'khet'. Hence, in the Septuagint version of the Book of Joshua, the harlot's name is spelt 'Ra'ab' in all passages where it occurs. And exactly the same spelling is used in the New Testament in the Greek text of Hebrews 11:31 and of James 2:25 -- but NOT in Matthew 1:5. Furthermore, her name is always coupled with the designation 'harlot' either directly or by association with this designation in the same context in which her name appears.

If Salmon's wife was indeed 'Rakhab' the harlot, why is it then that, in the Greek text of Matthew 1:5, it is spelt 'Raxab' and not Ra'ab as it is in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 and in every passage of the Greek text of the Septuagint where the harlot's name appears? And why is it that Raxab's name in Matthew 1:5 is not coupled with the term 'harlot'? This is the first and only occurrence of this name in the New Testament.

Therefore IF Raxab was in actual fact the harlot of Jericho, then it is even more necessary to identify her here as the harlot than it is in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25. It should be noted that the letter 'x' in Raxab's name is the Greek letter 'chi' which has the hard 'ch' sound as in the English 'chord' or 'Christ'. Therefore the English pronunciation of the Greek name 'Raxab' in Matthew 1:5 should be 'Rachab' -- with a short second 'a' as in cab -- NOT 'Rahab' and NOT 'Raackharb'.

This is not just another way of spelling or of pronouncing 'Rahab' or 'Rakhab' either in Greek or in Hebrew. 'Rachab' is a different name altogether in the 'original' Greek. Therefore it cannot refer to Ra'ab the harlot, it can only refer to a different woman. Now it has been shown time and time again that God never uses two different words, or two different names in the same verse or context to refer to the same thing or person. The different words or names are always put there to draw our attention to the fact that He is referring to different things or persons.

But Matthew 1:5, Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25 cannot be classified as being 'in the same context'. Therefore more positive methods have been used in these passages to identify the person concerned precisely and exactly, and to distinguish between one person and another. Thus in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25, the reader is told explicitly that these passages refer to Ra'ab the harlot of Jericho:

a. by stating her name,

b. by repeating her designation of a harlot,

c. by mentioning the action which she took to help the two spies. These are all positive marks of identification.

On the other hand in Matthew 1:5 Rachab the wife of Salmon is clearly distinguished from ANY identification or association in any way with the harlot of Jericho:

1. by the different spelling of her name in the 'original' Greek,

2. by the different pronunciation of her name,

3. by the absence of any offensive designation attached to her name,

4. by the absence of any reference to Jericho or any activity that took place there.

Nor is the absence of any such additional information about Rachab designed to 'cover up' possible unfavourable personal references to individual members of Israel's Royal Line and of the human ancestors of Jesus in this genealogy. The Bible does not shrink from stating unsavoury 'incidents' in the lives of any of Israel's famous people. This is demonstrated in the very next verse (Matthew 1:6) by the cutting reference to Bathsheba -- not by recording her name, but by bringing her name to mind only through her degrading act of adultery with King David. Again, there is the story of Judah's seduction by Tamar as told in Genesis 38:11-30.

There still remains the question about the age of Boaz, at the time he married Ruth. If we assume that Salmon married Rachab either before, or soon after, the fall of Jericho, then Boaz would have been about 115 years old at the time of his marriage. For (it appears) the genealogies of Matthew 1, Luke 3 and Ruth 4, list only four generations covering the 460 years from the fall of Jericho to the birth of David.

It is apparent therefore that, in a Royal dynasty of the one tribe (Judah), it is not necessary to list every link in the chain in order to establish or confirm the legal succession to the throne. For example, Ruth 4:17 states that Obed was called the `son' of Naomi who was actually his grandmother. Hence there must also be similar unlisted generations between Salmon, Boaz, Obed, and Jesse, who was the father of David, in order to fill out the whole period of some 460 years. In fact, it would seem that the only reason why Salmon, Boaz, Obed and Jesse are listed in the genealogies is because they lived at points of marked change in the transition from tribal to national status on the one hand, or from administrative development through elders, military leaders, and judges to a monarchy on the other; or simply because, in this transitional period, these men had each married a woman from one of the other tribes of Israel.

It would appear from the book of Ruth that Ruth was of the tribe of Reuben, and if the wives of those other three men were also from different tribes, then this inclusion of women from different tribes into the Royal line would have done much to assist in the final federation of the Nations of Israel under one king."

This is enough to show without a doubt that the "Rahab" of Matthew 1:5 is not the same person as the "Rahab" of Joshua 2 and 6, Hebrews 11:31, and James 2:25. Rahab the harlot was not the person who married Salmon and was not the great-great-grandmother of David and was not in the line of Jesus Christ.

See the article "What Constitutes Marriage."


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