Pete’s Bible Trivia Bonanza #2 — prepare to have your mind blown

Posted by PeteEnns on October 19, 2016 in Pete’s Bible Trivia Bonanza 19 Comments

excitementDid you know there are 3 Rahabs in the Old Testament?

Of course you didn’t. You probably never even bothered to think about it. You’ve just been going about your life, carefree, thinking “I’m sure there is only on Rahab in the Bible” and that’s that.

This is why I’m here. This is what I do.

(1) The Rahab most of us know is the prostitute and resident of Jericho in the book of Joshua. She was spared along with her family when the Israelites attacked and the walls fell. She is also mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:5), Hebrews 11:31, and James 2:25.

[Side issue: I’ve always wondered why the Israelite spies, who were sent out secretly to gather military intelligence,bible-stories-illustration-of-rahab-assisting-the-the-israelite-spies-c8n38g immediately entered a prostitute’s house upon entering the city. The text doesn’t explain but the wording not just a little suggestive:

Then Joshua son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, ‘Go, view the land, especially Jericho.’ So they went, and entered the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab, and spent the night there.—Joshua 2:1.

This sounds like a topic for another post altogether, but let me point out that what they were doing in there is left to the reader’s imagination. And this wasn’t a secretive move on their part. In the next verse we read that the spies are immediately found out, since—think about it—a prostitute’s house was like Grand Central Station. If you’re trying to sneak around, this is the one place you do NOT go. But I digress.]

(2) Less familiar, and no relation to #1 (ha ha, and little Bible professor humor), is Rahab the ancient mythic sea monster that God slew at creation. This rahabcreature is not mentioned in Genesis 1, but we do see it in Job 9:13 and 26:12, Psalm 89:10, and Isaiah 51:9.

[Side issue: And that just goes to show us that a “biblical” view of creation can’t just camp out in Genesis 1-2 and make up all sports of nonsense about how we can see the Big Bang or evolution there if we look hard enough. Ancient Israel’s view of creation is diverse and mythic and ALL of the information at our disposal needs to be accounted for if we are going to claim to be truly biblical. But I digress again.]

(3) Even less familiar is Rahab as another name for Egypt (Psalm 87:4 and Isaiah 30:7). I’m not sure what’s going on here, but my guess is that the imagery of mythic Rahab (defeated by Yahweh) is being applied to Egypt (defeated by Yahweh).

[Side issue: this Rahab is not nearly as interesting as the other two.]

And with this, you are equipped to impress your pastor and show off to your lazy Bible reading friends. You’re welcome.

PBTB #3 coming your way in a week or so.

***If you want to read books of mine that contain no trivia whatsoever, here are some: The Bible Tells Me So (HarperOne, 2014),  Inspiration and Incarnation (Baker 2005/2015), The Sin of Certainty (HarperOne, 2016), and The Evolution of Adam (Baker, 2012).***


  • Whaat?! I always thought Rahab was a mythical sea monster slain by Yahwe; the Hebrew version of the Babylonian tale of the monster Tiamat, slain by Maruk.

    You mean Rahab was also turning tricks in Jericho?! With Israelite spies?! A biblical Mata Hari?!


  • Pete, as I see it, a brothel is exactly where strangers to a city would spend the night without arousing suspicion. The locals would understand why they were inside the city walls and thus not be alarmed.

  • I love series like these, thanks for being such a geek, Pete! I checked the references in relation to Rahab being slain at creation but I see it more as the biblical author(s) appropriating motifs from the surrounding culture for their purpose, as opposed to the biblical author(s) literally believing that Yahweh was doing hand-to-hand combat with a sea monster. I don’t think the verses you provided warrant the conclusion that “ancient Israel’s view of creation is diverse and mythic”.

  • Unless Rahab is just another name for Jericho, which may be implied by Isaiah 51:10. In Isaiah 51:9, Rahab is connected to the sea monster (Tannin), as you suggest above, But in Ezekiel 29:3 & 32:2, Pharaoh is called Tannin. And in Jeremiah 51:34, Nebuchadnezzar is compared to Tannin. So it seems that any of Israel’s enemies can be viewed as the great sea monster Tannin. If this is the case then couldn’t you also say that Jericho is a Tannin since she must be defeated for Israel to gain entrance to the promised land, just as Adam must defeat the cherubim who guards the entrance to Eden (or the serpent himself, who wasn’t yet kicked out) if he desires to regain Paradise?

    Just some thoughts. Certainly, “Rahab” is used in different ways, but in the minds of the Biblical writers maybe there is a closer connection than we’ve realized to date.

  • As to why go to a prostitute. I’ve imagined two reasons. Being travelers in a strange city,
    going to a prostitute’s house is one way of blending in. Second, who better would know what folks throughout the land were thinking?

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