Response to interpretation of:
Excellent observations and comments on this story that is so important in the Bible. Recently, I’ve been reviewing the peer-reviewed scholarly research made popular by the late Michael Heiser about how Rahab, Tamar, Ruth, and Bathsheba, all fit into the Enochic template and “Divine Council” theology, and why they appear in the genealogy of Jesus.
In this context, I think, comparing Rahab and Ruth, etc. and of the use of the specific Hebrew verbs is very important as other more competent biblical scholars have observed to explain, euphemistically, the fact that the Israelite Spies did have sex with Rahab, especially as recorded in Rahab’s own admission,
וַתֹּאמֶר כֵּן בָּאוּ אֵלַי הָאֲנָשִׁים
”And she said, “yes, the men came in to me” (Joshua 2:4).
The same exact Hebrew idiom is presented in the Book of Ruth as a euphemism for sexual intercourse in the context of the sexual immorality of Boaz and Ruth like the sexual immorality of the Israelite spies with Rahab:
וַיָּשֶׁת עָלֶיהָ וַיָּבֹא הָעִיר
And he laid it on her and he came into the city (Ruth 3:15)
Here “city” may even be a Hebrew idiom and “inside joke” of the House of David in Bethlehem, and then Jerusalem, referring to Rahab, and the act of sexual immorality like Rahab’s former prostitution in the city of Jericho before she married Salmon and settled in Bethlehem. Salmon and Rahab are the ancestors of Boaz who lives in Bethlehem where the story of Boaz and Ruth takes place (Ruth 4:21; Matthew 1:5). Boaz and Ruth were repeating the sin of Salmon (one of the Israelite spies?) and Rahab from generations earlier; I read the text as referring to Salmon and Rahab as ancestors of Boaz, and not literally parents from one generation before, but that’s irrelevant for this interpretation.
The point of this story is that the Bible paints a picture of human behavior that is very real. I agree with the comments here in these posts that these are euphemisms for what the Bible teaches about sexual immorality specifically in the context of redemption and repentance in the biblical stories. Anyways…
Some of the concepts I’m researching right now that I’ll share just for interest with those of us who are also researching the story of Rahab and the Israelites' spies at the very beginning of Israel entering into the Promised Land.
Rahab’s House as a High Place of Cultic Prostitution
I’m researching this story right now for my own interest, even though I am a Registered Biblical Period Archaeologist (MA RPA). My research question is:
How does the story of Rahab relate to the more ancient Neolithic tower of Jericho?
The Neolithic tower of Jericho some archaeologists have called the first skyscraper or the first public building. It was built into the city-wall of ancient neolithic Jericho just like Rahab’s house at the end of the Middle Bronze Age and the beginning of the Late Bronze Age.
My hypothesis is that the Neolithic tower at Jericho was probably the first man-made “mountain” like the pyramids in Egypt or the ziggurats that are later built in Mesopotamia. On top of the ziggurat of Babylon, there was a large cultic bed where the divine king engaged in a ritual act of sexual intercourse, cultic prostitution, with a young woman, probably a virgin priestess of unique beauty, to bring a blessing to the land for all the people. Later in the Middle Bronze to Iron Age periods, this is the “high place” of cultic prostitution in ancient Israel.
That is how I think we are to understand Rahab’s house, and the role of the roof of her house built into the city wall like the Neolithic Tower of Jericho. This is where she hides the Israelite spies in this story. Rahab was a prostitute, and in the context of ancient Canaan, Rahab was a cultic prostitute. Thus it would follow that her house, especially the roof of her house, was a high place of ancient Canaanite ritual, sacrifice, and cultic prostitution.
The fact that this ancient tower built into the city wall is so persistent in the memory of the Semitic people is important. This is the same concept of tower(s) as a place of solitude and strength. This is used as a biblical metaphor all throughout the Scriptures in the context of humanity experiencing God’s atonement and redemption of sin and humanity’s restoration as a process to the Garden of Eden that is in beginning, Genesis, of the biblical text.
”Breasts as Towers” (Song of Songs)
And with the act of redemption realized, “a love unconscious of any fall” (Michael Fox, The Song of Songs and the Ancient Egyptian Love Songs), this concept of large towers like mountains, like Mount Hermon the white snow-covered peaks of Lebanon on the northern border of Israel (Sngs 4:8), and like Rahab’s breasts, voluptuous as implied in her name, Rahab, large, to enlarge, given to her at birth by her parents like a prophecy, then fulfilled, and perhaps why she was chosen to become a cultic prostitute, and the reference to Rahab’s legendary beauty even appearing in Song of Songs in the Shulamit’s description of herself,
I am a wall and my breasts are like towers. (Sngs 8:10)
That may actually be a “riddle of the wise” (Prov. 1:6) as a puzzle of Hebrew wisdom that the reader was expected to solve. The solution to the riddle is that “I am a wall and my breasts are like towers” (Sngs 8:10) is actually a reference to Rahab as one of the women of exceptional beauty found among the maternal ancestors of the House of David commemorated in the book of Song of Songs to inspire the House of David, the residents of Jerusalem, and all Israel, to guide men to seek a beautiful wife, and for women to seek to be a beautiful wife like Rahab redeemed.
In Jewish literature one can find a very favorable and beautiful reference to Rahab:
Rahab was one of the most beautiful women in the world, the mere mention of her name exciting inordinate desire. (Meg. l5a; Ta'an. 5b)
Have you ever asked why is Rahab referred to in the book of James, written by James, the brother of Jesus, who was a direct descendant of King David?
I think it’s for the same reason that I’m referring to here:
In the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also proved righteous by works in receiving the messengers and sending them out by a different route? (James 2:25)
That only makes sense in the context of the sinful activity that Rahab and the Israelite spies were involved in, and then she was redeemed from her sin, and Israel was redeemed from their sin, and they enter into the Promised Land as an expression of their repentance and redemption accomplished through the grace of God, the compassion and mercy of God, which Moses was teaching the Israelites about for 40 years of wandering in the desert.