Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. "Go, look over the land," he said, "especially Jericho." So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there. - Joshua 2:1

Was she likely to be sold into prostitution by her parents?
Was she likely to have been poor, with no other way to earn a living? Was it likely that her culture accepted prostitution as an acceptable, respectable profession?

I have heard several times about the symbolism of the scarlet ribbon in her story. And I see that she refers to "the Lord" rather than "your Lord".

But was she scorned by her community? Was she in a position of power and influence? I'm curious whether she was a victim and powerless, but don't want to assume that was the case.

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    I thought Rahab lived in Jericho? Facilitating escape down the wall and all that... The title appears to state that she lived in (at?) Shittim.
    – Susan
    Mar 3 '15 at 4:52

Can you help me find out about the culture of Shittim where Rahab lived?

Hope this will help you Kevin.

A key word search on NASB from BibleGateway revealed six occurrences of "Shittim", it is a shorten name of "Abel-shittim" and it is the area in which the Isrealites encamped, in the desert plains of Moab.

So the culture you should look for is that of the Moabites, the place where the Israelites had sexual relationships with the daughters of Moab, from Numbers 22:1 below, you will read that the area which the Israelites encamped was opposite to Jericho.

The Moabites were related to the Israelites, they were descendants of Abraham's nephew Lot, and despite their close relationship, the scriptures show that the Moabites held great enmity towards Israel, and tried to prevent them from entering the promised land. (Deuteronomy 2:9, 2 Kings 24:1-2)

Numbers 22:1 (NASB)

22 Then the sons of Israel journeyed, and camped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan opposite Jericho.

All Verses below are from NASB

Numbers 25:1 [ The Sin of Peor ] While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab.

Numbers 33:49 They camped by the Jordan, from Beth-jeshimoth as far as Abel-shittim in the plains of Moab.

Joshua 2:1 [ Rahab Shelters Spies ] Then Joshua the son of Nun sent two men as spies secretly from Shittim, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab, and lodged there

Joshua 3:1 [ Israel Crosses the Jordan ] Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and he and all the sons of Israel set out from Shittim and came to the Jordan, and they lodged there before they crossed.

Joel 3:18 [ Judah Will Be Blessed ] And in that day The mountains will drip with sweet wine, And the hills will flow with milk, And all the brooks of Judah will flow with water; And a spring will go out from the house of the Lord To water the valley of Shittim.


A key word search of "Molech" the God of the Moabites on Bible Gateway (NASB Bible) revealed many verses, some I copied below.The Moabites did sexual immoralities and offered their children as sacrifices to their God.

Leviticus 20 [ Read Full Chapter] [ On Human Sacrifice and

Immoralities ] Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “You shall also say to the sons of Israel: ‘Any man from the sons of Israel or from the aliens sojourning in Israel who gives any of his offspring to Molech, shall surely be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones. I will also set My face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given some of his offspring to Molech, so as to defile My sanctuary and to profane My holy name. ...

Verses below are fro NASB.

1 Kings 11:7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, on the mountain which is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon.

2 Kings 23:10 He also defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter pass through the fire for Molech.

Jeremiah 32:35 They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.


I agree that there is little in the text to answer your question. There are some clues however. The name Rahab is not Canaanite but Hebrew and is possibly a nickname meaning 'wide' or 'broad'. Salmon means 'he kept his clothes on'. Possibly another nickname. That tells its own story. Rahab ran what was a common facility in Canaan and across the Middle East. It was similar to the truck-stops we have today offering food, accomodation, and prostitutes. If she owned her own house on a prime site like near the wall, she was exceedingly wealthy for a woman. 'Innkeepers' like Rahab routinely reported the arrival of strangers to the king for security reasons so she might have reported them and then had second thoughts. (For romantic reasons?)

  • I'm puzzled about your comments about "Salmon." Seems like a non-sequitur to me. Who is Salmon? Oct 12 '13 at 18:49
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    Salmon or Salma the father of Boaz. 1 Chronicles 2: 11. Romantic story. Salmon and Rahab. Don't have any idea if it is true. Oct 12 '13 at 23:21
  • thanks Gideon Marx and Rhetorician for the conversation and thoughts. I'm new to this site, so thanks for going easy on me. Sounds like there's not much about Rahab or her husband Salmon in the Bible itself. I'm making notes. It mentions "her house" but she may or may not be the owner. Thanks for the insight into the names--very interesting. Do you know anything else about the culture, economics, society? I read that Rahab might have been a temple prostitute. Could that fit with the idea of the truck-stop whorehouse? Interesting she's mentioned in James as well as Hebrews.
    – Kevin Cade
    Oct 14 '13 at 20:16
  • What an interesting controversy I've stumbled upon. Are we culturally ignorant of eastern ways when we assume one called a "harlot" is a prostitute? See Appreciating Oriental Insights Into the Bible: picturesofsilver.com/Teachings/05Joshua2.htm Are we watering down the sin and compromising the beautiful forgiveness portrayed in Jesus' lineage? biblegateway.com/resources/all-women-bible/Rahab
    – Kevin Cade
    Oct 14 '13 at 20:56
  • There are big books on Canaanite culture and the subject is simply too big. I have read the alternate meanings for harlot and they are as valid as prostitute Oct 15 '13 at 19:44

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