Was Rahab Too Old To Be In The Royal Lineage?
By Curt Wildy
In Response To An Objection Raised
Your summary is not correct. If we go by God’s word alone, we are not told specifically that Rahab the Harlot was the same Rahab that married Salmon. It is not “clear” in any way. It is a belief we have all grown up with, so we choose to be swayed this way in our study. As if there were only one Rahab in the ancient world. There could NOT POSSIBLY be more than one Rahab in Scripture. Like there is only one James in the New Testament…oh wait, there were more?
While I have decided to say that we do not know for sure, because we aren’t told for sure. It makes for great sermons and lessons, but it is stretching what we know as fact, and dangerous to build life lessons from it separate other supporting scripture.
It is the spelling difference in the names that has caused me to lean toward thinking they were different women. Not the spelling in our English version, but in the original Greek and Hebrew.”
My response is as follows:
Consider the issue as if it were in a pair of scales; whichever side has the most weight comes closest to ‘winning’ the debate.
On the one side… the argument goes like this: In the Hebrew, “Rahab the harlot” is really “Rachab the harlot” with Rachab pronounced rä·khäv (click the link to access the link to hear an audio pronunciation). This rachab (H7343) differs from the rahab that we read about in places like Psalm 87:4; Psalm 89:10; and Isaiah 51:9. The rahab (H7294) in these verses is pronounced like rah’·hav . Since Rachab the harlot (H7343) is a different word that rahab in the three verses mentioned above some conclude that this affects the Greek words for Rahab. They note that in the Septuagint Greek, the Rahab in “Rahab the Harlot” is spelled more like ‘Ra’ab’. This is the same spelling used in in the name for Rahab [G4460] in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25. However, they note that in in Matthew 1:5, Rahab is spelled more like Rhachab and pronounced rhä-khä’b. Because the the Greek word for the name Rahab/Rachab used in Matthew 1:5 does not match the Septuagint translation, some presume that there has to be two different Rahabs in view. They then ask, concerning Matthew 1:5, why the term “the harlot” is not used when elsewhere in the New Testament, when Rahab (the harlot) is in view, the Bible adds “the harlot.”
On the other side… There are these points:
1. The words sounds alike: When you hear the pronunciation of the Hebrew H7343 and the Greek G4477, the pronunciations are quite similar. Whether the speaker is accurate or not, I will have to leave it to an expert in both Greek and Hebrew pronunciation to determine. However, the audio links at issue are available on the pages accessed by clicking the links above. If anyone has a link to alternative pronunciations, feel free to leave a comment containing them.
2. The major Lexiconists agree: Most, if not all, of the major Greek lexiconists agree that the Greek Ῥαχάβ (G4477, in Matthew 1:5) comes from the same root as the Greek Ῥαάβ (G4460, Rahab in Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25) and yoke the two together (thus eliminating the distinction in the first scale/side above). This includes Thayer (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament), Strong (Strong’s Concordance), G. Abbott-Smth (A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament); Spiros Zodhiates (The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament), and the one mentioned below in section 3 (Translated by Thayer).
Moreover, The “Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature” by Bauer, Danker, Arndt and Gingrich (http://lareopage.free.fr/a&g/rh/rh04.html#t24) affirms concerning the Greek Ῥαχάβ (G4477, in Matthew 1:5… though difficult to read):
“JRacavb ( bj;r; ) hJ indecl. Rahab ( s. JRaavb .— Jos. , Ant. 5, 8; 11; 15 al. has beside JRaavbh, h” [Ant. 5,8], the v.l. JRacavbh ), in the genealogy of Jesus Mt 1:5 , wife of Salmon and the mother of Boaz.— S. on Qamavr . JDQuinn, Biblica 62, ’81, 225-8.*”
This is a bit garbled but seems to suggest that the Matthew 1:5 version is an indeclinable (an adjective that cannot be varied by inflection) and ties in directly with the Rahab of James and Hebrews. Therefore, as far as the most notable lexicons go, only the Louw-Nida lexicon remains and I cannot make out where it stands on the matter.
3. Josephus used it: According to “A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament, being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti, tr., rev. and enl. by Joseph Henry Thayer” the Greek Ῥαχάβ (G4477, in Matthew 1:5) was used by Josephus (in reference to Rahab the Harlot) in his “Antiquities..” work (Josephus, Antiquities 5, 1, 2, etc.). This evidences the fact that though the Septuagint uses the other form, at least one source written in Greek uses the Greek Ῥαχάβ (G4477, in Matthew 1:5) form. This appears to affirm the somewhat garbled statement of the “Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature” by Bauer, Danker, Arndt and Gingrich immediately above which also references Josephus’ Antiquities…
4. The Exodus timeline: puts Rahab the harlot clearly and biblically in the same land, amongst the same people, at the same time as Salma/Salmah/Salmon (and likely at the same general age given the erroneous rabbinical tradition that has Rahab married to Joshua and not Salma/Salmah/Salmon which, though incorrect, evidences the fact that they thought that Rahab was of marrying age). It is quite unrealistic to believe that God is referring to some other Rahab who happened to live in the same land, amongst the same people, at the same time as Rahab the Harlot… especially given that…
5. They all had a story: Tamar, Ruth, and Bathsheba were all named in the Bible with a historic account given of them. Those on the other side of the scale would have us believe that God gave accounts of the other women named but gave no account of this mysterious “other Rahab” though, like the others, he gave an account of (the real) Rahab (which is the one referred to as the harlot). Clearly this does not fit the pattern. God mentions known women in the genealogy and not mysterious “other women than those whom they clearly appear to be.”
6. They all had a story that fits a clear pattern: Note the two set pattern at issue. Rahab was a harlot and Tamar appeared as such before Judah. Rahab was a foreigner and Ruth was as well. Jewish tradition (though the Bible doesn’t clearly state as far as I can tell) has Tamar listed as a gentile (as a Google search of Tamar and gentile indicates). Bathsheba is the middle ground in that though she was not a harlot, she was an adulteress. Moreover, though she was a not a foreigner (being an Israelitess) she nonetheless married a foreigner. Moreover, though Mary was no harlot or adulteress, she was accused of being one by the wicked Jews. Mary, with Joseph and the young Lord Jesus, turned aside into the land of Galilee (Matthew 2:22) where they came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth. Remember, we read the following of Galilee “The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.” Mary was no gentile but she, with her Son and husband came to dwell in an area associated with foreigners/gentiles.
Now, if you make the Matthew 1:5 Rahab some mystery woman other than Rahab the Harlot, against the teaching of the majority of the leading NT Greek lexiconists, and against all of the other evidence so far provided, then you break the clear pattern and do injustice to the teaching. These women typify the salvation of the church (the woman, the bride) who, whether Jew or Gentile (Israelite or foreigner), and though whorish and adulterous by nature, nonetheless are forever yoked with the Lord Jesus. In another sense of the type, they represent the woman who encompasseth The Man and brings Him forth.
7. It’s a genealogy… Some people want to know why God chooses a different spelling for Matthew 1:5. The answer is, I have no idea… perhaps it was to make a distinction of some sort but of what kind I do not know. What I do know is that God changes people’s names, gives them variant spellings of their same names, gives them second or even third names that are similar, etc. All we have to do is look at the other genealogies in the Bible and we will see multiple alternative names and spellings. Maybe, if the pronunciations referenced above are correct, God through Matthew (which is a book written for all of God’s people spiritually but particularly for the Hebrews/Jews) chose the Greek form that most closely sounded like the Hebrew form. Interestingly, even the following site has the Hebrew (http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/kjv/rachab-4.html) sounding much like the Matthew 1:5 Greek (http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/kjv/rhachab.html). I just came across this site as I typed this last section and now see that two different websites (with what sounds like different speakers) affirm the similarity of the Hebrew Joshua form for Rahab the harlot and the Matthew 1:5 Greek form for Rahab the harlot.
As for why Matthew 1:5 does not include “the harlot,” even when my section six above would make it seem like such a title would be fitting… well, maybe it is as simple as not wanting to put “the harlot” in a genealogy right next to Salma/Salmah/Salmon because it may give the impression that she played the harlot against Salma/Salmah/Salmon (on a side note… note that the same man has different name spellings). If someone didn’t know about Rahab the harlot and read in Matthew 1:5 “And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab the harlot” they may misinterpret and presume that she was a harlot for cheating on Salmon or that she was still a harlot at the time she was with Salmon. This would be a grievous error and perhaps God meant to avoid it by leaving of that title.
Note also that God doesn’t give any titles/descriptions of the women in the Matthew chapter one genealogy. He doesn’t describe Tamar as the one who appeared as a harlot; He doesn’t call Ruth “the Moabitess,” and he doesn’t even call Bathsheba by name let alone call her “Bathsheba the adulteress.” If Ruth doesn’t have to have “the Moabitess” then Rahab doesn’t have to have “the harlot” in the lineage section.
Conclusion: Mr. Lifto stated that I was incorrect. I have no problem with this if, indeed, I am incorrect. But as with all assertions, they must be proven. I do not believe that he has proven his case. As stated, the majority of lexicons (in fact, all that I could access that referenced Rahab/Rachab) support the precept that Matthew 1:5 pertains to Rahab the Harlot. The phonetic sound for both names is the same per two different sites and (presumably) two different speakers. Josephus uses the Matthew 1:5 spelling of rachab to reference Rahab the Harlot which suggests that the Septuagint form was not the sole form possible for Rahab (the harlot). The timeline provided, which Christopher did not refute, has Rahab the harlot living at a marriageable age, at the same time, in the same land, with the same body of people as Salma/Salmah/Salmon. All of the other women in the Matthew genealogy (Tamar, Ruth, Bathsheba, Mary) were discussed in some detail elsewhere in the Bible as was Rahab the harlot. Finally, all of the women at issue represent adultery/harlotry (whether real, feigned, or falsely accused) and all were ins some way or another associated with foreigners/gentiles.
Yet, despite this great weight of evidence, many would still argue that Rahab could not be the wife of Salma… but why? usually it is because they reject that a gentile was in the lineage of Christ or else they argue that a harlot could not have been in the lineage of Christ. I believe that it is abundantly clear that they were and that this truth points to the fact that whether Jew or Gentile (both being spiritual harlots by nature) , there is salvation in Christ.
Nonetheless, consider Mr. Lifto’s own position. He refutes concretely but his arguments consist of statements like “we are not told specifically;” “It is not “clear” in any way;” “I have decided to say that we do not know for sure;” “we aren’t told for sure;” “it is stretching what we know as fact,” “…the spelling…has caused me to lean toward thinking…” This is language of uncertainty, ambiguity, and hesitancy, and yet he begins his response with “Your summary is not correct.” In light of what I wrote in my original post, he summed it up as being “a belief we have all grown up with, so we choose to be swayed this way in our study. As if there were only one Rahab in the ancient world. There could NOT POSSIBLY be more than one Rahab in Scripture. Like there is only one James in the New Testament…oh wait, there were more?” Christians have to do better than this, we have to strive to be careful, precise, and clear as much as is in us by God’s grace. We should not be refuting one another unless we take the time to do so in a way that helps others to better understand the matter at hand.
Please hear me, even as one who was guilty of this very thing for quite some time in my life (and who still has to battle against it internally to this day), far too much ‘Christian dialog’ consists of haphazard and inaccurate attempts to prove someone wrong rather than to affirm, as God enables, what the Bible rightly declares. I have seen this especially with the made sin / absolute substitution controversy but with everything else from mode of baptism, to head-coverings, to “Sunday sabbaths,” to “too many other things to name here.” Rather than rush out to prove someone wrong, or to affirm them wrong, take the time to really, and I mean really, search… meditate… and pray deeply on the matter. The main reason we have so much schism, discord, an erroneous doctrine is because many affirm what they fail to confirm and they reject what they fail to properly inspect. We need to all be like the Bereans, myself included, and search these things whether they be so… with an open mind and a heart aimed at Christianity unity.
May God alone be glorified, in Christ, forever and ever.