After Moses’ death, Joshua is confirmed as his successor, and immediately prepares to conquer Canaan. The Haftarah recounts his first act: covertly sending two spies to scout out the Israelites’ initial conquest, the walled city of Jericho.
The spies enter the residence of Rahab, a righteous gentile, who risks her life to save them, with subterfuge, from Jericho’s king. She informs them that Canaan’s residents know that God dried the Reed Sea during the Exodus forty years earlier and that the Israelites recently defeated neighboring powerful kings, Sichon and Og. Echoing the Song of the Sea (Ex. 15:15-16), she describes the Canaanites’ terror at these events and their understanding that God is giving their land to the Israelites. Rahab requests that she and her extended family be spared from the oncoming slaughter. After specifying what her family must do to be saved, the spies agree to the vow. Rahab instructs the spies how to avoid capture by Jericho’s king’s men. The Haftarah concludes with the spies’ resulting safe return to Joshua, to whom they privately transmit Rahab’s reports. Unlike the twelve spies’ public mission described in the Parashah, the two spies’ covert mission was a complete success.
Verse 1: Preparing to conquer the Land, Joshua covertly dispatches two spies from the Israelites’ encampment in Shittim to Jericho. They enter Rahab’s residence in Jericho’s exterior wall.
Joshua the son of Nun sent two men from Shittim to spy secretly, saying, “Go see the land and Jericho.” They went, came to the house of an innkeeper [or: harlot] whose name was Rahab, and reclined [to sleep] there.
וַיִּשְׁלַ֣ח יְהוֹשֻׁ֣עַ־בִּן־נ֠וּן מִֽן־הַשִּׁטִּ֞ים שְׁנַֽיִם־אֲנָשִׁ֤ים מְרַגְּלִים֙ חֶ֣רֶשׁ לֵאמֹ֔ר לְכ֛וּ רְא֥וּ אֶת־הָאָ֖רֶץ וְאֶת־יְרִיח֑וֹ וַיֵּ֨לְכ֜וּ וַ֠יָּבֹאוּ בֵּית־אִשָּׁ֥ה זוֹנָ֛ה וּשְׁמָ֥הּ רָחָ֖ב וַיִּשְׁכְּבוּ־שָֽׁמָּה׃
Verses 2-7: Jericho’s king hears that the spies have come. He orders Rahab to hand over her guests. Feigning ignorance, she hides them on her roof, tells the king they fled the city gates at dusk, and suggests dispatching men to pursue them. Thinking the spies are fleeing towards their camp, the men pursue them eastward.
The woman took the two men and hid them. She said [to the king], “Indeed, the men came to me, but I do not know where they’re from.”
וַתִּקַּ֧ח הָאִשָּׁ֛ה אֶת־שְׁנֵ֥י הָאֲנָשִׁ֖ים וַֽתִּצְפְּנ֑וֹ וַתֹּ֣אמֶר ׀ כֵּ֗ן בָּ֤אוּ אֵלַי֙ הָאֲנָשִׁ֔ים וְלֹ֥א יָדַ֖עְתִּי מֵאַ֥יִן הֵֽמָּה׃
Verses 8-11: Rahab tells the spies that Canaan’s residents know of the miracles and victories that the Creator has granted the Israelites. They are terrified of the Israelites and know God is giving them their land.
[When] we heard [these things], our hearts melted; courage no longer arose in any man on your account- for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above, and on the earth beneath.
וַנִּשְׁמַע֙ וַיִּמַּ֣ס לְבָבֵ֔נוּ וְלֹא־קָ֨מָה ע֥וֹד ר֛וּחַ בְּאִ֖ישׁ מִפְּנֵיכֶ֑ם כִּ֚י ה' אֱלֹקיכֶ֔ם ה֤וּא אֱלֹקים֙ בַּשָּׁמַ֣יִם מִמַּ֔עַל וְעַל־הָאָ֖רֶץ מִתָּֽחַת׃
Verses 12-14: In return for her kindness to the spies, Rahab makes them swear that the Israelites will spare her and her father’s family during the conquest. They agree on the condition that she never reveal their visit.
[The men] said to her, “Our life for yours [and your families’, even unto] death- if you [all] do not tell [anyone] our promise. It shall [then] be, when the Lord gives us the Land, that we will act with you in kindness and truth.”
וַיֹּ֧אמְרוּ לָ֣הּ הָאֲנָשִׁ֗ים נַפְשֵׁ֤נוּ תַחְתֵּיכֶם֙ לָמ֔וּת אִ֚ם לֹ֣א תַגִּ֔ידוּ אֶת־דְּבָרֵ֖נוּ זֶ֑ה וְהָיָ֗ה בְּתֵת־ה' לָ֙נוּ֙ אֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ וְעָשִׂ֥ינוּ עִמָּ֖ךְ חֶ֥סֶד וֶאֱמֶֽת׃
Verses 15-21: Rahab lowers the spies outside the city wall and tells them to hide in mountains to Jericho’s west for three days. They clarify their oath, stating that she must mark her window with a scarlet thread, and that the Israelites will save only her family members in her house. She readily agrees and immediately hangs the thread.
[You will not be saved unless,] when we come into the land, you shall bind this cord of scarlet thread in the window you lowered us from. You must gather your father, mother, brothers, and all your father’s household, unto you into [your] house.
הִנֵּ֛ה אֲנַ֥חְנוּ בָאִ֖ים בָּאָ֑רֶץ אֶת־תִּקְוַ֡ת חוּט֩ הַשָּׁנִ֨י הַזֶּ֜ה תִּקְשְׁרִ֗י בַּֽחַלּוֹן֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר הוֹרַדְתֵּ֣נוּ ב֔וֹ וְאֶת־אָבִ֨יךְ וְאֶת־אִמֵּ֜ךְ וְאֶת־אַחַ֗יִךְ וְאֵת֙ כׇּל־בֵּ֣ית אָבִ֔יךְ תַּאַסְפִ֥י אֵלַ֖יִךְ הַבָּֽיְתָה׃
Verses 22-24: After following Rahab’s advice, the spies return. They tell Joshua what happened to them, that Canaan’s inhabitants are terrified of the Israelites, and that God will surely grant the Israelites the Land.
They said to Joshua: “For the Lord has delivered the entire land into our hands. Moreover, the land’s inhabitants have melted away before us.”
וַיֹּאמְרוּ֙ אֶל־יְהוֹשֻׁ֔עַ כִּֽי־נָתַ֧ן ה' בְּיָדֵ֖נוּ אֶת־כָּל־הָאָ֑רֶץ וְגַם־נָמֹ֛גוּ כָּל־יֹשְׁבֵ֥י הָאָ֖רֶץ מִפָּנֵֽינוּ׃
According to the Talmud, Rahab was one of history’s most beautiful women, a harlot from her youth who inspired irresistible lust in men. After encountering the spies at the age of 50, she converted powerfully to God and married Joshua. Despite her age, the Talmud asserts that an illustrious group of descendants came from their marriage.
מגילה י״ד עמוד ב
Eight prophets who were also priests descended from Rahab the harlot. They are: 1) Neriah; 2) [his son,] Baruch; 3) Seraiah; 4) Mahseiah; 5) Jeremiah; 6) [his father,] Hilkiah; 7) [Jeremiah’s cousin,] Hanamel; 8) [and Hanamel’s father,] Shallum.
Rabbi Yehuda says: “Huldah the prophetess was also a descendant of Rahab the harlot.” [Regarding Huldah’s husband, 2 Kings 22:14] states, “...the son of Tikvah”, and [regarding Rahab’s escape from Jericho, Joshua 2:18] states, “This cord of [tikvat] scarlet thread.”
שְׁמוֹנָה נְבִיאִים וְהֵם כֹּהֲנִים יָצְאוּ מֵרָחָב הַזּוֹנָה וְאֵלּוּ הֵן נֵרִיָּה בָּרוּךְ וּשְׂרָיָה מַחְסֵיָה יִרְמְיָה חִלְקִיָּה חֲנַמְאֵל וְשַׁלּוּם רַבִּי יְהוּדָה אוֹמֵר אַף חוּלְדָּה הַנְּבִיאָה מִבְּנֵי בָנֶיהָ שֶׁל רָחָב הַזּוֹנָה הָיְתָה כְּתִיב הָכָא בֶּן תִּקְוָה וּכְתִיב הָתָם אֶת תִּקְוַת חוּט הַשָּׁנִיWith emendations, all translations are from Sefaria.org. To dedicate, comment, or subscribe, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Recounted in the Haftarah of Simchat Torah.
 Bamidbar Rabbah 16:1 identifies them as Caleb and Phineas.
 During Jericho’s downfall, the spies indeed spare Rahab and her family, who then live among the Israelites.
 The Hebrew word, זונה, bears both translations.
 Rahab mentions no husband or children of her own.