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Yehoshua 2:1:

וַיִּשְׁלַח יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן נוּן מִן הַשִּׁטִּים שְׁנַיִם אֲנָשִׁים מְרַגְּלִים חֶרֶשׁ לֵאמֹר לְכוּ רְאוּ אֶת הָאָרֶץ וְאֶת יְרִיחוֹ וַיֵּלְכוּ וַיָּבֹאוּ בֵּית אִשָּׁה זוֹנָה וּשְׁמָהּ רָחָב וַיִּשְׁכְּבוּ שָׁמָּה

Rashi adopts the opinion of the Targum, not that she was literally a zonah, but rather:

תרגם יהונתן פונדקיתא מוכרת מיני מזונות

But later, in 2:11 and 2:15, we find that Rashi adopts the opinion of the Gemara, that Rachav was indeed an actual zonah:

ולא קמה עוד רוח באיש - אפילו לשכב עם אשה אמרו אין לך כל שר ונגיד שלא בא אל רחב הזונה ובת עשר שנים היתה כשיצאו ישראל ממצרים וזנתה כל ארבעים שנה

ותורידם בחבל בעד החלון - באותו חבל וחלון היו הנואפים עולין אליה אמרה רבונו של עולם באלו חטאתי באלו תמחול לי

Why the inconsistency?

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Re "adopts the opinion of the Targum": Radak, q.v., claims that Yonasan means the usual sense of "zona". (As you note, though, Rashi differs.) –  msh210 Nov 18 '11 at 2:01
Rabbi reisman in his navi shiur addressed this question two or three weeks ago –  simchastorah Nov 18 '11 at 6:07

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The point in the first case is that the spies did not go to a zonah for help, but thought she was just a shopkeeper. Later, her other profession is revealed.

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Nice answer, but where is her profession revealed? In those extremely subtle references that Rashi comments on, or something more explicit? –  jake Nov 18 '11 at 10:44
According to rashi, those subtle comments. I.e. that is when the spies, not the reader, finds out who she is. –  avi Nov 18 '11 at 10:45

Perhaps he holds she was both: Abarbanel does, suggesting that female foodmongers were prostitutes or vice versa (he makes both suggestions). A reason to explain 2:1 as meaning "foodmonger" is, perhaps, that it's best to assume the pasuk is speaking of something clean. But this is all pure conjecture.

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