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?

  • 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
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 2:01
  • Rabbi reisman in his navi shiur addressed this question two or three weeks ago Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 6:07
  • Perhaps Rashi was not so much adopting the opinion of the Targum but was merely citing it. (This brings up the question of how to globally interpret Rashi's intention behind unqualified citations).
    – Fred
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 21:02

2 Answers 2


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.

  • Kind of like the saloons in westerns. Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 0:34

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.

  • Nice answer, but where is her profession revealed? In those extremely subtle references that Rashi comments on, or something more explicit?
    – jake
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 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
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 10:45
  • Interesting idea. It would be helpful if you could edit in whether this is your own suggestion or otherwise what your source is.
    – Fred
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 21:15

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