In a Rashi commentary (p.2) on Joshua 2:1 אִשָּׁה זוֹנָה refers to Rachav "one who sells Mezonot". Is this an euphemism for Rachav's prostitution and if so, what's the connection besides a word root similarity?

  • You are not reading Rashi correctly. Rashi is saying that the Hebrew word zonah does not mean prostitute in this case, but means an innkeeper or one who sells food to travelers.
    – ezra
    Jun 12, 2017 at 19:48
  • 1
    You also misread the Rash. It is One who sells Mezonot (translated as food), not Mezonot food. Jun 12, 2017 at 20:49
  • 1
    Possible dupe of: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/53220/8775.
    – mevaqesh
    Jun 12, 2017 at 20:50

2 Answers 2


This is not a euphemism for prostitution. Your link is to a text which abridges Rashi's commentary. The full text of Rashi is available (in Hebrew) here, and (in English) here.

אשה זונה • ת ״י פונדקייתא • מוכרת מני מזונות :

Inkeeper: זונה. Targum Jon. renders: Innkeeper, one who sells various foodstuffs (מזונות).

Rashi's point, in following Targum Yonasan's translation, is firstly to specifically avoid the translation of prostitute - thus he translates it as innkeeper. Secondly, he goes to show why the word zonah can indeed mean what Targum Yonasan translates it as.

See though Radak (at the same Hebrew link) where he notes that Targum Yonasan, in employing this term, actually means prostitute. Even so, Rashi is following his own reading of Targum Yonasan, and therefore is NOT employing a euphemism.

Radak goes on to explain why one would call a prostitute an "inn" -- שמפקרת עצמה לכל, that she makes herself free to everyone.


Open your Bible to Joshua chapter 2, cover the word harlot in verse one, reread the chapter and ask yourself if you are reading about a harlot or a Canaanite innkeeper who just happens to also be a weaver of fine cloth, a woman of great faith in the omnipotent G-d of Israel and a heroine who risked her very life for two men simply because they were Hebrew.

That is the context of the story, not the translation of the word zonah as harlot, a horrible translation in this context. See Jonathan Uzziel, Jonathan on The Prophets.

Webster defines context thus

The parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can shed light on its meaning.

There is nothing in the words or actions of this woman to justify such a translation. The Jericho authorities would not force their way into her home, instead requested she send the spies out, meaning she was a respected citizen of the community. If she were not they would have kicked in the door and put her and the spies to the sword. Finally, stop listening to the lies and gossip that have been the source of income for so many for centuries.

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    – mbloch
    Sep 21, 2018 at 12:39
  • The OP links to another discussion on this site which demonstrates that according to many Biblical commentators - and the Gemara itself! - she was a harlot.
    – DonielF
    Sep 21, 2018 at 12:55

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