Jun 11, 2010

A Curious Note on Rahab

A friend pointed out to me an inconsistency in the Rahab narrative, and I'd never noticed it before.

In Joshua 2:13, after Rahab declares her allegiance to HaShem, she asks the spies to save her family.

יג וְהַחֲיִתֶם אֶת-אָבִי וְאֶת-אִמִּי, וְאֶת-אַחַי וְאֶת-אחותי (אַחְיוֹתַי), וְאֵת, כָּל-אֲשֶׁר לָהֶם; וְהִצַּלְתֶּם אֶת-נַפְשֹׁתֵינוּ, מִמָּוֶת
... and save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.
This is contrasted with what appears in Joshua 6, when the spies come to rescue Rahab.
כג וַיָּבֹאוּ הַנְּעָרִים הַמְרַגְּלִים, וַיֹּצִיאוּ אֶת-רָחָב וְאֶת-אָבִיהָ וְאֶת-אִמָּהּ וְאֶת-אַחֶיהָ וְאֶת-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר-לָהּ, וְאֵת כָּל-מִשְׁפְּחוֹתֶיהָ, הוֹצִיאוּ; וַיַּנִּיחוּם--מִחוּץ, לְמַחֲנֵה יִשְׂרָאֵל.
And the young men the spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had, all her kindred also they brought out; and they set them without the camp of Israel.
You see the discrepancy here? The sisters! What happens to the sisters? The Hebrew clarifies that her request includes "achoti" or "my sisters" and in Joshua 6, the sisters are not included, unless you include them in teh general "and all that she had." This, too, disagrees with the "and all that THEY have" in Joshua 2, suggesting that Rahab wants the spies to save her father, mother, brothers, sisters and all that is their's. The terms used in Joshua 6 are more general, but the express omission of the sisters is curious.

I suppose between when the spies came to Rahab and when the spies came back, perhaps the sisters had defected to the pagan side and died in the subsequent conflict, or perhaps they were non-redemptive harlots who didn't deserve to be brought out with Rahab and her family? What are your thoughts? Is it a simple omission or an express omission?


shualah elisheva said...

i think it's likely express, though to what purpose i don't know.

if they're included, and it was sort of a gross oversight, i find it sort of offensive that the sisters [women] get lumped in with "and all that she had." as if rahab owns or is somehow responsible for their behavior.

plus, the torah rarely [if ever] excludes without purpose.

if they were non.redemptive harlots, then why did the brethren get to come along? surely they were involved, if it was a sort of "family harlotry affair."

harumph. much to consider over shabbat.

Shades of Grey said...

I think this may be a simple mis-reading (no offense to those who may be less trained in close reading of psukim). The verse in Joshua 6 specifically says "v'es kol mishpechosehah" or as it translates here "all her kindred" - which is fancy English translation for the literal, more easily understood "and all her family" (mishpacha = family). I think the sisters would be included there.

I don't have a mikraos gedolos in front of me to see what the major rabbinical commentaries have to say on this verse, but it IS odd to mention then in 2:23 THEN omit them in chapter 6 and mention "all her family," which is NOT said in the 2:13. Perhaps there is some midrashic difference between the first instance and 4 chapters later - though it may or may not have anything to do with your own reading of the verses.

If I have a chance to grab a mikraos gedolos later, I'll bli neder give it a look.

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

@Shades-of-Grey I did note that, in my mentioning that it is possible that the sisters would be included in the "all that she had" and the note about "all of her kindred." My difficulty in swallowing this, however, is in the fact that it expressly mentions in Josh. 2 the sisters. This, for me, is problematic, since the Torah is mamash tov at literal copies of texts and what people say (just look at Rahab's proclamation that echoes what Moshe said in Deuteronomy, word for word!).

Let me know what the mikraot gedolot says ... I don't have a copy :)

Shimon said...

Maybe the sisters got married in the interim- thus leaving the house of their father. That might explain why they are not mentioned as sisters anymore but could still be included in the added "v'es kol mishpechoseha" [it would also explain why this phrase had to be added in the first place]

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

Yehuda Kil noted this question in Daat Mikra, and suggested that indeed the sisters were simply included in "and all her families". Notice, btw, it is families, not family. KIl refers us to Rashbi's comment in Yerushalmi B'rachot 4:4, where he says that even if 200 members of her family went and attached themselves (married?) to 200 other families, they would all be saved by her merit.

I know you don't like Kil's answer, but at least you're in the big leagues with the question. ;-)

The standard commentators on Navi in Mikraot G'dolot don't seem to have been concerned by the difference, from what I can see.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

Apparently my comment got lost. In short, Yehuda Kil asks your question in Daat Mikra, and offers the answer you don't like. I think, though, that answer works a little better if you read the Ivrit and consider the g'mara's comment on this. It still leaves open the question of why subsume the sisters the second time; but at least it is plausible that they were.

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