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date: 22 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Traditional readings of Joshua 2 cast Rahab as a clever Canaanite heroine who saves both herself and her family from God’s ban on Jericho. Such a reading re-inscribes an androcentric model of living with one’s enemy via a warrior-styled conquest. But more importantly, such an approach bypasses the reality that Rahab and the spies survive via a strategy of mutual cooperation, an unexpected move in a game of war. I propose game theory’s classic situation of The Prisoner’s Dilemma as a means to observe Rahab and the spies as players on equal footing in a high stakes game of survival. As gamers who cooperate rather than conquer, Rahab and the spies undercut the expected, or rational, means for Israelite/Canaanite engagement: war, conquest, and strategies of “othering” and violence found in the Torah. Rather than domination, cooperation surfaces as the unexpected, or irrational, strategy that results in the preferred path to achieving the maximum mutual benefit: survival and subsequent sharing in life together.

Keywords: game theory, Rahab, Prisoner’s Dilemma, Nash equilibrium, dominant strategy, focal point, payoff matrix, Joshua 2, gender identity

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