Rahab of Jericho~
the best known of the primary characters in THE STONES OF GILGAL novels.
How odd—since she is a foreigner, a Canaanite girl, joining a cast of six young Israelites. Although the lives of these six Israelites impacted the future of their nation in significant ways, their stories lie buried beneath the dust of time. Othniel, Acsah and their friends are not much more than footnotes in the book of Judges while Rahab’s story has been told and retold for thousands of years.
What We Know . . .
Readers applaud the clever Harlot who outwits a wicked king and saves Joshua’s spies. Her courage is legendary and her faith truly inspirational. The New Testament book of James mentions her as a premier example of faith in action.
“in the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?” James 2:25
There is enough suspense in The Tale of Rahab and The Spies to make a great children’s story and enough detail to stimulate thoughtful reflection. Rahab and Sarah the wife of Abraham are the only women honored with the heroic men of Hebrews 11, Faith’s Hall of Fame.
“By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. Hebrews 11:31
What We Don’t Know . . .
We think we know her—but do we really? How did this one woman come to such an understanding of Yahweh God? Her actions also saved her family. Were they also believers? Some judge this woman because she “chose” to live by prostitution. One account imagined her leaving the protection of her father’s house, living on wages earned in a dingy little room in the wall. More often such women are victims, exploited by their families and their culture.
The story I picture is quite different. In my first book, Balaam’s Curse, you will meet Rahab as the innkeeper’s daughter, stepping into the spotlight in a few brief scenes at Jericho’s North Wall Inn. Book Two, A River to Cross, elaborates on the details of the biblical story, adding a fictionalized backstory of abuse. It is important to follow everything we actually know about this woman of faith, but there is so much we don’t. Someday in eternity, I expect to talk to Rahab and learn the real story. I think we might laugh together over what I got right and what I didn’t.
The End of the Story . . .
The tale of Rahab’s faith and escape from the evil city of Jericho is not the end of the story. She was not only rescued—she was redeemed. She didn’t live in brokenness, hiding in the shadows of the Israelite camp that adopted her. She rose to a place of honor, marrying the prince of the royal tribe of Judah and becoming the great, great grandmother of King David, Israel’s most beloved king. Even more amazing, the name of Rahab shows up as a tiny thread in the gospel story—one of three women (all foreigners) listed in the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 1:5).
The word Rahab in Hebrew means wide or large. It implies fierceness, insolence, and pride. In the book of Job, Rahab is the name of a sea monster. In Isaiah and Psalms, Rahab is used as a metaphor for Egypt, an arrogant monster in the eyes of God’s people. The meanings of biblical names carry great significance and are often important in understanding a story. Now, doesn’t it seem odd to you that parents would use such a name for a sweet, new baby girl? But Rahab was born in a dangerous city, in violent times. Maybe she came out squalling with a ferocity that made her father laugh and say, “All right, you fierce little sea monster, I name you Rahab. Show us what you can do.” And she did.
Who remembers that “Rahab” means sea monster or Egypt, the enemy of God’s people? That usage startles or confuses us. We think of Rahab of Jericho. A baby girl who became a woman of incredible courage and faith totally upstaged the fierce and terrible monster. Even Rahab’s name is a story of redemption.