A goat bleated to her right. The woman took a step back, feeling the dust cling to her feet.
“Fresh vegetables!” A cracked old voice called.
Rahab jumped and clutched her basket. What is wrong with me? The sounds of the marketplace oppressed her mind and the heat beating down on her made her dizzy. Rahab closed her eyes and tried to settle herself. Certainly that dream last night couldn’t have upset me this much! However she tried to block out the voice, it still came back again.
You will save My nation. My bloodline. The fate of My people lies in your hands.” Rahab shuddered. What could this all mean? She walked to a bread stand and absent-mindedly chose a loaf as the stand-keeper watched her with shrewd eyes. Rahab reached into her basket and closed her fingers around two copper coins. They were cool in her warm palm, and clanked on the counter as she dropped them and turned away. Rahab raised her eyes to look for the linen stand when her gaze snagged on the women clustered next to well. She could hear their voices clearly.
“The fish from the Jordan are fresh, and I just got them for a remarkable deal!” one woman boasted.
“Speaking of the Jordan, I heard that the Israelites, that rebel nation that used to live in Egypt, is camped on the other side of the river. The king is not pleased, and the nobles are afraid. Rumors say the Israelites are going to attack Jericho!” The withered up hag nodded her head triumphantly as she delivered this piece of news.
“Attack Jericho!” A middle-aged matron laughed. “Why, our walls are indestructible. They don’t have a chance!” Her plump finger waggled in the air.
“I don’t know,” a young wife said softly. “These Israelites are fierce fighters, and I’ve heard that their God is powerful and has crushed many cities. They call their God the Almighty.”
“Almighty or not, my husband and I are packing up to leave tomorrow.” This woman’s face was wrinkled and kind. “The nation of Israel utterly destroyed Sihon and Og, and you know how well-fortified those cities were.”
The first woman who had spoken noticed Rahab watching them. She turned and whispered something spiteful to the group of women and pointed to Rahab, and some of the women burst into laughter. Beneath her veil, Rahab felt her face grow hot. She lowered her eyes and turned homeward. As she trudged in the street, her dream came rushing back.
I was standing in the temple of Baal, and looking up at the idol when a great wind came and reduced the entire temple to rubble. I saw all of the altars go up in flame, and a great voice declared “I shall purge the land.” I saw a foreign nation marching toward Jericho, a nation that conquered many cities. I heard trumpets, loud and soft, crowding in my mind. The trumpets grew louder, louder, and the voice spoke to me. “I shall use you to save my nation.” A cord that was bright scarlet was handed to me, then everything vanished and the trumpets grew silent.
Salmon turned and snapped the twig that was poking him. “Ral,” he whispered. “Have you found one yet?”
Ral turned to his companion. “I can’t figure out which one to choose. That one,” he pointed to the window in the wall nearest to them. “Has many children in it. That won’t do. That house has a wife who is constantly quarreling. That won’t work either.”
“What about that one?” Salmon pointed at a house on the city wall that had some dark markings around the window.
Ral looked at Salmon in amusement. “You are new to spying. That’s a prostitute’s house.”
Salmon flushed red. “I didn’t kno…”
“Wait…” Ral interrupted. “That works! It’s on the city wall, and people are used to strange men coming in and out of it. Salmon, you’re a genius!”
Salmon frowned and ran his fingers through his dark hair. This mission wasn’t quite as innocent as he wanted it to be. “Sneaking into a city is bad enough. Staying at a prostitute’s house is even worse! What would my mother say?”
Ral laughed. “Relax. These foreign women are not my type. Come on, let’s go into Jericho.”
The basket thudded on the floor, and Rahab stared at herself in a polished copper plate that reflected her face. She yanked off her veil and let the frustrations of the day pour out in tears. She was so sick of the malicious whispers that surrounded her, the leering looks from men, the burning shame when she saw a mother shield her child’s eyes from her: Rahab, a figure of fallen humanity. “I can’t stand this any longer!” Rahab sobbed and she splashed her fingers in a bucket of water and wiped off the black kohl that surrounded her eyes. She dried off her face with a loose fold of her dress and mechanically picked up the basket to put away the food. As she reached up to put the bread away on a high shelf, a loud knock on the door froze her hands.
“Quick Ral! The soldiers are coming around the corner!” Salmon hissed as he watched around the corner.
The doorknob turned and the two spies watched breathlessly.
Rahab’s mouth dropped slightly as she opened the door. Foreigners! In the same clothes I saw in my dream!
“Ma’am, we seek shelter.” Ral’s eyes darted towards the soldiers on the far end of the street. “Immediate shelter is preferable.”
“Ral!” Salmon turned from watching the corner.
Rahab’s thoughts raced in circles. She saw the dusty sandals, the tired aspect of their faces, the hunted look in their eyes. She saw the contingent of soldiers approaching. Hesitation tugged at her heart. They’re spies! Her thoughts screamed. If you do this, you betray your city and your king! Rahab looked closer at the man’s dark eyes and could see the same panic she had felt once. “I shall use you to save My nation.” “Come in. Quickly.” She said quietly and held the door wide open.
Salmon’s eyes widened as he caught a glimpse of a slender figure, long dark hair, and large hazel eyes. Then Ral shoved him through the door and both men stumbled into the cool dark interior of safety. “The soldiers are looking for you.” The woman whispered. “Come this way.” She led them up a narrow staircase that was barely visible. Ral had a fleeing thought of where the stairs led, but he pushed it away. He had seen the Almighty in her eyes.
“Hide among the flax. It is freshly harvested and I laid it out to dry. They will never find you.” Rahab desperately hoped her voice was calm enough. Her fingers trembled as she parted the flax. Here on the roof, she could see the entire street. She risked a glance at the soldiers and saw the last of them filtering into a side street. Her body went limp with relief. “They have gone down another street,” she assured the men.
“Too close!” Salmon muttered to Ral.
Ral ignored him and focused on Rahab. “Lady,” he said gently. “I apologize for taking advantage of your hospitality in such a manner. I am Ral and this is Salmon. I am afraid you have taken a great risk in giving…”
She cut him off. “I know,” she said quietly. “I know what it is like to be hunted. It is a great risk, but I take it gladly. My name is Rahab.”
Salmon gazed into her eyes. He could read many things. Shame, fear, uncertainty. But he could also see the presence of Yahweh behind the shame.
She looked down the street again and her breath caught. “The soldiers are coming down the street. I must go.”
Salmon’s eyes sought her face and she paused at the top of the stairs. “We trust you.” Pain flashed over her face, then she was gone.
The soldier leaned lazily on the doorway, his silhouette outlined in the setting sun. “We’re looking for two spies we saw enter the city. Some say they came here. Is that true, Rahab?”
Rahab didn’t miss a beat. “That is true. I’m impressed with your perceptiveness.” Her voice dripped with honey. “But I am afraid that they left just a few minutes ago. Perhaps you could catch them if you hurried to the roads that lead to the shallows of the Jordan.” Her eyes stared at him, inscrutable in their gaze. “The fate of My nation is in your hands.”
“Well, thank you.” He eyed her.
“I’m sorry, maybe another night.” Rahab said quietly but firmly, and shut the door.
Salmon looked at her figure standing out in the dusky sky. Her voice trembled as she spoke. “Jericho has heard of your mighty God, and of the strength of the Israelite army. Our hearts have melted with fear at the stories that have reached our ears of the wonders of your God. I beg you,” her eyes were soft. “Please spare me and my family. I have aided you, will you return the kindness? I know too well the fate of my city. Please spare us.” Her hands clasped in front of her.
Ral looked at Salmon, then decided. “The Almighty has blessed you with wisdom, Rahab. We are grateful for your shelter and shall spare your family. Hang a scarlet cord from your window and the Almighty will be pleased to see your sign and grant mercy.”
Rahab nodded. “I will do it.”
Late that night, Ral and Salmon departed. Ral climbed out the window and cautiously slid down the rope Rahab had tied there. Salmon climbed out the window then turned around and looked into Rahab’s eyes that were illuminated by the moonlight. “I see the Almighty in you,” he whispered.
Rahab smiled. “He is the one true God. I want to follow Him,” she said simply.
“When Jericho falls, I will come for you and bring you to dwell among us. I will teach you how to follow Him.” Salmon promised.
Rahab laid her hand over his on the windowsill. “I will wait for you.”
Sixteen days later, Rahab smiled and looked up. She had heard the first trumpet.
Disclaimer: The facts and timeline are taken directly from the Bible. The rest is purely speculation.
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