Rahab’s Story: Let’s Make a Deal

Read: Joshua 2 & 6:22-25

“As soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no courage left in any of us because of you. The LORD your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below. Now then, since I have dealt kindly with you, swear to me by the LORD that you in turn will deal kindly with my family. Give me a sign of good faith….” (Joshua 2:11-12, NRSV).

I distinctly remember hearing Rahab’s story in Sunday school. There were pictures of her house on the city wall and the roof where she hid the Hebrew spies. Best of all, we got to make little red cords out of yarn to take home with us—reminders of the red cord she dangled out the window as a signal. I realize now that I got a heavily edited version of her story. Now that I’m all grown up, there are a few things I would like to ask her….

The following is an imagined interview between “C” (Carol) and “R” (Rahab).

C: My Sunday school teacher neglected to mention that you were a prostitute. Is that crucial to your story?

R: Well, it’s important in several ways at once. First of all, I never would have met the Hebrew spies if I had been in any other line of work.

C: What do you mean?

R: It was a stroke of genius on their part, really. Think about it. If you were a couple of male spies wandering into a strange town, where would you go to avoid attracting attention?

C: I see what you mean. How else did your profession come into play?

R: Let’s just say I was skilled in the art of the deal. As soon as I realized who they were, I knew I had one chance to negotiate for my life and the life of my family. It wasn’t a perfect deal, but it was the best one I could get.

C: What do you mean by that?

R: Well, there were conditions that I had to meet, but all they had to do was make promises. Still, they kept those promises, so it all worked out. In my experience, men aren’t always good at that. So, it was a huge relief when they held up their end of the bargain.

C: Do you mind if I ask you what led you into your former line of work?

R: Not at all—though I’m glad you recognize that it’s all in the past. Look, very few little girls grow up thinking, “I want to be a prostitute when I grow up.” I certainly didn’t. But I’m a survivor, OK? I was doing what I had to do to survive. And given how things turned out, even my career choice seems somewhat providential.

C: Say more about that.

R: I’ve learned a lot about the one true God since I agreed to help the Hebrew spies—although even at the time, I had done my research. (I’m a businesswoman, after all.) But when I said I would deal kindly with them if they dealt kindly with me, I don’t think I realized how central “kindness” is to God’s character. The Hebrew word for it is chesed; it means love that goes above and beyond the call of duty. That’s been my experience with God ever since. Looking back, I realize that it was that “above and beyond” love that was guiding me all along.

C: I’m a little surprised you can talk about God’s kindness in view of what happened to your home town.

R: I was afraid you might ask me about that. I don’t have a good answer for you, and frankly, it still keeps me awake some nights. I don’t understand how a good and loving God can get away with genocide.

C: That’s my problem with the whole book of Joshua! It’s even worse when you realize how believers have used that book to justify all manner of evil over the centuries. Even my county’s slaughter of the Indigenous Americans was justified with arguments about the “promised land.”

R: I guess I can’t help you much with that. Some things are simply above my pay grade.

C: I wonder if it’s fair to blame God for what people do in God’s name. At the very least I think the book should come with a “Handle with Care” label.

R: You’ve got that right. But I’m glad you cared enough to ask me for my perspective on the whole thing. If you have a little more time, I’d love to tell you about my life after Jericho.

C: That sounds great! I’ll work it into the piece that I’m doing on Ruth next week….

Ponder: How does Rahab’s story empower you? Convict you?

Pray: May kindness be the measure of all our thoughts, words, and actions, gracious God. Help us not to judge others by any other measure.