The other day I gave a brief talk about Rahab’s faith and determination.
As a quick summary, Rahab was a resident of Jericho, one of the cities the Israelites conquered as they took possession of the land God promised to them. Rahab was a prostitute who protected two Israelite spies from being captured while they scoped out the lay of the land of Jericho. As a reward for her faithfulness to God’s chosen people, Rahab and her family were spared from destruction when the Israelites sacked Jericho. Rahab eventually married an Israelite man and became one of only five women included in the biblical genealogy of Jesus.
I found Rahab’s story fascinating. The more I read, the more intrigued I became. Eventually I began to wonder how she became a prostitute. In those times, prostitutes were shunned by family and community, but it seems that Rahab was not. She had a relationship with her parents and siblings. She owned an inn that was frequented not just for her prostitution talents. Rahab seemed to have the gift of hospitality, which earned her the trust of community members. When seeking the whereabouts of the spies, even the king of Jericho called on Rahab. This woman, it seemed to me, must have a powerful backstory. That seems the most likely reason why a prostitute would rise to such prominence.
So I decided to write a story and fill in the blanks I found. Below is the story. Please know it is completely fictional. You will not find this story anywhere in the bible. Although I feel it’s plausible, it’s not verifiable. I made it up.
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, please feel free to read my story.
Even though her father and his guest spoke in quiet tones, she knew an argument when she heard one. She just wasn’t sure what this argument was about. Usually, they argued about money. He came to collect, and her father couldn’t pay, but today’s conversation seemed different.
She kept one ear on their conversation while she went about her chores, and she nearly dropped a water jug when she heard her father shout, “No! Never! I will not sell my oldest child to you!” Their conversation had her full attention. As the eldest child in the home, they were talking about her. “She is a young woman. Unmarried.” She heard her father pleading with the man, his outrage turning into desperation. “She’s never known a man. But this, this,” he stammered, “this is unthinkable what you ask.”
“Fine,” the visitor responded cooly. “If you won’t give her to me for the night, I’ll take your younger children in the morning. Permanently.” He chuckled. “You can lose one of your children for a night or four of your children forever. Either way, you will pay your debt.”
Chilled by the venom in the visitor’s voice, she nevertheless walked into the room and interrupted their conversation. “I will pay the debt; just leave the children alone.”
“No!” Her father ran to her, nudging her behind his back. “You don’t know what you’re agreeing to.”
“Let the girl talk,” the visitor said as he crossed the room to come closer to his prey. Reaching past her father, he traced his forefinger along her jaw and grabbed her chin between his finger and thumb. She stiffened. “You’re a pretty little thing, aren’t you?”
She sunk further behind her father to avoid the stranger’s touch, but she held her resolve. “If I agree, my father’s debt will be paid. In full. And you will never come to our home again.”
“That’s right,” he said. “Unless your father racks up more debts. And I hope he does, if you are so eager to pay them for him.”
“Daughter, no,” her father hissed. “I forbid you. You aren’t just agreeing to a night of brutality. You’re agreeing to a lifetime of shame.”
“A lifetime of shame is worth the life of my family.” With those words she ducked under her father’s shielding arm, escaped his protection, and came face-to-face with her adversary.
“Beautiful and brash,” the stranger said as he grabbed a fistful of her hair and yanked her toward the door. “I’ll enjoy humiliating you.”
The reaction you may have had at the story’s conclusion was drawing back. Disgusted and appalled at the predicament of the family and the ruthlessness of the debt collector, it’s natural for us to draw back. We don’t want to face these types of harsh life realities. And we certainly don’t want to live them. And if you have ever lived this sort of nightmare, like the young woman in the story, you have reasons to draw back.
But instead of drawing back, this young woman, who I imagine grew into the fearless Rahab who saved the Israelite spies and became an ancestor of Jesus Himself, this young woman vowed for herself and her family, just as Hebrews 10:39 reads, “But we are not those who draw back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and obtain life.” She understood there are two kinds of people in the world – those who draw back and are destroyed and those who have faith and obtain life. She realized that although faith cannot be seen or quantified that with it comes with life, rather than destruction.