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Copyright 2014© Carlene Havel & Sharon Faucheux
Are these men up to no good? While attempting to believe there was no cause for alarm, Rahab considered whether she might need to defend herself. Was the baking paddle enough to frighten the men away? Or was it better to snatch her knife from the holster over her shoulder and scream for Karmot? These men looked healthy and strong enough to overpower her and her father. Yet they did not strike her as violent, merely unusual.
Pulling the perfectly browned bread from the oven, Rahab put on a bright smile. “Oh, I am sorry. Were you speaking to me?” She turned the fresh bread onto the stone table. “Smells delicious, does it not?” she asked. “With my good wine and ghee made just this morning, you will be refreshed from your journey.”
“Thank you, mira.”
The travelers looked similar enough to other Egyptians who passed through Jericho occasionally. Was it their slightly different manner of speaking? Perhaps they were not from Alexandria but some more remote area of the land of the pharaohs. Regardless of where they came from, they were foreigners. Therefore, the king’s men would make it their business to evaluate whether or not the visitors had legitimate business in the city. Because of the Hebrews, the king’s men were especially interested in anyone who passed through the city gate these days.
Rahab decided to bide her time and keep the strangers occupied until the soldiers came to question them. She was confident in her ability to kindle her male guests’ interest. “You have traveled many days from your wives and families,” she said as she served wine. “No doubt you miss them.”
The tall man continued to eat, while the shorter turned his face toward her.
“My inn offers you nourishment and lodging,” Rahab continued. She stretched her arms and trailed the fingertips of her right hand slowly along her left forearm. “There are times when a man needs more than food and shelter.”
The men’s reactions were not in accordance with Rahab’s expectations. The tall, quiet one seemed amused, while the shorter man wore a look of surprise. Tossing her hair, Rahab slowly licked her lips. At this point, most men began to negotiate a price for her services or—more rarely—gave her a reluctant refusal. These fellows did neither. Why were they so slow? Do they know nothing of how to conduct business?
Rahab went to stand behind the men. The taller one continued to eat and drink, as if unaware of her presence. She leaned over the shorter man to rearrange the food on the stone table. As she did so, she rested a hand lightly on the man’s shoulder. He jumped away, as if her touch burned his body. “You are a harlot!” he exclaimed. The tall man stifled a laugh.
“Yes, I am,” Rahab replied, drawing her hand away. “What do you expect at an inn?”
“I expect decency and honor in all things,” the shorter man said. “But then, I suppose I forget what kind of pagans—”
The tall man held up a hand, and his companion fell silent. Rahab was accustomed to men too poor to afford her services, but the reactions of these two puzzled her. One seemed completely indifferent, while the other made her feel unclean. The truth flew into her mind with such force it escaped from her mouth. “You are Hebrews.”
“Yes, we are,” the tall man said, much to Rahab’s surprise.
They were such beautiful young men. What a pity for them to be impaled in the public place. “Do you not know the king’s men keep track of foreigners in Jericho, because of all the trouble across the river? If you hurry, you may be able to escape.”
The shorter man quickly pushed his food away, stood up, and shook out his clothing. The taller one turned and faced Rahab. “Will you hide us?” he asked.
“I could be executed for helping you. And my whole family along with me.” Looking into his eyes made her heart beat faster. Yet his face would no longer be handsome after a beating from the soldiers’ rods.
The tall man spoke gently. “Help us and you will live when we take this city.”
“Take Jericho? You cannot,” she whispered. “Our walls…”
“Your walls are nothing to the Lord. We will conquer this city and all others who stand in our way, just as we have overcome the Amorites.” His manner conveyed absolute confidence. “Our lives in exchange for yours. Yes or no?”
Rahab never understood exactly why she believed the Hebrews would prevail. Yet in that moment, she knew it was true. Jericho will fall before the powerful God of the Hebrews! So many thoughts swirled in her head. She remembered the morning when she broke away from her father’s household to find her own way in the world. Others called her actions foolish, but in the end her family benefitted from her boldness. Was this another such opportunity? If so, she must again act with speed and courage. She might scream for Karmot, and turn these men over to the King of Jericho—or trust her unexplainable feeling the God of the Hebrews was both real and all-powerful. Were the stories she heard all her life about His parting of the Red Sea actually true? Whichever way she chose, there was no turning back.
Once she made her decision, calmness fell over Rahab like a warm cloak. “Yes. We have an agreement. Pour the water from that large crock on the ground,” she told the men. “It will take both of you to lift it. Then go quickly up those stairs,” she pointed to the central staircase. “On the roof you will see many bundles of drying flax. Hide among them and wait. Show yourselves to no one until I come to you. Hasten.”