She rushed to the window to look down to see what caused the rising noise outside the city walls. Rahab saw these unusually dressed men carrying some object, a spectacle which appeared of religious relevance, with bands of armed men walking in the front and rear. And a throng followed the group, people who were different from her own.
And the sound of horns split the morning air near the northern side of the mud brick fortifications of Jericho. But strangely they kept a silence which was unusual to a procession such as this one she was witnessing.
Yes, she remembered now, that this was the people the city had been readying itself for since a rumour spread a few weeks back, about some spies who had infiltrated from across Jordan. She could feel her thoughts gripping her as she walked away from the view from her window. They were mixed with fear, guilt and courage; and a hope that told her, “Everything would turn out fine”. For it was she who gave those spies a place to hide in her house when they came knocking at her door for refuge that evening those few weeks ago. And the probable overthrow of the city made her anxious in a strange way.
On one hand she held the weight of treason. And on the other she tried to balance a hope, ‘a guarantee of life’ – to be kept alive through an imminent annihilation of the city she dwelt in. Yes she had decided to side the invaders long ago… She had heard stories perhaps from people she came across. She did not have a great reputation in the city; for men came to women like her to entertain their carnal inclinations. She never cared what the people around spoke of her because of who she was by profession. And her house in the city wall was convenient for her way of living as the place between the walls was run down and shady, natural to its sort.
It’s no surprise that Salmon and the other Hebrew, the men whom Joshua had deployed on a recce in this city, had chosen her house to hide from the king’s men that night; a place nobody would doubt. Nevertheless, the king’s men had come looking for them even at her door. And she had deflected their search along the road that led to lower Jordan. She remembered climbing up to the roof of her house where she had hidden the Hebrew men under stalks of flak that night and talking to them thus: “I know that (your) God has given you the land. We’re all afraid. Everyone in the country feels hopeless. We heard how (your) God dried up the waters of the Red Sea before you when you left Egypt, and what He did to the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you put under a holy curse and destroyed. We heard it and our hearts sank. We all had the wind knocked out of us. And all because of you, you and God, your God, God of the heavens above and God of the earth below. Now promise me by God. I showed you mercy; now show my family mercy. And give me some tangible proof, a guarantee of life for my father and mother, my brothers and sisters—everyone connected with my family. Save our souls from death!”
How could anyone in the right mind not feel afraid of such an invasion which took down everything that was on its way, and every dreaded thought imagined about it was impending on the city one dwelt in? She was negotiating for protection of her family. And in talking to them thus, she was committing treason by all means. “Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.”
Now the men had said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them. But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.”
“Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.” So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window….she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. She said to them, “Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.”
Today, she went back near the window and saw the scarlet rope she had tied at the place from where the spies escaped down on a rope in the quiet of that morning those few weeks back. She heard no more of the sound of the procession for the day now. But she would hear it again the next day and the next, till for a week. With the whole of her family in the house, this wait of an unclear yet sure rescue seemed too much to understand. All Rahab could do now was to let everything come its way to happen.
On the seventh day, she heard the horns and the footsteps early in the morning. And she saw them pass by below her window seven times that day. And when they had gone around for the seventh time, she heard the horns blasting even furiously accompanied by a roaring war cry.
A distinct rumble rocked the walls of her house which, she would later gather, had hit most parts of the outer wall that ran around the city.
The city wall had begun to fall on itself! And the Hebrews took the opportunity to charge straight in through wherever the wall had collapsed and burnt the city down. But the wall where her house was built into stayed much intact.
Now, Salmon and the other Hebrew, those spies, who had given her their word not to destroy her according to the arrangement of a sign of the scarlet rope, ran to her house, brought out Rahab and all her family and put them up outside the Hebrew camp in safety. Rahab looked at her city going up in flames. Why did she ever choose to side these strange people? Why? Perhaps there were too many questions she had to answer herself. Only one thing seemed to look justified: that she had slowly begun to trust in things unseen; ‘…There is somebody up there who could change my life’s course… no matter what or how I have been…”
Up in the skies, a grander plan with long lasting and far reaching consequences was unfolding in this apparent dilemma which played out full force in Rahab’s life…History was adjusted when Salmon married her and she became an ancestor to the most loved king the Hebrews would have: David. And to add the best to the rest of her story, Matthew mentioned her in his Gospel narrative as a great grandmother in the lineage of Jesus Christ. It’s amazing, God had chosen her for the most honorable of things that could happen to a woman!
The writer of the letter to Hebrews in the Bible listed her as a woman who was not disobedient when God Almighty visited her in the strangest and most difficult of situations and suggested her strange way to change everything about her life, though she fully couldn’t comprehend the entire plan. Perhaps her story suggests that sometimes we need to believe the most impossible thing to think, and stay put till it comes to pass.
Sam K. Paul
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