I received a lovely Bible Study resource from Rosalie Sugrue. It is a three study series and I have already share the second and third Achsah and the Spirited Five. The story of Rahab is the most familiar and we find her as our thoughts turn to Advent in Jesus’ genealogy. Her story is powerful for folks in the United States as we consider turning our churches into sanctuaries to protect people from deportation into danger. she was the protector; she was honored for side-stepping the laws of her country to save people. To have these three stories more quickly contact Rosalie directly firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enterprising Women Hidden in the Book of Joshua
Three Bible Studies on Justice Issues
By Rosalie Sugrue
These Bible Women, along with many others, are further explored by
Rosalie Sugrue in her devotional work ‘Sophia & Daughters’ and the novel ‘The League of Lilith’ available on-line at Amazon Books and other outlets.
Introduction to the three studies: The book of Joshua is pretty much ignored apart from the famous Battle of Jericho when the walls came tumbling down. Joshua was Moses successor. Though Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness he was not permitted to enter the Promised Land. Joshua is a very male book concerning battles, slaughterings and land distribution. Women barely reach person status in this book. A clear distinction is made between warriors and all the people and it is equally clear all the people does not include women. But tucked away within the pages of this violent Old Testament book are three surprising stories about enterprising women. Each woman is a survivor who helped change the course of Hebrew history.
Rahab: An Outsider who became an Insider
Joshua 2:1-24 & 6:15-25
Rahab is fascinating character. From Israel’s perspective she is the epitome of an outsider – a woman, a prostitute, a foreigner. The Hebrews viewed foreign women as sexually available and not to be trusted. Prostitutes, however, are marginalized even by their own cultures. In this story the position of Rahab’s house is symbolic of her marginalization. She lives in the city wall – the borders of inside and outside. But this position gives her access to knowledge of events within the city and without. She was in a position to observe the arrival of people of Israel the gathering of the army. She also knew the state of defenses within the city.
Do you know any prostitutes? Can you be sure?
How do you feel about prostitutes?
Why might women prostitute themselves?
How do you feel about the decriminalization of prostitution in NZ?
(Question in United States — Do you find yourself using the terminology “sex worker” and does it change your perspective?)
Rahab was no desperate back-alley slag. She had parents, brothers, sisters and possibly servants. We can conclude she was one classy Madam – wise in the ways of the world and skilled in conversing with men.
The linking of prostitutes and spies did not begin with James Bond. From earliest times ‘working women’ have extracted dangerous secrets from their clients.
Rahab shows surprising understanding of the foreign god of the Israelites. This
indicates she was not unused to foreign clientele. She had inside knowledge of not only the god of the Israelites but also their movements from the crossing of the Red Sea to the defeating of the Ammonites. The well-informed Madam is quite comfortable indulging in a spot of theological discussion. She understands the nature of the foreign god. “Yahweh your God is indeed God in heaven above and God below.”
Rahab is not only clued up on religion, she understands politics. Madam Rahab is practical, quick witted and as sharp as they come. She has a cunning plan.
Presumably she enticed the spies into her house, though it seems they took little persuading. By the time the local counter intelligence arrives Rahab has hidden the spies and manufactured a convincing story to send the King’s men hot-footing it down a false trail. Meanwhile our mediocre spies are shaking under flax mats on the roof. They are totally at her mercy. Rahab reassures them with a little flattery of Hebrew heroics. She knows the Hebrews are fanatical conquerors who take no prisoners.
Young, old, women and livestock, are all put to the sword in the name of Yahweh.
How do you feel about the conquest of the Promised Land?
How can New Zealanders deal with this in the light of our history?
How does this story relate to modern conflicts in the Middle East?
Our spies are in Rahab’s debt and mindful they have to get out of her place alive. They are ready to swear an oath of protection on Rahab’s terms. She arranges for her whole family and household to be spared the inevitable immanent slaughter. The spies, whom remain nameless to the end, are let down the outside of the wall by a rope from Rahab’s window. She gives instructions as how to escape capture and organizes a pass-over-my-house symbol. The spies follow her plan to the letter and arrive safely back to camp with their report. Rahab secures the crimson cord to her window and waits.
Was Rahab a traitor, saviour, victim or survivor?
Do you see Rahab as a woman of faith and kindness?
How do New Testament writers see Rahab?
(see Hebrews 11:31 and James 2:25)
Rahab had a prime view of the week of parading round the walls. The marching warriors had a view of her crimson cord. Rahab would observe that the seventh day ritual differed from the previous six. Was she aware of what may happen? Did she evacuate her household in readiness for the final blast or did she expect her portion of the wall stand firm? Whatever, the spies turn out to be men of their word. Before joining in the triumphant slaughter they bring Rahab and her household to the Israelite camp.
The scripture relates ‘her family remained with the Israelites to this day.’ Rahab is an ancestor of Jesus. She is among just five women mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy.
Who did Rahab marry? (Mt 1:1-6)
What is the significance of her son?
Create a dialogue: Rahab meeting her daughter-in-law
Do the women of Matthew’s genealogy have anything in common?
What is the message for us in Rahab’s story?
Rahab survived but her story is sobering. It portrays the view that foreign women and land are there for the taking along with other dangerous assumptions – foreigners only find dignity by adopting the ways of the conqueror, and Biblical justification for dispossession. Such assumptions have influenced Western civilization. We are part of this culture.
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Further discussion relevant to each of these studies
Does the violence prevalent in Old Testament /Hebrew Bible stories upset your faith?
Do you agree with this statement? It is helpful to be mindful that the Hebrew Scriptures were compiled from various strands of oral tradition and the stories are best viewed as folk tales that offer spiritual insights.