Rahab – second woman of Advent – 6 December 2021
Here is a blue picture by Marc Chagall.
On the left is a nude, a naked women speaking to two other figures. Two smaller male figures stand on the roof of a house. The woman is speaking to these two. In her blue nakedness, the woman is more powerful than the men.
The voluptuousness of the woman is what catches the viewer’s eye. Here is a woman confident in her sexuality, and so on display.
The woman is Rahab, mentioned in Joshua 2, and three times in the New Testament. In the story of Joshua Rahab is a Canaanite woman who keeps an inn. The same word is used for female innkeeper and prostitute.
Rahab receives Hebrew spies into her house/inn, and hides them in return for negotiating the delivery (salvation) of her household.
In Matthew’s gospel Rahab is the second woman named in the genealogy of Jesus. Her profession (innkeeper and/or prostitute) is not described. She is mentioned in two epistles, both listing her as an exemplar of faith. In both cases she is described as a prostitute, the writers following the precedence set by the translators of the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. On the one hand her faith sets her apart, but her authority is diminished (so the authority of all women controlled) through this designation.
As a bonus, here is a second image of Rahab from the Brick Bible, maybe not one for the children.
Finally a reminder, we are still in the 16 days of activism against gender based violence. Let us together resist the labelling and diminishment of women and girls.
By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.
Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.
Rise up, rise up, O Rahab,
And bind the scarlet thread
On the casement of thy chamber,
When the battle waxeth red.
From the double feast of Gilgal,
From Jordan’s cloven wave,
They come with sound of trumpet,
With banner and with glaive.
Death to the foes of Israel!
But joy to thee, and thine,
To her who saved the spies of God,
Who shows the scarlet line!
And the faith of saints and martyrs
Lay brave at her heart’s core,
As some inward pulse were throbbing
Of the kingly line she bore.
When the soul that seeks for safety,
Shall behold but one red sign—
But the blood drops of Atonement
On the cross of Love Divine!
Cecil Francis Alexander, Rehab (verses 1-3, 6, 13)
‘Yahweh your God,
he is God in heaven above,
and on earth beneath.’
Rahab, Joshua 2:11