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Daughter of Deliverance
By Gilbert Morris
Bethany House Publishers
Rahab's hands flew across her loom effortlessly, weaving scarlet and blue wool. She had become so skilled at her work that she no longer needed to watch her hands. The shuttles from her loom and those of the five other women in the room filled the air with a clicking cadence, an incantation that made Rahab's eyes droop as she fought off sleep. Outside the small window she could see the last shadows of the day fading in the streets of Jericho. Her mind wandered to another place and time-far from the bleak workroom of Gadiah to a field that she and her family had visited during the spring. She could see it all now with perfect clarity, green grass so fresh it almost hurt her eyes, the sparkling waters of a stream curling across the plain. She could hear birds singing and the sibilant whispers of the breeze. She could even smell the pungent aroma of acacia trees lacing the warm air with sweet, musty odors.
A pleasant memory of her younger sister Zayna warmed her when suddenly a groping hand brushed across Rahab's body. Dropping the shuttle, she threw up her hands in self-defense. "Don't do that, sir!"
Her master, Gadiah, was a thin, wiry individual with lustful eyes and hands to match. His eyes glittered as he laughed deep in his throat and leaned closer. "A woman needs a little loving, Rahab."
Rahab quickly got up and pushed him back. "It's time to leave." Glancingaround, she saw that the other weavers were averting their eyes. What could they do? Gadiah took liberties with all of them.
The little man leaned in again, his intentions written plainly across his face. Rahab picked up a small knife used for cutting threads. She held the blade in front of her, not speaking but with flashing eyes.
Gadiah glared at Rahab, then changed the subject. "What's in that box?" he growled, gesturing at a small box on the floor.
"Scraps of wool."
"There are no scraps. Use them for something. I can't afford to waste money." He waited for her to answer, but she just stood quietly holding the knife. Finally he snapped, "Be here early in the morning," and whirled on his heels.
After he left, a tall, thin woman with hollow cheeks laughed. "That's the way. Cut his heart out, the dirty old man!"
A faint smile played across Rahab's face. It had become a normal part of her life to fight off her employer. She picked up her scarf, put it over her head, and walked out into the other room, where Gadiah was seated at the table. "I'd like to have my wages, sir."
Gadiah glared at her but slowly shrugged and reached into his tunic. Pulling out a leather bag, he opened it and pulled out several coins. "You'd better learn to be a bit more friendly, Rahab. There are plenty of others who would like to have your job."
Not bothering to answer, Rahab took the coins and hastily left the weaver's shop. Shadows were growing longer now, but as she made her way through the streets of Jericho, she found there was still plenty of activity. She had never lived anyplace except in the city, and she was completely at home with the crowded streets and the babble of voices.
From time to time she would greet someone who called out her name, and more than one young man tried to speak with her. Her fresh, glowing beauty had begun to draw men when she was barely more than a girl. Now at seventeen, she had a wealth of brown hair, her complexion was as clear as any in Jericho, and her eyes were a startling hue, almost violet. Her mother, who had been bought as a slave from somewhere up north, had given Rahab her unusual eye color, as well as the slight dimple in the center of her chin and her pleasing figure. Overtures from men were so common she paid little attention to them.
She stopped at several shops and bargained carefully for a few vegetables. Moving on, she stopped at a butcher's shop, where sheep carcasses hung upside down from large hooks. Only wealthy people could afford a whole sheep. Instead she looked over the carcasses of four rabbits, trying to decide which one was the plumpest. Then she began to bargain with the woman who ran the store. They knew each other well, but it was still the custom in Jericho to bargain. No one paid the asking price. Finally the woman threw up her hands. "All right, you can have it at your own price if you're determined to starve an old woman to death!"
Rahab laughed at Mari, one of the fattest women in Jericho. "Little danger of you starving to death. You've got enough meat on you to last through the winter, Mari."
Carrying the freshly wrapped rabbit and the vegetables, Rahab hurried toward home, anxious to share the bounty of fresh meat with her family. She stopped abruptly, however, when she heard her name called.
Turning, she saw a young woman leaning against the wall of one of the temples of the goddess Ishtar. The woman wore heavy makeup and revealing clothes, the attire of a temple prostitute. Her attitude had the boldness characteristic of the profession. Rahab knew this young woman-Deziah. She also remembered her as she had once been-a childhood playmate, a simple, cheerful girl who had taken a wrong turn, at least in Rahab's mind.
"Stop and have something to eat. Our supper's almost ready," Deziah offered.
"Oh, I'd like to, but I've got to hurry home. I've got to cook supper for my family."
"There's no hurry about that. They won't starve."
"No, I really must go."
Deziah pouted, her full lower lip sticking out and her eyes dissatisfied. "You never have any time for me."
"Well, I work long hours, Deziah. You know that. And I have the family to think about."
"You're working yourself to death." Moving closer, Deziah grasped Rahab by the arm. "We've talked about this before. You're crazy to work yourself to death working for that old devil Gadiah. Everybody knows what he is."
"I have to work."
"You can join us here."
"Become a temple prostitute?"
"What's wrong with that? I make a good living," Deziah said defiantly. Her eyes were outlined with color, her cheeks redder than nature intended them to be. "What's wrong with the way I live?"
"I ... I couldn't give myself to men like you do."
"Oh, there's nothing to that. You'll do it when you get married."
"Not different at all. If you join us, you'll have an easy life. No hard work, plenty to eat, the best of food, and all you can drink. Fine clothes. Besides," Deziah said, her eyes narrowing, "it's a good thing to serve the goddess."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Why, I mean if you're the servant of Ishtar, she'll hear your prayers first."
Something about that struck Rahab as wrong, but she merely shook her head. "I've got to go."
"You'd better listen. You've been praying for that little nephew of yours for a long time, and he just gets sicker. We could pray together, and we could get our customers to pray for him. He'd get well."
"I don't think the men that visit this house have praying on their mind," Rahab said dryly.
"Well, aren't you a pure woman now!" Deziah snapped.
"Don't be angry, Deziah. I love you. We were childhood friends and we still are, but you have gone your way and I'll have to go mine."
Deziah sniffed. "Go on and work yourself to death, then, if that's what you want."
Rahab watched as her old friend turned angrily and stalked through the doors of the temple. She stayed still for a moment, thinking about the life that Deziah now lived. Any man could walk in and sleep with her and would leave money for the goddess. Something about the whole thing just wasn't right. Rahab had discussed her misgivings with others, but temple prostitution was a respectable profession in Jericho, and most people scoffed at her squeamishness. Still, it gave Rahab a queasy feeling to think that any man could claim a woman for a few coins. Shaking off her thoughts, she turned and headed toward her house.
Rounding a corner, she climbed a long set of stone steps that led to the wall of Jericho. She hurried along and, as always, thought of the immense labor that had gone into the wall. It circled the whole city and was built with a solid stone base topped with sturdy mud bricks. At its widest point it was some thirty feet wide, and according to all wisdom, no enemy could ever break down such a wall!
The outer side protected the city from surrounding enemies, such as the Hittites. On its inner side, the wall of Jericho served as a dwelling place for many. Houses were built along the wall in many places, and there were scattered shops and stalls.
As she arrived at just such a row of houses, Rahab spoke to several people who were sitting out in the front. She knew many others were up on their flat roofs. A few leaned over and called to her. Without warning a young man appeared at her elbow and took her arm in his. "Hello, Rahab. How about you and I take a walk?"
"You take the walk yourself, Emir."
"You need a real man."
"Well, if I do, I wouldn't choose a child like you."
"Child! I'm almost sixteen years old. Give me a kiss."
Rahab laughed and pushed the boy away. "You'll come to a bad end, Emir. Now, go away."
She knew the boy had a crush on her, but she had little patience for such things.
Near the middle of the row, she stepped through the door of a two-room house. Most of the living, cooking, and eating was done in the first room. There were several rough stools and a rough-plank table. The other room was primarily for sleeping. At one end of the living area, a window gave access to the outside. One could stand by the window and see the sharp stones and rocks at the foot of the wall far below. In the far distance, one could see mountains forming a cordon around the whole area.
As she called out "I'm home" her twelve-year-old sister, Zayna, and four-year-old nephew, Oman, rushed to greet her. Oman, her sister Romar's son, was a sickly little boy. His legs were like sticks, and he had a frightening cough. Rahab laid down her package and picked Oman up. "How's my big boy today?"
"I'm fine, Aunt."
"Have you been a good boy?"
Rahab laughed and winked at Romar. "He's a truth-teller. What's he been into?"
Her older sister shook her head. Fondness was in her eyes, but worry too. She was a plain woman with black hair and brown eyes, not at all pretty like Rahab. They had the same father but different mothers. "He's been good as gold. Why do you tell lies to your aunt, Oman?"
"I thought I was bad."
"You're never bad." Rahab kissed his cheek and put him down. She turned to her other sister and hugged her. "Have you been good?"
"Good as gold," Zayna said.
"No she hasn't," Romar complained. "She's been naughty."
"Did you take a stick to her?"
"No, but I should have."
Zayna was laughing, for they never punished her with a stick. She was a budding beauty with the same wealth of brown hair and unusual-colored violet eyes that Rahab had. And also like Rahab, she was beginning to shine.
A man came out of the sleeping area, swinging himself on a crutch. "Hello, Rahab," he said, smiling.
"How are you today, Kadir?"
"I can't complain." Rahab's brother-in-law, Kadir, had once been a tall man but was now stooped. His black hair was streaked with gray, and his dark eyes were sunken. He had been fine-looking once, but years of work in the mines had worn him down, and an accident had crippled him. He was in pain most of the time, though Rahab never heard him complain.
Turning to the package she had brought, Rahab pulled out the rabbit. "See what I have. We'll have rabbit tonight."
"That will go down good," Romar said, "but meat's so expensive."
"We deserve it. I brought some fresh vegetables too. We'll have a feast."
"Can I help cook?" Zayna pleaded.
"Of course you can. Come along. We'll get started."
Preparing the meal was a family affair, all of them doing a little. The fresh meat and vegetables were a relief from some of the things they had been forced to eat recently.
Kadir laid aside his crutches, sat down, and began carefully cleaning the vegetables while he spoke to his sister-in-law Rahab. "I don't know what we would have done without you." He smiled at her. In his face were traces of the handsome man he had once been.
It hurt Rahab deeply to see how he had been beaten down by life. She went over and patted him on the shoulder. "We're a family, Kadir," she said. "We have to take care of each other."
"Well, I don't do much, but you work such long hours. I worry about you."
"Don't worry. I'm all right."
Across the room Zayna and Oman were playing a game on the floor. She studied her younger sister, and her brow wrinkled for a moment. She's very beautiful, she thought. The men will be coming around her soon enough, as they did to me, and it's hard for a young woman to resist.
Rahab went to join the two. As she sat down and began to play the simple game, Oman smiled at her. His face was thin, and from time to time he would cough deeply. The rasping cough cut her like a knife.
* * *
When the meal was ready, they all sat down at the crude table. Zayna's eyes turned toward the door. "Father's coming," she said.
Rahab noticed that some of the joy went out of the young girl's eyes. She turned to face the door, bracing herself for the entrance of her father. He was that kind of a man.
"So, you couldn't wait for me?"
Makon stood framed in the doorway. He was short and scrawny, and one of his eyes was cocked so that you could never be quite certain whether he was actually looking at you or not. He had a high-pitched nasal voice and was careless about trimming his beard and washing himself. He came to the table, slung himself into a chair, and whined, "You could wait for the head of the family before you start a meal."
"I'm sorry, Father," Romar said. "We didn't know how late you'd be working."
Makon sniffed, his nostrils flaring. "What's that I smell?"
"Fresh rabbit. Rahab bought it," Kadir said.
"Let's have it, then. I'm starved."
Rahab got the rabbit that had been roasted on the fire and set it down before her father. She watched as he cut off the best parts for himself and shoved the platter away. He began to eat greedily, making a great deal of noise.
Rahab took the rest of the rabbit and divided it as evenly as possible. It was a fair-sized rabbit, but it didn't go very far, and she tried to see that Oman got the best pieces.
"Did you get paid, Rahab?" Makon snapped.
"Yes, Father, I did."
"Let's have the money," he said, sticking out his hand.
Reluctantly, Rahab removed the coins from a small leather bag around her waist. "I need to keep some to buy more food for tomorrow."
"No, I need it," Makon grumbled. "Give it to me."
With a sigh, Rahab dropped the coins into his hand.
Turning toward Makon, Romar pleaded, "Father, please don't gamble this away. It's hard enough to live without your losing money at the games."
"You're telling me, your father, how to live?" Makon barked. "You think you can boss me around?" He began devouring his food even more noisily, trying to take everything within his reach.
Very seldom did Kadir have anything to say to his father-in-law. He himself wasn't able to bring home very much money, but now he said quietly, "We all need to be very careful. Times are hard."
Romar, sitting close to her father's side, quickly agreed. "Yes, it's-"
Without warning Makon extended his arm and struck his oldest daughter. He was not a powerful man, so the blow was more insulting than harmful.
In a soothing voice, Rahab said, "Let's not argue. I've brought some fresh figs."
Makon glared at his son-in-law and Romar, but he accepted a lion's share of the fresh figs. Between bites he began speaking roughly. "Everybody's talking about those Israelites. They're terrible people! Terrible!"
"What have you heard?" Kadir asked.
"Why, they're invincible," Makon snorted. He paused just a moment to plump a juicy fig into his mouth and savor the juices. Then he waved his hand. "They're like locusts, and they're terrible warriors. They're killing everything in their path." He continued, but in a few moments he pulled a small flask out of his tunic and drank from it. As the fermented liquid hit his stomach, he began to weep, growing maudlin and whining that the Israelites would kill them all.
Excerpted from Daughter of Deliverance by Gilbert Morris Excerpted by permission.
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