This Scarlet Cord: The Love Story of Rahabby Joan Wolf
Within one of the Old Testament’s most famous battles lies one of the most tender love stories. Hidden within the battle of Jericho is the story of Rahab, a beautiful and brave young Canaanite woman who aided the Israelites by hanging a piece of scarlet cord from a window. This act of faith changed her life by placing her in the genealogy of Christ. Rahab is… See more details below
Within one of the Old Testament’s most famous battles lies one of the most tender love stories. Hidden within the battle of Jericho is the story of Rahab, a beautiful and brave young Canaanite woman who aided the Israelites by hanging a piece of scarlet cord from a window. This act of faith changed her life by placing her in the genealogy of Christ. Rahab is the youngest daughter of a Canaanite farmer, taken to Jericho for the pagan New Year so her father can find her a wealthy spouse. Sala, the Israelite boy who had once saved her from being kidnapped, is also in Jericho. When the two young people meet again they admit their love for one another, but their different religions make marriage impossible. Their love story plays out against the background of Jericho’s pagan rites. It is only when the One True God of Israel comes into Rahab’s life—and she realizes what He is calling her to do—that she and Sala can come together. Witness Rahab as a young woman determined to find her destiny as she follows her heart toward true love . . . and the One True God.
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This Scarlet Cord
By Joan Wolf
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 Joan Wolf
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe caravan was halfway to Joppa when it was attacked. Roaming groups of bandits were not uncommon in Canaan, but usually a large group of people traveling together was safe. These were not ordinary bandits, though; they were riding horses and wielding flashing bronze swords. The caravan was from a small farming village near Jericho and was composed of forty donkeys loaded down with the goods they hoped to ship from Joppa into Egypt. The villagers were virtually helpless before the onslaught.
Rahab was at the back of the caravan with her mother and two of her brothers. Her father and her other brothers were toward the front, walking with the donkeys that carried their casks of precious wine. The boys and men had only sticks, but they shouted at the women to get behind them and bravely prepared to defend their own.
At first, Rahab had been too startled to be afraid. Then, as one of her brothers pushed her behind him and she looked up to see an enormous horse bearing down upon them both, she screamed. The horse came on in a cloud of dust and Rahab felt her mother grab her cloak and pull her backward.
Her brother raised his stick and held it braced right at the height of the oncoming horse's chest. The horse swerved at the thrust and the horseman missed her brother with his thrusting sword. Rahab pulled herself from her mother's grasp so she could drag her brother away from the plunging horse. As she grasped his tunic, she spared one fierce glare of hatred for the man who had managed to right his seat on the horse and was coming on again.
There was chaos in the caravan. People were shouting and screaming and some of the loaded donkeys were being driven away by the bandits. The deadly swords cut down anyone who tried to go after the donkeys. Then before Rahab knew what was happening, the horseman plucked her away from her brother and lifted her to lie on her stomach before him on the horse.
Rahab fought. She kicked at the horse's legs, screamed, and squirmed to get away. The animal reared and she almost managed to slide down to safety. But cruel hands gripped her and the horse was swung around.
Rahab heard her mother shouting her name. "Mama! Mama!" she screamed back. She kicked at the horse again and the man holding her muttered something, then raised his fist and hit her hard on the chin.
Everything went dark.
When Rahab came to, she was lying flat on her back. Her head was pounding, her jaw felt as if it were on fire, and her mouth was dry as sand. She lay still and looked around. What had happened? Where was she? How had she gotten here? Why did she hurt so much?
She lifted her eyes and saw a tent roof over her; from outside the tent walls came the sound of strange male voices. She tried to sit up, but her head hurt too much. She waited, breathing slowly, then tried again, ignoring the pain.
As she sat there it slowly came back to her: the attack, the bandits, the horse, the man, her capture. It must have really happened because here she was in this unknown place. Had they taken anyone else? Her mother? Her father? Her brothers?
Rahab was ashamed of the hope that shot through her at this thought. Of course she wished her family was safe, but she didn't think she had ever wanted anything in her life as much as she wanted her father right now.
The flap to the tent opened and someone came in. Suddenly Rahab was terrified. Was it the man who had taken her? What did he want? She was only twelve years old—what good could she be to anyone? She stared at the cloaked figure coming toward her in the dimness of the tent, her heart hammering. When she saw the figure was actually a woman, she felt almost giddy with relief. "Ah, you're awake," the woman said. She spoke Canaanite, but in an accent foreign to Rahab.
"I want my father," Rahab said, her voice trembling.
"Your father is not here, girl, and you'll have to get used to doing without him. Now, how are you feeling? I'm afraid Sahir hit you a little too hard; you've been out for quite a while."
You'll have to get used to doing without him? What did that mean? Was her father dead?
"Where is my father? My mother? My brothers?" she demanded. "Why am I here alone? Have you dared to hurt them?"
She would kill this woman if her family was dead. She would kill all of these people. She didn't care if she died too. She would do it.
Rahab stared as hard as she could at the ugly middle-aged woman who was speaking to her. "Where are they?" she repeated in a louder voice.
The woman shrugged. "I imagine they are on their way back to wherever they came from. The goods they were transporting so carefully to Joppa now belong to us. And you, my girl, apparently are one of those prizes, thanks to that idiot Sahir."
The woman bent over Rahab and put a hard hand on her forearm. "Get up and come outside. I want to look at you."
Rahab stumbled behind the woman out into the late day sunlight. Her headache ratcheted up as the brilliance of the day struck her eyes.
"Look at me," the woman said sharply.
Rahab, who was almost as tall as the woman, stared at her unblinkingly.
"Ah," the woman breathed as she looked Rahab over from her head to her feet. Then she grasped Rahab's sore chin in her fingers and turned her face slowly from one side to the other. "Perhaps Sahir was right after all. Even he has to be right sometimes, I suppose. You could be worth a fortune to us."
Rahab did not understand what the woman was talking about, but the calculating look in her eyes reminded Rahab of the way she had seen merchants look at wares they were thinking of buying. Her anger died, replaced by an intense, overpowering fear.
* * *
The woman took Rahab back into the tent and remained with her for the remainder of the night. Two men were posted outside the tent flap, defeating any hopes Rahab had of escape. Finally she slept.
When she woke in the morning, she could hear the noise from the camp outside. Men were talking and when a donkey brayed someone shouted a curse at it. She sat up, pushed her disheveled hair off her face, and looked around for the woman, whose name she had learned was Aya. The flap to the tent opened and the woman came in carrying a water jar.
"Drink," she said, pouring some of the water into a cup and handing it to Rahab. Rahab finished the cup and asked for more. After Rahab had finished the second cup, Aya said, "We will be leaving shortly. I'll bring you some bread and dates to break your fast."
"Wait!" Rahab cried as the woman started to leave. "You must tell me why you have taken me. You have our donkeys and our wine. You don't need me. Please, Aya, let me go!"
"Idiot," the woman said. "You are never going home to your pitiful little farm. You are going to Egypt, my girl. The great lords there have palaces a poor little peasant like you could never even dream of. You will dine off golden plates, eat perfectly prepared delicacies, and drink only the best of wines. You will be dressed in the finest of white linen and wear magnificent jewels to adorn your beauty. You will be cosseted as much as any grand Egyptian lady. One day you will thank us for what we have done for you. You'll see."
Rahab stared at the furrowed, sunburned face of Aya in amazement. What could she be talking about? Why should she be treated like some grand lady?
"Do you think I am an Egyptian?" she asked, wondering if Aya might be a little muddled in the head.
The woman cast her eyes upward in disbelief at such stupidity. "No, you are not an Egyptian, girl. That face never came out of Egypt. But it will be part of the spice, you see, that you are different."
"No, I don't see." Unlike most girls in her culture, Rahab was accustomed to speaking her mind. As the only girl, and the youngest in the family, she had been indulged far beyond the limits of most girl children. "What are you talking about?" she demanded. She knew her voice was surprisingly husky for one her age.
Aya's slanted brown eyes narrowed. She said slowly and clearly, "We are going to sell you, my dear. One of those debauched Egyptian lords will pay a fortune for a chance to get his hands on you. Sahir knew it the minute he saw your face." Her lips curled in a smile. "You are a defiant little thing too. I hear some of the lords relish a challenge."
Rahab did not fully understand what the woman was talking about, but she understood enough to know that, if these bandits had their way, her future would be horrible. They had something evil in mind for her and her skin prickled with fear. She couldn't help the tears that came into her eyes.
"Let me go home," she begged. "Please, please, let me go home."
The tent fold opened again and this time a man came in. He was dressed in the usual costume of Canaan, a tunic that stopped halfway between his knees and his ankles, with leather sandals on his feet. His hair was mixed with gray but his beard was still mostly brown.
He addressed himself to Aya. "I want to see this so-called prize myself before I go to the expense of shipping her off to Egypt."
Aya gestured toward the trembling Rahab. "There she is."
"Bring her outside so I can see better."
Rahab tried to hold her ground, but Aya pushed her so hard she fell to her knees.
"Get up," the woman said with contempt. "You'll only make trouble for yourself by resisting."
In the part of Rahab's brain that had not been paralyzed by fear, she realized the truth of this statement and walked out of the tent without further protest.
The early morning sky was cloudless. It was autumn, and there was always the possibility of clouds, and perhaps even rain, coming in later, but the bright light showed Rahab the line of men on horseback and the huge collection of loaded donkeys that would make up their train.
Rahab summoned all her courage and said to the man contemptuously, "You are filthy thieves who prey on good, hardworking people, and I despise you."
The man laughed. "I see we have a spitfire here." He grabbed Rahab's chin as Aya had done and held her face up to him. Her instinct was to pull away, but the pain in her jaw reminded her of what these people could do. She stared over his shoulder, pretending he was not there.
"Amazing," the man said. He dropped his hand and Rahab backed away. His eyes raked up and down her body. "How old are you?"
"You look younger. Which is good—not a child but not yet a woman." He reached out and ran a rough hand down the front of Rahab's tunic. She gasped and pulled away.
"Sweet little buds." He looked at Aya. "She is perfect. We will get good money from the slavers for her."
Rahab finally understood. "No!" she screamed. "No! No! No! I won't be a slave! You can't make me!"
"Oh, I rather think we can," the evil man said. "Tie her up, Aya, but be careful. I don't want her marked; it will affect her value."
"Aye, Ugar. I understand."
Rahab fought, but she was helpless against the strength of the two men who came to help Aya bind her hands and feet and load her into a litter.
Chapter TwoIt's a little bigger than Ramac, eh?" Nahshon asked his son, who seemed to have become as tall as he was overnight.
"More than a little," Sala replied as he looked around the teeming waterfront. Gaza was one of the greatest ports on the Great Sea, a stronghold that once was part of Canaan but had been annexed by Egypt years before. Sala's father was a successful merchant in the smaller port of Ramac, farther north on the coast of Canaan, and he was in Gaza to purchase a new boat to accommodate his increasing shipping business. Nahshon might be a Jew, but everyone knew the Egyptians made the best ships in the world. And when it came to business, Nahshon was not fussy about who he associated with.
Father and son stood together under the bright afternoon sun, their eyes taking in the sights in front of them. Dark-skinned porters carried heavy loads on their backs to and from the many ships docked along the wharves; merchants haggled over the prices of their wares, and a crowd of noisy urchins clustered around a man with a bright-colored bird in a cage. Then there were the sailors with packs on their backs shoving their way through the crowds, probably headed for an inn and a jug of wine. Ramac had a busy waterfront too, but Sala had never seen anything as loud, colorful, and crowded as this.
"Come," Nahshon said, and Sala followed his father down the cobbled path to the wharves, where more ships were tied up than Sala had ever seen in his life. His eyes darted from one to the next, admiring the furled colored sails and the gleaming wood. His father stopped in front of a sturdy wooden boat whose broad deck was neatly stacked with barrels of wine and bales of wool. The top of the boat's tallest mast bore the carved figure of a winged woman looking proudly forward.
"This is just the kind of boat I need," Nahshon said with satisfaction.
It was a good boat, Sala agreed, a useful boat for a merchant. But his eyes went wistfully to the long, elegant ship that was just now putting out to sea. It had eight oars on either side and they slid through the water as easily as a knife slides through a piece of fruit. It must be some Egyptian noble's private ship, he thought, his eyes caressing its long sleek lines.
"Time to go back to the inn," his father said briskly. "I have an appointment in an hour."
Sala nodded, his eyes still on the elegant craft as it sailed regally toward the horizon.
Nahshon slapped him on the shoulder. "Look all you want, my son, but that kind of life is not for us. Israelites have not fared well in Egypt since the time of Joseph, and I have been careful to keep my religion out of any dealings I might have with the people here. These ship builders are only interested in my money, but there's no sense in borrowing trouble. They think I am a Canaanite from Joppa, and that's how I want to keep it."
"I understand, Father," Sala said, and the man and boy made their way back up the cobbled steps into the streets of Gaza.
* * *
Nahshon had not come to Gaza with just his son. He had brought some of his workers with him, and when they returned to the inn, Sala found himself surrounded by men from home, all of them talking about ships. Sala was interested in ships, but he was also sixteen years old and this was his first time in a city bigger than Ramac. He wanted to look around without someone keeping watch on him. So when his father's appointment, a wide man with a sweaty face and a pungent odor, arrived and the men disappeared into the common room to discuss business, Sala slipped out the back door of the inn.
The warren of streets that wound throughout the city might have daunted another boy, but Sala had been blessed with a keen sense of direction. He did not doubt that he could find his way back to the inn, no matter how turned around the streets might become, and he set off with confidence.
The sun was bright overhead, but the streets were so enclosed that it rarely penetrated into the maze of shops and stalls and markets that made walking in a straight line impossible. You must be able to buy anything you want in Gaza, Sala thought as he strolled along the winding streets, taking in the jumble of wares set out for sale. Bakers, weavers, potters, sandal-makers, fishmongers, and fruit sellers manned the shops. There were also basket makers, barbers, wine sellers, and stonecutters. There was jewelry that Sala thought must be made of real gold, it was so beautiful, and many stalls offered the little scarabs so prized by Canaanites as well as Egyptians.
As he wandered, fascinated, through the crowded alleys and streets, Sala lost all sense of time. He was looking at some honey cakes and inhaling their tantalizing smell when it dawned on him that he was starving. Luckily he had some money with him, and he bought one of the cakes and leaned against the side of an old mud-brick building to enjoy it.
He had just finished the cake and was dusting his hands together to get the stickiness off when he saw a young girl hurrying down the street in his direction. Her long hair was flying loose and she was almost running. There were plenty of girls of all ages, shapes, and sizes in the market, but what caught Sala's attention was the look of sheer terror on this little girl's face.
When she was almost abreast of him, he found himself stepping in front of her and saying in Canaanite rather than his native Hebrew, "Are you all right? Can I help you?"
Excerpted from This Scarlet Cord by Joan Wolf Copyright © 2012 by Joan Wolf. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Joan Wolf was born in New York City but has lived most of her adult life with her husband in Connecticut, where she raised two children and countless numbers of assorted animals. Joan is the author of numerous historical novels including The Road to Avalon which Publishers Weekly lauded as "historical fiction at its finest."
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