Strata: The Bible in the News: Rehabilitating Rahab
Since I am in the midst of writing a commentary on the Book of Joshua, it seemed like a good time to return to this book for a column. Previously, I highlighted Joshua and Jericho. So, I thought, let’s look at the other main character of that exciting episode: Rahab, the “prostituting woman” who risked everything for her and her family’s safety (Joshua 2 and 6). Her rewards, already amply generous in the Biblical account, are enhanced in post-Biblical Jewish midrash by her marriage to Joshua and by their prodigious and prominent progeny.
So how does Rahab fare in the contemporary popular press? Not at all badly, as we shall see. This is largely the result of her becoming the patron saint (to mix testaments, if not metaphors) for women and children worldwide who have been forced to ply the trade she apparently practiced willingly.
There is, for example, Rahab Ministry in China. The recipients of its largesse are women, often teenagers, who were “brought to the territory under false pretenses … and forced into prostitution.” The recipients of its wrath: “Although it is illegal to live off the proceeds of prostitutes in Macau, the city has lots of pimps” (South China Morning Post). Surely, we hope that the number of such individuals has been greatly reduced through the efforts of this Rahab.
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