Friday, February 26, 2010

The Hunt

Surprisingly, it was Othniel who first found the brazen couple. They were rolling around in a hay cart, completely oblivious to the chaos of panicky sheep and goats around them.

“Get up,” he yelled, holding the tip of his spear in their faces - but the couple just kept laughing.

“Stop it! Have you no shame? You want to get yourselves killed?”

“By who? You?” the woman laughed and continued on her merry way.

Othniel stood confused and double minded. He wanted to kill them but couldn’t bring himself to it. Furthermore, he was getting queasy at the sight of them making out.

“Phinehas! They’re here. I found them!” he yelled and ran off for reinforcements. Deep down in his heart, he hated himself for not finishing the job.

Of course, by the time Othniel returned with Joshua, Salman and Phinehas the naked couple had disappeared. In their absence, Othniel had nothing but excuses to offer.

“I’m sorry. I thought they ... they were just here. They really were, you have to believe me.”

“You idiot. Why didn’t you kill them?” yelled Phinehas, “you had them right there in front of you.”

“There’s no need to defile the camp with their blood,” Joshua added.

“What, just have them run riot?” Salman replied.

“Look, as long as we keep arguing they’re getting further away,” Joshua interjected, “Now let’s use our heads and find out where they went.”

The pillar of fire cast it’s omniscient glow over the camp as the four men searched frantically amongst the rows of tents. Finding the couple would be a daunting task in a refugee camp of several hundred thousand families, but they were hot on their trail and had the advantage of sober minds and plenty of witnesses.

“Did you see them? Where did they go?” Joshua asked a crowd of bystanders.

“My word,” replied an old lady “they were as fast as foxes, and stark naked too.”

“But where? Which direction?”

“Oh, over there I think,” she replied vaguely pointing her finger somewhere, “but I had to shut my eyes.”

“Oh that’s great! That’s real helpful” laughed Phinehas sarcastically.

“That’s fine Madam, thank you,” Joshua politely interjected. “Phinehas, search all these rows of tents on the left side with Othniel. No, come to think of it, Salman you go with Phinehas. I’ll take Othniel.”

Joshua decided to team up with young Othniel, for the search was turning into a hunt and the boy’s courage was still untested. He needed no reminder of where this was going - the hill outside the camp was dotted with a dozen or more adulterers hanging from makeshift gallows.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Forty hard years had passed since crossing the Red Sea, and although Joshua kept a strong healthy frame for his age, the passage of time added lines to his face, subtracted hairs from his head, and multiplied the burdens on his soul.

All was not well in the Hebrew camp.

Walking briskly towards the tabernacle that evening, Joshua passed countless rows of people struck with the plague. Lying on mats outside waiting for a miracle, old men coughed up blood in between desperate gasps for air and young children screamed uncontrollably in the arms of loving parents.

The horrifying sights were almost too hard for Joshua to bear. He had to harden his heart and just keep walking, if only to convince himself that he was doing something to help.

Entering the tabernacle, he was encouraged to see hundreds of elders inside already down on bended knee praying fervently. Following behind, Salman and Phinehas planted their spears at the entrance and hurriedly caught up with Joshua inside.

“Where’s Othniel?” asked Joshua

“Still searching,” replied Phinehas, “You know the kid, always something to prove.”

“Don’t write him off,” Salman interrupted.

“Either way, I'll have to tell Moses the news,” said Joshua.

“Better you than me,” Salman murmured under his breath.

At the front of the meeting, the wise old prophet Moses prayed earnestly on his knees before the altar. Far older and more human than anyone dared to admit, his heartfelt prayers seemed too holy to be interrupted.

“Lord, remove this plague from us, as we have removed those joined to Baal. Lord forgive us. We have wandered from your ways, we have hardened our hearts and now we eat the fruit of our sins. Save us from ourselves.”

Joshua hesitated, looking back again at the entrance of tent just as Othniel arrived and planted his spear in the ground. The young baby-faced soldier was barely seventeen years of old, and what he lacked in height, he more than made up with his stocky frame. Unfortunately for Joshua, Othniel shook his head in disappointment. He was empty handed.

Joshua turned back again and reverently approach his mentor.

“Moses, we've searched everywhere. We can’t find the culprit. We don’t know who caused this plague. I don't understand”.

The old prophet slowly rose to his feet and turned around to face him. A chill raced down Joshua's spine as he saw the fire in Moses' eyes. But he was staring at someone else at the back of the meeting.

At the entrance of the Tabernacle two young lovers stumbled into the assembly - a young Hebrew man called Zimri and a pretty Moabite women wearing a lot of jewelry and not much else. Both were drunk with wine and lust.

She was strangely pretty, but it was an ugly sight. Much of her scantily clad body was covered in the idolatrous symbols of Baal. To make matters worse, despite hundreds of elders gasping with horror at this blasphemous spectacle, the two lovers burst into uncontrollable laughter and quickly ran away into the night.

“Murderer!” yelled Phinehas as he sprung to his feet in righteous zeal and ran to fetch his spear. “Come on, let's catch a whore,” he appealed to Salman and Othniel.

“Phinehas! Careful what you do with that spear!” Joshua yelled. But it was too late, he was off in a flash with the others not too far behind.

For Joshua’s old legs however, it took a little longer.

Salman's story

“So why has it taken you so long to get here?” asked Rahab. “Your people left Egypt a lifetime ago.”

“True,” Salman replied. “I’ve never been to Egypt. I was born in the wilderness, but I remember the stories.”

“What do you mean?” asked Rahab.

“I don’t even know where to begin. We were our own worse enemy - so quick to forget the faith of our forefathers.”

“But God parted the Red Sea. How do you forget that?” Rahab replied.

“Quite easily. The heart is a strange thing. I’ve seen good people go bad, and bad people come good. Anyway, a couple of months ago, strange things started happening. People were getting sick and dying from a plague we’d never seen before.

We found out some of our men were sleeping with Moabite women and secretly worshiping Baal. Often their family died first, like the disease had a mind of its own. But eventually it caught up with them. It got out of control - thousands died.”

“How did it end?” asked Rahab.

Salam hesitated to give his reply. Is she ready for this? he thought. What the heck, after tonight I’ll never see her again.

“People had to choose between Jehovah or Baal, life or death - although some of us made that decision a little easier.”

Salman spent the next hour taking Rahab on a journey to another world. He told her everything that happened over the last few months, filling in so many gaps and answering questions about a life she had never known. There were all these strange customs she had heard of but had no idea what they meant.

The Tabernacle, for example, was a holy place for the Hebrews, shrouded in sacred mystery. From the outside the outer court looked rather plain, consisting of curtains made from all sorts of animal skins suspended from large wooden beams.

The inner court had more ornate fittings, hanging oil lamps and incense holders. Only males could enter this place of prayer. They had to be washed clean and in perfect condition to present their offerings, prayers, and animal sacrifices for the atonement of sins.

At the very centre was the holy of holies, where only the High Priest entered on rare occasions, and only after undertaking a strict cleansing ceremony. The room was so sacred that a rope was tied around the priest’s ankle to pull his body out just in case he dropped dead. Such was the tangible power of God’s presence.

The Tabernacle was no ordinary place. A pillar of cloud towered above it by day, and at night it transformed into a pillar of fire that lit the entire camp with a soft warm glow.

As holy and revered as it was, the entire structure was portable, which suited the nomadic lifestyle the Hebrews had suffered over the last forty years. Where the pillar of cloud moved, the Hebrews followed. Whenever it stopped, they pitched camp - some times for day, sometimes for weeks. It was God’s way of guiding his children through the wilderness, and a constant reminder of his everlasting love.

One evening two months ago (as Salman recounted to Rahab) the outer courts were filled with men from every household and every tribe. It was nightfall, and all the elders had been hastily assembled to prayer because a plague had broken out in the camp.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rahab's story

“Many centuries ago, God made a covenant with our forefather Abraham,” Salman began. “He promised this land to all his descendants.”

“He takes his time,” replied Rahab.

“It gets worse - believe me,” Salman continued. “Abraham's wife Sarah was too old to have children, so he tried to fix the problem himself.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, he slept with Sarah's handmaiden.”

“Ha! Big mistake,” laughed Rahab.

“Yes, a very big mistake. He had a son called Ishmael, whom he loved dearly but Sarah never really accepted.”

“Was he the first slave?” asked Rahab.

“No, that was much later,” Salman replied.

Their eyes connected briefly over the candle on the table, but Salman didn't look away this time. There was so much he wanted to know about her.

“So what's your story?” he asked.

“Nothing special.”

“I find that hard to believe.”


“Yes, really,” Salman wasn't going to let her get off that easy.

“My family disowned me. No one will marry me, at least none that I trust. I was defiled as a young girl.”

“Who? Was he the one who came looking for us, the one who hit you?” Salman asked.

“Yes. But there's more,” Rahab replied. “When crops fail or enemies attack, the King sacrifices newborns on the wall.

“I’ve heard about this,” said Salman, “it’s disgusting.”

Rahab nodded. “I only held him while they cut the cord, then they took him away.”

“I’m so sorry.”

Salman sensed Rahab felt awkward as she rushed the first batch of unleavened bread into the oven. He wanted to change the subject immediately. Thankfully, Rahab beat him to it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rahab's heart

Rahab's habit of entertaining guests late into the night meant that the guards thought nothing of the smoke from her chimney when she began to prepare food for the spies journey home.

Phinehas stood watch by the window, looking out over the moonlit fields for sign of Giddel’s return while he repacked his leather satchel.

“Don't worry,” whispered Rahab. “He'll be gone for at least a day or two.”

“How do you know?” asked Phinehas.

“He’s as stubborn as a mule. Besides, the King doesn’t tolerate failure.”

Salman joined Rahab by the table, hastily mixing flour and water to form batch of dough.

“You seem to know a lot,” said Salman.

“That’s my business,” replied Rahab. “A shepherd knows his sheep, and I know men.”

“So why didn’t you hand us over to the guards?” asked Salman.

“You need a little more water,” answered Rahab, pointing to Salman’s batch of crumbling dough.

“I'm a Hebrew, I think I know how to make unleavened bread.”

“Doesn’t look like it. Your wife makes it for you, right?” Rahab asked.

“Nice try,” replied Salman, “but you didn’t answer my question.”

“What? So you have no wife?”

“I’m not going to fall for you.”

“Ha, don’t flatter yourself,” Rahab joked, “maybe I should have handed you in.” Her smile barely covered a flashback of adolescent awkwardness. She hadn’t teased a boy she liked since she was fourteen.

“You’re avoiding the question!” said Salman.

“No I’m not.”

“So? Why did you save us?”

“Sit over here.” Rahab pulled up a chair and took Salman’s dough off him, “I'll do it.”
Salman obliged, if only because he was lost for words.

“You asked a fair question. The truth is, I knew I could save you.”

“But if the King finds out, you’ll die?” asked Salman.

“I already hate my life,” Rahab answered. “What’s there to lose?”

Salman looked at Rahab intensely. He never seen such courage, or was she just reckless?

“Anyway, enough about me. Your people left Egypt many years ago. Why has it taken so long to get here?

“Why do you want to know?” asked Phinehas, overhearing from the other room.

“If I was going to hand you over, I would have done it by now,” said Rahab.

“Maybe,” Phinehas replied.

“It's alright, we trust you,” said Salman.

“Well?” Rahab continued. “Tell me the story of your people, before they were slaves.”

“Alright, but you wont believe it.”

“Try me.”

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hiding in the hay

Salman and Phinehas were hiding on Rahab’s roof for what seemed like forever. Thankfully it was harvest time, and large bales of flax were stored on the rooftops of many homes until they dried for threshing. It was the perfect cover to hide from guards passing frequently during the night along the narrow walkway nearby.

Motionless, tired and scared out of their wits, Salman silently prayed for protection under a bale of itchy straw. Strangely, he was glad the freshly cut barley made his skin crawl, at least that way he would stay awake and alert. The last thing he wanted was to doze off and wake up with a sword at his throat - or not wake up at all.

The whole commotion at Rahab’s house earlier in the evening made the entire guard quite jittery, and many times they stood just a few yards from the spies arguing how they might have escaped.

“No one leaves the city at night,” said an older guard, “not without someone noticing. Only spies and thieves travel in the dark.”

“Maybe they bribed Adin?” the younger one replied.

“Unlikely. I heard they had magic powers to make them invisible.”


“How do you think they escaped Pharaoh?”

“No, that was because their god sent plagues and horrible... well stuff you... wouldn’t want to happen here.”

The conversation hit a brick wall of deathly silence.

“Mmm. Nice weather.”

“Yes, it is nice.”

Neither of the guards enjoyed contemplating the Hebrew god, so they pretended to be distracted and continued walking the wall as if they never had that conversation.

An hour or so later, after the sounds of barking dogs and crying babies had long since echoed across the city, Jericho returned to its slumber. In fact, Salman and Phinehas were half asleep when they were disturbed by the sound of the wooden hatch opening next to them. They barely had time to reach for their daggers (not knowing who was coming) before they were relieved to see it was Rahab – and she was alone.

“It's safe to come down now.”

Salman sheathed his dagger and started moving towards the hatch.

“Wait,” whispered Phinehas, “how can we be sure?”

“Hasn't she done enough?” said Salman

“Listen, everyone’s afraid,” Rahab interjected, “even the King. He's heard about your victories in battle. And though he wont admit it, God has given you this land. Who else can part the Red Sea?”

“Thank you for helping us,” replied Salman, “but how can we escape?”

“Over the wall,” she answered, “but later when the guards are asleep. Come now and I'll help you get ready.”

Rahab lowered herself back down inside onto the table in the dining room. Salman looked at Phinehas, who still seemed too shocked to follow.

“What are you waiting for?”

“She’s a ... it just doesn’t add up.”

“She’s a human,” Salman replied, “nothing does.”

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"I never asked for this life"

From the crack in the ceiling, Salman watched Rahab slowly rise to her feet in defiance. Who is this woman? He thought, and why does she risk her life for us? He felt humbled and ashamed as she wiped the blood from her mouth and turned to face her attacker. She’s coming back for more? Oh God! She’s pushing it too far. He’ll know.

Salman held his breath for what seemed like ages as Rahab stood there composing herself.

“I never asked for this life,” she forcefully replied, holding back her tears.

Rahab’s heart pounded visibly through her petite frame like a young deer frozen in a hunter’s sight.

Giddel stepped forward and clenched her face in his powerful hand, gazing fiercely into her eyes. The beast could not decipher such beauty.

“You'll get your reward. I’ll see to it myself.”

The soldiers stormed out of the room and down the staircase into the square.

Rahab watched from the window as Giddel marshaled his men and their horses - shouting orders left, right and centre, while cursing Adin for taking so long to open the gates. They charged out of the city down the moonlight road like a pack of ravenous wolves salivating on the scent of their prey. The gates closed behind them, and for that small mercy, Rahab was extremely grateful.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Filthy whore"

Under the cover of darkness, Giddel silently mobilized his troops across the square to storm Rahab’s house. Two were stationed at the base of the staircase, and six on the door. Hashum provided cover with the archers on the wall, in case the spies managed to escape the ambush.

With sword drawn, Giddel thumped loudly on Rahab’s door.

“Rahab, open up.”

No answer - but patience wasn’t Giddel’s forte. He knocked again, more aggressively this time.

“Open up.”

Just as he was about to knock again, Giddel heard footsteps approaching. The door opened slowly - it was Rahab, gathering a shawl around her shoulders to shield her from the cool night air.

“What's the problem?”

“Where are the Hebrew spies?” replied Giddel.


“Yes, you heard me. Don’t play games.” Giddel and his soldiers burst through the door, dropping all civility as they shoved Rahab aside.

“But there's no one here.”


“Look for yourself. Its just me.”

“We’ll see about that.”

Giddel motioned his troops to be quiet, while he carefully inspected the room. He placed his ear up against the walls and listened for suspicious sounds.

There was nothing but silence.

Bending down onto the floor, he scanned his eyes across the room under the furniture.


Walking into the corridor, he cautiously entered the bedrooms and checked behind doors and under beds. He even jumped up and down in the floorboards to see if any were loose. Again, there was nothing.

The frustration finally got to him. He angrily lashed out, stabbing the beds with his sword and tearing the curtains down on top of himself - much to the surprise of the other soldiers in the house.

“Damn it.”

“Are you alright?” asked Rahab.

“The curtain rod hit me,” he replied, nursing the bruise on forehead.

At his wit’s end, and somewhat embarrassed, Giddel leaned out the window to check if they jumped. There were no signs of disturbance, either on the window frame or on the ground below.

While all this was going on, Rahab calmly played her part - not too smug to arouse suspicion, but not too annoyed to provoke Giddel’s anger. Thankfully, Giddel didn’t notice a fine piece of straw fall slowly from the ceiling and land on the floorboards. Neither did he notice Rahab casually step forward to cover the straw with her foot.

“Two Egyptians came for a drink this afternoon,” said Rahab. “Well, I thought they were Egyptians. They left before the gate closed. If you hurry, you could probably catch them before they get to the crossing.”

Rahab stared innocently at Giddel with her beautiful brown eyes.

“How unfortunate,” said Giddel in a soft mocking tone, “the King was going to reward you with his bed.”

He wrapped his arm around her waist tightly and kissed her softly. Rahab had long since felt any feelings towards him, but went through the motions while she carefully considered her answer.

“Then you must catch them,” she said abruptly, “I could do with the money”.

“Filthy whore!”

Giddel swiftly slapped her to the ground with astonishing power.

Rahab reeled with pain on the floor boards as blood trickled from her nose and lip. But it was worth it, every bit of it. He had taken the decoy.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

There is no God, just stories.

The King thought deeply for a moment, then arose from his throne to proudly inspect the idols displayed around his walls.

“You know I’m one to ramble on with stories of my youth. I've studied all religions, the tribes of the upper Nile, the Chaldeans, even beyond the mountains of Persia.”

He held up a golden figurine and waved it like a toy.

“There is no God, just stories.”

Elam threw the idol to the floor, smashing it to a thousand pieces.

“See, I knew it was clay underneath. Don’t worry, I have many more.”

Hashum took his Father’s arm and drew him close.

“What if you're wrong?”

Elam despised the look of fear in Hashum’s eyes. “Faith is the deceitful cloak of conquest, and Joshua's is no exception.”

“So what do we do with the spies?” Giddel asked impatiently.

Elam pulled away and slowly paced the floor, circling his sons and stroking his beard. He relished in the theatrics of weighing up the moral implications of this decision. The spies were like a dangerous species approaching extinction.

“The Hebrews are the only people on earth without a king. They have only one god, with no name and no idol to worship.”

“And no land,” said Giddel. “So shall we arrest them or kill them?”

“Wouldn't it be better to keep them alive?” asked Hashum, “to trade them later.”

“Why?” asked Elam, “What do the Hebrews have that I need? Nothing more for my collections. They’ll vanish into the scrolls of history soon enough.”

“As you wish,” said Giddel, grateful to finally get the answer he wanted.

“Good, and be sure to tie their heads to a post at the crossing,” the King coldly remarked.

“Their heads?” asked Hashum.

“Let me put it like this. I could imagine more crude and offensive things we could tie to a post, but vultures steal them easily and they don’t identify the bodies.”

Elam’s matter-of-fact reply got the desired response. His two sons turned to leave the throne room.

“Oh, and I almost forgot, the whore should be rewarded; perhaps after your mother retires for the evening.”

Giddel scowled and barged out the door, with Hashum in his wake.

Elam chuckled to himself. He knew Giddel always had eyes for Rahab. Like most accomplished dictators, his manners were like fine silver cutlery - reserved only for special occasions.

King Elam of Jericho

Elam, the King of Jericho, was an extremely wealthy man, which was hardly surprising considering he charged taxes like a wounded bull on the trade routes between Jerusalem, Damascus and Arabia (although some said he was more like a parasite fastened on the neck of a wounded bull).

His palace was made of the finest marble, and decorated with golden bird baths, polished cedar furniture, ivory door handles, and large statues of himself prominently displayed in every courtyard and fountain.

The walls and hallways were adorned with all sorts of treasures and tapestries from every corner of the globe. Ancient artifacts from Egypt, golden idols from Persia, tribal spears from Ethiopia and a stuffed tiger's head from India – all proudly catalogued the history of man and his notorious achievements.

In many respects, Elam was a collector of relics, particularly religious icons. He kept countless valuables on his middle aged body, like golden necklaces in his greying chest hair, and a belt studded with sacred Babylonian jewels that seemed a little too tight around his waist.

Some were even living, breathing treasures, like his tall African bodyguard who at the tender age of twenty had mastered the black arts of sorcery and knew a hundred ways to kill a man in ten seconds with his bare hands.

So Elam’s fascination with all things religious, however obsessive, made the arrival of his eldest son all the more distinguished given the contents of the scroll that he so proudly delivered.

“Hashum, my first born, you never fail to please me. Giddel take note, it takes a fine hunter to kill two wolves with one arrow.”

“He’s done well, no doubt about that,” Giddel replied, “but your jesting cannot provoke me to jealously. He deserves all the accolades.”

“Father, as always, it’s my pleasure to serve you,” said Hashum as handed over the scroll, “the spies are with Rahab as we speak.”

Elam unravelled it with the anticipation of a biologist discovering a new species. He would enjoy adding this to his collection. “How was the camel on your trip?”

“Not as fast or well mannered as my horse, though I can’t complain. It did the job.”

“Yes I can see,” replied the King as he read through the scroll. “Thou shalt not steal, ... kill, ... false witness, ...and so on.”

Elam looked up and smiled, “The usual diarrhea. Let me guess, they want my land, they'll murder my people, and then tell their little children stories about the evil King of Jericho.”

He handed the scroll to his African bodyguard and awaited Hashum's response. “Well? What do you think?”

“Father, With the Midianite's defeat, there's nothing in their way.”

“Mmm, tell me about this Joshua. You fear he'll replace Moses?”

“He already has,” said Hashum. “Moses is dead.”


“Did Joshua murder him?” asked Giddel.

“No. Not that I know off,” replied Hashum, “but I'm more afraid of their god.”

Elam laughed, “What, the one who supposedly parted the Red Sea, then let his Prophet die in the wilderness? Now that’s your mother’s sense of humor.”

“No father,” replied Hashum. “If that’s how he judged his Prophet, how will he judge his enemies?”

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nowhere to run

The moment Rahab left their room, Salman and Phinehas tried to have a quiet argument. The whispers, sign language, and charades eventually made Salman burst into laughter when he finally realized how ridiculous they looked.

Phinehas slapped his hand over Salman’s mouth as he rushed to check the window. It was a long way down.

“We're in danger,” Phinehas whispered.

Salman signaled for Phinehas to let go of his mouth.
“From a whore?” he replied, “Unlikely. She thinks we’re Egyptian. She doesn't know who we are.”

Phinehas paced the floor, thinking aloud in whispers. “What if she does? She sells her body, she might decide to sell us. We’d fetch a handsome reward. Or maybe she’s been in it all along and the whole thing’s an act?”

“You really think so?”

“You're falling for her,” answered Phinehas

“No I'm not.”

“Sure you are,” Phinehas continued, leaning out the window for a better look. “Everything’s adding up.”

“Well you were never good with numbers,” joked Salman.

“Its not a game. Deception starts with denial, and ends with death.”

Salman crossed his arms and paced the floor. “Alright, suppose you’re right and I actually do think she’s pretty. So what? It doesn’t change our situation.”

Phinehas grabbed Salman’s face “You don’t get it, do you? We can't use the well, so we’re told to come here. And what better way to keep us here, than her? There's no time.”

Salman’s heart sunk. He checked the window for himself. That’s too far to jump, he thought, the fall would kill us, or worse - break our legs and alert the guards. We’d be captured, tortured, and jeopardize the entire invasion.

“We're gonna to have to risk it,” Phinehas muttered as he gathered his belongings.

“Wait a minute,” Salman interrupted, “I hear what you’re saying, but I still think she's harmless. Now the man they let in after dark, he’s got me worried. He looks familiar. Remember that arms merchant a few months ago?”

“The one who said he was from Damascus?” replied Phinehas.

“Yes. He asked for a copy of the Ten Commandments, but I thought nothing of it at the time.”

Phinehas stopped pacing the floor and froze. “How could I forget? We were followed.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A stranger in the night

Surprised at his own embarrassment, Salman smiled boyishly and returned to the window, “Thank you, we do feel welcome. I'm curious though, that field is completely bare. Your King leaves no crops around the edges for the poor?”

“Hunger makes slaves of us all,” Rahab answered.

Salman considered her reply while observing something else out the window. In the distance, a lone dark figure rode towards the city on a camel.

“Indeed it does. Some people are sold into slavery, but others sell themselves.”

“Either way, they’re both slaves,” said Rahab.

“True,” Salman chuckled, enjoying the game of cat and mouse.

“Still, you've done well for yourself,” Phinehas interrupted, “to live so close to the gate?”

“Nothing comes cheaply for a woman,” she replied.

Salman sensed Phinehas overstepped the mark, and his suspicions were confirmed as Rahab dutifully cleared the half eaten meal. Quick, change the subject, he thought.

“Is it common to open the gate after sunset?”

“Sometimes,” Rahab cautiously replied.

Salman turned again to the window and watched the camel rider approach the gate. He looked athletic but slender, about thirty years of age and carrying a long thin sword over his shoulder. Although a headpiece covered most of his face, a rope burn scar was clearly visible around his neck. Strange, Salman thought, that face looks familiar. The rider’s whispered conversation with the Gatekeeper aroused even more suspicion.

The sound of the gate opening put a wet blanket on the conversation. Everyone knew they should keep talking but nobody wanted to. The silence was all the more disturbing as they strained to hear what the guards were saying (without admitting they were eavesdropping).

“So you're from Egypt?” asked Rahab.

“We're tired, sorry,” Phinehas replied, in a manner that was really asking her to leave.

“Too tired to answer questions, but not to ask? I should leave you alone then.”

“Wait,” Salman interrupted, “how could you tell?”

“Your accent, of course.”

“Yes, of course,” Salman responded, strangely amused that for the first time in his life he was aware of this fact. How ironic.

Rahab politely bid the gentlemen good night and quietly moved to the other bedroom, by the window on the inner wall overlooking the city square. Through the wooden shutters, she watched the camel rider dismount and embrace Giddel like a brother returning from a long and dangerous journey. The two men walked off briskly into the palace, as the gate to the city shut with an ominous finality.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Rahab the prostitute

Reaching bottom of the staircase, Salman looked up and noticed an attractive young woman opening the door of the inn. Two men were leaving; they weren’t the typically rough types he expected, in fact, one seemed vaguely familiar as he passed by on the staircase - but he couldn't put his finger on it.

Besides, it was the woman that really grabbed his attention.

Salman only caught a glimpse before she went back inside, but it enough to take his breath away. She was simply stunning, in her late teens or early twenties, with straight black hair, and deep beautiful brown eyes. Her clothing, headpiece and jewelry were lavishly feminine, but not so overdone as to appear gawdy.

On reaching the inn, Salman hesitated with his clenched fist poised to knock on the door.

“What is it?” whispered Phinehas.

“Nothing. It's fine,” replied Salman.

He knocked briskly, and within a few moments a peek hole in the door promptly slid open.

“Gentlemen, its too late in the day,” said the young woman, sizing them up, “Unless want to stay for the night?”

“I do. We do.” Salman nervously replied, trying not to gaze into her gorgeous eyes. “We’d like a bed. Two actually, of our own. Two beds of our own... without you. I mean in your house, but just to sleep.”

She opened the door and laughed, “You’re not from around here, that’s for sure. I don’t bite. Come on in.”

The inn was fortuitously placed directly on top of the wall, with wooden shuttered windows overlooking both the fields outside and the city square. A large dining table occupied the centre of the inn, capable of seating twenty or more at a banquet, with a fireplace to the right and corridor leading to two bedrooms to the left.

The men were graciously ushered to their room, where they promptly dumped their belongings and quenched their thirst with a large jug of water. Within minutes, they were devouring an exquisite meal of lamb stew brought straight from the pot above the fireplace and served at their bedside table.

Tired and sore from a long day’s journey, the men finally kicked off their shoes and tried to relax with a modest portion of wine. But it was an impossible task, with their host scurrying in and out of the room, carrying dishes and topping up glasses. Indeed, Salman and Phinehas were so intrigued by her unquestionable beauty that they had completely forgotten to ask her name.

From the window on the outer wall, Salman pretended to absorb the magnificent view of the moonlit fields in the east towards the Jordan. Phinehas resigned himself to remain seated at the table and focus on his meal.

“Is there any...” Phinehas couldn't finish before the woman placed a large flask of water on the table.

“Water?” she interrupted, a little too close for Phinehas’ liking.

“Yes thank you, that’ll be all. You... you can leave us alone now.”

But she didn’t.

And neither Phinehas or Salman knew knew what to say.

“I am Rahab,” she replied.

They were three simple words, spoken like someone from a long forgotten dream. Her voice sounded so intriguing, Salman no longer pretended to look out the window.

“I'm Rahab, and this is my Inn.”

Both men were speechless, hanging on her every word.

“And you have names?”

“Forgive me, I'm Salman and this is my companion Phinehas.”

Rahab smiled. The ice was broken.

“Well gentlemen, welcome to Jericho.”

Friday, February 5, 2010

Trouble at the well

Jericho echoed with the sound of the Gatekeeper’s horn. It was time to shut the city for the evening.

Salman casually turned around and observed Adin close the iron-plated gates in his customary routine. Too late to turn back now, he thought, even if I wanted to.

“So we sleep in the square, or take our chances with the locals?”

“Water first,” replied Phinehas as he unpacked a goatskin water bag, “because you never know...”

CRASH. The sudden noise caught them by surprise. A second gate made of solid iron bars slammed shut about twenty feet behind the main one underneath the stone archway.

“Well look at that!” Salman noted. “A clever trap don’t you think?”

“A cage for rats,” replied Phinehas. “Boiling oil from above, archers from behind. Eeesh! No thanks.”

“Come on, lets find somewhere for the night.” said Salman.

“Don’t you listen? Water first. We may have to leave in a hurry.”

It was difficult to disagree with Phinehas when Salman's own mouth was parched from the long walk.

The two men promptly headed towards the middle of the square, where an entire caravan of camels were drinking from several large troughs. One of the smelly beasts was pulled aside by its keeper as a matter of courtesy, to make room for the men to draw from the well.

It was an ancient but remarkably solid construction, with a circular stone wall, perfectly round and reaching up to waist height. A sturdy wooden beam across the top secured a large bucket suspended on a rope deep into the water underground. It’s clever builder had even thought to seal the mouth of the well with two wooden shutters, to stop small animals contaminating the water.

Just as Phinehas was about to draw water, Salman noticed the Gatekeeper pushing his way towards them through the camels, short tempered and ready to pick a fight.

“Hey! You filthy foreigners. That's not yours, its for locals. You have to pay for water at the Inn. You think we want your diseases?”

“What diseases?” Phinehas replied angrily.

Salman motioned for Phinehas to calm down. The Gatekeeper was either too stupid to consider the camels, or else he genuinely believed the men were inferior. Either way, it was pointless arguing.

“Where exactly is this Inn?” Salman asked.

”Over there.” Adin pointed towards a staircase on the right side of the wall beside the main entrance to the square. “Don’t worry, you’ll be well looked after.”

On closer inspection, Salman realized there were many houses built into the wall - three levels in fact. This meant the walls were hollow, and not nearly as strong as they first appeared.

“We don't want to cause any trouble,” said Salman casually. “Please excuse my brother, he's a bit slow. Thanks for your help.”

“The pleasure’s mine,” Adin replied with a disturbing politeness that seemed out of character for such a coarse man.

Naturally, Salman didn’t wish to reveal his deep ceded suspicions, nor allow Phinehas the opportunity for more trouble. So he promptly grabbed his arm and forcefully ushered his “brother” towards towards the staircase.

“Ok this dumb brother trick is really getting to me,” whispered Phinehas.

“No, I think it suits you,” replied Salman cheekily.

Phinehas scowled with displeasure. “And I won’t be the guest of a whore.”

“He didn’t say she was a prostitute.”

“Oh come on, ‘you’ll be well looked after.’ Whats that supposed to mean?”

“Well even if she’s a lady of questionable character,” Salman whispered, “please don’t kill her. Knowing your luck, all Hell would break loose.”

“Very funny,” Phinehas replied, gritting his teeth. “I’m bursting with laughter.”

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Captain of Jericho

The King of Jericho's youngest son was a superb fighter in his mid twenties by the name of Giddel. As Captain of the Guard, he conducted the daily training armed only with a wooden staff. Surprisingly, his opponent was barely sixteen years old, for on closer inspection Salman realized all his students were just boys.

Although the youth was armed with a real sword, Giddel seemed undisturbed by the threat of genuine harm. He carried no shield or armor, except for a large belt around his waist and a row of tough leather ribbing strapped along his powerful right arm. His strength and reflexes were something to admire, though Salman sensed he was merely toying with the teenager for he barely broke a sweat. Nevertheless, this was rookie training - brutal, fast and nasty.

Giddel swerved to sidestep an overhead strike, then tripped the boy and stole his sword while he fell to the ground.

“Get up,” Giddel shouted then tossed the sword back to the ground. “I carry my weapon in one hand, but I have three other limbs to strike you. I could have just as easily broken your jaw with my left arm.”

"It's not fair" replied the boy as he scrambled to his feet.

"Fair? Oh we can play fair. Shall I call for my sword?"

"No Sir."

Giddel looked over to the next boy waiting in line for a cruel initiation. “Lets make it easier. You, join him over here.”

A second boy stood by the first, bracing themselves for another round.

Giddel closed his eyes, threw his wooden staff away and turned his back to them. This was a lesson they'll never forget.


Dropping to the ground, Giddell rolled to one side and dodged a wild strike from the first boy. A quick kick to the groin, and the lad was paralyzed with pain.

The second boy lunged aggressively with his sword, but Giddel was already on one knee. He grabbed the boy’s fighting arm and threw him over his shoulder like he was tossing a bale of hay.

Giddel sprung up, and stood over his bruised and battered opponents. They had barely enough time to swipe the dust from their faces before realizing that Giddel held both their swords an inch from their throats.

“I had nothing but my bare hands. Its what you do with what you have - thats what counts. Never forget it.”

“Yes Sir,” they replied as they returned to their positions.

Salman and Phinehas could not believe what they were seeing.

“If this is how they train boys...” Phinehas whispered.

“What about their men? I know.” Salman interrupted, “And by the way, the wall is twenty one paces thick.”

Phinehas looked at Salman with a hint of fear. “They expect Joshua to attack. They're getting ready.”

“Getting?” Salman replied “I’d say they’re well and truly ready.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Jericho - the fortress city

Forty years passed since the Red Sea crossing, and many sad stories filled the painful chapters of Israel’s wilderness wanderings. Difficult but important matters were left undone, while popular distractions occupied the Hebrews like a dog chasing its tail.

Except for Joshua and Caleb, an entire generation died without ever reaching the promised land of Canaan. But on one hot summer’s day, as the sun was setting over the bustling city of Jericho, something was finally happening, though no one seemed to notice.

The “City of Palms”, as it was known then, was surrounded by lush fertile fields bursting with crops, mostly barley, but also checkered with rows of dates, grapes, and olives. A long boulevard of palm trees lined the entrance to the fortress city, whose monstrous walls crowned a proud and prosperous kingdom. Its immense wealth drew traders of every description like bees to a honey pot, all hurrying to enter before the gates closed.

Approaching the large stone archway above the entrance, two such “traders” took careful notice of their surroundings. Phinehas, bearded and in his mid twenties, was tall and exceptionally strong, although modestly dressed in a plain brown robe to blend in with the crowd.

Alongside him was Salman, a slightly younger man of average build but blessed with such boyish charm that could barely hide beneath his scruffy unwashed appearance.

Along the road to Jericho, they had travelled with many merchants and farmers in a caravan trail of camels, cattle, and goats. Some made the short trip from Gilgal, a small town just near the Jordan river, to market their wares in the Jericho markets. Others travelled from distant exotic lands, bringing all manner of luscious fabrics, fragrances and spices .

There were numerous small conversations - answering questions about where they came from, what they were doing, and who they knew at Jericho. Salman did most of the talking, and enjoyed pretending to appear interested without really giving away any information. He particularly liked excusing his “dim-witted brother” from conversations because “he wouldn’t add any thing meaningful.”

Entering the city, they noticed the gates were constructed of large wooden beams plated with thick iron reinforcement. Enormous golden shields engraved with mysterious patterns hung from each interlocking cross beam. A cold shiver ran through Phinehas’ spine as he walked passed the sacred golden calf, the centerpiece of the stone archway above them.

What alarmed Salman the most were the walls - enormous stone mountains of defense, higher and thicker than anything they had ever seen. It made sense; a city guarding such fertile lands and reliable water would be too attractive for invading armies. He counted his steps through the archway, just to be guess the wall’s dimensons, although it was difficult to concentrate in the bustling crowd.

It was a strong and powerful kingdom. Phinehas could see it in the well crafted swords and bronze chest plates of the guards at the gate.

Salman saw it in the eyes of the traders lining the entrance to the city square. They were in it for money, and lots of it. Jericho was the place to set up business, and the city had grown rich by keeping things that way.

Across the bustling square, hundreds of soldiers marched out of the palace and marshalled in the forecourt. The King's palace towered over the whole city, casting a long shadow across all the people. Surrounding the square were countless narrow dusty streets lined with mud brick homes. It was the largest city Salman had ever seen.

But it was the soldiers that kept Phinehas' attention. They appeared to be combat training, although at first there was more shouting than actual fighting. But they seemed very disciplined, and that enticed Phinehas to press closer for a better look.

Walking further across the square, they came alongside dozens of Africans shackled in chains to large iron posts near the cattle yards. Salman tugged at Phinehas’ tunic.

“Look, slaves,” he whispered.
“What?” replied Phinehas, distracted by the soldiers.
“Poor souls,” Salman continued, “who knows where they’ll end up?”

The giant barrel-chested gatekeeper, Adin, rang the bell for the evening watch, sending traders packing up their stalls and heading home. He seemed to enjoy annoying everyone, barking orders and helping himself to whatever he wanted.

Salman observed the movement along the walls. Guards clamored to take their new positions as the day shift came down the narrow staircases. What type of soldiers were they? He would only know for certain in the heat of battle. Phinehas has the right idea, Salman thought. I should watch them train.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Pharaoh’s forces were indeed cursed.

Hundreds of his finest chariots suddenly stopped in their tracks with every problem imaginable. Perfectly crafted axles snapped in two, wheels fell off, and riders were thrown to the ground. Panic stricken horses with riderless chariots ran in every direction, crushing many of their own soldiers in the mayhem.

And still Pharaoh pursued the Hebrews, driven by wrath, and blinded to his own fate.

Not surprisingly, at the same time Moses raised his staff, Pharaoh drew his bow, for he was close enough to take a lucky shot. But with the old prophet in his sights, he failed to notice a large rock before his chariot smashed into a hundred pieces.

It didn’t stop him. Picking himself up from the ground Pharaoh grasped his bow and arrow to fire again. White hot rage could only focus on one thing; killing Moses.

Pharaoh was so close now, he could see exactly what Moses was doing.

He could see, but he paid no regard. When someone is consumed with rage, their senses are dulled. Pharaoh didn’t hear the the pain of men and horses breaking bones. He didn't see the terror of the ocean walls collapsing. He didn't feel the sorrow of his last breath.

He didn't care. All he felt was rage. Pure evil rage.

And that was the last thing he felt, at least in this life.

The titanic avalanche of water reigned down more destruction than a tsunami. For a tidal wave spreads it’s force over miles of coastline - but these two colossal walls of water collapsed into a narrow canyon just a few hundred yards wide.

Joshua waited till the monstrous waves died down before wading through the water for any signs of life. Every Hebrew had crossed safely, but Pharaoh and his army were no where to be seen.

Slowly as the churning waters returned to their slumber, Joshua walked further into the water to catch closer look. Far beyond the breaking waves he saw the bodies of thousands of men, stripped of their armor and clothing, floating on the surface.

They were all dead - laid out like a banquet for an army of birds to feast upon. Gulls and cormorants, ospreys and pelicans swarmed in a frenzy fighting each other for a seat at this table.

Soon enough, other guests arrived from the depths of the oceans. Swarms of sharks churned and thrashed a frenzy of bubbles and blood. The waters came alive with ravenous predators, like the hounds of hell devouring their prey. It was a feast fit for royalty – with a king, and all army on the menu.

Joshua quickly headed back to the shallow water, fearful for his own safety. When some thing suddenly brushed against his foot, he was relieved to discover it was only a dead body washed ashore. It was no one special, just an unknown soldier, but sword in his belt looked too beautiful to leave rusting on the beach forever.

It was a curious feeling. In all his years of slavery Joshua desperately wanted to fight. Now as a free man, it felt strange to hold such a magnificent weapon.

Naturally, it's owner no longer needed it. Joshua paused to admire the finely craftedblade in the morning sunlight. He was almost going to throw it back in the water when he changed his mind. It would no doubt prove a trusted companion in the coming days.

He carefully sheathed the sword in his belt, turned and joined Moses, with the rest of his people, safe on freedom's shores.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Joshua felt sick in the stomach - looking over his shoulder, the distant lights of Pharaoh’s army could only mean one thing. They had taken the bait.

He had hoped the Egyptians would turn around and go home, but Pharaoh was just as stubborn as he was cruel. The more Joshua thought about it, the more it didn’t make sense. What kind of man would fight against God?

Someone who thinks he IS God, thought Joshua.

With no children or elderly, the Egyptians were moving much faster than the Hebrews. Word of their chase soon spread amongst the crowds, and although everyone knew better, the more they panicked the slower they seemed to go.

“Why doesn’t God stop them?” someone shouted. “What happened to the pillar of fire?”

“Calm down, just move as fast as you can,” Joshua reassured. “Only a few miles to go. No need to look back.”

“Lord, deliver us from Pharaoh!“ cried a tiny old man, standing in Joshua’s way with arms raised to the heavens. “By your mighty hand, smite him with plagues, and fire and brimstone and send the Angel of Death to...”

“Excuse me sir,” Joshua interrupted.

“Send the Angel of Death to pour out your wrath on them...”

“Excuse me Sir! The Almighty is quite capable of all that and more, and I’m sure he appreciates your prayers - but please, move along. We’ve no time to spare. Really, no time at all.”

Easier said than done.

Even for Joshua, it was tempting to look back and despair at the very time when they needed the courage to run.

“Run! All of you, RUN!” shouted Joshua.

In those final hours of darkness, Joshua rounded up the last of the weary stragglers - hoisting children on the backs of smelly oxen, and nursing mothers onto carts of squashed grapes. Better to arrive safely in a mess, than suffer death at the hand of Pharaoh.

By the early light of dawn, the last Hebrew tribe reached the other side of the Red Sea. Tired and sore, vast columns of people staggered out from the ocean and onto the beach with tears of joy. But Joshua knew there was not a moment to spare. The Egyptians were hot on their heels, just a mile away, charging like men possessed.

Reaching safety of the beach, Joshua wearily climbed off his horse and was heartily greeted by Moses and Caleb.

“Well done!” said Moses embracing him.

“You’ve got everyone?” asked Caleb.

“Yes of course,” Joshua gasped, still catching his breath. “Moses, close back the waters. Quickly, please.”

“Do you know for sure?” Moses replied.

Joshua looked back towards the ocean, only to realize his deepest fears. A few hundred yards away, three terrified young children were so exhausted they could barely move.

“Good Lord,” gasped Caleb, “we can’t let the Egyptians reach us.”

Ignoring his tired body, Joshua scrambled back onto his horse and galloped to the rescue. He jumped off his saddle and grabbed the two smallest, a six year old girl and her little brother. Hoisting them up on his saddle, he slapped his horse soundly on the rump and sent it charging to safety.

Caleb arrived on horseback in the nick of time.

“Quickly, take him,” yelled Joshua lifting the last child up into the saddle.

“What about you?” replied Caleb.

“Don’t worry about me. Just go!” Joshua shouted.

The sound of the Egyptians cursing and cracking whips echoed loudly behind them.

Joshua sprinted towards the shore with all the strength he could muster. He dared not look back at the hideous sounds behind him, for fear of tripping and not having the strength to get back up. Gasping for air and quivering with exhaustion, he finally reached the beach and collapsed on the sand.

“They should have... should have...killed me.”

“Look at their chariots!” said Caleb, helping Joshua to his feet. “The wheels are falling off.”

Moses stepped forward and lifted his rod out over the water.

“The Almighty has done this. Our God is an awesome God.”