Forced from her family home by a scheming stepmother, Rahab becomes a prostitute at the House of Palms, which stands against Riha’s city walls. Here she must hide her Jewish heritage, for the tribes that left Egypt under Moses’s leadership half a century before are camping across the Jordan River, and the inhabitants of the city are expressing their fear of the nomads by beheading any they can capture. When she befriends two spies from the camp, Rahab becomes even more vulnerable. Not only is the king hunting the spies, but he is raising a temple to Moloch, a god whose worship demands opposition to many of her people’s teachings.
This is an excellent example of a novel created to tell the story of a little-known Biblical woman. Rahab is strong, likable and human, and appears to act like a woman of her time and culture. The setting is deftly presented; it really did feel like the city of Jericho before the walls fell to Joshua. I believe this is achieved in part by the judicious use of terms derived from Canaanite, Hebrew, Aramaic and Ugaritic, which are listed in a glossary. Told in the first person, the pages turned easily, and I look forward to the next novel in Ann Burton’s Women of the Bible series.