Then again, perhaps it was not so much notorious as it was well known. After all, Jericho was far from having moral standards. It was one of the cities on God's destroy-them list for Israel. Which was why the spies were there in the first place.
In those days, is was not uncommon for a prostitute to run an inn along side her harlotry business. If the spies wanted information, a public inn was the obvious choice. All the news from the city and the surrounding cities would have come floating in throughout the day, and streaming in once the city gates were closed and strangers needed somewhere to stay for the night. There would doubtless have been any number of such hotels available, but the spies picked Rahab's.
Rahab would have been startled to see these men walk into her inn. They were not from the local area, that much was certain. She went about her usual welcome, testing the waters to see what the men really wanted - a room.. or something more?? It became clear right away however, that the men just wanted a room.
"So, where are you from?" she asked, as she led the men up the stairs to the room where they would lodge for the night. You are not from Jericho."
The men hesitated. "We are nomads," the taller one replied cautiously.
"Oh? I don't get many 'nomads' in my inn - they are usually content in their camps." She eyed the men suspiciously. Letting them into their room, she followed and closed the door. The men glanced at each other and back at their hostess. Rahab quickly drew close to them and lowered her voice to a whisper. "Are you spies?"
The men stared at her in astonishment. This woman was not one to be trifled with, or double-crossed. Rahab took their silence for confirmation. "Where are you from?" She asked the question, not with the sternness of someone determined to get answers, but with almost an eagerness and innocent curiosity of a child preparing herself for a good story.
Finally, the tall man replied, "We are from the house of Israel, which is camped at Acacia Grove." Rahab sprang back from the men as though their words had stung her with all the venom of forty cobras. She was shaking. "Israel..." She whispered. Quickly, and without another word, she left the room.
It took some time to recover from her shock. She paced back and forth in her room, oblivious of if there were any other guests downstairs. Her soul was disturbed and she could hardly breathe. Suddenly, as though waking from a dream, she realized she had to get dinner on to cook. While she scrubbed the potatoes and chopped the meat, her mind raced with all she had heard concerning Israel. They had a God fighting for them, it was said. A God who had destroyed Egypt. A God who allowed His people to walk through the Red Sea. A God who destroyed the kings of the Amorites. Rahab felt her heart begin to pound again, and her hands began to shake so violently, she had to put down her knife.
Finally, the stew was ready, and she was about to serve the stew and call her guests to eat, when a young boy - her nephew, Lehagad - burst in the door. "Aunt Rahab! There are soldiers coming! From the king!" Lehagad dashed out the door again to view the spectacle.
Rahab dropped the platters the was carrying and ran up the stairs as fast as she possibly could. There was no certainty that the soldiers were coming to her little inn, and yet Rahab was certain that they were. She burst into the room of the Israelites without even knocking. Startled, they looked at her and took in her white face, her lips moving silently. The tall man who seemed to do all the talking, stepped to her quickly and grasped her shoulders. "What is it? Tell us, quickly!" The shorter man, Rahab noticed, was on guard and had his had on his sword.
"Soldiers," Rahab gasped. The men tensed. "Come with me."
Rahab led the men at a running pace up two more levels until they came out into the open air.
"Where are we?" The short one spoke for the first time.
"You didn't notice? I live in the wall of the city - this is the top of the wall. Now get down - both of you!" The men obeyed and dropped on their fronts. Quickly, Rahab arranged some drying sheaves of flax over them. In the dying light, they were barely distinguishable. Rahab glanced over the edge of the wall and saw the the soldiers were turning into her street. "I'll be back," she murmured, and ran downstairs. She took a few deep breaths and arranged her scarf over her head. Her hands were still trembling. Then, on an impulse, she threw back her head and stared up at the ceiling. "Oh God of the Israelites! I don't know you, or what you require of your people, but I know that you are powerful. You are a God of strength. Give me the strength to face these soldiers and protect the men from your camp."
Just then, there was a harsh rapping at the door. Going to the door, Rahab came face to face with a group of soldiers demanding to know the whereabouts of the the Israelites that came to her inn. Rahab felt a flood of peace and strength flood over her and she answered the soldiers calmly. "Oh yes, they were here," she said, sidling up to the general, shyly fluttering her eyes at him from under her scarf. Her voice was low and seductive. "I fed them, then they left the city." Suddenly, she grabbed the general's arm with both her slender hands, allowing her scarf to fall to her shoulders. "Go quickly! Perhaps you can catch up with them before the gates close!"
The general hesitated. He looked down at the beautiful woman who was still clutching at his arm and looking up at him from under her lashes. He fancied that he'd rather stay... but if his commander fond out that he had allowed the Israelite spies escape for the comforts of a mere woman, beautiful though she be... no. He shook his arm of her touch. "Thankyou, ma'am. Your contribution to your city will be duly noted and rewarded. Until next time, ma'am."
Rahab cocked her head and watched as the soldiers jogged towards the city gates. She chuckled to herself. Poor fellow. Did he not know that she did not allow soldiers in her little inn? They were vulgar men, in her opinion. She was glad to have diverted them. She chuckled again as she heard the city gates closing. Satisfied, she walked gaily in the house, humming a little tune to herself. The general would not be back, not tonight at any rate. With a light heart she skipped up the stairs to where the men still lay hidden.
"It's all clear," she said. She sat up and brushed stray stalks of flax from their clothing.
"We cannot thankyou enough for your protection," the tall man said, sincerity evident in his voice.
"Why did you do it?" The shorter one asked.
Rahab paused and pondered for a moment before answering. "We have heard of your God, how He parted the Red Sea, destroyed the Egyptian, and the Amorite kings. Everyone was filled with fear."
"Which was why you looked pale and startled when we told you who we were."
"Yes, I was afraid, but I have come to a conclusion, and that is that if your God is all powerful and all satisfying, I would rather follow Him. And this is what I propose. When Israel takes Jericho, you will remember me and my family, and you will come for us and we will live with you and learn to follow your God."
The men glanced at each other. Then the tall man reached for Rahab's hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Agreed." He pulled a scarlet cord from his belt and handed it to her. "Leave this in your window until we come for you."
Rahab took the cord and nodded. "Now I will give you some food and we will get you out of here."
Rahab grinned. "I live on the wall, don't I?? I'll just let you down with a rope!" The short man looked worried, but the tall one laughed and followed Rahab down to dinner.
Seven years later, Rahab stood in the door of her house, waiting for her husband to come in from the fields. Baby Boaz began to cry and she went to sooth him in his cradle. Tenderly, she began to whisper to him. "Don't you start to cry now, baby. You have a strong, strong God on your side if you are willing to follow Him. Hear, o Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One..."