Rachav

58”X50” oil on canvas/wood 2000

Known as one of the most beautiful women in the world, Rachav was a famous harlot who kept a brothel along the walls of the city of Jericho. Her dramatic story of sin, repentance and redemption is found in the Book of Joshua.

Chosen to succeed Moses, Joshua was directed to bring the Jews across the Jordan, conquer the promised land and there establish the borders of the nation. One of his first acts was to send two spies to scout the city of Jericho. Arriving at the brothel of Rachav, she told them they had been discovered and the king’s men were coming to kill them. Rachav hid them on her roof, under stalks of flax, and asked in return protection for herself and her family. If she would hang a scarlet cord in the window, they told her, her house would not be attacked.

Commentaries tell us that not a prince or ruler lived who had not visited Rachav. At the age of Fifty, contemplating the scarlet cord in the window of her brothel, she repented and repudiated her past life. Eventually she became the wife of Joshua himself and the progenitor of many righteous people, including the prophet Jeremiah.

The lunette pictures a doorway smeared with blood. Before the Jews left Egypt for the wilderness, they were instructed by God to slaughter, roast and eat a kid or lamb, which the Egyptians venerated, and to smear its blood on the doorposts of their houses. This would be a sign to the Angel of Death that they were exempted from the last plague – that of the death of the firstborn.

In the same way that Rachav’s repudiation of her past life transformed her into one of the heroines of her time, the sign of blood signifying the repudiation of idol worship was a transforming and redemptive event for the Jews.

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