Rahab is a woman who has been imortalized in the Old Testament book of Joshua; she is famous for being a kind-hearted harlot, but there was a time when she was more than just a prostitute. She was once a daughter, a sister, a weaver with hopes and dreams. In Rahab's Story Ann Burton tells of the before, the after, and everything between the two.
It begins with adolescent Rahab. After living under her stepmother's tyrannical oppression for years, she is silent yet boiling with anger. She tolerates the abuse for the sake of her younger sister, Tezi, and for her love of her father. Rahab's secret worship of the Semitic god, Jehovah, leads to a fight that will push things too far. Before she can explain the truth to her father, she is accused of black magic and witchery. Without a chance to defend herself against these grave falsehoods, she is cast out of her bet ab, her father's house. Her name is struck from the scroll of ancestors and she is left to die in the gutter with the dogs.
Bearing her shaved head-- a symbol of shame-- she is scorned by society and driven out of the high class merchant's quarter. She wanders into Meshnedef, the most dangerous part of Riha (Jericho). Exhausted, terrified and starving, she is nearly resigned to her fate as one of the miskin, the poor and miserable. That is, until, she tries to steal from the House of Palms. Fortunately, she is intercepted by Tiamat, the proprietor of the House. Tiamat is a gentle, nurturing Egyptian woman. She is also a Zonah, a prostitute. In fact, all of the women in the House of Palms are prostitutes. The House is one of the best brothels in the city. With nowhere else to go, Rahab lives with the zonah and eventually becomes one of them.
But this is not her biggest secret; she must keep quiet that she is a Semite, for they are being executed by order of the king. Semitism is appalling to the Canaanites, but prostitution is accepted, even revered.
Years pass, but Rahab does not forget her faith or her sister. When two Semitic spies seek sanctuary in her house of harlots --a very dangerous request-- she gives them two conditions: that they take Tezi when they leave the city, and that they spare her household when the Semites destroy Jericho.