A Lineage of Grace
by Francine Rivers
Setting the Scene
So Jacob settled again in the land of Canaan, where his father had lived.
This is the history of Jacob’s family. When Joseph was seventeen years old, he often tended his father’s flocks with his half brothers, the sons of his father’s wives Bilhah and Zilpah. But Joseph reported to his father some of the bad things his brothers were doing. Now Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day he gave Joseph a special gift: a beautiful robe. But his brothers hated Joseph because of their father’s partiality. They couldn’t say a kind word to him.
One night Joseph had a dream and promptly reported the details to his brothers, causing them to hate him even more. “Listen to this dream,” he announced. “We were out in the field tying up bundles of grain. My bundle stood up, and then your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before it!”
“So you are going to be our king, are you?” his brothers taunted. And they hated him all the more for his dream and what he had said.
Then Joseph had another dream and told his brothers about it. “Listen to this dream,” he said. “The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me!”
This time he told his father as well as his brothers, and his father rebuked him. “What do you mean?” his father asked. “Will your mother, your brothers, and I actually come and bow before you?” But while his brothers were jealous of Joseph, his father gave it some thought and wondered what it all meant.
Soon after this, Joseph’s brothers went to pasture their father’s flocks at Shechem. When they had been gone for some time, Jacob said to Joseph, “Your brothers are over at Shechem with the flocks. I’m going to send you to them.”
“I’m ready to go,” Joseph replied.
“Go and see how your brothers and the flocks are getting along,” Jacob said. “Then come back and bring me word.” So Jacob sent him on his way, and Joseph traveled to Shechem from his home in the valley of Hebron.
When he arrived there, a man noticed him wandering around the country side. “What are you looking for?” he asked.
“For my brothers and their flocks,” Joseph replied. “Have you seen them?”
“Yes,” the man told him, “but they are no longer here. I heard your brothers say they were going to Dothan.”
So Joseph followed his brothers to Dothan and found them there. When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance and made plans to kill him.
“Here comes that dreamer!” they exclaimed. “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into a deep pit. We can tell our father that a wild animal has eaten him. Then we’ll see what becomes of all his dreams!”
But Reuben came to Joseph’s rescue. “Let’s not kill him,” he said. “Why should we shed his blood? Let’s just throw him alive into this pit here. That way he will die without our having to touch him.” Reuben was secretly planning to help Joseph escape, and then he would bring him back to his father.
So when Joseph arrived, they pulled off his beautiful robe and threw him into the pit. This pit was normally used to store water, but it was empty at the time. Then, just as they were sitting down to eat, they noticed a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking spices, balm, and myrrh from Gilead to Egypt.
Judah said to the others, “What can we gain by killing our brother? That would just give us a guilty conscience. Let’s sell Joseph to those Ishmaelite traders. Let’s not be responsible for his death; after all, he is our brother!”
And his brothers agreed. So when the traders came by, his brothers pulled Joseph out of the pit and sold him for twenty pieces of silver, and the Ishmaelite traders took him along to Egypt.
Some time later, Reuben returned to get Joseph out of the pit. When he discovered that Joseph was missing, he tore his clothes in anguish and frustration. Then he went back to his brothers and lamented, “The boy is gone! What can I do now?”
Then Joseph’s brothers killed a goat and dipped the robe in its blood. They took the beautiful robe to their father and asked him to identify it. “We found this in the field,” they told him. “It’s Joseph’s robe, isn’t it?”
Their father recognized it at once. “Yes,” he said, “it is my son’s robe. A wild animal has attacked and eaten him. Surely Joseph has been torn in pieces!” Then Jacob tore his clothes and put on sackcloth. He mourned deeply for his son for many days. His family all tried to comfort him, but it was no use. “I will die in mourning for my son,” he would say, and then begin to weep.
Meanwhile, in Egypt, the traders sold Joseph to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Potiphar was captain of the palace guard.
About this time, Judah left home and moved to Adullam, where he visited a man named Hirah. There he met a Canaanite woman, the daughter of Shua, and he married her. She became pregnant and had a son, and Judah named the boy Er. Then Judah’s wife had another son, and she named him Onan. And when she had a third son, she named him Shelah. At the time of Shelah’s birth, they were living at Kezib.
When his oldest son, Er, grew up, Judah arranged his marriage to a young woman named Tamar . . .
When Tamar saw Judah leading a donkey burdened with sacks and a fine rug, she took her hoe and ran to the farthest border of her father’s land. Sick with dread, she worked with her back to the house, hoping he would pass by and seek some other girl for his son. When her nurse called her, Tamar pretended not to hear and hacked harder at the earth with her hoe. Tears blinded her.
“Tamar!” Acsah puffed as she reached her. “Didn’t you see Judah? You must return to the house with me now. Your mother is about to send your brothers after you, and they’ll not take kindly to your delay.” Acsah grimaced. “Don’t look at me like that, child. This isn’t of my doing. Would you prefer a marriage with one of those Ishmaelite traders on his way to Egypt?”
“You’ve heard about Judah’s son just as I have.”
“I’ve heard.” She held out her hand, and Tamar reluctantly relinquished the hoe. “Perhaps it will not be as bad as you think.”
But Tamar saw in her nurse’s eyes that Acsah had her own grave doubts.
Tamar’s mother met them and grabbed Tamar by the arm. “If I had time, I would beat you for running off!” She pulled Tamar inside the house and into the women’s quarters.
No sooner was Tamar through the doorway than her sisters laid hands upon her and tugged at her clothing. Tamar gasped in pain as one yanked the cover carelessly from her head, pulling her hair as well. “Stop it!” She raised her hands to ward them off, but her mother stepped in.
“Stand still, Tamar! Since it took Acsah so long to fetch you, we must hurry.”
The girls were all talking at once, excited, eager.
“Mother, let me go just as I am!”
“Straight from the fields? You will not! You will be presented in the finest we have. Judah has brought gifts with him. And don’t you dare shame us with tears, Tamar.”
Swallowing convulsively, Tamar fought for self-control. She had no choice but to submit to her mother and sisters’ ministrations. They were using the best garments and perfume for her appearance before Judah, the Hebrew. The man had three sons. If she pleased him, it would be the firstborn, Er, who would become her husband. Last harvest, when Judah and his sons had brought their flocks to graze in the harvested fields, her father had commanded her to work nearby. She knew what he hoped to accomplish. Now, it seemed he had.
“Mother, please. I need another year or two before I’m ready to enter a household of my own.”
“Your father decides when you’re old enough.” Her mother wouldn’t look her in the eyes. “It’s not your right to question his judgment.” Tamar’s sisters chattered like magpies, making her want to scream. Her mother clapped her hands. “Enough! Help me get Tamar ready!”
Clenching her jaw, Tamar closed her eyes and decided she must resign herself to her fate. She had known that one day she would marry. She had also known her father would choose her husband. Her one solace was the ten-month betrothal period. At least she would have time to prepare her mind and heart for the life looming before her.
Acsah touched her shoulder. “Try to relax.” She untied Tamar’s hair and began to brush it with long, firm strokes. “Think soothing thoughts, dear one.”
She felt like an animal her father was preparing for sale. Ah, wasn’t she? Anger and despair filled her. Why did life have to be so cruel and unfair?
“Petra, bring the scented oil and rub her skin with it. She mustn’t smell like a field slave!”
“Better if she smelled of sheep and goats,” Acsah said. “The Hebrew would like that.”
The girls laughed in spite of their mother’s reprimand. “You’re not making things better, Acsah. Now, hush!”
Tamar grasped her mother’s skirt. “Please, Mother. Couldn’t you speak to Father for my sake? This boy is . . . is evil!” Tears came in a rush before she could stop them. “Please, I don’t want to marry Er.”
Her mother’s mouth jerked, but she did not weaken. She pried Tamar’s hand from the folds of her skirt and held it tightly between her own. “You know I can’t alter your father’s plans, Tamar. What good would come of my saying anything against this match now other than to bring shame upon us all? Judah is here.”
Tamar drew in a ragged sob, fear flooding her veins.
Her mother gripped her chin and forced her head up. “I’ve prepared you for this day. You’re of no use to us if you don’t marry Er. See this for what it is: good fortune for your father’s house. You will build a bridge between Zimran and Judah. We will have the assurance of peace.”
“There are more of us than there are of them, Mother.”
“Numbers don’t always matter. You’re no longer a child, Tamar. You have more courage than this.”
“More courage than Father?”
Her mother’s eyes darkened with anger. She released Tamar abruptly. “You will do as you’re told or bear the full consequences of your disobedience.”
Defeated, Tamar said no more. All she had done was to bring humiliation upon herself. She wanted to scream at her sisters to stop their silly prattling. How could they rejoice over her misfortune? What did it matter if Er was handsome? Hadn’t they heard of his cruelty? Didn’t they know of his arrogance? Er was said to cause trouble wherever he went!
“More kohl, Acsah. It will make her look older.”
Tamar could not calm the wild beating of her heart. The palms of her hands grew damp. If all went as her father hoped, her future would be settled today.
This is a good thing, Tamar told herself, a good thing. Her throat was hot and tight with tears.
“Stand, Tamar,” her mother said. “Let me have a look at you.”
Tamar obeyed. Her mother sighed heavily and tugged at the folds of the red dress, redraping the front. “We must conceal her lack of curves, Acsah, or Zimran will be hard-pressed to convince Judah she is old enough to conceive.”
“I can show him the cloth, my lady.”
“Good. Have it ready in case it’s requested.”
Tamar felt the heat flood her face. Was nothing private? Did every one have to discuss the most personal events in her life? Her first show of blood had proclaimed her womanhood and her usefulness as a bargaining tool for her father. She was a commodity to be sold, a tool to forge an alliance between two clans, a sacrifice for an assured peace. She had hoped to be overlooked for another year or two. Fourteen seemed too young to draw a man’s interest.
This is a good thing, Tamar told herself again. Even while other thoughts crowded in, tightening her stomach with fear, she repeated the words over and over, trying to convince herself. This is a good thing.
Perhaps if she hadn’t heard the stories . . .
For as long as Tamar could remember, her father had been afraid of Judah and his people. She’d heard the stories about the power of the God of the Hebrews, a god who had turned Sodom and Gomorrah to rubble beneath a storm of fire and brimstone, leaving a wasteland of white sands and a growing salten sea behind. No Canaanite god had ever shown such power!
And there were the stories of what the Hebrews had done to the town of Shechem, stories of mayhem . . .
“Why must it be this way, Mother? Have I no choice in what’s to become of me?”
“No more choice than any other girl. I know how you’re feeling. I was no older than you when I came into your father’s house. It is the way of things, Tamar. Haven’t I prepared you for this day from the time you were a little girl? I have told you what you were born to do. Struggling against your fate is like wrestling the wind.” She gripped Tamar’s shoulders. “Be a good daughter and obey without quibbling. Be a good wife and bear many sons. Do these things, and you’ll bring honor upon yourself. And if you’re fortunate, your husband will come to love you. If not, your future will still be secure in the hands of sons. When you’re old, they’ll take care of you just as your brothers will take care of me. The only satisfaction a woman has in this life is knowing she has built up the household of her husband.”
“But this is Judah’s son, Mother. Judah’s son Er.”
Her mother’s eyes flickered, but she remained firm. “Find a way to fulfill your duty and bear sons. You must be strong, Tamar. These people are fierce and unpredictable. And they are proud.”
Tamar turned her face away. “I don’t want to marry Er. I can’t marry him . . .”
Her mother grasped her hair and yanked her head back. “Would you destroy our family by humiliating such a man as this Hebrew? Do you think your father would let you live if you went into that room and begged to be spared marriage to Er? Do you think Judah would take such an insult lightly? I tell you this. I would join your father in stoning you if you dare risk the lives of my sons. Do you hear me? Your father decides whom and when you marry. Not you!” She let go of her roughly and stepped away, trembling. “Do not act like a fool!”
Tamar closed her eyes. The silence in the room was heavy. She felt her sisters and nurse staring at her. “ I’m sorry.” Her lip quivered. “ I’m sorry. I’ll do what I must.”
“As we all must.” Sighing, her mother took her hand and rubbed it with scented oil. “Be wise as a serpent, Tamar. Judah has shown wisdom in considering you. You are strong, stronger than these others. You have quick wits and strength you don’t even realize yet. This Hebrew has taken an interest in you. For all our sakes, you must please him. Be a good wife to his son. Build a bridge between our people. Keep the peace between us.”
The weight of responsibility being given her made her bow her head. “I will try.”
“You will do more than try. You will succeed.” Her mother leaned down and kissed her cheek briskly. “Now sit quietly and collect yourself while I send word to your father that you’re ready.”
Tamar tried to think calmly. Judah was one of the sons of Jacob who had annihilated the town of Shechem over the rape of their sister. Perhaps, had the son of Hamor known more about these men, he would have left the girl alone. When he realized his mistake, he made every attempt to placate Jacob’s sons. They wanted blood. The prince and his father had agreed to have every man in Shechem mutilated by the Hebrew rite of circumcision. They were desperate to bring about a marriage alliance and assurance of peace between the two tribes! They had done all the Hebrews required, and still, three days after the Shechemites were circumcised, while they were all sick with fevers, Judah and his brothers took vengeance. They hadn’t been content with the blood of the offender; they’d cut down every man by the sword. Not one survived, and the city was plundered.
Hebrews were a stench in Canaanite nostrils. Their presence invoked fear and distrust. Even though Judah had left his father’s tent and come to live among Tamar’s people, her father had never slept easily with Judah so close. Even Judah’s longtime friendship with Hirah the Adul lamite didn’t reassure her father. Nor did it matter that Judah had taken a Canaanite wife, who had given him three sons and trained them up in Canaanite ways. Judah was Hebrew. Judah was a foreigner. Judah was a thorn in Zimran’s side.
Over the years, her father had made contracts with Judah to bring flocks to his harvested fields. The arrangement had proven beneficial to every one and had brought about a tentative alliance. All through those years, Tamar had known her father sought a better and more lasting way to keep peace between himself and the Hebrews. A marriage between the two households might ensure that, if she succeeded in blessing Judah’s household with sons.
Oh, Tamar under stood her father’s determination to bring about her marriage to Er. She even under stood his need for it. She understood her role in all of it. But understanding didn’t make it any easier. After all, she was the one being offered like a sacrificial lamb. She had no choice as to whether she married or not. She had no choice as to the man she would marry. Her only choice was in how she faced her fate.
Tamar was ready when her mother returned. Her feelings were hidden as she bowed down to her. When Tamar raised her head, her mother placed both hands upon her and murmured a blessing. Then she tipped Tamar’s chin. “Life is difficult, Tamar. I know that better than you do. Every girl dreams of love when she’s young, but this is life, not idle dreams. Had you been born first, we would have sent you to the temple of Timnah instead of your sister.”
“I would not have been happy there.” In fact, she would have preferred death by her own hand to the life her sister led.
“So this is the only life left to you, Tamar. Embrace it.”
Resolved to do so, Tamar rose. She tried to still the tremors as she followed her mother from the women’s chamber. Judah might still decide she was too young. He might say she was too skinny, too ugly. She might yet be spared from marrying Er. But it would change nothing in the end. The truth was hard to face. She had to marry, for a woman without a husband and sons might as well be dead.
* * *
Judah watched Zimran’s daughter closely as she entered the room. She was tall and thin and very young. She was also poised and graceful. He liked the way she moved as she served the meal with her mother. He’d noticed her youthful elegance during his last visit after the harvest. Zimran had put the girl to work in the field next to the pasturage so Judah and his sons could see her. He had been fully aware of Zimran’s motives in displaying her this way. Now, on closer inspection, the girl looked too young to be a bride. She couldn’t be more than Shelah’s age, and Judah said so.
Zimran laughed. “Of course, she is young, but so much the better. A young girl is more moldable than an older one. Is that not so? Your son will be her baal. He will be her teacher.”
“What of children?”
Zimran laughed again; the sound grated Judah’s nerves. “I assure you, Judah my friend, Tamar is old enough to bear sons and has been old enough since last harvest, when Er noticed her. We have proof of it.”
The girl’s eyes flickered in her father’s direction. She was blushing and clearly embarrassed. Judah felt oddly touched by her modesty and studied her openly. “Come closer, girl,” he said, beckoning. He wanted to look into her eyes. Perhaps he would glean better understanding of why he’d thought of her at all when the subject of marriage had come to mind.
“Don’t be shy, Tamar.” Zimran’s mouth flattened. “Let Judah see how pretty you are.” When she raised her head, Zimran nodded. “That’s it. Smile and show Judah what fine teeth you have.”
Judah didn’t care about her smile or her teeth, though both were good. He cared about her fertility. Of course, there was no way of knowing whether she could produce sons for his clan until she was wed to his son. Life held no guarantees. However, the girl came from good breeding stock. Her mother had produced six sons and five daughters. She must also be strong, for he had watched her in the fields hoeing the hard ground and carrying rocks to the wall. A weak girl would have been kept inside the house, making pottery or weaving.
“Tamar.” Her father gestured. “Kneel before Judah. Let him have a closer look.”
She obeyed without hesitation. Her eyes were dark but not hard, her skin ruddy and glowing with health. Such a girl might stir his son’s hardened heart and make him repent of his wild ways. Judah wondered if she had the courage needed to gain Er’s respect. Her father was a coward. Was she? Er had brought nothing but grief since he’d been old enough to walk, and he was likely to bring this girl trouble as well. She would have to be strong and resilient.
Judah knew the blame for Er’s waywardness could be laid at his feet. He should never have given his wife a free hand in rearing his sons. He’d thought complete freedom would allow them to grow up happy and strong. Oh, they were happy as long as they got their way and were strong enough to abuse others if they didn’t. They were proud and arrogant for lack of discipline. They would have turned out better had the rod been used more often!
Would this girl soften Er? Or would he harden and break her?
When she looked into his eyes, he saw innocence and intelligence. He felt a disquieting despair. Er was his firstborn, the first show of the strength of his loins. He’d felt such pride and joy when the boy was born, such hope. Ah, he’d thought, here is flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone! How he’d laughed when the young sprout had stood in red-faced fury, refusing to obey his mother. He’d been amused by his son’s passionate rebellion, foolishly proud of it. This boy will be a strong man, he’d said to himself. No woman would tell Er how to live.
Judah had never expected his son to defy him as well.
Onan, his second son, was becoming as difficult as Er. He’d grown up threatened by his older brother’s white-hot jealousy and had learned to protect himself by cunning and deception. Judah didn’t know which son was worse. Both were treacherous. Neither could be trusted.
The third son, Shelah, was following the ways of his brothers. Confronted with a wrong, Judah’s sons lied or blamed others. When pressed hard enough to get the truth, they appealed to their mother, who de fended them no matter how offensive their crimes. Her pride wouldn’t allow her to see their faults. They were her sons, after all, and they were Canaanite through and through.
Something had to be done, or Er would bring Judah’s head down to the ground in shame. Judah almost regretted having sons, for they wreaked havoc in his household and his life! There were moments when his rage was so intense, it was all he could do not to pick up a spear and hurl it at one of them.
Judah often thought about his father, Jacob, and the trouble he’d endured at the hands of his sons. Judah had caused his father as much trouble as the rest of them. Er and Onan reminded Judah of his brothers Simeon and Levi. Thinking of his brothers brought back the black memories of the grievous sin he himself had committed....the sin that haunted him, the sin that had driven him from his father’s household because he couldn’t bear to see the grief he’d caused or be in the company of the brothers who had shared in what he’d done.
His father, Jacob, didn’t even know the full truth of what had happened at Dothan.
Judah tried to console himself. He’d kept Simeon and Levi from murdering their brother Joseph, hadn’t he? But he also remembered that he was the one who’d led them into selling the boy to the Ishmaelite traders on their way to Egypt. He’d made a profit from the lad’s misery . . . profits shared by his brothers as well. Only God knew if Joseph had survived the long, hard journey to Egypt. It was more than possible he’d died in the desert. If not, he was now a slave for some Egyptian.
Sometimes in the darkest hour of night, Judah would lie awake upon his pallet, filled with an agony of remorse, thinking about Joseph. How many years would it be before he could put the past behind him and forget what he’d done? How many years before he could close his eyes and not see Joseph’s hands shackled, his neck noosed, as he was led forcefully away by the Ishmaelite traders? The boy’s screams for help still echoed in Judah’s mind.
He had the rest of his life to regret his sins, years to live with them. Sometimes Judah swore he could feel the hand of God squeezing the life from him for plotting the destruction of his own brother.
Zimran cleared his throat. Judah reminded himself where he was and why he’d come to the home of this Canaanite. He mustn’t let his mind wander, mustn’t allow the past to intrude on what he had to do about the future. His son needed a wife . . . a young, comely, strong wife who might distract him from his wicked schemes and devices. Judah’s mouth tightened as he studied the Canaanite girl kneeling before him. Was he making another mistake? He’d married a Canaanite and lived to regret it. Now he was bringing another one into his household. Yet this Canaanite girl appealed to him. Why?
Judah tipped the girl’s chin. He knew she must be afraid, but she hid it well. That would be a useful skill where Er was concerned. She looked so young and guileless. Would his son destroy her innocence and corrupt her as he was so eager to do to others?
Hardening himself, Judah withdrew his hand and leaned back. He had no intention of allowing Er to make the same mistakes he had. Lust had driven him to marry the boy’s mother. Beauty was a snare that captured a man, while unrestrained passion burned away reason. A woman’s character mattered greatly in a marriage. Judah would have done better to follow custom and allow his father to choose a wife for him. Instead, he’d been stubborn and hasty and now suffered for his folly.
It wasn’t enough that a woman stirred a man’s passion. She also had to be strong, yet willing to bend. A stubborn woman was a curse upon a man. He’d been laughable in his youthful confidence, so certain he could bend a woman to his ways. Instead, he’d bent to Bathshua’s. He’d fooled himself into thinking there was no harm in giving his wife freedom to worship as she wished. Now, he found himself reaping a whirlwind with his idolworshiping sons!
Tamar was of calmer disposition than Bathshua. Tamar had courage. She appeared intelligent. He knew she was strong, for he’d watched how hard she worked. His wife, Bathshua, would be happy about that. No doubt she would dump her chores upon the girl as soon as possible. The quality that mattered most was her fertility, and only time would tell about that. The qualities he could see were more than enough. Yet there was something more about this girl that Judah couldn’t define . . . something rare and wonderful that made him determined to have her in his family. It was as though a quiet voice was telling him to choose her.
“She pleases me.”
Zimran exhaled. “You are a wise man!” He nodded to his daughter. Thus dismissed, Tamar rose. The Canaanite was clearly eager to begin negotiations.
Judah watched the girl leave the room with her mother. Zimran clapped his hands; two servants hurried in, one with a tray of pomegranates and grapes, another with roasted lamb. “Eat, my brother, and then we will talk.”
Judah would not be so easily manipulated. Before touching the food, he made an offer for the girl. Eyes glowing, Zimran plunged in and began haggling over the bride-price.
Judah decided to be generous. Marriage, though far from bringing happiness to him, had brought some stability and direction. Perhaps Er would be similarly diverted from riotous living. Besides, Judah wanted to spend as little time with Zimran as possible. The man’s ingratiating manner irritated him.
Tamar. Her name meant “date palm.” It was a name given to one who would become beautiful and graceful. A date palm survives the desert and bears sweet, nourishing fruit, and the girl came from a fertile family. A date palm sways in the desert winds without breaking or being uprooted, and this girl would have to face Er’s quick, irascible temper. A date palm could survive a hostile environment, and Judah knew Bathshua would see this young girl as her rival. Judah knew his wife would pit herself against this young bride because Bathshua was vain and jealous of her son’s affections.
Judah hoped the girl held all the promise her name implied.
* * *
Tamar waited while her fate was settled. When her mother stood in the doorway, she knew the matter of her future was decided. “Come, Tamar. Judah has gifts for you.”
She rose, numb inside. It was a time for rejoicing, not tears. Her father need not fear any longer.
“Ah, Daughter.” Her father smiled broadly. Obviously, he’d fetched a high bride-price for her, for he had never before embraced her with so much affection. He even kissed her cheek! She lifted her chin and looked into his eyes, wanting him to know what he’d done to her in giving her to such a man as Er. Perhaps he would feel some shame for using her to protect himself.
He didn’t. “Greet your father-in-law.”
Resigned to her fate, Tamar prostrated herself before Judah. The Hebrew put his hand upon her head and blessed her and bid her rise. As she did so, he took gold earrings and bracelets from a pouch at his waist and placed them upon her. Her father’s eyes glowed, but her heart sank.
“Be ready to leave in the morning,” Judah told her.
Shocked, she spoke without thinking. “In the morning?” She looked at her father. “What of the betrothal . . .?”
Her father’s expression warned her to silence. “Judah and I celebrate tonight, my daughter. Acsah will pack your things and go with you tomorrow. Everything is settled. Your husband is eager for you.”
Was her father so afraid that he didn’t require the customary ten-month betrothal period to prepare for the wedding? She would not even have a week to adjust to her impending marriage!
“You may go, Tamar. Make ready to leave in the morning.”
When she entered the women’s chamber, she found her mother and sisters already packing for her. Unable to contain her feelings any longer, Tamar burst into tears. Inconsolable, she wept all night, even after her sisters whined and pleaded for her to stop. “You will have your day,” she told them angrily. “Someday you will under stand!”
Acsah held and rocked her, and Tamar clung to her childhood for one last night.
When the sun rose, she washed her face and donned her bridal veils. Her mother came to her. “Be content, beloved one. Judah paid dearly for you.” Her voice was tear-choked and faintly bitter. “That Hebrew came with a donkey laden with gifts. He returns home with only his seal ring and staff.”
“And me,” Tamar said softly.
Her mother’s eyes filled with tears. “Take good care of her, Acsah.”
“I will, my lady.”
Her mother took Tamar in her arms and kissed her. “May your husband love you and give you many sons,” she whispered against her hair. Tamar clung to her tightly, pressing herself close, soaking in the warmth and softness of her mother one last time. “It’s time,” her mother said softly, and Tamar drew back. Her mother touched her cheek before turning away.
Tamar went out into the morning sunlight. Acsah walked with her as she headed toward her father and Judah, who were standing some distance away. She had cried herself out last night. She would shed no more childish tears, though it was hard not to do so with Acsah weeping softly behind her.
“Perhaps all we’ve heard isn’t true,” Acsah said. “Perhaps Er is not as bad as some say he is.”
“What does it matter now?”
“You must try to make him love you, Tamar. A man in love is clay in a woman’s hands. May the gods have mercy on us!”
“Have mercy upon me and be quiet!”
When she reached the two men, her father kissed her. “Be fruitful and multiply the household of Judah.” He was eager for their departure. Judah walked ahead, Tamar and Acsah following. He was a tall man with long strides, and Tamar had to walk quickly to keep up with him. Acsah muttered complaints under her breath, but Tamar paid her no attention. Instead, she set her mind on what lay ahead. She would work hard. She would be a good wife. She would do every thing within her power to bring honor to her husband. She knew how to plant a garden, tend a herd, cook, weave, and make pottery. She could read and write enough to keep proper lists and records of household goods. She knew how to conserve food and water when times were bad and how to be generous when times were good. She knew how to make soap, baskets, cloth, and tools, as well as how to organize servants. But children would be the greatest blessing she could give her husband . . . children to build the household.
It was Judah’s second son, Onan, who came out to meet them. “Er is gone,” he said to his father while staring at her.
Judah slammed the end of his staff into the ground. “Gone where?”
Onan shrugged. “Off with his friends. He was angry when he heard where you’d gone. I stayed out of his way. You know how he gets.”
“Bathshua!” Judah strode toward his stone house.
A buxom woman with heavily painted eyes appeared in the doorway. “What are you yelling about this time?”
“Did you tell Er I was bringing his bride home today?”
“I told him.” She leaned indolently in the doorway.
“Then where is he?”
She lifted her chin. “I’m his mother, Judah, not his keeper. Er will be along when he’s ready and not before. You know how he is.”
Judah’s face darkened. “Yes, I know how he is.” He gripped his staff so tightly his knuckles turned white. “That’s why he needs a wife!”
“That may be, Judah, but you said the girl was pretty.” She gave Tamar a cursory glance. “Do you really think this skinny girl will turn Er’s head?”
“Tamar is more than she seems. Show her to Er’s chamber.” Judah walked off, leaving Tamar and Acsah standing before the house.
Mouth tight, Bathshua looked Tamar over from head to foot. She shook her head in disgust. “I wonder what Judah was thinking when he chose you?” Turning her back, she went into the house and left Tamar and Acsah to fend for themselves.
* * *
Er returned late in the afternoon, accompanied by several Canaanite friends. They were drunk and laughing loudly. Tamar remained out of sight, knowing what men were like in this condition. Her father and brothers had often imbibed freely and argued violently because of it. She knew the wisdom of staying out of the way until the effects of the wine wore off.
Knowing she would be summoned, Tamar had Acsah array her in wedding finery. While waiting, Tamar willed herself to set aside every terrible thing she’d ever heard about Er. Perhaps those who had spoken against him had hidden motives. She would give him the respect due a husband and adapt herself to his demands. If the god of his father smiled upon her, she would give Er sons, and quickly. If she were so blessed, she would bring them up to be strong and honest. She would teach them to be dependable and loyal. And if Er so wished, she would learn about the God of Judah and bring up her sons to worship him rather than bow down to the gods of her father. Still, her heart trembled and her fears increased with each passing hour.
When Tamar was finally summoned and saw her husband, she felt a flicker of admiration. Er was tall like his father and held the promise of great physical strength. He had his mother’s thick curling mass of black hair, which he had drawn back in Canaanite fashion. The brass band he wore around his forehead made him look like a young Canaanite prince. Tamar was awed by her husband’s handsome appearance but filled quickly with misgivings when she looked into his eyes. They were cold and dark and devoid of mercy. There was pride in the tilt of his head, cruelty in the curve of his lips, and indifference in his manner. He didn’t reach out to take her hand.
“So this is the wife you chose for me, Father.”
Tamar shivered at his tone.
Judah put his hand firmly on his son’s shoulder. “Take good care of what belongs to you, and may the God of Abraham give you many sons by this girl.”
Er stood unblinking, his face an inscrutable mask.
All through the evening, Er’s friends made crude jests about marriage. They teased Er unmercifully, and though he laughed, Tamar knew he wasn’t amused. Her father-in-law, lost in his own thoughts, drank freely while Bathshua lounged nearby, eating the best tidbits of the wedding feast and ignoring her. Tamar was hurt and confused and embarrassed by such rudeness. What had she done to offend her mother-in-law? It was as though the woman was determined not to show her the least consideration.
As the night wore on, her fear gave way to depression. She felt abandoned and lost in the midst of the gathering. She had married the heir of Judah’s household, and yet no one spoke to her, not even the young husband who sat beside her. The hours passed slowly. She was bone weary from lack of sleep the previous night and the long walk to her new home.
The tensions of the wedding feast further sapped her. She fought to keep her eyes open. She fought even harder to keep the tears from welling up and spilling over.
Er pinched her. Tamar gasped and jerked away from him. Heat flooded her cheeks as she realized she had unwittingly dozed against his side. His friends were laughing and making jokes about her youth and the impending wedding night. Er laughed with them. “Your nurse has prepared the chamber for us.” He took her hand and pulled her up to her feet.
As soon as Acsah closed the door of the bedchamber behind them, Er stepped away from Tamar. Acsah took her place outside the door and began singing and beating her small drum. Tamar’s skin prickled. “ I’m sorry I fell asleep, my lord.”
Er said nothing. She waited, her nerves stretching taut. He was enjoying her tension, plucking her nerve endings with his silence. Folding her hands, she decided to wait him out. He removed his belt sardonically. “I noticed you last year when we brought the sheep to your father’s fields. I suppose that’s why my father thought you might do as my wife.” His gaze moved down over her. “He doesn’t know me very well.”
She did not fault Er for the hurtful words. She felt he was justified. After all, her heart had not leaped with joy when Judah came and offered a bride-price for her.
“You’re afraid of me, aren’t you?”
If she said no, it would be a lie. To say yes would be unwise.
His brow rose. “You should be afraid. I’m angry, or can’t you tell?”
She could, indeed, and couldn’t guess what he would do about it. She remained silent, acquiescent. She’d seen her father in rages often enough to know that it was better to say nothing. Words were like oil on a fiery temper. Her mother had told her long ago that men were unpredictable and given to fits of violence when provoked. She would not provoke Er.
“Cautious little thing, aren’t you?” He smiled slowly. “At least you keep your wits about you.” He came toward her. “You’ve heard things about me, I’ll bet.” He brushed his fingers against her cheek. She tried not to flinch. “Have your brothers carried stories home?”
Her heart beat faster and faster.
“As my father said, you’re mine now. My own little mouse to do with as I wish. Remind me to thank him.” He tipped her chin. His eyes glittered coldly, reminding her of a jackal in the moonlight. When he leaned down and kissed her mouth, the hair on the back of her neck rose. He drew back, assessing her. “Believe the rumors, every one of them!”
“I will try to please you, my husband.” Heat poured into her cheeks at the quaver in her voice.
“Oh, no doubt you will try, my sweet, but you won’t succeed.” His mouth curved, showing the edge of his teeth. “You can’t.”
It took only a day of the weeklong wedding celebration for Tamar to understand what he meant.
Setting the Scene
The sons of Israel, the chosen people of God, took their families to Egypt to escape a famine in their homeland. One of the twelve brothers, Joseph, held a high position in the Egyptian government, and as a result, his large extended family were honored as special guests of Pharaoh himself. But as the years passed and the Hebrews multiplied, they fell out of favor and were eventually enslaved by the Egyptians. It took the leadership of Moses....and a series of breathtaking miracles performed by God Himself . . . to deliver them. God was taking His people home, back to Canaan, the land He had promised would belong to His people forever.
On the verge of reclaiming their “Promised Land,” the Israelites’ faith in God failed. Fearing the power of the Canaanites, they refused to obey God’s command to advance and take the land. Their disbelief and dis obedience resulted in a forty-year delay in the fulfillment of God’s promise. During those forty years, the Israelites wandered as nomads in the desert. All of the adults who had left Egypt . . . and rebelled against God . . . died in the wilderness.
Finally a new generation grew up, ready to take its place as God’s army and claim the land promised to its ancestors. Of the original multitude that had left Egypt, only Moses and his two assistants, Joshua and Caleb, survived.
As the people of Israel approached the Promised Land for the second time, no one could stand against them. First the king of Arad, then King Sihon of the Amorites, then King Og of Bashan . . . all were put to the sword, their armies annihilated. In desperation, King Balak of Moab hired a sorcerer, Balaam, to curse the Israelites. To Balak’s horror, God used Balaam to instead pronounce blessings upon His chosen people.
Finally, even the five kings of Midian together were unsuccessful in stopping the advancing Israelite army. Kings Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba all died in battle, their armies slaughtered, their towns and villages burned, their wealth seized as plunder.
The time had come. The people of God were ready to claim their inheritance from God . . . the Promised Land. After designating Joshua as the new leader of Israel, the venerable Moses died, and the people prepared to cross the last remaining barrier between them and Canaan: the Jordan River, swollen with spring floods. Now, all nations quake in terror at the knowledge that Israel is encamped at Shittim, just a short distance from Jericho. The walled fortress, the gateway to Canaan, awaits.
Rahab studied the distant plain of Jericho from her window in the city wall, her heart stirring with fear and excitement. Out there, just beyond the Jordan River, the Israelites were encamped, only the floodwaters holding them back. Soon they would cross over and come against the king of Jericho with the same ferocity they had shown in battle against Sihon, Og, and the five kings of Midian. And every one in Jericho would die.
The king had doubled the guard at the gate and posted soldiers on the battlements. But it would do no good. Destruction was on the horizon. The only hope was to surrender and plead for mercy. The king worried about the size of the invading army, but he failed to see the real danger: the God of the Hebrews. All of Pharaoh’s warriors hadn’t been enough to defeat Him forty years ago. Not even the pantheon of gods and goddesses had saved Egypt. But all the king of Jericho could think about was improving the battlements, stockpiling weapons, and increasing the number of soldiers! Did men never learn?
Jericho was doomed!
And she was imprisoned inside the city, bound by a life she had carved out for herself years ago. What hope had she, a harlot? Her fate had been set in motion years ago, when she was little more than a child, a peasant’s daughter summoned by a king.
“You must go!” her father had said. “As long as you live in the palace and please him, I shall prosper. He’s arranging marriages for your sisters. And if you refuse, he will have you nonetheless, killing me to remove any obstacles. Think of the honor he bestows upon you. He chooses only the most beautiful girls, Rahab.”
An honor? “And will he marry me, Father?” Her father couldn’t look into her eyes. She knew the answer. The king had several wives, all of whom he had married for political advantages. She had nothing a king needed . . . merely a body he wanted to use.
Even then, young as she had been, she knew that lust burned hot but eventually turned to ashes. In a week, a month, a year perhaps, the king would tire of her and send her home wearing a beautiful Babylonian robe and a few pieces of gold jewelry her father would confiscate and sell for his own profit.
“When I return, will you allow me to sell dates and pomegranates in the marketplace again, Father, or will I end up like so many others? Selling my body for a loaf of bread?”
He had covered his face and wept. She’d hated him for taking advantage of her ruin, hated him for making excuses, hated him for telling her she would be better off in the king’s palace than in the grove hut where he and her mother and brothers and sisters lived. She hated him because he had no power to save her.
She had hated her own helplessness most of all.
Even in her wrath, Rahab had known her father couldn’t save her from the king’s lust. A king could take what he wanted. Any gifts he gave were meant to dissolve thoughts of revenge. Life was hard and uncertain, but if the right opportunity arose, a beautiful daughter could make a father’s way smooth. Tax exemptions. Land use. An elevated position in the court. The king was generous when it served him, but usually his generosity lasted only as long as his lust.
Rahab rested her arms on the window, gazing out. She remembered setting foot in the palace that first day, vowing not to end up as a discarded sandal. She intended to find a way to take advantage of her wretched situation and the man who used her. She’d hidden her fury and revulsion, pretending to enjoy the king’s embrace. Every moment in his company, her mind was crouched like a lioness studying its prey, watching, waiting for his weakness to show. And she found it soon enough: the constant arrival of emissaries, spies, and messengers. Without their stream of information, he wouldn’t know who his enemies were or what petty jealousies and rebellions were on the rise.
“Give me a house, and I’ll gather information for you,” she had boldly proposed, once her opportunity became clear to her. How the king had laughed at her sagacity! She’d laughed with him, but continued to entice and solicit for further benefits. She was tenacious in her determination to have something tangible when she left the palace, something with which she could make her own way and sustain herself comfortably for a lifetime.
She deserved it after suffering the caresses of that fat, foul-smelling, arrogant old man!
Well, she had gotten what she wanted: a house, a prosperous living, and the illusion of independence. The king had given her this house situated near the eastern gate so she could watch the comings and goings of Jericho. For twelve years she’d looked out this window and picked out men to share her bed, men who might tell her things that would protect the king’s throne and increase his treasury. Every transaction she made brought a double payment. The men paid to sleep with her, and the king paid for the grains of information she gleaned. She knew even more about what was happening outside the walls of Jericho than the king did. And when she wanted to know what was going on inside the palace, she beckoned Cabul, the captain of the guard. He could always be counted on to spill out every secret while in her arms.
She owned half a dozen Babylonian robes, boxes inlaid with bone and ivory and filled with jewelry. Her house was furnished with objects of art, her floor covered with multicolored, woven rugs. Her customers slept on the finest colored linen sheets from Egypt perfumed with myrrh, aloe, and cinnamon. She could afford tasty delicacies and rich, heady wines. Everyone in the city knew she was a friend and confidante of the king. They also knew she was a whore. But no one knew how much she hated her life. No one guessed how helpless she felt in the face of the plans made for her by father and king.
Many would wonder why she had cause to complain. On the outside, she had an enviable life. The king respected her, men desired her, and she could choose her clientele. There were even women in Jericho who envied her independence. They didn’t know what it felt like to be used, stripped of humanity. Even now, despite a house of her own and plush surroundings, she was helpless to change anything about her life. She was locked into it.
Yet no one knew the fierce heart that beat within her. No one suspected the stored resentment, the gathering fury, the aching hunger to break free and escape. She was in a prison others had made for her, a prison she had succeeded in filling with earthly treasures. But she had other plans, other dreams and hopes.
And they all depended on the God out there, the One she knew had the power to save those He chose. Somehow she had known . . . even as a young girl hearing the stories for the first time . . . that He was a true God, the only true One. When He brought His people across the Jordan, He would take this city and crush it as He had crushed all His enemies.
The end of every thing she had known was in sight.
We’re all going to die! Doesn’t anyone else see that? Are they all blind and deaf to what’s been happening for the last forty years? People come and go as they always have, thinking every thing is going to be all right. They think the walls we’ve built will protect us, just as I thought the walls of my father’s hut could protect me all those years ago. And we’re not safe . . . we’re not safe at all!
She was filled with the terror of death, filled even more with a terrible longing to be a part of what would come. She wanted to belong to the God who was coming. She felt like a little girl wanting desperately to be swept up in her father’s arms and saved from destruction.
Several months ago, an Egyptian had spent a night telling her stories of the God of the Israelites. “But every one says those are myths,” she had said, wondering whether he believed the tales he repeated. “Oh, no. My father was a boy when the plagues came . . .” He’d talked far into the night about the signs and wonders and about a man named Moses. “He’s dead now, but there’s another . . . Joshua.”
She went to the king the next morning, but he was only interested in tactics, weaponry, numbers. “It’s the God of the Hebrews you need to fear, my king,” she said, but he waved her away impatiently.
“You disappoint me, Rahab, talking like a hysterical woman.”
She wanted to shout at him. Moses might be a great leader, but no man could break the might of Egypt. Only a true God could do that! And He was out there, preparing His people to take all of Canaan. But one look into the king’s eyes and she knew pride was on the throne.
Men listened only to what they wanted to hear.
Now, sitting at her window, she stretched her hands out and waved them. Oh, how I wish I were one of Your people, for You alone are a true God. Her eyes were hot and gritty. I would bow down to You and give You offerings if given the chance! She put her hands down and turned away. She could wish all she wanted, but she was going to share the same fate as every one else trapped inside these walls. This fortress would become a slaughterhouse.
Because the king was stubborn and proud. Because the king thought the walls were high enough and thick enough to keep him safe. Because he was too stubborn and stupid to put his pride aside for the sake of his people. The king was afraid of the Israelites, but it was their God he should fear. She had known men all her life, and they were all much the same. But this God, He was different. She could feel His presence in some strange way she couldn’t define, and she was filled with a sense of awe and urgency. Oh, how fortunate were those who belonged to Him! They had nothing to fear.
Although she had told the king every thing she learned, he refused to listen. Still, she kept trying.
“I never knew you to be so fainthearted, my sweet. Those Hebrews will tuck tail and flee the same way they did forty years ago when the Amalekites joined forces with us. My father drove them out of the land. If they have such a mighty god on their side, why didn’t they prevail against us then? Plagues . . . seas opening . . .” He sneered. “Myths to frighten us.” “Have you forgotten Sihon?” He paled, his eyes narrowing coldly at her reminder. “No army can break through our walls.”
“Before it’s too late, send emissaries of peace with gifts for their God.”
“What? Are you mad? Do you think our priests would agree to that? We have gods of our own to appease! They’ve always protected us in the past. They’ll protect us now.”
“The same way Egypt’s gods protected her? Egypt bows down to insects, and this God sent swarms to destroy their crops. They worship their Nile River, and this God turned it to blood.”
“They’re just stories, Rahab. Rumors to spread fear among our people. And you add to them! Go back to your house and do what you do best. Watch for foreign spies . . .”
And so she did, but not for his sake.
Cabul talked freely last night, boasting of manpower, weapons, and the continuous sacrifices being made to the gods of Canaan. “We’ll be fine. Don’t worry your pretty head.”
Fools! They were all fools! Surely the God who mocked the gods of Egypt and opened the Red Sea would find it easy to break down these walls! What good would stone and mortar idols do against a God who controlled wind, fire, and water? Rahab was certain that one breath from His lips would blow open the gates of Jericho. A sweep of His hand would make rubble of all the king’s defenses!
But no one would listen.
So be it. She had given her last warning. Let it be on the king’s head what happened to Jericho. She was going to find a way to align herself with those who would have the victory. If she didn’t, she would die. How could she get out of Jericho without jeopardizing the lives of her family members? If she left, the king would have her followed. She would be captured and executed for treason, and every member of her family would suffer the same fate to prevent the spread of her rebellion.
No, she couldn’t leave Jericho unless she took her father and mother and brothers and sisters and their families with her. But that would be impossible! Even if she could find a way to leave without arousing suspicion, her family wouldn’t come. Her father believed whatever the king said. It wasn’t in his nature to think for himself.
Rahab raked her fingers through her hair, pushing the curly dark mass over her shoulder. “Rahab!” someone called from below. She didn’t look down. She wasn’t interested in a merchant from Jebus or the owner of a caravan taking spices to Egypt or another soldier from a vanquished army. They were all walking dead. They just didn’t know it yet. Only those Hebrews out there beyond the river were alive. For their God was no stone idol carved by human hands. He was the God of heaven and earth!
And I am just a rat inside a hole in this wall . . .
What a strange and marvelous God He was! He had chosen the Hebrews . . . a nation of slaves . . . and set them free from Egypt, the most powerful nation on earth. He had taken the lowest of the low and used them to bring down the mighty. She’d heard that He’d even rained bread upon His people. They had nothing to fear, for He was mighty in deeds and yet showed kindness and mercy to them. Who would not love such a God?
Her king. Her people.
I would love Him! Her mouth trembled, and her eyes were hot with tears. I would serve Him any way He asked. Given the chance, I would bow down before Him and rejoice to be counted among His people!
Cabul snored loudly from the bed behind her, reminding her of his unwelcome presence. She pressed her palms over her ears and shut her eyes tightly, filled with self-disgust and anger. If she gave in to her feelings, she would shake the man awake and scream at him to get out of her house. He hadn’t told her anything new last night. Cabul was a waste of her time. She watched the road again. She had one small glimmer of hope that had been roused by something her father had told her. Moses had sent spies into the land forty years ago. “We beat them back then.” She had wondered about that, mulling over reasons for the Israelites’ failure. They had been slaves, freed from mighty Egypt by an even mightier God. But perhaps they had still thought like slaves rather than men under the banner of a true God.
Perhaps they had refused to obey. She could only guess why they had failed. But she knew it was not due to any failure of the God who rescued them. Those who had rebelled all those years ago must surely be dead by now. A new generation had arisen, a generation who had been hardened by desert living, a generation who had been in the presence of Power from their birth. She could only hope that Joshua would do as Moses had done before him and send spies into the land. And she would have to be the first to spot them. With victory assured by their God, the Israelites didn’t need to send anyone, but she still hoped the noble leader Joshua would take nothing for granted. Even if it wasn’t necessary, it would be prudent to send spies to view the land and evaluate enemy defenses.
Please come. Please, please, please come. . . I don’t want to die. I don’t want my family to die. Send someone. . . Open my eyes so that I’ll recognize them before the guards do. If they see them first and report to the king, all is lost!
“Rahab!” a man called to her again.
She glanced down impatiently and saw an Ishmaelite merchant waving at her from among the throng gathered at the gate. He was eager to lodge with her, but she spread her hands, shrugging and shaking her head. Let his camels keep him warm. He held up a gold necklace to bribe her. Ha! What good would gold do when the day of destruction came? “Give it to one of your wives!” she called back. Those around him laughed. Another man called up to her, but she ignored the entreaties and flatteries and watched the road.
Let them come to me.
If the spies were ragged from wandering, she would give them beautiful robes from Babylon. If they were thirsty, she would give them fine wine. If they were hungry, she would serve them a feast fit for kings. For they would come as servants of the Most High God. She would show them the honor meant for the One they served. For mighty was their God and worthy of tribute!
Her chest was tight with yearning. She wanted to be safe. As long as she was inside this wall, inside this city, she was condemned. She had to be counted among the Israelites to survive. The gods of the Jerichoans and Amorites and Perizzites and a dozen other tribes who inhabited Canaan wouldn’t come to her rescue. They were stone tyrants with corrupt priests who demanded constant sacrifice. She’d seen babies taken from their mothers and placed on an altar, their little bodies boiled until the flesh fell away so the bones could be put into small bags and buried beneath the foundation of a new house or temple. As though murdered children could bring good fortune! She was thankful she had never had a child.
But if I did have one, I would give my baby to the God out there, the unseen One who dwells with His people, who shades them by day and keeps them warm at night, the One who protects those who belong to Him as though they were His children. A God like Him could be trusted. . .
“Ah, the light.” Cabul groaned. “Close the curtains!”
Rahab clenched her teeth; she kept her back to him. It was time the man was gone from her bed and her house. “The sun is up,” she said in a pleasant voice. “Time you were as well.”
She heard a muffled curse and the rustle of linen. “You’re hard-hearted, Rahab.”
She glanced at him over her shoulder and forced a sultry smile. “You didn’t say that last night.” She looked out the window again, searching, hoping to see someone who looked like an Israelite spy. What would one look like? How would she recognize one if he did come?
Cabul slid his arm around her waist and reached up to lift the curtain from the hook. “Come back to bed, my love.” He pressed his lips to the curve of her neck.
She caught his hand before it could move to caress her. “The king will hear you’re missing from your post. I wouldn’t want to get you into trouble.”
He laughed softly, his breath hot in her hair. “I won’t be late.”
She turned in his arms. “You must go, Cabul.” She put her hands against his chest. “Your absence at the gate will be noticed, and I’ll not have it said that Rahab caused a friend trouble.”
“You are causing me pain right now.”
“You’re man enough to survive a small discomfort.”
He caught her hand as she moved away from him. “Is there a rich merchant below?”
“I heard someone calling your name.”
“And what if you did?” Did he think putting a few coins in her hand meant he owned her? “You know what I do for a living.”
He frowned, his eyes darkening.
Stifling her annoyance, she brushed her fingertips down his cheek and softened her tone. “Don’t forget I came out of my house to find you.” In her business, it was always wise to send a man away feeling he was someone special.
He grinned. “So you love me a little.”
“Enough to wish you no harm.” She allowed him to kiss her briefly and then disentangled herself. “A crowd is waiting at the gate, Cabul. It’s time you opened it. If the merchants are annoyed, the king will hear about it...