The Confidant of Jericho

Photo © 2008 Jenjke Bykov CC 2.0 BY NC ND

From the moment they appeared at my door, I knew the two men weren’t from around here. The first of them introduced himself as Salmon, told me they were seeking my services, said that Avi had sent them. I looked him in the eye for a few seconds. Good-looking, not too eager. I try to be careful about making mistakes, because there are some services I don’t provide, and I’ve been burnt before. But they looked okay, and they knew Avi. Business travelers, I thought, slumming it up in the red-light district. I let them in.

They gave the room a once-over, my humble abode. I told them where to sit, in the dark corner near where I had been weaving flax into rope. I poured them each a drink, gyrating and throwing them each a wink. I described to them the services I offer—and told them which ones I don’t offer—and how much it would cost. Nods all around.

One of them started a conversation. Nothing about that seemed out of whack. Men often enjoyed a little casual talk before satisfying their baser urges. Salmon said he had heard that I sometimes met high-ranking officials. Even that didn’t make me suspicious. I just told him I couldn’t discuss who I know or don’t know. I may be just a whore, but privacy is still pretty important in my line of work, and I don’t want to get on the wrong side of some of my clients.

“What have you heard about the nomads camped on the other side of the Jordan?” the other man asked.

I think that’s when I first started to suspect something wasn’t quite right about these two. I looked back at him. He sipped his wine. “Not much,” I said, without giving away what I was thinking. “What have you heard about them?”

“They’re probably just camping out near the river,” Salmon said. “That’s what I’d do.”

“But that’s not their way,” I said. “They’ve come through, blowing away anybody who gets in their way. And now, suddenly, they show up on our doorstep? Some people say they’re planning an attack.”

The two men looked at each other for a split second, not long enough to be obvious, but I noticed.

Salmon shook his head. “I don’t think so,” he said. “Besides, you all are pretty safe. I don’t see how anyone could make it past the walls of this city.”

Before I could stop myself, I snickered. I had already given up hope that if the Israelites attacked Jericho, that we would survive. Even if my family and I could escape into the inner city, even if the city could withstand their attack, we would still lose our houses and everything we had. And based on what I was hearing from some of the king’s advisers—as you may have guessed, I do indeed know some prominent people—they considered that optimistic. These Israelites posed a genuine problem, and Jericho was reeling from fear.

“I’m sorry,” I said, trying to save his ego. “I didn’t mean to laugh at you. You must not be from around here. Everyone’s talking about these Israelites, and how invincible they are.”

He smiled. “No one’s invincible,” he said, sadly, like he was just telling me what I wanted to hear, but he didn’t want to, like he was protecting me from the truth. Someone else might not even have noticed it, but I made a living picking up on subtle signals from men.

“Yeah. I’m with that,” I said casually. “So what’s your pleasure, gentlemen?” getting back to business.

“Can I tell you the truth?” the second man answered my question with a question.

“Always,” I said. “Just remember to respect my rules.”

“We were really just looking for somewhere to spend the night, somewhere where they’ll respect our privacy and no one will ask too many questions. Do you think you could do that?”

I nodded. If they were on the run, that would explain some of the signals I had been getting. “My brother will be visiting me on his way home from the fields,” I said. “But he respects my business, and won’t ask questions. I’ll tell him you’re out-of-town guests. There’s a place on the roof where you can sleep, not a luxury hotel but it’ll keep you out of sight, out of mind.”

The two men looked to each other for approval. Salmon turned back to me. “That sounds fine,” sweetly.

The second man pulled from his sack several gold pieces. “Will this be sufficient?”

“Yes,” I said blandly. It was enough to keep us well through the year even if the harvest were to turn up completely empty. Whatever they were running from, whatever they had done, I thought, it had apparently been quite lucrative.

Salmon and I spent the rest of the afternoon and into the evening talking, as his companion stood guard. Salmon asked about my family, our life. I began to notice him noticing me, and I began to enjoy it. For a few moments anyhow, I think I finally touched happiness. I would have liked, I thought, to have him as a regular guest. I didn’t see how that could possibly be. I confided in him my fears, the inside story. Despite what the king has been telling us, he’s been panicking, trying to shore up defenses for a sustained war against a superior foe. Those aren’t my words; they’re what one of the king’s advisers told me to expect. Salmon was right to get out, to run as far as he could as fast as he could.

As the sun set, I noticed the king’s men marching toward us on the road, with full-on torches and swords. What they told me, though, changed my life forever.

I’m not a traitor. I just want to live.

Note: Read some of the story behind the writing of this story at this post at

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I found this very compelling. I don’t know what they told her, but the whole story feels true.

Thanks, Jen. My idea was that this story leaves off where the original picks up:

So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.”

But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me… [and] when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. I don’t know which way they went…”

… and so forth.


Hi Tim, I like the name of Salmon. I enjoyed the bantering conversation.

Thanks, Aidan. I got the name from my research. One of the traditional stories is that Rahab married one of the spies whom she had helped escape that day in Jericho, and Matthew in his Gospel identifies her as the wife of Salmon (with a long o, Hebrew שַׂלְמוֹן). So I worked him into Rahab’s motivations. -TimK

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