Most of us are familiar with the Biblical story of Rahab. Really, though, all we know are a few basic facts. She was a harlot who hid the spies of Israel, was subsequently spared during the destruction of Jericho, and married an Israelite named Salmone. A woman of faith, she was the mother of Boaz from the book of Ruth, meaning she was also in the direct lineage of both David and Christ. Other than these mentions in a handful of verses, we’re left to fill in the details.
Filling in the details is exactly what Tessa Afshar set out to do in her debut novel, Pearl in the Sand. Basing the story on the facts we do know from the Biblical account and her extensive background knowledge, Ms. Afshar has written a realistic, vivid portrayal of this familiar story.
About the book:
At the age of fifteen, Rahab is forced into prostitution by her beloved father in order to save the family from starvation. In her years as a successful courtesan, she learns to mistrust men and hate herself. Into the emotional turmoil of her inner world walks Salmone, a prominent leader of Judah who is held in high esteem by all Israel.
Can a Canaanite harlot who has made her livelihood by looking desirable in bed make a fitting wife for one of the leaders in Israel? Shockingly, the Bible’s answer is yes.
A woman with a wrecked past who no longer believes she can be loved; a man of success, of faith…an enemy. A marriage only God would conceive! The walls of Jericho are only the beginning. The real battle for Rahab will be one of the heart.
About the reader:
Women struggling with issues of self-worth will be able to relate to Rahab. Those caught in a difficult marriage may also find this novel encouraging. Women who need a fresh understanding of the redeeming, grace-drenched love of God the Father will come face-to-face with it in these pages.
About the author:
Tessa Afshar is a full-time Women and Prayer Ministry Leader at an evangelical church in New England. Having been born and lived in the Middle East for fourteen years enables her to present the cultural landscape of this novel from a unique perspective. A Master of Divinity degree from Yale University gives her the technical tools to weave biblical fidelity into this fictional account of one of the most fascinating women in Scripture.
I found Pearl in the Sand engaging, compelling, and vividly written. I had a hard time putting it down. I’d never really stopped to consider exactly what happened in between Rahab’s leaving Jericho and becoming the mother of Boaz. What a culture shock it must have been for a Canaanite woman and her family to find themselves living among the Israelites! Ms. Afshar did a superb job of portraying this aspect of the story and what life in the Israelite camp would have been like. The Israelite conquest of Canaan comes alive seen through the eyes of Rahab and Salmone, with many of the incidents in the book of Joshua recounted from their perspective. Rahab’s emotional turmoil about her past is also realistically and sensitively portrayed against the beautiful backdrop of God’s unconditional acceptance and grace. Ms. Afshar did a wonderful job of blending the historical, biblical, and emotional facets together into one compelling story. Her portrayal of God’s character was beautifully balanced…as she put it, He is “at once impossibly holy and ridiculously merciful”. If you’d like, you can read the first chapter online. I’m looking forward to reading more by Ms. Afshar! Pearl in the Sand is a title I’ll be recommending to friends and family again and again.
Thanks so much to Moody Publishing and Tessa Afshar for a complimentary copy for review.
The discussion questions included in the back of the book would make this an excellent choice to read as a group. There were so many good questions it was tough to pick just a couple to briefly discuss here.
Question 7 asks: In chapter 3, we see Rahab being drawn to the Lord. What qualities does she perceive in God that draw her to Him?
Rahab is drawn to a god who would cherish life, in contrast to the Canaanite gods who demanded child sacrifice to appease them. A god who champions the forgotten rather than mocking and despising them. She’s also intrigued by the idea that one god could rule over everything, to whom all that live on the earth belong.
Question 13 asks: In Chapter 17, Rahab says that she is grateful for the snake. What do you think she means?
The incident with the snake was a terrifying, horrible event. Yet if it hadn’t been for it, most of the Israelite women would have continued to refuse to accept Rahab. Going through that horrible ordeal brought a blessing. God often uses events and circumstances that seem terrible from our point of view to bring about something good in our lives. His ways are so much higher than ours.
Since time and space won’t allow me to go into more of the questions here, I’m looking forward to seeing what other participants in this month’s Christian Fiction Book Club have to say and interacting with them!