One of the first books I read and one of my all time favorites is Carl Sagan’s Contact. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, think a more prolific Neil Degrasse Tyson if Neil had intellectual integrity. This book was made into a movie starring Jodie Foster and the scenes where they first get the signal had a profound affect on me. I decided if the Bible is true, it would be layers and layers like an onion. It was not for years until I realized how hard it is to uncover those little nuggets. Here is one.
I will tell this as I discovered it. Psalm 60. While reading Psalm 60, one verse in particular stood out as nonsensical. Odd at least. “Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet; Judah is my scepter; Moab is my washbasin; upon Edom I cast my shoe; over Philistia I shout in triump.” So I guess this is good if you are Ephraim or Judah with the military and royal iconography. But Moab is a washbasin? That seems almost as bad as being a toilette. Two stories for a little context into Moab. Israel the nation passes through Moab and God doesn’t like how Moab treats Israel, so God tells Israel to stay away from them. The critical story to understand this passage, I think, is the book of Ruth. Basically, Ruth is a Moabite woman who, after her husband dies, comes to Israel with her mother-in-law after her mother-in-law tells Ruth that going to Israel means certain poverty and difficulty. Why? Presumably she believes the God of her mother-in-law. But instead of becoming poor, she marries a rich man. They have a son. And that son is the grandfather to the first Kind of Israel: David. And it is David that is writing this Psalm. That is why I thought it nonsense. David is calling his great grandmother a toilette (basically)? What?!?! Why? I would suggest the answer lies in the New Testament. Stay tuned.
Eventually I got to Psalm 89 and read another seemingly nonsense verse: “You crushed Rahab like a carcass; you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.” So to read that, it sounds like Rahab is an enemy. And God crushes Rahab because….she is an enemy. What!?!?! Quick contextual story to read here is Joshua chapter 2. To boil it down for you, Joshua sends spies to look at Jericho before they attempt to conquer the city. Rahab is a prostitute that hides the spies and saves their life. Like Ruth, she does this because she believes the God of Israel and she begs the spies to spare her life to which they reply, “our life for yours even to death!” This is the city that Israel conquers by blowing horns…yes, horns as in a musical instrument. The entire city is crushed. Well, except for Rahab and her family. Rahab was literally one of the only people in the city not crushed. So why say she was crushed? I would suggest the answer lies in the New Testament. Stay tuned.
OK. Stay with me, about to tie this all together. When I read this, I decide to look up Rahab to see where else she is discussed in the Bible. You see, not only did Rahab save the spies, after Israel saves her, she is married to a guy named Salmon. So she is the great, great grandmother of Kind David. In fact, her son Boaz marries Ruth. And then comes David and down a long line of descendants you get to Jesus. In other words, Jesus is a descendant of a prostitute. But wait, it gets better. Rahab is mentioned in Mathew chapter 1 where the complete lineage of Jesus is given. There is something odd about this particular lineage of which in the Bible there are many. This one mentions 5 women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. But only 5. Out of all those men, only 5 wives are mentioned. And they all seem to have one thing in common: sexual sin. Tamar plays a prostitute to trick Judah into sleeping with her, which he was legally obligated to do through a bit of Torah law called Levirate Marriage as explained in Deuteronomy 25:5-10. Rahab is a prostitute. Ruth seduces Boaz so he would fulfill Levirate Marriage. Bathsheba seduces David. And Mary was probably seen as a woman that had sex with some man out of marriage and then concocts some nonsense story about being made pregnant by God.
As I thought about it, all of these women are victims of sexual impropriety. I suspect all dealt with a great deal of humiliation. And many were actually innocent. In fact, all but Bathsheba were probably innocent, which may explain why she is the only one not named directly in Matthew 1. So perhaps when Psalms is saying Rahab is crushed, it is not saying by the walls of the city but rather by sin. She has been crushed by sin. Crushed. The weight of sin is so devastating that it is crushing. This woman, maybe forced into a life of sexual slavery, is given this sliver of hope. She hears how these slaves in Egypt are saved and coming their way and she hopes that maybe this God will save her too. Save her from this daily crushing. It makes me think of the woman washing Jesus feet with her tears in Luke 7:36 where Jesus says, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” She was also crushed. Crushed by sin. And she, like Moab, became a washbasin for God. These women were not shamed. They glorified God through faith and hope in salvation that might save them from this dark, miserable, and crushing sin.
The beauty of this, for me, is that it shows the level of commitment God has at grafting in and adopting the lost. The other things all the women in Mathew 1 have in common: most are gentiles. They come from the nations, Gods enemies. He doesn’t just forgive them. Not enough. He doesn’t just graft them in to His family. Not enough. He makes them the wives and mothers of kings. Ultimately leading to Jesus. Somehow out of the profane comes the Most Holy.