The Crimson Cord
by Jill Eileen Smith
Paperback: 368 pages
Released: February 17, 2015
Source: Review copy from the publisher.
Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Wife to a gambler, Rahab is sold as a slave to cover her husband's debt. Rahab is forced into prostitution by Dabir, counselor to the king. When Israelite spies finally enter Jericho, they come to ask her about the mood of the city. In one risky moment, she vows to protect the spies from the authorities in return for her and her family's lives. She hopes they will not only keep their promise but allow her to become one of them.
The Crimson Cord is a Biblical fiction novel. I found the first 142 pages very depressing because Rahab's suffering wasn't even the refining kind. She's a kind, caring woman who is repeatedly abused by her husband, then by her master and the men of her city. Though Rahab loses everyone and everything she cares about, she doesn't become bitter. Even though many men betray and abuse her, she's still very trusting. She reassures her sister that Joshua is a good man before she has even met him. I would have expected her abuse to have impacted her more deeply and in many more ways than it did.
The spies finally appear on page 143. Salmon briefly meets Rahab and falls instantly in lust with her though he despises her for being a prostitute. Rahab is instantly attracted to this handsome stranger whom she knows lusts after and despises her. Not a healthy start, and this is the basis of their few, brief interactions for most the book. Salmon isn't drawn to Rahab's ongoing faith until the last fifteen pages. Rahab rejects Salmon because she doesn't feel worthy. Somehow, she knew what sin was even without the Hebrew Law and believed what she was doing was wrong. She wants to feel clean before she can marry Salmon.
It bothered me that Joshua (without consulting God) kept pushing Salmon and Rahab to marry when she might still be married, was barren, and hadn't had time to show that she was serious about following God. And they acted like Rahab couldn't simply convert (with related teaching and rituals) but needed to become a "captive bride."
There were numerous cultural/historical errors. A few examples: Rahab's husband is left alive, but when Rahab is sold as a slave, she's taken as a "mistress" and "consort" by a powerful man. Culturally speaking, she's a concubine--a slave "second rank" wife. Her new husband then sells time in her bed to all of his political pals...and to rich, foreign men off the street. This would be like the Vice President pimping his wife to his political friends and strangers alike. He should have lost respect, but it's treated like he's a modern street pimp with Rahab as his modern high-class call girl. She calls him her "employer" rather than her master or husband.
Birth control and abortion drugs are treated like they were reliable and safe. Rahab's master stated that prostitutes never keep the children of their prostitution. Yet some do even in modern times, and more would have when birth control was ineffective and abortion dangerous and generally ineffective.
Salmon goes to battle, then buries dead--so he's ceremonially unclean--and yet he's allowed to go into the direct presence of God...and God, amazingly, doesn't even notice. Rahab prayed to her moon god like a Christian prays to God--like she assumes the god is always listening and willing to help. Pagan religions usually assume the petitioner has to do something (like a sacrifice) to get the god's attention and good will, and even then the god's reaction could be negative. Rahab just changes one god (who doesn't answer but at least doesn't appear to ask for much) for another god (a very exacting one who tends to punish with death) because at least He's more powerful. She hopes to find unconditional love and forgiveness in Salmon, not God, though she does finally accept that God forgives her.
There were no graphic descriptions of sex. There was no bad language. I suppose the writing itself must be fairly good to have provoked such a strong emotional response in me, but unfortunately, it was a largely negative response. I guess I was expecting a story as good as Tessa Afshar's "Pearl in the Sand," but I should have just re-read that story.
P.S. This author also overlooks Deut. 24:5 "If a man has recently married his wife, he is not to be subject to military service; he is to be free of external obligations and left at home for one year to make his new wife happy." Joshua makes this big deal about how they can't go to war without Salmon leading the army, yet he pushes for an immediate marriage that should have taken Salmon out of action for a year. That law is hard luck for romance writers, I guess, but great for new brides. Yes, God cares that much about the happiness of a new bride.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.