Book: Unashamed

My wife handed me this book because she has been trying to get me to read one of [tag]Francine Rivers[/tag]’ stories about various Bible characters. I’m generally a bit slow to pick up this sort of book because production of a good story is very difficult. On the one hand you can stick closely to the [tag]Bible story[/tag] and ignore any problems that may cause for your story. On the other you can ignore the facts and create a story, but for me that doesn’t work because it isn’t consistent. Why write a story about someone with the name of a Biblical character if you are not actually going to use the Biblical character?

My preference is that someone create a story about a person consistent with the characteristics of that person as claimed in the Biblical text. If one has to play with the facts a bit, that’s OK. What is invented to fill in the blanks is fine, as long as it stays consistent with the character.

Unashamed takes on the story of Rahab, and I consider that a daunting task. First, Rahab becomes an exception to the order to destroy all the Canaanites, and the explanation given in the Bible doesn’t cover it. The spies swear an oath, and thus the Israelites keep that oath. This is consistent, though they seem to do so ungrudgingly, quite unlike their response to the oath they swore to the Gibeonites, which was kept only with great reluctance.

Second, Rahab is a prostitute who becomes part of the genealogy of King David. That is an unusual thing and any proposed understanding requires some imagination.

Rivers doesn’t really try to deal with the oddity of allowing a Canaanite to become part of the congregation. What she does manage is provide believable story elements to explain the position [tag]Rahab[/tag] was in so as to hide the spies, and how she might succeed in that. I find Rahab’s attitude toward her own people just a little bit cold and bloody-minded. Simply because they don’t grab hold of the God of Israel as she has, she shows very little sorrow for their deaths. She truly goes over to the side of the enemy. While that kind of cold-blooded attitude is a bit hard for me to accept it is quite realistic. To survive and have her name remembered favorably on the Israelite side, Rahab must have truly turned with vigor to the Israelites.

I didn’t find the story overwhelmingly exciting. That is probably unavoidable in a story that connects to the Biblical story at all possible places. It’s hard to get into the tension of waiting in Rahab’s house while the Israelites march around the city when you know precisely what is going to happen! But that same characteristic makes this story an excellent example to use in studying the Biblical story. One of the procedures I suggest in the participatory Bible study method is to try to retell stories from different perspectives. People often find that hard to do with Bible stories. We are often afraid to let our imaginations work, but if you want to get the full benefit from a story, you need to think about that person’s attitudes and feelings, and that is going to require imagination. In my article Interpreting Stories, I try this process from the point of view of Ahab.

If you have a study group and would like to try working more effectively on Bible stories, and by this I mean learning from the stories and making them relevant to your life, this little book would be a valuable contribution. Read it, think, imagine, and imitate.