Prof. Kimberly D. Russaw, Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible, recently celebrated the release of her new book, Revisiting Rahab: Another Look at the Woman of Jericho, published by Wesley’s Foundery Books (an imprint of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church). Russaw’s first book, Daughters in the Hebrew Bible (Lexington/Fortress Academic, 2018) considers how daughters use particular tactics to navigate antagonistic systems of power in the biblical world.
As its subtitle indicates, Russaw’s new book encourages looking afresh at the biblical character of Rahab. Russaw explained that, “Despite her critical role in the macro narrative of the ancient Israelites, Rahab has been relegated to the sidelines of the larger story of the Israelites and their god.” As a response, Russaw said she wrote her new book “to retrieve Rahab from the periphery and place her at the center of a series of close readings, which I hope informs a more freeing and liberative understanding of many overlooked characters found in the biblical text. Perhaps if we are more careful with the forgotten and ignored biblical characters, we will be more careful with those we tend to disregard in our communities.”
Distinctive of Russaw’s approach in the book is her attention to the power dynamics in the text, careful consideration of the Hebrew language, and the tools of rhetorical criticism to interrogate elements of the negotiation between Rahab and the Israelite men. In the course of her research, Russaw “unearthed a particularly problematic dynamic in the relationship between the Canaanite woman and the Israelite males that most interpretations seem to have overlooked.” Further, she said, “the new learnings caused me to re-think how I have heard this text taught and preached throughout the years.”
Russaw also explained that the story of Rahab is layered with important concerns for contemporary readers: “Despite – or perhaps precisely because of – her marginalized position, a careful re-read of Rahab’s story prompts questions around matters of identity, autonomy, difference, and privilege.” In all, she said she hopes that the book “will give its readers the tools and the permission to see and engage characters that are normally overlooked.”
Dean Leah Gunning Francis has also written a new book, Faith after Ferguson: Resilient Leadership in Pursuit of Racial Justice, to be published by Chalice Press on August 17. The new book is a follow-up to her 2015 Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community (Chalice Press), which chronicled and reflected on the uprising that emerged in response to the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. For her new book, Gunning Francis re-interviewed some of the clergy and young activists that were featured in Ferguson and Faith as well as some additional people to learn more about what has happened there over the past six years.
Gunning Francis explained that “the new book helps us to see what the long work of justice can look like.” Importantly, it shows that this long work “is not an overnight endeavor but one that begins in the heart, moves to the mind, and finds animation in a variety of ways such as political advocacy, street protests, and institutional reform. This work can be rooted in homes, neighborhoods, organizations, and faith communities.”
The book is written for a broad audience and offers a way to think about the connections between social activism and the life of faith, especially regarding matters of racial justice. Given the nature of the topic, and the unfolding of recent events, Gunning Francis ties the activist work in Ferguson to the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN, and the January 6th riots at the U.S. Capitol.
Looking at the book as a whole, Gunning Francis said that “the lessons from Faith After Ferguson call us to take an honest look at where we are on the continuum of racial justice and muster the courage to work to create a more equitable and inclusive future for all of our children and grandchildren. It calls us to stand in our truth, have the hard conversations, right the wrongs that have been done, and forge new pathways toward liberty and justice for all. All of this is grounded in the core tenet of our faith to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).”
Order a copy of Prof. Russaw’s new book, Revisiting Rahab, here.
Order a copy of Dean Gunning Francis’ new book, Faith after Ferguson, here.