Warrior Prophets: Chapter 4
“We just made camp, why do we need to leave?” Boaz complained. He looked longingly at the hundreds of thousands of neat tents on the western bank of the Jordan River. The morning sun peaked over the eastern mountains of Moab. The river flowed lazily, never having recovered its strength after the miraculous Israelite crossing.
“Joshua wants us to scout ahead,” Caleb answered. He glided with long strides over the mountainous terrain. “But we will put this time to good use. I think we shall continue to work on your speed. You will learn the swiftness of Naftali.”
“Where are we going?” Boaz asked
“West. There are a few cities at the top of this mountain range that may comprise our next target. Joshua has sent other scouts northwest and southwest to determine the enemy activity there. For now, from our camp in Gilgal we control the entire valley of the Jordan.”
“Will the camp follow us into battle?”
“No. The women, children, elderly and a security detail will remain in Gilgal. Just the troops will travel throughout Canaan until we have taken the land.”
“How long do you think it will take?”
“I don’t know. Before we entered Canaan, we lived a miraculous existence. Manna from the sky. Clothing that did not wear out. Moses conquering two kingdoms in a matter of weeks. God’s presence was strongly felt. However, now I suspect the plan is different. God wants us to settle into the normal order of the world. The Manna has stopped falling, and I for one could benefit from some new clothing.” Caleb tugged at his fraying robe. “I think we will see less and less miracles and will have to rely more on our own tactics and strength. Do not doubt that God will fulfill his promise, but it may take many years.”
“Who will take over after Joshua?”
“You are filled with questions today, aren’t you? Enough talk. Let’s train. You see that olive tree at the top of this hill?” Caleb pointed at a lonely ancient tree in the distance. “Race me there. Now!”
Caleb jumped over the craggy landscape, covering ten feet with each stride. He snatched a wild wheat stalk as he effortlessly navigated the field of rocks. Boaz moved quickly, but stumbled often over the loose rocks and stones leading up to the tree. Boaz panted his way up to the hill and found Caleb leaning casually against the tree, chewing on the wheat stalk.
“How did you get here so fast?” Boaz wheezed. “I couldn’t run any faster. I had to watch out for the stones. I kept tripping.”
“You know that the gazelle is the symbol of the Tribe of Naftali. How does a gazelle run? Does it look down to see where it’s going?”
“No. It just runs.”
“So how doesn’t it trip without looking?”
“I don’t know. Some animal sense?”
“Indeed. It perceives the form of the ground instinctively. Its eyes merely glance ahead and from a distance its mind recalls the position of every rock, shrub and tree. It can then move as swift as the wind. I want you to do the same. Look down the mountain,” Caleb pointed towards the valley. “Notice the placement of each stone, imagine the path you will take down the hill, etch it into your memory. Now, you will walk down blindfolded.”
Caleb removed a heavy woolen cloth from the satchel at his side and tied it around Boaz’s eyes. “Meet me at the bottom,” Caleb announced as he strode away.
“You’re kidding,” Boaz muttered, but started walking gingerly. He was surprised that only twice did he bang his feet against the stones and only once tripped, landing unceremoniously on some prickly shrubs. Eventually he made it to the bottom of the valley.
“Very good,” Caleb declared as he removed the blindfold. “It is much easier with your eyes open. Let’s race again to the top of this next hill.”
With a smile Boaz sprinted ahead, skipping over the rocks, without looking down.
The elders are petrified, Shakra thought angrily as he sat in the back row of the council circle. They sat on the ground within the gate of the city of Gibeon. They are willing to give up everything, to leave our home, our ancestral lands, rather than confront the Israelites. There must be a way.
“They massacred Jericho and Ai unprovoked,” wizened Silu stated. “Their God is more powerful than any in Canaan. There is no way we would survive a direct battle of arms.”
“That’s it!” Shakra stood up.
“Sit down, youngster,” Silu reproved him.
“No, no. You must listen to me. You may be right that we cannot fight them directly, but we don’t need to run away.”
“What are you saying?”
“The Israelites have been commanded by their God to destroy all the people of Canaan, right?”
“That is why we are having this council, is it not?”
“What if we convinced these Hebrews that we are not of Canaan, but rather that we are from outside Canaan and wish to ally with them?”
“Nonsense. How could we ever accomplish such a ruse?”
“I will need the Magi’s help and several industrious women,” Shakra grinned, happier than he had been in weeks.
Boaz ran merrily over the central mountains of Canaan in the afternoon sun. He spotted a wild rabbit racing away from him. Boaz caught up with the rabbit and overtook it. Boaz laughed as he vaulted over boulders and shrubs. He leapt to the top of a short olive tree and waited for Caleb.
“Come on, old man,” Boaz laughed back at Caleb, “what’s keeping you?”
Caleb merely smiled, shook his head and quickly reached Boaz’s tree.
“Do you see anything interesting from up there?” Caleb asked.
Boaz looked at the rolling Canaanite mountains. Behind him, to the east, he could make out the dusty Jordan valley intersected by the ribbon of blue, the once mighty Jordan River. Near the banks of the river he could still make out their base camp at Gilgal. Ahead of him, to the west, the mountains rose higher and were more verdant than the mountain range he was on, which extended to the north and south.
“No, I don’t see anything. No, wait. There is movement ahead of us.”
Caleb climbed to the top of the tree and looked.
“They appear to be refugees,” Caleb noted. “Tens of them. They are not carrying any weapons. There are many women and children. Must be the survivors of some internal Canaanite conflict. Let’s go meet them and see what we can find out.”
Shakra’s sharp eyes spotted the odd duo far off on top of the olive tree. A sturdy man with a flaming red and white beard and a young boy with a mop of red hair. Hebrew scouts, Shakra thought. The man was armed with a long sword on his side and a bow and a quiver full of arrows on his back. The boy merely had the bottom half of a broken spear tied to his back.
“The ruse begins,” Shakra announced. “We are about to meet our first Israelites. Magi, start weaving your spell.”
An ancient woman, bent in half by age, in a cloak too old to tell its color or fabric, twirled her fingers in the air. She looked at the approaching man and murmured quickly, urgently. “Ahlakch tribelh chakna tubarl. Ahlakch tribelh chakna tubarl. Ahlakch tribelh chakna tubarl!”
The Magi collapsed, crumpling to the ground. An assistant picked her up.
“Are you well, Magi? What happened?”
“That one,” she pointed at Caleb, “has strong natural defenses, but I overcame them. The subterfuge shall work on him.”
“Remember, everyone,” Shakra whispered. “We are from a small city near Sidon far north of here. We have been walking for weeks. Our city was captured by the Philistines and now we wish to ally ourselves with the Israelites and their powerful God. Spread the word so no one forgets.”
An obedient murmur worked its way towards the back of the marching Gibeonites.
Boaz immediately disliked the young man in the front. He was tall and very brown. Brown skin, brown eyes, brown tattered robes and thick curly brown hair. Boaz guessed he must be around twenty years old, but walked with an arrogance that belied his age. Boaz closed his eyes to examine their aura. He sensed a yellow fear in all the people, but something else as well. The young man radiated a purple triumph, though Boaz could not understand why.
Caleb and Boaz approached the front of the Gibeonites. Caleb walked with arms raised high.
“We do not wish to fight,” Caleb declared.
Shakra threw himself to the ground at Caleb’s feet, bowing and cried, “O merciful master, you must be of the sainted Israelites about which we have heard so much. We are your servants. Show us mercy and do not kill us.”
“Who are you and where are you from?” Caleb asked.
“From a very far country your servants have traveled,” Shakra answered, still on his knees, “because of the name of the Lord your God. We have heard the fame of Him, and all that He did in Egypt, and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who was at Ashtaroth. And our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us, saying: ‘Take provision in your hand for the journey, and go to meet them, and say unto them: We are your servants; and now make a covenant with us.’ This our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, see, it is dry, and has become crumbs.” Shakra unbundled a loaf of bread. It was dry and falling apart.
“And these wine-skins, which we filled, were new; and, see, they are torn. And these garments and shoes are worn because of the very long journey.”
Caleb examined the clothing of Shakra and those around him. The clothing was worn, ripped, old and tattered. The shoes were mud-caked and cracked at the soles.
Boaz pulled on Caleb’s robe to get his attention.
“Caleb, there is something wrong with these people,” he whispered.
Shakra gave Boaz a piercing look.
“Of course there is something wrong,” Caleb said angrily. “They are hungry and tired and worn out, from a far away land. Where exactly are you from?” he asked Shakra.
“We are from outside of Canaan, a small city near Sidon on the coast of the Great Sea. A ship full of Philistines conquered our city. Since then we have sought the sanctuary of your God’s protection.”
“You must talk to Joshua then. Our camp is less than a day’s walk due east of here,” Caleb pointed. “Tell Joshua what you told me.”
“You are most kind, noble master,” Shakra bowed again. “Your servants shall go presently.” He stood up and directed his people to keep walking.
“Caleb, they are lying,” Boaz hissed.
“What are you talking about?”
“It’s a sham. That bread was over-baked. They look like they purposely ruined their clothing. Those people haven’t been walking for weeks. I would be surprised if they’ve walked more than a day or two.”
“I don’t see it, Boaz. They are poor miserable refugees from outside of Canaan. They pose no threat. We should welcome them gladly and I expect Joshua will.”
“It would be a mistake,” Boaz said, as the tens of Gibeonites passed him, headed towards the Israelite camp.
“We have been outsmarted,” Caleb groaned as he looked upon the half empty city in the midst of the Canaanite mountains. “You were right, Boaz, and I apologize. They came from here, right under our noses. They left their elders and their strongest men with all the weapons. You see that one on guard?” Caleb pointed at a brawny Gibeonite guarding a small stone hut. “That must be where the city’s weapons are stored.”
“Let’s go back and warn Joshua,” Boaz urged.
“It will be too late once we get there. The Gibeonites will have arrived by now and if Joshua and the elders fall for the story, they may indeed make a pact with them. How did I not see it? Even after you pointed it out to me.”
“It was a well planned deception,” Boaz consoled.
“Very well planned, but there was something more. I must analyze.”
Caleb sat on the ground, cross-legged, and closed his eyes. He was motionless for several minutes with only his eyelids fluttering.
“Sorcery,” Caleb stated and opened his eyes. “They used sorcery on me. I can feel the remnants of the effect on my mind. They have a powerful sorcerer amongst them. The spell was strong and subtle. If there are more such amongst the Canaanites, we shall have hard work ahead of us.”
“What now?” Boaz asked.
“We head back to camp, quickly. It may be too late to stop the forging of a pact, but we have to prevent the sorcerer from further mischief. Let’s run. Run like the gazelle.”
“Good, but next time listen to me, Caleb.”
“I will. I shall not underestimate your judgment again.”
Boaz smiled eager to confront the tall young brown man.
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Biblical Source: Joshua Chapter 9