Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 24
The Sword of Ehud
Young Lerim jumped off his stool as the Moabite soldiers barged into the smithy. Big Perad stopped his hammering and looked fairly threatening as his bulging muscles held the large hammer above the anvil. Lanky Davneh stopped polishing the hoe he held in the corner of the smithy.
“Where is Ehud?” the Moabite captain demanded, brandishing his sword at Perad’s hammer. The midday sun reflected through the open door off the shiny sword, blinding Lerim for a moment.
“He’s not here,” Perad answered in his deep voice, gently resting the hammer on the anvil, beside the ax-head he had been working on.
“I can see that, you Hebrew scum,” the captain sneered, not lowering his sword. “Where is he?”
“I don’t know,” Perad said calmly.
“Typical. It doesn’t matter. We’ve been ordered by Bagdon to inspect all smithies and make sure there are no weapons being produced. We shall now commence our inspection.”
The captain and three other soldiers spread out through the smithy and inspected all the tools. They saw pots and pans, hoes and pitchforks, shovels and axes, scythes and hammers. The captain picked up one of the new axes and touched the edge. A small rivulet of blood sprang from his finger.
“It’s sharp!” The captain sucked on his finger and dropped the ax back on the table. “Why do you have so many axes?”
“The family of Prince Giltar has made a large order,” Davneh answered nervously. “They own the forest to the north of their fields and have been cutting down a lot of their trees.”
The soldiers moved tools, tables and benches. One soldier noticed dug up ground under one of the benches.
“Look, captain,” the soldier pointed. “The ground here has been dug up.”
“Let’s see what they’re hiding. Dig it up,” he ordered.
Two soldiers grabbed shovels and dug up the area. They lifted heavy bronze spheres from the ground.
“What are these?” the captain asked.
“That’s our sacrifice,” Lerim said quickly. “To our gods.”
“What god?” the captain asked suspiciously. “I’ve never heard of this type of worship.”
“It’s only a worship of blacksmiths. And he’s a very humble god. Most people don’t know of him.”
“What’s his name, boy?” the captain demanded.
“Um, Vulcan. We call him Vulcan.”
“Interesting.” The captain dropped the sphere back in the hole. “I will not interfere with your worship of this Vulcan. But know that we will be back. Holding or producing weapons warrants death. We shall be conducting regular inspections of all smithies, until – well, until it’s no longer necessary.”
The captain and his soldiers left the smithy. Lerim, Perad and Davneh looked at each other wordlessly, wiped their brows, tidied up the smithy and continued making their tools, more numerous and sharper than they had ever made them before.
“Why do you come to me, Ehud?” Elimelech asked at the door of his home.
“I would speak with you, Elimelech. May I come in?” Ehud asked.
“No. You represent all the pain of my life. Let us go by the gate of the city.” Elimelech closed the door behind him and walked with Ehud to the entrance of Bethlehem.
“Elimelech, the time has come to fight Eglon,” Ehud stated.
“Now? Now you come to me, when my energy is spent and my hope is shriveled. No, Ehud. I am weary of struggle.”
“Are you not the Prince of Judah?” Ehud asked with an edge in his voice.
“In name only. I have lost my own respect as well as that of my tribe. Go to my brother, Ploni, or perhaps to Boaz. Maybe they still have the appetite for battle. I am finished of fighting the wrong wars.”
“That is your answer? To hand off the responsibility to others? Where is the son of Nachshon the Brave?”
“Nachshon? You ask of Nachshon? Will I forever be haunted by his specter? The sea could not stop my father, yet I have only brought death and calamity upon our people. No, Ehud. I shame and disgrace his memory. To mention Nachshon is merely to show how unworthy I am, what a disastrous failure I’ve become. Leave me, Ehud. Find some other fools to fight your battles.”
“What of your family? Of your children? Of Mahlon who is still in the Tyrant’s clutches?”
“Eglon killed Mahlon when he robbed us of him. He is a stranger to us, likely more Moabite than Judean. Burying him once was enough for me.”
“Does Naomi share this feeling? Has your wife also abandoned your firstborn? You should know that Mahlon is strong and may yet help in our salvation. You would be proud of the man your son has become.”
“Mahlon?” Elimelech looked to the east as if he could see through the mountains that blocked his view of the City of Palms. “No. It is too late. I am without hope. Goodbye, Ehud. I hope that our God is still with you, for I no longer feel his presence.” Elimelech walked back home, head down, shoulders slumped.
This is going to be harder than I thought, Ehud said to himself. Hopefully Boaz will be more enthusiastic.
Over the course of the next two weeks Ehud traveled throughout the tribe of Israel. He met discretely with his fellow Israelites, avoiding those that were most apathetic. He told them all the same plan.
“We will meet on the ridges of Searim the day of the next full moon. It is the day we bring the Tribute. On that day we will destroy the entire Moabite army on our land. Do not be incredulous. God, the God of our ancestors has heard our cries, and He will answer us. The time has come for us to be free of the tyranny of Eglon. Yet we must cleanse our hearts of all thoughts of idol worship. We must cling to our one true God with all our being, and then we will be truly successful.
So come, my brothers. Gird your loins. Let go of your fears. Make yourselves into weapons of the Almighty and we will show those Moabite dogs how the sons of Israel account themselves!”
The crowds would cheer, suddenly infused with rejuvenated hope in the face of overwhelming odds. The odds did not deter Ehud’s followers. Instead their hope motivated them further.
In parting, Ehud would say the same lines uttered by Moses and Joshua – an eternal rallying cry for the Children of Israel: “Be strong and courageous! God is with us!”
“And they said they would be back,” Lerim breathlessly explained to Ehud upon his return to the smithy.
“Well, good thinking on your part about that story with a god of blacksmiths, though the concept is abhorrent. We should not be so quick to call on false gods, even in jest. I can’t believe they fell for such a blatant lie.” Ehud scratched his beard as he looked at the tools they had produced in his absence.
“Now what?” Davneh asked nervously.
“Some men from some of the tribes have agreed to fight back. They are few, but we shall have to make do,” Ehud answered.
“What about weapons? Sharpened axes will be no match for professional swords.” Davneh gestured to the shinning tools throughout the smithy.
Perad grabbed a hammer and smashed an old workbench into pieces, shards flying in all directions. “Stop sniveling!” Perad exclaimed. “A hoe to the throat can kill just as well as a sword. If God is with us we will be victorious.”
“Perad is right,” Ehud explained. “We must do the best we can and God will do the rest. But I do need to make at least one sword. Let’s melt the brass off of those iron spheres. Good thing none of those Moabites knew their metals, otherwise they would have felt the difference immediately.”
“I want to fight as well,” Lerim announced decisively.
“We’ve been over this before,” Ehud responded. “You are too young and I will not risk you in battle. It is enough you lost your father. I shall not make Yigal’s wife husbandless and childless by the same Tyrant. Your helping us here is already a big risk and contribution.”
“I want to avenge Yigal,” Lerim said.
“We shall do that for you. I need you to be an example for the other children to stay back. You are our future and we cannot risk harm coming to you.”
“If you lose, then what future will we have? You will need all the help you can get.”
“Lerim, your heart is in the right place, but I cannot argue about this further. Enough. We have work to do.”
Ehud sat at the workbench, elbows on the table and rested his head on his fists as he finally thought about what he needed to do. I need a weapon. It has to get by undetected. But it has to be effective. It has to be short enough to be concealed, but long and strong enough to kill. A knife is too short. I would never get a sword in.
A short sword, then. What’s the longest I can make it? It must be sharp. I can strap something to my back. No. It will be too apparent. I can strap something to my thigh. The guards will not check under my tunic. That will be its length. It must be heavy and well balanced. But I have no guide. I have never heard of anyone making such a sword.
It must be able to pierce and slash, not just a one-side hacking weapon. I need to get the balance right. I can err by making the blade too heavy and then add weight on the pommel. If I make the blade too light all the work will be lost. But by how much should I err?
Having made his decision, Ehud stood up and started working on the mold. Perad and Davneh had melted the bronze off the spheres, revealing the hot iron interior. They then melted the iron core until it became a bubbling soup of molten metal. Ehud poured the red liquid iron into the mold. Bright chunks of the hot metal splattered out of the mold and onto the floor where they quickly cooled down. However, the majority of the metal settled nicely and evenly into the mold and started to cool down in the breezy evening air. With a pair of tongs Ehud grabbed the still hot shape and placed it in a tub of water which steamed angrily. He then reheated areas of the new sword-shaped object and pounded those spots with a heavy iron mallet. Ehud did this again and again into the night – almost in a trance. The heat was such that every few minutes Ehud had to wipe his dripping sweat out of his eyes. Ehud continued fiercely until he had the shape he wanted.
By the early hours of the morning he was sharpening the sword until the edges were razor-sharp. Finally he looked upon his newly created weapon in wonder. The sword was unlike anything he had ever beheld. The workmanship of the sword was clearly beyond his normal abilities, and he was sure that it was more a result of inspiration rather than skill. It was more like a long dagger than a real sword. Most swords in the region were curved affairs, while his was rigidly straight. Most swords had a single sharp edge and were used for slicing one’s enemy. In some cases a sword would have blunt edges and be used as a bludgeoning device. Ehud’s sword was a double-edged sword with a sharp tip that could be used for slicing from either side – or stabbing.
Ehud’s plan became clearer in his mind as he held his weapon lovingly.
Eglon woke with a start, a sharp pain penetrating his large stomach. The nightmare again, he thought. It had repeated itself for weeks now. He had been at a sumptuous banquet, with all the delicacies of the world at an endless table. Sliced pineapples, fish eggs, sides of beef from rare antelopes, an infinite number of breads in all shapes and sizes, steaming dishes with legumes and vegetables he did not recognize and wine as far as the eye could see. He sat with the greatest kings of history. Pharaohs and Emperors. Nimrod, Hammurabi, Seti the First, Gilgamesh and others he did not know. Dirthamus was at his side, warning him not to eat too much. Galkak was there too, drinking to his heart’s content.
“Eat up, Boss!” Galkak exhorted as he raised an overflowing goblet, spilling red wine. “Why should we pass up on any pleasure? Why should we restrain ourselves? We are masters of the world!”
There was a plate in front of him with miniature heads of the Israelite princelings. He ate one. It was delicious. He ate another and it was even better. Finally he reached the head of Mahlon. Eglon was filled with fear as he beheld the ruddy features of the red-head of Judah. This may be the most exotic taste of all, he thought. Eglon ate the head whole and then his stomach exploded in pain, waking him up.
Perhaps I ate too much last night, Eglon thought, and resolved to restrain himself. The resolve lasted as long as it took him to roll over and go back to sleep.
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