Category Archives: Book of Joshua

Warrior Prophets: Assassin. Prophetic Prologue: Abram’s Covenant

Warrior Prophets II: Assassin

Prophetic Prologue: Abram’s Covenant

Abram views stars
Abram views stars

God had spoken with Abram before. This time, though, Abram smelled menace in the air. The Divine Will exerted its force on Abram and led him to a clearing in the forest, on top of one of the mountains that ran through the length of the land of Canaan. The clearing was bare except for a light carpet of thistles that had fallen from the tall pines surrounding the clearing. A light chill in the night air reminded Abram that winter had not yet released its grasp of the early spring.

“Fear not, Abram,” resonated God’s voice through the clearing, “I shall be a shield for you, and your reward shall indeed be great.”

At first Abram could not respond. God’s presence always overwhelmed him. He needed to calm his thoughts and feelings. After some moments of meditation, he built up the gall to say what was on his mind.

“Lord God, what shall you bestow upon me? I continue childless, while Eliezer of Damascus is my heir apparent. Behold, you have given me no seed, and one of my household shall inherit me. And my nephew Lot, in whom I had placed some hope, has left my path.”

“That one shall not inherit you” responded God, “but one that shall venture forth from your own loins – he shall inherit you.”

A great wind lifted Abram up over the roof of the forest, and carried him high above the cedars and pine trees below. He had a vision of himself even older than he was now, with a child in his care. The child looked remarkably like himself.

Abram felt himself flying through the cool spring night, and was filled with both wonder and fear at the experience.

“Gaze upon the sky and count the stars if you can,” God challenged Abram, “so too shall be the numbers of your progeny.”

Abram gazed upon the countless sparkling lights in the clear night. He gasped at the import of what God was telling him. It took him a few moments to accept that from a single old man, a multitude of humanity would emerge. He believed it, and in God’s ability to make it so.

In the early hours of the morning, the wind set Abram back in the clearing where he had started from, where the conversation continued.

“I am the Lord that brought you out of the furnace of Kasdim, to give you this land to inherit,” God explained.

Abram was then given a view of the full length and breadth of the land of Canaan. From the snow peaked Hermon Mountain in the north, to the sandy beaches of the south with its dazzling coral reef on the shores of the Reed Sea. He saw the lush forests of the Galilee, teeming with wildlife. The rugged hills of the East beside the Jordan River, ripe with vineyards he could almost taste. The fertile plains of the West, where the ground flowered its produce with joy. The rough desert of the Negev where life found a way.  And the mesmerizing Great Sea hugging the western coast. Abram wondered how all the terrains and climates of the world were represented in Canaan, in what he knew was a relatively small area.

However, once again sensing the dread in the forest clearing, he asked:

“Lord God, how shall I know that I will inherit?” Almost immediately he regretted his outspokenness.

For a moment, there was complete silence. Even the surrounding birds seemed to hold their breath to see what the response would be.

Then God answered, with a voice different than before, like that of a somber judge:  “Assemble for me a heifer of three years, and a goat of three years, and a ram of three years, and a turtledove and a young pigeon. Then shall I instruct and answer you.”

 

Abram spent the rest of the day tracking down the list of animals. He was surprised by what seemed like eagerness to be caught on the part of the animals. The ram had calmly walked up to Abram and started to lick his palm. Abram found two goats together and had to keep chasing one away, while he led his choice back to the clearing. Once he had spotted the birds, they flew towards him, landing on his outstretched arms. He built a simple altar of stones, and methodically sacrificed each of the animals by cutting their necks with his sharpened blade.

Then, as per God’s instructions, he split the carcasses of the heifer, the goat and the ram.  He formed a path out of the parts, placing the front part of the animals to his right and the back parts on his left. However, he did not split the bodies of the birds. These he placed on either side of the path, the dove on the right and the pigeon on the left.

When Abram had finished the placement of the parts, he stood up, wiped the sweat off his brow, and looked into the afternoon sun.  He saw a bird in the distance, approaching his mountain rapidly. It was an eagle, by far the largest Abram had ever seen. It beat its wings mightily as if pursued by Satan himself. Part of the fear Abram had been feeling materialized. He grabbed his staff in one hand and his blade in the other. His staff would assist him in the physical battle he was certain was approaching. His blade, so recently used in his religious sacrifices, would aid him in the spiritual battle he knew was a part of this struggle.

For a moment, the eagle disappeared from Abram’s view. He heard the wind of the eagle’s passage through the trees to his side. He ran to the opposite side of the clearing, to get a better view of the bird when it emerged from the trees and into the clearing. But the eagle outsmarted him. The bird appeared from the trees just a few paces from him, screeching like one of Hell’s minions. Abram ducked. The eagle’s talons tore into the tree behind Abram and ripped through it, leaving deep gauges in the tree. The eagle made its way to the path of the parts. Abram quickly followed him.

They reached the parts at the same time and faced each other. The eagle was the size of a man.

“I am here to destroy your path,” shrieked the beast with an inhuman voice, “let me go about my work and I will let you be.”

“No,” stated Abram, with more confidence than he felt, “this is a part of my destiny and I must proceed with it.”

“You fool,” laughed the eagle, “you do not even know your destiny, yet you would fight for it? I tell you it is filled with such sorrows and horror that you can not imagine.  Your children will be sinners and will be preyed upon by the nations of the world.”

“And I say to you, yet again – nay, you vile spirit! I will teach my descendants to be faithful, a light onto the nations. Begone!” Abram charged the beast raising both his weapons.

The eagle deflected the blows with his wings. A scuffle ensued, spreading about the carefully placed parts of the path.  The eagle distracted Abram by shaking his wing in front of him and then striking a gauging blow with his talon from underneath. Abram was able to parry the attack with his staff, and then with all his might he thrust his sword through the wing and into the torso of the beast.

The eagle disengaged from Abram with a shrill cry. “We are both right, my poor Abram. Your children shall be a beacon to the masses, but they will also suffer like no nation on the earth. Only in their faith and their clinging to God will their souls be saved.”

Without warning, the eagle then took flight and screamed out of sight, never to be seen again by man.

Abram straightened the parts that were disturbed during the fight. The setting sun tinted the horizon a dark red as it dipped into the Great Sea. Suddenly a terrible weariness overwhelmed Abram. The full horror of the darkness he had been expecting descended upon him and he found himself in the realm of the spirits.

A voice that could only be God’s spoke to him:

“Know surely that your descendants shall become strangers in a strange land. The people shall enslave and afflict them for four hundred years,” God declared ominously. “But the enslavers I shall also judge, and then your children will be freed, and with great wealth!”

A vision of a great desert kingdom appeared to Abram. He saw thousands upon thousands of people performing hard labor. Pulling and building and dying, all for the egos of demented rulers that considered themselves demi-gods. Constructing great monuments to death, while draining life from all around them. Abram saw his descendants struggling to keep their identity amidst the tyrannical pressures of their oppressors. He saw the appearance of one named Moses, in whom a major event of creation – the acceptance of God’s Law, would come to pass. He would forge and lead his people from the crucible of Egypt. 

The flow and paths of history then became as the threads of a tapestry. The tapestry was infinitely wide, extending from the beginning of time until its end. The threads were the lives and struggles of humanity, and he watched and followed the paths they weaved. The threads were of all colors, some brighter than others. They danced around each other, fighting and clashing through the rhythm of history. Many were cut short. More gave birth to new threads. And a few inspired multitudes and made the whole tapestry brighter. 

Abram then started to focus on particular scenes of the tapestry. He saw the birth of his twelve great-grandchildren that would establish the tribes of Israel. He witnessed the subjugation of their descendants by Pharaoh, and their miraculous exodus to the desert. He experienced the conquest of the land, led by Moses’ disciple, Joshua. However, the glory of the conquest would be short-lived. The Children of Israel would forsake their heritage, leaving God and succumbing to the domination of its neighbors. Abram searched for the fate of his other relatives and progeny. Lot, his nephew, who had not lived up to his expectations would sire two nations. They would not be friendly to Israel. Yet a spark of holiness would be distilled from his line, and form an integral part in Israel’s and the world’s redemption.

His concubine’s son, Ishmael, would found a line that would cover more territory and more nations than any other. The divine message would be altered, yet they would be within an arm’s length of true faith and holiness. A grandson, Esav, through sheer might and willpower, would lay the foundation to one of the strongest and most influential of empires on earth. Based in Rome, their materialism and religiosity would change the world.

But only Jacob and his progeny would remain true to Abram’s path, and to them he returned his attention.

He perceived the constant subjugations, exiles and miseries of Israel as the ebb and flow of history. Brief periods of peace and tranquility would allow them to catch their breath before the next test. 

God interrupted Abram’s thoughts: “They need not suffer in this world.”

“What is the other option?”

“The errant souls would be consigned to the netherworld.”

“I don’t understand.”

“There are two paths, Abram. The first, the one I have shown you, your progeny, all those that follow your way, shall suffer. They shall suffer torment and misery and persecution as a whole, as a nation, whether any one individual is guilty of sin or not. In a nation, one is responsible for the other. A brother bears the burden of his brother though it not be of his own making. The second path does not have the bonds of nationhood, brotherhood or fellowship. Each soul will rise or fall solely on its own merit. However, the soul that falls shall have none to raise him. His soul shall suffer forever.

With that word, God caused the tapestry to roll itself up and Abram witnessed infinity concentrating into a single point. He finally understood that God was not bound by the strictures of time. God was removed from time, as a painter is removed from his canvas. Though one’s destiny may be predetermined and known to God, it did not remove the individual’s free will.

“Lord God, either choice leads to eternal pain.”

“You perceive the truth, Abram. But the pain of exile and subjugation is endurable. The minions of Hell on the other hand will show no mercy to the fallen individual, to those that have none to raise them.”

“You have cast a great burden upon me. I fear that to decide on the fate of unborn millions upon millions is more than I can carry.”

“You must decide, Abram. Yours is a great responsibility. You will choose wisely. But you must choose. I know your fears. You are afraid that the good will suffer with the bad, that justice will not seem evident and that your line will be swept up and disappear forever.”

“That is my fear. Do I choose certain eternal damnation for many, or do I risk all by allowing the entire nation to go into exile?”

“Fear not! By my life, I promise you this. Your descendants shall never be completely lost in exile. They will suffer. They will suffer more than any other people. But there shall always be a remnant. They will follow the path of the just, and the whole world shall be changed because of it.”

Abram spent the entire day in agonized thought. He asked God to see the great tapestry once again, to try to understand the consequences of exile. This time he started from the end of the tapestry and worked his way backwards. He saw the final redemption, four millennia hence. The social convulsions that would precede the coming of the Redeemer. The rebirth of the nation in its land after its long two thousand year exile. The wars that would engulf the world with weapons too horrible to even dream of. He cried at the calculated destruction of one third of his people. He saw the senseless slaughter. Then he saw it all over again. The pattern repeated itself throughout time. Sometimes it was worse, other times it was merely unspeakable. 

The Israelite people would find a home among host nations. They would appear safe and warm in their homes of exile. Once the comfort seeped into their bones, someone reminded them that they did not belong. This was demonstrated forcefully and fatally. But a remnant always lived on.

He felt the majesty of the Second Temple and its heart-wrenching destruction that started the two-thousand year exile. He cheered the bravery of the Macabbees in their struggle for independence. He saw the brief seventy year exile of the First Temple and the drama of Queen Esther in the Persian Empire.

He was overwhelmed by the site of Solomon’s Temple and the presence of God in it. He was amazed by the will of David, the man that would found the royal line. He looked more closely to follow his adventures and was awed that a man could suffer so, yet remain so strong in his faith. David never gave up. He would make himself a vessel for God, and would thereby fulfill one of the more important missions in the tapestry.  His line would remain true until the end of days.

He had pity for Saul in his struggle with kingship and wept for the loss of Samson.  He was surprised by the role of some women. He saw the leadership of Deborah against the army of Yavin and the bravery of Yael as she killed the great General Sisra.

Then he saw a wondrous sight.  The time was shortly after Joshua’s conquest of the land. He saw a left-handed man, leading an army of lefties in a charge against a force ten times its size. And they were singing with joy and faith.

“Who is that, my Lord?”

“That is Ehud, an assassin.”

And Abram looked on as the threads told their story, and as they moved in unexpected yet critical ways.

“Lord God,” he stated with greater confidence than he had felt in some time, “I believe that exile will not be as hopeless as I feared. This is the right course and the one that we must take. God save us.”

“I shall.”

* * * * * *

Biblical Sources:

Genesis Chapter 15

Secondary Sources:

There is a midrashic source that states that at the Covenant of the Parts (Genesis, Chapter 15) God gave Abram the choice of a history of Exile for the Children of Israel or eternal damnation for the souls of the sinners. In the process God showed Abram all of history, so that he could make an informed decision. He chose Exile.

Warrior Prophets Prologue 2: Shadow of the Father

Warrior Prophets Prologue 2

Shadow of the Father

Rahab helping the spies escape Jericho

“With all due respect, Joshua,” Salmoon looked down, “you go too far.”

“I felt it, I tell you,” Joshua pressed. “Boaz has your father’s blood.”

“His blood? As opposed to mine? Forty years later, and you still don’t let me forget. Must I always carry the shame?”

“You are a great man in your own right, Salmoon. But you must admit that your father, Prince Nachshon, was unique. He was a hero, a natural warrior and an inspiration for our people. He was the right man at the right time. His jumping into the sea was an act of the highest faith. He led the way. God parted the waters right then because of him. We witnessed the end of Egyptian hegemony and he was the catalyst. You can’t hope to duplicate such history. No one can.”

“But I have not reached even a fraction of his accomplishments. I am known merely as Salmoon, the failed son of Nachshon the Daring. My own life, my own accomplishments in battle are not even worthy of mention. Now you wish to push my son into the arena at such a tender age. I will have no part in such a travesty.”

Boaz hid quietly behind his family’s tent. Joshua had approached their tent in the camp of Judah to talk with his father. With his typical gruff voice, his father had ordered Boaz out of the tent. Joshua, the new leader ofIsrael, smiled at the departing Boaz and sat down on the simple woolen rug in the small canvas tent. Boaz scampered away loudly, only to quickly turn around and silently return, sitting now very quietly just outside the tent. Boaz’s mother, Rina, was out spinning woolen threads with her work companions.

“What do you fear, Salmoon?” Joshua asked. “Is the shadow of your dead father so long that you cannot escape his reputation? You are a great man, revered and admired by your tribe. You are a captain of a thousand. I saw you as you smote the Midianites, and the Amorites before them. You are a natural leader of men.”

“Perhaps, but not great enough. It is Caleb, Prince Caleb, my brother-in-law, who has inherited my father’s mantle. He is the leader ofJudah. He is the one that receives all the acclaim. Is it not he, together with Pinhas the Priest, that you have sent on a secret mission?”

“How did you know?” Joshua asked, surprised. A light breeze from the Jordan River ruffled the sides of the tent on the Moabite plain. He saw a distinct shadow by the edge of the tent floor.

“Though my sister is quiet, I can perceive when her husband is not in their tent. Her face has an anxiousness, a worry, that is transparent. Pinhas’ absence from his duties in the Tabernacle has been more obvious.”

“Who else knows?”

“I have not discussed it with a soul, though anyone with eyes in their head must have noticed the unexplained absence of two such prominent men.”

“I don’t know that all are as perceptive as you, Salmoon. I preferred to send Caleb, as besides me, he is the only survivor of the disaster of the twelve spies, the only other person that knows the land of Canaan first hand. I sent Pinhas with him as he can be quite useful when there is trouble. But it doesn’t matter. My main intention was to send them discretely, unlike the committee my Master sent four decades ago. However, you are not the only one in your family with perceptive skills.”

Joshua pounced suddenly to the side of the tent. His arm shot outside the tent and pulled back a squirming Boaz by the scruff of the neck.

“Boaz!” Salmoon yelled sternly. “What is the meaning of this? You eavesdrop on the conversation of your elders? Is this how I raised you?”

“You were talking about me and Uncle Caleb. I couldn’t help it.”

“Don’t talk back, child.”

“You did ask him a question, Salmoon,” Joshua added as he released his grip on Boaz.

“I am embarrassed by this behavior, Joshua. Please don’t encourage him.”

“Does he not have the right to hear discussion of his own fate?”

“There is nothing to discuss.” Salmoon stood up, straightening his woolen tunic. “Joshua, I am honored by your attention, but there is nothing further for you to seek from our family.”

“Would it be acceptable for me to converse on this matter with Boaz?”

“I cannot stop you from speaking to whomever you wish. But he is a willful child, with little regard for authority, of which you’ve just seen a small example. If you seek a warrior from him, you shall have to wait many years. Good day.”

Salmoon bowed to the still-seated Joshua, signaling he wished to end the conversation. Joshua stood up and bowed back.

“Thank you, Salmoon, for your time and hospitality.”

Joshua exited the tent and smiled at Boaz for the second time that day.

Boaz tip-toed quietly through the sleeping camp. He waited three tents away from Joshua’s tent in the camp of Ephraim. Joshua’s tent was the closest tent to the central Levite camp surrounding the Tabernacle.

For the third night, Joshua waited until two hours after nightfall and walked quietly and purposefully outside the camp towards the Jordan River.

It took Joshua half an hour to cross the remainder of the Moabite plain and reach a gentle slope on the eastern bank of theJordan River. The spring night air was pleasant, with a cool breeze blowing from the river. Boaz realized he was alee from Joshua and recalled that to be downwind was a good thing when tracking someone or something, though he had never tracked anything before in his ten years of existence. Boaz kept his distance, making sure Joshua was in sight, yet not close enough that he would be noticed. He thanked the darkness of the night and the intermittent clouds that blocked the sliver of moon. His young eyes had adjusted well to the darkness. Boaz saw Joshua stop under a large willow tree, its sad leaves still lush from the winter rains. Joshua paced under the tree, constantly looking across theJordanto the sleeping city ofJerichoin the distance. Joshua finally stopped his pacing and sat down on a large rock. Boaz crawled on all four to reach Joshua’s willow. He felt as if it was taking an excruciatingly long time to reach the large willow, but he dared not risk Joshua noticing him.

Two robed men ascended from the Jordan Riverand approached Joshua in the dark. Boaz recognized them. He could make out the large bearded figures of his uncle Caleb and Pinhas the Priest.

“Are you well?” Joshua asked them.

“We are well. We were delayed,” Caleb answered. “The Canaanites have patrols up and down the river. One of them must have spotted our crossing and alerted the city. They sent troops after us as soon as we enteredJericho.”

“You were not caught,” Joshua stated.

“We were not. Rahav saved us,” Pinhas added. “Your information was accurate. Her house is built into the wall of the city. She was most helpful. She hid us in her house and misled the troops. She bid us wait three days in the mountains, until the search party would give up, and that then it would be safe to cross the river. It was as she said. She is fully committed to our side.”

“An amazing woman,” Caleb continued. “What an aura! It is incredible that such a beacon lives in the cesspool ofJericho.”

“She pressed us to make a pact with her,” Pinhas interjected.

“What pact?” Joshua asked.

 “She sued for the safety of her entire extended family. Parents, siblings, all her father’s home. We agreed. But only if they remain within the walls of her house. We bid her place a scarlet cord outside her window. It can be seen from outside the city.”

Joshua placed his hand on his flowing beard and paced again. Boaz stirred restlessly on the ground behind the tree. The three men looked at each other wordlessly.

“Curious. Committed to our side and her family. Intelligent. Faithful. Her aura, you say?”

“Yes,” Caleb said. “Almost blinding.”

“Very well. You were correct to trust her and make a pact with her. Her house shall stand, though all around her shall fall. Rahav and her family will not be able to stay inJericho, but I presume she understands that.”

“She does,” Pinhas answered. “She knows we come to destroy the city and conquerCanaan.”

“What of their army?”

“Numerous, but fearful,” Caleb stated. “News of our rapid destruction of Og and Sichon has shocked them. They have heard of our vengeance against the Midianites and the execution of Bilaam the Sorcerer.” Caleb looked at Pinhas meaningfully.

“They recall now also the stories of the Exodus,” Pinhas added. “The plagues of Egypt. The splitting of the Sea. They tremble in fear and should we just step across the river they will scurry as mice.”

Leaves rustled as Boaz tried to get comfortable on the rock-strewn ground.

The three men froze for a moment. Joshua smiled. Caleb and Pinhas looked to him for guidance.

“You may come out now, Boaz,” Joshua declared.

Boaz, confused, did not move. How did he discover me, again! Boaz thought. I was so quiet.

“It seems your father’s admonition has not curtailed your eavesdropping. Come out now and spare me the effort of having to drag you out.”

“I’m sorry, Joshua,” Boaz got up from behind the tree and brushed the pebbles and dust off his simple woolen tunic. “Hello, Uncle Caleb, Priest Pinhas.” Boaz nodded at the men. “I was curious as to where Joshua was going every night. I suspected it would be important and connected to the secret mission.”

“It is exciting for you?” Joshua asked.

“Yes! It is very exciting. I can’t wait to see the Canaanites defeated.”

“Do you wish to join us?” Joshua asked.

“Join what? Me? You’re joking. I’m just a kid. My father would never allow anything of the sort anyway. I can help perhaps with the supplies, but what do you mean?”

“Your curiosity may yet get you into trouble, young Boaz. Stay in your father’s tent. It is safer. We shall wait and see if there is a role for you. Go back to the camp now. There are things I would like to discuss in private.”

“Yes, sir,” Boaz bowed and ran off. Thank God they were not upset, Boaz thought. If I’m lucky, they won’t even mention it to my father.

Boaz imagined what it would be like to fight in the battles. To fight like his father, a captain of thousand. Like his grandfather, Prince Nachshon the Daring, who had jumped in the sea and fought side by side with Joshua against the hordes of Amalek all those years ago. Lost in his thoughts, Boaz stubbed his toe against a small rock in the dark.

“Ow!” he called out to the night.

I’m just going to slip back into my tent. Time enough for battle when I grow up, he thought mistakenly.

* * * * * *

Biblical Sources:

Joshua Chapter 2

And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two spies secretly, saying: ‘Go view the land, and Jericho.’ And they went, and came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahav, and lay there. 2 And it was told the king of Jericho, saying: ‘Behold, there came men in hither tonight of the children of Israel to search out the land.’ 3 And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahav, saying: ‘Bring forth the men that have come to you, that have entered into your house; for they have come to search out all the land.’ 4 And the woman took the two men, and hid them; and she said: ‘Yes, the men came to me, but I knew not whence they were; 5 and it came to pass about the time of the shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out; whither the men went I know not; pursue after them quickly; for you shall overtake them!’ 6 But she had brought them up to the roof, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had spread out upon the roof. 7 And the men pursued after them the way to the Jordan unto the fords; and as soon as they that pursued after them were gone out, the gate was shut. 8 And before they were laid down, she came up unto them upon the roof; 9 and she said unto the men: ‘I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond the Jordan, unto Sihon and to Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we had heard it, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more spirit in any man, because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above, and on earth beneath. 12 Now therefore, I pray you, swear unto me by the Lord, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s house–and give me a true token– 13 and save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.’ 14 And the men said unto her: ‘Our life for yours, if you tell not this our business; and it shall be, when the Lord gives us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you.’ 15 Then she let them down by a cord through the window; for her house was upon the side of the wall, and she dwelt upon the wall. 16 And she said unto them: ‘Get you to the mountain, lest the pursuers light upon you; and hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers return; and afterward go your way.’ 17 And the men said unto her: ‘We will be guiltless of this your oath which you have made us to swear. 18 Behold, when we come into the land, you shall bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which you did let us down by; and you shall gather unto you into the house your father, and your mother, and your brethren, and all your father’s household. 19 And it shall be, that whosoever shall go out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless; and whosoever shall be with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him. 20 But if you utter this business, then we will be guiltless of your oath which you have made us swear.’ 21 And she said: ‘According unto your words, so be it.’ And she sent them away, and they departed; and she bound the scarlet line in the window. 22 And they went, and came unto the mountain, and abode there three days, until the pursuers were returned; and the pursuers sought them throughout all the way, but found them not. 23 Then the two men returned, and descended from the mountain, and passed over, and came to Joshua the son of Nun; and they told him all that had befallen them. 24 And they said unto Joshua: ‘Truly the Lord has delivered into our hands all the land; and moreover all the inhabitants of the land do melt away before us.’

Warrior Prophets: Prologue 1 – Stopping Moses

Warrior Prophets: Prologue 1

Stopping Moses

Boaz and five of his friends hid behind the gooseberry bushes on the Moabite plain. Heart-sized red fruit adorned the bright green bushes. Boaz’s back was to the flowing Jordan River, with the walled city of Jericho sitting lonely in the distance. From the Moabite plain Boaz heard the moaning of a million voices. The nation of Israel cried out as one. Boaz’s friends cried as well.

“Moses is really going to die,” whimpered Amitai, a chubby nine-year old. “He is leaving us. We will be alone.”

“Quiet,” Boaz hissed to Amitai and the other children. At ten years old, Boaz was the oldest and the natural leader. His mop of bright red hair refused to grow in one direction and freckles spread out on his pale face. “Moses is almost here. Wait until I stop him and then follow the plan.”

“I’m scared,” Amitai sniffled. “What if he gets angry? We’ll die.”

“Don’t worry,” Boaz waved his hand. “Moses will not hurt us. And even if he does, it’s worth the risk.”

“I’m not sure,” Amitai implored.

Boaz peaked through the bushes and spotted Moses approaching, escorted by Joshua.  

“Look, Joshua,” Boaz overheard Moses. “Wild gooseberries. I love these. God is gracing my last moments.” Moses plucked several of the ripe fruits, careful to avoid the thorns of the bush. He placed them in the folds of his robe. “I will save these for the climb up the mountain.”

“Stop!” Boaz jumped out from the bushes and blocked Moses, who towered above him. Moses’ thick beard was pure white and flowed gently over his cotton robe. Though he leaned lightly on his large staff, he looked as strong and vibrant as ever. Joshua at his side sported a pale blond beard and still wore light leather armor, with a sword hanging from his belt.

“Hello, Boaz son of Salmoon,” Moses said, a white bushy eyebrow raised high. “What can I do for you?”

“I’m not going to let you die.” Boaz’s voice trembled.

Moses smiled. “It is God’s command. I have always followed God’s command.”

Boaz waved at the bushes. Amitai led a row of four other children from behind the bushes. They walked between Moses and Joshua and grabbed onto Moses’ robe from behind. They closed their eyes.

“Oho!” Moses gasped. “What trickery have you hatched, Boaz?”

Boaz stepped forward and grasped the hem of Moses’ robe.

“We will not let you go. If you can’t go up to Mount Nevo, you can’t die. We will hold on to you for the rest of our lives. We are much younger than you and can hold on as long as we need.” Boaz looked up at Joshua. “No disrespect to you sir, but we want Moses to stay with us and take us into Canaan.” Joshua nodded silently.

Moses looked down and around at the children surrounding him.

“The blood of Nachshon the Daring runs true in your veins, Boaz. Your grandfather would have been pleased by your audacity. Children, we might as well make ourselves comfortable,” Moses said as he sat down on the ground.

The children sat down, still holding on to his robe.

“I have an important meeting to attend,” Moses said to the children. “My last one in this incarnation. God has requested my presence and you are delaying my mission.”

“There is one more mission we want you to do. Take us into Canaan.” Boaz demanded.

Moses sighed. “I wish to with all my heart, my dear Boaz. I would like nothing better than to feel the earth of the Promised Land beneath my feet. To breathe the air of its mountains. To taste its fruit. Its grapes. Its figs. To sit in the shade of its trees. To drink the sight of its sunrises and sunsets. But it is not to be.”

“Come with us. I don’t always listen to my parents,” Boaz whispered. “You have argued with God before. It’s right here across the river. Please.”

“I have often argued with God, and I argued much on this point, but I always listen in the end and so must you. My mission with the Children of Israel is complete. It has been long and difficult. God has assigned the conquest ofCanaanto Joshua. You must let me go.”

The other children looked nervously at Boaz.

“No,” Boaz pouted. “We need you. How will we manage without you?”

“That is why I must leave. You need to learn to manage without me. You have Joshua, you will have other leaders.” Moses tussled Boaz’s unruly hair and closed his eyes for a moment. “You, Boaz, will be a leader one day as well. And you have the Torah. Never forget the Torah. Never let its words leave your mouth. That will guard you better than anything. It is God’s word and we must follow it.”

The children continued to hold his robe.

“Have you heard how I killed Og the giant?” Moses asked.

The children nodded.

“I jumped to a very great height. Would you like to see that?”

The children looked at each other in confusion.

“But first I want to give you each a gift.”

Moses stood up and out of the folds of his robe he removed the ripe gooseberries. He raised his hands like a magician, showing one fruit in-between each of his spread out fingers. He flung one fruit at each of the children and one at Joshua, and then put the last one back in his robe. Boaz let the fruit bounce off his chest as he held tight to Moses’ robe. Joshua caught his fruit. The rest of the children caught the fruit, letting go of the robe.

Moses crouched for a second and then leapt a dozen feet into the air. Boaz, still clutching the robe, was pulled along, screaming. Moses caught Boaz in midair and they both fell back to the ground, with Boaz in Moses’ arms.

Moses put Boaz back on his feet. Boaz’s whole body shook. He had let go of Moses’ robe.

“I need to go now, Boaz,” Moses said.

“I don’t understand.”

“You will one day.”

“We will miss you.”

“I know. I will miss all of you too.”

Moses began to walk up the mountain, never to be seen by mortal man again. As he ascended, he drew the remaining gooseberry out of his robe and took a hearty bite. Joshua and the children watched Moses ascendMount Nevo until he was out of sight.

Joshua addressed Boaz and his friends. “Go back to your families, children. Be saddened by the loss of our teacher, our leader, but do not be upset. I felt as you do, wishing to stop him, but we need to learn when to let go.” Joshua’s bright green eyes looked at nothingness as he uttered the last line.

“You will lead us?” Boaz asked.

“Yes, young Boaz.”

“Moses told you what to do?”

“Indeed he did.”

“Then it will be okay then?”

“You see the city in the distance?” Joshua pointed at Jericho.

“It looks very strong.”

“It is Jericho. It controls the entire west bank of the Jordan River. Its walls are impregnable and its gate is made of iron. It is the key to conquering the land of Canaan. Do you think we can take it, my young warrior?”

“I d-don’t know.” Boaz stuttered.

“God has promised that we shall.”

“Th-then I guess we will.”

“How should we do it? Should we just wait for God to deliver it to us or should we attack and hope God helps us out in time?”

“Why are you asking me? I’m just a kid. Don’t you know what to do?”

“I know exactly what to do,” Joshua smiled briefly. “But now is not the time. My master has just left us and the void is still too terrible to think of. We shall mourn his passing. Then we shall cross the Jordan to enter Canaan. And then, young Boaz, you shall see the hand of God. The Canaanites shall rue the day we left Egypt. Jericho shall be the first to fall and the land will tremble in fear.”

“I would like to see that.”

“Would you now?” Joshua patted Boaz on the head. He stopped suddenly. “Curious,” Joshua whispered.

“What?” Boaz asked.

“I sense. I sense that you will have an important role to play. How unusual. In one so young,” Joshua said vaguely. “The grandson of Prince Nachshon the Daring.”

“What are you saying?”

Joshua looked into Boaz’s bright blue eyes. “The shadow of death is upon you.”

“What do you mean? What should I do?”

“Why, go into battle, of course.”

 * * * * *

Biblical Sources:

Deuteronomy Chapter 34

1 And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land, even Gilead as far as Dan; 2 and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the hinder sea; 3 and the South, and the Plain, even the valley of Jericho the city of palm-trees, as far as Zoar. 4 And the Lord said unto him: ‘This is the land which I swore unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying: I will give it unto thy seed; I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.’ 5 So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. 6 And he was buried in the valley in the land of Moab over against Beth-peor; and no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day. 7 And Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. 8 And the children ofIsrael wept for Moses in the plains ofMoab thirty days.

Secondary Sources:

Rashi: The Children of Israel tried to prevent Moses from ascending Mount Nebo.

Warrior Prophets – Chapter 32: Epilogue: The Death of Joshua

Warrior Prophets Chapter 32

Epilogue: The Death of Joshua

From the diary of Boaz the Bethlehemite:

Joshua succeeds Moses

Joshua’s death struck me hard. Although I did not feel that I had been particularly close to him, he had always watched over me, ever since we crossed the Jordan River all those decades ago. I felt as if the heavy weight of a runner’s baton had been thrust into my hand. I felt unworthy, unprepared and unsure. Unworthy of any of his attentions, unprepared to exercise any leadership, and unsure how to do so.

Joshua died shortly after the assembly at Shechem. Many turbulent thoughts went through my mind on that cold rainy day on the peak of Mount Ephraim. There were precious few of us that came to escort Joshua’s body to the lonely grave. What an embarrassment! The man who had commanded the legions ofIsrael, buried by a handful of his loved ones. Where were all the princes? The elders? The judges? The captains of hundreds and thousands? The people ofIsrael? How quickly you forget your leaders. I felt eerily that Joshua’s dark prophecies were already coming to fruition.

 How much I shared with others on that day, how much I told myself and how much I remembered from snatches of conversations with Joshua, I do not recall. This quill and papyrus that I use to record events are poor substitutes for the images and memories of a racing and selective mind, but they are better than naught.

Joshua reached the age of one hundred and ten, the same as his illustrious ancestor, Joseph son of Jacob. It seemed to me that Joshua and Joseph bonded more in death than in the lives that were centuries apart.

Joseph, a prince and viceroy ofEgypt, had known wealth and luxury most of his life. In Egypt, Joseph had been the unofficial leader of his brothers, the future tribes. Always aloof though, always somewhat apart. He was the first of the brothers to die, prophesizing the Exodus from Egypt.

Joshua had been a prince of his tribe and the official leader of all of Israel. His whole life had been lived humbly, first as the servant of Moses, never leaving his side. Upon the death of Moses, Joshua resided in his simple campaign tent, until the conquest and division of Canaanwere complete. He was a man of the people, understanding them well, relating to their pain and frustration, perhaps even better than his master Moses had. Moses had been too close to God. How could a man who spoke directly with God, whose own face radiated the Divine glory, understand or appreciate the petty concerns of mere mortals? Joshua understood. Though divinely inspired, he was a step removed, a step closer to us humans. 

Joseph had died in Egypt, yet his bones had been lovingly escorted by Moses himself throughout the sojourn of the Children of Israel through the desert.

Joshua had recounted to me once how Moses delivered Joseph’s bones, along with the mantle of leadership to Joshua. Moses was dressed in his old robe and carried his staff. Joshua was in battle gear, with light leather armor and a sword at his side. They stood on the dusty plains of Moab, looking into the land of Canaanfrom across the Jordan River. Moses entrusted the remains of Joseph to Joshua.

“Bury him in Shechem,” Moses had instructed Joshua. “Oh, that I would have the privilege,” Moses moaned quietly. “Oh, that I would tread the land of our forefathers, as you are about to, Joshua.”

“Is there no chance?” Joshua asked, knowing the answer.

“No. God will not change His mind. His decision is final. I must accept it.”

“Will we ever meet again?”

“In death, certainly; and at the resurrection.”

“You see it? You see The End?” Joshua asked, pushing his Master on this subject one last time.

“Yes, Joshua. But I cannot reveal it. Not even to you. It is too heavy a burden, and you shall have many a burden dealing with the present.”

“Will the sharing not make it lighter, even in your final hours?”

“Perhaps. But I take many things to the grave. You must be strong and of good courage, Joshua. God will be with you and guide you. You will defeat the kings ofCanaan. You will see the tribes victorious and settled – each family in their portion.”

“Yet I would know the future,” Joshua insisted.

“I will tell you a bit of your future.” Moses closed his eyes for a moment and opened them again, looking far away. “You will be buried in the allotment of your tribe, not far from your ancestor, Joseph. You will conquer all whom you attack and all the Kings of Canaan will fear you, though you will not attack all. Israel will not be worthy. I bequeath to you our stiff-necked brethren, and they shall not change. There will be the camaraderie of battle and camp life, but that will dissipate after you have inherited the land and each family and tribe takes matters into their own hands. You must keep them united while you live. United and dedicated. Idol-worshippers will surround you. Our people will become enamored by their corrupt ways. You must remain ever vigilant. Build up the barriers as strong as you can, for eventually they will fall. But do not be saddened. Your name shall be one of the greatest in the narrative of our people. All will recall you as The Conqueror. Your story shall be a pillar of our history. I am proud of you, Joshua. Of the man you have become and the destiny you will fulfill. You have been loyal, dedicated and courageous, and those traits will serve you well in your mission.”

“Is there more?” Joshua asked, sensing Moses’ pause.

“There is much more. God will reveal exactly what you need at the right time. He only shows the future when it serves a purpose. And congratulations on your marriage.”

“You jest, my Master? There is no one among the daughters of Israel that has agreed to marry me.”

“I do not jest. There is one who is not amongst us that will join our people. She is brave and beautiful, inside and out. You will meet her quite soon and the two of you will enjoy the rest of your life together.”

“Who is she? How will I know?”

“You will know her when you see her. If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can sense her aura shining like a beacon from across the river. All in its right time.”

“I will miss you greatly.”

“I shall miss you as well. But never doubt yourself or that this is your task. It has been decreed from heaven. If I have been compared to the sun, then you are the moon and after you many stars shall follow until the moon rises again.”

“I don’t understand.”

“It is not our task to understand, merely to accept.”

“You understand.”

“I am in a unique position that will not be repeated in human history.”

“Is it better to understand?”

“It is both consoling and painful at the same time.”

“You speak in riddles.”

“I speak the truth, which is often a riddle that only time and experience will solve.”

“I am ready then,” Joshua stated.

“Of course you are.” Moses and Joshua embraced, tears streaming down both their eyes. Moses’ tears reached his long snow-white beard, while Joshua’s tears touched his own light blond beard.

So ended the account that I recall from Joshua.

There was a period of great tranquility after Joshua died. It lasted until the elders of that generation passed away. Slowly, rumors of Moabite strength emerged. Canaanite cities that Joshua had not attacked exhibited greater strength, greater independence. Some Canaanite cities, who had previously demonstrated their subservience by paying a yearly tax to Israelite tribes, now stopped doing so. With the growing strength of the idol-worshippers around us, more of our people conducted business with them. “What’s wrong with their money?” many would argue.

Israelites started buying products from the idol-worshippers: beautiful Philistine pottery and expert metalworking, distinctive Moabite rugs and fancy Amonite garments. Finally, Israelites started doing business with Canaanites. “They are right here,” the merchants explained. “Why do I need to go to the coast or cross the Jordan to get my goods? The fabrics from Megiddo are just as good – and cheaper!”

Israelite merchants met with their Canaanite counterparts in their taverns, though still careful not to drink their wines. Mead, however, they consumed together with them freely: “No one uses mead for idol libations. A friendly drink or two won’t hurt.”

Judges protested the growing friendship with Canaanites to no avail.

I knew that the situation had deteriorated into troublesome waters when I heard a young Judean farmhand curse as he walked into Bethlehem with a bull in tow: “By Baal, you lazy animal! I’ll have you slaughtered for your meat if you don’t move!”

Disturbed, I approached the young man.

“What did you say?”

“Nothing, sir,” the young man replied, startled. “I was just berating my bull for moving slowly. He is a strong animal. Are you interested? He can plow an entire field in half a day.”

“Did you just swear in the name of a false god?” I pressed.

“What? That? It’s just an expression. Everyone in my village says it.”

“Do you realize that it is prohibited? That the Law of Moses, that God himself commanded us not to use the names of the false gods?”

“Really? I’m sorry. I meant no harm. Have a good day.”

The young man moved along as quickly as he could. I wasn’t sure if he was embarrassed or just uncomfortable under my glare.

How quickly they forget! Joshua is gone just a handful of years and already the next generation is weak in the Law of Moses. Where are the Levites? Were they not charged with teaching the Law? But I digress. I wanted to write about Joshua. To remember him and what he accomplished, rather than harp on how matters worsened in the years that followed his death.

All of the prophecies regarding Joshua were fulfilled. He was buried not far from Joseph. He married the beautiful Rahav of Jericho and lived happily with her until the end of his days. He vanquished all that came in his path. The Kings of Canaan trembled at the mention of his name. Each of the twelve tribes was settled in their inheritance. The Levite cities and cities of refuge were established. The Children of Israel dwelt in the land promised to our forefathers. The land promised at the Exodus from Egypt. The land promised at Mount Sinai. The land promised throughout the forty years of desert wandering. The Children of Israel dwelt in the land in peace and security, prosperous and comfortable. Israel succeeded in abandoning the miraculous existence of the desert, the manna, the magical well, the protective clouds, the clothing that never wore out. We moved to an existence of working the land. Of waiting for the ground to give birth to its produce. Of gathering the sheaves and grinding the wheat. Of mixing and kneading and baking the dough. Of seeding the ground and rotating the crops. Of waiting upon the right fruit in the right season. Grapes, olives, figs, pomegranates, dates – a land blessed with abundance. Cows and goats and sheep roamed throughout our land.

Once, I chanced upon a particularly productive cow on the western bank of the Jordan River, where palm trees grow wild. It was at the crack of dawn when the sleepy farmer went to milk his cow. He was not paying attention as the milk from the cow overflowed his wooden pail. The milk trickled down the hill and flowed over ripe dates that had fallen from a palm tree. The milk mingled with the honey oozing from the dates. Then I knew we were indeed in a land flowing with milk and honey. As Moses had promised and Joshua fulfilled. We shall ever remember you, Joshua, Conqueror, Leader, Servant of God, Father, Friend.

End Book 1 of Warrior Prophets

Warrior Prophets – Chapter 31: Assembly and Prophecy

Warrior Prophets Chapter 31

Assembly and Prophecy

“Do you feel it, Pinhas?” Joshua asked the High Priest. They stood together at the top of the rock-strewn mountain, outside the city of Shechem in the valley below. The hills of the Tribe of Ephraim, Joshua’s tribe, rose dramatically around them. They were on the border of the desert. Some of the mountains were green and verdant and others sparse and bare. The morning sun rose steadily. The night’s dew still glistened on the short grass interspersed between large boulders where Joshua and Pinhas stood.

“I feel the apathy,” Pinhas replied.

“It is worse than that. It is the contentment. They are satiated and they no longer rely on God. Each man has his own field, with peace all around. I fear my Master’s other prophecies will come true.”

Joshua had aged considerably. He was nearly one hundred and ten years old. The once vibrant, powerful warrior, the commanding general, the leader of the tribes of Israel was now little more than a withered white frame of skin and bones.

“So soon?” Pinhas, with a fully white beard, asked with some surprise. “Moses made his prophecies sound like they were for a distant future. Surely we are not there yet.”

“There were many layers to my Master’s prophecies. Is not the word of God eternal? There are cycle. And cycles within cycles. Mysteries and secrets that only future generations will understand and uncover. The next cycle will start soon – at most another generation. We must do what we can.”

“That is why you’ve called them again?” Pinhas asked, pointing at the masses of people climbing up the mountain.

“Yes. The last convocation was not satisfactory. The judges and princes gathered, but with no conviction, and they left with no enthusiasm, no commitment. I must press harder. My time is coming near and I will not have another opportunity. And there are two I must instruct further and strengthen.”

“Boaz and Ehud?” Pinhas asked.

“Yes, they are critical for the next cycle. If they fail, the future may be harsher and more precarious than needs be.”

“I don’t understand,” Pinhas admitted.

“Neither do I,” Joshua laughed. “God directs me and gives me certain images and directions. I get glimpses of the tapestry of our future and our past, and both Boaz and Ehud have pivotal roles. It is their free choice that shall determine the course of the major threads. God’s plan remains intact, yet the hue, the pattern, the entire fabric of our history will be shaped by their actions.”

“That is why you choose this place, Shechem?” Pinhas asked.

“Yes. Our forefather Jacob needed to strengthen the tribes and the first generation. He needed to purge them of the idolatrous compulsion. He succeeded right here on this mountaintop, beside this tree.” Joshua pointed to the ancient terebinth tree near him. “If we dig deep enough, we may even find the old idols and jewelry Jacob buried here. I pray that we can draw from Jacob’s success and the energy of this place.”

Two men approached Joshua and Pinhas, ahead of the crowd. One was a tall redhead, with hints of grey; the other was a squat young muscular brown-haired man.

“We are here, Joshua, Pinhas,” Boaz, the redhead, announced as he and Ehud bowed to the leader of Israel and to the High Priest.

“Welcome, Boaz son of Saalmon of Judah, Ehud son of Gera of Benjamin. You are worthy representatives of your tribes.”

“We are but minor judges in our tribes,” Boaz responded. “There are more senior judges and princes amongst us. We merely answered your summons to arrive early at the mountaintop.”

“Well answered,” Joshua said. “I wish for the two of you to see what I see. To see the assembled princes and elders and judges of the tribes of Israel. I feel that this is a sight that shall not occur again for many generations. I want you to remember it and draw strength from it. But do not stand right next to me. That would be improper. Perhaps stand next to the terebinth here and observe. Remain after the assembly leaves, as I wish to speak to each of your further.”

“I don’t understand.” Ehud cleared his throat. “Why will there be no more assemblies? Who will lead after you?”

“Sharp as always, Ehud.” Joshua smiled. “How is your blacksmithing work progressing?”

“Well, I am busy with pots and pans, rakes and hoes and a constant stream of domestic and agricultural tools. I still can’t compete with the Philistine blacksmiths but I’m getting better. Would you like to order something?”

“No, no, Ehud. Thank you. But I will answer your question. There is no one to appoint to succeed me and the tribes would not accept anyone other than from their own tribes. Boaz, would your proud tribe of Judah accept someone from Ehud’s Benjamin? Ehud, would your tribe allow someone from Menashe or even your neighbor Ephraim to rule over you? It is not like the days in the desert or even of the conquest. Each man, each family, each tribe is comfortable on its own land. Too comfortable. They will not follow or heed anyone else. They barely heed me or Pinhas. That is, until trouble returns. Then they will need strong leaders.”

“When do you expect trouble?” Ehud asked.

“Not in my day,” Joshua chuckled dryly. “But that’s enough for now. The assembly is congregating and I would not have them wait. Go stand by the tree.”

Joshua moved slowly to the apex of the mountain, supported by a large wooden staff. Pinhas stayed behind, but still in sight of the massing crowd. Boaz and Ehud walked quickly to the shade of the large terebinth.

Joshua gazed upon the congregated representatives. Twelve princes faced him and bowed low when he approached. The seventy elders stood behind the princes in their somber woolen robes. Behind them, further down the slope of the mountain, stood the judges and officers from every city and village of the twelve tribes of Israel, hundreds strong. Joshua recognized the older ones. The ones who had entered Canaan with him from the desert. The ones who had fought side by side with him to conquer the land God had promised.

Joshua felt the spirit of God permeate him. He stood tall and spoke powerfully:

“Children of Israel!” Joshua’s voice reverberated off the surrounding mountains, filling the valley with his voice. “Thus said the Lord, the God of Israel: Your fathers dwelt in antiquity beyond the River. Terah was the father of Abraham, and the father of Nahor; and they served other gods. I took your father Abraham from beyond the River, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac. I gave unto Isaac, Jacob and Esau; and I gave unto Esau Mount Seir, to possess it; and Jacob and his children went down into Egypt. I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, and afterward I brought you out. I brought your fathers out of Egypt; and you came unto the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and with horsemen unto the Red Sea. And when they cried out unto the God, He put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them, and covered them; and your eyes saw what I did in Egypt; and you dwelt in the wilderness many days.”

Ehud whispered to Boaz. “What’s with the history lesson?”

“Hush,” Boaz answered. “We need reminding. We don’t think of what God has done for us often enough.”

“I brought you into the land of the Amorites,” Joshua continued, “that dwelt beyond the Jordan; and they fought with you; and I gave them into your hand, and you possessed their land; and I destroyed them from before you. Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and fought against Israel; and he sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you. But I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he even blessed you; so I delivered you out of his hand. And you went over the Jordan, and came unto Jericho; and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorite, and the Perizzite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Girgashite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite; and I delivered them into your hand. I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; not with thy sword, nor with thy bow. And I gave you a land whereon you had not labored, and cities which you built not, and you dwell therein; of vineyards and olive groves which you have not planted do you eat.”

“We know all of this,” Ehud said impatiently. “What’s the point?”

“Listen, Ehud. Listen.”

“Now therefore fear the Lord.” Joshua raised his arms heavenward. “And serve Him in sincerity and in truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, and in Egypt; and serve you the Lord.” Joshua clenched his fist angrily. “And if it seems evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua stopped suddenly and looked impassively at the twelve princes in front of him. The entire assembly broke into surprised and angry murmurs.

“Did he say what I just thought he did? I can’t believe it. He’s giving us a choice to serve the other gods?” Ehud whispered.

“It must be a test,” Boaz answered. “He wants to strengthen the peoples’ resolve.”

“He’s going to have a riot on his hands.”

“Let’s see what the princes do.”

The judges and the elders seemed insulted and furious at Joshua’s offer.

“What does he mean?” an elder from Naftali asked. “Our people have free choice to worship other gods? This is the disciple of Moses? He would encourage us to leave our worship of God? Blasphemy!”

“Joshua does not mean it,” the Prince of Zevulun answered, turning to the masses behind him. “He senses our people’s weakness, our lack of resolve. He prods us to see how deep our apathy is. We must answer him.”

“We are dedicated to God and to the instruction of Moses,” the Prince of Yissachar stated.

“Then we must say so,” the Prince of Zevulun said to the crowd. “We all must say so. Unequivocally. It is nice that Joshua gives inspiring speeches, but it is not enough. He must hear from us. All of us!”

And the people shouted back to Joshua, as if in one voice:

“Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods; for the Lord our God, it is He that brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and that did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in the way we went, and among all the peoples through the midst of whom we passed.”

Ehud whispered to Boaz. “This is amazing!”

“Yes. Joshua has accomplished his purpose. They are showing some verve after all.”

The assembly continued shouting: “And the Lord drove out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites that dwelt in the land; therefore we also will serve the Lord; for He is our God.”

The people of Israel stopped speaking. Complete silence enveloped the mountain. All waited for Joshua’s reaction. Joshua looked upon the assembly, an imperceptible smirk on his face. He closed his eyes, looked heavenward, nodded and opened his eyes to address the children of Israel.

“You cannot serve the Lord; for He is a holy God; He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If you forsake the Lord, even after all the good that He has done for you, and serve strange gods, then He will turn and do you evil, and consume you.”

“Is he out of his mind?” Ehud could barely contain himself. “What does he want from them? A pact in blood? Their firstborns? I’m impressed they haven’t stoned him yet.”

“No. Joshua is not satisfied yet,” Boaz explained. “He is driving the point home. He is renewing Israel’s allegiance to God. He hopes their commitment will endure. This is his way.”

The Princes conducted a heated discussion with the Elders and the Judges. They would make another unified statement. Louder and more passionately than before, they cried out in unison:

“Nay! We will serve the Lord!”

Joshua finally smiled and declared:

“You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve Him.”

Without prompt or discussion, the entire assembly, hundreds strong, raised their fists to the sky and screamed:

“We are witnesses!”

“Now therefore put away the strange gods which are among you,” Joshua pointed at the assembly, “and turn your heart unto the Lord, the God of Israel.”

“The Lord our God will we serve,” they answered, “and unto His voice will we hearken.”

Joshua nodded. He stretched his hand towards Pinhas standing near him. Pinhas presented an old scroll to Joshua, and held up a writing tablet for him to place it on.

“I am now writing these words, this new covenant, between you and God,” Joshua said as he wrote on the scroll. He handed the scroll back to Pinhas and looked around the mountaintop. He spotted the largest boulder he could find, a large gray stone, the height of a man and as wide as two men standing together. Joshua approached the stone with his staff and slashed at it with the tip of his staff. A red gash appeared through the middle of the stone sending off hot sparks. The crowd stepped back and murmured in amazement. Joshua then placed his staff on the ground, bent his knees and dug his hands under the massive stone. The frail-looking old man lifted the stone and walked it across the mountaintop to the large terebinth. The congregation was silent in awe. Joshua dropped the stone next to the large tree. It landed with a loud thud and sunk a few finger-breadths into the grassy ground.

Under the shade of the tree, the children of Israel could make out a faint glow surrounding their leader.

“Behold!” Joshua called out, standing tall and firm, with no sigh of exertion on his face. “This stone shall be a witness against us; for it has heard all the words of the Lord which He spoke unto us; it shall therefore be a witness against you, lest you deny your God! Now go. Every man to his home and his inheritance. But remember this day. Remember the pact we have reforged with God. Remember it and tell it to your children. God bless you and watch over you!”

The assembled stood, smiling at Joshua, clapped each other on the back and in general seemed pleased with themselves, as if successfully passing a test. They slowly disassembled, each group heading to their own tribal lands. Some of the princes and elders stayed behind, waiting to speak with Joshua.

“Wow!” Ehud breathed. “Was that what it was like at Mount Sinai?”

“I’m not that old,” Boaz said. “Though this was certainly awe-inspiring.”

“Let’s see what else Joshua wanted to tell us.”

The two walked briskly back to Joshua and Pinhas, ahead of the princes. Joshua motioned for Boaz and Ehud to approach and for the princes to wait and keep their distance.

“Ah, the next leaders,” Joshua said to Boaz and Ehud. “What did you think of our assembly?”

“Inspiring,” Boaz answered.

“Amazing!” Ehud replied. “We should do it more often.”

“I wish,” Joshua smiled. “But such monumental occasions would then lose there efficacy. I wonder when the next one may occur.” Joshua looked far away, pensively. “Never mind. Back to the business at hand. I will give you some advice for the future.”

Joshua closed his eyes, his face concentrating intently, his head bobbing up and down as if following some invisible current. He opened his eyes and looked at Boaz.

“My dear young warrior. You have seen more battle and death than most. Your skills and Caleb’s training served you and us well. You will have a more domestic life now, but there is one more task you will need to do, one courageous act that will set the stage for a unified Israel.”

“What act? What unity? Are we not unified now?”

“All I can tell you is that your act will be one of kindness. An unexpected kindness that will be placed at your feet and that will take great strength and resolve. It will go against what everyone around you will say. As for unity, we are unified now just in name, and with my passing, even that unity will disintegrate for generations to come. Only a special personality, in future days of tribulation, will have the power, the charisma, the will, to unify all of Israel. He shall come from your seed, Boaz.”

Boaz stood, mouth ajar, uncomprehending.

“Onto you, Ehud son of Gera. Your fighting career has not ended. One day you shall lead your tribe. The sons of Benjamin shall follow you into battle. You will need all your prodigious cunning and skill to overcome your enemy. Most of all, you will require faith. Faith in God and the instruction of Moses. Faith in His enduring love for the children of Israel, even when we sin. He will bring oppressors onto Israel whenever we stray from His path. It is as my Master Moses has foretold. You will see the cycle. The cycle of oppression, of God’s salvation through a chosen one and then tranquility until we stray again. After your battle, yours will be the period of the greatest tranquility. Make sure, in your old age, to tell the next leader of this cycle. You will know who it is just as I know it is you. Give him strength, that he not forget God, when all around have.”

Ehud blinked rapidly trying to absorb Joshua’s prophecy.

“Who is my enemy? How can I prepare?”

“I cannot reveal more,” Joshua smiled suddenly as if understanding some divine joke. “I will hint at his identity, but it will confound both of you for the rest of your lives. Your enemy, Ehud, is Boaz’s future father-in-law. Your killing and defeating him will enable the monarchy of Israel to rise.”

Ehud and Boaz looked at Joshua in utter confusion.

“Now don’t go around killing every prospective father-in-law,” Joshua added. “And don’t you worry, Boaz. Vered and you shall have a long and happy life together. But I have said enough. Perhaps too much. To answer your second question, Ehud. There is no preparation. The evil shall rise slowly and unchecked. The apathy shall grow. The compulsion to worship other gods will rise again, slowly but surely. The only preparation is to remain strong, dedicated, faithful. Keep the spirit and the belief alive in others, though at times you may feel as if you are the only one. Never give up hope! Deep inside every Israelite is an unshakeable faith in God, as you’ve seen today. Time and foreign influences will cover it in layers of idol-worship and materialism, but one call to arms, one strike against an oppressor, will cut through all those layers and reveal the true sons of Israel inside. Now go, both of you. I have things to discuss with Pinhas and the princes before I depart this world and you are both needed in your homes.”

Joshua hugged Boaz and Ehud tightly, then released them, holding back tears.

“Farewell, Boaz, Ehud. Be strong and of good courage!”

* * * * * *

Biblical Sources:

Joshua’s speech is taken almost verbatim from Joshua Chapter 24. (Translation based on JPS 1917 version courtesy of Mechon Mamre site).

The commentator, Don Isaac Abarbenel, is the one who suggests that Joshua chose the city of Shechem for the assembly to parallel and draw strength from the Patriarch Jacob’s assembly and command to his sons and household to get rid of their idols in the same place.

I was hesitant to add the part with the stone at the end. The text is confusing and the commentators are in wide disagreement as to what it means. It’s not clear exactly where he did it, what was on it, what happened to the scroll, what the scroll was and a host of other questions.

Joshua’s prophecies to Boaz and Ehud are based on the text of the Story of Ruth and from the Book of Judges that I hope to get to in upcoming stories.

“Be strong and of good courage,” was the blessing of Moses to Joshua, his successor.

Warrior Prophets – Chapter 30: Wedding Crashers

Warrior Prophets Chapter 30

Wedding Crashers

Yered, still cloaked, watched the wedding proceedings from a nearby alleyway. Risto clung to his back, completing Yered’s disguise as a hunchback. Yered kept smacking Risto’s hairy tail that flicked in and out of the cloak. They were surprised by the velocity of the Philistine attack upon Bethlehem and the large armored man who had made it through the gates.

“Your former master, that is?” Yered asked Risto as they watched Akavish fight Caleb near the city gate.

Risto chittered affirmatively.

“Frightening, he has become.”

Risto agreed and chittered a few choice curses, caressing his own prosthetic wooden arm.

“Most dangerous, he is. Lessened, danger will be if we stop him. Small threat, Raskul is.” He pointed at Raskul slowly making his way towards the fallen wedding canopy, as guests and residents ran for cover. A handful of people lay dead or injured in the city plaza. Arrows rained down on Bethlehem from outside the walls. Joshua stood in the center of the plaza, immobile behind the wedding canopy. He stood with eyes closed, head and palms heavenward, guarded by Boaz, with Vered standing next to Boaz.

Risto jumped up and down under Yered’s cloak.

“Patience, Risto,” Yered told the monkey. “When absolutely needed, enter fray and reveal ourselves we will.”

Risto chittered wildly, pointing at a fallen Caleb on the ground. The clear blue skies suddenly turned overcast, with dark heavy clouds rolling in, as Boaz ran to intercept Akavish’s claw before it impaled the unconscious Caleb. Boaz knocked the claw aside with his sword, but could not get through Akavish’s metal armor and helmet. However, Akavish was unable to injure the faster Boaz. Akavish finally turned from Boaz and walked towards Vered with his claw pointed at her.

The entire city shook as the Philistine battering ram smashed through the wooden gate ofBethlehem, scattering the Israelite defenders. A river of Philistines poured into the city, with Boaz the only one in their way to stop their surge.

Yered saw Raskul approach Vered menacingly. Boaz looked wildly between the approaching Philistine army and his bride. Vered was threatened by both Akavish and Raskul. Joshua stood oblivious as a statue next to Vered. Thunder rumbled in the previously clear summer sky.

“Needed, we are,” Yered said as he removed his cloak. “To split up, it is time.”

Akavish aimed his claw at Vered and reached for the lever that would launch his poisonous projectiles.

“Boaz!” Yered yelled. “Protect your woman, we shall. Focus on fighting Philistines, you should.”

Risto jumped off of Yered’s back and with a wild screech launched himself at Akavish’s head, blocking his view. Akavish tried impaling the monkey with his claw. Risto climbed to Akavish’s back and wrapped his tail around the eye slits of Akavish’s helmet.

“Risto?” Akavish hollered incredulously. “You are stopping me? After all these years, this is how you greet me? I will squash you as the insignificant creature you are!”

“Greetings, seeker,” Yered addressed Raskul’s back.

Startled, Raskul turned around. “Ancient One? What are you doing here?”

“Harm I encouraged, preventing I am.”

“What harm is that?”

“Revenge. As friend to an enemy, you are appearing.”

Raskul’s face turned crimson. “I meant no harm. Just introducing myself to the lovely bride of my old friend.”

“Who are you?” Vered aimed her wooden pole at the ancient Yered.

“Of Boaz, an acquaintance. Yered son of Job.” He smiled, showing his golden teeth.

“You, I’ve heard well of.” Vered lowered her pole. “You saved Boaz from the mines of Timna.”

“To save again, I have come. In mortal danger you are.” Yered pointed at Akavish struggling with the monkey on his back.

Boaz looked from the rapidly approaching Philistine army, to Akavish and to Vered. There is no way I can split myself to tackle Akavish and his army. What do I do!? Boaz agonized. Then he heard Yered’s call and saw a wooden-armed Risto flying at Akavish’s head. Thank you, God! Boaz thought fervently. Please keep her safe.

Boaz ran into the approaching Philistine army and slashed recklessly into their front. Half a dozen soldiers fell from his first blow. A deluge poured from the sky as thunder and lighting rocked the walls of Bethlehem. Philistine soldiers slipped on the wet stones as the front line came to a standstill under Boaz’s onslaught. Boaz fought with a fury he did not recall. You come to my home? Boaz thought angrily at the intruders. You threaten my family? My bride? On my wedding day!? Boaz slashed and hacked through the Philistine lines, moving like a whirlwind. Dozens of Philistines fell to Boaz’s ferocity.

Elimelech ran back and forth on the western ramparts of Bethlehem, killing one Philistine invader after another. His men were holding up against the endless barrage, but he knew they would shortly falter. More scaling ladders were propped against the wall uncontested. More Philistine soldiers were reaching the ramparts and engaging his men. Most of the dead on the ramparts were Philistine. The number of the Philistine dead outnumbered the Israelites living. But soon the living Philistines would overwhelm the defenders of Bethlehem. Zuki had fallen, and his brother Achi with him. Lerel would never walk again and Drami would never see. Avli would not return to his pregnant wife and Brenyah would not rejoin his nine children. Friends, relatives and neighbors fell to the Philistine arrows and swords. Yet Elimelech pushed on, encouraging his men with his spirit and his sword. Somewhere inside of him, though, his spirit broke. He could not bear this tragedy, this hardship, this pain. Why, God? he asked, as he stabbed with his sword a large Philistine wielding a mace. How can you let this happen? Why must we suffer so?

As if in response, a bolt of lighting cracked upon one of the Philistine ladders, incinerating the dozen soldiers on and around it. Then another flash struck from the sky followed rapidly by yet another. Three, four, five fires burned in the pouring rain against the walls of Bethlehem.

Thank you, God, Elimelech thought, as the tide on the western wall turned to the Israelites favor. But why the suffering? Elimelech looked at his dead and crippled men. I cannot bear to see my people suffer.

Ploni awoke to the sound of thunder and the cold rain on his body. He saw the throngs of Philistines march through the broken gate, felt his own broken bones and fainted from the pain.

An arrow shot the flying Pinhas out of the sky. He landed hard on the eastern ramparts. He lost consciousness amongst the dead bodies of the Philistines and Israelites. Philistines overran the eastern wall, killing the last Israelite defenders on that rampart, and poured into the city. Krafus smiled from outside the gates where he could see his soldiers joining the phalanx in the plaza.

“No!!” Akavish howled at the rain, “the water will dilute my poison!” With his healthy hand, Akavish finally grabbed hold of Risto and threw him into the sky. Akavish shot his remaining poisoned darts at the monkey. Risto twisted mid-air and avoided the deadly barrage as he landed safely on one of the courtyard houses.

“Blasted monkey. I will deal with you later. First to kill the bride, while Boaz is occupied with my men.” Akavish step over the still prone body of Caleb on the ground, pointed his claw at the redheaded girl and let loose his stars of death.

Joshua felt the cold rain on his closed eyelids. God had given him the keys to the skies and he was determined to use it well. He sensed the thousands of Philistines attacking the walls. Through his closed eyes he saw the hundreds pouring through the destroyed gate. He felt every Israelite death and injury. Elimelech, leading the defense on the western wall, the hardest hit, was on the edge of despair. Joshua flicked his wrist and lightning struck a ladder filled with Philistines right next to Elimelech. Joshua moved his fingers again and another lighting bolt struck a Philistine ladder. Again and again Joshua expertly moved his fingers as a conductor guiding an invisible orchestra. Lightning fell upon critical attack points, stemming the tide of the Philistine invasion. He noted the curious monkey struggling with the metal beast, and the slowly stirring Caleb on the ground. He was pleased to see Boaz holding the center. He sensed Vered confronting two men. He turned his attention to the eastern wall in time to see Pinhas shot down and the wall overrun. We shall need assistance from another source, he told God, the bolts are not enough, as he continued to conduct the lighting from the sky.

“I must protect Joshua,” Vered said to Yered and Raskul as she stood closer to the praying leader amidst the thunderstorm. “He is bringing the lightning and the rain, and that is probably the only thing giving us an advantage.” She looked anxiously at Boaz sprinting amongst the Philistine army, mowing down line after line of soldiers. How long can he last? she wondered.

Raskul followed Vered’s gaze and saw her fear and longing for Boaz. He had never seen such a look of love. At once he was both amazed and insanely jealous of Boaz. Look at him risk his life, Raskul thought in wonder. Look at his speed. His deadliness. One man against an entire army. Scribes shall write of this. And she loves him, she truly loves him. What a woman. Brave and beautiful! How could I come between such love?

“Go to safety,” Raskul commanded, as he drew his long knife and faced the Philistines by the gate. “I shall watch over your leader.”

He turned in time to see Akavish launch a whirling metallic disc at Vered. Raskul jumped in front of Vered. The star of death cut Raskul’s arm and then embedded itself in Vered’s shoulder.

Both Raskul and Vered fell to the floor writhing in agony.

Boaz’s heart shattered as he saw Akavish launch his star of death at Vered. He was amazed to see Raskul jump to intercept the star and then heartbroken to see him and Vered collapse. Something in him died. Unconsciously he slowed down. What do I have to live for now? he thought morosely. One Philistine tripped him. A dozen fell on him. He was trapped under an avalanche of soldiers. This is it, Boaz thought. Both of us die on our wedding day. He shed a tear in the pouring rain.

Then he heard the trumpeting. It was a ram’s horn. Amitai! That’s Amitai’s horn. The militia. He has brought the militia.

“Boaz,” he heard Vered call out softly. She still lives! There is hope! I will not die by these uncircumcised heathens! Boaz hacked frantically at the Philistines covering him, and then spun wildly, slashing at the bodies around him. He launched himself off the ground powerfully and cut all around him like a tornado through a field of wheat. He saw Akavish walking to the downed Vered, apparently to finish the job. He saw Yered and Risto tending to Vered. Boaz ran at Akavish and tackled him, both falling to the ground, the metal of Akavish’s armor banging loudly on the wet stones.

Yered whistled loudly and shrilly as he kneeled next to the prone bodies of Raskul and Vered. In moments Risto was on his shoulder, chittering heatedly.

“Yes,” Yered agreed. “Poisoned, they both are. Seconds, we have. Your arm, give me.”

Risto opened the panel on his wooden arm.

Yered ran his finger quickly over the small compartments in Risto’s arm. “Thyme, Silverweed, Anise, Celandine, Alkanel, Buckthorn. Yes. Buckthorn. For poison, only hope. A few moments, it will take.”

Yered took the crushed leaves, placed them in his mouth and chewed them vigorously with his golden teeth.

“Risto. Cup and water, fetch,” Yered commanded. Risto shut his wooden arm closed to keep his store of leaves dry and hopped away. He returned moments later, sloshing water in a clay mug.

“Ancient One,” Raskul groaned. “Save her first.”

“My intent, it was,” Yered answered through a mouthful of saliva and leaves. “Though a noble act of yours, I did not expect. Fortunate, you are, that the rain diluted the poison. Otherwise, dead you would already be.”

“Boaz,” Vered moaned, her eyes fluttering to semi-consciousness.

Yered spat his mouthful of chewed leaves into the cup and stirred the mixture with his finger. He lifted Vered’s mouth and brought the cup to her lips.

“Fully, drink. Save you, it may.”

Vered drank greedily from the cup and lost consciousness, the grimace of pain easing from her face.

“I feel my life ebbing,” Raskul croaked. “There is no time.”

“A few more moments, hold on,” Yered ordered, as he stuffed fresh Buckthorn leaves in his mouth.

“No. I have been a scoundrel my entire life. I would rather leave having done something good. Farewell, Ancient One.” Raskul forced a dry raspy cough.

“To die, in such a rush you are?”

“I have nowhere else to go.”

Raskul closed his eyes, breathed a last rattling breath, and was still, forever.

“Bah!” Yered spat the leaves on the ground. “Taste of Buckthorn hate. Waste of good leaves, it is.”

He turned to see Boaz struggling with Akavish, the regrouping Philistine army and the lightning blazing across the sky.

“You will not succeed.” Boaz smashed his sword ineffectively against Akavish’s armored side.

“I already have. Your gate is broken. My army is on and within the walls. Your bride is dying in painful agony and shortly so will you.” Akavish answered with a slash of his metal claw to Boaz’s head. Boaz ducked, kicking Akavish in the midriff. Caleb, on the floor behind them, opened his eyes and looked at the fighting in a daze.

They heard the ram’s horn again.

“You hear that, Akavish?” Boaz said triumphantly. “God sends us our salvation.”

Smoke exploded amongst the Philistines at the gate. The rain, thunder, lighting and smoke completely disoriented the Philistine soldiers. When the smoke cleared, Akavish was shocked to see the Philistines split into two, with a wedge of Israelites cutting a swath through the Philistine ranks. Boaz saw Amitai and young Ehud at the lead, cleaving the Philistine army.

“I will not be denied!” Akavish head-butted Boaz with his metal helmet. Boaz, dazed, took a step back. Akavish pointed his claw at Boaz, ready to fire.

“Hey! Ugly!” Ehud called out. Ehud was a short brown-haired youth with a muscular build. He wore a simple, but blood-smeared, rain-soaked tunic, and held a short sword in each hand. Akavish turned to look at the new voice.

“Yes, you, metal-face,” Ehud continued as he approached Akavish. “I’m talking about you. Are you so horrific that you need to hide your face behind a mask? Is this the powerful King Akavish that is too cowardly to show his face?”

“I will kill you miscreant, for your affront.” Akavish fired his stars of death at Ehud. Ehud spun out of the way, letting the stars kill Philistines behind him.

“You’ll have to do better than that, loser.”

“Die!” Akavish yelled and ran at Ehud.

Ehud ran at Akavish, a sword in each hand and jumped into the air. With one sword Ehud knocked Akavish’s claw aside. The other sword he stabbed into the eye-slit of Akavish’s helmet.

“Argh!!” Akavish screamed in agony as the tip of Ehud’s blade blinded his right eye.

“Now, Boaz. His arm,” Ehud called.

A recovered Boaz together with Ehud grabbed the sides of Akavish’s claw and pulled forcefully. Caleb, fully awake, crawled behind Akavish, and grabbed both his legs. Ehud raised his own leg onto Akavish’s chest for leverage as Akavish struggled against the Israelite warriors, with Ehud’s short sword still stuck in his eye-slit. Finally the metallic arm came off, revealing a pink fleshy stump that ended a few inches below the shoulder.

As Caleb kept Akavish’s legs pinned to the ground, the large Philistine screamed again and clawed the wet air uselessly with his healthy hand. “My arm! My arm!”

“Do not fear, old friend,” Boaz said, turning the heavy metallic device around. “We’re borrowing it for just a moment.”

Boaz slammed the edge of the claw into Akavish’s pinky stump. The force of the impact let loose the five different poisons and acids Akavish had stored in his arm and launched the rest of his stars of death and arrows at point-blank range. Akavish’s shoulder exploded inside his armor leaving a blackened stump of dripping flesh. There was not enough flesh for all the different and now combined poisons Akavish had carried. A wave of black ooze quickly disintegrated Akavish’s chest, appendages and finally his head. A sickly dark vapor wafted up to the thunderous clouds. Nothing remained of Akavish except for an empty armor and his metallic claw. Caleb rolled away from the steaming armor.

“Good.” Ehud kicked the empty armor. “I had no interest in burying this sicko anyway.”

“The fight is not over.” Boaz clasped Caleb’s arm, raising him from the floor and turned back to the gate. Fresh Philistine troops arrived from the eastern wall, amidst the lightning and rain.

From outside the gate, Krafus raised his hand.

“Retreat! Retreat!” the Philistines called. “Akavish is dead! Retreat!”

Just as quickly as they had attacked, they pulled back.

Amitai and the Israelite militiamen pulled further into the city, letting the Philistines depart unchallenged.

“Make sure it’s not a trick,” Boaz told Ehud. “I’m going to Vered.”

Boaz ran and reached Vered, who was very still on the floor. Caleb followed behind him.

“Live, she shall,” Yered said to Boaz.

“What about Raskul?” Boaz asked.

“Dead. Saved her life, he did. Deep within him, good he had.”

“I told you he was likable,” Caleb added.

“I will treasure this act of his, no matter how poorly I thought of him,” said Boaz.

The lightning and thunder stopped. The clouds dissipated quickly on a gentle southern breeze. The sun was a bright red on the western horizon. Joshua awoke from his trance, his robe and white beard soaked. “It is over. They have retreated. That was close.”

“Thank God,” Boaz said.

“Indeed,” Joshua agreed. “Now we need to tend to the wounded and bury our dead. Yered, we are in your and your monkey’s debt once again. You have come to us unbidden in our time of need. First to rescue Boaz, and now to save Bethlehem and all of us. May God grant you all the blessings of your father Job, on you and your descendents.”

“Pfah,” Yered spat. “Blessings, already received, I have. Though, that you acknowledge my father, happy I am. To clear my conscience, I have come. Bless monkey instead.”

“Very well. Monkey, may God ease your pain.” Joshua touched Risto’s arm. “And may He reward your noble actions.”

Risto jumped up and down excitedly on Yered’s shoulder.

“Yes,” Yered agreed with Risto. “Well spoken this youngling is. Risto thanks you and to you and your people wishes well. Our time to depart, it is. Brave warrior, farewell,” Yered bowed to Boaz. “A long and blissful life with your bride may you have. An uncommon woman she is. Treasure her.”

Yered walked to the exit of the city, with Risto on his shoulder, waving his tail merrily in the air. They noted the residents of the city tending the wounded. The healthy soldiers covered the corpses and moved them outside the gates of the city. Two weary soldiers took the body of Raskul, while Vered’s parents returned to tend to the bride asleep on the floor.

At the broken gate of Bethlehem, Yered bowed to an old Philistine walking in, escorted by Amitai and Ehud. The two Israelites and the Philistine in the middle reached Joshua, Caleb and Boaz.

“I am Krafus of Ashkelon,” the old Philistine announced to them. “And I ask for parley. I wish to explain and to apologize, for we did not pursue this battle whimsically. We have been ruled these last years by a tyrant, the metal warrior Akavish. Our people have been in mortal terror of him. His madness, his paranoia, his hatred of the living, his random murders, almost destroyed our city and our people. We tried to depose him, to kill him, but nothing worked. Then we played on his hatred and fear of you Israelites, and you in particular, Boaz, in the hopes that you would do what we could not. If you did not kill him, we would have gained your territory. But our hope was that you would succeed. That is why we retreated as soon as the tyrant was destroyed. We had no wish to fight your lightning and sorcerer’s powers. We thank you. You have done us a great service.”

“You have done us great harm,” Joshua said, “to bring war to our homes. I do not believe that the Philistines are so peaceful or benevolent that you do not harbor further ambitions against us. But I see that you have achieved your prime mission of eliminating your ruler. Admirably crafty. He thought he had his army with him, when they were ever at a distance. Go in peace for now, Krafus. We accept your apology, but not your explanation. We shall ever be wary of you Philistines. Ehud, see Krafus safely out of our walls.”

Krafus bowed to the Israelites and left towards the gate with Ehud.

Boaz hugged Amitai.

“You came just in time,” Boaz said. “I thought this was the end. It was worse than when the Amonites ambushed us at Nurad.”

“I didn’t want to miss your wedding. How is Vered?”

“She will live. She rests.”

“I’ve had enough resting,” Vered said feebly from the floor. “What happened?”

“We won,” Boaz answered. “Akavish is dead and the Philistines have retreated. Raskul, Yered and Risto saved your life. Raskul died. He tried to stop Akavish’s star of death with his own body.”

Pinhas, Elimelech, Boaz’s parents and other friends and relatives returned to the wet and fallen wedding canopy. Pinhas winced with every step, a broken arrow shaft still protruding from his shoulder.

“High Priest,” Vered addressed Pinhas from the ground as her parents helped her sit up. “Would you still marry us? The marriage contract was penned for today and the sun has not yet set.”

Pinhas looked at Joshua and then answered Vered. “Today and this week will be a time of bereavement for many of us. All of us will have relatives and friends that have died today. Do you still wish to proceed, knowing that your week of celebration shall be a week of mourning for everyone else?”

“I share in the sadness and the mourning,” Vered said, standing up unsteadily, supported on either side by her parents. “But I want to show our city that this attack cannot stop us, will not stop us. They dared attack us unprovoked, and by the grace of God we were victorious. I will not compound our grief by denying our joy, our celebration.”

Joshua smiled and nodded at Pinhas.

“I take it neither you, nor Boaz has lost immediate relatives.”

Boaz’s father, Saalmon, spoke. “I have not seen my brother, Ploni. I do not know if he is amongst the living or the dead.”

“I saw him, brother,” Elimelech said. “He was badly injured at the gate, but he lives.”

“I will not hold up the sun for this,” Joshua said, “so I suggest we conduct a brief ceremony. The bride, groom, and their immediate families should have a modest celebration. The rest of us shall help with burying the dead, caring for the sick and comforting the mourners. This was a heavy blow for us, but the spirit of this new couple will soften the blow and put a smile on the face of the mourners. Life does go on!”

 “Boaz, the ring,” Pinhas asked.

Boaz searched the ground and, incredibly, found the ring right where he had dropped it. Joshua, Caleb, Elimelech and Amitai raised the tattered canopy above the couple.

“Boaz, place the ring on the second finger of Vered’s right hand and repeat after me: Hereby you are betrothed to me with this ring, according to the law of Moses andIsrael.”

Boaz gave the bloody sword he was still holding to Amitai and then gently slid the ring onto Vered’s extended finger. Though wet and dirty, Vered glowed joyfully.

In a powerful voice, Boaz declared: “Hereby you are betrothed to me with this ring, according to the law of Moses and Israel!”

“Betrothed, betrothed, betrothed!” everyone sang.

Boaz took Vered’s hand. “Finally,” he said.

“Yes. Finally. I’m glad you had your sword handy and just as glad you’ve given it to Amitai. Let’s go.”

Vered and Boaz walked hand in hand to their new house.

“May they build a steadfast house inIsrael,” Joshua blessed the departing couple.

“Amen,” everyone answered, as the sun set on the city ofBethlehem.

* * * * * *

Notes:

While there is no recorded battle betweenIsraeland the Philistines during the time of Joshua, there are multiple elements of the story that are drawn from the Prophets:

There were multiple battles (many of whichIsraellost) with the Philistines especially, during the times of the Judges, Saul and David.

We have a couple of instances of a man single-handedly defeating an army, most notably Samson against the Philistines.

Though there is no record of Joshua calling for additional miracles, the Prophet Samuel is recorded as having called for a thunderous lighting storm during a clear summer day.

Naomi (mentioned in last week’s story) and Elimelech do marry.

Ploni and Elimelech were uncles of Boaz.

The Midrash writes of the greatness of Elimelech but blames him for later abandoningBethlehemand his people in their time of need during the famine.

Warrior Prophets – Chapter 29: Prenuptial Warfare

Warrior Prophets Chapter 29

Prenuptial Warfare

Raskul rode his donkey cautiously on the road to Bethlehem. He passed the city of Hebron uneventfully and tried to enjoy the view of the rolling vineyards and olive groves of the Judean Mountains. The cool summer breeze dissipated the heat of the afternoon sun. Nonetheless, he was anxious about the coming encounter. In the distance he could make out the walled city of Bethlehem surrounded by acres and acres of wheat fields.

A rider on a chestnut horse approached Raskul from behind. He was a tall man with a flaming red and white beard and a broad grin.

“Greetings, traveler,” the man called out as he matched Raskul’s pace.

“Greetings, my lord,” Raskul nodded to the princely man.

“My name is Caleb. Who are you?” The man inquired.

“I am Raskul of the Kenites,” he said, adding quickly, “no enemy of the Israelites.”

“Welcome, Raskul. What brings you to the tribe of Judah?”

“A wedding.”

“You’re an acquaintance of Boaz, then?” Caleb asked jovially.

“A f-friend,” Raskul stuttered.

“I’m his uncle and am also traveling to Bethlehem. Let us ride together to the city.”

Neither of them noticed a hunchback figure in a long cloak riding behind them. From the folds of the cloak a hairy tail peeked out.

“Why do we need to be on duty today?” Eran complained to Yashen.

“Someone needs to.” Yashen yawned.

The two of them stood on the eastern tower of the city gate. The gate of Bethlehem was a large stone arch with two swinging heavy oak doors. The gate faced north, towards nearby Jerusalem. They could barely make out the walls of Jerusalem through the summer haze.

“It’s a waste of time, I say,” Eran continued. “We should be down there mingling with all the guests.”

Yashen looked at the stonework city plaza within the gates where a growing number of people gathered. Long tables with freshly baked cakes stood next to the stone homes that surrounded the plaza.

“The whole Nachshon clan makes it look like a meeting of redheads,” Yashen commented. “I’d be interested in a Benjaminite brunette myself.”

“I think Naomi is the prettiest girl in town,” Eran sighed. “But looks like Elimelech has already made his move.” He pointed at the two redheads standing close to each other.

“Good day, men,” a commanding voice called to them from the gate.

Eran and Yashen turned around to see an old man with a long flowing white beard. Next to him was a middle-aged bearded man, with bright eyes. Both rode gray donkeys.

“Our Master, Joshua. High Priest Pinhas. Welcome,” Eran blurted.

“Thank you, young man. What is your name?” Joshua, the old leader ofIsrael, asked.

“Eran son of Haser.”

“Eran,” Joshua instructed. “Though I know you would much rather be down at the celebration, I would advise you to take your duty seriously. We have been blessed with years of peace here, in no small part thanks also to the recent efforts of our groom. Nonetheless, we must remain vigilant.”

“Yes, Joshua,” Eran said. “Though I hear rumors of a new warrior leading the militia together with Amitai.”

“Ehud of Benjamin. I have met him. Cunning and sharp. But I’ve also heard rumors of the Moabites regaining their strength and for some reason I have an ominous feeling today. Keep your eyes open.”

“Yes, sir!” Eran and Yashen responded.

“Good. Carry on.” Joshua commanded and rode off with a smiling Pinhas. 

“Hello, Boaz,” Raskul said nervously.

Boaz turned around from talking with his uncle Ploni.

“Raskul?” Boaz said, surprised.

“Yes, I thought I’d join you on this day of celebration.”

“Why, thank y-. Wait. Someone give me a sword! I vowed to kill you on sight, you backstabbing, traitorous wretch. How dare you come here on this day? Ploni, fetch me a sword.”

“Now, now, now, Boaz.” Raskul raised his hands. “Let’s not be so hasty. I swear, I won’t swear by any of the gods, which I know annoys you so much. You are a forgiving people. A gracious people. Is this how you would treat an old journey-mate?”

“What’s the matter, Boaz? What did he do? He seems like a pleasant enough fellow,” Caleb asked.

“He tried to sell me and Amitai into slavery. He is a snake that should be killed without hesitation. Ploni, what are you waiting for? Run into my father’s house and get me my sword.”

“On your wedding day you will kill a defenseless man?” Ploni asked.

“Perhaps you’re right. Get some rope and let’s bind him and I can kill him tomorrow.”

“One moment, Boaz,” Caleb interceded. “I realize this man has done you great wrong, and had terrible intentions, which in the end did not materialize. He has come to you on your wedding day, knowing your anger towards him, in order to make amends. I think that in the spirit of this day you should forgive him.”

“Fine. Ploni, please bring me my sword in any case. I don’t trust this uncircumcised lout for a moment. His coming is a bad omen. The sword will be a good reminder to keep him from wagging his idolatrous tongue. I will slice it off, Raskul, if you so much as think the wrong way.”

“You are kind as always,” Raskul mock bowed. “Where is your mate Amitai? He was always the better spoken one of you two.”

“Amitai is at the front leading the militia. If it weren’t for criminals like you, he might have been here to celebrate with me.”

“You are too harsh, Boaz. I never actively harmed someone. Perhaps I tried to make some silver off the misfortunes of others, but I never lifted a finger against someone in anger.”

“No, just out of greed. You are incorrigible, Raskul, and I will be happy once you leave.”

“May I stay to see you successfully married?”

“Yes. But one wrong word and you will regret having ventured toBethlehem.”

“Enough, Boaz,” Caleb interjected. “I’ll keep an eye on your friend. I see Joshua and Pinhas have arrived and the guests look ready. Let’s get started.”

Eran and Yashen looked dutifully to the east, across the Jordan River from where the Moabites would logically approach, while keeping half an eye on the northern road from Jerusalem. The eastern front was quiet as the sun started its slow descent to the west. A group of twenty cloaked horsemen trotted leisurely towards the gate. Eran was the first to notice them approaching the gate.

“More friends of Boaz?” Eran pointed out to Yashen.

“Must be. They are heavily armed. Either some militiamen or some former captains of hundreds or thousands. But why are they so covered up in this heat?”

“Something is not right. They are wearing heavy armor under their cloaks. Where is that trumpet. Pass me the trumpet, Yashen.” Eran said urgently. Yashen reached for the trumpet in the corner of the tower and handed it to Eran.

Suddenly, from amongst the riders, a giant of a man, completely covered in armor, with a metal helmet that enveloped his head, galloped at breakneck speed towards the gate. He aimed his right arm at the two watchmen. An arrow shot out of the man’s arm and hit Eran in the shoulder before he could blow the trumpet. The trumpet clattered to the floor as Eran fell, writhing in agony. Yashen reached for the trumpet, but was pierced by an arrow to the abdomen before he could touch the bright metal rolling on the floor. The last thing he saw was an army of thousands approaching Bethlehem from the west with scaling ladders and a large battering ram.

The other horsemen raced after their leader towards the open gate of Bethlehem.

Boaz stood under the wedding canopy that was erected close to the gate of the city. Vered walked around him slowly seven times, smiling shyly. They were both in white. Boaz wore a new long white tunic and Vered was in a flowing dress of white cotton, with gentle white lilies adorning her flaming red hair. Boaz and Vered’s parents stood under the canopy together with Pinhas, who was officiating. The canopy was constructed of a large white shawl supported by four long wooden poles. Joshua and Caleb held the front poles and Elimelech and Ploni held the back ones. A large assembly filled the town square.

“Do you have the ring?” Pinhas asked.

“Elimelech?” Boaz asked his uncle.

“Of course, of course. Here it is.” Elimelech retrieved an unadorned gold ring from his pouch. As he handed the ring to Boaz, they were distracted by the sound of loud galloping. The ring dropped and Boaz bent down to pick it up. An arrow whizzed by where he had been standing and struck an elderly man beyond the canopy. It hit the man in the leg. The man immediately fell to the ground, where he convulsed and then stopped breathing.

“Take cover!” Joshua commanded as he lowered the canopy to cover the wedding party. “We’re under attack!” Several more arrows punctured the canopy. One hit a woman’s arm. In seconds she was on the floor, dead.

“Poison!” Caleb yelled, as he looked at the victims.

They all saw the twenty horsemen approach the gates with a metal giant in the lead.

“Caleb,” Joshua ordered, stepping naturally into the role of command. “The gates. Pinhas. The walls. Elimelech. Ploni. Organize the men. Boaz, with me. The rest of you, into the houses.”

Caleb moved like a blur to the gate. He closed one door before the invaders arrived. As he was closing the second one, he saw the metal giant would make it in. He was surprised to see an older, familiar-looking attacker motion with his hands for the rest of the riders to slow down. The intruder made it past the swinging door. Caleb shut and bolted the gate shut. The metal giant kept galloping towards the wedding party and the fallen canopy. Caleb raced after the rider and launched himself at him, knocking him off the horse. The rider clanged heavily on the plaza stonework, cursing as he stood himself up. Caleb rolled as he fell and was on his feet in a moment facing the invader.

“I’m not interested in you, old man,” the intruder with the metal face said. Only two slits for the eyes and one for the mouth revealed darkness within. “But I’ll kill you just as well.” He pointed his arm at Caleb, turned a dial on it with his left hand and a metal dart shot out. Caleb ducked and the dart struck a young boy who had been running for cover. The boy fell, convulsed, and was still.

Caleb launched himself at the intruder and tackled him to the floor. Caleb struck a series of blows at the metal clad warrior to no effect. The intruder tried hammering at Caleb with his metallic arm, but Caleb was faster.

“Out of my way! It is Boaz I want!” the intruder bellowed.

“Akavish, isn’t it? Caleb breathed heavily as the metallic arm missed him by a hairsbreadth. “And that was Krafus with you.”

“Yes. I am King Akavish of Ashkelon and soon I will rule your people as well.”

Akavish grabbed Caleb with his massive healthy arm and tried to stab him with his metallic claw. Caleb wriggled and punched, avoiding the claw, but unable to escape Akavish’s grasp. Frustrated, Akavish threw Caleb above him into the air and then shot three darts in rapid succession at Caleb’s falling body. Caleb managed to contort his body and avoid all the darts, but as he fell he struck his head on the side of Akavish’s metallic arm, falling to the floor, unconscious.

Pinhas, the High Priest, closed his eyes for a moment as he stood behind the wedding canopy and then quickly levitated. He flew towards the gate tower, as he watched Caleb reach the doors. He saw two dead watchmen at the eastern tower, where he landed. On the western side thousands of Philistine troops ran towards the walls ofBethlehem. Pinhas spotted the tall scaling ladders and the massive, metal-tipped battering ram. Elimelech and Ploni approached the stairs to the eastern tower.

“Elimelech,” Pinhas called down. “Assemble your men at the western wall. The first wave of attackers will be there in moments. Ploni. You will need to get men to reinforce the gate. The Philistines have a gargantuan battering ram and your oak gates will not last long under their onslaught. Go! I’ll see what I can do from the air.”

Pinhas took to the air as the first ladder abutted the wall. Half a dozen men were on the ladder and one reached the top of the wall before Pinhas reached them. Pinhas flew feet first into the Philistine on the rampart and knocked him over the two-story wall. He then grabbed the top of the ladder, and with all the Philistines on it, pushed it backwards. Ladder and soldiers fell on the troops below. Pinhas flew and knocked over ladder after ladder, weaving in and out of a rain of arrows from below, until Elimelech reached the rampart, followed by a few dozen defenders.

“There are thousands!” Elimelech stood gaping at the hordes massing under the walls.

“You’re just in time,” Pinhas landed, exhausted. “I need a rest. Keep the ladders off as long as you can. I see they are massing on the eastern wall. I will hold them off until we can get reinforcements on that side. God be with you.” Pinhas flew to the eastern wall of the city as half a dozen new ladders landed simultaneously on the western wall, followed by a barrage of arrows.

Joshua calmly observed the maelstrom of metal jousting with Caleb. He noted the dead victims of the poisoned arrows and darts. He closed his eyes and sensed the thousands of Philistines crashing against Bethlehem like stormy waves upon the shore.

“Looks like your childhood nemesis has returned with some friends,” Joshua said to Boaz and Vered, all hiding behind the pockmarked wedding canopy.

“Akavish with Philistines? That metal monster is Akavish?” Boaz asked, incredulous.

“He has an amusing way of celebrating your wedding. We need to stop them, but we’re going to need some help. I’m going to pray. Guard me while I focus my attention. Salvation will come from the sky.”

Without further word, Joshua stood up, closed his eyes and turned his head heavenward. Boaz stood up, with sword in hand, watching for any arrows that might threaten Joshua as he concentrated on his communion with God.    

“You know this attacker?” Vered pointed at Akavish struggling with Caleb.

“He has wanted me dead since I was a kid. Last I heard he was king ofAshkelon.”

“Was he upset you didn’t invite him to the wedding? I told you to double-check your list.”

“Not funny, Vered. People are dying because of this madman.”

“Well, I’m sorry, my hero, but if I don’t make light of the situation, I will panic out of sheer terror. What’s Joshua going to do?”

“He said salvation will come from the sky. I don’t see anything. Stopping the sun won’t help us this time.”

“I see clouds forming,” Vered pointed at a dark cloud moving in from the north. “Perhaps he’ll make it dark.”

“No! Caleb has fallen. I must help him. I must hold off Akavish. Watch Joshua, my love.”

“Boaz, wait! How am I supposed to protect him?” Vered called to Boaz. But he had already jumped over the canopy and was speeding towards Akavish. He knocked the tip of Akavish’s claw away from Caleb’s prone body.

“Your timing was always miserable, Akavish,” Boaz stated as he smashed his sword against Akavish’s helmet.

“I think I might have gotten it right this time,” Akavish responded as he swung his claw at Boaz. “Great audience. All your nobles, princes and leaders ripe for the picking. Tell me, can I congratulate you on the wedding or was I too early? Can I kiss the bride?”

“You sick man. You stopped the wedding.” Boaz’s sword clanged off Akavish’s armor. “Are you causing all this bloodshed on a mere vendetta? You’ve dragged your people into this as well?”

“My people are mine to do with as I will. Your wedding was merely a good opportunity to attack.” Akavish kicked Boaz away from him, aimed his arm, and shot a barrage of darts, arrows and stars of death.

Boaz’s sword moved faster than the eye could follow, picking each deadly object out of the air.

“You have become faster,” Akavish said. “But you will not find a way to harm me. It is just a matter of time until you fall.” Akavish shot a second barrage of weaponry at Boaz. They all clattered to the ground, repelled by Boaz’s blade.

The sound of steel against oak resonated throughout the city as the battering of the gates began.

“My people shall be here soon and then it will indeed be a celebration. Where is that bride of yours? I would have you watch her die in agony before I end your miserable life.” Akavish turned away from Boaz and walked calmly towards the downed wedding canopy.

Vered grabbed one of the poles of the canopy and looked around frantically for signs of attack. She kept an eye on the duel between Boaz and Akavish.

“Can I be of assistance?” a leathery voice addressed Vered from behind. “We’ve never been properly introduced. I’m Raskul, an old friend of Boaz.”

“I’ve heard of you,” Vered pointed the pole at the older man, grateful for a manageable threat. “Stay away from me, or I swear I’ll knock you on the head.”

“So violent! A fitting bride for Boaz. And one who swears. A woman after my own heart. But you misunderstand me. I am just here to help. And it looks like you can use help.”

“Boaz said you were a greedy old man, capable of great mischief.”

“He would, and I am.” Raskul edged closer.

“Stay away, Raskul.” Vered backed away, noticing for the first time the long knife at Raskul’s side.

Ploni didn’t mind battle. He had fought in one successful battle after another with Joshua, soundly defeating the kings ofCanaan. But this was different. He had never been in a siege before. Never had to wait for an enemy to breach his last physical defense. This is what it must have felt like to be on the receiving end, he thought.

“Hold the doors!” Ploni called out, as together with a dozen men they held the crumbling oak doors against the Philistine battering.

“They’re breaking!” someone yelled. “The next hit will break through!”

“HOLD!” Ploni yelled, as he pressed his body against the door.

The metal of the battering ram crushed wood and bone as it smashed through the doors ofBethlehem. Ploni and the men around him were thrown from the gate like rag dolls. Ploni lost consciousness as hundreds of Philistines poured into Bethlehem.

Akavish smiled behind his helmet as he heard his troops at his back and aimed his metallic claw at the redheaded girl in the white dress.

* * * * * *