Category Archives: Nachshon

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 28 – Battle of the Spirits

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 28

Battle of the Spirits

Boaz stood under the wedding canopy next to Ruth. He was pleased that she had donned her white wedding dress. He was disturbed by Alron’s sudden appearance with Philistine troops. He caught Ehud’s eye. Ehud moved quickly to intercept the Danite. Boaz closed his eyes for a moment. He drew on his inner vision, on Isaac’s Sight, to understand what was going on around him.

He sensed Ruth’s blinding white spirit, most likely ecstatic about the upcoming ceremony with a tinge of yellow apprehension over Alron’s intrusion. He sensed the darker, browner fear and confusion amongst the Bethlehemites. He could see Ploni’s red anger and shame cooling down as he returned to the alcove to investigate this latest development. Boaz looked at the auras of Alron and the Philistines and saw a putrid green of greed. Mercenaries, Boaz understood. There is some financial gain for them in disrupting our marriage. Boaz let his senses float farther afield, beyond the walls of Bethlehem and then he saw the black hole that he knew to be the life-force of Sumahtrid the sorcerer. Next to him was the malevolent dull grey presence of the man-child, Beor. Behind them were several dozen greedy souls, more Philistine mercenaries.

“Ehud!” Boaz opened his eyes wide. “We are under attack! The sorcerer is here with more troops!”

Ehud jumped in front of Alron, whose extended sword still pointed at the Elder.

“I warned you, Danite, that the next time you appeared in Bethlehem, I would kill you.” Ehud drew his own sword.

“I remember, blacksmith. But I will not sully myself by dealing with you.” Alron backed away as his Philistine escort moved in on Ehud.

*

“Perhaps we should wait until after this attack,” Boaz suggested to Ruth under the canopy.

“Boaz son of Salmoon son of Nachshon the Brave,” Ruth said. “I shall not wait one more moment. The world may be coming to an end, but I will see this through now. We cannot delay any further. Ehud and the other residents of Bethlehem will have to fight without us.”

“I too feel a sense of urgency. You must circle me seven times. That is the first part of the ritual. It binds our spirits together. Forever. Do not stop or slow your pace. It must be seven complete circles.”

Ruth nodded and walked around Boaz, as four Elders nervously held the canopy. The assembly looked on in fear between the wedding ceremony and Philistines fighting Ehud.

*

Ehud moved with blinding speed. Three Philstines lay dead, as four others surrounded him and the remaining five spread out to reach Boaz and Ruth. Alron had disappeared into the now-panicked crowd.

Elders raised their walking staffs and expertly hit the Philistines approaching the wedding canopy. Ehud attacked and furiously parried the swords and spears of the Philistines around him.

One Philistine got through the Elders and launched his spear at Ruth. A stick crashed down on the spear in midair, sending it harmlessly into the ground. Ploni wielded the stick and attacked the lone Philistine.

“Get out of my way, old man,” the Philistine barked, raising his sword at Ploni.

“I am Ploni son of Nachshon, and though I may be old, I am not dead yet. I will not allow anyone to harm my family. Not my nephew and not his bride. I have accepted the judgment of the Elders, and Ruth is now one of us. Begone, Philistine!”

Ploni struck the Philistine with a rapid series of blows until the soldier fell to the ground, unconscious.

“Now to the gate,” Ploni said to himself, painfully remembering the last time he tried stopping Philistines at the gate of Bethlehem.

*

Ruth completed one circle around Boaz. Suddenly her vision blurred and she found herself in the Valley of Ella, with the specter of Boaz by her side. They looked across the valley at the massed army of Philistines. Rows upon rows of brass-clad soldiers pointed a forest of spears to the sky. The mountain range was filled with a confident army waiting to attack. The giant, Goliath, stood at the head of the army and bellowed, “I have disgraced the army of Israel this day! Give me a man that will fight me, or is there no man of courage amongst all the Children of Israel?” Goliath laughed long and hard. He radiated strength. He uprooted a young tree from out of the ground and then crushed it in his enormous hands. He was invincible.

The Israelites trembled in fear. The dread was palpable.

“The vision!” Ruth said to Boaz. “I feel myself still walking around you in Bethlehem, but we are also here in the Valley of Ella.”

“Don’t stop!” Boaz said. “This is the prophecy! This is the Defining Place that God spoke to us about. It is now!”

“What do we do?” Ruth asked.

“I think it will become apparent.”

A young redhead entered the tent of King Saul of Israel. The young David son of Jesse bowed before the king and then stood upright. Nobody noticed the spirits of Ruth and Boaz enter the tent.

Ruth and Boaz felt another presence beside them. A large redhead with a flaming beard and a cocky smile. Nachshon the Brave. His spirit touched young David on the shoulder. Nachshon’s spirit then smiled at Boaz and Ruth, said “congratulations” and disappeared.

“Do not let fear weigh your hearts,” David said to King Saul, “I, your servant, will fight this Philistine!”

“You cannot fight him,” King Saul responded. “You are but just a lad and the Philistine has been a warrior all his days.”

Another spirit appeared next to Boaz and Ruth. A handsome man with long hair.

“Who are you?” Boaz asked the spirit.

“A failure,” the spirit answered. “I am from after your time, noble Boaz, but before his. I am Samson son of Manoah. God allows me to give from my strength, from my flashes of purity to the anointed one.”

Samson’s spirit touched David on the shoulder and disappeared.

“I have killed the lion and the bear,” David said, “and this uncircumcised Philistine will die like one of them, for he has shamed the army of the living God!”

Saul took a step back from David’s ferocity and looked at the handsome redhead closely. David continued speaking.

“God, who saved me from the lion and the bear, will save me from this Philistine!” David raised his fist into the air.

“Go then,” Saul agreed, “and may God be with you.”

*

As soon as Garto heard Bethlehem was under attack, he ran towards the gate. He rallied Boaz’s workers to follow him. Other farmers and farmhands joined Garto’s group and he suddenly found himself the leader of a small army. They were perhaps fifty farmers. A dozen Israelite soldiers manned the ramparts and notched their arrows as the Philistines approached.

“Close the gate!” Garto commanded as he saw five dozen Philistines on horseback approaching the gate.

Farmers pushed on the gate. The sorcerer, Sumahtrid, in his black robe, raised his hand and chanted an incantation. The hinges of the gate buckled and could not be moved.

“Push it closed!” Garto yelled. The farmers pushed mightily, only to drive the bottom of the door into the ground. It would not budge further.

Philistines rode through the gate, hacking at the Israelite farmers. Guards on the ramparts managed to shoot some of the invaders. But before long they themselves were shot dead by Philistine archers and by the expert archery of Beor. Farmers defended themselves with axes and pitchforks. Only a handful had swords. Shepherds managed to knock Philistines off their horses and soon there was a pitched battle within the walls of Bethlehem, just a few feet away from Ruth walking in a trance around Boaz under the wedding canopy.

*

Ruth finished her second circle, sweating heavily. Her spirit and Boaz’s stayed with David as King Saul placed his armor on the redheaded youth and gave him the royal sword. They saw the spirit of Joshua touch David on the shoulder. “You won’t need it,” Joshua whispered. Joshua then turned, smiled at Boaz, bowed to Ruth and disappeared. David returned Saul his sword, took the armor off and walked down to the valley, wearing his simple tunic with a shepherd’s staff in one hand and a slingshot in the other. The army of Israel turned from the fearful giant and watched the brazen youth walk through the camp unafraid. “That is a son of Jesse,” men whispered.

“He’s just a lad.”

“He’s going to his death.”

“Our fate is in his hands?”

David trotted lightly through the awestruck soldiers of Israel until he reached the brook at the bottom of the valley. It bubbled happily, unaware of the two armies ready to overflow the stream with blood.

“He’s going to fight that giant with just a sling and a stick?” Ruth asked Boaz.

“He will need some stones,” Boaz noted. “They better be good ones.”

Then they saw the spirit of Ehud fly to David and touch him on the shoulder.

“There,” Ehud said to David. “Take those five. I reserved them for you with prophecy. My spirit will be with you.”

David found a pile of five smooth stones with sharp edges. They lay next to the stream covered with mud. David took the stones, rinsed them in the stream and placed them in the satchel slung across his shoulder.

The youth ran parallel to the stream towards the looming giant who was staring at him in confusion. Goliath stomped to meet David, each footstep shaking the shrubs and trees around him. As Goliath approached, David got his first good look of the Philistine. His body was covered in thick brass armor. The breastplate had an intricate engraving of a fortress by the sea. His greaves had a design of soldiers wielding spears, arrows and swords. His polished helmet reflected the afternoon sun, with a bright red plume rising from the crest of the helmet. Goliath’s shieldbearer, a large man, yet small compared to Goliath, ran by the Philistine’s side, struggling to keep up with the giant’s footsteps.

David felt the thunderous force of Goliath’s approach and stopped. What was I thinking? This is no mere mortal, David realized. He is imbued with great evil and bred for a monstrous purpose. I cannot do this alone.

The Philistine army cheered wildly as their champion bore down on young David.

* * * * * *

Biblical Source:

I Samuel Chapter 17

31 And when the words were heard which David spoke, they rehearsed them before Saul; and he was taken to him. 32 And David said to Saul: ‘Let no man’s heart fail within him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.’ 33 And Saul said to David: ‘Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.’ 34 And David said unto Saul: ‘Thy servant kept his father’s sheep; and when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock, 35 I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth; and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. 36 Thy servant smote both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath taunted the armies of the living God.’ 37 And David said: ‘The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.’ And Saul said unto David: ‘Go, and the Lord shall be with thee.’ 38 And Saul clad David with his apparel, and he put a helmet of brass upon his head, and he clad him with a coat of mail. 39 And David girded his sword upon his apparel, and he essayed to go[, but could not]; for he had not tried it. And David said unto Saul: ‘I cannot go with these; for I have not tried them.’ And David put them off him. 40 And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s bag which he had, even in his scrip; and his sling was in his hand; and he drew near to the Philistine. 41 And the Philistine came nearer and nearer unto David; and the man that bore the shield went before him. 42 And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and withal of a fair countenance. 43 And the Philistine said unto David: ‘Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his god. 44 And the Philistine said to David: ‘Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.’ 45 Then said David to the Philistine: ‘Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a javelin; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast taunted. 46 This day will the Lord deliver thee into my hand; and I will smite thee, and take thy head from off thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel; 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hand.’ 48 And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hastened, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slung it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead; and the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell upon his face to the earth. 50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David. 51 And David ran, and stood over the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw that their mighty man was dead, they fled. 52 And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until thou comest to Gai, and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim, even unto Gath, and unto Ekron. 53 And the children of Israel returned from chasing after the Philistines, and they spoiled their camp. 54 And David took the head of the philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armour in his tent.

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 26 – Seducing a Saint

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 26

Seducing a Saint

Boaz officiated at the wedding of Ruth and Garto. Ruth looked stunning in her new white gown. Garto was grinning from cheek to cheek. Naomi looked on in mourning, whispering to Boaz: “failure.” Vered joined Naomi’s chant and then Elimelech, Mahlon and Kilyon joined in proclaiming: “failure.” Boaz’s father, Salmoon appeared and stated: “You have failed me, son. All I ever wanted was continuity. Such a simple thing. But you have broken the chain. Our line ends with you.”

Finally, Nachshon the Brave appeared in Boaz’s dream. Boaz had never met his legendary grandfather, but there was no mistake who it was. The bright red hair and beard, the cocky confidence mixed with supreme faith.

“Such promise,” Nachshon said to Boaz. “You were the key, Boaz. You had the gifts, the training, the spirit, but you lacked that final bit of courage. Were you asked to jump into the sea? Were you asked to risk your life? No! Merely to take in this most worthy, most honorable woman and make her your wife. But you worried too much about the superficial. What people would think. What people would say. Blood of my blood! What a disgrace! Joshua prophesied to you; Ehud confirmed it; Vered returned from the dead to push you, but still you dragged your feet, and now it is too late, too late. You were my last anchor to this world. The King will not be born, the Tribes of Israel will never be united, the Temple will not be built, God’s hope has gone awry, the light will be extinguished, the world will return to chaos, another failed trial, so close this time.”

“No! Wait! What do you mean?” Boaz cried out. “How can one poor decision lead to such a catastrophe?”

“The balance of free will is always on the edge of a blade,” Nachshon explained, “it must ever be so, but this was a moment, this was a confluence of time, a pivot, and you failed, you in whose hands all our hopes rested. It is a shame. Such a shame. God will find another path, another vehicle, another history. He never tires. What is another world to Him? Infinity is His playground, though I truly thought our world, our history, our time would be the one. Too bad, Boaz. Farewell, son of my son. Use your remaining time well.”

The wind over his uncovered legs awoke Boaz with a start. His head spun, still heavy from the wine. The night was pitch black, thick clouds blocking any moonlight or stars. It was as if a thick blanket had snuffed out all the light of the world. Boaz could sense the large pile of grain to one side. He was shocked to discover a woman lying next to him though not touching him. He trembled in fear and apprehension. Am I still dreaming? Boaz wondered through the haze of the wine. He could feel the warmth radiating from her body and unconsciously he was aroused. It is dark, was his first thought. No one will know.

By God, no! Boaz swore to himself. I will overcome this urge. Did I not just admonish all my people against this very thing? Whoever she is, she is a person, not a thing! I cannot ignore that. I cannot give in to the anonymity of the dark or the effects of the wine. Am I as drunk as Lot who could not recognize his own daughters?

“Who are you?” Boaz whispered to the dark.

The woman froze, not expecting conversation, not expecting to identify herself.

“I am Ruth, your maidservant,” the dark whispered back.

Ruth!? Boaz gasped. She is the last person I expected here. What does this mean? What about Garto? Why is this most modest of women by my side after the harvest festival?

“Spread your wings over your maidservant, for you are a Redeemer,” Ruth answered Boaz’s unspoken question.

A Redeemer! She asks for the Levirate marriage! How can I deny her? Boaz’s heart was filled with joy. She maintains her purity. I have been remiss. I have delayed. God has given me a second chance!

“Blessed are you to God, my daughter,” Boaz whispered back, not moving a muscle towards Ruth. “Your kindness to me tonight surpasses all your previous kindnesses. You did not go with the younger men. Not with the wealthy Danite nor with hard-working Garto.”

“I request this for the line of Nachshon,” Ruth said more comfortably, feeling the invisible barrier Boaz had created between them, not touching her. For that alone she loved him even more. “I do this to restore the name of Mahlon, your cousin. I do this for you, and most of all I do it for Naomi.”

Can there be a more righteous woman than this? Boaz asked himself.

“My daughter, do not be afraid. All that you say I will do for you. All of our people, all the people of the gate of Bethlehem, know that you are a woman of valor. And yes, I am a Redeemer, but there is one who is closer. Lie here tonight and in the morning we will settle the matter. If the other Redeemer will redeem you, fine. But if not, I will redeem you. I swear by God. Stay here until the morning.”

Boaz did not say another word.

Ruth respected his silence, though she thought her heart would leap for joy.

He said yes! Ruth thought. He swore he would redeem me. There is no way Ploni would. But how will I break the news to Garto? I must tell him first thing in the morning, before he is further shamed. Poor Garto. But this is the right thing. I feel it in every fiber of my body! He is the one. Naomi was right, but not the way she thought. What a man! I did not need to foist myself upon him. How many men such as he can exist in the world?

Ruth eventually calmed down and fell asleep, never touching Boaz’s body.

She arose before dawn. Boaz was awake. In the dim light of the beginning of the world, she could tell he had not slept the rest of the night.

“It should not be known that a woman came to the threshing floor,” Boaz whispered.

Ruth nodded her understanding. Boaz smiled at her intelligence.

“Give me the scarf that is on you and grasp hold of it,” Boaz ordered gently.

Ruth unbound her scarf from her hair and held it in front of her. He dropped six kernels of barley into the scarf, one for each working day of the week.

“You should not return to your mother-in-law empty-handed,” Boaz whispered. “She will understand the symbolism. Return now to Bethlehem. I shall be right behind you to ensure that you come to no harm. Go, my daughter. I will send word as soon as the matter of the redemption is concluded.”

Ruth nodded one last time and returned to Bethlehem. Boaz waited a few moments and followed her, keeping her always within eyesight until she reached the gate of the city.

*

Ruth opened the door to Naomi’s house silently, not wanting to disturb her mother-in-law at the early hour. The first rays of sun peeked into the house before Ruth closed them out.

“What happened?” Naomi asked urgently, sitting upright at the table. Her face was puffy from tears. She had not slept the entire night. “Who are you, my daughter? Are you still single, or have you bonded with Boaz?”

“Neither,” Ruth responded with a smile. “Boaz is a man of the greatest honor. He did not touch me at all. He will redeem me this morning. He gave me these six kernels,” Ruth handed them to Naomi. “He said do not return empty-handed to your mother-in-law.”

Naomi looked at the kernels of barley tenderly. She held them as she would a newborn child. She stroked each one gently as tears of joy ran down her face.

“This is more than I hoped for,” Naomi spoke to the kernels. “He signals that our work is over. We have worked the six days of the week and now we can rest. He will redeem you. He will. Once he has said so, he will not stop until it is done. You must wait here now, until the matter is decided. He will most likely be in fierce debate with Ploni and the other Elders. But he will succeed. Boaz is masterful in debate and they all respect him. Wait here, daughter, for today it will be decided.”

“There is one thing I must do first.” Ruth looked downward. “I must inform Garto. He will be devastated. But I would rather tell him myself than have him find out from someone else.”

“Go then, my daughter. But then come right back. I am hopeful for good news.”

*

Garto had borrowed a fresh tunic from one of his wealthier neighbors. He had taken a significant portion of his savings and had the blacksmith fashion a simple, unadorned gold ring for Ruth. He was on his way to another neighbor to ask if they could help with the preparation of the wedding feast. He had never felt so happy, so excited in his life. Ruth is mine! Garto thought, still incredulous.

Suddenly, he saw Ruth, in a beautiful blue gown walking rapidly to intercept him. The look on her face was filled with anguish.

“Ruth, what is the matter?” Garto asked with growing concern.

“We must talk,” Ruth said simply.

“Of course. Have I done something wrong? I have just started to tell people the news. I told Boaz last night and he agreed to officiate at the wedding.”

“We cannot marry,” Ruth said.

“What? Why not? Don’t tell me you are suddenly concerned about the Elders. We can leave here if they make an issue of it. There are plenty of cities in Israel that are not so particular about the laws and I can make a good living in any of them. The most important thing is you and me, Ruth. Do not let the so-called righteous intimidate you.”

“It is not that. I have called on Boaz to redeem me, to perform the Levirate marriage.”

“What? When? How is this possible?”

“Last night. After the feast. You are a good man, Garto, and I have deep affection and eternal gratitude to you. But I am meant to be joined with Boaz. There is much more at stake than just the happiness of two people. There is a family line to be resuscitated. There is the memory of my dead husband that needs to be restored. I can only do that through the Levirate marriage. I can only do that with a relative of Mahlon, and Boaz is the best, the most honorable candidate. I know what you will say. Our time may be short. Be that as it may, I must do this thing; for myself, for the Nachshon clan and most importantly, for Naomi. Anything else will break her heart. Do you understand, Garto? Can you forgive me for leading you astray?”

“I don’t believe it! Do you know how much money I just spent? I’m not a rich landowner like Boaz whom you can toy around with. What sort of woman are you? You agree to marry one night and the very next morning you change your mind? Do I understand? Of course I understand. I’m just a plaything to you. A tool in your feminine manipulations. Who else are you using? Are you marrying Boaz for his money? Will you count the days until he dies and then seek some other victim of your Moabite wiles? Will you come back to me after you’re done with Boaz? I understand. I understand very well!”

Garto turned around and stomped back to his house.

“No, Garto, please.” Ruth ran after him. “Please listen to me. It’s not like that at all. I promise you. Please.”

Garto stopped and faced Ruth, his face red with anger.

“I don’t have time for games anymore, Princess. Say what you have to say and let me be on my way.”

“Garto, when I agreed to marry you, I truly meant it. What I didn’t realize, what I didn’t remember was how much my marriage meant to Naomi. She is a mother to me. She is the reason I am here. She is the reason I have joined the Children of Israel. The marriage is not about me alone. It affects my wider family. It affects the memory of my dear Mahlon. It gives continuity to the families of Elimelech, of Boaz, of Nachshon the Brave. It has to be me and Boaz, and it has to be now. I don’t know what the future holds. But I know I must do this. I hope you can forgive me, Garto. I never meant to hurt you. I can understand if you never want to see me again, but know that no matter what, I will always treasure the memory of your friendship and kindness.”

“How can you do this?” Garto responded. “How can you lift a man’s heart to the heavens and then dash it to pieces? How can you promise someone a life of commitment, of loyalty, of love and then just walk away? Are the ghosts of the dead that important? What makes you think Boaz will give you a child at his advanced age? You would walk away from a good thing for a memory? Together we can make as many children as you’d like and we can name them after the entire Nachshon clan. Would that satisfy you?”

“It’s not that.” Ruth shook her head. “It has to be Boaz. We are destined for each other. I know it. I feel it with every part of my body. Please, Garto. Just accept it. I’m sorry. I was wrong. I was confused. I should not have agreed to marry you. I don’t know what else to say in my defense. I just ask for forgiveness.”

Ruth got on her knees and cried.

“Get up, Princess. I get it. He’s the one for you. I forgive you, though it may take me time to forget.”

“Thank you, Garto.” Ruth stood up. “It means a lot to me.”

Garto felt the gold ring in his pocket. How much can I get for it? he wondered. It’s a good thing I didn’t tell the whole city yet.

“I did think it was too good to be true,” Garto finally said. “You are special, Ruth. Truly special. And I’m not sure that I deserved you. Well, good luck then. I expect I will still see you around. If anything should change, I am still here and won’t mind being considered again. Perhaps I should hold on to the ring.

“You are a prince, Garto. Now the rest is up to Boaz.”

* * * * * *

Secondary Sources:

“Nor is this world inhabited by man the first of things earthly created by God. He made several worlds before ours, but He destroyed them all, because He was pleased with none until He created ours.” Ginsburg, The Legends of the Jews, based on Bereshit Rabba 3.7 and 9.2, Midrash Koheleth 3.11 and Midrash Tehillim 34, 245, mentions there were 974 generations before creation of our world.

Biblical Sources:

Book of Ruth, Chapter 3:

1 And Naomi her mother-in-law said unto her: ‘My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee? 2 And now is there not Boaz our kinsman, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to-night in the threshing-floor. 3 Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the threshing-floor; but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking. 4 And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do.’ 5 And she said unto her: ‘All that thou sayest unto me I will do.’ 6 And she went down unto the threshing-floor, and did according to all that her mother-in-law bade her. 7 And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of corn; and she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and laid her down. 8 And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was startled, and turned himself; and, behold, a woman lay at his feet. 9 And he said: ‘Who art thou?’ And she answered: ‘I am Ruth thine handmaid; spread therefore thy skirt over thy handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman.’ 10 And he said: ‘Blessed be thou of the LORD, my daughter; thou hast shown more kindness in the end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou didst not follow the young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou sayest; for all the men in the gate of my people do know that thou art a virtuous woman. 12 And now it is true that I am a near kinsman; howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I. 13 Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman’s part; but if he be not willing to do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the LORD liveth; lie down until the morning.’ 14 And she lay at his feet until the morning; and she rose up before one could discern another. For he said: ‘Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing-floor.’ 15 And he said: ‘Bring the mantle that is upon thee, and hold it’; and she held it; and he measured six measures of barley, and laid it on her; and he went into the city. 16 And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said: ‘Who art thou, my daughter?’ And she told her all that the man had done to her. 17 And she said: ‘These six measures of barley gave he me; for he said to me: Go not empty unto thy mother-in-law.’ 18 Then said she: ‘Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall; for the man will not rest, until he have finished the thing this day.’

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 8 – You can’t choose family

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 8

 You can’t choose family

“Ten years!” Orpa yelled as she threw a copper bracelet at Kilyon’s head. “Ten years with an insufferable Hebrew and what do I have to show for it?”

“It is not my fault, my love,” Kilyon pleaded, deftly ducking the flying bracelet. The bracelet bounced off the wall of their palace room and landed on one of the embroidered pillows on the stone floor.

“Are you saying it’s my fault?” Orpa yelled. “Well, listen to me you Judean misfit. This womb,” she held her flat stomach, “can produce a dozen children. It is you that’s a sterile mule.”

“What do you want me to do, Orpa? We have tried everything. Concoctions and soothsayers, sorcerers and healers, no one has been able to help us. Perhaps we should end it. In Judah, if a woman cannot produce a child after ten years, the man is told to leave her. Do you want a divorce?”

“You ingratiate! You filthy Hebrew slave! My mother was right. We should kill all of you. You live like a prince, you can’t give me a child, and now you want to get rid of me? If it weren’t for Jalet’s generosity, you’d be living on the street. Your mother is the only good thing to come out of Judah.”

“I thought you hated my mother?” Kilyon asked in confusion.

“I hate you! Your mother is nice. Except for Ruth, she’s the only nice person in the entire city. Go. Go to your drinks with my brother. He hates to be kept waiting. Come here,” Orpa said, suddenly tender. She approached Kilyon and straightened out his tunic. “Your tunic is askew. You can’t go out like that. Let me fix it.” She kissed Kilyon on the cheek and sent him out of their room.

Kilyon walked out of their room, bewildered. “I will never understand her,” he exclaimed and made his way to Crown Prince Zipor’s quarters.

The guard to Zipor’s door let Kilyon in. Mahlon was talking to Zipor in an airy room filled with scrolls and weapons.

“Ah, brother.” Zipor embraced Kilyon. Zipor had grown to the height of his father, Jalet, yet retained the dark coloring of his mother, Queen Neema. “Just on time. Are you ready for our yearly toast?”

“I wouldn’t miss it.” Kilyon mentally steeled himself for the foul wine Zipor insisted they drink to honor their wedding anniversary. A tray with three goblets was set on the table. One golden-edged goblet and two silver ones. Zipor was always careful to take the golden cup and eyed the brothers closely until they drained their own bitter cups.

“To a bright future for the Kingdom of Moab and its princes!” Zipor raised his glass.

“To our gracious brother-in-law and his thoughtful hospitality,” Mahlon raised his.

All three men finished their drinks. Mahlon and Kilyon grimaced, still not used to this strange brew even after ten years. Zipor grinned in satisfaction.

“How is your bride?” Kilyon asked to make conversation.

“The princess of Ammon is beautiful but difficult,” Zipor admitted. “I don’t understand her. Father was wise to arrange such a marriage, but I suspect she misses her mother.”

“Perhaps you should invite her mother to visit here?” Kilyon suggested.

“The Queen of Ammon, here?” Zipor raised his eyebrow. “What an interesting thought, Kilyon. I think I may propose such a visit.”

“What is keeping you busy these days, Zipor?” Mahlon asked.

“I think I am finished with my training. My father has arranged private lessons in history, languages, philosophy, music, weapons, hunting, writing and even cuneiform. He has sent me to every major city from Zoan to Nineveh. I have met and befriended every serious monarch in the region and now I am ready for new challenges.”

“You are very fortunate, Zipor,” Mahlon said. “For one so young to receive such training is unique. Your father has truly invested much in you.”

“Yes, I realize. And I do not plan on wasting his training. I will make him very proud of the monarch I will become.”

“Your enthusiasm is commendable for an event that might not take place for many years to come,” Mahlon complemented the young prince.

“One must always be prepared. Royal life is always so tenuous, isn’t it?” Zipor looked at the brothers. He reminded Mahlon of a wolf waiting for its prey.

*

“Would you pass the white thread, dear?” Naomi asked Ruth in the store. The two of them sat in the back of Ashban’s garment store, sewing. It had occurred slowly, but Naomi had overcome her objection to the marriages of her sons. She especially liked Ruth. Ashban’s business had flourished since Naomi joined Ruth in the store. Naomi had demonstrated a talent for creating new dress designs, and wealthy women from the entire east bank of the Jordan River sought her creations.

“You know, dear. Our ancestress, Sarah, when she could not provide Abraham with a child, gave her handmaid to her husband.”

“I hadn’t heard that story before. How did that work out?” Ruth asked, not taking her eyes off the turquoise dress she was sewing.

“Our elders seem to think it turned out poorly, as it created endless animosity between Sarah and the handmaid, Hagar, and then between Sarah’s son, Isaac, and Hagar’s son, Ishmael, and their descendents afterwards.”

“And why are you telling me this?” Ruth tied a knot in the dress and sought a blue thread for the hem.

“It’s been ten years.” Naomi stopped sewing.

“So?”

“You are without child.”

“I know.” Ruth continued avoiding her mother-in-law’s gaze.

“It’s a long time.”

“What would you have me do?” Ruth stopped her own sewing.

“Bring a handmaid to Mahlon.”

“I would not compete for his love.” Ruth looked her mother-in-law in the eye.

“He needs to have a child. We need to have a child. The line of Nachshon must continue.”

“Have there been wives who did not hate their handmaids?”

“Yes, our Matriarchs, the wives of Jacob. He had two wives and two handmaids. As far as we know they lived amicably enough. The tribes of Israel are their descendents and we get along most of the time.”

“What would you do, mother?”

“I cannot answer that fairly. I’ve never been placed in that situation. It’s easy to theorize that I’d do the right thing, that I would make way for another woman in my husband’s life. I don’t know if I could have. But having children is a supreme imperative for us – it’s actually the very first commandment in the Book of Moses. If it were a woman that I liked and that respected me, it might make it easier. I don’t know, dear. I just know that it’s important.”

“But you think it’s the right thing to do.”

“Yes.”

“Then I will find someone.” Ruth stood up, placing the unfinished dress on the workbench.

“Now?” Naomi asked. “I didn’t mean right now.”

“Then when? If it is the right thing and it is as important as you say, how can I wait? I shall find an appropriate woman for my Mahlon and help provide a descendant for this Nachshon who seems to touch your lives, generations after his death.”

“You are a special woman, my daughter,” Naomi said.

“But I can’t fulfill my basic obligation of bearing a child.”

“That is in God’s hands.”

“I don’t understand your God.”

“Neither do I.”

“That’s not comforting.”

“I am not trying to be.”

“Yet you would follow His precepts no matter how difficult?”

“We are not called a stiff-necked people without reason.”

“Then I will find a woman for my stiff-necked husband, for your unseen God and his difficult demands.”

“May He be with you.”

Ruth left the store leaving a pensive Naomi thinking about the hidden strength of her daughter-in-law.

*

Mahlon oversaw the arrival of the new colts from Egypt. He stood at the entrance to Jalet’s stables. Mahlon had quickly been elevated to master of the stables and took special pride in the health and strength of his charges. The new horses were skittish in the unfamiliar surroundings.

Be calm, Mahlon thought to them. This is your new home and I will care for you. The horses immediately quieted down and each sought to be patted by Mahlon’s gentle hand.

The stables were cleaned daily, a change Mahlon had instituted early in his tenure, as per the request of the horses. They loved him and constantly jockeyed for his attention. But his favorite animal remained the donkey Chamra. She had been with him since his youth and throughout his travels. She was his most trusted friend and his regular companion.

The Egyptian colts said what to you? Mahlon thought in response to Chamra.

That your kind is leaving Egypt and returning to Israel, Chamra explained.

Why?

It seems the famine has ended. The watering holes are full and there is fresh grain once again.

Perhaps we should return as well. Mahlon thought. I could use a change of location. It might be good for Ruth as well. Mother would be ecstatic. She has never been happy in Kir Moav.

I am happy wherever there is hay, Chamra gave her opinion.

I shall have to discuss this with my brother. We should decide together how best to proceed. His mate may not be so keen to leave.

I don’t understand human females. They seem so erratic, Chamra noted.

That’s why I prefer the stables. Enough talk. I need to see to these new colts. Mahlon left his pensive donkey and greeted his new acquisitions from Egypt.

*

Tendrils of smoke filled the small dark house. Sumahtrid tended the fire under the sizzling pan. Beor, now a teenager, but with the body of a man, sat in a corner sharpening his arrowheads. He watched with bored disinterest the figure in the smoke speaking to his master.

“You have done well, my disciple,” the ghost of Dirthamus told Sumahtrid. “You have kept the marriages of Nachshon’s brats and the daughters of Eglon from bearing fruit. All without doing harm or arousing suspicion.”

“It is as you commanded, master.”

“Yes, but now matters have changed. My demons have informed me that the sons of Elimelech are doomed. Their failure to return to their land has brought upon them a divine death sentence. They are to die by fire.”

“Fire,” Beor repeated, his eyes lighting up at the mention of the gruesome fate.

“When?” Sumahtrid asked.

“This week,” the ghost smiled a smoky grin. “This week was their last opportunity. It has been ten years and it seems the divine patience has run thin. We were right to lie in wait. Now they are open targets.”

“How should I proceed?”

“Cautiously. There is another player to consider. Young Zipor. He has grown in strength, in power and in ambition. It is a dangerous combination. Keep a close eye on the brothers and when the opportunity presents itself, strike. But you must keep your distance. Furthermore, the daughters of Eglon must not be hurt. Their fate is not yet clear to me, but it remains important, even vital, somehow. But today is a happy day as we declare the end of the Nachshon clan!”

The ghost of Dirthamus disappeared as if it had never been, leaving merely a smoke-filled house.

*

The Red-footed falcon glided silently over the desert valley opposite Kir Moav. Its blue-grey plumage contrasted starkly with its red talons. Wary prey scurried for cover. Doves darted for the sparse shrubs of the cliffs while lizards scrambled under rocks and gravel. The falcon spotted a small hedgehog racing to the exposed roots of an acacia tree. The falcon commenced its dive, dropping rapidly to intercept the slower hedgehog. The falcon cried in exultation over the imminent kill. The falcon was therefore immensely surprised by the arrow that pierced its breast, as nothing of the sort had ever happened to it before. It cried one last time in frustration as it dropped to the desert floor, missing the hedgehog whose life was unexpectedly spared.

“Good shot, Zipor,” King Jalet exclaimed. “You have truly mastered the bow. I know of no other soldier with such marksmanship. You make me proud, son.”

Jalet and Zipor stood on a narrow outcropping on the cliff face. Zipor had asked his father to join him hunting. Their father-son outing had become a monthly ritual. Jalet enjoyed the exercise, which had become too infrequent with all his responsibilities and he enjoyed the rare interaction with his grown son. Zipor had excelled in all of his studies and exceeded Jalet’s expectations. His only concern was Zipor’s sometimes somber demeanor. He was too serious for someone so young.

“Thank you, Father. It is my goal in life to make you proud.” Zipor notched another arrow in his bow.

“Then you have succeeded. We shall have to find new challenges for you.”

“What do you have in mind?”

“I don’t know yet. I was thinking to perhaps send you to the Philistines. They have advanced metal-working techniques that would be advantageous to learn.”

“I tire of learning. I am ready to reign.” Zipor turned his body towards his father, bow still in hand and pointed at the ground.

“Learning is a lifetime pursuit. Do not be in such a rush to take on the mantle of leadership. I would have been happier had Eglon lived longer.”

“I grow impatient. I would bring Moab to the heights of power as Eglon once did.” Zipor raised the bow a little higher, the arrow pointing at his father’s feet.

“You will just have to wait, son. I’m not going anywhere so soon. Watch where you point that thing.”

“There is only one thing that stands in the way of my rule.” Zipor aimed the arrow at Jalet’s chest.

“Zipor! Stop this nonsense right now. I do not appreciate such jests. Put the bow away before we have an accident.”

“That is exactly what people will call it: a hunting accident. Thank you, Father, for all your instruction. I shall become a monarch that will make you proud. All will proclaim Zipor son of Jalet as the greatest King of Moab.”

Zipor pulled on the bowstring and Jalet finally realized his danger.

“Sumahtrid?” Jalet asked in surprise, looking behind Zipor. Zipor turned around to find nobody behind him, but it was enough time for Jalet to close the distance and knock the bow out of his son’s hands.

“There is still a trick or two you can learn from me,” Jalet said as he punched Zipor in the face. “You ungrateful wretch. This is how you pay back my love, my caring – by trying to kill me?”

Zipor fell to the ground but quickly got up, wielding a knife.

“You will find, I’m not so easy to kill,” Jalet said as he looked at the knife and drew his own hunting knife.

“I’m glad you’re putting up a fight, old man,” Zipor said, as they inched closer to each other on the narrow cliff ledge. “I would have felt some guilt just executing you.”

Zipor lunged and Jalet parried. The knives flashed in the air, Zipor demonstrated greater speed and stamina, while Jalet showed more skill and experience. Soon both were drenched in a mixture of sweat and blood, thin knife-slices criss-crossing their arms and torsos.

“I have an advantage, Father,” Zipor panted.

“And what is that?” Jalet said breathlessly.

“You are not going for the kill.”

“I’m hoping a good beating will knock some sense into you.”

“You hope in vain. You are already dead.”

“How is that?”

“My blade is poisoned.”

“Even Eglon was not so despicable.” Jalet moved back, unsteady on his feet.

“That is why I will surpass him.” Zipor smiled.

“Treachery will find its own reward and you will be surrounded by those even more despicable than you. You will discover that the hard way. How was I so blind to your perfidy?” Jalet wobbled and fell to his knees.

“You trained me well in the arts of deception.”

“You will be cursed for this. You have doomed our line.” Jalet collapsed on the ground. “Fool” he uttered with his last breath and was silent forever.

Zipor approached his father’s body and rolled it with his foot over the edge of the cliff. The body fell to the valley below, bouncing on jagged rocks along the way. It was barely recognizable when it hit the bottom.

“Long live the King,” Zipor said quietly, as his father’s corpse lay next to the Red-footed falcon, both dead by the same hands. “Now to secure my monarchy.”

* * * * * *

 

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 5 – Match-destroyers

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 5

 Match-destroyers

“I beseech you, Jalet.” Queen Neema was on her knees in front of her husband, a tear-stained kerchief in her hands. “Consider Captain Lekut. He is not of such noble stock.”

“Lekut?” King Jalet of Moab raised his eyebrow. “No. He is a good man and it may give him delusions of grandeur. I cannot risk it.”

“Damn it, Jalet!” Neema threw the kerchief to the marble floor of the audience chamber and then stood up, stomping her feet loudly. “You doom my daughters to eternal widowhood.”

“I’ve told you before, my dear,” Jalet said calmly. “You must choose someone that is not a potential threat. I shall have no objection. I will even pay for the wedding celebration.”

“Yes. But anyone who is not a threat in your mind will be of lowly stature. How can I allow my daughters to marry some commoner?”

“That is a choice you must make. I am being completely reasonable. Are they not willing to marry men that I approve of? It is you who is restricting them.”

“That’s not fair, Jalet. Imagine they were your daughters. Would you let them marry some peddler?”

“But that is exactly the point. They are not my daughters. They are the daughters of Emperor Eglon and all will remember that. My hold on my cousin’s kingdom is not so strong that I am willing to enable other contenders for the throne. No. Our son Zipor will inherit us. I wish to reign unopposed and unthreatened and to leave him the Kingdom of Moab in an orderly fashion. Enough! I tire of this discussion.”

“Your Majesty,” Captain Lekut called from the entrance a guard had opened. “I have some news of interest.”

“Approach.” Jalet smiled.

Captain Lekut walked purposely to the King’s throne and whispered in Jalet’s ear.

“How interesting,” Jalet said with surprise, looking at Neema with a smirk. “Invite them to the palace. We should make them feel welcome.”

 

“Hurry,” Sumahtrid said to Beor. “We must make sure the Princess and the Judeans do not meet. To the market!”

Sumahtrid ran through the narrow streets of Kir Moav until he reached the busy marketplace. He looked up and down the rows of vendors until he saw Mahlon in the distance, pacing restlessly in front of a cloth vendor.

“That is the store where Ruth works!” Sumahtrid hissed at Beor. “Perhaps he hasn’t seen her yet. We are just in time. Beor, draw that man away from the store and I’ll deal with the Princess. Go, go. Get him away from the store. I don’t care how – just don’t hurt him.”

Beor grinned mischievously and weaved his way quickly through the crowded market. As he approached Mahlon, he grabbed the money-pouch attached to Mahlon’s belt and knocked Mahlon over.

“Hey! Thief!” Mahlon yelled and chased after the smiling boy.

 

“Ruth?” Naomi said, catching her breath in the rainbow-draped store. This is the Ruth! She thought. This is the girl Mahlon keeps talking about. No wonder he was enamored with her – she’s lovely. But I can’t let him meet her – she’s not of our people.

“Do you know me?” Ruth asked.

“Why, of course not. We’ve just met.” Naomi shifted her eyes downward.

“Do you know Mahlon son of Elimelech? He is the Judean that I knew.”

“Mahlon? Yes, he is well known,” Naomi said slowly.

“You know him? Do you know where he is? How is he?”

Naomi glanced outside the store, but did not see her son.

“I can’t say I know where he is,” Naomi murmured.

“Oh,” Ruth sighed. “He was the one ray of light in a dreary existence.”

“Princess Ruth!” Sumahtrid burst into the store.

“What, Sumahtrid? What’s the problem?” Ruth asked.

“You!” Naomi stepped back from the black-robed sorcerer.

“You know each other?” Ruth asked.

“I am too late.” Sumahtrid eyed Naomi warily.

“Too late for what?” Ruth narrowed her eyes.

“To prevent your meeting.” Sumahtrid did not move his eyes from Naomi.

“What is so objectionable to our meeting?” Ruth asked with an edge in her voice.

“This is a family you should have nothing to do with,” Sumahtrid said.

“I agree,” Naomi said suddenly and fled from the store.

“What? What was that all about?” Ruth asked incredulously.

“Let her be, Princess. The family of Elimelech is nothing but trouble.”

“Elimelech!? That means Mahlon must be here! She lied!!” Ruth ran out of the store.

“She didn’t know?” Sumahtrid asked himself. “What have I done?”

 

Naomi found a breathless Mahlon panting by the area of the blacksmiths.

“Where did you go off to?” Naomi asked angrily.

“Some street urchin stole my money-pouch.”

“Did you catch him?”

“No. But when he saw me closing in on him he threw it back at me, though he managed to take out a few coins beforehand, that little thief.”

“Never mind. Let’s find your father and get out of the market.”

“What’s the matter?”

“Oh, nothing. I’m just tired and would like to rest. I hope he found good accommodations. There he is.” They saw Elimelech and Kilyon on their wagon, slowly making their way through the crowd of the market.

Naomi and Mahlon walked through the midday bustle and reached the wagon. As Mahlon put his hand on the wagon another hand overlaid his.

“Mahlon!” Ruth exclaimed.

A shock of energy coursed through Mahlon as he heard his name and felt her touch.

“Ruth? You’re here? Wow! That’s fantastic!”

“Oh, I’m so happy to see you too. You can’t imagine!”

“I imagined you married a Pharaoh by now. What are you doing in the streets as a commoner?”

“I am now lower than a commoner; for the king will not allow me to marry any of noble blood and my mother will not allow me to marry anyone else. It is so good to see you.”

“Yes. Likewise.” Mahlon blushed and slid his hand from underneath Ruth’s. “Um, meet my parents, Elimelech and Naomi.” Mahlon gestured at his two scolding elders. “And my brother, Kilyon.” Kilyon was grinning openly.

“Hello, beautiful.” Kilyon bowed from atop the carriage. “Do you have a sister by any chance?”

“As a matter of fact, I do.” Ruth smiled.

“Elimelech of Judah?” Captain Lekut approached the wagon on horseback with half-a-dozen men.

“Yes,” Elimelech answered, somewhat relieved by the intrusion.

“King Jalet has extended an invitation that you visit him in the palace,” Captain Lekut motioned to the towering structure down the road.

“That is most gracious,” Elimelech said. “However, we have just arrived and I am eager to secure our new accommodations and rest a bit. Tomorrow perhaps we shall pay his majesty a visit.”

“The king does not like to be kept waiting,” Lekut placed his hand on the pommel of his sheathed sword. “And tomorrow is a long time away. Much can happen in a day.”

“Very well, then. We are your guests. Lead us.”

The half-a-dozen men surrounded the wagon as the captain trotted ahead of them. Naomi got on the wagon. Mahlon walked side by side with Ruth, chatting quietly.

“How have you been?” Mahlon asked Ruth as a familiar black-robed figure ran ahead to the palace.

 

“What do I care for your dark prophesies, Sumahtrid. Leave me alone.” Jalet waved off the sorcerer. “Your master’s powers did not help Eglon who was so fond of him. I must proceed with political expediency. Not some fortune-teller’s reading of entrails – no disrespect, of course. But no. My course is clear and neither you nor Neema shall dissuade me.” Jalet looked at his pouting queen sitting next to him.

“They are here,” a guard announced.

“Bring them in,” Jalet ordered.

The family of Elimelech together with Ruth entered the audience chamber.

“Excellent!” Jalet smiled. “Ruth is here as well. Call for Orpa and let us close matters.” A guard ran out of the chamber to fetch the other princess. Ruth stood next to her mother who was seated by Jalet’s side.

“Welcome Prince Elimelech of the great Israelite tribe of Judah.” Jalet stood up. “It is quite a rare and unexpected surprise for one of such great stature to come unannounced. What brings the great and mighty to our humble city?”

“You are most gracious King Jalet, to welcome so honorably one undeserving of such honor. I have come with my family to reside in your fair city for some time, if that is agreeable to you.”

“I have no objection.” Jalet sat back on his throne, hand on his chin. “But may I ask for what purpose have you come to Kir Moav? Should we be expecting more Judeans?”

“The pressures of my role have been too much for me of late. I require a respite. I do not expect any of my brothers to follow me.”

“I see. No, I perfectly understand. At times I too wish I could just lay down my crown and have the cares of a simple man once again. You are both brave and fortunate that you are able to abscond the way you have. You are most welcome amongst us.”

“That is most gracious of you, King Jalet. I thank you.”

“And you are welcome. However, I have a proposition, even a request, for you.”

“Yes, your Majesty?”

“I see these two handsome powerful-looking men beside you. I take it these are your sons?”

“Yes. Mahlon, my eldest, and Kilyon, his brother.”

“Mahlon and Kilyon. And is it true you are all descendents of the fabled Nachshon the Brave, the man for whom your god split the Sea of Reeds for your people.”

“We are all of the blood of Nachshon.”

“You see, Neema.” Jalet turned to his queen. “Princes of noble birth with an illustrious ancestor. You cannot ask for better.”

“I must object, your Majesty,” Sumahtrid interjected. “It is that very blood that makes them so dangerous.”

“Listen to the sorcerer, Jalet.” Neema placed her hand on the king’s arm. “You cannot be serious. My people are sworn to destroy them and you would propose this?”

“Silence!” Jalet roared. “I will not be argued with in front of guests.”

“What are we talking about?” Elimelech asked.

“Let us speak as men, Elimelech, not as leaders.” Jalet leaned on his throne. “As one head of a household to another.”

At that moment, Orpa, dressed in a shimmering green gown entered the chamber. Kilyon’s eyes widened as he saw her. Orpa batted her eyes at his open gaze and strutted towards the throne to stand beside Ruth at her mother’s side.

“Ah, perfect timing, my dear.” Jalet gestured at Orpa. “You see, Elimelech. I have a complex situation to deal with. You of course must remember my queen Neema from your days under the subjugation of my dear departed cousin Eglon. Now I have these two beautiful beloved step-daughters, whom I treasure as if they were my own. And here is the dilemma. Some amongst my people have questioned my succession to the throne after Eglon’s unfortunate and sudden demise. If someone of noble blood or with royal aspirations were to marry my dear step-daughters it may put me in a tenuous situation. They might claim that as the son-in-laws of the former Emperor they should have a right to the throne. It is of course unreasonable to place myself in such a position. To complicate matters, their dear mother, my queen, is quite selective, as every mother has a right to be, as to who her daughters marry. So we find ourselves many years now unable to find suitable matches for our girls.”

“What are you proposing?” Elimelech asked in a low voice.

“Why, I think it is obvious. Your sons are a perfect match for the daughters of Eglon. Your boys are of noble blood, yet no Moabite would consider them as heirs to the throne, hence they are not a danger to me. I propose we arrange the ceremony as soon as possible. I will even cover the entire expense of the wedding party!”

“This is a most difficult offer.” Elimelech took a step back. “You may not know, your Majesty, but amongst our people, we do not marry those outside of Israel.”

“Yes. I have heard about your reticence to marry others. But I have also studied your history. Did not Joseph marry an Egyptian? Moses a Midianite? Both of them daughters of high priests of other nations. And Joshua married Rahav, a Canaanite of Jericho. So there are certainly exceptions and I think Ruth and Orpa are clearly beautiful and regal exceptions.” Jalet saw Elimelech tensing up. “Be careful what you answer Elimelech. Our hospitality may depend on it.”

Naomi grabbed Elimelech’s arm and stepped in front of her quickly reddening husband.

“That is a most gracious offer, your Majesty,” Naomi said. “As you know, we have just arrived from a long and tiring journey. Please let us rest a bit and let us discuss it further after we’ve had some more time to get comfortable. I see that your queen and your, ah, advisor are likewise uncomfortable with your plan, but we shall give it due consideration, if that is agreeable.”

“Yes, wife of Elimelech. You are wise, though forward. Perhaps I have pushed this idea too quickly. That is the burden of leadership at times. To think too fast, too far ahead of everyone else. I must give my subjects some time to see things as I do, to catch up to my thinking. Yes. Tomorrow I will require an answer. Do you have accommodations?”

“Yes, your Majesty,” Elimelech said, regaining his composure. “We have found a suitable place and will give you our response tomorrow.”

“Until then.” Jalet motioned to the guards to escort the Judeans out.

“With your permission, your Majesty, I will also excuse myself,” Sumahtrid asked urgently.

“Begone.” Jalet waved the sorcerer away, recalling having tried unsuccessfully before. Sumahtrid rushed out of the audience chamber.

“You cannot mean to go through with this, Jalet. Is this part of some new plot that I cannot fathom?” Queen Neema asked.

“Why don’t we ask your daughters what they think of my proposal? Ruth? What say you? I saw you looking longingly at the eldest.”

“I would marry him,” Ruth said, not daring to hope.

“That was straightforward.” Jalet smiled. “What about you, Orpa? The younger one clearly had eyes for you.”

“He is handsome,” Orpa answered. “He has a certain vibrancy to him. I would not refuse an offer.”

“There we have it,” Jalet clapped his hands. “Your daughters agree. They even like them. They are fine upstanding young man, strong and smart, with fire in their eyes. They are of noble birth, yet are not a threat to my monarchy. You will not find better grooms than these again, Neema.”

“They are Hebrews.” Neema spat the word.

“And you are Amalekite. So? Your daughters are Moabite. We live in a new world. The Philistines control the coast. The Egyptians are diminished. The Hittites are no more. The Midianites are becoming civilized. So what if these boys are Israelites. They are here to stay and your old enmities will not serve you well.”

“My ancestors would cringe to contemplate such a union.”

“Your ancestors are dead and their hatred did them no good. It is to my advantage, to your advantage, to your daughters’ advantage and even to the Judean advantage for these unions to take place. It is wise.”

“Elimelech did not seem pleased either,” Neema argued.

“He is a smart man. He will see the wisdom and the advantage of the offer despite his tribal misgivings. You will see. Tomorrow we shall announce the engagement. Congratulations girls!”

“Let’s wait and see,” Neema said, hoping Elimelech was as stubborn as she thought.

 

Sumahtrid reached his house before the Judeans arrived at theirs. It was early evening and the setting sun turned the pink stones of Kir Moav to red.

“Good, Beor. You’re here,” he said to the boy, gnawing on an old bone with one hand and fidgeting with his knife in the other. “I have another task for you. Listen to me. You will climb on to the roof of the house across the road. Make a small hole in the thatch so you can hear what they say and perhaps even see something. You will be my eyes and ears. I will be with you in here.” Sumahtrid touched Beor’s head. “I will see everything you see and hear everything you hear. I must know what Elimelech will say and decide. I hope that he will stop this marriage that he is clearly against. Perhaps I should advise him to leave Kir Moav. But no. He will never listen to anything I say. I’ve interfered too much already. Go. Go to the roof and let’s see what they say.”

Beor scampered out of the house and quickly climbed onto the roof. He found a thin stretch of thatch and used his knife to cut through it until he could see clearly into the common room. He felt an annoying buzzing in his head. Beor scratched at his head, but it did not help. He sensed the presence of Sumahtrid watching what he saw and hearing what he heard. Beor tried to ignore the feeling. He twirled his knife reflexively as he balanced himself on one of the beams and peered down into the house.

Elimelech’s family entered quietly. Then they all spoke at once, a loud crescendo of noise filling the evening sky.

“Quiet! Quiet!” Elimelech yelled. “I will speak and you will hear me. You shall not marry those Moabites, daughters of an Amalekite that we are commanded to destroy. It is an abomination. How can you even suggest that we would consider it?”

“Would you rather Jalet execute us?” Naomi asked.

“Yes. I have not stood for much of late, but I will not stand for my sons to marry outside our people.”

“Father, aren’t you being excessive?” Kilyon asked. “They are princesses. Rich and beautiful. We would live very comfortably in our exile.”

“Absolutely not! At least your brother has the sense not to suggest a marriage. He knows them well. He lived amongst them for many years. Isn’t that right, Mahlon?”

“Ruth is the only woman I’ve ever cared for,” Mahlon said with a faraway look.

“And her sister is gorgeous!” Kilyon jumped in. “Come on, Father. Stop being such an old stick. We are no longer amongst our people. Who else should we marry? Do you expect us never to marry?”

Elimelech was quiet. He looked with pained eyes at his sons and his wife.

“God has been quick to punish me for leaving our people. We are here just a few hours and already my sons are ready to marry heathens. Perhaps you were right, Naomi. Perhaps we should have stayed. But the deed is done and I will not go back. It would be an even greater embarrassment. But my word is final. While I have breath in my body, I shall not allow this marriage to take place. Over my dead body!” Elimelech yelled.

The presence of Sumahtrid in Beor’s mind was startled by the yell and became confused about his surroundings. Sumahtrid’s mind left Beor’s body. The boy lost his balance and fell through the thatched roof, clutching his knife and falling atop Elimelech. “Dead body!” was all Beor remembered hearing. Elimelech crumpled to the ground. Beor lifted himself off Elimelech and drew his knife out of Elimelech’s back.

“Dead body!” Beor repeated and ran out of the house, before the shocked family could react.

Elimelech looked up in confusion and coughed blood. Mahlon ran to his father and saw the stream of blood oozing out of his back. He placed his hands firmly against his father’s back, but knew it was futile.

“Elimelech!” Naomi cried, on her knees next to him. “Elimelech!”

“I forgot,” Elimelech whispered. He clutched his chest, knowing the end was near.

“What?” Naomi asked through her tears.

“Everything. Everything my father taught me. I should have been strong in God. I tried to be strong in myself, to make up for my weakness, and now it ends like this. I was wrong to fight the Benjaminites. I was wrong to fight Ehud. I was wrong to leave our people. Am I wrong about the boys?”

“No, my love.” Naomi grasped his hand. “You are not wrong. It is our way. Your father would have been proud of you. Of the strength you showed against the King of Moab.”

“I can’t see clearly anymore.” Elimelech coughed more blood. “My eyes have misted over. What have I done? I’m sorry, Naomi. I loved you. Not as you deserved. But I loved you in my own way. Goodbye, my love. Don’t…”

“Don’t what, Elimelech? Don’t what? Don’t leave me! No! Elimelech! No! Not here! Not now! No!!” Naomi buried her head in Elimelech’s still chest.

“Come, Mother,” Kilyon hugged Naomi. “He’s gone. There’s nothing we can do now. We have to let him go. Come.”

“No! No. No. No. No.” Naomi wept, convulsing in her grief.

“Mother, he is gone.” Mahlon stood up, his hands and clothing soaked in his father’s blood. “We should bury him. Bury him as our own people do – not like these heathens. He would have wanted that.”

“Yes, yes, of course we need to bury him. But not just yet. Give me a few more moments with him.” Naomi placed her head on his cold chest, feeling more bereft than she ever had in her life. Little did she know that this was not the last loss she would suffer.

* * * * * *

Biblical Sources:

Book of Ruth, Chapter 1

1 And it came to pass in the days when the judges judged, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the field of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. 2 And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife Naomi, and the name of his two sons Mahlon and Kilyon, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. And they came into the field of Moab, and continued there. 3 And Elimelech, Naomi’s husband died; and she was left, and her two sons.

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 1 – Elimelech’s Sin

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 1

 Elimelech’s Sin

“I’m sorry, but you must hurry,” Naomi pleaded with the old woman. “You must leave before my husband returns.”

Naomi rushed the old woman out of her house and handed her a small loaf of fresh dark bread.

“Thank you, Naomi,” the old woman said as she slowly moved one arthritic leg in front of the next. “You’re a lifesaver.”

Naomi stood in the doorway of her large stone house, looking at her neighbors walking on the main stone-lined road of Bethlehem. The cool breeze of the Judean Mountains softened the otherwise harsh heat of the Canaanite sun. But the setting summer sun did nothing to soften the grim faces of the Bethlehemites.

Naomi could see the outline of the ribs of young boys playing lethargically with the remains of what once must have been a ball of rags. Babies cried weakly against the bosoms of their mothers. Tired women held wicker baskets large enough to carry four times the sheaves of wheat they had managed to salvage from the remains of the day’s harvest. Naomi shed a tear as she had every day of the last three years, closed the door of the house and shut out the evidence of the deepening famine. She tidied up the room and double-checked that there was no sign of the dozens of neighbors that had come through her house that day. She knew Elimelech disapproved, but she could not help herself. These were her friends, her neighbors, her relatives. She could not refrain from sharing the unusual and growing blessing of food that her family was enjoying.

Elimelech walked in the door as he always did, sweating and face flushed from the exertion of the harvest. The red in his face matched the remaining red in his beard, though every year the red lost more territory to the spread of white. Though he came from a long-lived line, the signs of age weighed heavily on Elimelech. He was followed by his sons, Mahlon and Kilyon. Naomi always felt a short sweet pang of pleasure at seeing her strong handsome sons. Mahlon and Kilyon were both muscular and tanned from their work in the fields. The soft curls of bright red hair matched their short beards. Except for their appearance, Mahlon and Kilyon had widely different personalities. Mahlon was quiet and pensive, never comfortable amongst his fellow Judeans, but rather preferring the company of the farm animals. Kilyon was loud and brash, happy to tease his older brother at every opportunity.

“Can you believe it?” Kilyon asked his brother.

“It does seem unusual,” Mahlon answered. “It’s not the first time I’ve suspected this, but now I think we’ve confirmed it.”

“What’s going on?” their mother asked.

“We seem to have more grain than we gathered.” Elimelech cleared his throat.

“More!? Not less?” Naomi asked incredulously, thinking of all the grain she had been regularly siphoning away. “How is that possible?”

“I don’t know.” Elimelech ran his fingers through his long beard. “But besides planting, growing and harvesting more than anyone else, our grain also seems to be multiplying while in storage. I’ve already agreed to buy Amitai’s field in return for part of our grain. For all of his ingenuity he has not managed to grow a good crop. Why, Mahlon and his oxen can plow twice the number of our fields in half the time.”

“Perhaps we should share some of this blessing?” Naomi asked, knowing the answer.

“I’ve told you before, Naomi. We give our tithes and our priestly gifts and all of the various leavings of the field as per the Law of Moses. If we were to give more, we would be quickly overrun. Beggars would come from all around if they knew there were rich pickings here. No, Naomi. We must keep and save and invest what we have rightfully earned.”

“But Elimelech, our neighbors are starving while our granary is overflowing!” Naomi begged.

“Woman,” Elimelech said sternly. “I have spoken. We shall wash up and then we shall eat.” Elimelech and the brothers went to the back of the house to wash themselves.

There was a loud knock on the door which interrupted Naomi from looking at the place her husband had been. She opened the door and was startled to see a dark-haired clean-shaven middle-aged man. He wore a dark flowing robe that covered an athletic build. His handsome features were only marred by a condescending sneer that seemed permanently affixed to his face.

“Is this the home of the Prince of Judah, Elimelech son of Nachshon the Brave?” the stranger asked with a surprisingly nasal voice.

“Who are you? Where are you from? What do you want?” Naomi asked, disliking the stranger immediately.

“My name is Sumahtrid. I have come from far. I wish to speak with your husband, Naomi, granddaughter of Nachshon the Brave.” Sumahtrid’s eyes misted over and his sneer got wider. “Yes, Naomi. Nachshon’s blood runs strong in your veins. I can sense it without even touching you. May I?” Sumahtrid asked without waiting for an answer. With the pointy nail of his index finger, the black-robed man quickly pierced Naomi’s arm, drew blood, sucked on the bloody fingernail and then forced himself into the house, past the bewildered Naomi.

“Ah, what power,” Sumahtrid commented as he licked his fingernail. A most powerful bloodline. My master was foolish to have underestimated the boy.”

“Who are you?” Elimelech asked threateningly as he reentered the room, with Mahlon and Kilyon behind him.

“Prince Elimelech.” Sumahtrid bowed formally. “I have come from a great distance to meet you and your sons. I am here now merely for informational purposes.” Sumahtrid approached Mahlon with hunger in his eyes.

“Watch his nail!” Naomi warned, having recovered from Sumahtrid’s entrance.

Sumahtrid attempted to jab Mahlon’s arm but Mahlon grabbed the stranger’s arm before he could draw blood. Sumahtrid grinned at the contact, cocked his head back and said to no one in particular:

“Gifts! Gifts! This family is blessed with gifts, yet they do not know!”

Sumahtrid laughed a cruel laugh as one enjoying his enemy’s misery.

“Listen to me, son of Nachshon,” Sumahtrid looked deep into Elimelech’s eyes. “I am a seer, a prophet, a sorcerer and much more. I have visions. I have seen visions of your future. It is grim and it is as it should be. Though there is much uncertainty in my visions. Much left unanswered and much at risk. I hoped by seeing your family it would give me clarity. But all I see is the power and the danger.”

“What are you ranting about? Get out of my house or I will throw you out.” Elimelech took a step towards the sorcerer, his arm still held firmly by Mahlon.

“Your family cannot harm me. Yet I shall depart, for I have accomplished my mission. But I will leave you with one warning. Beware the Moabite,” Sumahtrid turned his misty gaze upon Mahlon. “Beware her quiet charm. She will doom all your people.”

Sumahtrid twisted his arm out of Mahlon’s grasp and ran for the door, cackling as he jogged through the streets of Bethlehem.

“Well, that was fun!” Kilyon exclaimed after an awkward silence. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m hungry.”

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 24 – The Sword of Ehud

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 24

The Sword of Ehud

Young Lerim jumped off his stool as the Moabite soldiers barged into the smithy. Big Perad stopped his hammering and looked fairly threatening as his bulging muscles held the large hammer above the anvil. Lanky Davneh stopped polishing the hoe he held in the corner of the smithy.

“Where is Ehud?” the Moabite captain demanded, brandishing his sword at Perad’s hammer. The midday sun reflected through the open door off the shiny sword, blinding Lerim for a moment.

“He’s not here,” Perad answered in his deep voice, gently resting the hammer on the anvil, beside the ax-head he had been working on.

“I can see that, you Hebrew scum,” the captain sneered, not lowering his sword. “Where is he?”

“I don’t know,” Perad said calmly.

“Typical. It doesn’t matter. We’ve been ordered by Bagdon to inspect all smithies and make sure there are no weapons being produced. We shall now commence our inspection.”

The captain and three other soldiers spread out through the smithy and inspected all the tools. They saw pots and pans, hoes and pitchforks, shovels and axes, scythes and hammers. The captain picked up one of the new axes and touched the edge. A small rivulet of blood sprang from his finger.

“It’s sharp!” The captain sucked on his finger and dropped the ax back on the table. “Why do you have so many axes?”

“The family of Prince Giltar has made a large order,” Davneh answered nervously. “They own the forest to the north of their fields and have been cutting down a lot of their trees.”

The soldiers moved tools, tables and benches. One soldier noticed dug up ground under one of the benches.

“Look, captain,” the soldier pointed. “The ground here has been dug up.”

“Let’s see what they’re hiding. Dig it up,” he ordered.

Two soldiers grabbed shovels and dug up the area. They lifted heavy bronze spheres from the ground.

“What are these?” the captain asked.

“That’s our sacrifice,” Lerim said quickly. “To our gods.”

“What god?” the captain asked suspiciously. “I’ve never heard of this type of worship.”

“It’s only a worship of blacksmiths. And he’s a very humble god. Most people don’t know of him.”

“What’s his name, boy?” the captain demanded.

“Um, Vulcan. We call him Vulcan.”

“Interesting.” The captain dropped the sphere back in the hole. “I will not interfere with your worship of this Vulcan. But know that we will be back. Holding or producing weapons warrants death. We shall be conducting regular inspections of all smithies, until – well, until it’s no longer necessary.”

The captain and his soldiers left the smithy. Lerim, Perad and Davneh looked at each other wordlessly, wiped their brows, tidied up the smithy and continued making their tools, more numerous and sharper than they had ever made them before.

 

“Why do you come to me, Ehud?” Elimelech asked at the door of his home.

“I would speak with you, Elimelech. May I come in?” Ehud asked.

“No. You represent all the pain of my life. Let us go by the gate of the city.” Elimelech closed the door behind him and walked with Ehud to the entrance of Bethlehem.

“Elimelech, the time has come to fight Eglon,” Ehud stated.

“Now? Now you come to me, when my energy is spent and my hope is shriveled. No, Ehud. I am weary of struggle.”

“Are you not the Prince of Judah?” Ehud asked with an edge in his voice.

“In name only. I have lost my own respect as well as that of my tribe. Go to my brother, Ploni, or perhaps to Boaz. Maybe they still have the appetite for battle. I am finished of fighting the wrong wars.”

“That is your answer? To hand off the responsibility to others? Where is the son of Nachshon the Brave?”

“Nachshon? You ask of Nachshon? Will I forever be haunted by his specter? The sea could not stop my father, yet I have only brought death and calamity upon our people. No, Ehud. I shame and disgrace his memory. To mention Nachshon is merely to show how unworthy I am, what a disastrous failure I’ve become. Leave me, Ehud. Find some other fools to fight your battles.”

“What of your family? Of your children? Of Mahlon who is still in the Tyrant’s clutches?”

“Eglon killed Mahlon when he robbed us of him. He is a stranger to us, likely more Moabite than Judean. Burying him once was enough for me.”

“Does Naomi share this feeling? Has your wife also abandoned your firstborn? You should know that Mahlon is strong and may yet help in our salvation. You would be proud of the man your son has become.”

“Mahlon?” Elimelech looked to the east as if he could see through the mountains that blocked his view of the City of Palms. “No. It is too late. I am without hope. Goodbye, Ehud. I hope that our God is still with you, for I no longer feel his presence.” Elimelech walked back home, head down, shoulders slumped.

This is going to be harder than I thought, Ehud said to himself. Hopefully Boaz will be more enthusiastic.

 

Over the course of the next two weeks Ehud traveled throughout the tribe of Israel.  He met discretely with his fellow Israelites, avoiding those that were most apathetic. He told them all the same plan.

“We will meet on the ridges of Searim the day of the next full moon. It is the day we bring the Tribute. On that day we will destroy the entire Moabite army on our land. Do not be incredulous. God, the God of our ancestors has heard our cries, and He will answer us. The time has come for us to be free of the tyranny of Eglon. Yet we must cleanse our hearts of all thoughts of idol worship. We must cling to our one true God with all our being, and then we will be truly successful.

So come, my brothers. Gird your loins. Let go of your fears. Make yourselves into weapons of the Almighty and we will show those Moabite dogs how the sons of Israel account themselves!”

The crowds would cheer, suddenly infused with rejuvenated hope in the face of overwhelming odds. The odds did not deter Ehud’s followers. Instead their hope motivated them further.

In parting, Ehud would say the same lines uttered by Moses and Joshua – an eternal rallying cry for the Children of Israel:  “Be strong and courageous! God is with us!”

 

“And they said they would be back,” Lerim breathlessly explained to Ehud upon his return to the smithy.

“Well, good thinking on your part about that story with a god of blacksmiths, though the concept is abhorrent. We should not be so quick to call on false gods, even in jest. I can’t believe they fell for such a blatant lie.” Ehud scratched his beard as he looked at the tools they had produced in his absence.

“Now what?” Davneh asked nervously.

“Some men from some of the tribes have agreed to fight back. They are few, but we shall have to make do,” Ehud answered.

“What about weapons? Sharpened axes will be no match for professional swords.” Davneh gestured to the shinning tools throughout the smithy.

Perad grabbed a hammer and smashed an old workbench into pieces, shards flying in all directions. “Stop sniveling!” Perad exclaimed. “A hoe to the throat can kill just as well as a sword. If God is with us we will be victorious.”

“Perad is right,” Ehud explained. “We must do the best we can and God will do the rest. But I do need to make at least one sword. Let’s melt the brass off of those iron spheres. Good thing none of those Moabites knew their metals, otherwise they would have felt the difference immediately.”

“I want to fight as well,” Lerim announced decisively.

“We’ve been over this before,” Ehud responded. “You are too young and I will not risk you in battle. It is enough you lost your father. I shall not make Yigal’s wife husbandless and childless by the same Tyrant. Your helping us here is already a big risk and contribution.”

“I want to avenge Yigal,” Lerim said.

“We shall do that for you. I need you to be an example for the other children to stay back. You are our future and we cannot risk harm coming to you.”

“If you lose, then what future will we have? You will need all the help you can get.”

“Lerim, your heart is in the right place, but I cannot argue about this further. Enough. We have work to do.”

Ehud sat at the workbench, elbows on the table and rested his head on his fists as he finally thought about what he needed to do. I need a weapon. It has to get by undetected. But it has to be effective. It has to be short enough to be concealed, but long and strong enough to kill. A knife is too short. I would never get a sword in.

A short sword, then. What’s the longest I can make it? It must be sharp. I can strap something to my back. No. It will be too apparent. I can strap something to my thigh. The guards will not check under my tunic. That will be its length. It must be heavy and well balanced. But I have no guide. I have never heard of anyone making such a sword.

It must be able to pierce and slash, not just a one-side hacking weapon. I need to get the balance right. I can err by making the blade too heavy and then add weight on the pommel. If I make the blade too light all the work will be lost. But by how much should I err?

Having made his decision, Ehud stood up and started working on the mold. Perad and Davneh had melted the bronze off the spheres, revealing the hot iron interior. They then melted the iron core until it became a bubbling soup of molten metal. Ehud poured the red liquid iron into the mold. Bright chunks of the hot metal splattered out of the mold and onto the floor where they quickly cooled down. However, the majority of the metal settled nicely and evenly into the mold and started to cool down in the breezy evening air. With a pair of tongs Ehud grabbed the still hot shape and placed it in a tub of water which steamed angrily. He then reheated areas of the new sword-shaped object and pounded those spots with a heavy iron mallet. Ehud did this again and again into the night – almost in a trance. The heat was such that every few minutes Ehud had to wipe his dripping sweat out of his eyes. Ehud continued fiercely until he had the shape he wanted.

By the early hours of the morning he was sharpening the sword until the edges were razor-sharp. Finally he looked upon his newly created weapon in wonder. The sword was unlike anything he had ever beheld. The workmanship of the sword was clearly beyond his normal abilities, and he was sure that it was more a result of inspiration rather than skill. It was more like a long dagger than a real sword. Most swords in the region were curved affairs, while his was rigidly straight. Most swords had a single sharp edge and were used for slicing one’s enemy. In some cases a sword would have blunt edges and be used as a bludgeoning device. Ehud’s sword was a double-edged sword with a sharp tip that could be used for slicing from either side – or stabbing.

Ehud’s plan became clearer in his mind as he held his weapon lovingly.

 

Eglon woke with a start, a sharp pain penetrating his large stomach. The nightmare again, he thought. It had repeated itself for weeks now. He had been at a sumptuous banquet, with all the delicacies of the world at an endless table. Sliced pineapples, fish eggs, sides of beef from rare antelopes, an infinite number of breads in all shapes and sizes, steaming dishes with legumes and vegetables he did not recognize and wine as far as the eye could see. He sat with the greatest kings of history. Pharaohs and Emperors. Nimrod, Hammurabi, Seti the First, Gilgamesh and others he did not know. Dirthamus was at his side, warning him not to eat too much. Galkak was there too, drinking to his heart’s content.

“Eat up, Boss!” Galkak exhorted as he raised an overflowing goblet, spilling red wine. “Why should we pass up on any pleasure? Why should we restrain ourselves? We are masters of the world!”

There was a plate in front of him with miniature heads of the Israelite princelings. He ate one. It was delicious. He ate another and it was even better. Finally he reached the head of Mahlon. Eglon was filled with fear as he beheld the ruddy features of the red-head of Judah. This may be the most exotic taste of all, he thought. Eglon ate the head whole and then his stomach exploded in pain, waking him up.

Perhaps I ate too much last night, Eglon thought, and resolved to restrain himself. The resolve lasted as long as it took him to roll over and go back to sleep.

* * * * * *