Category Archives: Ploni

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 29 – Lion of Judah

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 29

Lion of Judah

Ruth completed her third circle around Boaz. She found herself out of breath and disoriented as her vision fluctuated between the battle around her wedding ceremony and her presence in the future, as her descendant David faced the Philistine giant, Goliath son of Orpa.

The first group of Philistine mercenaries that Alron the Danite had brought into Bethlehem lay dead or unconscious on the floor of the alcove where Boaz and Ruth had meant to marry. Four elders held the poles of the wedding canopy over the couple. Ehud, Ploni, Garto and the rest of the residents of Bethlehem fought a pitched battle against the new infusion of Philistine mercenaries in front of the city gate. Judean pitchforks, axes and walking sticks were wielded against the iron swords of professional soldiers.

It seemed that the more numerous Judeans would stem the tide pouring through the city gate, until a flurry of arrows killed half a dozen defenders.

Ehud identified the man-child Beor as the deadly archer standing next to the sorcerer Sumahtrid. Ehud grabbed a spear from a dead Philistine and threw it with all his might at Beor. The archer moved his body, but not before the blacksmith’s spear clove his bow in half.

“You’ll have to get your hands dirty now, Beor,” Sumahtrid instructed his disciple. “I know how much you love it.”

Beor drew his sword and approached the thick of battle as Sumahtrid continued weaving spells with his hands and voice.

*

David stood frozen for a moment as Goliath’s footsteps shook the earth. David felt the tremors of the wounded land through the soft soles of his leather sandals. He held his staff in one hand and his sling in the other and feared that even his vaunted faith would not be enough to sustain him against the unnatural menace barreling towards him.

“Now,” Boaz yelled to the ghost of his bride-to-be. “He needs us now.” Both he and Ruth floated to David and each took hold of one of his shoulders.

David felt the strength of their spirits pour into him. He stood tall and did not flinch as the giant suddenly halted his march.

Goliath looked at David in shock, not believing his size, age, or lack of armor or weaponry.

“Am I a dog,” Goliath barked harshly at David, “that you come to me with a stick, boy? This is the hero the Israelites send to fight me? By all the gods, I have never been so offended. I swear to you by the old gods and the new gods, by Zeus and Hera, by Baal and Ashtarte, come to me boy, and I will feed your carcass to the vultures and your rotting corpse to the jackals.”

David took a step back from Goliath’s threat. Ruth and Boaz held David’s shoulders firmly, and soon found other hands joining them.

Moses, with his flowing white beard stood right behind David and whispered.

“I smote a giant much larger than this one.”

Abraham stood next to Moses and whispered, “Do not fear, my son. You must kill him to set the course.”

Samuel the Prophet joined their hands and said, “It is for this that I anointed you. You are the chosen of God. You can defeat this heathen.”

More and more hands rested on David’s shoulders; the ancestors, warriors and prophets of countless generations. They whispered to him. They encouraged him. They gave him of their essence. David felt their spirit. He felt their strength flowing into his soul, into his blood. He felt his muscles burn with power.

“You are our child,” Ruth said above the chorus of the generations. “We are with you. You are a Lion of Judah. This is your destiny. Show this monster, show these heathens, how a son of the living God, how a prince of Israel, has no fear.”

David took a step forward and looked at Goliath in the eye. He felt a kinship in the eyes, a certain ferocity – but nothing else.

“You come to me with a sword, a spear and a javelin,” David called out in a voice that bounced off the mountains on either side. The Philistine and Israelite armies hushed to hear David’s words. “But I, I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted this day. And it is He that will deliver you into my hand. I will kill you. I will cut your head off and I will give the carcasses of your Philistines to the vultures of the sky and to the jackals of the field, that all will know that there is a God in Israel.”

A cheer arose from the army of Israel as the Philistines looked on in confusion and the beginning of fear.

“And all will know,” David continued in a louder voice over the cheering Israelites, “that God doesn’t save with the sword or the spear, for battle is God’s domain and he will give you into our hands.”

“Enough! Enough, you filthy little dog.” Goliath raised his spear. The spear was as thick as a tree with an iron point the size of a man’s head. “I have never heard such a loud blabbering Israelite before. Enough!”

Goliath threw his spear with blinding speed, but David had already moved and was no longer where he had stood when the spear penetrated the earth as if suddenly giving birth to a new tree. Goliath raised his sword and with a piercing battle-cry slashed at David. David ducked under the heavy sword and rolled to his feet. He grabbed a stone from his satchel and placed it into the mouth of his sling. Goliath slashed at the running David. David somersaulted into the air, flipping over the flashing sword and landing on his feet.

“Stay still you little monkey!” Goliath spat and slashed again at the place where David had been. “Fight like a man! I didn’t come here to hunt rabbits!”

David spun his sling. Goliath paused and laughed. He sheathed his sword and drew his javelin from behind his back.

“You think your little pebbles will hurt me? I’m indestructible!”

David continued spinning until he felt the speed was right. Goliath launched the javelin at David. David jumped out of the way of the javelin, the force of the wind almost knocking him over. He kept hold of the sling and continued his relentless spinning.

God! Let my aim be true! David prayed. He felt the presence of Ehud again, guiding his hand. “I told you I would be with you,” Ehud whispered. “A Wolf of Benjamin assists the Lion of Judah.”

The stone left the sling with a rush of sound. The armies of two nations watched as the small stone, no larger than a man’s fist, flew towards the giant’s head. Goliath’s eyes lost focus as they tried to follow the speeding path of the riverstone.

Then it struck. It struck right beneath the gleaming bronze helmet, upon the bridge of the nose between the giant’s eyes. The helmet with the bright red plume flew off the giant’s head as he reeled backwards. The stone embedded itself deep into his thick skin. The towering giant took a step back from the force of the blow.

And then the impossible happened. The giant stopped breathing. A universal gasp echoed from both sides of the valley. The Philistines on one mountain and the Israelites on the opposing mountain held their collective breaths as Goliath ceased to live. They knew it when his eyes rolled backwards. They had seen it in countless enemies, but never in a being so large. His life was snuffed out. It was as if a towering cedar, one of the famed majestic trees from the forests of Lebanon, had been felled. Goliath wobbled for a moment, his legs no longer wielding the power to sustain him. He fell to his knees. His arms went slack at his sides and his massive body fell forward.

The entire world moved in slow motion and only had eyes for the falling giant. It was as if the rules of nature had been overturned. A small, young, unarmed boy had killed the mightiest; the most invincible warrior the world had ever created. The tiniest details of Goliath came into sharp focus. His burnished breastplate displayed the fortress by the sea with the characteristic gate of Ashkelon, the city of his birth. The greaves on his legs with the engraved soldiers were smiling with glee in the burning sun.

There must have been sound when the enormous body hit the ground, but nobody heard it. The shock was so overwhelming, the deed so impossible, that the visual senses were overloaded and did not allow any other sense to function. It was impossible. The large body bounced, his face splattering into the muddy riverbank, and then he moved no more.

*

Ruth finished the sixth circle, panting and sweating profusely. She could barely focus on the scene in Bethlehem. Boaz remained in a light trance, not able or willing to break Ruth’s circles, yet frustrated that he could do nothing to fight their immediate danger. They were surrounded by an army. The four elders holding up the wedding canopy were using their staffs to fend off the Philistine mercenaries that got through the guard of the Bethlehemites that had made a circle around Boaz and Ruth. There were perhaps two dozen Bethlehemites standing against a force of three dozen professional soldiers. Ehud was in single sword combat with the dexterous Beor, neither of them gaining an advantage. Ploni stayed close to Ruth, watching for any Philistines that made it past the guard of the four elders.

Then Ploni saw it from the corner of his eye; an arrow flashing through the thick air towards Ruth’s heart. Instinctively he jumped in its way as Ruth continued her dream walk. The arrow punctured Ploni’s lung and he knew he would not last long as he collapsed outside Ruth’s path.

Alron, standing on the parapet, reloaded another arrow to shoot at Ruth. He pulled on the bow and aimed at the Moabite princess, until a sword erupted from his belly, sending the arrow awry.

“You dirty traitor,” Garto exhaled as he pulled the sword out of Alron’s body, kicking him over the parapet. “You deserve much worse than that for bringing enemies into our city.”

Garto spotted the sorcerer Sumatrid on a further parapet and ran towards him.

*

Ehud cried for every Israelite that died defending Boaz and Ruth. He wept openly when Ploni fell. He could have saved them, but the sorcery was stopping him. He didn’t understand it. It hadn’t incapacitated him. It had just taken away his extra edge, his extra speed, strength and stamina that had always accompanied him in battle. Now he was just an old blacksmith, an experienced warrior, fighting a fresher, younger assassin.

He saw Sumahtrid in the distance waving his hands in strange patterns, but he could not reach him. If he disengaged from Beor, the assassin would kill Boaz and Ruth in short order.

Then he saw Garto running towards Sumahtrid and prayed that the unskilled overseer would be a match for the sorcerer.

*

Sumahtrid had mixed feelings about the death of Alron. On one hand, he would no longer have to pay him the exorbitant fees he had demanded, but on the other hand, the Danite had almost accomplished the task of killing the princess. He would just need to redouble his efforts. He didn’t understand why Boaz, the ancient warrior, remained frozen in his wedding ceremony, but that left Ehud as the only threat, and he needed to weaken Ehud until Beor could overcome the old blacksmith.

He saw the overseer running towards him with the sword. Perhaps it was time to change tactics. Sumahtrid whistled shrilly. All stopped and looked at Sumahtrid for a moment.

“To me, my pet!” Sumahtrid called to Beor.

Beor immediately backed away from Ehud and ran back to Sumahtrid.

Sumahtrid gestured at Garto who continued running towards him. A stone that Garto stepped on dislodged from the floor, sending Garto flying over the parapet, landing onto a pile of corpses below. The stone continued flying and knocked into an Israelite defender, sending him crumbling to the floor.

Sumahtrid sent another stone flying towards Ruth. Ehud sheathed his sword in his scabbard, jumped to intercept the flying stone and redirected it at a Philistine soldier.

“Guard me from any attackers,” Sumahtrid instructed Beor as he met him on the parapet. “I will let the stones of the ancestors kill the progeny. There will only be so many stones the blacksmith can catch.”

Sumahtrid lobbed stones at a more rapid pace. Ehud struggled to catch each one and divert them. Some started to get through and hit other Israelites. One stone hit an elder holding the wedding canopy, throwing him against the wall of the alcove. Another elder grabbed the canopy pole before it fell, his staff in his other hand, wary of another stone and the Philistines, who had backed away from the magical stone attack.

Within minutes, Ehud was bruised and bloodied by the attack of the flying stones. One of his arms hung limply at his side. All of the Israelites were dead, unconscious or dispersed, except for four wounded elders holding up the canopy around Boaz and Ruth.

“Now to finish the job,” Sumahtrid purred, rubbing his hands for a final assault.

*

David looked in awe at the fallen Goliath.

There was a roar of victory from the Israelite army and a roar of anger from the Philistines. Even without Goliath, the Philistines outnumbered and outmatched the Israelites. The Philistines would have to engage the Israelites, but it would be a massacre nonetheless.

The remaining Philistine generals ordered their army to form into lines. They would attack the Israelites.

“No!” Ruth’s specter said. “We must press the advantage. David, my child, you are not done yet.” Ruth thought of her role, she thought of her purpose, she wondered what she contributed that the other mighty ancestors didn’t. Why did God need her in the supreme mix of souls? And then she knew it. She knew what the blood of Eglon carried. She knew what a descendant of Lot could do. She knew what the Israelites were lacking and she knew why she was chosen. She knew why it was her and no one else from Moab. She was the kind one from Moab, in a time when Israel desperately needed kindness. It was compassion, it was humility, it was faith, but there was something underlying all these traits.

For a moment she had a vision of a memory she had not thought of since her childhood. It had been in the Judean desert, when her father, Emperor Eglon, controlled the land of Canaan. On one of the many days that she would sneak out of the City of Palms and explore the land, she climbed the stark rocky hills that hid the lush wadis. In one of the wadis she spotted a lioness. The lioness was wounded and trapped by a sudden rockfall. One leg lay broken under a pile of stones. A pack of hyenas, smelling blood, exited their lair. They approached the wounded lioness, only to cower back at her angry roar. The hyenas circled around the trapped lioness and headed towards her den, where her newborn cubs lay.

The trapped lioness roared again and with supreme effort extricated herself from the rocks. With three healthy legs she pounced on half a dozen hyenas. The hyenas counterattacked and nipped at the lioness’ broken leg. The lioness roared in pain, but never gave up. She roared and attacked as the hyenas jumped onto her, biting into her back, her neck, her healthy legs. With the fury only a mother can show for her young, the lioness slashed and bit at the hyenas. She finally killed one, biting through its neck and battering the other hyenas with the body of their dead brother. The other hyenas scattered, whimpering, and never approached the lioness’ den again.

Young Ruth, from her safe haven above the wadi, cried as she witnessed the power and fury of the lioness. She had never been the same again.

Ruth of Moab awoke from her daydream, and still in her spirit state looked at the body of Goliath with his face in the mud. Her specter grabbed hold of David and she felt Boaz by her side, and Ehud, and Abraham, Moses, Nachshon, Joshua, Samson, Samuel and many more. She felt the spirits of generations channeling through her into the body of the young redhead. And she knew what she contributed, what was uniquely hers and what was needed now. Ferocity. She had the capacity for ferocity that was unrivaled. She now poured all of her ferocity into David.

David gritted his teeth and ran as if his body were on fire. David ran to Goliath’s corpse and removed his gigantic sword from its sheath. With supernatural strength he raised the iron sword and brought it crashing down over Goliath’s neck. The sword clove straight through the tough skin, separating the head from the body. David raised Goliath’s head by the hair, faced the combined troops of the Philistines and roared.

It was a roar that was heard from one end of the valley to the other. It rebounded off of the hills and into the sky. The clouds shook from the power of the roar. It was a roar that contained the voices of all the ancestors of David, of Judah, of Israel. Those that stood in the Valley of Ella that day swore that they saw a gigantic vision of a lion standing over David.

“Lion of Judah!” an Israelite warrior cried.

“Lion of Judah!” his fellow warriors repeated.

“LION OF JUDAH!!” the entire Israelite army screamed.

As one man, the Israelites raised their swords and ran towards the Philistines. No orders, no plan, no strategy. A sea of bodies and swords flowed down the mountain and filled the valley. It was as if a gigantic anthill had been kicked and now a ferocious assault was unleashed. The Israelites ran at the astonished Philistines fearlessly. David dropped Goliath’s head, yet retained the massive sword. He ran to the head of the oncoming Israelite army and was the first to engage the awestruck Philistines. With one swipe of Goliath’s sword David killed six Philistines.

“Lion of Judah!” the Israelites repeated and dove into the ranks of the retreating Philistines. That day thousands of Philistines were killed. Not one Israelite fell. David and the Israelite army pursued the Philistines all the way back to their cities of Gath and Ekron. David did not stop until the Israelites tired of massacring the fearful Philistines. Vultures of the sky and jackals of the field feasted on the Philistine bodies. That day David became a legend for all time. That was the day the tribes of Israel got their first glimpse of their future king, the one that would unite the tribes and establish the eternal monarchy of Israel.

*

Ruth finished her seventh circle as a stone block flew towards her head. Ehud lay gasping in pain on the floor. A large stone had broken three of his ribs. At that exact moment, generations into the future, a young redhead roared a roar that shook the earth. That roar escaped the lips of Ruth. It came out of the mouth of Boaz whose eyes opened widely. It came out of the lungs of Ehud that rasped with pain. Their roar shook the city. The flying stone stopped in midair and dropped harmlessly to the ground. Unconscious Bethlehemites woke up with vigor. The injured were healed. The fatally wounded were revived. Sumahtrid tried to cast a new spell, but found he could no longer speak. Ruth awoke from her trance, left the wedding canopy and marched towards Sumahtrid on the rampart. She climbed the stairs quickly, as a lioness pouncing on its prey.

Sumahtrid backed away from the woman with the fire in her eyes. Beor stood in front of him with his sword ready.

Ruth stopped a few feet away and planted her feet firmly on the stone.

“GOD!” she roared, raising her fists to the sky.

A blast of power emanated from Ruth, knocking Beor off the rampart. The effect on Sumahtrid was different. Sumahtrid’s form froze. His skin and clothing took on a grey color, like ashes from a dead hearth. Cracks formed all over his body and little flecks of dust were carried by the wind. The process accelerated, as Sumahtrid’s body decomposed and finally disappeared altogether in the Judean wind. Beor, watching his master’s fate from below, ran out of the city, never to look back.

Ruth walked regally down the stairs in her white wedding gown. The population of Bethlehem stood at attention and formed a passageway for Ruth to return to Boaz under the wedding canopy. Ehud stood by his side, dirty but healthy-looking. Garto was there as well, and even Ploni had been resuscitated, grinning more widely than he had in many decades with an arrow shaft still protruding from his chest.

“Shall we finish the ceremony?” Boaz asked.

“By all means,” Ruth responded. “I just had an uninvited guest to get rid of.”

Boaz and Ruth were married that day in Bethlehem, and everyone who was there swore that they saw a giant silhouette of a lion overlooking the wedding canopy.

* * * * * *

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 27 – House of the Removed Shoe

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 27

House of the Removed Shoe

Boaz sat calmly on the stone bench beside the gate, inside the large open alcove. Benches lined each of the three walls of the enclosure, within view of the main thoroughfare of Bethlehem. It was the place of judgment. The streets of Bethlehem were quieter than usual at the early hour. The residents of Bethlehem were slow to rise on the morning after the harvest feast. For a few moments Boaz enjoyed the warm summer sun rising above the mountains of Moab. Then he saw Ploni walking slowly towards the gate.

“Uncle,” Boaz called.

“Good morning, Boaz. Thank you again for an enjoyable feast. What is the matter? Why do you sit here?”

“I call for judgment,” Boaz answered. “Please sit here and we will assemble the elders.”

“For what matter?”

“In regard to the family and the property of Elimelech.”

“Very well.” Ploni sat down on an opposing bench.

The elders walked from their homes, one by one, to the gate of Bethlehem. “We sit in judgment today,” Boaz announced to each one.

Within a number of minutes a quorum of ten Elders had taken their seats on the stone benches. Other passersby stood by the entrance of the alcove, awaiting the proceedings. Children sat cross-legged on the top of the walls, sensing that it would be a judgment worth watching. Word of the judgment spread quickly throughout the city as the crowd swelled around the enclosure.

Naomi and Ruth, not able to restrain themselves, joined the crowd. Ruth wore the new white dress Naomi had made for her. Ehud was there, as was Garto. Garto smiled gently at Ruth, raised his shoulders and whispered: “They’ll be no work in the fields today, that’s for sure.”

Boaz stood up and faced Ploni.

“The land of Elimelech is being sold by his wife Naomi who has returned from the fields of Moab,” Boaz said to Ploni in a strong voice that the entire assembly could hear. “And I have decided to formally announce this to you. You may buy the land in front of all of this assembly and in front of the Elders. This would be your redemption of the land. If you are willing, then redeem it. But if not, you must let me know, for you have the first right as Elimelech’s brother. I come after you, for I am only his nephew.”

“I am willing to redeem the land of Elimelech, my brother, and acquire it.” Ploni stood up solemnly and declared.

“The day you buy the land from Naomi,” Boaz replied, “you also must buy it from Ruth the Moabite, widow of Mahlon and inheritor of Elimelech. Furthermore, as a redeemer, it will become your obligation to take Mahlon’s widow as your wife to carry on the name of the dead on his inheritance.”

“Absolutely not!” Ploni yelled. “She is a Moabite. She is not of Israel. I do not recognize her marriage to Mahlon nor her eligibility to join the Children of Israel. This is nonsense, Boaz, and you know it.”

“Let us examine your claims,” Boaz said, unruffled. “A woman of another nation has taken upon herself the laws and traditions of Israel. She was married to one of our family for many years. She has returned with her mother-in-law to our land to live and work amongst us. She is of noble character, of humble bearing and possesses a modesty that all the daughters of Israel can learn from. She identifies completely with the people of Israel and has taken on the Law of Moses. What else does she require to be recognized as one of us?”

“Don’t bandy words with me, Boaz. She is a Moabite. Moses himself wrote ‘a Moabite shall not enter into the covenant of Israel.’

“True,” Boaz answered. “But it has been argued in front of us that Moses may have easily meant that only male Moabites are prohibited from marrying Israelites. More than that, we have the evidence of our very own eyes. Ruth the Moabite has lived amongst us for these last few months. The people of Bethlehem,” Boaz turned to the crowd, his arms open to them, “have come to know her kindness, her bravery, her piety. I ask you, my brothers, is Ruth not a woman of valor?”

“Yes!” A chorus resonated from the crowd. “Ruth is one of us!”

“My fellow Elders,” Boaz continued, “I submit to you. Let us resolve this question once and for all. Moses did not mean to exclude Moabite women from marrying into Israel – only the men. He could not have meant to prevent such beauty of spirit from joining our nation. What say you? Shall we allow such purity within our people or shall we reject it? You must decide now, for a life, a family, the very future of a line of Israel hangs in the balance. Please give us your judgment.”

The Elders huddled and argued with each other. They pointed at Ploni, at Boaz, at Ruth and Naomi in the crowd and then they nodded at each other.

One of the Elders stepped away from the huddle to the center of the enclosure and faced the crowd.

“We hereby decree,” the Elder stated, “that the prohibition against marrying Moabites is in force exclusively against the men from that nation. Israelite men are permitted to marry Moabite women provided they have renounced their idol-worshipping ways and have embraced the Laws of Moses and the traditions of Israel. The Moabite woman will then be considered a convert and will be subject to all the laws, commandments and prohibitions as any daughter of Israel. We recognize both the conversion of Ruth the Moabite and her lawful marriage to Mahlon son of Elimelech. Ruth is a legal childless inheritor and all our traditions of Redemption and Levirate marriage apply to her fully. Ploni is tasked with the redemption of the Elimelech’s land and taking Ruth as his wife in order to continue the name of the dead. This is our decree.”

“No!” Ploni exclaimed. “I cannot, I will not, bring myself to redeem her. I will not risk my name, my soul, my identity, by marrying this Moabite, even on your say-so. You redeem her, Boaz. I transfer the responsibility to you. You can acquire Elimelech’s land and marry Mahlon’s widow. I cannot bring myself to do this thing.”

“Then you must perform the Halitzah ritual,” the Elder advised Ploni. “This court calls upon Ruth the Moabite, widow of Mahlon, to fulfill the ceremony.”

The crowd by the entrance parted to let Ruth walk into the middle of the alcove. She walked slowly in her new gown, looking from side to side at the residents of Bethlehem watching the proceedings.

“Welcome, our daughter,” the Elder nodded at Ruth. “We shall now instruct you as to how the ceremony shall be conducted. Do not fear. It shall free you from Ploni’s obligation and transfer it to Boaz, allowing him to marry you.”

The Elder spoke quietly with Ruth, pointing at Ploni, at his shoe, and had her repeat a number of phrases. Satisfied that Ruth understood the procedure, the Elder directed her to start.

“My relative refuses to establish for his brother a name in Israel,” Ruth announced in a strong clear voice. “He does not consent to perform the Levirate marriage.”

“I do not wish to marry her,” Ploni responded formally.

Ruth sat on the floor and untied the sandal off of Ploni’s right foot. She took the sandal off his foot and threw it on the packed earth. She then stood up and spat on the ground in front of Ploni.

“So is done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house,” Ruth announced. “His name will be proclaimed in Israel as ‘the House of the one whose shoe was removed!’”

Red-faced, Ploni picked up his shoe and left the assembly. The crowd parted to let him out.

“Ruth is free from the bond of obligation to Ploni,” the Elder announced. “She may marry Boaz. We may now perform the Levirate marriage,” the Elder announced.

A wedding canopy was brought out. Four poles with a white fabric on the top. Four Elders grabbed each corner and directed Boaz and Ruth to stand under the canopy.

“I object!” a voice from the crowd called out.

The crowd parted once again, as Alron the Danite strode into the court area, followed by a dozen Philistine soldiers. They wore sturdy leather breastplates, carrying long spears in their hands and swords at their sides. They marched in two orderly rows behind Alron.

“What is the meaning of this!” the Elder berated Alron. “Who are you and why are these Philistines here?”

“I am Alron of Dan and I call for the end of this travesty. These men are my guards, for the last time I was in your inhospitable city I was threatened with death. A man is allowed to protect himself, is he not?”

“What is your connection to this matter?” the Elder asked.

“Princess Ruth, daughter of Eglon the Moabite, is meant to be my wife. And I will kill any man that thinks otherwise,” said Alron, as he pointed his sword at the Elder.

* * * * * *

Biblical Sources:

Book of Ruth, Chapter 4:

1 Now Boaz went up to the gate, and sat him down there; and, behold, the near kinsman of whom Boaz spoke came by; unto whom he said: ‘Ho, such a one! turn aside, sit down here.’ And he turned aside, and sat down. 2 And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said: ‘Sit ye down here.’ And they sat down. 3 And he said unto the near kinsman: ‘Naomi, that is come back out of the field of Moab, selleth the parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech’s; 4 and I thought to disclose it unto thee, saying: Buy it before them that sit here, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it; but if it will not be redeemed, then tell me, that I may know; for there is none to redeem it beside thee; and I am after thee.’ And he said: ‘I will redeem it.’ 5 Then said Boaz: ‘What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi–hast thou also bought of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance?’ 6 And the near kinsman said: ‘I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance; take thou my right of redemption on thee; for I cannot redeem it.’– 7 Now this was the custom in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning exchanging, to confirm all things: a man drew off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbour; and this was the attestation in Israel.– 8 So the near kinsman said unto Boaz: ‘Buy it for thyself.’ And he drew off his shoe.

 

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 25 – Plea for Seduction

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 25

 Plea for Seduction

“No,” Naomi moaned. “Not Garto. You must marry Boaz.”

“Boaz?” Ruth asked in confusion. “Last night you wanted me to marry Alron.”

“I know. That was a mistake. Forget Alron. You must marry Boaz. You must.”

“No. He is old and hesitant. Garto is here, he’s young and he’s ready. How much longer can I wait for Boaz?”

“Tonight. You must go to him tonight.”

“No. I’ve already told Garto I would marry him, with or without the approval of the Elders.”

Noami picked up the dress she had dropped on the floor, dusted it off and smoothed it out on the table.

“Ruth, my daughter. Please sit down.” Naomi motioned sharply to the opposite chair.

Ruth sat down slowly, not understanding her mother-in-law’s intensity.

“Listen to me, Ruth.” Naomi reached for Ruth’s hands across the table. “The most important thing is that the line of Nachshon must continue. You are the one who is meant to continue that line. Boaz may not realize this. He is cautious. He waits for consensus from the Elders. You must take the choice out of his hands.”

“What do you mean?”

“It will be best for you and you will finally know the peace of a noble husband and an established home. It must be Boaz, our kinsman, in whose field you gleaned together with his maidens. You must go to him tonight, after the harvest feast. Bathe, perfume yourself and put on your beautiful dress. Wait until after the festivity. Do not let him see you beforehand. He will sleep by the threshing floor, next to the grain, as is his custom. Note where he lies down. Wait until he is sleeping. He will most likely be inebriated as well. It will be dark. Uncover his legs and lay down next to him and then do as he directs.”

“What?” Ruth stood up from her chair, releasing Naomi’s hands. “Would you make me into a harlot?”

“If that is what it takes, yes. The line must not be extinguished. This is what we must do. It is what my ancestress Tamar did with Judah when she disguised herself as a harlot upon the crossroads. Your own ancestress did the same with your grandsire Lot even earlier than that. His daughters got him so drunk he did not know who he lay with. You must bind Boaz to you, even if he does not know it. He will be merry from the wine. It will be dark. He may think you one of the many maidens that seek such frivolity and may even succumb to the male impulses of the night. The night of the harvest festival is now known for such revelry. Lay with him and in the morning he will be yours.”

“Why do you ask this thing of me?” Ruth responded. “Do you know why I first set my eyes on your son? Do you know why I left my people and followed you to Bethlehem? Do you know why I’ve stayed here, a pauper, gleaning in the field with the poorest of Israel? It was in part because of your modesty. It was because Mahlon did not look upon me merely as an object. It was because of your kindness. It was because I believed the God of Israel is a compassionate God, a God that appreciates and demands modesty between men and woman. That is what I love about Boaz. Now you would have me betray that very principle? You would destroy the one area of respect between us? You would turn me back to the worst licentiousness of my Moabite ancestry? Is that what you want?”

“Yes,” Naomi answered, locking Ruth in her gaze. “The sacrifice is great, but the stakes are even greater. Sometimes we are tested on the ideals that are dearest to us. After many years of waiting, Abraham and Sarah were finally blessed with their beloved son Isaac. For years, Abraham had publicly denounced idol worship and child sacrifices. Yet what does God then ask of him? To sacrifice his own son! His entire dream and hope for the future. Abraham had to betray everything he stood for. It was his greatest test and his greatest moment.”

“Is God then asking me to do this thing?” Ruth asked.

“I don’t know. God does not speak to me. But I know this is right. And I know tonight is the night. Boaz may not choose the Levirate marriage option. He may not choose to fulfill his role as Redeemer. This is not only for you, or for Boaz. It is for Elimelech, my dear Elimelech. It is for Mahlon, my poor boy. And it is for me. Do not extinguish my last hope. Do not let me witness the utter destruction of our family. We are of proud, noble descent and tonight may be the very last opportunity to rekindle that flame. Please, Ruth. Please. This will be the ultimate kindness. For me.”

Ruth did not answer, but rather paced back and forth in the house. She stopped and looked at the new dress Naomi had been sewing. She appreciated the intricate patterns and the workmanship of the stitching. For the first time Ruth noticed the quality of the white fabric. It was a wedding gown.

“I will do what you have asked of me,” Ruth stated.

“Bless you, child. May God light your way.” Noami arose and hugged Ruth. They both cried, but for different reasons.

 

*

 

Boaz symbolically threshed the last of the barley. The freed kernels were added to the large pile of grain and there was spontaneous clapping by all of the assembled workers and their families. A plentiful harvest was good for all and Boaz was known for his generosity.

Knee-high makeshift tables forming three sides of a square occupied the threshing floor. Boaz sat on the ground beside the central table which was heavy with food. His uncle Ploni sat to his left and Ehud to his right. Four dozen others sat down as well. A servant came and poured water over Boaz’s hands. Servants washed the hands of the other guests. Boaz recited the benediction over the washing of the hands, dried them thoroughly and took one of the fresh pitas. In a loud voice he recited: “Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the world, who draws forth bread from the land.” A loud “Amen” resounded throughout the threshing floor.

Boaz dipped his pita in a bowl of olive oil and ate a morsel. The assembly did likewise. After that the food flowed freely. They were served slices of steaming roasted lamb with a sauce of pomegranate juice and pine nuts. A mash of peas and beans mixed with spicy peppers were placed in bowls next to the olive oil. Maidservants took turns bringing trays of fresh pita to the guests. Guests bit into fluffy cakes of wheat baked with honey, dates and almonds.

Fine wine flowed from jugs to goblets and from goblets to mouths. Boaz partook liberally of all the food and more of the wine, again grateful to God for the bountiful harvest. Boaz kept looking for the arrival of Ruth, but was disappointed by her absence. Garto was curiously missing as well. Naomi finally arrived to the threshing floor as torches were lit in the darkening dusk. Boaz was eager to ask her of Ruth’s whereabouts, but Naomi sat herself at the edge of one of the further tables and did not meet Boaz’s gaze.

“Oh, that our wives could see this bounty, Boaz,” Ploni said, raising his goblet. “Thank you for including me in your feast. My own would have been a paltry thing. I will of course compensate you for everything my servants and I eat. But it is better to celebrate together.”

“As you wish, Uncle,” Boaz answered distractedly.

“I notice that the Moabite is not here,” Ploni commented approvingly.

“Ruth was invited, and I am concerned by her absence,” Boaz replied.

“You would be better off having nothing to do with that heathen, nephew. Though others may think well of her, I will never forget her father’s cruelty nor that our law forbids them to us.”

“That is a subject we will discuss in the full assembly of the Elders and decide once and for all. First thing in the morning.”

“Master Boaz,” Garto approached the head table breathlessly. “I am so sorry I was delayed to the feast. I have the most wonderful news.”

“It is good to see you, Garto. Have you seen Ruth?” Boaz responded.

“It is about Ruth. She has accepted my marriage proposal and we are to be married tomorrow. As you have been a father figure to both of us, we would be honored if you would perform the wedding ceremony.”

Boaz looked blankly at Garto, not comprehending his words.

“Master Boaz? Are you well?” Garto inquired.

“You are to be married to Ruth? Tomorrow?” Boaz finally uttered.

“Yes. I know it is sudden, but there is no time like the present.”

“Yes. I see. I…I will be honored to officiate at your wedding. But the matter of Ruth’s eligibility is still undecided.”

“With all due respect, Master Boaz. If Mahlon son of Prince Elimelech felt it was appropriate to marry Ruth, who am I to think otherwise? Ruth does not wish to wait or deal with the debates of the Elders. The people of Bethlehem have come to know and admire Ruth no matter what her legal technical status, meaning no disrespect, Elder Ploni.”

“This is how your people flaunt the law?” Ploni asked Boaz.

“This is a curious development,” Ehud chimed in. “And as Boaz previously stated, the law is not clear and has not been determined. Where is Ruth now?” Ehud asked Garto.

“I don’t know. I left her at Naomi’s house. Perhaps she is preparing herself for tomorrow. I do not know how women prepare for such things. I expect she has more on her mind than tonight’s feast. I shall also leave early, with your permission, Master Boaz.”

“Of course, Garto. Of course. Do what you must.”

“Thank you, Master Boaz. Thank you. I know you care deeply for Ruth and only want what’s best for her. Your blessing on our marriage is most meaningful for us.” Garto excused himself. He grabbed some slices of lamb, stuffing them into his mouth as he left the threshing floor.

“Well, better he than you,” Ploni said.

“This is not right,” Ehud added.

“What is not right, blacksmith?” Ploni asked him.

“Ruth is not meant to marry Garto,” Ehud answered.

“You are correct. She should not marry any Israelite. But I’m glad my nephew is now spared from his irrational infatuation with the Moabite.”

“Boaz, what have you to say?” Ehud asked.

Boaz drained his goblet and refilled it.

“Perhaps we thought incorrectly,” Boaz said slowly. “Everything God does is for the best. Perhaps this is why I hesitated. It is better to avoid controversy. Why should I be the talk of the town, for marrying Ruth of Moab, no matter how honorable and noble she is? Perhaps we did not interpret God’s signs correctly. Who knows? Maybe Garto has some Nachshonite blood we don’t know of? It is all for the best.” Boaz drained another goblet of wine. “It is now time for my customary speech.” Boaz stood up slowly with the help of his walking stick. He waited a moment until his head stopped spinning, took a deep breath and stood firmly. The assembly quieted down to listen to their host.

“Brothers and sisters,” Boaz addressed the group. “God has shown us great favor this year. Though we have lost loved ones to the famine, this harvest has been unlike any in memory. We are turning a new page in our history. God is answering our prayers. Where once there was poverty, we now have wealth. Where once there was little, now there is plenty. The parched earth has been watered. The trees blossom and give their fruit; the land is worked and gives its produce. But let us not forget the days of hardship, nor take our new blessings for granted. The blessings come from God and it is Him, His laws and His precepts that we must obey.”

“There is one precept in particular that I wish to stress,” Boaz continued, making sure he had everyone’s attention. “Licentiousness. I know that in other fields tonight, after their respective feasts are over, men and women will frolic. But not here!” Boaz stamped his walking stick loudly on the threshing floor. “Farmers will take from their fresh grain and pay harlots. Workers will find maidservants and cavort in the dark fields. But not here!” Boaz stamped his stick again. “I will sleep here tonight, as is my custom. My old bones would much rather prefer the comfort of my own bed. But I do this as a sign. Neither I, nor man of my employ, will take from our grain to pay a harlot’s fee. No worker, no maidservant will cavort in my field. Not here!” Boaz banged again. “I expect better of those in my employ. I treat you better. I pay you better, and now I demand better. We are children of Israel, not immoral heathens that constantly crave the pleasures of the flesh. It pains me that many of our brethren have followed the heathen ways, but we will change that. We change that by stating loud and clear. Not here!” Boaz banged his stick a final time, looked every single person in the eye amidst the flickering torches and sat down. He did not notice Naomi’s reddening face looking down intently at her empty plate.

* * * * * *

Biblical Source:

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.’

Secondary Sources:

Many of the themes, especially the motivations of Naomi, Boaz and Ruth are drawn from the excellent series by Dr. Yael Ziegler.

 

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 13 – Vacant Housewarming

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 13

Vacant Housewarming

Naomi walked somberly towards her old house, not knowing what to expect. Ruth followed her from a distance. Naomi slowed down as she approached the house. The roof had crumbled, leaving a skeleton of broken rafters. There was no door. Entering the house, she was assaulted by the smell of stale urine. Her footsteps kicked up a thick layer of dust that floated in an eerie mixture of sunlight and cobwebs. Rotting leaves and dead branches coated the floor.

Naomi leaned on the bare wall and then slid to the floor, weeping. She had survived Elimelech’s death. She had survived the brutal murder of her sons. She had survived expulsion from Kir Moav. She did not know if she could survive seeing her home in ruins. Her last refuge was nothing but a mudhole, not fit for human occupation. She coughed on the pervasive dust and crawled out of the house to catch her breath. She rested against the outside of her house and looked blankly at the sky – dead to the world around her.

Ruth walked into the house. Her mouth gaped at the remains of the home of Prince Elimelech. In her entire royal experience she had never seen such decay. Even the hovel of the poorest citizen of Kir Moav was more luxurious than what remained of Naomi’s house. Ruth grabbed a dead branch and swept the dust and dead leaves out of the house. She spent hours sweeping ten years worth of natural detritus out of the home of her dead husband. By the afternoon she was covered in dust from head to toe. Naomi remained in a catatonic state, oblivious to Ruth’s efforts.

Ruth found the city well, drew water and washed her face, arms and legs and then drank.

“Who are you?” a young girl asked Ruth.

“Me?” Ruth was startled by the unexpected attention. “I’m nobody.”

“You must have a name,” the girl insisted. “My name is Noni. I’m from here. Where are you from? You don’t look like anyone I know. And you’re so beautiful.”

“Hello, Noni.” Ruth warmed up to the happy girl. “My name is Ruth. I am from Moab. I’ve come to Bethlehem with Naomi.”

“Naomi?” Noni jumped excitedly. “I heard so many stories about her. She was a good friend of Vered’s. Oh, I miss Vered so. She was so kind. But why is Naomi back here? What happened to her?”

“Well, it’s a long story, Noni. I guess my part of it starts with my being a princess…”

Ruth told a wide-eyed Noni her foreign and violence-filled history. Noni told Ruth about the dire famine and how Bethlehem had just recently seen some prosperity. Noni and her mother were still dependent on the generosity of others. Her father had been killed by marauders years ago. Her mother spent her days gathering fallen sheaves in the fields of others.

As the sun traversed the sky, Noni excused herself.

“I hope I will see you again,” the young girl said.

“That would be nice, Noni. Yes.” Ruth held Noni’s hand before the little girl skipped away from the well.

With Noni gone, Ruth looked around the well area and found a discarded cracked bucket and then some pieces of string. She tightened the string around the bucket and poured well-water into it. Rivulets of water leaked from her bucket, but she had enough for her purposes.

She brought the bucket back to the house. Cupping her palms, she gave water to Naomi. Naomi drank absently, still unaware of her surroundings. Ruth used the remaining water to wash the floor of the house. Ruth then pulled Naomi up and walked her into the house. Naomi’s eyes widened as they entered the bare but clean house. They were exposed to the darkening evening sky, but at least the walls gave a sense of protection and privacy.

“How will we sleep?” Naomi asked wearily, coming back to life. “We have nothing.”

“We have each other,” Ruth answered. She found a corner of the house and sat Naomi down. Ruth sat next to her mother-in-law and gently pulled the tired woman against her. “Rest on me, mother. I am here. Rest and tomorrow we will find new hope.”

Naomi laid her head on Ruth’s shoulder and closed her eyes.

“Thank you, my daughter,” Naomi said softly as the evening star twinkled above them. “You are a blessing.”

*

“Naomi has returned from Moab,” Ploni told Boaz on his mourner’s cot.

“Just Naomi?” Boaz asked. “What about Elimelech, Mahlon, Kilyon?”

“They are dead. Murdered by the Moabites.”

“When did she arrive? By whom is she staying?”

“They came yesterday, as we were burying Vered. No one has taken them in. They have gone to Naomi’s old house.”

“They? Old house? I don’t understand. Who is “they”? How can they stay in that house? It is a ruin!”

“Naomi has brought Mahlon’s widow with her, a heathen Moabite and an enemy. I for one will have nothing to do with that traitor Naomi. She left Bethlehem at its time of need and now returns with the spawn of Eglon himself.”

“How do you know all of this?”

“Young Noni spoke to the Moabite at the well. Her mother has since instructed the girl to avoid the intruder. Some saw the Moabite leave the city early in the morning. It is too much to hope she left. I presume she went to the fields.”

“When did the city of Bethlehem become of city of cowards?” Boaz stood up from his cot. “Are you all so frightened from a single woman? Instead of extending welcome we isolate her? When did we forget the manners of our forefathers?”

“It would be inappropriate for me, as a widower, to host them,” Ploni said defensively, “and you are now in the same situation. Who else would bring them in? Most families are still struggling. They cannot feed more mouths. Besides, you know Naomi. She will be too proud to accept charity. She fed the entire city. The irony is too cruel – her having to beg in the town, in the tribe her husband ruled. No, I think she would rather die of starvation than of shame.”

“That is unkind, uncle,” Boaz sat back down. “It is your own brother’s wife. But you are correct that we must not embarrass Naomi by direct charity. It is enough she has suffered the death of her husband and children and the humiliation to date. Will you help me, uncle?”

“I will have nothing to do with them, Boaz. God has brought his wrath upon the family of Elimelech. I will not risk my own soul by associating with those who have been cursed, even if it is my brother’s family.”

“Your piety is conveniently narrow. No matter. I will do what needs to be done.” Boaz got up and walked out of his house.

“But Boaz, you have not completed the week of mourning. How can you leave your house?”

“I have no desire to participate in another funeral,” Boaz said without looking back, as he walked to the gates of Bethlehem.

*

Ehud sat on the ramparts above the gate of Bethlehem. He had a good view of the comings and going in the city. He had been shocked at Naomi’s appearance. He had remembered the beautiful wife of Elimelech and was saddened to see her aged so heavily. But he was more concerned by Ruth. Ruth had left the city and gone to the fields early in the morning. He remembered the princess. He remembered Eglon’s daughter who sat so often at the fat monarch’s side. The last he had heard she was to marry the next Pharaoh, with a bridal dowry of the massacre of all the firstborns of Israel. After Ehud had assassinated her father, that arrangement had fallen apart. How strange for her to be in Bethlehem of all places – and at Naomi’s side. He would have to watch her carefully. He would consider her a dangerous viper until proven otherwise. Eglon had been a conniving and perilous enemy and he would consider Eglon’s daughter no different.

Ehud was further surprised to see Boaz leave his house. Boaz had mourned for his wife less than a day and already he was striding purposely to his fields outside the city. With his focus on Boaz, Ehud did not notice the two merchants on a wagon riding into town. He did not hear the boyish-looking driver repeat after his master, “Moabite.”

* * * * * *


Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 7 – Holding the Fort

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 7

Holding the Fort

Boaz stood sadly at the threshold of Bethlehem. He looked with some historical anger at where one of the gates had been. Enterprising thieves, and there must have been many of them, had removed the large oak door years ago. The wood of the remaining door had since rotted, the metal hinges and brace rusted. It swung at an odd angle to the stone enclosure, creaking irritably in the cold dry autumn wind of the Judean Hills.

Decades before, on his wedding day, these gates had held the Philistine hordes for a few critical minutes. His uncle Ploni, with his own body, had defended this gate. The Philistine battering-ram had smashed the gate and with it, Ploni’s bones. Ploni’s body had healed but his spirit had been dampened since that day. The gate had been easier to fix, Boaz reflected ruefully, thinking of his still-bitter uncle.

Boaz looked at the stone base of the gate with its holes for the pivot and bolts of the doors. Dust of many sandstorms had filled the holes. Boaz used his walking stick to clear the hole, a subconscious part of him preparing for the refurbishment of the gates in some hard-to-discern future. His sword weighed heavily in its scabbard at his side. His tired muscles could no longer reach behind his back, where he used to wear his sword in his youth.

Half a dozen disheveled men approached the gates of Bethlehem. They were young, scarred and brawny and carried an assortment of rusty swords, axes and a mace. Boaz stood up taller at the entrance, his walking stick in one hand. He unsheathed his polished sword with the other.

“Get out of the way, old man,” said the leader with the mace.

“What is your business in Bethlehem?” Boaz asked, not budging.

“Our business is our own, and if you don’t move you’ll be our first victim.”

“Do you know who I am?” Boaz asked.

“No. Let me guess. You’re some old soldier who fought in the days of Joshua or Ehud who thinks that by waving his pretty sword he can scare us away. No, it doesn’t matter who you are, old man, as we will plunder and eat to our heart’s content.”

“So you don’t know who I am. That’s good. It puts you at a disadvantage. I have heard of your gang, Drupleg, and the devastation you are wrecking on our already stricken land. You are a disgrace to our tribe. You should be helping us during the famine and not crushing the little strength we have left. This is your last warning, Drupleg. Drop your weapons, cease your marauding, or I shall have no choice but to kill you.”

Drupleg and his men laughed maniacally.

“Oh, that’s good, old man.” Drupleg wiped the tears from his eyes. “We haven’t had such a good laugh since we hung that farmer outside of Hebron. Now get out of the way or I’ll crush your skull.” Drupleg raised his mace.

Faster than anyone expected, Boaz slashed at Drupleg’s neck, beheading him in one fell swoop. Drupleg’s men took a step back, looking wide-mouthed at Drupleg’s crumpled body and his rolling head.

“My name is Boaz,” the old man stated. “Now that I’ve seen each of you, I can track you no matter where you go. If I hear of more trouble from any of you, and believe me, I will hear of it, I will hunt you down and gut you like the wild animals you are. Is that clear?”

The men dropped their weapons and scattered, never to be seen in Bethlehem or its environs again.

As soon as the men were out of sight, Boaz leaned heavily on his walking stick, breathed deeply and turned into Bethlehem, leaving Drupleg’s carcass for the hyenas that seemed to come closer to his beloved city every day.

*

“Here, Noni. Here.” Vered pointed her arthritic fingers at the shy tulip peaking behind a large oak. They were scavenging in the forest outside of Bethlehem.

Ten year-old Noni ran to where Vered had indicated. Her pockets and sack were filled with pine nettles, wild millet and emmer grains, and a handful of bulbs.

“Dig gently around the roots,” Vered instructed. “You don’t want to bruise the tulip’s bulb.”

Noni sank her dirty fingers into the hard earth and dug firmly but carefully.

“I don’t remember what bread tastes like,” Noni mentioned absently.

“We’ll make fine bread from the millet and emmer,” Vered answered as her creaky bones sought more nourishment from the wild forest. “We’ll throw in a little sawdust and it will be as filling and tasty as the bread we used to make.”

“My mother says all this is animal food; that we might as well be eating tree-bark.”

“Then don’t tell her I’ve been putting bark into the cakes. I think it gives it a nice nutty flavor, don’t you?”

Vered and Noni laughed. Vered spotted some fava and horse beans and directed Noni to gather them. The forest was a cornucopia of hidden nourishment. It wasn’t tasty or pleasant. It took Vered several spoonfuls of coriander and black cumin to give some flavor to the tasteless food – but it sustained them.

Vered felt that the famine had gotten worse since Elimelech had abandoned them. She thought frequently of Naomi and wondered how they were faring. The miraculous blessing Naomi had experienced in her house had not repeated itself by anyone else. Many families had followed Elimelech’s example and departed. They went to Ammon, to the Philistine cities and most commonly to Egypt.

“Abraham went down to Egypt when famine struck,” they would say. Boaz had stopped exhorting to them God’s prohibition against the Children of Israel returning to the home of their enslavement.

Vered had become the city’s savior. She discovered roots, wild grains and beans they had never eaten before. She had an uncanny instinct for finding these precious treasures and a talent for cooking them so that they were edible.

Boaz had instituted communal meals in their home. The morning meal was usually a somber affair, having a quick cold meal from the meager remains of the evening before. The evening however, was more relaxed, with more food and socializing. Two dozen people would show up, bringing the results of their own foraging. Vered took the time to show her guests the new bean or bulb she had found and explained how the others could hunt for them. Occasionally a young child would find a wild berry. Most had learned long ago which the poisonous ones were.

One evening, in the autumn of the ninth year of the famine, Ploni, Boaz’s uncle, arrived at their home, but without his wife, Ledah. Ploni looked at the crowd in a bit of a daze. Elders sat with Boaz at the long table. Youngsters sat on the floor.

“Is Ledah coming?” Vered asked Ploni.

“She doesn’t have the strength,” Ploni answered, sounding grumpier than usual.

“I’ll bring her some food,” Vered said.

“Thank you, Vered. That is most kind of you,” Ploni whispered hoarsely, a single tear escaping his eye.

Vered grabbed a bowl and filled it with dried gruel. She mashed it finely with a spoon, knowing Ledah’s difficulty to chew.

She left her house and walked down the road to Ploni’s house. She knocked on the door and heard a faint “enter.”

Vered was shocked to see how much Ledah had deteriorated in one day. The smiling old woman had laughed quietly at the breakfast meal that morning. She had trouble moving, but it hadn’t robbed her of her spirit. Now Vered saw the skeleton that Ledah had become. She lay on her bed, a thick blanket covering her. Loose folds of skin hung on her thin frame. Wisps of white hair remained on her head and her parched lips sunk into her toothless mouth. Vered, white-haired and arthritic, felt like a young girl next to her dying aunt.

“Ledah, it’s me, Vered,” she announced.

“I’m dying, not senile. Come here, child,” Ledah rasped.

“I brought you some food,” Vered said, unable to keep herself from crying.

“Can’t chew. Give it to someone who can.”

“I’ll chew it for you, Ledah. Here.” Vered put a spoonful of the dry gruel in her own mouth and with precious saliva chewed the mixture into a sticky paste.

“Don’t bother, dear,” Ledah commanded. “Eat it yourself. You’re so thin I can see through you. I’m done.”

Vered swallowed the gruel, grimacing at the dryness going down her throat.

“Is there anything I can do for you?” Vered asked.

“Stay with me in my last moments.”

“Should I get Ploni?”

“No, Ploni has suffered enough. I can at least spare him seeing me go.”

“How can you give up?”

“I’m more impressed by how you keep your hope, Vered.” Ledah licked her dry lips with non-existent moisture. “You have suffered more than most. Every child. Every child of yours died. My heart went out to you each time. Yet you took each loss with such strength, such poise. It was inspiring. It shamed us to rise above our personal losses. Our own few children, also all dead. I wonder if the family of Nachshon was cursed. No further generations. Not from Boaz, not from Ploni. Elimelech and Naomi are the only hope and they are gone. I wonder if their boys ever married.”

Ledah coughed a dry raspy cough that racked her entire skeletal body. She continued addressing Vered in an even softer voice. “Don’t fret child. You have many children. All the residents of Bethlehem are your children. You have saved them. How many cities fell apart during this famine? How many died? How many fled? No, it is a credit to you and Boaz that we still have a community, that there is still life, that there is still hope. My time is finished, but I’m glad you were in it. Goodbye, my friend. Goodbye. Tell Ploni I went peacefully. Kiss me.”

Vered, with tears streaming down her face, kissed her aunt on the forehead. Ledah straightened her legs on the bed, closed her eyes, smiled and stopped breathing.

Vered looked at her dead aunt and then rushed out of the house to breathe the air. She fell on her knees, palms on the hard earth and sobbed. One tear slithered down her chin and fell on the earth. The drop penetrated the ground. It traveled through dirt, rock and dead worms. It found a long dormant seed. The seed breathed a sigh of life. It sparkled in the depths of the dry earth, its casing growing rapidly until it erupted violently. The seed grew into a shoot, twisted and traveled to the surface of the earth with uncanny urgency. A small green leaf exploded out of the ground at Vered’s knees. The sky darkened with rain clouds and Vered heard a sound she had thought lost to the world forever. Thunder. A thin mist of moisture filled the air. Vered looked to the sky in awe. The mist turned into a drizzle. The drizzle slowly gained strength and size, as if the water had to remember how to fall from the sky. Then it rained properly, enough that there was water in Vered’s palm that she could lick. The rain then fell in sheets. It first fell upon Vered, drenching her with a surprisingly warm shower and spreading out radially from her to the town of Bethlehem, to the tribe of Judah and to all the tribes of Israel.

Children came out into the streets and danced in the rain, splashing in the virgin puddles. Adults looked up, opened their mouths and their palms, trying to absorb as much water as they could. Elders thanked God and prayed that the rain would continue, that life would continue, that there would be an end to their travails.

Vered found Ploni in the downpour. He stood quietly in the rain, tears mingling with the deluge.

“She has gone,” Vered said.

“I know. I felt it.” Ploni touched his heart.

“She went peacefully. She wanted you to know.”

“Thank you. She suffered so much. And for what? And now that she has gone, it rains? God has been particularly cruel to me. Will you inform the others? I will return to Ledah.” Ploni walked home slowly, no longer feeling the rain.

Boaz approached Vered with his walking stick in hand. They embraced, as children continued to jump in the newly-forming puddles.

“We are saved,” Boaz whispered. “God has finally heard our prayers.”

“Too late for some.” Vered motioned towards the departing Ploni. “Ledah is dead.”

Boaz stiffened. “I will see to the arrangements. This is yet another blow to my uncle. The timing of events has always been against him.”

“Your aunt went peacefully.” Vered hugged Boaz tighter. “She said that all of Bethlehem are our children. That they are alive because of us.”

“That was sweet of her and it should ease the pain of our own loss. Perhaps if the rain continues and the famine ends the other children of Bethlehem will return. Perhaps its wayward sons will return to its embrace and we will hear the laughter of children and families again.”

“Amen,” Vered said, thinking of Naomi and her children, the last descendents of the legendary Nachshon the Brave.

* * * * * *

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.