Warrior Prophets: Chapter 7
Masters and Slaves
“We have a problem, Caleb,” Joshua said. “Our soldiers will kill the Gibeonites.” Joshua paced in his tent, running his hand over his long white beard. The blond hair of his youth was but a memory. Joshua eyed Boaz in the corner suspiciously. No one else was in the tent.
“Must the boy be present?” Joshua asked.
“Boaz is my pupil whom I have come to trust implicitly,” Caleb answered. “He was the first to detect the Gibeonite duplicity. He noted that the Gibeonites could not have been from outside Canaan as they claimed. They knew the alternative would be to flee Canaan or face us. Boaz saw through their trickery and magic. I would have him as part of our council. He is strong in Judah’s Instinct.”
Joshua looked at Boaz closely. Boaz squirmed under the glare.
“Very well,” Joshua concluded. “I will bow to your judgment on this. I made a grave misjudgment by making an alliance with the Gibeonites and not checking the matter thoroughly. But it cannot be rescinded. If we were to attack them, it would be a great desecration of our vow in God’s name.”
“They deserve to be destroyed,” Caleb retorted.
“Perhaps, but our word is sacred. All of the princes swore to the Gibeonites. All except you.”
“Then let me take troops and wipe them out.”
“No, Caleb. You too are bound by our oath. All of Israel is. I need you to guide the princes and the troops and prevent bloodshed. You must create consensus. Only then will I be able to decree and dictate a peaceful alliance.”
“Alliance? This whole thing is a farce. They cannot walk away unpunished. They made a laughingstock of us.”
“I have thought of this too. They shall be slaves. Woodchoppers and water carriers for as long as their line continues. That way our shame will be cleared and our word will be true. What think you of this, young Boaz?” Joshua turned to the quiet ten-year old in the corner of the tent.
“You are wise, Joshua,” Boaz stated. “But I recall learning that he who takes a slave for himself, in reality takes on a master.”
“This boy is precious!” Joshua grinned and clapped his hands. “You are too right, young master. I expect we shall yet have to come to their defense, as word of such an alliance will enrage the other Canaanite cities. They may decide to attack the Gibeonites as a reprisal. But it will serve our purposes.”
“Joshua,” Caleb interrupted. “Perhaps one of the other princes should take the troops. They swore the oath – they should be the ones to uphold it.”
“No, Caleb. For that very reason you are the perfect choice. The men will follow you. You and I know very well you can read the sentiment of the crowd and do not fear to speak against it.” Both men looked down as painful memories from forty years earlier resurfaced.
“I hope we have better luck this time than we did with the spies,” Caleb finally said.
Joshua reached and held Caleb’s arm. “We will, old friend. We will.”
Shakra perspired heavily in the cool morning breeze. He sat at the head of the council circle facing the large stone archway of the gate of Gibeon. Scouts have spotted Israelite troops on their way, Shakra thought. More than ten thousand strong. They have surely discovered our ruse. Will they honor their word? Or will they slaughter our people as they had slaughtered all in Jericho and Ai? How should we react? The council now looks to me for answers.
“Defenses will be useless,” Shakra argued with the elders.
“We will not die without a fight,” old Silu stated.
“Fighting will give them more cause to attack. Our only hope is in begging for mercy and imploring them to honor their word. They claim their god is the god of truth. To betray their word would be betraying their god.”
“If they have a god of truth, all the more so they should destroy us for our massive lie.”
“Perhaps. But there is no other choice. We must beg for mercy. They claim their god is one of compassion as well.”
“I have only heard of their god of war.”
Boaz marched with pride beside Caleb at the front of the Israelite troops. Caleb had outfitted him with a sling of which he had also taught him the rudiments. Boaz still carried his broken spear-bottom. The one that had saved Caleb from arrows in his back at Jericho. The other princes looked strangely at the young red-headed boy, but did not ask any questions.
Boaz could see the open gates of Gibeon. It had seemed like ages ago that he and Caleb had reconnoitered the area alone and figured out the deception. Now they marched at the head of twelve thousand troops. One thousand from each tribe.
“We will kill those liars,” a tall pale soldier murmured from behind.
“They will die painful deaths for making fools of us,” another added.
“Enough!” Caleb turned around and with his hand held high ordered the troops to halt.
“Enough of this talk. Rasmer!” Caleb pointed at the tall pale soldier. “As commander of your troops, you will maintain discipline.”
Caleb climbed a nearby outcropping of rock and faced the twelve thousand men behind him. He waited until the masses of spears, bows and swords quieted down.
In a booming voice he declared:
“We are not here to massacre the Gibeonites. We have made an alliance with them. Though it was made under false pretenses, our word must not be violated. Otherwise, we are no different than these idol-worshippers that God Almighty has commanded us to destroy. We will meet with them and let them know their deception has been revealed and that we are furious.” The troops cheered mildly.
“But no man shall raise his hand against them,” Caleb continued, “for by the power of our vows they are now our bond-brothers.” Muttering broke out through the ranks.
“We go now to parley. Remember my words!” Caleb climbed down the rock and led the troops to the gates of Gibeon.
“Thank God they left the gate open,” Caleb whispered to Boaz. “Someone there has some wisdom.”
“Or cunning,” Boaz replied.
Shakra stood in front of the gate with Silu and another elder at his side. He had never seen so many soldiers in his life. The Israelites looked angry, ready for blood. The troops carried their spears with the point up. Archers marched with arrow in bow, scanning the walls of the city. Shakra noted Caleb and Boaz at the front of the army. He had learned their names when he had played his deception on the Israelite camp. Caleb wore an expression of determination, though it was not directed at Gibeon. Caleb looks like a man holding back a wave of fury threatening to consume the city, Shakra thought. Caleb will be our hope.
“Hail, Prince of the Hebrews!” Shakra called out. He prostrated on the ground and bowed. The elders on either side bowed as well. The troops are hesitating, Shakra noted. Good. I must play this role until the end.
“Hail, Masters. We are your servants.” Shakra proclaimed from the ground.
Caleb approached with Boaz and eleven other men. Shakra recognized them as the princes he had deceived. They looked at him with a mixture of distaste and anger. Behind them followed another twelve purely angry men. These must be the commanders of each of the tribe’s troops.
“We know of your deception,” Caleb pointed at Shakra. “You should die for it.” A murmur of assent flowed through the troops.
“Yes!” one soldier cried out.
“Kill them!” another shouted.
“Liars! Deceivers! Idol-worshippers!”
Shakra and the two elders stood up and stepped backwards in mortal fear of the Israelite anger.
Caleb and the princes turned to face the troops. Caleb motioned to four princes. He climbed on the shoulders of two of them, a leg on each shoulder, while the two other princes held his legs upright. Standing high, Caleb addressed the army.
“We have sworn to them, by God, Lord of Israel. We cannot touch them. This we will do to them, and let them live, lest wrath come upon us, because of the oath which we swore unto them. Let them live and become hewers of wood and drawers of water for the entire nation.”
“Caleb! Caleb!” a runner cut through the assembled troops and breathlessly reached the princes. “Joshua has reached the back of the army and asks that you bring the Gibeonite leaders immediately.”
Caleb jumped off the princes’ shoulders. He motioned to Shakra and the elders. They walked towards Caleb. The other princes formed a protective circle around Shakra and the two elders. Boaz walked next to Caleb. Together they all sliced through the troops, who split apart, as the sea did for them forty years before.
Joshua met them in the middle of the troop formation.
He pointed an accusing finger at Shakra.
“Why have you lied to us? You say you are from far away, yet you live right under our noses! Therefore you are cursed!” A collective gasp echoed from the troops. Shakra and the two elders fell to their knees.
“Your people and your descendants will forever be slaves!” Tears poured down the Gibeonite eyes. Israelite soldiers shuddered at the curse, some still remembering the feel of the whip of their Egyptian masters.
“Hewers of wood and drawers of water shall you be for the House of my God,” Joshua concluded.
Shakra noticed that the Israelite anger had been spent. The troops looked at him now with pity. At least I have life, Shakra thought. For me and my people. The fight for liberty may come another day.
Shakra bowed to Joshua. “We are your servants. We feared for our lives. We had heard that your God had commanded Moses to give you the entire land of Canaan, and to destroy all of its inhabitants. The deception was the only way for us to survive. We are now in your hands and you may do with us as you see fit.”
“Your doom and curse have been cast. You may now return to your city and await our commands.”
Shakra and the elders stood up. The princes opened the protective circle around them, making way for the Gibeonites to return to their city. Boaz looked at Shakra with a mixture of pity and apprehension. He unconsciously rapped the end of his spear against the palm of his hand. This Boaz still does not trust me, Shakra thought. Never mind. We are safe for now. The army parted again. Not one Israelite soldier touched them or blocked their way.
Shakra forced himself not to smile. I fooled the Israelites and have secured life for my people. I wonder how the other cities will fare.
As if in answer to his hidden thought, Shakra’s sharp eyes noticed a glint to the south. A spy! He recognized the spear as one from Adonizedek’s soldiers. Shakra could not hide the frown that framed his face as the spy returned south to Jerusalem.
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Biblical Source: Joshua Chapter 9