Warrior Prophets: Chapter 9
The Nation that Cried Wolf
They kept pouring over the mountains, Shakra noted in quiet terror atop the ramparts of Gibeon. Thousands and thousands of soldiers. With their axes, spears, bows and swords. Where are they from? Jerusalem does not have so many soldiers. Then he noticed the kings together on their horses. Five of them. Adonizedek of Jerusalem, with thinning hair and beady eyes. Hoham of Hebron, squat and dusky. Big Piram of Yarmuth. Handsome Yafiya of Lachish. And heavy Debir of Eglon.
Shakra clutched the little copper statuette of Baal hanging from his neck. Baal save us, he prayed. There must be over twenty thousand soldiers. They’ve come prepared for siege. It’s just a matter of minutes before we’re encircled. I must reach Joshua. The Israelites are our only hope. Shakra kissed the statuette and placed it back under his shirt.
An arrow pierced Shakra’s left shoulder as he fled to the woods outside of Gibeon, heading towards Gilgal. He collapsed against a young oak tree. More arrows thudded against the trees as the ancient Magi and old Silu joined him in the protection of the forest.
“This is better than an Israelite attack?” Silu accused the slumped Shakra.
“Silu, you ungrateful wretch,” the Magi whispered in a high pitched voice. “If it weren’t for Shakra’s plan, we would now lay dead by the Israelite hordes. At least under Israelite dominion there is still hope. Help me with the arrow. Hold the head of the arrow firmly. I don’t want to cause more damage to the boy.”
Silu held the shaft of the arrow that protruded from Shakra’s shoulder. The Magi intoned in a low voice and quickly broke off the rest of the arrow.
“That’s better,” Shakra thanked the Magi and slowly stood up.
“Should we try to take out the arrowhead?” The Magi asked Shakra.
“No. There is no time.” Shakra gently felt the remaining shaft and winced at the touch. “We must reach Joshua at Gilgal before there is no Gibeon to return to. I can’t believe Adonizedek attacked us! And that the other’s joined them. How did they overcome their differences? Now we will see if the Hebrew God is truly powerful.”
“If they will believe us,” Silu added.
“May Baal be with us,” Shakra answered.
The three Gibeonites were escorted to Joshua’s tent near the center of the encampment. Snickers and jeers accompanied Shakra as he limped through the Israelite camp, suffering from the arrowhead still in his shoulder.
The princes and generals of Israel assembled at Joshua’s tent at word of a new Gibeonite delegation. Young red-headed Boaz was at Caleb’s side as always.
“That is the sorceress,” Caleb pointed at the Magi and exclaimed as they neared.
“Rasmer, draw your bow,” Caleb commanded to the Judean general, “and kill her if she so much as makes a magical twitch.”
“Shakra,” Joshua addressed the injured leader, “what brings you back to our camp so soon. New tales?”
“My master,” Shakra fell to his knees and bowed to Joshua. Silu and the Magi followed suit, the Magi with a wary eye on Rasmer’s arrow.
“We have been attacked, my master,” Shakra continued. “Adonizedek of Jerusalem has rallied at least four other kings and their armies and they are attacking Gibeon as we speak. Here is small evidence of their intentions.” Shakra pointed to the arrowhead in his shoulder.
“How do we know it is not self-inflicted and this is not some other ploy to deceive us?” Joshua asked.
“You think I would have myself shot in order to bring your troops back to Gibeon?” Shakra asked back.
“Boaz,” Joshua addressed the young boy. “You’ve been able to see through their deception before, what are your thoughts?”
Boaz stepped forward from Caleb’s side and looked carefully at Shakra and then at Silu and the Magi.
“I would have been more impressed had the injury been more severe and on the right side,” Boaz replied to Joshua in front of the princes and general. “This is little evidence and they have proven that their words are to be doubted.”
“Well said!” Joshua delighted in Boaz’s analysis. “So, Shakra,” Joshua turned back to the Gibeonites. “Stand up and give me another good reason to come to your supposed assistance.”
“My master, please,” Shakra stayed on his knees and put his hands together. “My people are being killed by the five kings. They have over twenty thousand soldiers. This is the truth. I swear by…” Shakra hesitated.
“You swear by who?” Joshua stood from his chair and paced. “You are proven liars on a grand scale. You and all your people, as even young Boaz knows. There is nothing you can say that can convince us. Your words have no meaning. An arrowhead in your left shoulder demonstrates nothing. Had you cut off your right hand, I would still doubt you. You don’t even know who to swear by. Do you still pray to Baal? Do you still worship your idols? If that is the case and what you say is true, you deserve to be killed. We should come and aid your enemies. Is that what you wish?”
“My master,” the Magi said in a trembling voice. Rasmer pulled the arrow back further on his bow. Joshua motioned for Rasmer to hold from firing.
“If I may,” the Magi continued. “I have the means to show you what is occurring at Gibeon right now.”
“We do not condone sorcery, woman,” Joshua replied.
“Yet you are amongst the most powerful sorcerers I have ever met,” the Magi said in confusion.
“It is not sorcery. We are strong in the ways of our God and that protects us from your magic.”
“What I propose is not sorcery either. It is a tradition going back from mother to daughter since the days of Naama wife of Noah, our common ancestor. It allows one to see far distances. I have heard that your teacher, Moses, had such power as well.”
Joshua put his hand to his long white beard. “If it will bring clarity to your claims and involves saving lives, I’m willing to consider it. But know that we are aware of your powers and shall sense if you plan any mischief. As Caleb rightly instructed, we shall kill you where you stand.”
Shakra gave a meaningful look to the Magi and whispered. “Are you sure? We cannot afford to lose you.”
“It is the only way. Why else did you bring me along?” she whispered back. “I will need a basin with water, my master,” she addressed Joshua.
Joshua nodded at Boaz, who, understanding, ran off. In a few minutes he returned with a copper basin filled with water and placed it in front of the Magi.
The ancient woman pulled a jagged knife from the folds of her robe. Her wrinkled hand drew the blade across the overlapping layers of skin hanging from her arm. Rivulets of blood trickled down her arm to splash in the basin. The Magi returned the knife to her robe and clasped her arm to stem the bleeding. She closed her eyes, muttered unintelligible words under her breath, circled the basin with her hand and swayed as her muttering grew to a loud chant. She opened her eyes. Her pupils were now white.
“Behold!” she announced. “The city of Gibeon.”
Joshua, together with the princes and generals surrounded the Magi and the basin. In the waters of the basin they saw the city of Gibeon. It was surrounded by thousands of soldiers. Arrows filled the air between the ramparts of the city and the troops below. Large scaling ladders approached the city. Most of the ladders were successfully toppled before attackers could reach the top. Some hardy swordsmen did make it to the top only to be rebuffed moments later and their ladder knocked down. A team of oxen slowly hauled a large battering ram towards the gate. There was an intense exchange of arrows between the defenders of the gate and the troops escorting the battering ram.
Hopping between attackers and the torrent of arrows, the onlookers noticed a young boy, no older than thirteen, with a strange furry creature on his shoulder. The boy kept flinging something towards the defenders. Whenever the boy flung his arm, a defender fell, dead. A chill went up Boaz’s spine. He is the one from Rahab’s dream, Boaz shuddered.
“You see,” Shakra pointed at the images in the basin. “We are under attack. We cannot last long under such an onslaught and such numbers. Please, I swear by…” Shakra reached for his idol but held himself. “I swear by the Almighty God of the Hebrews, that I speak the truth. Please my masters, help us.”
The Magi who had been muttering the entire time, fainted and the image in the water disappeared. Silu caught her before she fell to the floor.
“Caleb,” Joshua turned to his old friend. “Your thoughts.”
“It may be another sophisticated ruse. Her powers are impressive, but we still do not know if we see the truth or what they wish us to see. I would ask Boaz again. He has been immune to their deception.”
Joshua, Caleb and the leaders of Israel all turned to Boaz.
“I believe the vision is true. Gibeon is under attack by the combined forces of five kings. But the Gibeonites still worship their idols. Shakra here can barely hold himself from touching his idol and Baal’s name is not far from his lips.”
“It is true,” Shakra fell to his knees again and bowed. “It has been difficult for us to abandon our old ways, our old beliefs. But we renounce them now.” Shakra looked at Silu holding the Magi upright. “I speak for all my people when I say that we renounce Baal and all the other gods of Canaan. We hereby proclaim our exclusive allegiance to your God. We are your servants. Our lives are in your hands and in the hands of your God.”
“Pretty speech, Shakra. Pretty words. But I am far from convinced.” Joshua sat back on his chair. “It seems we are at an impasse. I may believe that you are under attack, but I do not believe that you have renounced your base idol worship. How is one to read the hearts of men? How can you prove your dedication when evidence is otherwise and we do not believe your words? I doubt there is anything that you can say that would convince us.”
“Please, please, please,” Shakra begged tearfully. “Don’t let us die. We have joined you. We have allied with you. We are your servants, under your protection. How can you leave us to die, to be slaughtered? By your enemies?”
“I am unmoved. Does anyone here see a way to believe these liars?”
Boaz stepped forward.
“Why am I not surprised?” Joshua smiled at Boaz. “Share with us your insight.”
“They are wearing idols around their necks. They may have other idols on their bodies. They should destroy them all, right in front of us, now. That would be a first step. The moment they are free of danger, all the Gibeonites need to do so, or they will again be open to attack.”
“Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings you establish strength,” Joshua uttered with joy.
Shakra spotted a nearby fire, removed his copper Baal, kissed it and threw it into the fire. Silu removed a silver Baal from around his neck and repeated the procedure. The revived Magi, almost in tears, took a small golden Baal off her neck and threw it into the fire.
Shakra removed a small pottery statuette of Ashtarte from his garment. He kissed the statue, placed it on the floor and with a grimace crushed it under his foot. Silu took three small statues also of clay and did the same. The Magi, openly crying, took over half a dozen tiny pretty statues and stomped them to dust.
“All our people shall do likewise,” Shakra stated.
“I am more convinced,” Joshua said.
Boaz focused intently on the Magi. Joshua noticed and asked: “What is the matter, Boaz?”
“She has one left.”
The Magi narrowed her eyes and peered intently at Boaz. She dug deep inside the folds of her robe and removed an exquisite colorful glass statue of Ashtarte the size of a fingernail.
“This is over a hundred years old,” the Magi wailed. “It was made for the king of Damascus, of whom I am a descendent.”
She threw the tiny figurine into the fire. It smashed on a stone and disintegrated into powder with a sharp popping sound.
“Boy,” she pointed a gnarled finger with a long black fingernail at Boaz. “You think you are so smart, but I can see your future. Death hounds you and you shall know little joy.”
“I guess that means we are going to Gibeon,” Boaz replied nonchalantly.
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Joshua Chapter 10
1 Now it came to pass, when Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem heard how Joshua had taken Ai, and had utterly destroyed it; as he had done to Jericho and her king, so he had done to Ai and her king; and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel, and were among them; 2 that they feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, as one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all the men thereof were mighty. 3 Wherefore Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem sent unto Hoham king of Hebron, and unto Piram king of Jarmuth, and unto Japhia king of Lachish, and unto Debir king of Eglon, saying: 4 ‘Come up unto me, and help me, and let us smite Gibeon; for it hath made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel.’ 5 Therefore the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, the king of Eglon, gathered themselves together, and went up, they and all their hosts, and encamped against Gibeon, and made war against it. 6 And the men of Gibeon sent unto Joshua to the camp to Gilgal, saying: ‘Slack not thy hands from thy servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us; for all the kings of the Amorites that dwell in the hill-country are gathered together against us.’ 7 So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he, and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valour.