Warrior Prophets II: Assassin
Prophetic Prologue: Abram’s Covenant
God had spoken with Abram before. This time, though, Abram smelled menace in the air. The Divine Will exerted its force on Abram and led him to a clearing in the forest, on top of one of the mountains that ran through the length of the land of Canaan. The clearing was bare except for a light carpet of thistles that had fallen from the tall pines surrounding the clearing. A light chill in the night air reminded Abram that winter had not yet released its grasp of the early spring.
“Fear not, Abram,” resonated God’s voice through the clearing, “I shall be a shield for you, and your reward shall indeed be great.”
At first Abram could not respond. God’s presence always overwhelmed him. He needed to calm his thoughts and feelings. After some moments of meditation, he built up the gall to say what was on his mind.
“Lord God, what shall you bestow upon me? I continue childless, while Eliezer of Damascus is my heir apparent. Behold, you have given me no seed, and one of my household shall inherit me. And my nephew Lot, in whom I had placed some hope, has left my path.”
“That one shall not inherit you” responded God, “but one that shall venture forth from your own loins – he shall inherit you.”
A great wind lifted Abram up over the roof of the forest, and carried him high above the cedars and pine trees below. He had a vision of himself even older than he was now, with a child in his care. The child looked remarkably like himself.
Abram felt himself flying through the cool spring night, and was filled with both wonder and fear at the experience.
“Gaze upon the sky and count the stars if you can,” God challenged Abram, “so too shall be the numbers of your progeny.”
Abram gazed upon the countless sparkling lights in the clear night. He gasped at the import of what God was telling him. It took him a few moments to accept that from a single old man, a multitude of humanity would emerge. He believed it, and in God’s ability to make it so.
In the early hours of the morning, the wind set Abram back in the clearing where he had started from, where the conversation continued.
“I am the Lord that brought you out of the furnace of Kasdim, to give you this land to inherit,” God explained.
Abram was then given a view of the full length and breadth of the land of Canaan. From the snow peaked Hermon Mountain in the north, to the sandy beaches of the south with its dazzling coral reef on the shores of the Reed Sea. He saw the lush forests of the Galilee, teeming with wildlife. The rugged hills of the East beside the Jordan River, ripe with vineyards he could almost taste. The fertile plains of the West, where the ground flowered its produce with joy. The rough desert of the Negev where life found a way. And the mesmerizing Great Sea hugging the western coast. Abram wondered how all the terrains and climates of the world were represented in Canaan, in what he knew was a relatively small area.
However, once again sensing the dread in the forest clearing, he asked:
“Lord God, how shall I know that I will inherit?” Almost immediately he regretted his outspokenness.
For a moment, there was complete silence. Even the surrounding birds seemed to hold their breath to see what the response would be.
Then God answered, with a voice different than before, like that of a somber judge: “Assemble for me a heifer of three years, and a goat of three years, and a ram of three years, and a turtledove and a young pigeon. Then shall I instruct and answer you.”
Abram spent the rest of the day tracking down the list of animals. He was surprised by what seemed like eagerness to be caught on the part of the animals. The ram had calmly walked up to Abram and started to lick his palm. Abram found two goats together and had to keep chasing one away, while he led his choice back to the clearing. Once he had spotted the birds, they flew towards him, landing on his outstretched arms. He built a simple altar of stones, and methodically sacrificed each of the animals by cutting their necks with his sharpened blade.
Then, as per God’s instructions, he split the carcasses of the heifer, the goat and the ram. He formed a path out of the parts, placing the front part of the animals to his right and the back parts on his left. However, he did not split the bodies of the birds. These he placed on either side of the path, the dove on the right and the pigeon on the left.
When Abram had finished the placement of the parts, he stood up, wiped the sweat off his brow, and looked into the afternoon sun. He saw a bird in the distance, approaching his mountain rapidly. It was an eagle, by far the largest Abram had ever seen. It beat its wings mightily as if pursued by Satan himself. Part of the fear Abram had been feeling materialized. He grabbed his staff in one hand and his blade in the other. His staff would assist him in the physical battle he was certain was approaching. His blade, so recently used in his religious sacrifices, would aid him in the spiritual battle he knew was a part of this struggle.
For a moment, the eagle disappeared from Abram’s view. He heard the wind of the eagle’s passage through the trees to his side. He ran to the opposite side of the clearing, to get a better view of the bird when it emerged from the trees and into the clearing. But the eagle outsmarted him. The bird appeared from the trees just a few paces from him, screeching like one of Hell’s minions. Abram ducked. The eagle’s talons tore into the tree behind Abram and ripped through it, leaving deep gauges in the tree. The eagle made its way to the path of the parts. Abram quickly followed him.
They reached the parts at the same time and faced each other. The eagle was the size of a man.
“I am here to destroy your path,” shrieked the beast with an inhuman voice, “let me go about my work and I will let you be.”
“No,” stated Abram, with more confidence than he felt, “this is a part of my destiny and I must proceed with it.”
“You fool,” laughed the eagle, “you do not even know your destiny, yet you would fight for it? I tell you it is filled with such sorrows and horror that you can not imagine. Your children will be sinners and will be preyed upon by the nations of the world.”
“And I say to you, yet again – nay, you vile spirit! I will teach my descendants to be faithful, a light onto the nations. Begone!” Abram charged the beast raising both his weapons.
The eagle deflected the blows with his wings. A scuffle ensued, spreading about the carefully placed parts of the path. The eagle distracted Abram by shaking his wing in front of him and then striking a gauging blow with his talon from underneath. Abram was able to parry the attack with his staff, and then with all his might he thrust his sword through the wing and into the torso of the beast.
The eagle disengaged from Abram with a shrill cry. “We are both right, my poor Abram. Your children shall be a beacon to the masses, but they will also suffer like no nation on the earth. Only in their faith and their clinging to God will their souls be saved.”
Without warning, the eagle then took flight and screamed out of sight, never to be seen again by man.
Abram straightened the parts that were disturbed during the fight. The setting sun tinted the horizon a dark red as it dipped into the Great Sea. Suddenly a terrible weariness overwhelmed Abram. The full horror of the darkness he had been expecting descended upon him and he found himself in the realm of the spirits.
A voice that could only be God’s spoke to him:
“Know surely that your descendants shall become strangers in a strange land. The people shall enslave and afflict them for four hundred years,” God declared ominously. “But the enslavers I shall also judge, and then your children will be freed, and with great wealth!”
A vision of a great desert kingdom appeared to Abram. He saw thousands upon thousands of people performing hard labor. Pulling and building and dying, all for the egos of demented rulers that considered themselves demi-gods. Constructing great monuments to death, while draining life from all around them. Abram saw his descendants struggling to keep their identity amidst the tyrannical pressures of their oppressors. He saw the appearance of one named Moses, in whom a major event of creation – the acceptance of God’s Law, would come to pass. He would forge and lead his people from the crucible of Egypt.
The flow and paths of history then became as the threads of a tapestry. The tapestry was infinitely wide, extending from the beginning of time until its end. The threads were the lives and struggles of humanity, and he watched and followed the paths they weaved. The threads were of all colors, some brighter than others. They danced around each other, fighting and clashing through the rhythm of history. Many were cut short. More gave birth to new threads. And a few inspired multitudes and made the whole tapestry brighter.
Abram then started to focus on particular scenes of the tapestry. He saw the birth of his twelve great-grandchildren that would establish the tribes of Israel. He witnessed the subjugation of their descendants by Pharaoh, and their miraculous exodus to the desert. He experienced the conquest of the land, led by Moses’ disciple, Joshua. However, the glory of the conquest would be short-lived. The Children of Israel would forsake their heritage, leaving God and succumbing to the domination of its neighbors. Abram searched for the fate of his other relatives and progeny. Lot, his nephew, who had not lived up to his expectations would sire two nations. They would not be friendly to Israel. Yet a spark of holiness would be distilled from his line, and form an integral part in Israel’s and the world’s redemption.
His concubine’s son, Ishmael, would found a line that would cover more territory and more nations than any other. The divine message would be altered, yet they would be within an arm’s length of true faith and holiness. A grandson, Esav, through sheer might and willpower, would lay the foundation to one of the strongest and most influential of empires on earth. Based in Rome, their materialism and religiosity would change the world.
But only Jacob and his progeny would remain true to Abram’s path, and to them he returned his attention.
He perceived the constant subjugations, exiles and miseries of Israel as the ebb and flow of history. Brief periods of peace and tranquility would allow them to catch their breath before the next test.
God interrupted Abram’s thoughts: “They need not suffer in this world.”
“What is the other option?”
“The errant souls would be consigned to the netherworld.”
“I don’t understand.”
“There are two paths, Abram. The first, the one I have shown you, your progeny, all those that follow your way, shall suffer. They shall suffer torment and misery and persecution as a whole, as a nation, whether any one individual is guilty of sin or not. In a nation, one is responsible for the other. A brother bears the burden of his brother though it not be of his own making. The second path does not have the bonds of nationhood, brotherhood or fellowship. Each soul will rise or fall solely on its own merit. However, the soul that falls shall have none to raise him. His soul shall suffer forever.
With that word, God caused the tapestry to roll itself up and Abram witnessed infinity concentrating into a single point. He finally understood that God was not bound by the strictures of time. God was removed from time, as a painter is removed from his canvas. Though one’s destiny may be predetermined and known to God, it did not remove the individual’s free will.
“Lord God, either choice leads to eternal pain.”
“You perceive the truth, Abram. But the pain of exile and subjugation is endurable. The minions of Hell on the other hand will show no mercy to the fallen individual, to those that have none to raise them.”
“You have cast a great burden upon me. I fear that to decide on the fate of unborn millions upon millions is more than I can carry.”
“You must decide, Abram. Yours is a great responsibility. You will choose wisely. But you must choose. I know your fears. You are afraid that the good will suffer with the bad, that justice will not seem evident and that your line will be swept up and disappear forever.”
“That is my fear. Do I choose certain eternal damnation for many, or do I risk all by allowing the entire nation to go into exile?”
“Fear not! By my life, I promise you this. Your descendants shall never be completely lost in exile. They will suffer. They will suffer more than any other people. But there shall always be a remnant. They will follow the path of the just, and the whole world shall be changed because of it.”
Abram spent the entire day in agonized thought. He asked God to see the great tapestry once again, to try to understand the consequences of exile. This time he started from the end of the tapestry and worked his way backwards. He saw the final redemption, four millennia hence. The social convulsions that would precede the coming of the Redeemer. The rebirth of the nation in its land after its long two thousand year exile. The wars that would engulf the world with weapons too horrible to even dream of. He cried at the calculated destruction of one third of his people. He saw the senseless slaughter. Then he saw it all over again. The pattern repeated itself throughout time. Sometimes it was worse, other times it was merely unspeakable.
The Israelite people would find a home among host nations. They would appear safe and warm in their homes of exile. Once the comfort seeped into their bones, someone reminded them that they did not belong. This was demonstrated forcefully and fatally. But a remnant always lived on.
He felt the majesty of the Second Temple and its heart-wrenching destruction that started the two-thousand year exile. He cheered the bravery of the Macabbees in their struggle for independence. He saw the brief seventy year exile of the First Temple and the drama of Queen Esther in the Persian Empire.
He was overwhelmed by the site of Solomon’s Temple and the presence of God in it. He was amazed by the will of David, the man that would found the royal line. He looked more closely to follow his adventures and was awed that a man could suffer so, yet remain so strong in his faith. David never gave up. He would make himself a vessel for God, and would thereby fulfill one of the more important missions in the tapestry. His line would remain true until the end of days.
He had pity for Saul in his struggle with kingship and wept for the loss of Samson. He was surprised by the role of some women. He saw the leadership of Deborah against the army of Yavin and the bravery of Yael as she killed the great General Sisra.
Then he saw a wondrous sight. The time was shortly after Joshua’s conquest of the land. He saw a left-handed man, leading an army of lefties in a charge against a force ten times its size. And they were singing with joy and faith.
“Who is that, my Lord?”
“That is Ehud, an assassin.”
And Abram looked on as the threads told their story, and as they moved in unexpected yet critical ways.
“Lord God,” he stated with greater confidence than he had felt in some time, “I believe that exile will not be as hopeless as I feared. This is the right course and the one that we must take. God save us.”
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Genesis Chapter 15
There is a midrashic source that states that at the Covenant of the Parts (Genesis, Chapter 15) God gave Abram the choice of a history of Exile for the Children of Israel or eternal damnation for the souls of the sinners. In the process God showed Abram all of history, so that he could make an informed decision. He chose Exile.