Warrior Prophets 2: Chapter 10 – Shilo Showdown

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 10

Shilo Showdown

“No!!!” Blimah screamed as she grabbed a large branch from the campfire and slammed it into the head of one of Ehud’s attackers. Sparks from the burning branch exploded against the soldier’s head as he fell onto the two other attackers. The three men fell in a tangle of swords and limbs at Ehud’s feet. Ehud smashed his head backwards knocking the guard behind him unconscious. With a quick glance at the two tall guards holding his arms, Ehud gritted his teeth and flexed his blacksmith’s biceps. The guards lost their balance, heads knocking into each other. They tumbled onto the guards on the floor who were about to get up.

“Do you have more soldiers to throw at me?” Ehud pointed his own sword at Gheda, “or shall we discuss Elimelech’s wild accusations in a more civilized fashion?”

“There is nothing to discuss!” Elimelech approached Ehud again. Ehud pointed his sword at Elimelech.

“Madness! This is all madness!” Pinhas, the High Priest, exclaimed.

“You are a traitor, Ehud,” Gheda declared. “It is your fault we have had such carnage. It is you who personally commanded the death of tens of thousands of our brothers. And I do have more soldiers. Captain!” Gheda called out into the summer night.

An armored soldier appeared at Gheda’s side.

“This man is a dangerous traitor and must be detained,” Gheda pointed at Ehud and then at the collapsed soldiers at Ehud’s feet. “Get an entire platoon if you must, to subdue him.”

“Right away, sir,” the soldier disappeared.

“I think it’s time to get out of here,” Blimah whispered to Ehud.

“I am not guilty and I will not run,” Ehud replied sternly.

“Will you fight the entire army of Israel single-handedly? I do not wish to lose my betrothed that quickly. It is time for — how would you soldiers call it — a tactical retreat. Come, let us go.” Blimah grabbed Ehud’s hand and pulled him into the shadows away from the campfires.

“Stop, Ehud!” Gheda called out. “Face justice like a man! Don’t make things more difficult! We will hunt you down!”

“I don’t believe this,” Pinhas exhaled. “Ehud? A traitor? There must be some mistake.”

“Are you calling me a liar?” Elimelech retorted angrily. “I swear by all my ancestors that Eglon named him as his agent.”

The Captain returned with two dozen soldiers marching briskly behind him.

“Where did he go?” the Captain asked.

“I don’t know, fool!” Gheda answered. “Quickly, spread out and find them. The girl too. If you can’t capture them alive, then dead will do. Go!” The soldiers returned to the darkness.

“What did my daughter do?” Yosma interjected. “She was merely defending her man. What sort of tyrant are you that you order the death of our people so easily?”

“Are you a conspirator, sir? What is your name?” Gheda asked.

“I am Yosma of Tapuah of the tribe of Ephraim and I will not be bullied by the likes of you.”

“I see where your daughter gets her attitude from. Cross my path again, Yosma, and you will regret it, as shall Ehud and your daughter. Come Elimelech, let us discuss your discoveries in a more conducive place.”

Gheda turned his back on Yosma and his family and walked away from the campfires. Elimelech followed him, as did the battered soldiers Ehud and Blimah had bested. Pinhas followed the procession.

 

“Where are you taking me?” Ehud asked Blimah, his hand still in hers as they ran under the moonlight.

“I don’t know. Away from that evil man. We need someplace to hide before his men search for us.”

“The vineyards. They won’t look for us there.”

“Good idea.”

Ehud and Blimah reached the vineyards without incident. Passersby assumed they were just another of the newly formed couples seeking a quiet place. They sat themselves beneath the hanging vines, the dew on the ripening grapes glistening under the setting moon.

“Now what?” Blimah asked.

“It was your plan to run, my darling. I am open to other suggestions.”

“You need some way to prove your innocence. That Elimelech seemed crazed and Gheda is just a slimy opportunist. How can you prove that you’re not a traitor? You aren’t, right?”

Ehud chuckled softly under the vineyards.

“Now you ask? After your ferocious defense? It is true that I visit with the King of Moab every year to negotiate and transport our copper shipments and we are certainly cordial and even friendly to each other, but it has never gone beyond that. So either Elimelech is lying, though he seemed convinced, or he was lied to, by Eglon himself. But to what purpose?”

“To get you out of the way.”

“That doesn’t make any sense. I’m no threat to Eglon. He knows that. I need to think. I need to seek out God. I need to speak to Him.”

“You speak to God?” Blimah asked incredulously.

“He has spoken to me. Perhaps He shall do so again.”

“When did He speak to you? Are you crazy? Do you often hear voices? Perhaps I should reconsider our betrothal?”

“Listen to me, Blimah. After that battle of Givaah, I was unconscious. I had been poisoned. I lay for months in the ruins of the city in a deep sleep. God spoke to me then and showed me what had occurred and that he was preparing me for a task.”

“That’s impossible! Who ever heard of such a thing? Sleeping for months. Visions. I’m leaving. Goodbye, Ehud. You’re a nice man, but I’m not interested in a crazy husband.”

“Wait!” Ehud grabbed Blimah’s arm as she attempted to stand up. “Please. I need to find some answers. Stay with me just a little longer as I try to reach God.”

“What? What do you want me to do?”

“Just sit here next to me. I’m going to close my eyes and focus my mind. I need quiet and peace. Just watch over me, that nobody should disturb me. Just for a few moments. Will you at least do that for a crazed fiancé?”

“Fine. But don’t take too long. I’m really not in the mood for these arcane games.”

In response, Ehud released her arm and closed his eyes. He slowed his breathing. He tried to imagine the peace he had felt when God had spoken to him previously. He cleared his mind of anxiety and focused on his faith in God.

God? Ehud thought.

No answer.

God!? Ehud thought more vigorously. I need help! I don’t know what to do!

Still no answer.

Ehud took a deep breath, slowed his breathing further and kept concentrating.

What do you want me to do?

No answer.

Ehud opened his eyes.

“He’s not answering,” Ehud stated.

“What did you expect? You think you just knock on his door and he opens up? Maybe you need to bring a sacrifice or something? How did Moses speak to God, or Joshua?”

“Moses spoke to God at will. I’m not sure how Joshua did it. I think in times of great need God spoke to Joshua and somehow Joshua seemed to know God’s wishes. Joshua prophesied to me once that I would face a great challenge, that I would lead my tribe in battle and that I would need great faith.”

“Joshua told you this?”

“Yes, when I was much younger, at his last assembly. He also prophesied that I would kill Boaz’s future father-in-law.”

“Boaz of Judah? How strange.”

“It is all strange. But I need to speak with God again. I just don’t know how!”

“How did you do it last time?”

“He came to me. I was in a deep sleep.”

“Then lie down, silly, and try again. I’ll watch over you.”

“You believe me?”

“No, but I’m still willing to help.”

“Thank you.”

Ehud lay down on the soft ground underneath the vineyards and closed his eyes. He felt himself relax immediately. The excitement of the evening seeped out of him and he dozed lightly. He felt his spirit rising above the vineyard, above the campfires and the Sanctuary.

God? Ehud thought.

I am here, Ehud.

What am I to do? Elimelech has accused me of treason and Gheda wishes to kill me.

I know. It is as per my plans. Do not fear.

Should I stand my ground? Confront them? Or hide like a sniveling thief? How am I to lead if I run from my enemy?

Patience, Ehud. You must choose your battles and enemies carefully. Now is not the time. The Children of Israel have much more to suffer before salvation. They must understand pain. They must understand the extent of their sins and false worship before they are freed. The subjugation will begin shortly. You must be there at the beginning, be instrumental at its inception, so that you may save my people when the time is right.

God, I don’t understand. I should wait and hide? Give myself up?

Ehud, listen to Blimah, your wife, for that is why I have brought you two together. She is a wise and strong woman and will guide you well.

God? God!?

Ehud woke up with a start.

“So, did you talk to Him?” Blimah asked, looking at Ehud strangely.

“Yes. He said I should listen to you.”

“God is truly wise.”

“So what should we do?”

“I have thought about it. You should seek out Eglon.”

“Eglon? He’s the enemy! If Elimelech is even partially correct, he has conquered the tribe of Reuven and will cross the Jordan shortly. Going to Eglon would further incriminate me.”

“Your criminality is not in question. Gheda already wishes you dead and there is little you can do that will make matters worse. You must seek Eglon and understand the situation better.”

“That is mad!”

“What did God say to you?”

“To listen to you, dear. Fine, we’ll go.”

“There is one other thing you’ve forgotten, my love.”

“What’s that?”

“We need to get properly married.”

 

Gheda and his soldiers led Elimelech to Gheda’s opulent tent. Pinhas followed. At the entrance to the tent Gheda turned to Pinhas.

“High Priest, are you sure you wish to participate in tactical discussions? Is it not beneath your concern?”

“If we are already here, I would like to listen to your discussions. I am concerned about Elimelech and would hear more from him in a calm fashion.” Pinhas proceeded into the tent. Soft carpets covered the floor of the tent and bronze braziers hung from the large tent ceiling. A plush bed occupied one side of the tent. A heavy oak table and solid chairs were arranged in the middle of Gheda’s temporary abode. He motioned to Elimelech and Pinhas to sit.

“Now tell me, Elimelech,” Gheda said. “What exactly did Eglon say? Besides Ehud being his agent.”

“He is planning on crossing the Jordan and conquering the tribes of Israel.”

“Surely you exaggerate! He could never hope to conquer the warriors of Israel.”

“He knows that we’ve been weakened by the battles of Givaah. Now is the perfect time for him to attack. We must reassemble the tribes, all of the fighters, including the sons of Benjamin, and stand united against him. That is the only way we can triumph.”

“Elimelech, let us not be so hasty. To unite all of the tribes again, especially with Benjamin, after our recent battles, is asking too much. The men are tired and wish to go back to their homes for their harvests. I think you must have misinterpreted Eglon.”

“You were quick to believe him, when he accused Ehud,” Pinhas interjected. “Ready in fact to have Ehud killed on the spot. But when Elimelech warns of a massive attack upon us, all of a sudden you are filled with doubt? You accept one part of his testimony, the one that suits you, and not the other?”

“Now listen here, High Priest,” Gheda responded. “Ehud is a known troublemaker. He is the one most responsible for the massacre of our soldiers. He has been a well-known confidant of Eglon for years. Elimelech’s testimony merely confirms what we already know. But these theories of an imminent attack are another matter altogether. We have had peaceful relations with Eglon for years; why would he start to war upon us unprovoked? Elimelech was clearly agitated by the revelation of Ehud’s treachery. The rest of his testimony is certainly questionable.”

“I know what I heard!” Elimelech yelled. “I don’t care if you believe me or not, Gheda. I will assemble the other princes myself.” Elimelech stormed out of the tent.

“I don’t know what game you are playing, Levite,” Pinhas said, “but it seems to be a very dangerous one. Whose interests are you protecting?”

“You question my loyalty? My sincerity?”

“I do. In your wake there has been nothing but destruction and misery. Your pursuit of Ehud is rash and your ignoring the Moabites is foolhardy. I shall watch you more carefully, Gheda.”

“Pinhas, my interests have ever been for the good, the glory and the unity of the tribes of Israel.”

“Under your leadership, I presume.”

“I have worked hard to make this happen. Who else would you have? Elimelech? He has fallen from grace and is losing his mind. The other tribe princes? Each one is only concerned for their cousins and relatives and does not see beyond his narrow borders. Has God said something to you on the matter? I see that your magical breastplate is silent. No, Pinhas. I am the unifier and you know it. Now if there is nothing else, I have become tired from all the excitement.”

“I shall leave, but mark my words, Gheda. There is a Judge and there is Judgment,” Pinhas pointed upwards. “You may think yourself clever and manipulative, but at the end of the day, He who is in the Heavens and on Earth shall meet out to everyone as they deserve.” Pinhas exited the tent.

“We shall see, Priest. We shall see,” Gheda said to the empty space.

 

“Psst, Pinhas, over here,” Ehud hissed outside the High Priest’s tent before the break of dawn.

“Ehud, what are you doing here? All of Gheda’s men are looking for you.”

“You believe my innocence?”

“Yes. You are not the traitorous type, and remember; I was there when Joshua prophesied about you and blessed you. He had great hopes for you. But why are you still here in Shilo? I expected you to be long gone by now.”

“I know, but this woman insists on marrying me and we wanted you to do the honors.”

“Now is not the most propitious time.”

“Our choice of circumstances is somewhat limited.”

“I understand. We need to have some witnesses for the ceremony, and does the bride not want her family present? How do we do it discretely without Gheda capturing you?”

“Let’s do it in the Sanctuary,” Blimah suggested.

“You jest, daughter. That is the most public place. You will be spotted in a moment,” Pinhas said.

“They will never think to look in the heart of Shilo,” Blimah said. “The wedding party will dress as Levites. I suspect there may be multiple ceremonies this morning after last nights dance. We shall make a quick ceremony and depart together with other pilgrims.”

“Yes, that could work. That is most ingenious, Blimah daughter of Yosma. Let us meet in the courtyard right after the morning sacrifice. I will have a Levite bring robes to your father’s tent. Ehud, I believe you have a promising bride.”

“God said the same thing.”

 

“We are all here now,” Elimelech pleaded with the other princes. “We must unite and head to the Jordan crossing to stop Eglon.”

Elimelech stood around a campfire, surrounded by the princes of the tribes of Israel.

“I don’t believe that Ehud is a traitor,” Prince Giltar said. “That makes me question your entire story.”

“Ehud has escaped. We can deal with him another time. The important thing is that we unite and fend off the Moabites. We can do it now, for we are all assembled here in Shilo. If our tribes disperse and we call for our armies once we are under attack, it will be too late. Eglon will have entered Canaan and he will be that much more difficult to dislodge. I have seen his army. They are joined by the Amalekites. They are ready and eager for war. This will be our only chance to stop them.”

“Why have we had no confirmation from the Reuvenites?” the prince of Zevulun asked.

“I barely escaped the Moabite camp with my life. I saw the elders of Reuven with Eglon. They are enthralled to him and perhaps even dead by now. He planned to kill all of the inhabitants of Bet Hayeshimot.”

“Come now, Elimelech,” Gheda joined the discussion. “You must calm down. This entire story is quite mysterious. How you got to them, washed there by the river. How you cut your beard and dyed your hair. How you just happened to eavesdrop on the King of Moab and then entered his tent, had him confide in you, and then escaped from his captivity. And all the while the camp was crawling with his troops. Quite strange. For this we will mobilize our weary men? On your conspiracy theories?”

“It all happened as I described! I swear to you. Eglon is massing his army, potentially right now! We need to assemble our men while we can. We will not have a second chance and we may regret it for a long time.”

“It may be wise to be cautious and assemble some of our troops,” Giltar volunteered.

“It would be a waste of time,” Gheda said. “And I am not sure that the rest of the tribes are ready to stand side by side with Benjamin.”

“Weren’t you the great unifier, Gheda?” Giltar asked. “I thought we had made peace and were over that. What happened to your Brotherhood of Israel?”

“I have seen their army, I say!” Elimelech shouted. “They are right across the river. They have perhaps two thousand troops. If we stand united we can easily stop them and take back Bet Hayeshimot. But if we separate, they will be able to pick us off one at a time. What say you princes? Enough talk! Are you with me? Shall we join in common cause against a true enemy? Shall we save our brother Reuven and restore his rightful land from the clutches of Moab and Amalek?”

“I am with you,” Giltar said, “though we have been on opposite sides of the battle before.”

“We are with you!” all the other princes echoed.

“Excellent! We leave then at first light. Prepare your men. Let us depart from the entrance of the Sanctuary and pray to God for guidance.”

“Princes! Where are the princes?” voices called out from the dark. Torches approached the fire of the princes.

“Who seeks the princes?” Elimelech called out. “We are here!”

Two men appeared in front of the princes. One white-haired and bent over, the other grey and tall.

“Menlos? Tralin of Reuven? How are you here? How did you escape Eglon? I thought you would be dead by now,” Elimelech said.

“Dead? Why should we be dead?” asked grey-haired Tralin. “Eglon has been quite kind. He does not wish to harm us. His business is with the Amonites.”

“What? I saw his army around your city! I saw his flag fly on your ramparts! What deception is this? How dare an elder and prince of Reuven come to us with lies?” Elimelech said furiously.

“It is no lie, Prince Elimelech,” Menlos the elder answered. “It is true that his flag flies on our city and that his men were camped outside, but not one soul has been hurt. We were defenseless when his army approached our gates. Our men were busy or dead on a wild vendetta that you led, Elimelech. We surrendered. Did we have a choice? But he is not interested in us. He marched today east to Amon, leaving behind a small garrison. He is not threatening us and he is certainly no threat to you.”

“So why do you come here, Reuvenites?” Gheda asked.

“We’ve been asked to convey a message from Eglon to the Princes of Israel.”

“What is your message?” Prince Giltar asked.

“He seeks peace with all of Israel.”

“This is the man that is imminently attacking us?” the prince of Zevulun asked. “You are making a laughingstock of us, Elimelech. We thought you were a serious man.”

“Wait!” Elimelech cried. “This must be a ruse. Menlos, what are Eglon’s terms, what does he want?”

“He wants free passage through our roads and guarantee of deliveries of grains, wine and oil,” Menlos answered. “If the princes will promise free trade he will leave Bet Hayeshimot. He will have his hands full with Amon.”

“That is quite reasonable,” the prince of Zevulun said.

“You see, Elimelech,” Gheda added. “You are concocting wars where there are none. Go home, Elimelech. I think you need rest. Eglon is not a threat. He seeks peace and reasonable terms. His ambitions lie to the east of the Jordan.”

“Something is not right,” Giltar said. “Why would Eglon sue for something he already has? Does he not have free access to our roads and produce? Have any of you hampered his trade?”

“Nonetheless, Giltar,” the prince of Zevulun said, “it is not an emergency. They are not massing to attack us, nor does it seem they have plans to. Elimelech has misled us. He has wasted our time and spread fear amongst us for no purpose. For the last time. We for one shall not follow you again, Elimelech. Your last adventure cost us dearly. Very dearly. I say, Menlos, convey to Eglon that we are in agreement as to his terms. He sounds like a reasonable man and we look forward to continued commerce with him. I have nothing further to discuss. Goodbye my fellow princes. May we meet again under pleasant circumstances.” The other princes murmured their agreement.

The prince of Zevulun left the assembly. Other princes left as well.

“No! Wait! You must believe me!” Elimelech fell to his knees. “This makes no sense. I saw them. I spoke to Eglon. He will conquer all of us!”

“Go home, Elimelech.” Gheda patted the fallen prince on the shoulder. “Go home to your family. I think your exertions may be taking a toll on your mind. Have no fear. All will turn out well. You will see.”

“Gheda, I don’t understand,” Elimelech looked up at the fat Levite as the sun crept up from the east.

“I know. But you will. Soon enough you will understand all.” Gheda smiled at the rising sun and looked to the plains of Moab. “As the sun rises in the east, so will our salvation.” To himself, Gheda finished the thought: My Master, master of deception, Eglon.

* * * * * *

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