Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 13
“I can’t leave you here,” Galkak pleaded with Ehud and Blimah in their small cell in the palace of Rabbath Ammon. “Eglon will kill you. This is your best chance to escape. Don’t worry about me. I’ll come up with a good story to explain how you got out.”
“No, Galkak,” Ehud replied. “I don’t want to make him suspicious of you. Your deception has been admirable and I don’t want to threaten that by escaping on your watch. We will be safe. I don’t think Eglon will harm us. He must want me alive for his plans; otherwise he would have killed us by now.”
“That’s a dangerous gamble. Are you willing to bet your bride’s life on it?” Galkak pointed at Blimah. “He will not quickly forgive her killing of Gheda.”
“That is true, dear,” Ehud turned to Blimah. “While I admire your bravery and agreed with the sentiment, you have placed us in danger by killing Gheda like that.”
“Men!” Blimah blurted. “How should I have killed him? Asked nicely? Requested permission? You men plot and connive to the point where you’re chasing your own tails. Direct! You must be more direct. That bloated excuse for a man deserved to die – so I killed him!”
“So now you are judge and executioner, my love?” Ehud smiled with the left side of his face, “while sitting in our enemy’s fortress? If I did not love you, I would think you were mad.”
“Mad!?” Blimah paced in the small enclosure. “It was madness to come here in the first place! What we were thinking?”
“No, it was wise to come,” Ehud nodded. “We have established ourselves with Eglon. He will want to keep us close and now we know his mind. It is as God wants.”
“Did God want us locked up in this dungeon?”
“I don’t know, but now it’s Eglon’s move. Galkak, return before your delay is noticed and arouses suspicions.”
“Will do. Good luck.” Galkak hugged Ehud, exited the cell and locked the prison door.
“And go easy on the drinking!” Ehud called out through the door grate.
“Are you kiddin’? What do you think makes me so good?” Galkak laughed as he walked through the corridor.
“How dare she!? How dare that Israelite girl kill Gheda right in front of me?” Eglon yelled as he wiped his greasy hands nervously on his white robe.
Eglon stood in the dinning hall, over Gheda’s large and bleeding corpse. Princess Neema and Dirthamus stood on either side of him.
“Have her killed, my love,” Neema suggested. “That woman is trouble.”
“No, not yet. I need Ehud and he will be less than cooperative if I kill his young bride. No, she is of greater use to me alive. Let them relax in their cell for the night and then I’ll speak more calmly with Ehud in the morning, with that viper at a safe distance.”
“Do not be troubled by them, my love,” Neema said as she caressed Eglon’s arm. “They spoiled an otherwise beautiful victory dinner and there is much to celebrate. You have now consolidated your dominion of all the land east of the Jordan. You are just a step away from entering Canaan and fulfilling your dream of the Empire!”
“Yes, my sweet Neema. Your words soothe me. You are good for me.”
“And I adore you. Let us seal this bond. Let us be joined in matrimony on this victorious night and cement the union of Moab and Amalek, here in Ammon. It will be good for the troops and better prepare us for the conquest of Israel.”
Eglon looked deeply into Neema’s eyes. He saw her passion, her ambition and her devotion. She is right, he thought. It will be good to have her at my side. It will be wonderful for troop morale.
“Yes!” Eglon raised Neema’s hand and kissed it. “Let us marry. Let us celebrate. You, Neema, shall become my Empress. I shall declare myself Emperor, for I am no longer a mere King, but an Overlord of other Kings, and my Empire shall stretch from Egypt to Damascus. I shall sit with Pharaoh as an equal and not as an underling. Yes, let us marry tonight!”
Neema turned to Eglon and they kissed passionately.
“I will take care of the celebration, my love,” Neema said as she caught her breath. “It shall be a wedding to remember!” Neema ran off to find Zakir and organize the festivity.
“It is pleasing to see you so happy, my liege,” Dirthamus coughed.
“Yes, Dirthamus. It was worth conquering Amalek just for her.”
“Are you certain you are not being too hasty?” Dirthamus asked.
“Life is short. My success has been built upon my speed. Speed of thought, speed of action and speed of conquest.”
“But with meticulous planning as well, my liege. I am not certain that you have considered this union thoroughly.”
“Yes, I plan, but I also take advantage of circumstances as they arise. I should take marriage advice from an ancient sorcerer that has never had a wife? Did you consider all your women dispassionately? Perhaps that is why you never married. No, Dirthamus. I have been watching Neema for some time now. I cannot think of anyone better at my side. I shall keep my own counsel on this matter.”
“But do you truly know her? Recall that it was you that had her father assassinated. I just recommend caution as to who you bring into your bed. You would not be the first man to wake up with a knife between his ribs.”
“I know Neema. She was ecstatic at the death of her father. She loves power, and as long as I am the most powerful man, she will love and worship me. It is that simple. Now we need to ensure our victory and plan the details of our conquest of Canaan. Go call for some fresh robes for me for my wedding ceremony as I give thought to our next steps. And have someone remove this dead pig,” Eglon added, pointing at Gheda’s body as Dirthamus hobbled out of the dinning hall.
Galkak knocked on the cell door.
“You guys alright? I’m openin’ up. You won’t believe what’s goin’ on,” Galkak said as he opened the heavy door.
“What’s happening?” Ehud asked as he and Blimah came out of the cell.
“Eglon and Neema are to be married, tonight,” Galkak reported.
“Mazal Tov,” Blimah said sardonically. “Those two deserve each other. What do they want from us?”
“They want the Prophet of the Hebrew God as a witness,” Galkak said.
“And what about me?” Blimah asked.
“You are to wear these,” Galkak held up a pair of heavy shackles. “Eglon doesn’t trust you not to ruin the weddin’. Neema asked for your execution as a weddin’ gift, but Eglon declined. He said that if you misbehave, Ehud, he will kill Blimah.”
“Of course. Let us go then. I’ve never been to a royal wedding before.”
“I don’t think you’ll enjoy it,” Galkak warned as he placed the chains on Blimah’s wrists and led them up the stairs of the palace.
The trio reached the entrance of the palace where the massive statue of Moloch stood. The antechamber was filled to capacity. Soldiers of three armies, Moab, Amalek and Ammon, stood at attendance, proudly bearing their arms. The residents of Rabbath Ammon crowded about, trying to get a glimpse of the royal couple. Men in the black robes of the priests of Moloch stood on either side of the statue, rhythmically banging large drums.
Galkak led Ehud and Blimah right next to the royal couple. Eglon wore a fresh white robe, with his usual golden belt, necklace and armbands. In honor of the wedding he placed golden rings around his red ponytail and shaved the rest of his head so smoothly that it shone. He had a dark blue dye above his eyes in Egyptian style and held a golden scepter. Neema wore a long sleeveless white dress that shimmered from the golden and silver threads woven throughout the dress. She wore matching golden armbands and large golden looping earrings.
“Ah, Ehud,” Eglon gushed as he saw the blacksmith. “So nice of you to make it. It wouldn’t do for us to marry without an Israelite representative, no less a prophet of their god, present. And you, young lady,” he addressed Blimah. “I trust you will behave yourself. Or else the priests shall make an exception and provide an adult for their sacrifice. I think we are all here now. Zakir, let us commence!”
Zakir, the Ammonite King, wore the black robe of the order of Moloch as well as his thin golden crown. He cleared his throat, faced Eglon and Neema and raised his voice above the din of the crowd.
“My fellow Ammonites!” Zakir called out. A hush enveloped the antechamber. “My Moabite brothers! My Amalekite friends! We are gathered now for an historic moment and for much thanksgiving. Our people are united as they have never been before. Under the divine leadership of Emperor Eglon our three nations have bonded in miraculous fashion. The gods truly smile upon these events. A bloodless conquest. Not one death was caused in Rabbath Ammon, despite the powerful magic of Eglon’s sorcerers. Our combined armies shall now embark on a great campaign, one that shall destroy our long-time enemy, the Israelites!”
“But first there is another union that we shall cement, a more intimate one. Emperor Eglon shall take as his Empress the Princess Neema of Amalek. These two nations shall marry and become as one. And by marrying here, under our very roof, we too shall join in this blessed union. All hail Emperor Eglon and his Empress Neema!”
“Hail Emperor Eglon! Hail Empress Neema!” the crowd chanted loudly.
Wild cheers exploded throughout the hall. Soldiers banged their spears on the palace stone and the priests raised the volume of their drumming. Zakir raised his hand for silence. The hall quieted.
“Our god, Moloch, is of course never far from our minds and we thank him now for all his benevolence. Indeed, it is only his power and his graciousness that give us life, meaning and success. Priests! Commence the sacrifice!”
A black-hooded priest approached the statue of Moloch as the drums pounded their rhythmic chant. The statue had a torso as wide as a man is tall, composed of brick and clay, with seven openings revealing a roaring fire underneath. Above the torso was a menacing metallic head of a bull, with large pointed bronze horns. Long metallic arms extended from either side of the torso and covered the central opening of the torso.
A priest carried two handfuls of the finest flour. He kneeled in front of the statue, rose and poured the wheat into one of the openings. The statue belched a small puff of smoke from its openings. A second priest carried a live white dove in his hands. He too knelt in front of the statue, broke the neck of the dove, rose and dropped the dead bird into Moloch’s abdomen through a second opening. Moloch belched more smoke. A third priest led a ewe to the statue. The priest raised the docile sheep and slid her into a third opening. A muted bleating was heard as the smell of roasting meat wafted through the hall. A fourth priest sacrificed a ram in the same fashion. A fifth priest brought a calf. A sixth priest brought a young ox and threw him into the fire of Moloch. The drums pounded louder and faster with each sacrifice. The crowd swayed with the rhythm. Many cheered and clapped after each sacrifice. Many started to dance. The rhythm reached a feverish pitch.
Finally, a seventh priest carried a one-month-old boy. The boy was naked; his pink skin soft and plump. He slept peacefully in the arms of the priest, who carried him gingerly. A woman could be heard whimpering despite the loud drums. A priest behind the statue raised a lever. The two long metallic arms descended from covering the central opening in Moloch’s torso.
“Ehud!” Blimah pleaded above the din of the drums. “Do something!”
“It is their way. Some of our own people have also indulged in such an abomination,” Ehud answered through gritted teeth. “We cannot risk interfering. Eglon would kill you.”
The priest placed the baby on the palms of the metallic hands. The baby awoke with a start and cried from the pain of the hot metal. The priest behind the statue pulled on the lever. Moloch swallowed the baby whole. The baby’s shriek rose from the fire pit and was then silent. A woman wailed in the back. The crowd danced wildly with joy. Tears streamed down Blimah’s eyes as she pulled on her chains and cried, “No, no.”
“Rejoice!” Zakir raised his hands. “Rejoice my brethren, for we have fulfilled the wishes of our god and he is mightily pleased. Rejoice, for this is a night of joy and celebration. Take each man a woman and rejoice as our forefathers did. Rejoice!”
Soldiers turned about seeking women amongst the Ammonites. Most of the married women walked quickly away from the palace, escorted by their husbands. The rest tarried, letting themselves be taken by the soldiers.
“Wonderful, Zakir!” Eglon exclaimed as the drums calmed their frenetic pace. “A majestic performance. Neema and I shall be going to our chambers now. We shall discuss plans for our conquest of Canaan in the morning. Ehud, I hope you enjoyed the ceremony. Galkak, see them back to their cell. Adieu.” Eglon took a beaming Neema by the arm and retreated into the palace. Galkak escorted Ehud and Blimah back to their cell.
“I don’t believe they murdered that baby,” Blimah whispered to Ehud as they walked down the stairs of the interior of the palace. “That was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen.”
“It is horrible, but they don’t know any better,” Ehud answered. “Israelites who have taken on this and other idolatrous practices should know better. We shall suffer for that infidelity of worship.”
“You have seen Israelites worship like this?” Blimah asked.
“Yes. I have seen Simeonites sacrifice a baby in this fashion at a statue of Moloch in the Negev desert. I have seen Reuvenites defecate upon statues of Peor, for that is its worship. I have seen my own fellow Benjaminites and your tribesmen of Ephraim kissing little statues of Ashtarte that they hide in their pockets. And then you wonder why God is bringing this doom upon us?”
“I didn’t realize it was so pervasive. I’ve been cloistered on my father’s farm all these years,” Blimah said morosely.
“Well, now that you’ve seen the big ugly world,” Galkak suggested, “you might appreciate home more.”
“Home? That fat madman is going to destroy our homes and my noble Ehud is going to stand by and let it happen!” Blimah banged her thigh with her fist, the chains rattling as she did so.
“Here, lemme take ‘em off.” Galkak unlocked Blimah’s chain as they approached their cell door. He opened the door, let them in and locked it behind them. “I’m gettin’ out of this lovers’ quarrel. Get some rest, you two. We’ll talk more in the morning.”
“God meant for us to be here, Blimah,” Ehud said calmly, “just as he means for Eglon to subjugate our people. There is nothing we can do but bide our time and hope our brothers realize the errors of their ways.”
“Hope? Hope!? That’s all you can do? What happened to Ehud the Warrior? What happened to the Captain of Thousands? What happened to the leader of Israel I married? Where is the man of action I met by the vineyards of Shiloh? I thought we came here to do something? Not languish in a cell like some feeble cowardly leper!”
“Enough, woman!” Ehud raised his voice. “Your sharp tongue is beginning to irritate even me. Calm yourself. There is a time for everything. You are the noblest being I know. Our High Priest Pinhas himself would admire your zealousness, but I fear it would lead to disaster. We must use judgment, exercise caution. Was it not the zealousness of the tribes that allowed Gheda to drive us to civil war? We must have faith in God, but we also must be practical. The times of overt miracles have passed. Stop reacting like a child and start thinking like an adult. Eglon’s campaign must run its course. We shall know when the time to strike approaches and we must be ready for it. Then we shall strike as those in my trade strike when the iron is hot. If we strike too early, it is for naught. If we strike too late, all our work and waiting will have been wasted. Patience, my dear.”
“That’s how you talk to me, Ehud? Do you really see me as a child? I know I am young. Perhaps it was a mistake…”
“No, my dear. You are the bravest, strongest, most mature woman I know. But these are complex times. The politics of power are murky. Actions we take here can affect thousands of our brothers for generations to come. And God has His plan. And He has told me to listen to you, but you’re just reacting now and not thinking. I’ll tell you what, darling. Sit down and quietly ask yourself what we should do. Give yourself a few moments to think calmly to yourself. I will follow whatever your conclusion is.” Ehud sat down on the stone bench of the small cell.
Blimah sat down next to him, closed her eyes and breathed deeply. She crossed her legs under herself and kept her eyes closed for a few minutes. She opened them suddenly and stood up.
“I know what you need to do!” she exclaimed.
“You are right. It is pointless to fight him now, but it is not enough to just be a bystander. You must go to the other extreme. You must help him conquer Israel!”
“Now you are the mad one.”
“No, listen to me. You should volunteer yourself as an advisor to Eglon for his campaign. He has lined you up as an intermediary. That’s why he wants to keep you close, but you can take it a step further. He won’t trust you in the beginning, so you’ll need to prove yourself. You will advise him how to win. You can try to minimize the fighting and the deaths, just as Galkak did here in Rabbath Ammon. You can hold back his anger and his wrath, for surely the tribes of Israel will anger him. He will then trust you and keep you close and when the time is right, you will strike.”
“It is one thing to abstain from fighting, it is another to council our enemy to fight my brothers.”
“You said you would listen to me, Ehud.”
“I shall, but I don’t like it.”
“A wonderful morning my dear Israelites,” Eglon said to Ehud and Blimah standing in front of his throne. Neema sat to Eglon’s right and a subdued Dirthamus to his left. Zakir and Galkak stood on either side of the throne.
“It is afternoon, your Majesty,” Ehud corrected.
“Is that so?” Eglon laughed. “I hadn’t noticed. In any case, to the business at hand. We march tomorrow upon Canaan with a professional army three thousand strong. What say you to that, my brave blacksmith?”
“I say that God is with you, your Majesty, and that I wish to remain on the side that God has chosen. Furthermore, my wife would like to apologize for her horrible behavior last night.”
“Marvelous!” Eglon clapped his hands. “You see, Neema? I told you a night in a cell would soften them up. Go ahead, dear Blimah, what is it you wish to say? But be careful. I will not be stung a second time. That way lies death.”
“No your, Majesty,” Blimah bowed to Eglon. “It was terrible of me to kill Gheda like that. Yes I hated him, but it was awfully bad manners of me to do so without your permission, and during dinner! My parents would be horrified to know how rudely I’ve acted. And the way I spoke to my hosts. I’m so sorry. Especially to you, Neema. You looked so beautiful last night, you were the ultimate bride. I shall remember your wedding ceremony for the rest of my life. We did get off to such a bad start, and I do think we can be fast friends. Worst of all, I embarrassed my husband. You know Ehud. He is a solid, dependable man. I guess I was just so overwhelmed I lost my head. Please forgive me. Let us start again.” Blimah raised her manacled palms, the chain rattling lightly.
“Well said, young Blimah! Well said indeed! Eglon banged the armrest of his throne. “All is forgiven! Galkak, undo this young woman’s chains. I will not have my ally’s wife walking around in chains.”
Galkak quickly unlocked the manacles upon Blimah’s wrists. She rubbed at her sore wrists.
“Now, my dear friends, how do you suppose we should organize our campaign to conquer Canaan?” Eglon asked.
“Do you have a map?” Ehud asked.
“Why, of course.”
“Then I will show you exactly how.”
* * * * * *
According to archeological records, the main god of the Ammonites was Moloch. Though it was also worshipped by others in the area. The Bible warns the Israelites specifically against the worship of Moloch already in Leviticus 20:2-5, and Leviticus 18:21:
“Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Moloch, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.”
Jeremiah 32:35 accuses the Jews of worshipping Moloch:
“And they built the high places of the Ba‘al, which are in the valley of Ben-hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire l’Moloch; which I did not command them, nor did it come into my mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.”
The 12th century Rashi, commenting on Jeremiah 7:31 stated:
Tophet is Moloch, which was made of brass; and they heated him from his lower parts; and his hands being stretched out, and made hot, they put the child between his hands, and it was burnt; when it vehemently cried out; but the priests beat a drum, that the father might not hear the voice of his son, and his heart might not be moved.
A rabbinical tradition attributed to the Yalkout of Rabbi Simeon, says that the idol was hollow and was divided into seven compartments, in one of which they put flour, in the second turtle-doves, in the third a ewe, in the fourth a ram, in the fifth a calf, in the sixth an ox, and in the seventh a child, which were all burned together by heating the statue inside.