Warrior Prophets 2 – Chapter 15: Burning Hebrews

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 15

Burning Hebrews

“Heeyaaa!!” Blimah yelled as she smashed the back of her fist into Elimelech’s face. The knife he had been holding to her neck clanged on the stone floor of the cave. Blimah grabbed Elimelech’s arm, twisted it behind his back, and forced him face down onto the floor, her foot firmly on his neck.

“I’m sick and tired of everyone threatening me and my husband!” Blimah said furiously as she picked up Elimelech’s fallen knife. “Perhaps I should have married a simple farmer instead.”

Meanwhile, Ehud slipped out of the grasp of the men holding his arms, elbowed both of them hard in the stomach and kicked the Israelite soldier in front of him. The three men who had previously surrounded him now lay crumpled on the ground. He reclaimed his sword and strode over to Blimah and Elimelech.

“Traitor!” Elimelech blurted into the floor, despite the foot on his neck.

Ehud grabbed Elimelech by the neck, smashed him against the cave wall and held the taller man up, his long feet dangling an inch above the ground.

“If you call me a traitor again, I shall be displeased,” Ehud said softly.

“I saw you side by side with Eglon. You can’t deny you’re his agent,” Elimelech rasped.

“I have never been his agent. It was Gheda who was his agent all this time. Always looking for trouble, always prodding for war. Think about it.” Ehud lowered Elimelech to the ground.

Elimelech massaged his neck and looked apprehensively at Blimah and Ehud.

“Then why do you march with Eglon?” Elimelech asked.

“Because God has decreed that he shall conquer the tribes of Israel.”

“God? Do you know God’s decrees? Has he spoken to you?”

“Yes.”

“Then you are mad and a traitor. God barely speaks with Pinhas in hints through his priestly breastplate, but now you know the mind of God?”

“Israel will be subjugated for its sins. The hand of Eglon shall lay on us for many years and it shall be harsh. Only when Israel cries out and remembers God, then we shall know salvation.”

“You are mad.”

“Believe what you want, but it shall come to pass. You will witness it and will not be able to stop it. Save your men, save your lives and repent. That is the only course left to us. Those who fight Eglon shall die.”

“I would rather die free than live in thralldom.”

“You are free to make that choice, but shall you make it for the rest of Israel? Shall you doom them all to death that God Himself did not decree? We have brought enough death upon Israel. You have lost most of your tribe, almost as much as I have. Would you see a tribe perish in Israel, or will you remove the stubbornness from your heart and finally accept God’s will.”

“I do not recognize that you speak for God. You are supporting the enemy by spouting this nonsense. If we unite and we stand in front of this invader we may yet turn him back. Does God truly wish for his children to be invaded and enslaved? Is this why he took us out of Egypt? Is this why he brought us into Canaan?”

“Our people have been fickle, disloyal to Him. They have embraced the idols and the Canaanite way of worship. God warned us about this. Read the Books of Moses. See the warnings. They are coming to pass. We shall retreat from this enemy. We shall know famine. Our children will be taken captives. Our God is a jealous God and we shall know his wrath.”

“Will you kill me?” Elimelech motioned at Ehud’s drawn sword.

“Only if you threaten me again.”

“Then kill me now, for I do not believe that you speak for God. You are a fantastic warrior and a brilliant strategist, but no more. And now you ride with Eglon. Kill me now, for the next opportunity I have, I shall surely kill you.”

“Then you leave me no choice.”

Ehud raised his sword, but with his other hand he punched Elimelech hard in the head. Elimelech slumped to the cavern floor, unconscious.

“Let’s get out of here,” Ehud said to Blimah.

“Wait a minute. I still need to relieve myself. Wait by the entrance and make sure those other guards don’t wake up.”

“Where are Ehud and Blimah, Boss?” Galkak asked Eglon as the two reunited with the troops they led on the Arava Road.

“They were right behind me,” Eglon looked behind him, as he panted and massaged his knees on his chariot. “Where can they be? Did the Israelites shoot them? Both of them? No. They must have slipped away. Dirthamus, can you sense their minds?”

“I’ve never been able to sense their minds,” Dirthamus answered. “Like Galkak, their minds are closed to me. I’ve noted it’s true with many of the Israelites. Though I did sense Elimelech. I sensed a blinding fury, but now his mind has gone quiet.”

“Ehud has left us then, at the first opportunity he had,” Eglon said.

“Should we search for ‘em?” Galkak asked.

“No. We can’t afford the distraction. We must reach Naaran before they are warned. For us to succeed in this campaign, speed is of the essence. Forward march!” Eglon commanded his army, pointing his sword westward.

The Moabite army marched at a quick pace up the road. They were relieved to be off the craggy mountain and making good progress on the well-trodden route. They looked warily to the right and left, in case of another ambush. Eglon kept sending scouts up the mountain to ensure that the way was clear.

One of the scout teams returned to Eglon.

“Naaran is beyond the next hill to the north,” the scout reported. “They have been warned. The gate to their city is closed and they have soldiers on the ramparts at attention.”

“Curse that Elimelech!” Eglon slammed the side of his chariot. “He must have gotten word to them. Now we need to do it the hard way. Galkak, take half the troops, go through the mountains and approach Naaran from the back. I will give you an hour. Then I will start the approach from the road. We will shoot a fire arrow high into the air. That will be your signal. That’s when we will start our attack. If there are as few defenders as we think, we will just have to outshoot them. Then we will move in with the ladders and the battering ram.” Eglon motioned to the supply chariots that carried the siege materials.

“Yes, Boss,” Galkak left and took his men.

Tralim of Benjamin stood with his arrow notched upon the ramparts of Naaran. Naaran controlled the road from the Jordan plain to the more populous mountain range. Tralim was a survivor of the civil war. He had fought in all three of the battles of Givaah and walked away unscathed. He considered himself more lucky than skillful. In the third battle he had narrowly missed Elimelech’s blade during his berserker rampage. He thought it ironic that it was Elimelech’s men who had warned them of Eglon’s impending attack.

He was more troubled by the other news they bore. That Ehud had betrayed all of Israel and rode beside the Moabite king. He had trouble believing that their fearless and intrepid commander was a traitor.

Tralim was amongst the few hundred Benjaminite survivors of the civil war. He had hid for four months with the remnant of his tribe in the Rock of Rimon. He had found a bride, Melil, at the summer dance of Shilo and together they had settled in depopulated Naaran. His wife was with child and Tralim was filled with hope. Though there were only a dozen families in Naaran, life was settling into a tranquil and domestic routine.

He had only been mildly troubled by the open worship of Baal by his neighbors. “The God of Moses has abandoned us,” they would say. “Why shouldn’t we pray to the local gods?” they asked. “We are now in Canaan, we should worship the gods of the land.”

Tralim noticed more and more of his neighbors wearing the small clay figurines of Baal around their necks. They still prayed to the Hebrew God, but they ended their prayers with a small prayer to Baal and signed their prayers with a quick kiss of the clay figurine.

It was only natural when his wife, Melil, gave him a clay figurine to wear. “Everyone is wearing one, Tralim,” she said as she lovingly tied it around his neck. “Some of the women started to tease me, that you were holy and stuck in the old ways. I told them you simply hadn’t given it much thought.” Which Tralim admitted was true, as he absently played with the clay idol on his neck.

Tralim never connected the idea of God’s wrath with the Moabite army marching upon his city.

He first saw them climbing the mountain. Hundreds of soldiers spread out and approached the city slowly over the hill that separated Naaran from the Arava Road. Then he saw the main force. An army over one thousand strong marched on the short path that connected the main road and his city.

There were only ten Benjaminite defenders in Naaran. Seven, including Tralim, stood on the southern wall facing Eglon’s army. The remaining three watched the eastern, northern and western sides, all within sight of each other around the small fortified city.

When Eglon’s army came within arrow’s reach, Tralim looked heavenward and said:

“God, be with us. And you too, Baal.” Tralim instinctively kissed the little statue at his neck. “Fire!” he ordered.

Five out of seven arrows hit their mark, felling Moabite soldiers.

Tralim noted Eglon smiling in his chariot and then nodding. A single fiery arrow sailed high into the blue desert sky. It was followed by hundreds of arrows, aimed at the defenders of the wall.

“Shields!” Tralim ordered. Three of his men fell to the onslaught of arrows. He heard the guard on the northern wall fall with an arrow from the other direction. He saw Eglon nod again. Five teams brought scaling ladders to the wall, as another team carried a heavy battering ram.

“Belya, Mishkor, get over here!” Tralim called to the men on the eastern and western ramparts as another volley of arrows darkened the bright sky.

Mishkor and another defender fell from the second volley. There were only five defenders left.

“I’ll focus on the battering ram,” Tralim said breathlessly, as he shot off more arrows into the sea of Moabites, “the rest of you make sure the ladders don’t stay on the wall.”

“How?” Belya asked.

“Shoot at the leaders. Push it away with your spears if it touches the wall.”

Tralim shot three of the battering ram carriers, but they were replaced in seconds.

Belya and the other defenders managed to delay two of the ladder teams, but three others got through. Two more defenders were shot. Belya managed to push one ladder off. A Moabite made it to the top of the wall. The third Israelite defender, out of arrows and having lost his spear, launched himself at the Moabite, bringing the ladder and the invading soldiers crashing down. He did not survive the fall.

A Moabite on the last ladder made it onto the ramparts. Belya unsheathed his sword and engaged the Moabite on the wall. More smiling Moabites stood behind him. A fresh volley of arrows killed Belya as well as the Moabite attackers.

Tralim ran out of arrows as the battering ram smashed into the gate of Naaran. The walls reverberated from the force of the impact. Tralim looked around to see Moabites overrunning the ramparts and all the other defenders dead. Tralim raised his spear and spotted Eglon approaching on his chariot. Tralim threw the spear at the large monarch with all his might. Dirthamus, riding next to Eglon, quickly raised his hand, causing Eglon to halt his chariot. The spear bounced harmlessly off of Eglon’s chariot.

Disgusted, Tralim ripped the idol from his neck and looked heavenward.

“All you gods are worthless,” he said as a barrage of arrows ended his previously lucky life. The small idol smashed on the ramparts of the defeated city.

“How many did we lose?” Eglon asked Galkak.

“Ninety-three during the ambush and forty-two from this attack, Boss,” Galkak answered.

“Burn it to the ground, with all inside,” Eglon commanded.

“You sure, Boss? This is a good location.”

“I need to send a message. Whoever resists will be completely destroyed. Whoever surrenders will be spared. Leave one survivor to spread the news.”

“Yes, Boss.” Galkak walked towards the captured survivors.

There were a dozen women of various ages and two elderly men, all huddled together by the opened gate of Naaran. Once the invaders had taken the ramparts, the battering ram had stopped and the army waited until the gate was opened from the inside.

How to pick who will live? Galkak thought. An old man perhaps, with wisdom and experience? A young woman, who can marry again and bear more children? That sick girl? Or perhaps someone stronger? God, why do you put me in these situations?

Galkak noted a young woman standing taller and straighter than the others. He approached her.

“What’s your name?” Galkak asked.

“Melil,” she answered, as she held her stomach protectively.

“You’re with child?”

“Yes, now orphaned from his father.”

“Come with me,” Galkak ordered and turned around. He spoke to the captain guarding the captives and whispered in his ear. The captain nodded his understanding and together with his men, herded the remaining captives further into the city.

“What is happening to the others?” Melil asked.

“They’ll be burnt alive with your city. You’ve been spared to watch this and to spread the word. The Moabites are here to conquer the land of Canaan and they are ruthless. If the Israelites resist, they will be destroyed. If they surrender they will be spared. It is that simple. Your job now is to save lives, so that we don’t have to do this too many times.”

They heard agonizing screams from within the city walls as dark smoke billowed into the clear sky.

“Music to the ears, isn’t it?” Eglon said as he approached on his chariot. “I think I enjoy the screams of Israelites. Very satisfying, wouldn’t you say?”

“You’re a monster,” Melil said.

“Yes, I am. Perhaps we should just kill her too, Galkak. There is great pleasure in instilling pain and death upon the stubborn Israelites. I’m not sure I wish for them to surrender. There is something to be said for doing things the hard way. We fought, we won. No tricks, no surrender. Superior overwhelming force against a disrupted divided enemy. Yes, perhaps I will kill this one also.” Eglon drew his sword and stepped off his chariot. “I feel the bloodlust within me, and it will not be satisfied until there are rivers of Hebrew blood.”

“I am ready to die,” Melil said.

“Brave, yes.” Eglon placed his sword at Melil’s neck. “That is the problem with you Israelites. Stubborn, brave, suspicious, ready to fight at the slightest instigation. You will be hard to conquer, but well worth it. Go. Go before I change my mind. Galkak, give her a horse and water and send her up the road ahead of us.”

“Yes, Boss.” Galkak ran and found a horse for Melil. He helped her mount the horse, showed her where the water skin was and sent her ahead with one warning:

“Whoever fights, dies – it’s that simple.”

“Where do we go now?” Blimah asked as they climbed down from the cave where Elimelech and his men lay unconscious.

“We should catch up with Eglon,” Ehud answered.

“I truly did not enjoy his company nor that of his army.”

“We have no choice. He’ll think we’ve betrayed him.”

“This is crazy, Ehud. All the tribes of Israel will think you’ve betrayed them if you continue riding with Eglon. There must be another way. I know. Send him a message that you’re going ahead to try to pacify the tribes. He’ll like that.”

“Perhaps. Perhaps it will be easier if we can move around freely without being chained to Eglon’s army.”

“Good. So where are we going?”

“To Bethlehem. I need to find Boaz.”

“Boaz of Judah? What for?”

“He is the only one who can stop me or Eglon.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Probably kill him.”

* * * * * *

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s