Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 16
Divide and Conquer
Tamir trembled as his stallion approached Eglon’s army. He was alone on the Arava Road, riding east between the desert mountains. A white cloth flapped upon the old spear he carried high in the early autumn morning. Ehud had promised him he would be safe, that Eglon would not kill a messenger. Tamir trembled nonetheless. He had heard the widow from Naaran, Melil, heavily pregnant, when she arrived at his city of Mizpah. She described the massacre. How Eglon’s hordes overwhelmed the lightly defended city and burned the survivors. Melil had described Eglon as relishing the bloodshed. The sobbing widow urged the people of Mizpah to surrender and then left on her mare to warn the next city.
Then Ehud had appeared with his bride, Blimah. Ehud too had pleaded with the elders of Mizpah that they should surrender. Ehud had been pleased to see Tamir, his former apprentice and placed on him this mission. A message to Eglon.
Moabite scouts spotted Tamir and kept their drawn arrows aimed at the messenger. A scout rode ahead on the road and confronted Tamir.
“What is your business here, Hebrew?” the scout asked.
“A have a message for Eglon,” Tamir said nervously.
“Follow me.” The scout led Tamir into the massive Moabite formation and to a chariot carrying the large monarch. Galkak on his mare was next to the chariot. The army was camped right outside the city of Michmash. The gate lay open as Moabite soldiers and Benjaminite residents entered and exited the city. Michmash had surrendered as soon as Eglon’s army had come into sight.
“A Hebrew messenger,” the scout announced.
“Wonderful!” Eglon clapped his hand. “Perhaps another city has surrendered before we even approach? Who is the message from?”
“From Ehud of Benjamin,” Tamir held out a papyrus scroll.
“Ehud!” Eglon grabbed the scroll hungrily. “This may answer the mystery of his disappearance.”
Eglon opened the scroll.
Your Majesty, Emperor Eglon, Ruler of Moab, Ammon, Amalek and Conqueror of Canaan, God be with you.
I am pained to be separated from your side. After the ambush on the Arava Road, Blimah and I were waylaid by the ambushers. We were able to escape, but it delayed our reunion with your forces. I decided I would be of greatest use by proceeding ahead to encourage a peaceful resolution of your objectives.
I look forward to looking upon your countenance soon.
Your humble servant,
Ehud son of Gera of Benjamin
“Curious,” Eglon said. “Where is Ehud now?”
“I left him at Mizpah, but I believe he was heading south into the tribe of Judah,” Tamir answered.
“I would like you to find him and take a message back to him,” Eglon said. Eglon removed some papyrus and a quill from a compartment in his chariot. He scribbled something quickly, rolled and tied the scroll and gave it to Tamir.
“What if I can’t find Ehud?” Tamir asked.
“Then we shall hunt you down and kill you,” Eglon said with a smile.
“I will find him.” Tamir swallowed and trotted out of the camp quickly.
“You’re a great motivator, Boss,” Galkak said.
“Fear and greed, Galkak. Fear and greed.” Eglon looked at the receding Tamir.
“I’m glad to hear Ehud’s alive,” Galkak said. “I think I’ve grown fond of that Israelite. What will you do when you see him?”
“That will depend on the matter of our meeting. If he has helped our cause, I shall give him great honor. The alternative, I assure you, will be most unpleasant.”
Ehud and Blimah rode to Bethlehem warily. They had found fresh mounts in Mizpah and made good time on the road south. On either side of the road were golden fields of wheat. The ramparts of the city were well-manned and the gate was only slightly ajar with a company of soldiers guarding the entrance.
“The last time I was here was for Boaz and Vered’s wedding,” Ehud explained to Blimah. “What a disaster.”
“The marriage?” Blimah asked as she adjusted the dagger at her belt.
“No, no. Vered and Boaz are happily married. It was the day the Philistines attacked. It was quite a battle. It took me, Boaz and Caleb to bring down their king, a mad metallic giant by the name of Akavish. Joshua held their army off with lightning and thunder. Vered almost died. If Amitai hadn’t led our militia in time it may have ended very differently.”
“And now you’re going to ask Boaz not to fight? Will he agree?”
“I don’t know. He’s not as stubborn as his uncle Elimelech, but he is our deadliest fighter. I was able to knock him out at the battle of Givaah when I had an entire army to support me. I’m not sure how to stop him now without killing him.”
A figure ran out of the gate of Bethlehem. Ehud immediately knew who the blur was that approached with superhuman speed. Ehud raised his sword. In response, a sword clanged against his own, aimed at Ehud’s neck. The sword was held by Boaz.
“I can sense the violence in your heart, Ehud,” Boaz whispered. “Is it directed at me? Are the rumors true?”
“Violence is a last resort, Boaz. I’d much rather you listened to reason.”
“You would have us roll over and play dead? You would let Moab subjugate us, without resistance? I thought I knew you better than that.”
“Can we talk about it without swords at our throats? It’s been a difficult journey and I would see my wife rested.”
Boaz looked at Blimah as if noticing her for the first time.
“My apologies,” Boaz lowered his sword and bowed to Blimah, “and congratulations on your marriage. You are welcome to come to our home, though I may have to kill your husband if he has truly become treacherous.”
“Your friends are so sweet, Ehud,” Blimah looked at her husband. “Do they all want to kill you, or only the ones who know you well?”
“Boaz, this is Blimah of the sharp tongue. More dangerous and painful than the swords we carry.”
“Sounds like a marriage made in heaven. Let us go to my house and Vered will take care of you.”
The trio entered Bethlehem and arrived at Boaz’s large stone house. The front of the house was a bakery. The scent of freshly baked bread wafted in the air.
“Vered! We have company!” Boaz called out.
Vered entered the bakery with a flour covered apron over her simple beige dress, and a white head-shawl tightly wrapped around her long red tresses.
“Ehud,” Vered scowled. “You sent my husband back to me with a serious head injury after your last encounter.”
“Good to see you too, Vered. It was either a head injury or dead. Please meet my wife, Blimah.”
“Your husband should go back to blacksmithing and stop playing soldier,” Vered addressed Blimah, “or you may find yourself with a very short marriage.”
“I tell him the same thing, but he is intent on saving the world.”
“Men,” Vered shook her head. “When will they realize we’re all better off without their games? There is work to be done.”
“Vered,” Boaz said. “I’m sure our guests are hungry. Let us feed them and perhaps we can then have a more civil discussion.”
Boaz directed their guests to the large oak table and Vered brought out fresh pitas and rolls, together with olive oil and some vegetables. Vered showed them a basin with water where they could wash. The four sat down and ate quietly.
“Delicious bread,” Ehud complemented the couple. “I can see why your bakery is so successful.”
“Thank you,” Boaz answered. “Now please tell me why I shouldn’t kill you? Is it true you marched with Eglon?”
“Blimah,” Vered interrupted, “perhaps you would like to see some of my knitting while the boys chat?”
Blimah looked at Ehud. “I’d rather stay with my husband while I still have him.” Blimah tightened her grip on her dagger below the view of the others.
“Must be a newlywed thing,” Vered answered. “Well, I have work to do. If you’ll excuse me.” Vered got up from the table and left the room.
“Boaz, do you remember at Joshua’s last assembly when he spoke to you and me?”
“I will never forget that day.”
“Do you remember what he said to me?”
“Something about you killing my future father-in-law, but that we shouldn’t worry about it. That you would lead some battle and that then we would have tranquility.”
“Yes. He also spoke about the cycle of oppression God would bring: ‘He will bring oppressors onto Israel whenever we stray from His path.’”
“So what are you saying? That this is the beginning of a cycle?”
“How do you know?”
“God told me.”
Boaz looked at Ehud in silence. He then closed his eyes and sought Ehud’s inner essence with his Vision. Boaz opened his eyes.
“You have changed,” Boaz said with a respectful tone. “Grown. You are no longer the brash warrior I knew. You are speaking the truth and are not crazed. How did this come to pass? What did God say to you?”
“I don’t know how. After the battle of Givaah I was poisoned and unconscious. God protected and healed my body and showed me visions of the war and the massacre of my tribe. He said he had chosen me. He spoke to me a second time at Shilo. I remember every word: ‘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.’”
“This is difficult to accept,” Boaz said.
“I know. Your uncle Elimelech tried to kill me and will likely try again next time he sees me.”
“I don’t blame him. I planned to do the same. But what would you have me do? I will not stand with the enemy.”
“Just don’t stand against him. And don’t let your brothers throw their lives away trying to fight him. They will surely die and Eglon will surely be victorious. We need to wait, bide our time and most importantly, repent. We must lead our brothers away from idol-worship. We have been too forgiving, turning a blind eye to their secret and not-so-secret worship. This strange worship has taken hold of our people. When the time is right, when our people understand, then we will break free.”
“Bitter medicine,” Boaz said.
“Yes. It is even more painful up close. I have good news though. You will never guess who is now king of Amalek and Eglon’s right hand man.”
“Unless the king of Amalek is utterly incompetent, how could it be good news? They hate us more than any of our other enemies.”
“Galkak of Simeon is king of Amalek.”
Boaz’s mouth opened wide.
“That drunken rascal?” Boaz finally said. “He is king of Amalek and right hand to Eglon? How in the world is such a thing possible? Do they not realize he is Israelite?”
“He has fooled them all, especially Eglon.”
“Then there is hope. Amitai used to be very close with him. He’ll get a good laugh out of it.”
“We must be discreet with this information. If word gets back to Eglon, Galkak will be dead. We must be patient. Will you help?”
Boaz ran his hand over his full red beard.
“I will not fight. But I will certainly not march with Eglon as you do. I will remain neutral. Do not ask more of me.”
“That is good enough and it is certainly better than my having to kill you.”
“What makes you think you would have succeeded?”
“Because you were focusing on the wrong threat.”
“Blimah.” Boaz looked at Ehud’s wife through narrowed eyes.
“Yes. She was ready to stab you the moment I signaled. She is quite fast and vicious with a knife. She killed Gheda — whom by the way was Eglon’s agent — before any of us could react.”
Blimah smiled. “I’m glad to see you boys are playing nicely.”
“Was this a marriage of love or convenience?” Boaz asked.
“Both,” the couple answered simultaneously.
An urgent knock on the door interrupted them.
Boaz opened the door and let a breathless Tamir in.
“Message for Ehud,” Tamir gasped.
“What is it?” Ehud got up.
“From Eglon. He said he’d hunt me down and kill me if I didn’t find you.” Tamir held out the scroll for Ehud.
Ehud took the scroll, untied and read it.
He handed it to Boaz.
My dear blacksmith and prophet of Israel, Ehud,
It pleases me no end to hear of your survival and efforts for our cause.
Please convene the leaders of the tribes of Israel that I may seek a speedy resolution of our disagreement.
I grow impatient and would hate to take out my disappointment on my favorite Israelite or his lovely wife.
“Emperor?” Boaz asked.
“Yes. He has styled himself Emperor with his successful conquest of Ammon and Amalek. He intends to conquer all the tribes of Israel and rival the Egyptians.”
“He does not trust you.”
“No. But it does not matter. He relies on me and I have told him that he is a tool of God.”
“Will you gather the princes? They will kill you before listening to you.”
“Do I have a choice?”
“You can flee.”
“No. This is my mission and I will see it through, even if it kills me.”
“Or a loved one?” Boaz looked at Blimah.
“I like the excitement,” Blimah said as she grabbed Ehud’s hand. “Meeting new people, enduring threats, killing, running, and then doing it all over again. Isn’t this what married life is about?”
“I see you are a perfect match,” Boaz said. “Is there anything else I can help you with, Ehud?”
“Yes. Calm Elimelech, or at least slow him down. He is the most combative of the princes. If I can pacify him, there might be hope.”
“Then you better get out of here before he returns home to Bethlehem.”
Boaz escorted Ehud and Blimah to the gate of Bethlehem. Vered prepared food for them to take on the road. As they reach the gate they spot a horseman riding to the city at breakneck speed. The horseman was Amitai, Boaz’s closest friend.
“Boaz, hurry!” Amitai shouted as he neared them. “Ehud? What are you doing here? No matter. We need every good fighter we can get.”
“What happened?” Boaz asked.
“Kiryat Yearim is under attack by Moabites. It will not last long without reinforcements.”
“I think it is time for us to leave,” Ehud said.
“You’re not going to help?” Amitai asked incredulously.
“No. It is hopeless. Whoever does not surrender is asking for death. Good luck.”
Ehud and Blimah rode away from Bethlehem.
“I don’t believe it!” Amitai said. “I saw him throw himself into a hoard of Philistines and now he walks away?”
“He has his reasons.”
“What about you? Will you raise the alarm? Will you lead us against these invaders?”
With a pained look on his face, Boaz gazed silently at Ehud and Blimah riding into the distance.
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