Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 9
The Trouble with Brother-in-laws
“Are you mad?” Orpa sneered at her husband in their quarters. “Why would I leave palace life to go live in the mud-hole you crawled out of?”
“Perhaps a change of location will change our fortunes?” Kilyon volunteered.
“Hah! How can my fortunes get any worse than being married to you? I know, surround myself by your wretched relatives and tribesmen. I am the daughter of a king, an emperor! I will not live in some hovel with a misfit Hebrew that should never have been released from the slave-pits of Egypt. Is that the answer you were looking for, my love?”
“Never mind. I’m sorry I asked.”
“And I’m sorry I ever saw you. Leave me alone. You’ve upset me with your silly questions and now I need to rest.”
“That’s a good idea. You rest. I’ll be back later.”
“Don’t hurry back,” Orpa said as Kilyon left their room.
“Zipor? What happened? You look terrible,” Queen Neema hurried to Zipor, bleeding and cut up, climbing the steps of the palace.
“Oh, Mother. It was terrible. Father and I were out hunting. He slipped off the cliff ledge. I jumped after him and barely escaped with my life. There are sharp stones on the side of the cliff. But, Father. He didn’t make it.” Zipor choked up, holding back tears.
“Jalet? Jalet is gone?” Neema said, shocked and looked vacantly at her son.
“I somehow feel like it’s my fault,” Zipor admitted. “I’m the one who pushed him to go hunting. If he would have stayed in the palace he wouldn’t have fallen.”
“Oh, my boy, don’t blame yourself. Jalet knew the risks. Don’t ever blame yourself. I’m sure you did everything you could.” Neema embraced her son. “Now what?”
“I have sent the guards to retrieve his body. We need to prepare for a royal funeral. We shall send invitations to all of the monarchs. It will be a funeral worthy of my father’s memory.” Zipor left his mother’s embrace.
“You are a good son, Zipor. It is so sad that you should lose your father so young. Now all the responsibilities will fall on your shoulders. But do not worry. I will be here to guide you. I have been Queen to two kings already and I am well-practiced in assisting those in power.”
“I knew I could count on you mother,” Zipor said. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some urgent matters to attend to in order to ensure a smooth transition. Perhaps you should be with Ruth and Orpa so they will not be overtly upset about the news.”
“Of course!” Neema said. “I must tell them immediately. He was so good to them and to those Judeans. They will be distraught by the news.”
“No doubt,” Zipor said and walked purposely towards the palace stables.
“You have my condolences, Neema,” Naomi sat next to the mourning Queen in the royal audience chamber. “Jalet was a kind and hospitable man and I was grateful for his taking us in. I admit I did not expect such hospitality from our old enemies.”
“He was a good man,” Neema agreed. “Not as ambitious or as wild as Eglon, but I think perhaps wiser. It is such a tragedy. Especially for Zipor. He is so young and there was so much more he could have learned from his father.”
“Zipor seems to be taking things remarkably well,” Naomi noted. “I see he has assumed quick charge of the soldiers and is busy with all sorts of arrangements. How are you doing, girls?” Naomi asked Ruth and Orpa sitting on the other side of Neema.
“He was generous to us,” Ruth said.
“He let me buy dresses,” Orpa added. “But now Zipor is scaring me. He’s become so intense. It’s like he’s a different person.”
“It may just be his way of grieving,” Naomi suggested. “Perhaps he just needs some time.” Naomi got stood up and excused herself from the Queen.
“Let us walk you out,” Orpa offered, pulling Ruth along. The three women left the audience chamber as other local noblewomen entered to console Neema.
“I need to talk to you,” Orpa whispered to Naomi as they walked in the hallway.
“What is the matter, my daughter,” Naomi asked.
“Kilyon asked me if I would move back with him to Judah.”
“That is an unexpected development.” Naomi stopped walking. “What was your answer?”
“I told him no,” Orpa admitted. “But now that Zipor is king, I’m thinking it might be a good idea to give him some space.”
“Do you fear your own brother?” Naomi asked.
“I don’t know. There was something frightening in his eyes. He sounds polite and kingly, but he seems more like a coiled cobra waiting to strike.”
“He would never harm you.”
“He is a cruel, selfish, egocentric, power-hungry child. I know because I am just like him, except that I don’t crave power in this world of men. He will harm anyone he suspects may get in his way. I think we should leave.”
“I would follow you and Mahlon to Judah,” Ruth said to Naomi.
“My daughters.” Naomi sniffled. “I had given up hope that I would ever return home, that my sons would be chained to this land because of you and now it is you that suggest we return? God truly has a sense of humor. You must inform your mother. How will she take the news? Especially after the death of her husband?”
“She has always favored Zipor, the future king,” Orpa answered. “Now that they have their wish, they should both be content. We should go soon while change is in the air. It’s agreed then?” Orpa asked.
Naomi and Ruth nodded and the three of them walked faster through the palace corridors.
Mahlon and Kilyon met with their spouses in Naomi’s room.
“We should inform Ashban,” Naomi said to Ruth. “Do you think he would let us take some of his fabrics with us? Perhaps we can open a store in Bethlehem.”
“I need to organize matters in the stable and appoint a new stable-master that Zipor will approve,” Mahlon said.
“Well, we’ll be meeting him shortly, so you can discuss that with him as well,” Kilyon said.
“What meeting?” Orpa asked.
“He said he had an urgent matter to discuss with me and Mahlon and wanted to meet in that house that we had rented when we arrived at Kir Moav. Seemed like an odd request. We should get going Mahlon, if we don’t want to be late.”
“Be careful, my love,” Orpa said. “Something doesn’t sound right.”
“Don’t worry, dear. Mahlon and I can take care of ourselves. We’ll be back soon and finish packing up.”
“Hurry, my love,” Orpa pleaded. “I want to get out of here already.” She looked at the bare walls of Naomi’s room, feeling that they were closing in.
A dozen soldiers stood idly at the beginning of the road. A cat screeched at a nearby rat and pounced on it. One of the soldiers kicked the screeching cat, enabling the rat to scurry away. The cat hissed at the soldier and watched in frustration as the rat climbed to the rooftop of a house.
Kilyon remembered the street well. Each stone seemed frozen in time, reminding him of the night of Elimelech’s murder. He thought somber thoughts and did not notice another dozen soldiers at the other end of the street.
“This doesn’t feel right,” Mahlon said, as they approached their one-time residence.
“Everyone worries too much,” Kilyon answered. “Let’s just meet Zipor and move on.”
Mahlon closed his eyes and tried to get a sense from the animals in the area. There were cavalry horses on either end of the street, but they had not paid attention to what their human masters were planning. A nearby cargo donkey had noticed strange work done to their former house. A street rat squirmed in terror until a knife thrust ended his scurrying life.
Kilyon knocked on the new solid oak door.
“Enter,” Zipor requested.
Kilyon and Mahlon entered the house. The afternoon sun shone through the single window of the house. A diamond of light hit the floor, reflecting Elimelech’s ten year-old blood stain that was never removed. A criss-cross pattern of shade announced that there were metal bars on the once-plain window. There was no furniture in the room and nothing on the walls. The roof had been re-thatched. Zipor stood in the center of the room with six other soldiers, all wielding their swords.
“It’s a trap,” Mahlon said.
“Now you tell me,” Kilyon answered.
“Welcome, brothers.” Zipor smiled. “It was so kind of you to accept my invitation.”
“What is this about?” Mahlon asked.
“You are enemies of Moab,” Zipor stated. “My father was overly generous in giving you my sisters and treating you like royalty. You are a threat to my rule and I will now dispose of you.”
“Why here?” Kilyon asked.
“I thought it fitting that the sons die where the father did. I like to go with what works.”
“We are not a threat,” Mahlon argued. “We are your friends, your sisters’ husbands. We are family.”
“It is exactly that relationship that is a threat,” Zipor said. “Should my sisters have children, they would be candidates for the monarchy. I have not allowed that. Now I want to remove the possibility altogether.”
“How have you not allowed it?” Kilyon asked.
“What do you think were in those drinks I’ve served you every year? It was a potion to kill your seed. But I find the charade tiresome. Now, if you will move aside, please.”
Zipor’s soldier’s raised their swords at Elimelech’s sons, guiding them towards the back of the house, as Zipor and the soldiers exited. The heavy door was bolted from the outside.
“What are you doing?” Kilyon ran to the barred window.
“Sumahtrid once told me that you people have some special protection and that it is dangerous to harm you directly. I am just being cautious. I shall make sure to comfort my sisters. I can’t say that knowing you was unpleasant, but I am relieved to see you go. Torch it!” Zipor commanded his soldiers.
Kilyon noticed more than two dozen soldiers outside the house. Several of them tossed burning torches onto the thatch roof. The roof quickly caught fire filling the house with smoke.
Kilyon tried shaking the metal bars to no avail. Mahlon slammed into the wooden door making a loud clatter. The Moabite soldiers jumped back at the sudden noise and drew their swords, awaiting what may exit the door.
“Kilyon, together,” Mahlon called.
The two of them smashed into the door. The hinges creaked and the door frame loosened.
“They will kill us the second we step out.” Kilyon coughed in the thickening smoke. Pieces of burning thatch fell into the house.
“I have an idea.” Mahlon closed his eyes and thought to all the animals he could reach: Help!
The cavalry stallions were the first to neigh and drop their riders. Donkeys and camels trotted into the thin road, their angry owners whipping them uselessly. Dogs ran towards the house, howling madly and cats jumped on nearby roofs.
“I will lift you,” Mahlon jestured to Kilyon.
Zipor’s soldiers looked in panic at the crazed animals around them. Suddenly, Kilyon flew out of a hole in the burning roof, fiery thatch on his arms and shoulders. He landed in a roll outside the house and was on his feet just as Mahlon smashed open the house door. The brothers ripped their burning tunics off and stood side by side bare-chested and furious. Attack! Mahlon thought to his animal troops.
Mahlon and Kilyon lunged at the startled Moabite soldiers. They each grabbed a sword and hacked at Zipor’s troops. The animals joined in on the fight. Horses and donkeys kicked and bit the soldiers, breaking bones in the process. Dogs bit at the men’s shins and cats jumped on their heads and scratched their eyes. One aggrieved cat stuck its tail down a soldier’s throat, choking him to death. The cat had remembered the foot that had kicked it.
Kilyon slashed wildly and became separated from Mahlon. A ring of soldiers surrounded the younger brother. One soldier cut deeply into his torso. Kilyon’s eyes brightened with madness and he frothed slightly at the lips. Then with an animal roar he turned into a whirlwind of movement, killing all the Moabites around him. Zipor thought he saw the specter of a lion behind Kilyon.
“A berserk! A berserk!” the surviving Moabites yelled, seeing the carnage around Kilyon. They retreated from him only to be cut down by the level-headed Mahlon. Soon there were no soldiers left standing and only Zipor remained cowering behind the bodies of his dead men.
“You picked on the wrong people.” Kilyon approached Zipor with gritted teeth and raised sword. “We were no threat to you. We were even planning on leaving Moab. We would have left here peacefully, with no harm to you. But now it is too late.” Kilyon was about to slash at Zipor when a burning arrow pierced his chest. Mahlon turned to the source of the arrow only to find a burning arrow now embedded in his own torso.
“Too late. Too late,” Beor commented from the roof, bow still in hand, as Mahlon and Kilyon dropped to the ground, felled by fire. Sumahtrid stood next to Beor, surveying the carnage with approval.
“So die Mahlon and Kilyon,” Sumahtrid told Beor, “the powerful sons of Elimelech. There is a lesson here, my apprentice. They left their homeland during its time of need and married foreign women against the precepts of their people. Though they had the blood of Nachshon in their veins, though they commanded such power and such potential, their lives did not meet the standards of their ancestors. However, I perceive that their deaths signal the beginning of a new story. A story that may change the Israelite nation forever.”
Sumahtrid looked to the palace and sought in his mind the fresh widows, the daughters of Eglon.
* * * * * *
Yoash and Saraf were Mahlon and Kilyon. Yoash because they had given up on redemption, Saraf because they deserved the punishment of burning (for marrying gentiles). The were named Mahlon and Kilyon. Mahlon because they made themselves unholy (by living outside the Holy Land), and Kilyon because they deserved destruction (for leaving the land of Israel). Baba Batra 91b
Mahlon was named so, because God eventually forgave him, as he argued against the wrongs of his father. Zohar Chadash, Ruth 78a
They (Ruth and Orpa) neither converted nor ritually immersed. Ruth Rabba: 2:9