Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 15
My Father’s Killer
Ehud, atop the ramparts of Bethlehem, peered impassively into the darkness. He had seen Boaz return from the field with his workers. He overheard the workers discussing Ruth’s gleaning in the field, but she had yet to return. Ehud twirled his sword absently and recalled killing her father. Ehud had worked exhaustively on that special sword. He was sorry it had remained in the belly of the fat monarch all those years ago. He still didn’t know how word of the assassination had spread. Had one of the princes figured out how Ehud had killed Eglon? Had there been a secret observer that Ehud hadn’t noticed?
Ehud heard screaming in the distance. He climbed down from the rampart and ran out of the gate, past the guards and into the night. He saw a wagon in the distance. He ran faster than the casually trotting horses.
“Is there a problem?” Ehud appeared in front of Sumahtrid’s wagon. Ehud’s stocky outline, grey beard and sword glimmered in the pale light of the moon. Beor stopped the horses abruptly, their hoofs pawing the night air as they neighed in protest.
“Get out of our way,” Sumahtrid said. “We have important business and don’t have time for petty disturbances.”
“Help me!” Ruth cried, pulling noisily against her chains.
Ehud ran between the two horses and jumped into the wagon, launching himself behind Sumahtrid and Beor. He slashed at the side of the wagon where Ruth’s chains were set. Both her arms were freed, with the loose long chains still manacled to her wrists. Beor spun and slashed at Ehud before he had a chance to cut Ruth’s leg chains from their housing. Ehud parried and counter-attacked.
“The girl is mine!” Sumahtrid stood on the wagon and raised his arms. “You will not take her from me, meddler. I shall strike you down. By Horus and Shapsu, Anu and Enlil,” Sumahtrid chanted and waved his arms, “freeze this man’s blood until he is st-”
A metal chain slammed into Sumahtrid’s face, knocking him over the wagon. A second chain wrapped itself around Beor’s neck. Ruth pulled hard on the chain, putting space between Beor and Ehud. Ehud kicked Beor in the chest, sending him over the side of the wagon. Ruth pulled on the chain again, releasing it from Beor’s neck.
“Quick!” she told Ehud. “Grab the reins and take us back to Bethlehem.”
“Good thinking.” Ehud sat in the driver’s seat, took the reins and drove the wagon towards Bethlehem. Ruth sat inside the wagon, as close to the front as her ankle chains would allow. They were quickly on their way back to the walled city, leaving Sumahtrid and Beor moaning in the dust of the dark road.
“You saved me,” Ruth turned to Ehud. “You are Ehud, aren’t you? It has been many years.”
“Yes, Princess. And I may have to kill you.”
“So why did you save me?”
“I try not to be impulsive when killing.”
“That’s a consolation,” Ruth said with uncharacteristic sharpness. “I take it your murder of my father was well planned. I may have been better off with Sumahtrid after all.”
“Your father was ready to kill every firstborn of Israel – as your wedding dowry. It was God’s will that Eglon be killed and his army destroyed. What does that sorcerer want with you?”
“I don’t know. He said something about needing the blood of the daughter of Eglon.”
“Sorcerers.” Ehud spat. “And why are you gleaning in the field of Boaz?”
“Boaz? I just happened upon his field.” Ruth patted the grain-filled bag, still on her back. “Is it a crime to glean in the field of a good man?”
“It is no crime, unless you are the daughter of the murderous Moabite Tyrant and it is the field of an important man like Boaz. I am tasked to safeguard Boaz and you are a threat.”
“A threat? I have never been a threat to anyone in my life! I am destitute, homeless, friendless, and you consider me a threat? You are the underhanded assassin! You are the one who took advantage of my father’s friendship, of his trust, and stabbed him as he stood unarmed and unaware. Everyone has now heard of the assassination. His servants originally thought he had died of natural causes, while in the ensuing confusion you routed the army. I also heard from Mahlon how you killed Pharaoh. No, Ehud. You are the dangerous one. You are likely the most dangerous man I’ve ever met.”
“My people and my God need me to be dangerous. Our enemies are strong, powerful and many. I kill them as a necessity. But that is not the point, Princess. I saw you wield that chain against the sorcerer and his driver. You are a perilous woman and I shall keep a close eye on you. If I see you approach Boaz in a threatening fashion, I will assume the worst. I will be watching.”
“Did you enjoy killing my father?”
“No. He was evil. He was treacherous. He was heartless. He was cruel. But he was charismatic. He did show friendship in his warped way. That’s why I will keep a close eye on you, Princess. You are sweet and needy and likeable, but you are still Eglon’s daughter and that makes you potentially hazardous. But come, it will not do for a princess to enter the city in chains.” Ehud stopped the wagon outside the city. He found the keys to the manacles and removed them from her wrists and ankles.
“Shoddy workmanship,” the blacksmith in him commented as he threw the chains to the back of the wagon. Ruth sat next to Ehud at the front of the wagon as he drove on.
“Do you live here?” Ruth asked as they entered the gate of Bethlehem. The guards recognized Ehud and raised their eyebrows at the Moabite riding with him.
“No. I live further north in the tribe of Benjamin.” Ehud stopped the wagon in front of Naomi’s house and jumped out of the driver’s seat, landing easily on the ground. “You can keep the wagon, Princess. You need it more than I do. Farewell.” Ehud disappeared into the night.
Ruth looked with incredulity where Ehud had stood. She got off the wagon and tied the horses to the side of Naomi’s house. A door had not yet appeared since she had left in the morning. She walked into the roofless house and found Naomi sleeping on the floor on a pile of straw. Naomi stirred at the sound of Ruth’s footsteps.
“Elimelech? Is that you?” Naomi asked groggily.
“No, mother. It is I, Ruth,” she answered, holding back tears at the mention of her decade-dead father-in-law.
“Oh, Ruth. Yes. I remember. I’m so weak.” Naomi rolled over on the straw.
“Come, mother. I have food for you. Sit up and eat.” Ruth gently lifted Naomi off the floor. “Here, have this.” Ruth pulled a half-eaten pita from out of her pocket. The remains of her lunch by the field of Boaz. It seemed like ages ago. She handed it to Naomi, the bread still warm from having been next to her body.
Naomi held the pita in her hands, unsure what to do with it.
“Slowly,” Ruth suggested. “Chew slowly.”
Naomi bit suddenly into the bread. She ate half the bread ravenously and then, just as suddenly, stopped. She closed her eyes, still holding the bread and whispered: “thank you.”
Ruth took the bag of grain off her back and showed it to Naomi.
“You gleaned all of this today?” Naomi’s eyes opened wide. “Where? Who’s field? He should be blessed!”
“The man’s name is Boaz. He was very kind.”
“Boaz! Boaz!” Naomi cried. “Oh, Vered! How I miss you. Boaz is my nephew. His wife, Vered, was my dear friend. She just died. He was always so strong, so good. God has not forgotten me. God has shown kindness to the living and the dead. Boaz is Mahlon’s cousin.”
“But Mahlon was so much younger.”
“Yes. Boaz’s father, Salmoon, was the oldest of the children of Nachshon, older than my own father, and much older than Elimelech or their youngest sibling, Ploni. Boaz is closer in age to his uncles.”
“He told me to glean from his field until his men have finished the harvest.”
“Good. That is very good. Stay with his maidens and glean in his field. Don’t go to anyone else’s field. Remain under his protection.”
“If he is your nephew and is obviously wealthy, why don’t you ask him directly for help?”
“I can’t. I can’t.”
“It is too embarrassing. I was a princess. I was the princess of Judah. Here. At one point I was feeding most of the families of Bethlehem. I can’t ask. I can’t beg here – I would die of embarrassment. But you have done well, my daughter, very well. Just on this grain we can live for a few days. We can start buying other things that we need.” Naomi looked up at the missing roof.
“I have a solution for that!” Ruth announced. “I’ve received a gift. A wagon with two horses. We can sell them and get a new door, a roof, some furniture, some supplies – the house will be livable once again.”
“A wagon with horses? Who would give such a gift?” Naomi looked at Ruth, wondering if she had been in the sun too long.
“It was given to me by my father’s killer, Ehud son of Gera of the tribe of Benjamin.”
Naomi froze at the mention of Ehud’s name. She remembered all the times Ehud had fought with Elimelech. Every time, Elimelech had been on the wrong side – disastrously so. The civil war, the rebellion against Eglon. She shuddered when she thought of the famous assassin and all she could answer was: “dangerous man.”
“Get up you buffoon!” Sumahtrid kicked the prone Beor. Beor stirred and growled. “Get up! We can’t stay here. That Israelite has found us out. We need to find more information and recapture Ruth.” Sumahtrid grabbed Beor roughly and dragged him to his feet. Beor was conscious enough to pick up his sword.
“Ruth,” Beor grumbled.
“Yes, Ruth, the princess. There are still descendants of Nachshon in this city. If she should mate with one of them it would be disastrous. Our work of the last ten years would be destroyed. A savior would come from Israel. We must stop that at all costs.”
“Costs,” Beor stood up straighter as the two of them walked away from Bethlehem.
“There will be a cost. It may be safer just to kill the remaining descendants. Ploni, youngest son of Nachshon, and Boaz, the old warrior.”
“Warrior?” Beor asked nervously.
“Do not worry. Boaz is ancient and his fighting days are long over. I’m more concerned about the warrior who stole Ruth. It must have been Ehud of Benjamin. But how did he find us? He will be a greater challenge.”
“Challenge.” Beor raised his sword.
“In due time. Ruth is likely to return to the field to glean. We shall wait for her there and then strike.”
“Strike!” Beor stabbed the air.
“Not her, you dunce!” Sumahtrid smacked Beor on the back of the head. “Her we want alive. Ehud is the enemy.”
“Enemy,” Beor said quietly.
Sumahtrid did not notice Beor looking straight at him.
* * * * * *
Book of Ruth, Chapter 2
18 And she took it up, and went into the city; and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned; and she brought forth and gave to her that which she had left after she was satisfied. 19 And her mother-in-law said unto her: ‘Where hast thou gleaned to-day? and where wroughtest thou? blessed be he that did take knowledge of thee.’ And she told her mother-in-law with whom she had wrought, and said: ‘The man’s name with whom I wrought to-day is Boaz.’ 20 And Naomi said unto her daughter-in-law: ‘Blessed be he of the Lord, who hath not left off His kindness to the living and to the dead.’ And Naomi said unto her: ‘The man is nigh of kin unto us, one of our near kinsmen.’ 21 And Ruth the Moabitess said: ‘Yea, he said unto me: Thou shalt keep fast by my young men, until they have ended all my harvest.’ 22 And Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter-in-law: ‘It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens, and that thou be not met in any other field.’