Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 29
Lion of Judah
Ruth completed her third circle around Boaz. She found herself out of breath and disoriented as her vision fluctuated between the battle around her wedding ceremony and her presence in the future, as her descendant David faced the Philistine giant, Goliath son of Orpa.
The first group of Philistine mercenaries that Alron the Danite had brought into Bethlehem lay dead or unconscious on the floor of the alcove where Boaz and Ruth had meant to marry. Four elders held the poles of the wedding canopy over the couple. Ehud, Ploni, Garto and the rest of the residents of Bethlehem fought a pitched battle against the new infusion of Philistine mercenaries in front of the city gate. Judean pitchforks, axes and walking sticks were wielded against the iron swords of professional soldiers.
It seemed that the more numerous Judeans would stem the tide pouring through the city gate, until a flurry of arrows killed half a dozen defenders.
Ehud identified the man-child Beor as the deadly archer standing next to the sorcerer Sumahtrid. Ehud grabbed a spear from a dead Philistine and threw it with all his might at Beor. The archer moved his body, but not before the blacksmith’s spear clove his bow in half.
“You’ll have to get your hands dirty now, Beor,” Sumahtrid instructed his disciple. “I know how much you love it.”
Beor drew his sword and approached the thick of battle as Sumahtrid continued weaving spells with his hands and voice.
David stood frozen for a moment as Goliath’s footsteps shook the earth. David felt the tremors of the wounded land through the soft soles of his leather sandals. He held his staff in one hand and his sling in the other and feared that even his vaunted faith would not be enough to sustain him against the unnatural menace barreling towards him.
“Now,” Boaz yelled to the ghost of his bride-to-be. “He needs us now.” Both he and Ruth floated to David and each took hold of one of his shoulders.
David felt the strength of their spirits pour into him. He stood tall and did not flinch as the giant suddenly halted his march.
Goliath looked at David in shock, not believing his size, age, or lack of armor or weaponry.
“Am I a dog,” Goliath barked harshly at David, “that you come to me with a stick, boy? This is the hero the Israelites send to fight me? By all the gods, I have never been so offended. I swear to you by the old gods and the new gods, by Zeus and Hera, by Baal and Ashtarte, come to me boy, and I will feed your carcass to the vultures and your rotting corpse to the jackals.”
David took a step back from Goliath’s threat. Ruth and Boaz held David’s shoulders firmly, and soon found other hands joining them.
Moses, with his flowing white beard stood right behind David and whispered.
“I smote a giant much larger than this one.”
Abraham stood next to Moses and whispered, “Do not fear, my son. You must kill him to set the course.”
Samuel the Prophet joined their hands and said, “It is for this that I anointed you. You are the chosen of God. You can defeat this heathen.”
More and more hands rested on David’s shoulders; the ancestors, warriors and prophets of countless generations. They whispered to him. They encouraged him. They gave him of their essence. David felt their spirit. He felt their strength flowing into his soul, into his blood. He felt his muscles burn with power.
“You are our child,” Ruth said above the chorus of the generations. “We are with you. You are a Lion of Judah. This is your destiny. Show this monster, show these heathens, how a son of the living God, how a prince of Israel, has no fear.”
David took a step forward and looked at Goliath in the eye. He felt a kinship in the eyes, a certain ferocity – but nothing else.
“You come to me with a sword, a spear and a javelin,” David called out in a voice that bounced off the mountains on either side. The Philistine and Israelite armies hushed to hear David’s words. “But I, I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted this day. And it is He that will deliver you into my hand. I will kill you. I will cut your head off and I will give the carcasses of your Philistines to the vultures of the sky and to the jackals of the field, that all will know that there is a God in Israel.”
A cheer arose from the army of Israel as the Philistines looked on in confusion and the beginning of fear.
“And all will know,” David continued in a louder voice over the cheering Israelites, “that God doesn’t save with the sword or the spear, for battle is God’s domain and he will give you into our hands.”
“Enough! Enough, you filthy little dog.” Goliath raised his spear. The spear was as thick as a tree with an iron point the size of a man’s head. “I have never heard such a loud blabbering Israelite before. Enough!”
Goliath threw his spear with blinding speed, but David had already moved and was no longer where he had stood when the spear penetrated the earth as if suddenly giving birth to a new tree. Goliath raised his sword and with a piercing battle-cry slashed at David. David ducked under the heavy sword and rolled to his feet. He grabbed a stone from his satchel and placed it into the mouth of his sling. Goliath slashed at the running David. David somersaulted into the air, flipping over the flashing sword and landing on his feet.
“Stay still you little monkey!” Goliath spat and slashed again at the place where David had been. “Fight like a man! I didn’t come here to hunt rabbits!”
David spun his sling. Goliath paused and laughed. He sheathed his sword and drew his javelin from behind his back.
“You think your little pebbles will hurt me? I’m indestructible!”
David continued spinning until he felt the speed was right. Goliath launched the javelin at David. David jumped out of the way of the javelin, the force of the wind almost knocking him over. He kept hold of the sling and continued his relentless spinning.
God! Let my aim be true! David prayed. He felt the presence of Ehud again, guiding his hand. “I told you I would be with you,” Ehud whispered. “A Wolf of Benjamin assists the Lion of Judah.”
The stone left the sling with a rush of sound. The armies of two nations watched as the small stone, no larger than a man’s fist, flew towards the giant’s head. Goliath’s eyes lost focus as they tried to follow the speeding path of the riverstone.
Then it struck. It struck right beneath the gleaming bronze helmet, upon the bridge of the nose between the giant’s eyes. The helmet with the bright red plume flew off the giant’s head as he reeled backwards. The stone embedded itself deep into his thick skin. The towering giant took a step back from the force of the blow.
And then the impossible happened. The giant stopped breathing. A universal gasp echoed from both sides of the valley. The Philistines on one mountain and the Israelites on the opposing mountain held their collective breaths as Goliath ceased to live. They knew it when his eyes rolled backwards. They had seen it in countless enemies, but never in a being so large. His life was snuffed out. It was as if a towering cedar, one of the famed majestic trees from the forests of Lebanon, had been felled. Goliath wobbled for a moment, his legs no longer wielding the power to sustain him. He fell to his knees. His arms went slack at his sides and his massive body fell forward.
The entire world moved in slow motion and only had eyes for the falling giant. It was as if the rules of nature had been overturned. A small, young, unarmed boy had killed the mightiest; the most invincible warrior the world had ever created. The tiniest details of Goliath came into sharp focus. His burnished breastplate displayed the fortress by the sea with the characteristic gate of Ashkelon, the city of his birth. The greaves on his legs with the engraved soldiers were smiling with glee in the burning sun.
There must have been sound when the enormous body hit the ground, but nobody heard it. The shock was so overwhelming, the deed so impossible, that the visual senses were overloaded and did not allow any other sense to function. It was impossible. The large body bounced, his face splattering into the muddy riverbank, and then he moved no more.
Ruth finished the sixth circle, panting and sweating profusely. She could barely focus on the scene in Bethlehem. Boaz remained in a light trance, not able or willing to break Ruth’s circles, yet frustrated that he could do nothing to fight their immediate danger. They were surrounded by an army. The four elders holding up the wedding canopy were using their staffs to fend off the Philistine mercenaries that got through the guard of the Bethlehemites that had made a circle around Boaz and Ruth. There were perhaps two dozen Bethlehemites standing against a force of three dozen professional soldiers. Ehud was in single sword combat with the dexterous Beor, neither of them gaining an advantage. Ploni stayed close to Ruth, watching for any Philistines that made it past the guard of the four elders.
Then Ploni saw it from the corner of his eye; an arrow flashing through the thick air towards Ruth’s heart. Instinctively he jumped in its way as Ruth continued her dream walk. The arrow punctured Ploni’s lung and he knew he would not last long as he collapsed outside Ruth’s path.
Alron, standing on the parapet, reloaded another arrow to shoot at Ruth. He pulled on the bow and aimed at the Moabite princess, until a sword erupted from his belly, sending the arrow awry.
“You dirty traitor,” Garto exhaled as he pulled the sword out of Alron’s body, kicking him over the parapet. “You deserve much worse than that for bringing enemies into our city.”
Garto spotted the sorcerer Sumatrid on a further parapet and ran towards him.
Ehud cried for every Israelite that died defending Boaz and Ruth. He wept openly when Ploni fell. He could have saved them, but the sorcery was stopping him. He didn’t understand it. It hadn’t incapacitated him. It had just taken away his extra edge, his extra speed, strength and stamina that had always accompanied him in battle. Now he was just an old blacksmith, an experienced warrior, fighting a fresher, younger assassin.
He saw Sumahtrid in the distance waving his hands in strange patterns, but he could not reach him. If he disengaged from Beor, the assassin would kill Boaz and Ruth in short order.
Then he saw Garto running towards Sumahtrid and prayed that the unskilled overseer would be a match for the sorcerer.
Sumahtrid had mixed feelings about the death of Alron. On one hand, he would no longer have to pay him the exorbitant fees he had demanded, but on the other hand, the Danite had almost accomplished the task of killing the princess. He would just need to redouble his efforts. He didn’t understand why Boaz, the ancient warrior, remained frozen in his wedding ceremony, but that left Ehud as the only threat, and he needed to weaken Ehud until Beor could overcome the old blacksmith.
He saw the overseer running towards him with the sword. Perhaps it was time to change tactics. Sumahtrid whistled shrilly. All stopped and looked at Sumahtrid for a moment.
“To me, my pet!” Sumahtrid called to Beor.
Beor immediately backed away from Ehud and ran back to Sumahtrid.
Sumahtrid gestured at Garto who continued running towards him. A stone that Garto stepped on dislodged from the floor, sending Garto flying over the parapet, landing onto a pile of corpses below. The stone continued flying and knocked into an Israelite defender, sending him crumbling to the floor.
Sumahtrid sent another stone flying towards Ruth. Ehud sheathed his sword in his scabbard, jumped to intercept the flying stone and redirected it at a Philistine soldier.
“Guard me from any attackers,” Sumahtrid instructed Beor as he met him on the parapet. “I will let the stones of the ancestors kill the progeny. There will only be so many stones the blacksmith can catch.”
Sumahtrid lobbed stones at a more rapid pace. Ehud struggled to catch each one and divert them. Some started to get through and hit other Israelites. One stone hit an elder holding the wedding canopy, throwing him against the wall of the alcove. Another elder grabbed the canopy pole before it fell, his staff in his other hand, wary of another stone and the Philistines, who had backed away from the magical stone attack.
Within minutes, Ehud was bruised and bloodied by the attack of the flying stones. One of his arms hung limply at his side. All of the Israelites were dead, unconscious or dispersed, except for four wounded elders holding up the canopy around Boaz and Ruth.
“Now to finish the job,” Sumahtrid purred, rubbing his hands for a final assault.
David looked in awe at the fallen Goliath.
There was a roar of victory from the Israelite army and a roar of anger from the Philistines. Even without Goliath, the Philistines outnumbered and outmatched the Israelites. The Philistines would have to engage the Israelites, but it would be a massacre nonetheless.
The remaining Philistine generals ordered their army to form into lines. They would attack the Israelites.
“No!” Ruth’s specter said. “We must press the advantage. David, my child, you are not done yet.” Ruth thought of her role, she thought of her purpose, she wondered what she contributed that the other mighty ancestors didn’t. Why did God need her in the supreme mix of souls? And then she knew it. She knew what the blood of Eglon carried. She knew what a descendant of Lot could do. She knew what the Israelites were lacking and she knew why she was chosen. She knew why it was her and no one else from Moab. She was the kind one from Moab, in a time when Israel desperately needed kindness. It was compassion, it was humility, it was faith, but there was something underlying all these traits.
For a moment she had a vision of a memory she had not thought of since her childhood. It had been in the Judean desert, when her father, Emperor Eglon, controlled the land of Canaan. On one of the many days that she would sneak out of the City of Palms and explore the land, she climbed the stark rocky hills that hid the lush wadis. In one of the wadis she spotted a lioness. The lioness was wounded and trapped by a sudden rockfall. One leg lay broken under a pile of stones. A pack of hyenas, smelling blood, exited their lair. They approached the wounded lioness, only to cower back at her angry roar. The hyenas circled around the trapped lioness and headed towards her den, where her newborn cubs lay.
The trapped lioness roared again and with supreme effort extricated herself from the rocks. With three healthy legs she pounced on half a dozen hyenas. The hyenas counterattacked and nipped at the lioness’ broken leg. The lioness roared in pain, but never gave up. She roared and attacked as the hyenas jumped onto her, biting into her back, her neck, her healthy legs. With the fury only a mother can show for her young, the lioness slashed and bit at the hyenas. She finally killed one, biting through its neck and battering the other hyenas with the body of their dead brother. The other hyenas scattered, whimpering, and never approached the lioness’ den again.
Young Ruth, from her safe haven above the wadi, cried as she witnessed the power and fury of the lioness. She had never been the same again.
Ruth of Moab awoke from her daydream, and still in her spirit state looked at the body of Goliath with his face in the mud. Her specter grabbed hold of David and she felt Boaz by her side, and Ehud, and Abraham, Moses, Nachshon, Joshua, Samson, Samuel and many more. She felt the spirits of generations channeling through her into the body of the young redhead. And she knew what she contributed, what was uniquely hers and what was needed now. Ferocity. She had the capacity for ferocity that was unrivaled. She now poured all of her ferocity into David.
David gritted his teeth and ran as if his body were on fire. David ran to Goliath’s corpse and removed his gigantic sword from its sheath. With supernatural strength he raised the iron sword and brought it crashing down over Goliath’s neck. The sword clove straight through the tough skin, separating the head from the body. David raised Goliath’s head by the hair, faced the combined troops of the Philistines and roared.
It was a roar that was heard from one end of the valley to the other. It rebounded off of the hills and into the sky. The clouds shook from the power of the roar. It was a roar that contained the voices of all the ancestors of David, of Judah, of Israel. Those that stood in the Valley of Ella that day swore that they saw a gigantic vision of a lion standing over David.
“Lion of Judah!” an Israelite warrior cried.
“Lion of Judah!” his fellow warriors repeated.
“LION OF JUDAH!!” the entire Israelite army screamed.
As one man, the Israelites raised their swords and ran towards the Philistines. No orders, no plan, no strategy. A sea of bodies and swords flowed down the mountain and filled the valley. It was as if a gigantic anthill had been kicked and now a ferocious assault was unleashed. The Israelites ran at the astonished Philistines fearlessly. David dropped Goliath’s head, yet retained the massive sword. He ran to the head of the oncoming Israelite army and was the first to engage the awestruck Philistines. With one swipe of Goliath’s sword David killed six Philistines.
“Lion of Judah!” the Israelites repeated and dove into the ranks of the retreating Philistines. That day thousands of Philistines were killed. Not one Israelite fell. David and the Israelite army pursued the Philistines all the way back to their cities of Gath and Ekron. David did not stop until the Israelites tired of massacring the fearful Philistines. Vultures of the sky and jackals of the field feasted on the Philistine bodies. That day David became a legend for all time. That was the day the tribes of Israel got their first glimpse of their future king, the one that would unite the tribes and establish the eternal monarchy of Israel.
Ruth finished her seventh circle as a stone block flew towards her head. Ehud lay gasping in pain on the floor. A large stone had broken three of his ribs. At that exact moment, generations into the future, a young redhead roared a roar that shook the earth. That roar escaped the lips of Ruth. It came out of the mouth of Boaz whose eyes opened widely. It came out of the lungs of Ehud that rasped with pain. Their roar shook the city. The flying stone stopped in midair and dropped harmlessly to the ground. Unconscious Bethlehemites woke up with vigor. The injured were healed. The fatally wounded were revived. Sumahtrid tried to cast a new spell, but found he could no longer speak. Ruth awoke from her trance, left the wedding canopy and marched towards Sumahtrid on the rampart. She climbed the stairs quickly, as a lioness pouncing on its prey.
Sumahtrid backed away from the woman with the fire in her eyes. Beor stood in front of him with his sword ready.
Ruth stopped a few feet away and planted her feet firmly on the stone.
“GOD!” she roared, raising her fists to the sky.
A blast of power emanated from Ruth, knocking Beor off the rampart. The effect on Sumahtrid was different. Sumahtrid’s form froze. His skin and clothing took on a grey color, like ashes from a dead hearth. Cracks formed all over his body and little flecks of dust were carried by the wind. The process accelerated, as Sumahtrid’s body decomposed and finally disappeared altogether in the Judean wind. Beor, watching his master’s fate from below, ran out of the city, never to look back.
Ruth walked regally down the stairs in her white wedding gown. The population of Bethlehem stood at attention and formed a passageway for Ruth to return to Boaz under the wedding canopy. Ehud stood by his side, dirty but healthy-looking. Garto was there as well, and even Ploni had been resuscitated, grinning more widely than he had in many decades with an arrow shaft still protruding from his chest.
“Shall we finish the ceremony?” Boaz asked.
“By all means,” Ruth responded. “I just had an uninvited guest to get rid of.”
Boaz and Ruth were married that day in Bethlehem, and everyone who was there swore that they saw a giant silhouette of a lion overlooking the wedding canopy.
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