Category Archives: Book of Judges

Sufficient Scholars?

First posted on The Times of Israel at:

Baal Haturim Deuteronomy: Dvarim

Sufficient Scholars?

Excess generally causes reaction, and produces a change in the opposite direction, whether it be in the seasons, or in individuals, or in governments. -Plato


There is a belief in Jewish tradition, that the merits of a Torah scholar, of a “Talmid Chacham”, that dedicates himself exclusively to studying Torah the entire day, provides a physical protection to the Jewish population around him. The mere act of profoundly and deeply reading and reviewing the ancient texts, of immersing oneself in the sea of Torah scholarship affords to others a divine safeguard against the evils of the world.

While this is an old, long-held belief, in recent decades it has become a more popular and underlying philosophy for growing segments of the Jewish nation. One question that may be asked is what is the ideal required ratio of these “spiritual defenders” as compared to the population being protected. How many of our sons should dedicate themselves to what otherwise might be considered activities that don’t contribute materially to society? How many Torah scholars do we require as compared to active soldiers? How many people should be working for a living and how many should confine themselves to the four walls of the study hall as a career path?

Interestingly enough, the Baal Haturim provides an answer. He states on his commentary to Deuteronomy 1:3 that one “Talmid Chacham”, one true Torah scholar, has the capacity to “protect” 40,000 people. For every 40,000 residents, one Talmid Chacham is enough. So for example, for a population of 8,000,000, the math would indicate that we would want 200 full-time professional Torah scholars.

One would therefore hope that the quality, commitment and seriousness of thousands upon thousands of men who ostensibly dedicate their lives exclusively to Torah study will afford us great protection.

Shabbat Shalom,



To the true Torah scholars out there.

A Leader’s Vow

First posted on The Times of Israel at:

Baal Haturim Numbers: Matot

A Leader’s Vow

 Vows are made in storms and forgotten in calm weather. -Thomas Fuller

yiftahs daughter

One of the more disturbing stories in the Bible is that of the Israelite leader, Yiftah, in the Book of Judges. He was an outcast, but apparently with some leadership qualities. He attracted and led a band of ruffians. When the people of Israel are threatened, the elders turn to Yiftah for military assistance.

Before battle Yiftah takes an oath, that if God gives him victory over his enemies, in thanksgiving, Yiftah will sacrifice to God the first thing to greet him upon his successful return home. Perhaps Yiftah imagined a lamb would run to him, or some other livestock would cross his path. However, upon Yiftah’s successful victory and subsequent return, none other than his beloved daughter, his only child, runs out to greet her victorious father. Yiftah tears his clothing in anguish, and the simplest reading of the verses indicate that he does kill his daughter as a human sacrifice to God.

The Baal Haturim on Numbers 30:2 explains that it is the nature of Israelite leaders to make vows and call for divine intervention when their people are in trouble. However, all the Rabbis are in agreement that Yiftah erred grievously, first, in making such a poorly worded vow, and second, in fulfilling such a dastardly act that is abhorrent to God. There is a procedure in Jewish law for rescinding poorly made vows that Yiftah should have availed himself of.

May we avoid vows. But if we make them, we should make them wisely and fulfill them honorably.

Shabbat Shalom,



To Miriam Cohen of Melbourne. May any and all vows be filled with blessings.



Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 15 – My Father’s Killer

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.

* * * * * *

Biblical Source:

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.’


Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 4 – Choice Neighbors

Warrior Prophets 3 Chapter 4

 Choice Neighbors

“They’re here!” Sumahtrid paced vigorously around his small, dank house. “This is terrible!”

Little Beor, on his short legs, kept up with Sumahtrid’s circling, thinking it a game and calling merrily after him, “Terrible! Terrible!”

“What are we to do?” Sumahtrid asked the room more than his young apprentice. “We cannot show our hand. We must tread carefully. What are the chances that they would marry? Perhaps it will be a short stay and they will not even meet. I still don’t understand why Elimelech came to Kir Moav of all places. But I must be calm, Beor. It is good that we are here to monitor things. We shall have to watch closely, and intervene when the time comes. Why are you following me like that? Stop it. Stop it!”

Beor looked up happily at his mentor, thinking he had won at the game, and chirped back, “Stop it! Stop it!”


She’s probably married to an Egyptian prince, Mahlon said to himself for the tenth time. Elimelech, Naomi, Mahlon and Kilyon rode into the walled city of Kir Moav uncontested. Since the catastrophic defeat of the Moabite Empire to Ehud’s attack there had been an unspoken but uneasy peace between the diminished Kingdom of Moab under the rule of Jalet and the tribes of Israel. Commerce between the nations had returned with much better conditions for the Israelites than under Eglon’s rule. A steady flow of finished goods crossed the Jordan River from Israel to Moab. In the other direction, the mines of Moab furnished metals to the Israelites, especially copper.

What are the chances that Ruth is here? Mahlon wondered as he gazed at the height and thickness of the Moabite walls in the stark desert.

“We must find a residence first,” Elimelech announced.

Naomi, her face puffy from constant crying, said nothing.

“Mahlon, go to the market with your mother and see what the price of food is here. I’ve heard they may be getting supplies from Egypt. Kilyon and I will look for housing. We’ll find you when we’re done.”

Elimelech and Kilyon rode the wagon with their supplies down a residential street.

The houses were constructed of large pink stones with thatched roofs. Young children played in the road on the polished stones, grey from use. An elderly man approached the Judeans.

“Greetings, strangers.” The man bowed low. “May I be of service to you?”

“Why, yes. That is most kind of you,” Elimelech answered. “We are looking for residence.”

“The gods must be smiling upon you today,” the old man grinned toothily. “As fate would have it, I have a house I am vacating this very day, that I would be most pleased to rent to you. How long do you think you shall be needing it for?”

“The gods? How long?” Elimelech said confusedly. “I don’t know. At least for one harvest, perhaps longer.”

“Excellent!” the old man clapped his hands. “One harvest is excellent. That will be five silvers and I will charge you only four silvers for every harvest thereafter. Come, let me show you your new home.”

The old man grabbed the reins of the donkey-led wagon and walked a befuddled Elimelech a few feet away.

“Here we are,” the old man motioned to the door of his house. “Come right in. See for yourselves. We haven’t started packing, but now that you’re here, we’ll be out in no time at all. Come, make yourselves comfortable.”

Elimelech and Kilyon followed the old man, Elimelech limping on his injured leg. They entered a cozy house, where a pot of stew simmered over the fireplace.

“When did you decide you were moving?” Elimelech asked suspiciously.

“Oh, it was a very sudden decision. A business opportunity came up.”

“Really? What business are you in?” Elimelech asked.

“Um, I’m a herdsman.”

“And you’ll be taking your herd elsewhere?”

“Yes, yes. Greener pastures and all that. Anyway, do you have the money or are you one of those charlatans? I can find another tenant easily enough.” The old man crossed his arms and pouted.

“We have the money, and we will take the place.” Elimelech calmly took five silver coins out of his pouch.

“Excellent.” The old man counted the coins greedily. “Just give me an hour and we will clear our things.”

Elimelech and Kilyon exited the house. Kilyon saw boys playing ball down the road. A young boy examined their wagon intensely.

“Boy, come here. What’s your name?” Kilyon called to the little boy by the wagon.

“Beor.” The little boy approached, unafraid.

“Do you live around here? We’re going to be neighbors.” Kilyon put out his hand in greeting.

Beor put out his own hand and slashed Kilyon’s palm with a short blade he had concealed.

“Neighbors!” Beor yelled and scampered away.

“Ow!” Kilyon yelped and held his bleeding palm. “That little runt is mad!”

“Strange people these Moabites,” Elimelech commented. “Let’s find your mother and brother.”

The Judeans did not hear a furious Sumahtrid admonishing Beor from the house across the road: “Beor, how many times have I told you not to play with your victims…”


Mahlon and Naomi rode their donkeys down the main road to a bustling central market. They dismounted, tied their donkeys to a public stand and entered the market on foot. Past the market they could see the imposing structure of the pink-stoned palace of Kir Moav.

Naomi revived as she encountered the smells and noises of the marketplace. There was a broad array of spices: ginger, cassia, turmeric, cardamom and cinnamon. There was some grain and even some fresh bread. Everything was expensive, but not at the famine prices of Israel.

“Where is your grain from?” Mahlon asked one of the vendors.

“Egypt and some from Ammon too.” The vendor looked at Mahlon strangely. “You’re not from here, are you?”

“No. We’re Judean,” Mahlon answered.

“You don’t say.” The vendor took an involuntary step back. “Except for salesmen, we don’t get too many of you here.”

“There is a famine by us and we’ve sought fresh fields.”

“Then you’ve come to the right place.” The vendor took a step closer. “Business has been very good lately. Our mines are at full production and commerce is strong. Even the Midianites have been conducting legitimate business with us and we get regular visits from Damascus and beyond. My friend, because you’re new here, I’ll give you a special price on the grain.” The vendor offered them wheat at twice the rate other vendors had quoted.

“That’s generous. Thank you.” Mahlon smiled and moved on.

“Well, there’s more grain here than in Bethlehem,” Mahlon said to Naomi. “I think we’ll be better off here.”

“You don’t understand, Mahlon,” Naomi responded, her eye catching the fabric vendors down the road. “We have left our home, our ancestral land, our people. We have turned our backs on our brothers and sisters at their time of greatest need. We were making a difference in their lives and now we have abandoned them. To live amongst these idol-worshipers? How is this better?”

Naomi stopped at a fabric vendor showing rolls of colorful silks and cottons: sky-blue cotton with lines of dark green and pure white, yellow silk that shone like the sun with pink edges. Naomi saw color combinations that she had never imagined.

“These are beautiful!” Naomi held the soft fabric in her hands. “Where are these from?” she asked the vendor.

“My lady is obviously a woman of very great taste. These are from Sheba. They have a new process for weaving the threads so the fabric appears seamless – like one piece. I have a seamstress inside who can cut and sew a dress for you while you wait.” The vendor motioned further into the shop where an array of even more colorful fabrics beckoned.

“Mahlon, wait for me here. I’ll be just a moment.”

Mahlon tapped his foot impatiently as his mother entered the vendor’s shop. Naomi’s mouth opened in awe at the rainbow of colors that surrounded her. A woman with tightly woven red hair and a simple dress was busy expertly cutting and sewing fabric.

Naomi looked at the fabrics and then at her own simple Judean dress. She felt pangs of guilt at the luxury she was contemplating. She held a rich purple fabric that flowed like water in her hands. The price of this fabric could feed a Judean family for a month, she thought. She then fell to her knees and cried.

“What am I doing here?” she sobbed, fresh tears running through the path of the old ones. Why am I amongst these heathens? Naomi thought miserably. How can we remain here when our people are starving? What will happen to my boys? Heaven forbid if they marry one of these idol-worshipers. Naomi shuddered at the thought.

The seamstress, startled by the client’s reaction, put down the fabric she was cutting, got down on one knee and patted Naomi gently.

“Don’t cry, mother,” the seamstress said gently. “Ashban will give you a fair price. You are fortunate you came into the store of one of the few honest merchants. I’ll make sure you get a good price. It’s nothing to cry about.”

“Oh, that is sweet of you to care, but that is not why I cry. I cry for I am away from my people and I fear for those I left behind and perhaps more so for my sons that we have brought here. We do not belong in this place.”

“Where are you from, sweet mother, that you would cry so over your home?”

“I am from Judah, where there is now a famine. My husband has brought us here, to spare us, and what choice do I have but to follow him?”

“From Judah?” the seamstress stood up, raising Naomi by the hands. “I will make sure that you and your family are taken care of. You see, a Judean was kind to me once, and I shall never forget it.”

“What is your name daughter, that you are so kind and considerate?”

“I am Ruth, daughter of Eglon, once Emperor of Moab.”

Naomi’s skin tingled all over. She did not know if it was excitement, fear or something stronger, but she knew that this woman would change her life forever.

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 28 – Epilogue: Scribe of Eternity

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 28

Epilogue: Scribe of Eternity

Fifty Years Later…

Ehud cried as he laid down his quill. It was not his aching and inflamed joints. It was not the sound of his grandchildren playing in the yard. It was not the sound of Blimah feeding the noisy chickens. It was not even the sound of Lerim, his son-in-law, banging metal with his workers in the smithy. It was the story, the story of Ruth – it always brought him to tears.

It had been years since Ehud had had the strength to heft a hammer. But he chose to wield a quill instead. He had copied down the five books of Moses multiple times. His scrolls were considered works of art and had been sought after by all the tribes of Israel. He had written the Book of Joshua many times and had distributed that prophetic scroll widely as well. However, it was the Book of Ruth that always brought him to tears, for he had known all the protagonists and he had played his own small part in God’s grand scheme.

My next prophet shall arrive tomorrow, God had said to him during the night. Pass on to the prophet the scroll and your blessing.

How will I know who it is? Ehud asked.

You will know.

Ehud waited for the ink on the scroll to dry. He then rolled it up, tied it and covered it with a soft skin to protect it. He carried it reverently out of his house and walked slowly, with the assistance of his cane, onto the porch. Children were already assembled for what had become a daily ritual. They sat impatiently on the ground. Adults stood behind them, also interested in the prophet’s story. It was no longer just members of the tribe of Benjamin. Families from all the tribes, from Simeon in the south to Asher in the north and Gad to the east arrived on a daily basis to hear the oral history Ehud would convey.

“Tell us how you stabbed the fat king!” a Judean boy yelled.

Ehud scanned the crowd for sight of the prophet, but no obvious candidates became apparent. He sat on a wide swing of his own design. Sturdy planks of wood supported by chains eased Ehud’s creaky bones. Blimah, her hair snowy-white under her beige shawl, walked over and sat next to Ehud on the swing. She wove her arm into his and smiled contentedly.

Ehud told over his usual story: the subjugation by Eglon, the resistance, the subterfuge, the assassination and finally the victorious battle that had freed them from Moabite subservience. Ehud looked at the well-fed fearless children and marveled at God’s benevolence. Gone were the days of a foreign aggressor or the days of heavy famine that had led to ruin for Elimelech and his family. There were still minor skirmishes and the worship of God was not always strong, but the outright devotion by Israelites to foreign gods was minimal. The people of Israel were enjoying an era of peace and prosperity they had not experienced since the days of Joshua.

“Tell us about Ruth,” a young girl spoke out.

Ehud felt a shock of force when the girl spoke. He looked at her closely. She was perhaps seven or eight years old. She had long dark tresses and deep blue eyes that sparkled with intelligence.

“What would you know of Ruth?” Ehud asked. “She still lives. Not far from here – in Bethlehem.”

“I would hear of how she journeyed to Israel from the fields of Moab,” the girl answered.

“That is a story for another place and another time.” Ehud gripped the scroll tighter and closed his eyes.

He had a vision. It was a vision of an older woman with long black tresses and sparkling blue eyes. She led an army of Israelites from a mountaintop against the iron chariots of a foreign aggressor. The chariots were overturned and the foreign soldiers vanquished. Ehud trembled from the revelation and opened his eyes to stare into the deep blue eyes from his vision.

“What is your name child?” Ehud asked.

“Deborah daughter of Neriah of the tribe of Naftali.”

“Approach,” Ehud ordered.

Deborah arose and walked through the seated children to Ehud and Blimah on the swing.

“You have been blessed, Deborah,” Ehud said softly. “A great task awaits you.”

“What task?” Deborah asked nervously.

“I cannot reveal much,” Ehud said, “but you will lead and save Israel in its time of need.”

“When? What need? I’m just a girl.”

“It will be many years in the future, after I am long gone. The tribes of Israel shall look to you for guidance, for you shall grow wise and strong in the ways of God. Have faith and remain strong, young Deborah, for God shall ever be with you. Take this scroll.” Ehud handed the skin with the Book of Ruth to the young girl.

“What is this?” Deborah asked.

“It is the answer to your question.”

“Which question?”

“It is the story of Ruth.”

“Why are you giving it to me?”

“Because you will carry it on. You see, her story has not ended, for there are generations to come before her mission bears its fruit. You will pass this scroll to the next prophet and eventually her story will be written in full. You will also write my story that you have heard here today and pass it on as well. And the next prophet will write your story and the cycle will continue until the Monarchy of Israel is established.

“I don’t understand,” Deborah said.

“You don’t have to. You just need to believe me. Deborah, look into my eyes. Do you believe me?”

Deborah looked deeply into Ehud’s dark brown eyes. She smiled suddenly.

“I don’t understand, but I believe you.”

“Never lose faith.” Ehud held Deborah’s head in his hands and kissed her lightly on the forehead. “Be strong and of good courage,” Ehud blessed her, remembering Joshua’s blessing to him in his own youth. Ehud felt some of that spirit, the spirit that has passed from Moses to Joshua to himself, pass on to Deborah.

Deborah’s face lit up and a barely perceptible aura of light seemed to radiate from the little girl. She bowed to Ehud, walked past the crowd of children, found her father amongst the adults and strode away.

“Who is she?” Blimah asked a pensive-looking Ehud.

“She is our future.” Ehud smiled, held Blimah closely, and for the first time in decades felt as if a burden had been lifted from him. “My job is done.”

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 27 – King of the River

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 27

King of the River

Jalet was an early riser. He loved to greet the sun from his palace in Kir Moav. He hefted his wide girth through the double wooden doors that led to the opulent porch and bowed formally to the monarch of the sky.

Life was comfortable. His older cousin, Eglon, Emperor of Moab, had assigned Jalet to administer the ancestral Moabite stronghold while Eglon reigned from his new capital in the City of Palms.

Jalet ate well. He was not nearly as large as Eglon, but he did make a point of enjoying every delicacy he could acquire. Eglon. Eglon had been on his mind of late. He had such mixed feelings about his wildly successful cousin. On one hand, he was appreciative of the trust and position Eglon had given him. Jalet was the king of Kir Moav and had very little to worry about beyond the petty squabbles and fights of the people within his walls. On the other hand he was jealous of Eglon; jealous of his extraordinary success, wealth and power. Eglon had risen from a simple warlord of the Moabites to the conqueror of Amalek, Ammon and all the tribes of Israel. He had become a major force in the world, controlling trade from Egypt to Mesopotamia. His upcoming alliance with Egypt would make him partner to what would become the strongest, largest empire in history. Oh, how Jalet wished for such power, such grandeur, such control of one’s destiny and the fate of the world. But here he was, relegated to what had become a minor outpost in the grand scheme.

Jalet noticed from his porch a line of travelers approaching the city. It was rare for so many people to arrive at Kir Moav at once. As they got closer, he saw it was mostly women and children. He recognized Moabites from the City of Palms. Then he spotted Empress Neema and her daughters on foot, in torn and soiled clothing, and he knew something had gone terribly wrong.


You have done well, my son, God said to Ehud in his dream. You have freed my people, and more importantly, you have restored their faith. They shall now serve me wholeheartedly. At least for a time.

I am your servant, Ehud thought to God. I am gratified that we were successful.

Yes. However, I have another task for you.

I am ready.

You are to go to Bethlehem and gather Mahlon son of Elimelech. I have given him a gift. A gift that you shall utilize.


I will have you send a message to Egypt. Evil thoughts and evil deeds shall not go unpunished. No one, not even Pharaoh is beyond my reach. They have forgotten. We shall have to teach them again. However, this time the message will be just for Pharaoh.


“I don’t believe it,” Jalet said for the tenth time, as Empress Neema sat in his audience chamber and described the death of Eglon and the fall of the City of Palms and the Moabite Empire. Ruth and Orpa sat on either side of Neema. Bagdon was in the chamber as well, pacing as Neema spoke.

“The city has been burned to the ground and all of our forces, all ten thousand soldiers are dead,” Neema concluded.

“We were betrayed!” Bagdon interrupted. “We were betrayed by Galkak. He turned the forces of Ammon and Amalek against us. But at least he is dead. He has paid for his betrayal.”

“Galkak!?” Neema screeched. “Galkak was the most loyal friend and ally Moab ever had. He was from my people. From Amalek. He conquered Rabbath Ammon single-handedly. He saved Eglon countless times. No. No, Bagdon. Now that I think of it, it is you, Bagdon, you Israelite that has orchestrated all of this. Eglon trusted you. He raised you as a son. He promised our Orpa to you. I warned him he could never trust an Israelite, no matter how many of your brothers you killed. But no, he wouldn’t listen. He fawned over you. He thought you were the ideal subject. You were his success. And now you have given us ashes. And you have the gall to accuse the one decent man we have ever known? Galkak was probably on to you and you killed him. Cousin,” Neema turned to Jalet, “get rid of this traitor.”

“But, but, I am general of the forces of the Moabite Empire. I should take over!” Bagdon stammered.

“And where are your forces, General?” Jalet asked quietly.

“I can rebuild them. We can reconquer those Israelite peasants. I will fulfill Eglon’s vision. I am his heir!”

Jalet shifted his weight on the throne, understanding the situation and knowing immediately what he had to do.

“Bagdon, you are young, and I will excuse your excitement, massive failure and potential treason. My dear, departed, cousin Eglon, did place his trust in you. Therefore, if you leave Kir Moav now and never return to Moabite territory I will not have you killed.” Jalet motioned the two chamber guards closer. They understood and pointed their spears at Bagdon. “However,” Jalet continued, “if you remain, we shall execute you, as per the accusation of the Empress – is that satisfactory, Neema?”

Neema nodded. Bagdon looked at Jalet, sensing his seriousness. He looked at Neema and finally at Orpa.

“I would have been a good husband to you. I would have made you proud,” Bagdon said to Orpa and stormed out of the chambers.

“Well, now that that’s settled, let us continue our discussion, Neema.” Jalet rubbed his thick hands. “Let us speak frankly. The Empire is finished. All that remains of the might of Moab is here in this stronghold which I rule.”

“I am Empress!” Neema stood up, knowing where Jalet was going.

“My dear, Neema. You were the Empress. And as you so correctly pointed out, you are Amalekite. That is where your true allegiance lies and as our nations are no longer united, I would recommend you return home. However, I am feeling magnanimous, so I shall give you the following additional choices: you may marry me and be a humble Queen of Moab as you once were, before the failed Empire was conceived. Alternatively, you and your daughters are welcome to remain as permanent guests of our palace. You will hold no office or rank, but it is the least I can do for the poor homeless family of my dear deceased cousin. In any case, you must recognize my succession to Eglon to the throne of Moab, on which I already comfortably sit.” Jalet patted the armrest of his chair.

Neema said nothing for a few minutes, looking angry, then somber and finally smiling.

“You have certainly inherited some of Eglon’s cunning.” Neema reached out and caressed Jalet’s arm. “You are both right and gracious in your suggestions, King Jalet of Moab. I have always been attracted to power. Now you have it and you have shown you know how to wield it. Give me some time to consider your offer. There is one other journey I must make with my daughters to explore our fortunes before I will be able to give you a reply. Would that be acceptable?”

“Neema, take as long as you need. My home will always be open to you and your daughters.”


“Ehud! How good to see you! How is Blimah?” Vered greeted Ehud warmly at the entrance to their bakery. It was late afternoon in Bethlehem.

“Blimah is relieved that Eglon and the Moabites are gone and my role with them finished. But she was a bit disappointed that I needed to leave home again so soon.”

“She’s a good woman. Make sure to get back to her as soon as you can. Boaz! Ehud is here!” Vered called to the back of the bakery.

Boaz entered the storefront and embraced Ehud.

“What brings you to Bethlehem?” Boaz asked.


“Mahlon? What do you want with him?”

“He has a power that will be useful for my next mission.”

“With animals.”

“Yes. How is he adjusting to being back home?”

“I think he’s having difficulties, and Elimelech is a wreck.”

“I figured. That’s why I came to you first. How bad is Elimelech?”

“He is broken. He is a great man, but he has been on the wrong side of the major events of our times. He led the civil war, yet he did not support your effort against Eglon. His leadership has been disastrous, yet people still look up to him and he is filled with self-doubt. He will not be happy to see you.”

“I need Mahlon.”

“Elimelech will not stop you, but Naomi might. Her son has just been returned to her after eighteen years. She had thought him lost forever. She will not wish to part with him again.”

“This will be a short absence.”

“Nonetheless, she will object. Would you like me to come along with you?”

“Thank you, Boaz, but I think it better if I go alone. You two look good. Thanks again for your help in the battle.”

“I hope that’s the last one. I was almost killed, you know. If it weren’t for your man Davneh, I would have been skewered.”

“I know. He was a good man and I was sorry to lose him.”

Boaz and Ehud embraced again and Ehud walked down the road to Elimelech’s home.

Ehud knocked on their door tentatively.

Naomi opened the door. She wore a simple beige dress with thick red hair tied neatly under her headdress. Her smile quickly turned to a frown when she recognized Ehud.

“Ehud,” she said.

“Hello, Naomi. May I come in?”

“You bring nothing but trouble to our family.”

“I’m sorry you see it that way. The trouble is never of my making. I have an important mission I must talk to your family about.”

“Family? You want Mahlon, don’t you. I know he’s having a hard time readjusting, but that’s no reason for him to leave.”

“Naomi, please let me in, so we can discuss things calmly. Is Elimelech home?”

“Yes. He and the boys just returned from the field and are washing up. Come in, then. I will get them.”

Ehud entered the large common area. A long wooden table filled the room. Naomi went to the back of the house. She returned with Elimelech, Mahlon and his younger brother Kilyon. Kilyon had the same red hair and muscular build as his brother and father.

“What do you want now?” Elimelech asked.

“May I sit down?” Ehud asked.

“What do you want!?” Elimelech asked again.

“I need Mahlon for a few weeks, perhaps even less. There is something I must do, that he is uniquely blessed to help me with.”

Mahlon, already happy at the sight of Ehud, smiled even more.

“I’m happy to go, Father,” Mahlon said. “I could use a break from this Judean town.”

“You are not going anywhere, young man; and this Judean town is your home!” Naomi stomped her foot.

“What is it you need him for?” Elimelech asked.


“Against who?”

“Our people’s enemies.”

“Is that all you ask of us?”

“That is all I ask.”

“Naomi, you know Mahlon has been uncomfortable here.” Elimelech turned to his wife. “We cannot cage him here. He is a grown man. I agree to let him go with Ehud, but on one condition.”

“What condition?” Ehud asked.

“That he returns to Bethlehem and makes a greater effort to be at peace here.”

“I agree, Father,” Mahlon said quickly.

“Can I go as well?” Kilyon asked.

“No,” Ehud, Elimelech and Naomi said at once.

“Why does Mahlon get to have all the fun?” Kilyon asked, but nobody bothered to answer him.


“Terrible about Eglon,” Seti said to Pharaoh in the audience chamber.

“Yes. He had so much promise. I will miss that fat, uncouth Moabite. Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. What did we lose from the gambit? A few horses and a little gold? It would have been well worth it had he been successful,” Pharaoh told his son and heir. “Do not fret. Nature abhors a vacuum. We shall find some other agent to take up the reigns of power in the area and do our bidding. It may be time to further cultivate our relationship with the Ammonites.”

“Yes, Pharaoh. You are wise and far-seeing as always.”

“One must think in terms of generations and eternity, though I would have loved to see the ears of the Israelite firstborns that Eglon had promised. No matter. Time will furnish us with another puppet.”

“I am concerned about how thoroughly Eglon’s power was destroyed,” Seti said.

“Yes, it was somewhat of a surprise. Perhaps Eglon exuded power he did not truly possess. He was something of a charlatan.”

“Perhaps, or perhaps there is something we haven’t considered.”

“No. Eglon attempted to rise above his station and insinuate himself into our circle. He overreached and failed. It is as simple as that.”

“As you say, Pharaoh,” Seti said, unconvinced.


Ehud and Mahlon made good time to Egypt. It took them ten days on the road from Beer Sheva. They connected with the Sea road, and traveled undisturbed. They kept the great sea to their right and the Sinai desert to their left. Their mounts loved Mahlon, who knew exactly how to get the best speed out of them. He rested the horses when they needed it. He made sure they were fed and watered at good intervals but he also knew how to push them when they were getting lazy. Horses were notoriously lazy animals and they would use any excuse to slow down, wander off the road and nibble at wild grass.

The duo left the desert and entered the lush fields of the Nile delta. Vast irrigation ditches stretched for miles around the delta and south on either side of the northward flowing river. Black slaves from Sheba worked the fields, plowing for the summer crop. Ehud and Mahlon rode southwards, bypassing the city and Pharaoh’s palace.

They found a rocky, uncultivated stretch of land on the river bank.

“This spot should work,” Ehud said.

“I told you before, Ehud. I don’t know if I can do this at all. They are completely different creatures.”

“You’ll be able to do it. I have utter faith in you.”

“That’s nice, but I don’t have faith in myself.”

“Let’s find out.”

They dismounted and tied their horses to a nearby willow tree, its long curved branches touching the rushing river. Mahlon approached the water, lay down on the mossy ground and closed his eyes. Mahlon sent his mind out to find the creatures nearby. He felt the warm familiar minds of their two horses. They were happy to rest and were already becoming drowsy after the long journey. He felt some sparrows hiding in the willow, chattering to each other inanely.

Mahlon pushed his mind to the river. He sensed a catfish nearby, but was unable to comprehend its thoughts.

“I can’t do it.” Mahlon rolled over, opened his eyes and massaged the temples of his head. “They are completely alien. It’s a foreign language. It’s one thing to talk to mammals, but these creatures are completely different.”

“Keep trying,” Ehud encouraged.

“Fine, but I think your whole plan is crazy.”

“Just talk to them.”

Mahlon rolled back onto his stomach, closed his eyes and sent his mind once again to the river. He found another catfish and tried to understand its thoughts. There was a familiarity to its mind, but at the same time, something completely different. Mahlon imagined himself in the water and tried to feel what the catfish was feeling.

Then he heard it. The catfish was thinking “move, move, move,” over and over again. Mahlon understood. It was a much simpler creature, without the sophistication and complexity of the mammals he had known his whole life.

Mahlon reached further and found a water snake slithering in the river. He heard its “hunt, hunt, hunt,” as it scoured the river bank. Now for the king of the river, Mahlon thought.

He sensed one a mile upstream, a massive crocodile. It herded a school of carp against the side of the river and snapped its powerful jaws from side to side, scooping up the flailing fish in its large mouth and chomping them quickly. Mahlon waited until the crocodile had finished its noisy repast and calmly floated downstream. Mahlon sensed the reptilian intelligence and spoke to the crocodile’s mind.

You are powerful, Mahlon introduced himself.

Yes. I fear none, the crocodile thought back.

Truly? There are none that threaten you?

I am the largest of my kind. Only the hippo, Taweret, is dangerous, but she is far now.

What is your name?

I am Timsah, father of Garwe.

I am Mahlon, son of Elimelech.

You are curious. I have never communicated with man like this.

I have a special ability.

It is interesting. I would learn more of man. They dirty the river, divert the water and change the course of my home. Why do they not stay on the land and leave the water to me?

Does not Timsah also come onto land at times?

Only when water hunting is poor.

It is the same for man or even more so. I will tell more if you will do me a favor.

Perhaps I shall eat you instead.

Do you eat all men that you encounter?

No. Only annoying ones, or if I am very hungry. Your meat is too soft and your bones too hard.

Will you do me this favor?

It depends on what you ask.

Approach and I will explain.

Timsah swam towards Mahlon and Ehud, moving its tail and body sinuously.

All Mahlon could see of the king of the river were his eyes, ears and nostrils. Otherwise he was invisible. Ehud jumped as Timsah crawled suddenly onto the river bank. Timsah was the length of two grown men. He had a dark bronze scaly skin sprinkled with black spots. His sides were a pistachio green and he walked firmly on four short splayed legs. Bright green eyes stared at Mahlon.

Greetings, Timsah, king of the river.

Greetings, Mahlon son of Elimelech. It is surprisingly pleasing to speak to man in this fashion. Who is this man next to you? Does he not speak as you do?

This is Ehud, Mahlon motioned. He is my friend and he is the favor I require.



Pharaoh rose with the sun, Ra, his fellow god. Pharaoh loved the early morning. It was the only time during his busy day he had to himself. Since time immemorial, all Pharaohs performed their morning ablutions in solitude. He went to the river bank outside his palace and washed his face with the life-giving waters of another friend from the pantheon, the river god, Hapi son of Horus.

As he rinsed his eyes, Pharaoh beheld a sight more wondrous than any he had ever seen in his life. From the river in front of him, a man rose from the water atop the largest crocodile he had ever seen. The man spat out a hollow reed from his mouth and still dripping from head to toe, stepped calmly onto the river bank.

“Are you a god?” Pharaoh asked Ehud.

“I am a messenger of God,” Ehud answered, shaking water off of himself.

“Which god?”

“There is only one God. The God of Israel.”

“Israel?” Pharaoh took a step back, frightened. “Who are you? What is the message?”

“The message is actually for your son, the new Pharaoh.”

“What do you mean? I don’t understand!” Pharaoh screamed, starting to panic.

“Clearly.” Ehud unsheathed the sword strapped to his back and stabbed Pharaoh. Pharaoh collapsed to the ground, dead. Ehud raised his sword and cut off Pharaoh’s ear. Ehud took the dismembered ear and placed it upon the palm of Pharaoh’s prone hand. Ehud then impaled the ear and the hand, leaving the protruding sword like a flag upon the battlefield.

“There is your firstborn’s ear, Pharaoh. Perhaps your son will think twice now when contemplating harming the children of Israel.”

Ehud stepped onto Timsah, who had been waiting by the river bank, and disappeared into the water of the Nile.

* * * * * *


The Nile crocodile is called Timsah al-Nil in Arabic, Mamba in Swahili, Garwe in Shona, Ngwenya in Ndebele, Ngwena in Venda, Kwena in Sotho and Tswana. (Wikipedia)

Taweret is the hippo-headed Egyptian goddess of childbirth and fertility.

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 26 – The Battle of Moab

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 26

 The Battle of Moab

“We’re not going to be left behind,” young Lerim declared to the crowd of youngsters around him. “We’re not going to let the adults fight alone!”

“But how are we going to fight against professional soldiers?” a boy asked.

“How are our parents and brothers going to fight against professional soldiers?” Lerim retorted. “They’re farmers and shepherds, with not a weapon amongst them all. We have to do what we can, with whatever we have.”

“Won’t we make things worse by being underfoot? How will the adults fight if they are worried about our safety?” the boy continued to ask.

“We will help, yet keep our distance,” Lerim explained.

“I don’t understand,” the boy stated.

“Come into the smithy, all of you.” Lerim waved the crowd in. “I have a plan.”

Ehud rode hard, past the idols of Gilgal and the quarry. The sun set, lighting the mountains of Moab across the river with a deep red hue before darkness quickly descended. That’s where your people belong, Ehud thought to the dead Tyrant. You should never have crossed the river. But now we will push you back. Ehud blessed God for the full moon that let him ride through the night. He reached the hills of Mount Ephraim.

He saw a handful of bonfires and a few men awake. In the shadows, he could make out a large camp, asleep. He rode to the first bonfire and met big Perad, his assistant.

“How did it go?” Perad asked. “We heard from the princes that the Moabites pursued you.”

“The Tyrant is dead and I avoided the Moabites,” Ehud said. “How many answered our call?”

“Not many. Perhaps a thousand.”

“It will have to do. Now is the time.”

Ehud removed a hollow ram’s horn from his saddle. In the middle of the night, under the full moon, he raised the tip of the horn to his lips and blew with all his might. The sound of the horn reverberated throughout the mountain and down to the valley below. Again and again Ehud blew on the horn. Those in the camp awoke immediately and congregated around Ehud. Men from nearby towns approached the midnight convocation.

“Arise, my brothers!” Ehud called out to the swelling crowd. “Arise, and follow me. For God has given your enemy, Moab, into your hand! Eglon the Tyrant is dead. Dead at my hands. And so shall the rest of your enemies fall. Arise!”

More than one thousand men followed Ehud to the Jordan plain.

“Eglon is dead,” Bagdon said to Galkak in the palace hallway. Bagdon breathed deeply, fighting for a sense of control.

“No!” Galkak cried. “How?”

“He just fell down in his audience chamber. No blood, no wounds, nothing. The men are saying it’s because of his weight.”

“This is terrible! Eglon and Dirthamus in one day. What are we going to do?”

“King Galkak, I know that Eglon was your friend and that you have been his most loyal vassal. And I know I haven’t always been as respectful to you, but I ask that you honor your alliance and support me in finishing Eglon’s last wishes and strengthening our growing Empire. The action against the Israelite firstborns is critical for securing our treaty with Egypt. Your troops are here. We can finish the Israelites this morning and you shall have a prominent place in the expanded Empire.”

Galkak put out his arm and clasped Bagdon’s.

“I am your brother,” Galkak stated emotionally. “Where you go, I go. I shall not leave your side until this campaign is finished.”

“Now I know why Eglon treasured you so much,” Bagdon said. “It is lonely to be a leader, but you have consistently proven yourself a friend. Let us ready our troops. Much blood will be spilled today.”

Ehud and his men reached the Jordan valley with the morning sun. They carried axes and hoes, pitchforks and spades. There were a few crude bows amongst the men. Perad carried a large hammer and had brought one for Ehud as well. Lanky Davneh carried a hammer as well – every man took the tool he was comfortable with.

Moabite soldiers filled the valley and let the Israelites through uncontested. Six thousand Moabites guarded the perimeter of the valley. Another four thousand soldiers of Amalek and Ammon waited at attention outside the City of Palms.

“We make for the river,” Ehud announced. “They will not expect us to attack their border.”

Lerim and his companions, about three dozen youths, reached the edge of the tall mountains overlooking the Jordan valley. They could see the City of Palms, the ruins of Jericho and the expanse of the valley until the river.

Lerim looked at the rising sun expectantly and blessed God for the hot cloudless day.

“This can work,” he said to his followers as they removed their copper tools and polished them again.

“I would have expected more firstborns. And many more children. I don’t see any children.” Bagdon said to Galkak as they saw the Israelites approaching. They both sat on their mounts, Galkak with four thousand of his men behind him.

“Perhaps they are coming in stages,” Galkak suggested.

“And what is that they are carrying? Tools? What for?”

“Bagdon, you are Israelite. You know how they are so fond of their tools. Why, I knew an Israelite blacksmith that slept with his hammer every night.”

“I am Israelite only by birth, but something is not right,” Bagdon said. “This is not an innocent group coming for a census – this is an attack force!”

“Nonsense,” Galkak insisted. “So they ride hard. You are becoming paranoid and jumping at shadows. This is how you will lead the Empire?”

“Perhaps you are right,” Bagdon said doubtfully. “Let us be patient and see what happens. In any case, we can easily quash such a feeble force.”

The Israelites reached the Moabite forces stationed by the river crossing and smashed into them. Hoes, hammer, scythes and axes tore into the Moabite soldiers. The Moabite force fell apart under the surprise attack. Bagdon spotted Ehud at the lead.

“It’s Ehud! It is an attack!” Bagdon yelled. “Moabites! Destroy that Israelite force! Now!” Bagdon charged forward.

“Amalek! Ammon! Attack Moab now!” Galkak called out.

Bagdon whirled his stallion to face Galkak.

“What do you mean by attack Moab!? Galkak, you must be confused. You mean Israel! Tell your men to attack Israel!”

“No,” Galkak said with a slight smile. “I know exactly what I’m doing.”

Galkak’s men hacked at the Moabites from behind.

“Traitor!” Bagdon pounced on Galkak with his sword. Galkak defended himself from Bagdon’s violent attack. “No matter!” Bagdon said. “We still outnumber you. We shall destroy you and the Israelites in one shot. Then we shall truly be the only power in the region.”

“I’m just happy to keep you occupied while my men destroy a leaderless and confused army.” Galkak smiled as he parried Bagdon’s blows, all the time keeping an eye on the progress of the battle.

“You are wasting my time.” Bagdon disengaged from Galkak and surveyed the battle. The fighting was concentrated by the river crossing. The Moabites from all over the valley were closing in on the Israelites. Galkak’s men had taken the Moabites by surprise, but now the Moabites with their superior numbers were fighting back. Moabites, Amalekites and Ammonites were falling left and right. Only the Israelites, with their crude tools, seemed to suffer the least casualties.

Bagdon looked closely and then understood why.


Ehud was off his horse and was fighting with a canniness and accuracy that Bagdon would not have believed possible. Ehud had already picked up two swords from fallen Moabites and was ducking under blows, stabbing those approaching from behind and wrecking havoc throughout the Moabite line. Then Bagdon caught a glimpse of a man speeding around the Moabite troops, laying them low. The famed Boaz, Bagdon realized. Boaz had more grey than red on his head, but he still managed to incapacitate the best Moabite soldiers. Explosions of smoke racked the Moabite line and another grey red-head led an Israelite charge against the confused Moabite soldiers. That must be Amitai, Bagdon thought. The old militia has reassembled. But we still outnumber them. We still have the advantage of training, of arms, of mounts. Even with Galkak’s treachery. But Ehud is the key. If I can stop him, I can end this quickly, Bagdon decided as he called a squadron of soldiers to him and marched towards the whirling Ehud.

Mahlon burst into the quarters of the Empress. She sat morosely, Ruth and Orpa on either side of her.

“Quick, Empress, princesses, you must leave the palace!” Mahlon said, holding a torch in his hand.

“Can we not mourn in peace!?” Empress Neema asked.

“There is no time,” Mahlon insisted. “The palace is on fire!”

“Fire? There is no fire. What are you talking about?”

Mahlon touched the torch to the bed of the Empress which quickly caught the flame. In moments there was a roaring fire.

“There’s your fire,” Mahlon said. “It would be a shame for you and your daughters to die with the rest of the city. The Tyrant is dead and soon your Empire will crumble at the hand of God’s prophet. Go back to Moab. Go back where you belong. I will burn the stables last, so if you hurry you can still find some mounts.”

“Goodbye, Princess,” Mahlon looked at Ruth. “I know this is painful, but perhaps we are saving you for a better destiny than to become an Egyptian puppet. Think of yourself as free from your prison now. Farewell. I do not think we will meet again.”

Mahlon exited the burning room, with Eglon’s family fast behind him. The women headed towards the stable. Mahlon headed deeper into the palace to see what else he could burn.

Ruth looked at his receding back and somehow knew, I will see you yet again Mahlon son of Elimelech, prince of Judah.

Davneh was afraid. Every time he stabbed a Moabite. Every time he almost died. He was no soldier. He didn’t have Perad’s strength or Ehud’s amazing skill. Davneh was filled with cuts and bruises. He was tired. The initial excitement from the first attack had worn off. He had fallen behind Ehud and now Moabites were attacking them from the sides and the rear. More Israelites were falling. There seemed to be an endless number of Moabites just waiting their turn to try and kill them. One large Moabite reached Davneh and raised his sword for a killing stroke. Davneh no longer had the strength to move or defend himself. Suddenly, a flash of light struck the Moabite in the eyes, blinding him momentarily. Davneh blessed God for the reprieve and stabbed the large Moabite.

Lerim jumped for joy.

“It worked!” he cried out. “It’s working! I blinded him!”

Lerim had taken pieces of copper from the smithy. Pieces from old pots, scraps from oil lanterns and together with his friends they had polished them to a mirror-like shine. From their vantage point of the mountains, they were able to reflect the strong desert sun into the eyes of their enemies.

“Yes!” shouted another boy, as he successfully blinded another Moabite about to stab an Israelite. The Moabite was then killed in turn.

The tactic was proving successful and helping the battle. Best of all, they were out of harm’s way. However, Bagdon’s sharp eye noticed the phenomena and traced the source to the jumping boys on the mountain. He sent a squadron of soldiers towards the boys.

The City of Palms was on fire. The few non-combatants under the leadership of Empress Neema fled south, away from the battle. Mahlon rode Chamrah towards the battleground. He looked awkward riding on a donkey beside the soldiers on their large warhorses, but he trusted Chamrah with his life.

Moabite soldiers looked back in distress to see their city burning. Mahlon looked at the Jordan River, dark with blood. He noted the advantage the Moabites had over the Israelites with their cavalry.

Stop! Mahlon ordered all the horses his mind could reach. Dozens of horses stopped suddenly, sending their riders flying forward. Bagdon and his men fell off their horses, paces away from Ehud, who was still at the forefront of the battle.

“Arrows on Ehud!” Bagdon commanded his men from the ground. A dozen archers placed their arrows in their bows and aimed at Ehud.

“Fire!” Bagdon ordered.

Galkak, on his stallion, jumped into the line of fire. Eight arrows hit the horse and four arrows hit Galkak. Galkak fell off his horse. Ehud saw Galkak fall and ran towards him.

“Perad, Amitai,” Ehud called and pointed. “Bagdon.”

The two warriors with their men branched off from the main Israelite force and attacked Bagdon’s group. Bagdon looked around. Few remained standing from any of the armies, except for the Israelites. Thousands upon thousands of corpses littered the battleground. Moabites, Amalekites and Ammonites lay as puppets whose strings had been violently ripped, their blood mingling in the flowing Jordan. Only the Israelites remained as a force, angry and ready for more blood. Bagdon did not understand how they were defeated so thoroughly. A few farmers, that’s all it was, Bagdon thought in confusion. And that traitor, Galkak. If it weren’t for Galkak, curse him, we would have won. Curse that Amalekite.

Big Perad and grizzled Amitai closed in on Bagdon menacingly. Then a painful light blinded Bagdon. That’s enough, Bagdon decided. We cannot take anymore.

“Retreat!” Bagdon called out. “Retreat, Moab. We will live to fight another day!”

Bagdon ran away from the approaching Israelites.

“Galkak,” Ehud held the fallen man.

“I ain’t gonna make it this time, Ehud,” Galkak said, two arrows in his chest and one in his stomach.

“You saved my life,” Ehud said. “You saved all of us. We’ve won. We are free of the yoke of Moab. We are free to be ourselves.”

“That’s good. I was tired of pretending.”

“Galkak, is there anything we can do for you? Any last wish? A message to your family?” Ehud asked as he felt Galkak’s spirit ebb.

“I could really use a drink,” Galkak said and then died in his friend’s arms.

Davneh’s one joy in life had been working in the smithy. He was not very smart, nor very brave. He was not particularly attractive and no girl had deemed him a worthy groom. Even in the smithy, he was only good as a helper. He never felt that he accomplished anything beyond cleaning the smithy or stoking the fire. He never did anything important or worthwhile. But he belonged. That was the only reason he had joined the battle, because of Ehud and Perad. Part of him wished he could have been excused, like young Lerim.

Now his entire body ached. He had never hurt so much in his life. Not when he had dropped the heavy smithy hammer on his toe, or when he had burned himself on the tongs that he had left by the furnace. He had gashes throughout his body and he could barely move. All he wanted to do was fall to the ground and die. But there were still Moabite soldiers about, wielding their swords expertly.

Davneh saw the famed Boaz nearby. He had grown up on stories of Boaz’s exploits and powers. Boaz was kneeling on the ground, murmuring.

“I’m too old for this,” Boaz wheezed. Boaz’s right arm was covered with the blood of his many victims and his legs wobbled as if they were about to collapse. He didn’t seem to notice the large Moabite approaching him from behind.

Davneh had no more voice left to warn Boaz of the Moabite. Instead, he ran at the Moabite with his last remaining strength and threw himself at the giant of a man. The Moabite skewered Davneh in mid-air. Boaz awoke to the movement, turned on the Moabite and stabbed him in turn.

Davneh fell to the ground and with his last breath said: “At last, something worthwhile.” He died with a tired smile on his face.

Bagdon ran hard and fast. He found his mount and rode it south, away from the battle. A lone man on a donkey stood in his way.

“You must be rejoicing, stable boy,” Bagdon said to Mahlon.

“Yes, we are finally free of cruel Moabite dominion.”

“Get out of my way and I won’t kill you,” Bagdon said.

“No. You need to answer for your crimes.”

“What crimes? I have always been and always shall be a loyal soldier of the Empire. It is you and all these others that are criminals.”

“You are blind, Bagdon. Even in defeat you do not realize the truth. Stand down and face the judgment of our people.”

“I’m not afraid of you, Mahlon. I was always a better fighter than you. There’s little you can do to me from your silly donkey.”

Bagdon slashed suddenly at Mahlon, cutting at his arm and knocking Mahlon off of Chamrah. Bagdon jumped off his horse and approached the fallen Mahlon, preparing a death-blow. Chamrah charged at Bagdon and bit his leg. Bagdon aimed for Mahlon again, but Chamrah stood in his way and neighed loudly. Chamrah then kicked Bagdon and chased him, nipping at his buttocks as the former general of the Moabite Empire ran away.

Lerim saw the force of Moabites scaling the mountain towards them. The battle looked like it was almost over, but now they needed to worry about their own survival. Running did not seem an option. Once the soldiers reached the top of the mountain, they would be able to catch the young Israelites easily.

The boys shone their polished copper pieces on the climbing soldiers. They tried to blind them exactly when they were reaching for that precarious ledge or about to step into a more secure foothold. They managed to blind a few soldiers at precisely the right moment and watched gleefully as they tumbled down the mountain, not to return. At others they simply threw rocks and large stones. In one case they were able to start a small avalanche that buried two Moabites.

Finally, one large Moabite crested the mountain ledge, sword in hand. Thirty boys pelted the soldier at once with fist and head-sized stones. Half a dozen other boys, with Lerim amongst them, took long branches and smashed the soldier at the same time. The Moabite went tumbling down the mountain, never to trouble anyone again.

The Israelites easily killed the remaining Moabites who were not as light-footed as Bagdon. Few Amalekites or Ammonites had survived the battle either. Many had tried to escape east across the river, but the Israelites held the river against them. Ten thousand corpses lay in the valley of the Jordan River, very few of them Israelite. The Israelites gathered their wounded and dead and headed back home. Ehud had Galkak’s body sent to his hometown of Aroer. He watched as the flames of the City of Palms died down, just leaving the charred remains of what had once been the capital of the Moabite Empire.

Perad found a cart, placed Davneh’s body on it and hitched their horses to the cart.

“What shall we do with the enemy’s dead?” Perad asked Ehud.

“Leave them. Let the vultures and the jackals feast. We will have enough work fixing what these nations have destroyed.”

“What work?”

“The work of freedom, the work of peace, the work of proper worship of God – it is all hard work. Come Perad, let us take Davneh home and get to work.”

Perad, Ehud and the rest of the Israelites left the valley of the Jordan River as the afternoon set in. The mountains of Moab appeared redder than usual in the setting sun.

* * * * * *

Biblical Source: Book of Judges, Chapter 3

26 And Ehud escaped while they lingered, having passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirah. 27 And it came to pass, when he was come, that he blew a horn in the hill-country of Ephraim, and the children of Israel went down with him from the hill-country, and he before them. 28 And he said unto them: ‘Follow after me; for the Lord hath delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand.’ And they went down after him, and took the fords of the Jordan against the Moabites, and suffered not a man to pass over. 29 And they smote of Moab at that time about ten thousand men, every lusty man, and every man of valour; and there escaped not a man. 30 So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest fourscore years.

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 25 – Hidden Weapons

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 25

Hidden Weapons

Dirthamus hated everything. He hated the warm sun that blinded his sensitive eyes. He hated the merry chirping of birds that assaulted his ears. He hated the caress of the dry wind as he hobbled into the Israelite city of Aroer in the Tribe of Simeon.

I will kill that donkey, Dirthamus thought, and then its master. As soon as I get back.

The old wizard looked at the impoverished residents of Aroer. It had been the same in every Israelite city he had been forced to traverse: thin, hungry-looking people, tattered clothing, and stooped backs. Eighteen years of oppression have done its work. Dirthamus smiled, the Israelite anguish a small amelioration for his discomfort. But the children, he noticed, still had a bounce in their step, still contained an irrepressible energy he found highly offensive.

“Where is the home of Galkak?” Dirthamus stopped one boy with his walking stick.

“Galkak? Never heard of a Galkak.” The child ran off and the wizard sensed that the boy spoke the truth.

Dirthamus approached the busy city marketplace. Merchants sold scraps of food and material to residents who possessed just a few copper pieces. People seemed to congregate more for the company than for any commercial purpose. The wizard noted some barter, small eggs for dark bread, a worn shawl for some meager vegetables.

He approached a cabbage vendor, a man in his thirties.

“Where is the home of Galkak?” the wizard wheezed.

“Galkak?” The vendor scratched his stubby chin. “Name sounds familiar, I can’t say I know.” Dirthamus read the vendor’s mind and saw that he too spoke the truth.

I need to find older residents, the wizard thought. Galkak probably hasn’t been here for many years.

“Where is the home of Galkak?” Dirthamus grabbed a middle-aged man walking by, the wizard’s talon-like fingers clutching the man’s bicep.

“Who wants to know?” the man looked at Dirthamus through narrow eyes.

“I command you, in the name of Emperor Eglon, to tell me where the home of Galkak is!” the wizard raised his raspy voice.

“Galkak hasn’t been here in ages. He’s probably dead. Go look in the cemeteries, old crone.” The man loosened himself from Dirthamus’ grip and sped away.

Dirthamus read the man’s mind and was pleased to find he had lied. He was even more pleased to find the location of Galkak’s home in his mind.

The wizard limped excitedly to a modest stone house off the city center. He rapped his stick against the wooden door.

“Hold your horses,” an old female voice called from inside.

Moments later the door opened. A tiny woman with short white hair and glazed eyes stood in the doorway, peering sightlessly past the wizard.

“Where’s the fire?” she asked, leaning on her cane.

“Are you Galkak’s mother?” Dirthamus asked.

“Who wants to know?”

“An old friend.”

“You don’t sound like any of his old friends. What’s your name? Where are you from?”

“So you are his mother, and he is Israelite. When is the last time you saw him?”

“Now you listen here, young man. My Galkak never had such rude friends, who didn’t introduce themselves or answer my questions. His friends were Boaz and Amitai and Ehud and those other boys from the militia, brave souls all of them. You sound more like a scoundrel to me.”

“He was with the militia?” Dirthamus gasped. “Friends with Ehud? He is a deceiver of the highest order!”

“You’re no friend of his!” Galkak’s mother shouted and whacked him on the head with her cane.

“Stop!” Dirthamus cried. “I am the Emperor’s advisor. You shall suffer for this.”

The blind old woman whacked Dirthamus again. He tried moving but his yelping guided her aim. She whacked him again and again until he fell to the ground, a bloody, crying, crumpled man. She finally kicked Dirthamus in the face. He groaned and fainted.

“That’ll teach you to mess with my family,” Galkak’s mother spat, shuffled back into her house and slammed the door behind her.

Malia polished the stone god in the early morning. In her worn robes and with her long blonde hair covered tightly under her shawl, she scrubbed away at the idol. The idols were right outside the gates of Gilgal across from the great quarry. Major portions of the nearby mountain had been cut away systematically. It was first dug by the Canaanites, later by the Israelites and most recently by Israelite slaves under Moabite supervision. Malia spat into the rag and wiped away the dirt and grime that accumulated on the man-sized statues over the course of the month. It was her hateful task. The garrison commander of Gilgal had ordered her to clean the stone carvings once a month, every month on the day of the full moon. Gilgal, the only Israelite city on the Jordan plain, had once been the camp for all the tribes of Israel, when Joshua had conquered the land. From Gilgal they could see to the south the grand City of Palms, new capital of the Moabite Empire, though the Moabite ancestral lands lay even further south and east across the river.

She had finished polishing the third god and was about to start on the fourth and final god at the gates of their city, when she saw them. The princes of Israel. What a sorry lot, she thought. The dozen princes of Israel together with another dozen men and as many wagons. Every year they came through Gilgal, on their way to Eglon, bringing the symbolic Tribute. The princes looked sad, dejected, even fearful. Then she saw Ehud and was filled with hope. She saw the look of determination, of cunning on his face, and another look she had not seen on him in years past: murder.

“They shall be here shortly,” Eglon told Bagdon. “It is probably best that you not be here when the Princes arrive. Prince Avod is after all still your father. Perhaps just exchange pleasant greetings with him when you pass him, and tell him you are on an errand for me. You should be in place when they return through Gilgal.”

“Yes, my liege,” Bagdon responded. “This mission will be carried out most efficiently. I will take the best archers of the army with me.”

“Remember, Bagdon. I only want Ehud dead. And kill him in front of the gods of Gilgal. That will demonstrate to the Israelites the gods’ displeasure with him, and will encourage the Princes to follow our commands.”

“Agreed. Galkak is also scheduled to arrive today with the full complement of Amalekite and Ammonite forces. We shall deploy them throughout the valley tomorrow to prepare for the execution of the firstborns.”

“Excellent, my general, my son. Proceed.”

Galkak trotted ahead of the combined armies of Amalek and Ammon. He had convinced King Zakir of Ammon of Eglon’s duplicity and Zakir swore his soldiers to the command of Galkak. The Moabite forces still outnumbered them three to two but Galkak hoped for the element of surprise.

“Harpag,” Galkak called his general. “Bivouac our forces outside the City of Palms on the plain of the valley. I think this time we aren’t goin’ to accept the Moabite hospitality.”


“Good. I’m goin’ ahead to meet the Tyrant and see how things stand. If for whatever reason I don’t make it back, you’re in charge. Wait until the Israelites arrive before you attack Eglon’s forces.”

“Good luck.”

“We’re gonna need it.” Galkak rode into the city. He reached the royal stables and was greeted by Mahlon.

“Today is the day, son of Elimelech,” Galkak addressed Mahlon as he dismounted. “Are you ready?”

“I’ve been talking to the horses. Most of them have agreed to help me.” Mahlon took the reins of the horse and stroked its neck.

“Excellent. That can make the difference between victory and defeat.”

“Galkak, I have something else to tell you. Shortly after you left, Dirthamus came looking for you and then demanded to go to the tribe of Simeon. He suspects you’re Israelite and went to confirm.”

“That’s bad. Has he returned?”

“No. I sent him with a special donkey.” He pointed at nearby Chamra who wagged her short tail at the attention. “She made sure he had a difficult journey.”

Galkak looked at the donkey with admiration and stroked her bristly hide. “Good thinking, Mahlon. Now I better get to the Tyrant before the Tribute arrives.”

Ehud, extra wary, was the first to spot the approaching Moabites upon the Jordan plain. The river bubbled untroubled by mortal cares to his left. Bagdon led two dozen soldiers on horseback.

“Greetings Princes. Greetings Father,” Bagdon declared when they met.

“Bagdon,” Prince Avod was the only one to answer.

“I apologize that I will not be present for the Tribute, but I am on a small but urgent assignment for the Emperor. I hope all is well.”

“You will not change your ways or allegiance?” Avod asked knowing the answer.

“Good day to you Father, Princes. It was lovely chancing upon you.” Bagdon replied and trotted off with his men.

“I am sorry for you, Avod,” Elimelech said softly.

“I wish it was my head Ehud had cut off all those years ago,” Avod sighed. “That I should live to see my own flesh and blood betray us…”

“There is nothing to be done now about Bagdon. He has chosen his side,” Ehud said. “I just hope we have enough people on our side when it comes to fighting and not a whole lot of fence-sitters.”

“Your plan is mad,” Elimelech said.

“If you will not help, then stay out of the way,” Ehud warned.

“And suffer the consequences of your failure? I told you before I am tired of fighting. I shall suffer whatever fate God has in store for me.”

“Enough, Elimelech. Your talking depresses me and I do not need my own brethren weakening me.”

“So we are still brothers?” Elimelech asked with some surprise.

“We have always been. It is you that forgot. I shed a tear for every brother I slayed. I argued against our fighting, but I do not wish to rehash old history. We are brothers. And that is what I fight for. If more of us remembered that, if more of us remembered our God and believed in him, victory would be assured.”

“I finally realize why we never got along,” Elimelech said. “You remind me of my father. He had so much faith. I could never understand it. I could never have as much faith. And you know what the danger is, Ehud? Most people don’t have that faith either. And then you find yourself alone. Ahead of the pack. Because no one is strong enough to follow you. My father, Nachshon, had a once in a lifetime event, where his faith showed the way, where he jumped into the sea and it split. I think it must have been a close thing and, even so, the age of miracles has passed. We are just shadows of our fathers.”

“Elimelech, go ride in the back and after we bring the Tribute go straight home. Do not talk to anyone. Let Naomi console your broken heart. Your presence will only serve our enemies.”

Elimelech let the other princes and their retinues pass him. He rode in the back silently, head bowed down.

They reached the City of Palms and the royal stables. Servants were ready for them and unloaded the wagons. Elimelech embraced Mahlon stiffly when he saw him. Mahlon gestured to Ehud to join them.

“Bagdon is laying an ambush for you,” Mahlon whispered.

“Where? Who? When?” Ehud asked urgently.

“I don’t know where, but they just want to kill you, Ehud, not the princes. It will be some time after you leave here.”

“Good work. How did you find out?” Ehud asked.

“The horses have big mouths,” Mahlon answered.

Ehud and the princes made their way to the audience chamber. Eglon was on his throne, as big and heavy as ever, wearing crisp white robes with necklaces, belts and armbands of gold. Empress Neema sat to his left in a regal gown of gold and silver thread. To her side sat Princess Ruth and Princess Orpah, similarly attired. To Eglon’s right sat Galkak, King of Amalek, looking fidgety, holding his hands under his legs and biting the inside of his cheek.

Ehud and the princes knelt in front of Eglon. Moabite servants brought the trays of Tribute and placed them on the floor in front of Eglon: fruits, vegetables, grains, wines, oils, skins, garments, tapestries, pottery, glassware, metalwork, the best of the assorted production of the tribes of Israel were given as a gift to the Moabite Emperor.

Eglon looked at the Tribute and smiled slightly.

“A bit better than last year,” Eglon commented. “The tapestry is a nice touch. Is that Judean, Elimelech?”

“Yes, your Majesty,” Elimelech answered, still kneeling.

“Very well, you may rise,” Eglon commanded. The princes rose slowly.

“Ehud, what is this I hear of growing discontent amongst the Israelites? Am I not a benevolent ruler, father to my people? Do I not feed them, protect them and look out for their every interest? I do not appreciate hearing such complaints.”

“I shall attempt to quiet any complaints against you,” Ehud said.

“That’s it? You do not take up their cause? You do not cry for mercy? What are you hiding Ehud?”

Ehud felt the cold metal of the short sword hidden under his robe on his right thigh.

“I hide nothing, your Majesty,” Ehud lied blatantly. “I have learned there is no use complaining. Your will is of iron and my people are as chaff to you. I shall remind them to be thankful for their lives and all that you provide them.”

“That is appropriate. Now princes,” Eglon said. “You know of the census that is to be conducted tomorrow. All of your firstborns are to come to the valley of the Jordan where we shall count them, every last one of them. It is vital for the smooth functioning of the Empire that we have an accurate accounting of each family from each tribe and each of their firstborns. We will know if a family does not send their firstborn and rest assured that the recalcitrant family will be killed in its entirety. I will not run the chance of a miscount and throw our Empire into turmoil.”

“Be at peace, Majesty,” Ehud raised his hands. “The firstborns are already on their way. Those from the further northern tribes left a week ago and some may even arrive to the valley today. I would suggest alerting your officers that great numbers of firstborns will be arriving in the valley this afternoon already and will probably wish to make camp so that they will be available for the census first thing tomorrow morning.”

“They are coming. That is good. That is good,” Eglon said. “Very well then.”

“Stop!” Dirthamus screamed as he burst into the audience chamber.

“Dirthamus? Where have you been?” Eglon asked. “You look terrible. How dare you come here like that? Go clean up your wounds, get some fresh clothing and come back when you’re more presentable.”

“No, my liege! There is no time! That man! That man is a fraud!” Dirthamus pointed a scrawny shaky finger at Galkak.

“Galkak?” Eglon asked.

“Excuse me, Boss,” Galkak stood up. “The old man is clearly not well. I’ll get him cleaned up and bring him back when he’s rational.”

“No! Don’t touch me you filthy Israelite! I know who you are! It’s all been a sham! All these years! Eglon! Don’t believe him. He’s allied with-”

“Let’s calm down now.” Galkak clamped Dirthamus’ mouth. “You don’t want to say anythin’ you may regret when you’re sober. I know the symptoms better than anyone. He’s clearly been drinkin’ too much. I’ll take care of him, Boss. Don’t worry. I’m too fond of this curmudgeon to see him suffer from the drink as I did.”

Dirthamus struggled and punched Galkak, but the stronger man held his mouth in an iron grip and escorted him forcefully out of the audience chamber. Once in the hallway, Galkak let go of the wizard’s mouth and bent the old man’s arm.

“One wrong word and I’ll break your arm and then your scrawny neck,” Galkak whispered.

“You are Israelite,” Dirthamus hissed.

“What else do you know?”

“You are of the tribe of Simeon from the city of Aroer. You were in the militia with Ehud. Your entire reign has been a sham and you will die.”

“All true, but let’s see if we can keep the matter quiet a little longer. Now what should we do with you? I know. Let’s go to the stables.”

“I am not without power,” Dirthamus said.

“It has no effect on me.”

“Perhaps, but I can still influence others.” Dirthamus closed his eyes, concentrated and murmured as Galkak walked him to the stables.

Soldiers in the palace courtyard looked at the Amalekite King and the old wizard. Several of the soldiers stood transfixed and walked slowly towards them, their hands in front of them awkwardly. They chanted something. More and more soldiers marched slowly towards the duo as Galkak forced Dirthamus to the stable. Three dozen soldiers approached Galkak with their arms outstretched and vacant stares. He finally understood what they were chanting: “Kill Galkak.”

“Mahlon!” Galkak called as he entered the stable. Mahlon ran to him.

“What’s the matter?” Mahlon asked.

“Dirthamus bewitched the soldiers to kill me. I need help!”

“Get on your horse. I’ll try to hold them off.”

“No. There are too many of them.”

“You will die, Israelite.” Dirthamus smiled through the pain of his bent arm.

Galkak let go of the wizards arm and drew his sword, facing the approaching soldiers.

“Wait!” Mahlon exclaimed. “He’s not the only one that can influence others.” Mahlon closed his eyes and focused on the horses in the stable. He gave them one command: Attack!

A dozen horses charged out of the stable, jumped ahead of Galkak and intercepted the Moabite soldiers. One horse knocked Dirthamus to the ground. Horses kicked at the soldiers, sending them flying. Soldiers ran in all directions, escaping the wild horses. Galkak fought the handful of soldiers that escaped the barrage of horses. Dirthamus, behind Galkak, drew a knife from out of his robe. He crawled towards Galkak. Suddenly a donkey stood in his way.

“You!” Dirthamus yelled, recognizing Chamrah. “Besides Galkak, there was nothing else I wanted to kill since you abandoned me.” Dirthamus raised the knife with all his might and stabbed at Chamrah’s exposed neck. Chamrah moved with surprising speed, kicking Dirthamus hard in the head. Dirthamus flew deep into the stables, landing roughly on a pile of hay, never to wake up again.

Dumb human, Chamrah thought as she saw the Moabite soldiers regain their senses and stop their attack on Galkak.

The princes turned to leave the audience chamber.

“Ehud, stay a moment longer,” Eglon requested.

Ehud stepped towards the throne, the metal of his sword feeling hot against his bare leg. I could do it now, Ehud thought, but it’s too early.

“Ehud you know that I’m fond of you. I liked you years before I became Emperor, when you were a simple blacksmith. I knew you had leadership potential and I knew that you would be instrumental in governing the Israelites. It’s a hard job, for they are truly a stiff-necked people, but you have done your task well. I think of you as my friend and I think that you see me the same way.”

“I have always admired certain qualities of yours.”

“Good, then you know that what I do, I do for the good of the Empire and all my subjects. I just wanted you to understand before, before we part.” Eglon looked down, somewhat abashed.

“I understand, more than you may appreciate. I have stood by your side all these years, supporting your efforts. I shall be at your side until the very end.”

“You’re a good man, Ehud. Farewell.”

“Farewell, your Majesty.” Ehud bowed and left the audience chamber.

Malia had noticed the Moabite soldiers’ arrival, and she had watched them tie their horses within the gates of Gilgal. One soldier pointed at Malia and said to his fellow soldier, “I don’t understand why these Israelite women cover their hair. Our women let it show. It’s much more beautiful.” They’ll never understand, Malia thought. These Moabites have no concept of modesty. An Israelite would understand.

The soldiers came back out of the city gates and stationed themselves within arrow-reach of the gods. They hid behind large stones and shrubs and wherever they could find cover from the road. Malia had finished cleaning and polishing the stone idols and was now applying a coating of oil. It gave the gods a nice shine and kept the dirt off a little bit longer.

Then she saw the princes returning from the City of Palms. They rode harder and faster than during their journey south, unburdened by the Tribute and eager to return to their homes. Malia saw the Moabite soldiers draw their arrows. It’s to be an ambush, she finally realized, and I’m exactly in the wrong spot. Should I warn them? They’ll kill me and what good would that do? But if I stay here I’ll also die. I know what.

Malia took her shawl off and loosened her long blond hair. The hair fell down her back. Malia turned her head from side to side, her hair waving like a flag. Ehud raised his hand in the distance and the princes stopped. Malia covered her hair and calmly walked into Gilgal.

The princes trotted slowly towards the idols of Gilgal in front of its gate, looking from side to side. Ehud turned back and galloped to the City of Palms.

“Ehud’s getting away!” Bagdon jumped out from behind a rock. “After him!” he commanded. The Moabite soldiers ran towards the gate of Gilgal to get their horses.

“Brothers,” Elimelech said calmly. “Let us buy Ehud some time. Block the gate.”

The princes and their retinue rode to the gate and with two dozen horses blocked the Moabites from entering.

“Stand aside!” Bagdon ordered the princes.

“Are these the manners of a son of Israel?” Elimelech asked.

“I have no time for discussion.” Bagdon drew his sword. “Move so we can reach our horses!”

“What is the rush? Can we not discuss this like civilized people?”

“Elimelech, I am warning you one last time. Get out of my way or I shall kill you.”

“Will you kill me too?” Avod asked his son and placed himself in front of Elimelech.

“If I must,” Bagdon responded.

“Then kill me now. To have a son willing to kill his own father in the name of Eglon is more than I can bear.”

“Father, let us be reasonable. I am merely following orders. Orders of the man you agreed and swore to serve. The man you gave me to, who raised me as his own son. I am to be married to his daughter, shortly. I am a man of great importance in the Empire and it is your sacrifice that has made it possible.”

“You are no son of mine.” Avod spat. “I curse the day you were born. God should have closed your mother’s womb that such an evil man should have come from my loins.”

Avod charged at Bagdon with nothing but a riding stick. Bagdon stabbed Avod as he approached. Avod fell off his horse, dead before he hit the gravelly ground.

“Your own father!” Elimelech yelled. The princes marched against Bagdon. The Moabite soldiers aimed their arrows at the princes, waiting for Bagdon’s command.

“Enough!” Bagdon pointed his sword at Elimelech. “Eglon does not want the princes dead, but I shall kill the next one that stands in my way. See, even my father cannot stop me. We shall enter the city. We shall retrieve our horses and follow that fugitive Ehud and if you stop me, the tribes of Israel shall become leaderless in one fell blow.”

Elimelech backed away from the gate as did the other princes. Bagdon and the Moabites entered Gilgal, retrieved their horses and rode out of the city.

“Will you not care for the burial of your father?” Elimelech asked.

“He was right, you know. I’m no longer his son,” Bagdon said without stopping as he went to fulfill his Emperor’s command.

Eglon had fallen asleep in the early afternoon on his throne, as usual. The Tribute had been removed to the storerooms, Neema and the girls were elsewhere in the palace and only two guards remained inside the audience chamber. They let Galkak in.

“Boss! Boss! Wake up! There’s been a terrible accident!” Galkak said.

“What? What happened?” Eglon stirred suddenly.

“It’s Dirthamus. I don’t know what happened. He must have gone crazy from the drink. I guess he couldn’t handle it. He ran into the stable and taunted the animals. He must have done something with his mind powers, because all the horses went crazy. One of them stomped him and he died from his injuries. I know how much he meant to you. I’m going to miss that old, twisted wizard.”

“That is indeed terrible. Dirthamus was a most valuable man. It will be hard to find a wizard of such power and experience.”

“Ehud of Benjamin is here seeking audience,” one of the guards announced.

“Ehud?” Eglon asked in confusion. “What is he doing here? Let him in. Let him in.”

Ehud entered breathlessly, his face red from exertion.

“Ehud, I did not expect to see you – so soon,” Eglon said.

“I have a matter of great secrecy to disclose to you,” Ehud said.

“Secrecy? Secrecy!? What secrecy?”

“A conspiracy against you.”

“A conspiracy?” Eglon looked at Galkak and then at the guards. “Everyone leave me. I will speak with Ehud alone.”

Galkak and the guards rushed out of the audience chamber.

“What is this conspiracy? Who is it? Is it Galkak? Bagdon?”

“Neither. God, our God, has spoken to me of you and has sent me to deliver a message to you.”

Eglon looked awe-stricken.

“Your God speaks through His prophet to me?”


Eglon pushed his hands against the armrests of the throne. He slowly raised his massive weight off the marble chair. Finally, after moments of intense effort, Eglon stood at his full height.

“I shall stand to hear the word of your God,” Eglon said respectfully. “What does your God say?”

Ehud approached Eglon, his left hand under his robe.

“My God says that your reign is coming to an end. That you have overstepped your boundaries and have been excessively cruel to His children. For that you will die and His children released from your bondage.”

“That is not a pleasing message, Ehud.”

“I know, but nonetheless, it is my duty to deliver it.”

Ehud drew the sword from under his robe. With his right hand, Ehud clamped Eglon’s mouth shut. With his left hand, Ehud stabbed Eglon in the belly with all his might. The entire blade entered Eglon’s stomach and reached all the way to the spinal cord, killing Eglon instantly. Ehud needed all of his blacksmith’s strength to lower Eglon’s body back onto the throne. Ehud released the blade. Eglon’s fat covered the blade and even closed the incision. Except for a small tear of Eglon’s robe, there was no blood or sign of violence to the body. Ehud then noticed the smell of feces from Eglon. It happened to the dead at times.

Ehud calmly exited the audience chamber. The hallway was empty. Galkak must have drawn the guards away, Ehud thought, and silently thanked his battle partner. He locked the door to the chamber and made his way to the stable.

At the stable, he met an anxious-looking Mahlon.

“It is done,” Ehud announced.

“Now what?” Mahlon asked.

“When the fighting starts, you know what to do.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then all we need is for God to be with us.”

“I thought He was with us,” Mahlon said.

“We need to constantly earn it,” Ehud said as he rode to the city gate. He waited by the side of the gate, out of sight, until Bagdon and his soldiers galloped into the city. Then he rode north as fast as he could.

The two soldiers returned to the audience chamber and were surprised to find it locked. They smelled the odor from the chamber and it confirmed their suspicion. Eglon would often lock the chamber when he wished to relieve himself and would unlock it again when he was done. They waited the normal amount of time it took Eglon to relieve himself and then they waited some more.

“Something is not right,” one guard said.

“Maybe he’s having stomach problems,” the second guard answered. “It happens to him from time to time. That man will put anything in his mouth and then he wonders why his bowels hurt.”

“But this is much longer than ever,” the first guard said.

Bagdon came running down the hallway.

“I must see the Emperor, immediately!” Bagdon ordered.

“But he is relieving himself,” the second guard said.

“How long has he been locked up in there?” Bagdon asked.

“An uncommonly long time,” the first guard said.

“Any unpleasantness will be on my head. Open the door!” Bagdon commanded.

The guards opened the door and entered the chamber. Eglon had fallen to the floor and was obviously dead.

“Eglon! Father! Emperor! What happened?” Bagdon rushed to the fallen body, kneeling by its side.

“This is terrible!” the first guard exclaimed. “What shall we do? Who shall take over now?”

“How could this happen?” the second guard asked.

“Maybe he died from over-eating?” the first guard suggested.

“It must have been the weight that killed him,” the second guard said. “There are no marks on his body, no blood, nothing. He just died and fell. Now what?”

“I don’t know,” Bagdon said rising from atop his dead liege, “but I will fulfill his last commands. We have some Israelite firstborns to slay and an Empire to build.”

* * * * * *

Biblical Source: Book of Judges, Chapter 3

15 But when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised them up a saviour, Ehud the son of Gera, the Benjamite, a man left-handed; and the children of Israel sent a present by him unto Eglon the king of Moab. 16 And Ehud made him a sword which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he girded it under his raiment upon his right thigh. 17 And he offered the present unto Eglon king of Moab–now Eglon was a very fat man. 18 And when he had made an end of offering the present, he sent away the people that bore the present. 19 But he himself turned back from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said: ‘I have a secret errand unto thee, O king.’ And he said: ‘Keep silence.’ And all that stood by him went out from him. 20 And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting by himself alone in his cool upper chamber. And Ehud said: ‘I have a message from God unto thee.’ And he arose out of his seat. 21 And Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly. 22 And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, for he drew not the sword out of his belly; and it came out behind. 23 Then Ehud went forth into the porch, and shut the doors of the upper chamber upon him, and locked them. 24 Now when he was gone out, his servants came; and they saw, and, behold, the doors of the upper chamber were locked; and they said: ‘Surely he is covering his feet in the cabinet of the cool chamber.’ 25 And they tarried till they were ashamed; and, behold, he opened not the doors of the upper chamber; therefore they took the key, and opened them; and, behold, their lord was fallen down dead on the earth. 26 And Ehud escaped while they lingered, having passed beyond the quarries, and escaped unto Seirah.

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 24 – The Sword of Ehud

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 24

The Sword of Ehud

Young Lerim jumped off his stool as the Moabite soldiers barged into the smithy. Big Perad stopped his hammering and looked fairly threatening as his bulging muscles held the large hammer above the anvil. Lanky Davneh stopped polishing the hoe he held in the corner of the smithy.

“Where is Ehud?” the Moabite captain demanded, brandishing his sword at Perad’s hammer. The midday sun reflected through the open door off the shiny sword, blinding Lerim for a moment.

“He’s not here,” Perad answered in his deep voice, gently resting the hammer on the anvil, beside the ax-head he had been working on.

“I can see that, you Hebrew scum,” the captain sneered, not lowering his sword. “Where is he?”

“I don’t know,” Perad said calmly.

“Typical. It doesn’t matter. We’ve been ordered by Bagdon to inspect all smithies and make sure there are no weapons being produced. We shall now commence our inspection.”

The captain and three other soldiers spread out through the smithy and inspected all the tools. They saw pots and pans, hoes and pitchforks, shovels and axes, scythes and hammers. The captain picked up one of the new axes and touched the edge. A small rivulet of blood sprang from his finger.

“It’s sharp!” The captain sucked on his finger and dropped the ax back on the table. “Why do you have so many axes?”

“The family of Prince Giltar has made a large order,” Davneh answered nervously. “They own the forest to the north of their fields and have been cutting down a lot of their trees.”

The soldiers moved tools, tables and benches. One soldier noticed dug up ground under one of the benches.

“Look, captain,” the soldier pointed. “The ground here has been dug up.”

“Let’s see what they’re hiding. Dig it up,” he ordered.

Two soldiers grabbed shovels and dug up the area. They lifted heavy bronze spheres from the ground.

“What are these?” the captain asked.

“That’s our sacrifice,” Lerim said quickly. “To our gods.”

“What god?” the captain asked suspiciously. “I’ve never heard of this type of worship.”

“It’s only a worship of blacksmiths. And he’s a very humble god. Most people don’t know of him.”

“What’s his name, boy?” the captain demanded.

“Um, Vulcan. We call him Vulcan.”

“Interesting.” The captain dropped the sphere back in the hole. “I will not interfere with your worship of this Vulcan. But know that we will be back. Holding or producing weapons warrants death. We shall be conducting regular inspections of all smithies, until – well, until it’s no longer necessary.”

The captain and his soldiers left the smithy. Lerim, Perad and Davneh looked at each other wordlessly, wiped their brows, tidied up the smithy and continued making their tools, more numerous and sharper than they had ever made them before.


“Why do you come to me, Ehud?” Elimelech asked at the door of his home.

“I would speak with you, Elimelech. May I come in?” Ehud asked.

“No. You represent all the pain of my life. Let us go by the gate of the city.” Elimelech closed the door behind him and walked with Ehud to the entrance of Bethlehem.

“Elimelech, the time has come to fight Eglon,” Ehud stated.

“Now? Now you come to me, when my energy is spent and my hope is shriveled. No, Ehud. I am weary of struggle.”

“Are you not the Prince of Judah?” Ehud asked with an edge in his voice.

“In name only. I have lost my own respect as well as that of my tribe. Go to my brother, Ploni, or perhaps to Boaz. Maybe they still have the appetite for battle. I am finished of fighting the wrong wars.”

“That is your answer? To hand off the responsibility to others? Where is the son of Nachshon the Brave?”

“Nachshon? You ask of Nachshon? Will I forever be haunted by his specter? The sea could not stop my father, yet I have only brought death and calamity upon our people. No, Ehud. I shame and disgrace his memory. To mention Nachshon is merely to show how unworthy I am, what a disastrous failure I’ve become. Leave me, Ehud. Find some other fools to fight your battles.”

“What of your family? Of your children? Of Mahlon who is still in the Tyrant’s clutches?”

“Eglon killed Mahlon when he robbed us of him. He is a stranger to us, likely more Moabite than Judean. Burying him once was enough for me.”

“Does Naomi share this feeling? Has your wife also abandoned your firstborn? You should know that Mahlon is strong and may yet help in our salvation. You would be proud of the man your son has become.”

“Mahlon?” Elimelech looked to the east as if he could see through the mountains that blocked his view of the City of Palms. “No. It is too late. I am without hope. Goodbye, Ehud. I hope that our God is still with you, for I no longer feel his presence.” Elimelech walked back home, head down, shoulders slumped.

This is going to be harder than I thought, Ehud said to himself. Hopefully Boaz will be more enthusiastic.


Over the course of the next two weeks Ehud traveled throughout the tribe of Israel.  He met discretely with his fellow Israelites, avoiding those that were most apathetic. He told them all the same plan.

“We will meet on the ridges of Searim the day of the next full moon. It is the day we bring the Tribute. On that day we will destroy the entire Moabite army on our land. Do not be incredulous. God, the God of our ancestors has heard our cries, and He will answer us. The time has come for us to be free of the tyranny of Eglon. Yet we must cleanse our hearts of all thoughts of idol worship. We must cling to our one true God with all our being, and then we will be truly successful.

So come, my brothers. Gird your loins. Let go of your fears. Make yourselves into weapons of the Almighty and we will show those Moabite dogs how the sons of Israel account themselves!”

The crowds would cheer, suddenly infused with rejuvenated hope in the face of overwhelming odds. The odds did not deter Ehud’s followers. Instead their hope motivated them further.

In parting, Ehud would say the same lines uttered by Moses and Joshua – an eternal rallying cry for the Children of Israel:  “Be strong and courageous! God is with us!”


“And they said they would be back,” Lerim breathlessly explained to Ehud upon his return to the smithy.

“Well, good thinking on your part about that story with a god of blacksmiths, though the concept is abhorrent. We should not be so quick to call on false gods, even in jest. I can’t believe they fell for such a blatant lie.” Ehud scratched his beard as he looked at the tools they had produced in his absence.

“Now what?” Davneh asked nervously.

“Some men from some of the tribes have agreed to fight back. They are few, but we shall have to make do,” Ehud answered.

“What about weapons? Sharpened axes will be no match for professional swords.” Davneh gestured to the shinning tools throughout the smithy.

Perad grabbed a hammer and smashed an old workbench into pieces, shards flying in all directions. “Stop sniveling!” Perad exclaimed. “A hoe to the throat can kill just as well as a sword. If God is with us we will be victorious.”

“Perad is right,” Ehud explained. “We must do the best we can and God will do the rest. But I do need to make at least one sword. Let’s melt the brass off of those iron spheres. Good thing none of those Moabites knew their metals, otherwise they would have felt the difference immediately.”

“I want to fight as well,” Lerim announced decisively.

“We’ve been over this before,” Ehud responded. “You are too young and I will not risk you in battle. It is enough you lost your father. I shall not make Yigal’s wife husbandless and childless by the same Tyrant. Your helping us here is already a big risk and contribution.”

“I want to avenge Yigal,” Lerim said.

“We shall do that for you. I need you to be an example for the other children to stay back. You are our future and we cannot risk harm coming to you.”

“If you lose, then what future will we have? You will need all the help you can get.”

“Lerim, your heart is in the right place, but I cannot argue about this further. Enough. We have work to do.”

Ehud sat at the workbench, elbows on the table and rested his head on his fists as he finally thought about what he needed to do. I need a weapon. It has to get by undetected. But it has to be effective. It has to be short enough to be concealed, but long and strong enough to kill. A knife is too short. I would never get a sword in.

A short sword, then. What’s the longest I can make it? It must be sharp. I can strap something to my back. No. It will be too apparent. I can strap something to my thigh. The guards will not check under my tunic. That will be its length. It must be heavy and well balanced. But I have no guide. I have never heard of anyone making such a sword.

It must be able to pierce and slash, not just a one-side hacking weapon. I need to get the balance right. I can err by making the blade too heavy and then add weight on the pommel. If I make the blade too light all the work will be lost. But by how much should I err?

Having made his decision, Ehud stood up and started working on the mold. Perad and Davneh had melted the bronze off the spheres, revealing the hot iron interior. They then melted the iron core until it became a bubbling soup of molten metal. Ehud poured the red liquid iron into the mold. Bright chunks of the hot metal splattered out of the mold and onto the floor where they quickly cooled down. However, the majority of the metal settled nicely and evenly into the mold and started to cool down in the breezy evening air. With a pair of tongs Ehud grabbed the still hot shape and placed it in a tub of water which steamed angrily. He then reheated areas of the new sword-shaped object and pounded those spots with a heavy iron mallet. Ehud did this again and again into the night – almost in a trance. The heat was such that every few minutes Ehud had to wipe his dripping sweat out of his eyes. Ehud continued fiercely until he had the shape he wanted.

By the early hours of the morning he was sharpening the sword until the edges were razor-sharp. Finally he looked upon his newly created weapon in wonder. The sword was unlike anything he had ever beheld. The workmanship of the sword was clearly beyond his normal abilities, and he was sure that it was more a result of inspiration rather than skill. It was more like a long dagger than a real sword. Most swords in the region were curved affairs, while his was rigidly straight. Most swords had a single sharp edge and were used for slicing one’s enemy. In some cases a sword would have blunt edges and be used as a bludgeoning device. Ehud’s sword was a double-edged sword with a sharp tip that could be used for slicing from either side – or stabbing.

Ehud’s plan became clearer in his mind as he held his weapon lovingly.


Eglon woke with a start, a sharp pain penetrating his large stomach. The nightmare again, he thought. It had repeated itself for weeks now. He had been at a sumptuous banquet, with all the delicacies of the world at an endless table. Sliced pineapples, fish eggs, sides of beef from rare antelopes, an infinite number of breads in all shapes and sizes, steaming dishes with legumes and vegetables he did not recognize and wine as far as the eye could see. He sat with the greatest kings of history. Pharaohs and Emperors. Nimrod, Hammurabi, Seti the First, Gilgamesh and others he did not know. Dirthamus was at his side, warning him not to eat too much. Galkak was there too, drinking to his heart’s content.

“Eat up, Boss!” Galkak exhorted as he raised an overflowing goblet, spilling red wine. “Why should we pass up on any pleasure? Why should we restrain ourselves? We are masters of the world!”

There was a plate in front of him with miniature heads of the Israelite princelings. He ate one. It was delicious. He ate another and it was even better. Finally he reached the head of Mahlon. Eglon was filled with fear as he beheld the ruddy features of the red-head of Judah. This may be the most exotic taste of all, he thought. Eglon ate the head whole and then his stomach exploded in pain, waking him up.

Perhaps I ate too much last night, Eglon thought, and resolved to restrain himself. The resolve lasted as long as it took him to roll over and go back to sleep.

* * * * * *

Modern Recreation of the Sword of Ehud by blacksmith Ken Cox

Modern recreation of Sword of Ehud by blacksmith Ken Cox

The Sword of Ehud

by Ken Cox

Three thousand years ago a man named Ehud set his mind to kill Eglon, King of Mo’ab. For 18 years Eglon had unjustly ruled Ehud’s people, forcing them to build a Mo’abite fortress within the accursed City of Palms. Now Ehud, a Judge from the tribe of Benjamin would single-handedly deliver his people from this false King.

To fulfill his plan Ehud made a double-edged sword the length of his forearm from elbow to bow finger. He strapped the sword to the inside of his right thigh and carried it past the bodyguards, deep into the King’s fortress. Kneeling before King Eglon, Ehud said, “I have a secret word for you.”

“Keep silence,” warned Eglon, dismissing his guards. Alone now with the King, Ehud drew closer, face to face, and said, “I have a message from God.” The King’s eyes widened. He leaned forward to rise from his throne and Ehud’s left hand reached for the hidden sword. Eglon never saw the blade that plunged deep into his belly and pinned him to the throne.

Ehud bolted the doors to the chamber, let himself down from a covered balcony, and escaped to the hills. Blowing the Ram’s Horn, he gathered the fighting men of Benjamin and returned to take the Mo’abite fortress by storm. And so by one man’s act of daring, God delivered an entire people from slavery.

I discovered this story after reading how Jesus said that anyone who does not have a sword should sell his cloak, if necessary, and buy one. As a family man on a budget I wondered how small a blade I could buy and still have it qualify as a sword. The bible describes two swords, one belonging to Joab and the other to Ehud, as small enough to conceal beneath clothing. A careful reading of the story of Ehud revealed a sword measuring 13.5″ in total length. With a little more study I had enough information to make an educated guess at the other dimensions of Ehud’s sword. Now I needed to find someone who could take the sword in my mind, and turn it into a real sword in my hand.

I searched the knife publications and the Internet for a suitable knife maker and eventually found Gene Osborn of Center Cross Metal Works. When I saw Gene’s logo, three crosses, and read his philosophy of knife making I thought we would have a good match of interests. The fact that he had graduated from the Navy’s School of Heat Treatment and Metallurgy made everything a plus.

I called Gene on the phone and we talked about knives in general. When we got around to the Sword of Ehud, I could sense Gene’s interest growing and he began to share his personal history with me.

Gene joined the Navy 20 some years ago in order to learn everything he could about metal. Recognizing his commitment and motivation, the Navy gave him extensive schooling in metals and trained him as a Nuclear Components Welder. While attending heat treatment and metallurgy school, Gene made his first knife, a 440C stainless steel dive knife for a SEAL instructor.

The Navy put Gene to work on nuclear submarines where he met his wife Pat, a Nuclear Health Physicist. Pat now runs the Center Cross Metal Works website, takes care of Gene and their kids, and sometimes helps other aspiring web-masters get a start.

Since the Navy, Gene has worked as foreman in steel fabrication plants, CNC machinist, welding engineer in a steel foundry and custom knife maker. You can tell he has a strong interest in steel. “I love what I do,” says Gene.

Gene quickly warmed to the idea of making Ehud’s sword. We agreed that it should, by design, function as though Ehud’s life and the freedom of his people depended upon it. For that reason it should have the balance and proportions to genuinely slash through a determined defense (tenderize, as Gene put it), penetrate body armor and deliver a fatal wound with a single thrust. If made right, this sword would give new meaning to the phrase “pocket battleship”.

Since we had an historically prescribed length limitation of 13.5″, Gene and I knew it would take some new thinking about grip shape, overall proportion, blade contour and grind to elevate this knife into the domain of swords. Generally speaking, a blade less than 9″ in length does not slash effectively, and this limitation applies even more so to tapered dagger blades such as Ehud’s.

In order to distribute the blade mass more favorably for slashing, Gene proposed a technically difficult flat grind. This would leave more metal in the blade than the hollow grind usually associated with daggers. Gene also suggested a mirror polish on the blade to further reduce friction and drag. I, on the other hand, concentrated on designing a symmetrical grip that would enhance the slashing power of the blade without detracting from its thrust.

As part of my research I reviewed my large collection of knife magazines and edged-weapons publications. Using the Internet, I discussed design parameters with knife makers and martial artists around the world. The martial arts community gave me the phrase “snap cut”, describing a whipping, drumstick, baseball-throwing movement. They confirmed the concept of a heavy, balanced dagger as a slashing “tenderizer” in preparation for the final, intended thrust. Additional influences came from Bill Bagwell’s “coffin shape” grip, Charlie Porter’s “hammer pinch” grip, and James Mattis’s grip designs in general. Gradually, a design emerged that would enable the middle and ring fingers to accelerate the blade around the “pinch” between thumb and index finger, and yet keep the hand from sliding forward in a thrust.

Given the religious nature of this sword, I began my drawings with prayer. At each step along the way I tested the design by imagining myself in Ehud’s place. I also imagined what kind of knife I would want if I absolutely had to fight a grizzly bear. I constantly weighed the design against these standards. After two solid weeks of drawing, making cardboard models and obsessing in general, I sent the final set of overhead plan, side elevation and cross-sectional drawings to Gene.

When Gene received the drawings we had another long talk on the phone. I think during that phone call, for the first time Gene and I began to believe we could actually make a 13.5″ sword. He had very kind things to say about my grip design and my drawings. We also decided the design warranted the expense of BG-42 steel.

Finalizing the design of the grip we chose ebony (which grows in the biblical world) as an historically possible scale material. We put a layer of sheet brass under the ebony as an accent and a spacer of black micarta against the steel. To hold the seven layers of knife together we used seven brass pins. This theme of seven appears again in the sheath.

Gene suggested shrinking the scales and spacers in order to make the steel stand out a little. Adding file work to the projecting edges of the grip would further help keep the hand from sliding forward in an all-out, desperation thrust. A bull-rider would love to have a grip as positive as the one provided by this combination of shape and file work.

Timken-Latrobe, the exclusive manufacturer of BG-42 sent us many pages of technical data, and specific information on heat treatment. Michael Petro, metallurgical engineer for Timken-Latrobe gave me more than an hour of his phone time explaining the Vacuum Induction Melting and Vacuum Arc Remelting process they use to make BG-42. He also told me some of the history of this steel and explained the concept of micro-cleanliness. Now, when I think of BG-42, I think clean. I came away very pleased with our choice.

Within days of receiving the steel, Gene sent me photos of the shaped and finished blade prior to heat treatment. Gene had stayed within twenty thousandths of an inch of my drawings and managed to make the sword balance at the choil between the Center Cross logo and the grip. He also surprised me with photos of a remarkable sheath and harness.

The sheath, which Gene designed, includes a waist belt adjustable from 28 to 46 inches, a hip suspension strap and two additional straps to hold the sword against the thigh. The sheath has seven layers of cowhide, sheet brass and buckskin protection. Please read the word “protection” as intended for the wearer, not the sword. The whole sheath and harness adjust and work so well that any size wearer can perform gymnastics and generally get pretty “rough and tumble” without fear of losing the sword or receiving injury from it.

Given Gene’s years of heat treating a variety of steels for so many different applications, I very much wanted him to do the heat treatment in-house. Not many people heat-treat BG-42 because of the extremely high temperatures required and the need to isolate the steel from the atmosphere during heat treatment. Chris Reeve does his own knives. Canadian knife maker Thomas Haslinger and Paul Bos, renowned heat treatment specialist for Buck Knives, will take in other knife maker’s work as a professional service. Gene agreed to do the heat treatment only after the first blade we sent to Thomas Haslinger suffered severe damage during shipment. With input from Thomas Haslinger, Tom Mayo and Timken-LaTrobe, Gene developed a process he trusted and further improvised a way to use his present argon atmosphere furnace for the job.

I won’t go into all the details because I probably couldn’t do Gene’s process justice in the space available. This all comes under the heading “don’t try this at home” anyway. Suffice it to say the process involves multiple heating and cooling cycles, a soak in methanol and dry ice at 107 degrees below zero, and it produces a very tough steel at 62.5 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale (Rc).

As you may know, many knives characterized as “hard” come in at 59-61 Rc. If we had used the heat treatment process recommended by Timken-LaTrobe for BG-42, this blade could have measured as high as 64 Rc. Gene aimed for a more conservative hardness in order to maximize toughness and strength. Independent testing puts this blade at 62.5 Rc, right in the middle between its full potential and the maximum for more conventional steels.

The sword you see in the picture measures 13.425″ in overall length, and a reassuringly hefty .25″ in thickness. The ratio of the blade length, 8.3″, to the grip, 5.125″, incorporates a proportion (1.618 to 1) called the Golden Section. Architects and artisans have used this ratio to design beautiful buildings and art objects since the time of the Great Pyramid. In this case, with some help from Gene, the sword balances perfectly at the “golden section” meeting of the blade and the grip.

Every design feature contributes to the sword’s function, from the drag-reducing mirror polish to the multi-faceted and tapered grip. In my opinion, the shape of the grip increases the power of this sword enough to set it apart from the general family of daggers. It may not chop like a Bowie or a hatchet, but it will easily deliver an incapacitating slash.

The flat grind gives the point a strong, unbreakable cross-section all the way to the tip and, if you look carefully at the photograph, you will also notice the absence of a bevel at the edge. Closer examination by eye and touch reveals a rolled, or convex edge. The combination of a flat grind and convex edge provides maximum strength and edge retention with minimum drag. In an informal test of sharpness, the blade cut printer paper smoothly and effortlessly with the entire length of both edges, from root to tip.

I found designing and making this sword a very rewarding process. As an object of contemplation, the sword has given me a better understanding of my own faith and human condition. It has led me to understand that non-violent solutions to conflict have deeper significance when one has a weapon and therefore a genuine choice.

Ehud’s sword probably marks a once in a lifetime project for me. I don’t have the funds to do this as a regular hobby. I thank my wife and children for their support and Gene Osborn for faithfully making my dream come true. If you have a dream blade in your head, give Gene a call and let him put that knife in your hand.

Center Cross Metal Works
(817) 451-8243

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