Category Archives: Elimelech

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.

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 23 – Clouds of War

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 23

 Clouds of War

Mahlon narrowed his eyes as the Amalekite delegation trotted towards the royal stables. They are worse than the Moabites, Mahlon thought. They would kill us just for fun. He focused on the white mare of King Galkak. Shake him off, Mahlon requested of the mare. The mare shook its head. Shake him off! Mahlon commanded. The mare neighed, stood on its hind legs and pawed the air with its forelegs. Galkak fell off the horse, but somehow landed on his feet. Mahlon gritted his teeth.

“Easy, girl,” Galkak soothed his mare. “What happened to you?”

The mare neighed and pointed its head in Mahlon’s direction.

“Did he scare you?” Galkak asked as he led the mare towards Mahlon in the stable.

“Perhaps the horse no longer likes its rider,” Mahlon said to the approaching Galkak.

Galkak stopped and looked deep into Mahlon’s eyes.

“What do you want, Amalekite?” Mahlon spat to the side.

“I have had dealings with Elimelech, your father,” Galkak said quietly. “He is a great man. I’ve also known your uncle Boaz well, young Judean. You may find that we are not all as we seem, my impetuous Mahlon. Save your power for the true enemy. Now take care of my horse.” Galkak handed the reins to a speechless Mahlon. “I have business with the Tyrant.”




“Galkak!” Eglon announced cheerily from his throne. “Come sit next to us.”

Galkak walked in slowly, with half a frown on his face. His right hand shook intermittently. He sat to the left of the massive Moabite. Dirthamus the necromancer sat to Eglon’s right.

“You are looking gaunt, King of Amalek,” Eglon said with some concern. “What has happened? Soon you shall look like our cadaverous Dirthamus. Bring him some wine!” Eglon commanded his servants.

“No thanks, Boss.” Galkak put his hand out. “I’d rather not.”

“Who is this impostor?” Eglon squealed. “Where is the true Galkak? I have never in my entire life seen you refuse a drink. That is one of your more endearing characteristics. Are you ill?”

“The rumors are true, then,” Dirthamus hissed from the side, a cruel smile on his face. “He has given up the drink. See how he shakes. He must still be suffering from the lack. If he’s not careful, he may die.”

“Galkak,” Eglon said with more iron in his voice. “I have summoned you here for various reasons. First, I wanted to see for myself if the rumors were true. Will you not have a drink? For old-times’ sake?” Eglon offered his own wine skin.

“No, Boss. No. Please. Don’t.” Galkak forced the words out of his mouth as his eyes started to tear.

“I see. And what is this I hear of rebellion of the Amalekites against you? Know that rebellion against you is rebellion against me. You have been a loyal and steadfast vassal all these years. Almost eighteen years since we conquered Canaan together and subjugated those restless Israelites. You have been by my side throughout and now I need you to remain strong. We have one last effort to safeguard our Empire forever.”

“You know me, Boss.” Galkak gripped his own thigh to keep his hand from shaking. “I’m tough as nails and no unhappy subjects are goin’ to stop me. Just tell me what you wan’ me to do.”

“I knew I could count on you.” Eglon clapped his hands, his enormous girth shaking and his triple chin wiggling. “I want you to bring all your soldiers here, to the plain of the Jordan. We shall punish the Israelites with a massacre they shall not soon forget and that shall forge the union between us and the Egyptians.”

“I don’t get it, Boss. What’s the connection? What’s the plan?”

“I want you to meet the new commander of my army. He is a brilliant young tactician and a fearless warrior. Call General Bagdon!” Eglon ordered.

Tall, dark-haired Bagdon entered the audience chamber. Only a thin scar from his ear to his mouth marred his otherwise handsome features.

“General Bagdon,” Eglon said. “Meet our vassal and ally, King Galkak of Amalek.”

“Galkak the drunk,” Bagdon said, as he looked at the Amalekite with disgust. He then looked at Galkak closely. “You remind me of someone.” Bagdon contorted his face as he tried to recall the connection.

Dirthamus looked from Bagdon to Galkak and couldn’t help but notice a resemblance.

“Bagdon son of Avod, Prince of Simeon,” Galkak stated loudly. “Your reputation for cruelty and ruthlessness precedes you. My congratulations. But Boss, can an Israelite, can a son of a prince no less, be trusted with this new plan?” Galkak turned to Eglon.

“Bagdon has my complete and utter trust. He has proven himself countless times that he is a son of Moab. He has earned his place on the backs, blood and corpses of the Israelites. I think they may even fear him more than they fear me. No, Galkak. Bagdon is the right man for the task. And once our union with Egypt is complete, I have promised him my daughter Orpah as wife.”

“So what is the plan, then?” Galkak asked, holding his thigh tighter.

“We are to assemble all the Israelite firstborns on the Jordan plain, shortly after the upcoming Tribute,” Bagdon answered. “Then we are to kill them all. Their ears will be collected and sent to Pharaoh as proof of the slaughter and as dowry for the marriage of Princess Ruth to Seti, Pharaoh’s heir. Thereby the Empires of Moab and Egypt shall be united. We shall be the greatest power in the world.”

Beads of sweat formed on Galkak’s brow and his skin turned greenish.

“Are you unwell?” Eglon asked.

“It’s nothin’, Boss. Just the lack of drink. It happens sometimes.”

“What can we do?”

“I jus’ need some fresh air, that’s all. Please excuse me.”

“By all means, Galkak. Go and return when you’ve recuperated.”

Galkak rose from the chair and walked unsteadily out of the chamber.

“Strange,” Eglon said.

“Indeed,” Dirthamus agreed. “I shall have to investigate further. Excuse me, sire.”

“Yes, yes, Dirthamus. Go make sure he is well. We cannot afford for Galkak to fail us just now.”

“Certainly, sire. We cannot afford any weakness.” Dirthamus hobbled out of the chamber, his wooden staff clattering loudly on the stone floor.



Mahlon was surprised by Galkak’s early return.

“I’m sorry, I was rude –” Mahlon started saying.

“Never mind that.” Galkak grabbed Mahlon by the arm and whispered. “Eglon is planning to kill all the Hebrew firstborns.”

“When? Why are you telling me this?”

“After the Tribute. Why am I telling you? I will reveal a secret to you, young Mahlon. A secret that has been eating me alive for eighteen years. I am no Amalekite! I am Galkak of Simeon. I fought in the Israelite militia alongside Boaz, Amitai and Ehud. I must warn Ehud of Eglon’s plan. The time has come for us to fight back. This planned massacre cannot be God’s will. Have we not suffered enough under Moabite tyranny? Does your family, does Elimelech not cry out to God for salvation? I’ll inform Eglon that I’m leaving to bring my troops. You must alert the other loyal princelings and get the word out to the princes. Beware of Bagdon. He suspects me. He doesn’t realize I am related to him. Prince Avod is my cousin, though I haven’t seen him in more than two decades. If Bagdon unmasks me, my effectiveness will be neutralized. Be strong and of good courage, Mahlon son of Elimelech son of Nachshon the Brave. We shall need every man we can get, and I suspect you are well placed to save Israel.”

Without another word, Galkak mounted his horse and rode out of the stable. He found his Amalekite retinue, gave them orders and rode out of the City of Palms.

Dirthamus hobbled into the stable a few moments later.

“Mahlon, blast your inscrutable mind,” Dirthamus rasped. “Have you seen Galkak?”

“The Amalekite King?”

“Is there a different Galkak, you dimwit?”

“No, I haven’t seen him.”

“Prepare me a donkey and my wagon,” Dirthamus ordered.

“Where are you going?”

“That is not your concern, Judean.”

“If you want me to harness the donkey properly, then I do need to know. Is it a short ride or a long one? Is it on trodden roads or on hilly terrain? If I attach the harness too tightly, the donkey will tire quickly. If I attach it too loosely, you’ll have a rickety ride.”

“I am going to the tribe of Simeon.”

“I know the road. Your transport will be ready in just a few moments.” Mahlon ran to his favorite donkey, Chamrah, his plan already formulated.




“Prince Seti,” Eglon exclaimed. “What an unexpected surprise.”

The heir of Egypt stood in front of Eglon in a resplendent robe of white linen woven with golden threads and adorned with colorful gemstone embroidered around the collar of the robe.

“You did not think we would merely allow our new ally to fend for himself,” Seti said. “We wish to provide whatever assistance you might need. And I of course have come for a personal reason. I wish to gaze again upon the beauty of my intended. I wish to see Ruth.”

“Call for the princess!” Eglon commanded. “In the meantime, Seti, please meet the commander of our forces, General Bagdon. I have promised him the hand of my second daughter should he succeed in this venture. That would make you brother-in-laws!”

Bagdon bowed to Seti. “It will be my honor to serve you and our grand alliance.”

“Bagdon,” Seti said pensively, “you do not look Moabite. What is your origin?”

“I am born of the tribe of Simeon and a loyal soldier of Moab.”

“Interesting, Eglon. You bring a Hebrew to quash the Hebrews. That is somehow ironic. In Egypt too, before your forefathers escaped, we made good use of the Hebrew leadership. They drove their own brothers in the slave pits. They were some of the harshest taskmasters.”

“My mission is to see to the glory of Emperor Eglon and now to Pharaoh as well,” Bagdon declared.

“That is encouraging to hear. Ah, Ruth,” Seti exclaimed as Ruth entered the audience chamber. “My beautiful desert flower. How are you? I have missed you.”

“I am well, Seti,” Ruth stated plainly. She wore a simple white cotton dress, with her red tresses pulled back under a white shawl.

“I have come to ensure your father’s success in his upcoming campaign. We are eager to receive the promised dowry.”

“Of course, Seti.” Ruth looked down.

“Are you unhappy?” Seti asked.

“I am distressed by this unwarranted massacre you are planning.”

“My love, you are young and do not understand,” Seti answered. “The Hebrews are slaves. For generations they were enslaved to Egypt. Then, under the influence of that renegade, the sorcerer Moses, they escaped. But it was not merely an escape. Those thankless upstarts, those crude thieves, looted Egypt. Every ounce of gold, every talent of silver was stolen. We clothed them, we fed them, we employed them and this is how they thank us? Devastating plague after plague ruined our beautiful land. The Nile ran red with blood. Animals and pestilence destroyed our crop. Fearful hail and petrifying darkness attacked us. And then the firstborns. They claim it was their God, but every firstborn of Egypt died. Every one. This cannot go unavenged. This is our opportunity. And the death of every Israelite firstborn will be our vengeance. It will signal our ascendance, Egypt’s return to its full strength versus man and god.”

“Splendid, Seti,” Eglon interrupted. “I could not have explained it better myself. Now what assistance did you have in mind? We have sufficient troops, do we not, Bagdon?”

“Our united forces,” Bagdon explained, “including the Amalekite and Ammonite regulars, number ten thousand men. That should be more than enough against unarmed rabble. We could use more horses however.”

“We have horses aplenty,” Seti stated. “What type do you need? We have Arabian, Barbs, Hunters, Nubian and Tarpans.”

“A horse is a horse,” Bagdon said in confusion.

“This is the commander of your forces, Eglon? A man who does not understand the difference between horses? Bring someone who knows the difference between a stallion and a mare,” Seti stated.

“Call for Mahlon, the Royal Stable Master,” Eglon ordered. “He is the best with animals.”

Ruth’s face brightened at the mention of Mahlon.

“Prince Seti,” Eglon cleared his throat. “Mahlon is a masterful stable-man and there is no one with better command of the horses. However, he is Israelite and I am not certain of his allegiance.”

“I understand. I shall keep my discussion with him purely technical.”

A few moments later Mahlon entered the chamber.

“Mahlon, bow to Prince Seti, heir to Pharaoh and future husband to Princess Ruth,” Eglon commanded. Mahlon bowed stiffly. “Seti is going to supply us with horses for our troops and we wanted your opinion as to the disposition of the horses.”

“How many horses are we talking about?” Mahlon asked.

“As many as you need to reinforce your cavalry,” Seti said. “What types, man, tell me what types.”

“We could use a dozen Arabians for the commanders,” Mahlon said. “Two dozen Nubians for the front line riders, half a dozen Tarpans for the scouts and as many Barbs as you are willing to part with.”

“Barbs?” Seti raised an eyebrow.

“Yes, they are not as pretty as the Arabians, which is why I only requested the Arabians for the vain commanders. The Barbs are the hardiest breed and do best in our desert.”

“This is a man who knows his animals,” Seti declared with obvious admiration. “Perhaps you will let me take him back to Egypt. We can use a man like this ourselves.”

Ruth looked at Mahlon in a mild panic.

Mahlon looked at Ruth in confusion. She doesn’t want me to leave, he realized.

“Mahlon is one of our royal hostages and his absence at this stage would be noted,” Eglon explained. “Perhaps in the future he can be spared.”

Ruth sighed softly in relief. Why is she relieved? Mahlon wondered. She is sad. She knows about the upcoming massacre and is against it, he sensed. She doesn’t want to be married to Seti. She is still a prisoner, after all these years.

“You did not request any Hunters,” Seti noted. “We find them to be formidable animals.”

“They are cruel and ill-tempered animals that will just as quickly trample their own rider as their prey. The Moabites are not proficient enough riders to control such wild and dangerous beasts. They would end up biting the backs of the other horses and create havoc in the cavalry.”

“You are wise as well as knowledgeable.” Seti smiled. “Eglon, make sure to save this royal hostage for me. I think our business for today is done. My Princess,” Seti curtsied to Ruth and exited the chamber.

“You are dismissed,” Eglon said to Mahlon.

Mahlon bowed lightly to Eglon and looked into Ruth’s sad eyes. She seemed to be saying to him, get away from here, but he already had other plans as he backed out of the chamber.




“Galkak? What are you doing here?” Ehud asked as Galkak entered the smithy quickly.

“Eglon means to kill all the Israelite firstborns,” Galkak answered breathlessly.

“I know.”

“How do you know? I just found out myself. He means to assemble and massacre them all after the Tribute.”

“God came to me in a dream. He told me of Eglon’s plans.”

“What else did He tell you?”

“We are going to fight.”


“I’m working on it.”

“Well, you better work quickly, because you’ll be fighting against ten thousand trained, armed and brutal professional soldiers. You don’t have any weapons! What are you going to do?”

“Cut the head off the snake.”

“And then what? That Bagdon seems fairly vicious and they have Egyptian backing.”

“We need to make our effort and God will take care of the rest. I am quietly trying to assemble an army. We will attack the day of the Tribute, right after we’ve delivered it to Eglon. I think now may be the time to use your influence on the Amalekites against Eglon.”

“I will. Also, Elimelech’s son is in charge of Eglon’s stable and I believe he can be of some help.”

“Yes. He has some mental power. We will need everyone’s help in the end.”

“That’s an understatement.”

“Go, Galkak. Have faith. The time has come. The day you’ve waited for all these years is approaching and your painful toil has not been in vain. You will use your position to save your brethren. Go. Pit the Amalekites against the Moabites and that may ensure our victory. Perhaps get word to the Ammonites as well. All will be nervous about what an Egyptian alliance will do to their positions.”

“God better be with us, or it’s goin’ to end really badly.”

“Have faith, Galkak. Do you want a drink before you leave?”

“No, I’ve given it up.” Galkak said and left the smithy as quickly as he entered.

Ehud raised his eyebrow and said to the door: “If Galkak can give up drinking, there is hope indeed.”



Chamrah knew this human. He had been one of Bilaam’s apprentices many many years ago. The human was ill-tempered and smelly and avoided the light in his strange covered wagon that she pulled up the Arava Road. Mahlon had instructed her what to do. She liked Mahlon. He was the first human, except for the one episode with Bilaam, who understood her. Whenever she wanted more hay or water or a scratch behind the ear, Mahlon had been there. He often commented to her about her intelligence and her unnatural lifespan. She loved hearing his complements. Mahlon had often said she was his favorite animal in the stable.

Now he had given her an important mission. She was to strand this foul sorcerer in the Judean Mountains. It went against her nature, to abandon one of her charges, but Mahlon had convinced her that it was imperative, that this Dirthamus was on a mission of evil and that he needed to be delayed. That’s all he had asked for.

Chamrah knew Mahlon had cut into her harness. He had thought to her, when you leave the desert mountain and reach the trees of Judea, break free. Break free, leave him there and come back home.

“Blasted animal,” Dirthamus muttered. “Can’t you go any faster? It’s just like Mahlon to saddle me with a slow, stupid, sickly beast. Go!” Dirthamus whipped Chamrah’s backside. Chamrah instinctively quickened her pace. I won’t have any compunction about leaving you behind, she thought.

They climbed up the mountain road, accompanied on either side by pink and tan craggy mountains, rivulets of loose stones and a sprinkling of shrubs. As they ascended higher, the shrubs grew in number. Chamrah spotted a rare tree or two amongst boulders and rocks of various sizes. The road started to level and finally they reached the tree line. Wide oaks and tall ferns marked the end of the mountain desert.

Chamrah put on a burst of speed. Dirthamus, surprised, fell back into his wagon. Chamrah felt the leather of the harness tear, but not completely. She tried another burst of speed, but the harness held. Now what, she thought.

“What is wrong with you, you dumb animal? Dirthamus yelled and whipped Chamrah.

God’s not going to open your ears like he did your master Bilaam, Chamrah thought, so I won’t even bother with a reply. There’s the solution. Chamra spotted a fallen tree trunk by the side of the road. She ran towards the tree at full speed.

“Stop! Stop!!” Dirthamus screamed, seeing the large trunk ahead.

Chamrah jumped over the trunk. The wheels of Dirthamus’ wagon slammed into the fallen tree, sending Dirthamus flying out of the wagon. He landed on the hard road several feet away. Chamrah’s harness tore free from the wagon and she trotted casually to the fallen sorcerer.

“Come,” Dirthamus croaked and reached out to Chamrah from the ground.

I don’t know if Mahlon would have wanted me to do this, but I detest this human, Chamrah thought as she turned her back to the sorcerer.

“Come, beast,” Dirthamus commanded.

Chamrah kicked the sorcerer in the face, sending him back a few more feet, unconscious. I hate sorcerers, she thought. They’re so dumb.



Galkak had assembled all the Amalekite leaders. They sat around the large rectangular table in his palace. He would deal with their rebellion once and for all. He looked around at each face and calmly tried to take in each thought as Yered had taught him.

“You, the leadership of Amalek and the people of Amalek, are unhappy with my rule,” Galkak announced. A murmur of agreement answered his statement.

“But I am not the source of your unhappiness. It is Eglon. He is and always has been the source of my power. He tells us what to do. He holds us back from our old ways, from attacking the Israelites at will, from marauding caravans, from ambushing merchants. He has turned us into his guards and tax-collectors. Is this what you want?”

“No!” was the unanimous answer from around the table.

“Good. I admit I’ve been his puppet all this time. And that is only because I thought it was in our best interest. But I have learned something disturbing and this alliance, this subservience to the Moabites must come to an end.”

“What has happened?” one of the Amalekite leaders, Harpag, asked.

“Eglon has sold us to the Egyptians.”

“What do you mean?” Harpag asked.

“He means to ally with Egypt and attack his old allies, us and the Ammonites.”

“Why should we trust you?” Harpag pushed. “You’ve always been in Eglon’s confidence. How do we know this is not some elaborate ruse?”

“You ask a valid question, Harpag, and you have little reason to trust me. But let me ask you this. Why should I wish to betray the man who has given me power, if not to bring freedom to Amalek? It may be suicide, but I will risk it. Do you fear his might? Do you think that our forces cannot overtake him, if we have the element of surprise?”

“What are we going to do?”

“We are going to play along with Eglon. We are going to pretend we are still his loyal subjects. We are going to join Eglon in the upcoming attack against the Israelites, but then, when the time is right, we will turn on Eglon and the Moabites and regain our freedom. Will you join me? Will you all join me?”

“Yes!” was the unanimous answer. “To war!”


* * * * * *


Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 20 – The Weight of Oppression

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 20

 The Weight of Oppression

Ruth waited for the changing of the guard as she nibbled the core of an apple. Ever since she could remember, her father had posted a guard outside the servant’s entrance to the palace kitchen. She crouched behind a large cauldron against the wall, next to the open door. At seven years old, she was a thin little girl in a simple beige tunic, leather sandals and lustrous red hair, pulled back starkly, accentuating her angular features. Over the years, she had learned to be very quiet, to the point that she was invisible to most adults.

A tall guard approached the door and greeted the heavyset soldier on duty. Ruth spotted two other soldiers walking several feet away. She threw the apple core with all her might and hit one of the soldiers on the head.

“Hey! Why’d you hit me?” the soldier turned around to his companion.

“What are you talking about? I didn’t do anything,” the companion answered.

“You clumsy oaf. You must have knocked me with your spear. Be careful next time.” The soldier shoved his companion.

“My spear is straight. You’re the clumsy one.” The companion shoved back. The tall guard and the heavy guard at the kitchen door approached the duo.

“What’s the matter?” the tall one asked.

Ruth didn’t hear anything further as she casually walked out of the kitchen towards the exit of the compound.

Ruth reached the Jordan River. She enjoyed the bubbling of the stream and loved collecting the smooth rocks from the river bank. Most of the rocks were gray in the morning sun, but her practiced eye already knew which rocks had the potential to surprise.

She grabbed one dusty rock and held it in the rushing water of the river. The water cleaned the rock, revealing flecks of pink and blue in the smooth stone.

“Ooh,” Ruth cooed joyfully as the colors of the rock were revealed. “This one will be great for my collection.” She took the stone out of the water and ran to a small grotto upstream. In the grotto was a collection of dozens of stones organized in three different pyramids. One pile consisted of flat smooth stones of a bluish hue. The second pile had rounder stones will a red tint. The third, smaller pile, consisted of smaller stones with green and tiny shiny specks of silver.

“Where should I put you?” Ruth wondered aloud to the stone.

“I know. You’ll go in the middle.” Ruth placed her new stone in-between the blue and red pyramids.

“Princesses should not be wandering alone,” said a young voice, startling Ruth.

“Oh, Mahlon. It’s you,” Ruth said with both fear and annoyance.

At fifteen, Mahlon was already the height of a man, with a thin frame and a wispy moustache of red hair. Ruth knew Mahlon well. They often dined together, whenever Eglon desired the company of the Israelite princelings. But she had never seen him outside the compound, nor spoken to him alone.

“You should be in the palace,” Mahlon said.

“Do you always do what you’re supposed to?” Ruth asked.

“No, but I’m not the daughter of the king.”

“So? That means I need to be locked up like a prisoner?” Ruth argued.

“We are both prisoners. But yours is a prison of privilege. No one is threatening to kill your family if you leave.”

“You hate me, don’t you, Mahlon.”

“I hate all Moabites.”


“Because I’m a hostage. Because I can only see my family once a year, and even then, I’ve become a stranger to them. I don’t know what it means to be an Israelite – I only know you Moabites and I hate you. You’ve subjugated, enslaved and killed my people. You want me to be happy about it? You make us bow down and worship your lifeless idols. You starve our tribes and steal their crops and flocks. Should I not hate you, princess?”

“But I didn’t do any thing!?” Ruth protested.

“You didn’t. But your father has, in the name of his glorious Empire.”

“I’m sorry. What should I do?”

“What can you do?” Mahlon turned around and stomped away.

Ruth sat down on a large stone and looked at her rock collection. She sat pensively for a long time until a single tear fell down her cheek. She stood up and kicked her pyramids until the grotto was filled with a disarray of reddish, bluish and greenish stones. She picked up the stone she had found that morning and trotted off angrily back home, back to the City of Palms, capital of the Moabite Empire.

Bagdon saluted smartly at Emporer Eglon. Eglon’s girth had doubled since the conquest of Canaan. It was a strain for him to walk, but he was determined to come out to see the troops whenever possible. He was surveying Bagdon’s unit standing at attention in the palace training grounds. Bagdon was the son of Avod, Prince of the tribe of Simeon. At seventeen, Bagdon had a muscular frame and a dark complexion. Though young, he had proven himself as an outstanding soldier, a strong commander fiercely loyal to Eglon. He had been made a Captain of One Hundred and was ambitious for more.

“Ah, my dear Bagdon, my star pupil,” Eglon said with obvious joy. The fat of his body shook as he stroked his double chin. “It is such a pleasure to see you in command. If only all your people clung to me with such passion, all our troubles would be over.”

“I live to serve and obey, my Lord.” Bagdon bowed. “I have often tried convincing my people to see the wisdom of joining you wholeheartedly. I don’t know why they insist on the old ways and beliefs.”

“Patience, young Bagdon. Patience. You are a model citizen. When they see your success and happiness and compare it to their wretched and miserable existence, they will understand. It may be too late for the older generation, but I have hopes for a new generation of Israelites. A generation that will not remember its god, a generation that will worship as we Moabites do, serving as loyal citizens in our empire.”

“Yes, my Lord.”

“Now listen to me,” Eglon said softly. “I have a mission for you and your troops. There’s a group of shepherds up by the tribe of Ephraim who’ve been avoiding our regular tax collectors. They’re an unsavory lot, those Ephraimites, brigands really, cheating us from our rightful taxes. I want you to go up there, find them, conduct a thorough count of their flocks and take our due. If they give any resistance, kill a few of those fools, just to remind them who is in charge. If you and your men take a few extra sheep for yourselves, I won’t say a thing, as long as you bring me my full measure.”

“Yes, my Lord. The justice I will bring in your name shall be swift and powerful. Those ingrates will learn not to cross the will of the Empire.”

“That’s the spirit, Bagdon. Keep this up and I shall make you rich and powerful. If you perform this mission well, I shall have to think of a special reward for you.”

“Your daughter?” Bagdon blurted.

“Ruth? No,” Eglon chuckled. “I have her reserved for the Pharaoh, but perhaps my second daughter, Orpah. Yes, Bagdon. If you show yourself worthy, I would not be against the union of my daughter with an Israelite. That would prove to the tribes my respect for your people. But she is still young, only five years old. We have time.”

“Yes, my Lord. You shall be most impressed by our performance against the Ephraimites. It shall be a punishment they shall not soon forget. I assure you that after our visit they shall become the most obedient of tribes.”

“Very well. Just don’t overdo it. A lesson and my sheep. Don’t destroy resources. A few lives are fine. We need a productive obedient people. Not a revolt. It’s a fine line.”

“Yes, my Lord. I will not forget.”

“Good, Bagdon. Make me proud.” Eglon turned about and headed back into the palace. Bagdon smiled, already thinking of riches and glory.

Mahlon put out fresh hay for Eglon’s horses. He was content being a stable boy. Years ago, the Moabite captains had learned to keep him away from men. There was always a heightened discomfort and even anxiety when Mahlon was around. He would stare intently at someone, and then the person would do something erratic. People avoided Mahlon and he liked it that way. Mahlon was at peace with the animals. Their thoughts were clear and direct. I’m hungry, the grey mare would think. I’m thirsty, the young brown stallion complained. That fly is annoying me, the white stallion, repeated often. Here’s some hay, Mahlon thought back to the mare. Drink from your trough, you lazy colt, he thought to the brown. He ignored the white stallion as there’s not much one can do about the flies.

“Mahlon, there you are,” Bagdon said as he trotted into the stable on his black mare.

“Bagdon,” Mahlon said without looking up.

“I need a new rein. The strap is all worn on the left.”

“That’s because you pull too hard on it. Go easier on your horse.”

“You’re going to teach me how to ride, stable boy?”

“I could probably teach you much more than that, traitor. Get off your horse and I’ll put on a fresh strap.”

“Watch your mouth, son of Elimelech. I could have you whipped and everyone here would thank me.”

“Then go ahead, big mouth.” Mahlon stared into Bagdon’s eyes.

“Just change the strap.” Bagdon looked down. “You know, you can join us. If you showed more respect to Eglon, you could join the troops; share in the honor and the wealth.”

“And attack our people?” Mahlon asked as he replaced the strap. “Is that how you get honor and wealth? By killing and stealing from our brothers? By stomping on the face of the downfallen tribes? Your father must be so proud.”

“My father is proud.” Bagdon raised his chin. “He said I should throw in my lot with the victor. Eglon would oppress the tribes with or without me. I might as well gain from the position and perhaps I can help our brothers in some way when the time is right.”

“Is that your plan? Rise through the ranks with cruelty and brutality to our brothers so that one day you can turn around and show some kindness? No, Bagdon. I think you are more Moabite than the Moabites themselves. I think you bend over backwards to show how much you believe in their cause. You worship their idols and Eglon with such fervor that even the Moabites are impressed. You are Israelite only in name. But I don’t blame you. How could it be otherwise? You were raised for this purpose. Your father encouraged it. I’ll ask you this though, when you kill your brothers, do you wonder who you are?”

“I am the son of the prince of Simeon and a soldier of Moab. There is no contradiction. My allegiance is to Eglon and the Empire just as is yours and all the tribes of Israel. My father, your father, all the tribal leaders, swore allegiance to Eglon and I am upholding their vows.”

“They have succeeded then,” Mahlon said.

“Succeeded at what?”

“In blinding you. Do you not see the injustice of our subjugation? This is not right!”

“It is the way of the world. The strong subjugate the weak. Get used to it.” Bagdon trotted out of the stable with his new rein.

Ruth was excited to be present at the yearly Israelite tribute assembly. This would be the first time she and Orpah would be allowed in the throne room for such a large and official event.

“Welcome my dear princes,” Eglon said from atop his throne. It was the third throne that had been constructed for him and it was already becoming too narrow for his expanding girth. Folds of flesh under his white robes hung over the armrest of the marble chair. He held a plate and ate slices of roasted beef dipped in olive oil. He was careful not to drip on his white robes. Dirthamus sat on one side of Eglon and the Empress Neema sat on the other side. Ruth and Orpah sat on small stools next to their mother. The twelve princes of Israel with their retinues and the royal hostages bowed to the Moabite Emperor. Ehud of Benjamin was amongst them.

“Your contributions this year leave much to be desired,” Eglon noted as he looked at the gifts the retinues had brought. Trays were laden with coins of gold and silver and a selection of grapes, figs and pomegranates. Sacks were filled with grains of wheat, barley and spelt. Reams of wool and jugs of oil and wine were placed in front of Eglon. “Were the rains poor this year? Was there not enough grazing for your herds?”

“If your henchman hadn’t stolen our flocks and killed our shepherds there might have been more,” the prince of Ephraim protested.

“That was a necessary disciplinary action and I’m quite proud of your own Bagdon of Simeon who led our forces.” Eglon nodded at his young captain. Ruth noted Bagdon’s evil grin. She had heard of his ruthlessness in killing the Ephraimites and his growing avarice in the spoils he took for himself.

“I trust the message was clear and we shall not have other shepherds evading our tax collectors,” Eglon continued.

“You are squeezing us dry Eglon,” Elimelech of Judah protested. “You leave us barely enough for survival. You cannot blame us if our farmers and shepherds are frustrated and angry.”

“Is that a threat I sense?” Eglon asked. “Ehud! Speak up, man. I appointed you my intermediary so that I shouldn’t have to hear or deal with each individual prince. Are you Israelites threatening me? Shall I bring my iron fist harder upon your people?”

“Your Majesty,” Ehud stepped forward. “If you squeeze any harder, there shall be nothing left. How can we threaten you? You’ve confiscated all our weapons and outlawed the production of more. You do not let us congregate. Your soldiers are in every city and village and upon every road. You account for every head of cattle and every stalk of grain. You have an army ten thousand strong while we do not have even one soldier left. No, your Majesty. Even if we desired to, we do not have the means, the strength or the resources to threaten one soldier, let alone the might of the Moabite Empire.”

Ruth looked at Ehud with a mixture of fear and curiosity. He was grim, though likeable. But there was something silently threatening, even ominous about him that she sensed would change her life forever.

“That is true,” Eglon smiled, appeased. “Nonetheless, I do not appreciate the grumbling and I understand that the worship of Baal has been halfhearted. I hereby declare that every prince shall place a statue of Baal in their homes, besides the ones by every city gate. Whoever does not erect the statue will suffer the usual elimination of their family. Furthermore, I shall take a child from every family for my work-force. They shall be my slaves for life.”

“You can’t do that!” Elimelech stood up.

“I can and I shall.” Eglon grinned. “You protest too much, I think. Perhaps you need a personal reminder, Elimelech. Perhaps I should kill your son before your eyes. I have never liked your Mahlon in any case.”

“No!” Elimelech pleaded.

“Mahlon, come before me,” Eglon ordered.

Mahlon stood up, unafraid, and walked to Eglon, his eyes boring into those of the heavy monarch. The assembly looked on in utter silence. Ruth’s heart beat faster for some reason she couldn’t explain. He’s so brave, she thought. To stare down my father like that.

Mahlon looked intently at Eglon for a few moments.

Eglon looked back silently, then broke his gaze and looked back at Mahlon in confusion. He coughed and then announced:

“On second thought, we’ll let the lad be. He’s been good with the horses. Competent stable-boys are so hard to find.”

Mahlon walked back to stand next to his father, who let out an audible sigh of relief. Ruth thanked her gods.

“Ehud,” Eglon turned to the blacksmith. “I tire of this assembly and I am displeased by your people’s attitude. I have brought you peace and security, commerce and enlightenment, and in return I receive surliness and hostility, anger and treachery. Your Moses was right when he called you a stiff-necked people. Get them out of my sight and make sure my orders are obeyed and our taxes are collected. Now out, out all of you.” Eglon waved his hands at the Israelites.

The princes and their party left the chamber in a slow and orderly fashion, leaving their tribute behind.

“You stay, Ehud,” Eglon commanded.

“Yes, your Majesty.”

“Why are they so unhappy?”

“You need to ask?”

“I suppose not, but for how long can they hate me? Why can’t they live with the new reality? Why can’t they accept my dominion and cooperate? Why do they force me to be harsher with them? They must learn to fear me without my constantly punishing them.”

“I do not know the answer.”

“What does your god say?”

“That we must suffer longer.”

“Then I am fulfilling that role.”

“Yes, quite well.”

“Then your god approves of me?” Eglon asked with surprise.

“My people are suffering as per God’s plans, but I think you have taken matters too far.”

“Is that a threat from you, my dear blacksmith?”

“Your Majesty, I think you know me well enough by now to recognize that I speak plainly and do not make veiled threats. I fear for the well-being of my people, but as God’s servant I will not interfere in His plans. That is all.”

“What about your loyalty to me? You swore!”

“I did indeed swear to follow you as per God’s plans. But I think you are only hurting yourself seeing danger and threats in every corner. Your Empire is strong and steady, with no one to threaten you. You have the respect of the Egyptians to your south and the Arameans to the north. Your borders are secure and your trade is flourishing. As you envisioned, you control the main trade routes of the world. Even the Phoenicians respect you and have agreed to your taxes on their wares. I recommend that you not oppress the Israelites further, or you may find God no longer approving of your role.”

“That is a threat!” Eglon stated.

“Do you fear me?” Ehud asked.

“I fear all who may threaten me.”

“Then kill me,” Ehud said.

“No, no. I trust you. I need you.”

“Then stop acting like a scared bully and behave like the confident Emperor you are! You are strong. Being paranoid does no one any good, least of all you.”

Eglon stared at Ehud with his mouth open. He started to talk and then stopped again.

“How dare,” Eglon stammered, barely containing his shock and rage. “I don’t believe – you can’t – I ought.”

Empress Neema placed her hand on Eglon’s arm. Ruth looked at Ehud with open admiration. These Israelites are brave and honorable, she thought. I should get to know them better. Especially Mahlon.

Eglon closed his eyes, breathed deeply and calmed himself. He was quiet for several moments.

“You are right,” Eglon said finally. “I am strong and these doubts are beneath me. Ehud, you are a true friend. Only a true friend would say what you said to me. I will not doubt your friendship. You are courageous to have risked your life to show me the error of my ways. I chose wisely when I chose you to represent Israel. Thank you.”

“I am here to serve, your Majesty – even if it will cost me my life.”

“You have my eternal trust. Go in peace, my friend.”

“I hope I will not disappoint you.” Ehud bowed and left the chamber.

Ruth didn’t understand how, but she knew both men were lying.

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 18 – Baby Steps

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 18

Baby Steps

Mahlon balanced himself on the edge of the palace wall. It was a two story drop to the training grounds below, but the danger did not trouble the eight year-old redhead. Mahlon enjoyed watching the Moabite soldiers train in the summer afternoon, but today he had another purpose. Ever since his father Elimelech had sent him as hostage to Eglon, together with the firstborns of the eleven other princes of Israel, Mahlon had taken every opportunity to disobey and tease his captors. His favorite prank had been placing the dung beetle on Eglon’s throne. Eglon still looked cautiously now when sitting down on his throne, remembering the sharp pincers of the beetle. Mahlon had a great new plan. He would place some oil on the step leading up to the throne. He only wished he could be there to see Eglon fall hard on his fat face.

Mahlon climbed down the brickwork of the palace and jumped into the Emperor’s empty audience chamber. Ever since the beetle prank, guards had been posted at the room’s entrance, even when Emperor Eglon was not present. But the guards were outside the closed door. They did not expect a diminutive intruder to climb in through the open window on the second story. The room was pleasantly cool despite the heat of the Jordan plain.

The audience chamber was a large room, dominated at its end by a large marble throne, with soft velvet cushions and two marble steps to reach the throne. There was a wooden chair on either side of the throne where the Empress and Dirthamus would often sit.

Rich silken drapes were spread throughout the room, creating a pleasant contrast of colors and shadows. Elaborate frescoes with historic scenes filled the walls. One fresco depicted Eglon’s conquest of Amalek with Galkak and Empress Neema facing the entire Moabite army. Another showed the wedding of Eglon and Neema in the great city of Rabbath Ammon. A third fresco illustrated the twelve princes of Israel bowing to Emperor Eglon. A fourth had an Israelite city in flames, the flames a bright orange that seemed to leap from the wall. Mahlon hated that fresco. It was a constant reminder of the punishment Eglon would inflict for disobedience. And he had.

In the year since his conquest of Canaan, he had burned three cities with all their inhabitants. Only one survivor was left from each city to recount the horror of watching friends and family burned alive. Two cities had been burned for their refusal to place a statue of Baal at the entrance. One city had been burned for a brawl that broke out between a Moabite soldier and a bridegroom, after the soldier had grabbed the prospective bride. Now every city and village of Israel had Baal at its entrance and no one resisted the Moabite soldiers.

Mahlon crept slowly to the throne. He heard a soft snoring from the side of the throne. Before he realized someone was there, a bony hand shot out and grabbed his wrist. Mahlon had not noticed the cadaverous figure sleeping in the shadow.

“What mischief are you up to, Judean brat?” Dirthamus hissed.

“Oh, nothing, sir. I must’ve gotten lost in the corridors,” Mahlon squeaked.

“You lie, son of Elimelech. How did you get past the guards? By one-eyed Bilaam! Your mind is closed to me. Curious, as your sire’s mind was quite open to me. Speak the truth or your punishment shall be severe.”

“Will you take me from my home and family? Will you whip me? Will you burn Bethlehem to the ground? What further punishment will you give me for entering here by accident?”

“Let me see what devices you bring with you.” Dirthamus searched Mahlon’s body roughly, not finding anything. Mahlon thanked the Hebrew God he had not brought a flask of oil as he had initially planned.

“You see? I told you it was an innocent mistake. Can I go now?”

“Not so fast. I shall escort you out to make sure you do not make any further mischief here. I will just get my staff and shall go to the guards.”

Dirthamus reached for the staff leaning against the chair. Mahlon kicked it, sending it clattering to the ground.

“I’m sorry!” Mahlon said. “I meant to get it for you. Let me fetch it.”

“No, you little runt! Do not move. I shall get it.”

Dirthamus hobbled off the chair and walked slowly to his staff behind the throne. Without moving from his location, Mahlon retrieved a damp cloth from his tunic. He raised it above the second step of the throne and squeezed. Several drops of clear oil fell upon the marble stair. Mahlon quickly tucked the cloth back in his tunic as Dirthamus came back with his staff.

“Now young Mahlon, let us make sure you do not cause any trouble on this important day.”



Eglon paced back and forth outside the birthing room.

“Why does it take so long?” Eglon asked Galkak who lounged on a marble bench in the hallway.

“I hear the babies like to stay in as long as they can, Boss. I don’t blame ‘em.” Galkak took a swig from his ever-present wine skin.

“I’m not sure if I should be nervous, excited or happy. My heir. He will insure the continuation of my empire. I will make him great. Eglon the Second. My name will last unto eternity, just like the Pharaohs. I will train him in all the arts. I will advise him. I shall make treaties for him. He shall be the greatest ruler after me. I’m glad you’re here to share this with me, Galkak. I’ve missed your company. Dirthamus is so stark and no one else understands me.”

“Yeah. Well things haven’t been fun at home for me either, Boss. I have assassination attempts every month now. The Amalekites aren’t happy with my rule. I have to kill ‘em to quiet ‘em down. They’re troubled by all this peace.”

“I understand. You and I are warriors, Galkak. The peace has been terrible for my weight.” Eglon held his growing belly. “Why, I’m larger than Neema has been with a baby in her stomach. And I’ve noticed you’re drinking more than ever before. We need another good war just for our sanity.”

“Who you goin’ to fight?”

“I don’t know. The Midianites perhaps. Though there is no good reason to do so. Our army is large enough. We’re up to five thousand men, with another hundred arriving every month. And why shouldn’t it grow? I pay well and the conditions are good. Though the Israelites are keeping my hands full. What with insuring the collections, taxes and tariffs. It takes much manpower to ensure that the Baals remain in every city and are properly cared for.”

A woman’s screaming and cursing burst from the birthing room.

“Is that good?” Eglon asked.

“I think so. The baby’s gettin’ ready to come out and it’s punishin’ the mother for bringin’ ‘im into this world.”

“That doesn’t sound very equitable.”

“Since when is anythin’ equitable in this world?”

“Galkak, you’re sounding more bitter than usual. Be happy for me. This is a momentous day. I’ve invited our friend, the Benjaminite blacksmith, to join us as well. I’d like the prophet of the Hebrew god to bless my heir and his future master.”


“Yes, I expect him to arrive any moment.”



Mahlon had never met his grandfather, Nachshon the Brave, though he had grown up hearing stories about him. He knew his own father, Elimelech, was a great fighter and prince of his tribe. He had heard dark rumors about his father going berserk during the last and decisive battle of Givaah. But it was his cousin Boaz whom Mahlon had always admired. Boaz, with the easy smile and the inner peace. The stories of his superhuman speed and uncanny senses. How he was instrumental during Joshua’s time when he was just a young boy. Mahlon had loved those stories and always sought out Boaz in his bakery in their city of Bethlehem.

Boaz had come to Mahlon before he was sent as a noble hostage.

“They will try to change who you are, who you are meant to be.” Boaz knelt on one knee so he could look straight into Mahlon’s eyes.

“How will they change me?” Mahlon trembled.

“They will teach you their ways, their customs, their values. It will be hard for you to remember your roots.”

“What will I do?” Mahlon asked.

“You must remember. You must remember who you are and where you come from. You must remember that there is a place inside yourself that no one can touch, that no one can change. You must not forget. You must find that place inside yourself. It is a quiet place. It is a calm place. That is you. You must protect it. You must visit it. You must nurture it and it will protect you.”

“I will remember,” Mahlon said.

“You will. And you will be brave. You are descended of the bravest men in all of Israel. The spirit of your grandfather will watch over you and help you. Never fear. The blood of princes is in our veins and it will take much more than an overfed Moabite to quash our spirit. Be strong and of good courage, Mahlon.” Boaz hugged his little cousin, wondering when he would see the boy again and in what condition.

Mahlon remembered all of this as Dirthamus dragged him to the training ground.

“Sergeant!” Dirthamus called. One of the soldiers approached the skeletal old man.

“We are not due to train the princelings until this afternoon,” the sergeant said.

“This one requires some additional training. And I would prefer that he not forget this training session. Painful, but not permanent. Am I understood, sergeant?” Dirthamus hissed.


Dirthamus released Mahlon’s arm and hobbled back into the palace.

“What did you do this time, Mahlon?” the sergeant asked.

“Nothing. Dirthamus is just a crabby old man. I think I interrupted one of his naps.”

“Well that would explain it. I guess it’s the whip for you then, boy. Grab a shield and a short sword from the armory and we’ll see how long you last. I’ll only leave a mark or two to satisfy the sorcerer.”

“Thank you, sergeant.” Mahlon ran off to the armory.



“Ehud, my dear fellow!” Eglon embraced the squat blacksmith in a bear hug, lifting him off the floor. “It is so wonderful for you to join us on such a propitious day.”

“It is my duty to obey your commands, your Majesty,” Ehud said.

“Yes, yes, of course. But today is special. My heir is about to be born. Your future liege. And I would have my friend, the great prophet of the Hebrew god, bless him on his birth.

“I shall do as you wish,” Ehud bowed.

“Ah, Ehud, so formal. You are amongst friends. Why, Galkak is the least formal man in my empire. Isn’t that so, Galkak?”

Galkak burped in reply as one of his legs swung beside the bench he was reclining on.

“See!” Eglon said cheerily. “This is a cause for celebration.”

Another scream escaped from the birthing room.

“They’re coming much closer,” Eglon noted.

“Yeah. I think it’ll come out any moment now,” Galkak confirmed.



Mahlon sat hunched over on his bed. The two whip marks on his back hurt horribly. He refused to cry. He refused to give any Moabite the satisfaction of seeing his tears. His fellow princelings knew to leave him alone. He did not want pity or sympathy. The children of the princes of Israel understood him. They each had rebelled and suffered in their own way. They left him alone as he wanted.

Mahlon rocked back and forth on his bed as he tried to ignore the pain. He sought that inward space Boaz had spoken to him of. He blocked out the talking of his companions. He ignored the sounds of the soldiers training. He drove his consciousness deeper and deeper within himself. He remembered his father with his big red beard that he had suddenly cut short during the war. He remembered his mother, beautiful Naomi. Sweet and kind and gentle. He remembered his younger brother, Kilyon – the one most pained by their separation. He thought of Boaz and his inner peace. He thought about the stories of his grandfather Nachshon and how he jumped into the Sea of Reeds, ahead of its parting, allowing the Children of Israel to escape the Egyptian army. And then he thought of himself. His breathing slowed down. The pain receded. He felt a certain lightness and comfort. Then he heard a whisper. He wasn’t sure where it came from, or if he had imagined it, or if he was talking to himself.

“I will not leave you,” the whisper said.

“Thank you,” Mahlon thought back to the whisper.

“Today is a special day,” the whisper said.

“Why?” Mahlon asked in his mind.

“Your intended has been born.”



The wail of a newborn broke the anticipating silence.

“This is it!” Eglon giggled and approached the door to the birthing room on tiptoes.

“Congratulations, Boss!” Galkak offered from his bench.

“May this be a day of joy for all your subjects,” Ehud said.

“Yes. We must celebrate this momentous day somehow. We must let all of our people know of the birth of Eglon the Second and share in our happiness.”

A woman exited the birthing room and announced:

“You may come in now, sire.”

“Come Galkak, Ehud. I would have you with me at this moment,” Eglon called.

The trio entered the room quietly. Neema, sweat-drenched and exhausted, lay on a large bed looking content and holding a wrapped bundle to her bosom.

“My Empress!” Eglon announced. “Mother of my heir! Congratulations! Well done! Well done, indeed! Let me look upon my son.”

“Oh, do look at her, Eglon. She’s beautiful,” Neema said, not taking her eyes off the baby.

“Her? What do you mean her?” Eglon asked, confused.

“Why, silly, it’s a girl.” Neema gently lifted the bundle, offering the baby to Eglon.

Eglon took the baby awkwardly. The baby cried lustily in her father’s hands. Eglon unwrapped the cloth around the baby to peer between its legs.

“It is a girl,” he concluded.

“It’s not something I would have mistaken,” Neema said. “Give her back to me. We need to teach you how to hold a baby.”

Eglon gingerly handed the baby to Neema. Neema discretely lifted her robe and held the baby to her breast, letting the hungry infant suckle.

“But what about a boy?” Eglon asked, still dazed.

“We’ll just have to keep trying,” Neema answered.

“I wanted a boy,” Eglon said, irritation creeping into his voice.

“Well, the gods apparently had other plans. Go talk to them if you’re disappointed,” Neema responded icily.

Eglon looked at Neema as if for the first time. He then looked closely at the baby.

“No, no, my dearest. I am quite pleased. True, a boy would have been marvelous, but you are right. The gods have other plans. And look at her. She is beautiful. Those lustrous red curls. Those bright blue eyes. Perhaps she shall be a bride worthy of a Pharaoh – that would make for a mighty alliance! I foresee great things for her!”

Eglon closed his eyes. The room filled with an eerie silence. A new presence pervaded the room. Ehud and Galkak shifted where they stood, sensing something different.

“She shall be a matriarch of kings,” Eglon said quietly and opened his eyes. “Her name will be remembered for eternity. She shall be numbered amongst the great of the world. That is my blessing to her. Ehud, now you bless her. Call down your Hebrew god, that he may think kindly of this child of mine.”

“He is already here,” Ehud whispered and looked around the room in confusion. He approached Neema and held out his hands. Neema lifted the baby and gave her to Ehud. Ehud held the baby with a gentle, experienced rocking. The baby opened its eyes and stared into Ehud’s. Ehud closed his own eyes and searched for the spirit of God. He stood still for a few moments, nodded to the unseen force, opened his eyes, and spoke.

“You are a daughter of greatness, and greatness you will achieve. Your line will never die and will ever flourish in the harshest of places. Kindness shall be your bastion and strength your inheritance. In the footsteps of goodness you will traverse and courage shall never leave you. Sorrow and anguish shall not detain you, rather honor and glory shall be your reward. May God’s wings always protect you, child of Moab.”

Ehud handed the baby back to a joyfully tearful Neema. Eglon embraced Ehud strongly.

“That was beautiful,” Eglon said with tears. “Absolutely beautiful. Thank you, Ehud. I appreciate it most deeply.”

“What shall we call her, dear?” Neema asked.

“Ruth,” Eglon answered without thinking. “Her name is Ruth.”



Mahlon lay on his bed, flat on his stomach so as not to aggravate his whip wounds. He had been excused from his lessons. He hated learning Egyptian hieroglyphics, so was relieved to miss it. What an inefficient way of communicating, he thought. He repeated to himself the list of the ten plagues, to keep his mind busy, to remember the lessons from his father: Blood, Frogs, Lice, Animals, Pestilence, Boils, Hail, Locusts, Darkness, Death of the Firstborns. May they all fall upon Eglon. Blood, Frogs…

A soldier entered his room where seven other beds lay empty. The soldier commanded Mahlon to report to the palace entrance. Mahlon put on a fresh tunic that irritated his back and marched out of his quarters.

Dirthamus waited with the other Hebrew princelings at the entrance to the palace. The children of the Israelite princes consisted of eight boys and four girls between the ages of four and eighteen. Dirthamus made sure Mahlon’s tunic covered his whip marks and smiled thinly at the obvious discomfort Mahlon was feeling. He then escorted the children up the main palace stairs and into the audience chamber. Four guards stood at the chamber doors. Two of them entered with Dirthamus and the children and placed themselves at either side of the doors. Dirthamus made the Israelites stand at attention as he sat down on his wooden chair to the right of the marble throne. Why are we being brought here? Mahlon wondered. He noticed a shiny spot on the marble step to Eglon’s throne. It would be a dream come true if I could actually witness him fall, Mahlon prayed.

Shortly thereafter Eglon entered the chamber followed by Ehud and Galkak.

“You see, Ehud.” Eglon gestured towards the children. “They are well cared-for and in wonderful condition. We see to their education and training. They will be models. Examples of what a citizen of our empire will look like.”

“I am glad to see they are whole,” Ehud said. “When will you let them see their families?”

“I think once a year is sufficient.” Eglon walked towards his throne. “I do want there to be a connection between the children and their families. If they were strangers to each other that would defeat the purpose of these noble hostages. We want to pull on the strings of the heart without severing them. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“It will certainly be a unique experience. Only time will tell the consequences of their incarceration.” Ehud gazed into the eyes of each child. He looked into Mahlon’s eyes and read his pain and anticipation. Mahlon looked down, embarrassed by Ehud’s ability to see through him.

Let Eglon trip. Let him fall, Mahlon thought to himself.

“Incarceration?!” Eglon climbed the first step to the throne and stopped. “They live as princes! They eat at my table. They are free to roam throughout our compound. I have provided them with the best teachers in the empire. Every Israelite family must be jealous of the treatment these twelve are receiving here. Perhaps we should open more spots and let the wealthy of Israel pay for the privilege of such an education?”

One more step. Just one more step you evil, pompous glutton, Mahlon commanded Eglon with his mind.

Dirthamus turned his head around as if looking for some hidden enemy. Ehud and Galkak both looked at Mahlon, their faces impassive. Eglon placed one sandaled foot on the second step. This is it! Mahlon thought as he felt his heart leap. Eglon raised his second foot and then time seemed to slow down.

Eglon’s foot slipped on the marble step. His arms flailed like a bird trying to take flight. His heavy bulk threw him off balance. He toppled off the second step, face first, and slammed loudly onto the polished stone floor.

Yes! Mahlon wanted to jump for joy, but some instinct kept him in place with the impassive face he had just seen on Ehud and Galkak.

A crunching noise emanated from Eglon’s face as his nose moved into an unnatural position. Blood spurted out of Eglon’s fleshy nose as he moaned loudly. Ehud and Galkak rushed to Eglon’s side and quickly lifted the dazed monarch. Blood flowed freely down Eglon’s face and robe, creating a large red stain on his pristine white garment. Dirthamus stood up, shocked and spluttering.

“My liege!” Dirthamus croaked.

“My nose!” Eglon moaned as he brought his hand to his broken nose, trying to stem the flow of blood.

The Israelite children stood very quietly, except for two of the younger ones who giggled until the older ones stared them into silence.

“Call for some cloths and the healer!” Galkak commanded the guards. One of them ran out of the chamber.

“I’m fine. I’m fine,” Eglon claimed as Ehud and Galkak helped him onto the throne. “I don’t know why I lost my balance like that. Very strange.”

Eglon looked at the assembled Israelites who stood quietly.

“Did I hear laughter at my fall?” Eglon accused them. “I should have your eyes blinded for having witnessed my disgrace. I will think of some suitable punishment.”

Eglon looked at each child in turn. When he reached Mahlon, he sat back and drew his breath in. An irrational fear tightened Eglon’s throat.

The eight year old smiled back, giving a name to his newfound feeling. Power.

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 17 – Council of Shilo

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 17

Council of Shilo

“You have to see those Phoenician dancers,” Kaspa of Zevulun addressed the other princes of Israel sitting bundled in front of the Tabernacle at Shilo. “The way they move will drive you mad.”

“Isn’t their dance part of their worship?” asked Avod of Simeon, as the autumn wind rustled the leaves of the large oak trees behind them.

“Who cares about their worship,” Kaspa answered as he drew his rich burgundy robe tighter. “We have learned to adjust to the rituals of all who we deal with. Why, I can tell you the genealogy, powers and sacrifices for at least a dozen different gods. As merchants we need to keep abreast of all developments. There is a wonderful tale now being told about the gods and King Gilgamesh of Uruk.”

“Enough!” Pinhas, the High Priest shouted. “Have you so descended into the heathen ways that all you can talk about is their worship?”

“I’m sorry, Pinhas,” Kaspa said. “I was just making conversation as we wait for the mysterious Ehud to appear. Everyone else is here.”

The twelve princes of Israel sat together with Pinhas in a circle. The princes were accompanied by their tribal elders, and behind them sat the captains of their forces. On the cloudless morning, they still felt the strong eastern breeze, with no trace of salt from the Great Sea miles away. The naked grapevines whistled a mournful tune as the wind caressed the bare wood and traveled through the thick brush behind it.

“I would have expected Ehud to be the first one here,” Avod said. “He was the one who issued the summons.”

“Summons?” Kaspa said. “It was worded more like a command to accept Eglon’s subjugation and I can tell you already that the tribe of Zevulun will not accede to this request.”

“It is easy for you to say,” Avod replied. “It is the southern tribes that will bear the brunt of any fighting, while you merchants go gallivanting away on your ships. You’re just worried that Eglon will cut into your profits.”

“Yes. I am concerned for our profits. Our trade has been successful and if we let ourselves be subjugated by Eglon, then what? I say we fight!”

“And I say the cause is lost and subjugation is not so bad,” Avod replied. “Our brothers to the east, Reuven and Gad are already under Eglon’s dominion and they are unharmed. The cities of Benjamin are all but annihilated and Judah is about to fall. We of Simeon are next on Eglon’s menu. Eglon has promised to then bear his army upon the rest of Israel. Ephraim shall be after us and then Menashe. Do you think the rest of you will be spared?”

“What does Elimelech of Judah say?” Kaspa asked the red-headed prince. “You have ever been at the head of all fighting and your tribe is suffering the most now, yet you are strangely quiet.”

All eyes looked upon the seated prince. Elimelech looked pained as he cleared his throat.

“I am unsure how to proceed,” Elimelech said. “I have confronted Ehud. I was the one who saw him marching with Eglon and spread the report. I was the one who originally accused him of being Eglon’s agent, yet now I am confused. My own nephew, our great warrior Boaz, refuses to fight. Ehud said that our subjugation by Eglon is the will of God and punishment for our disloyalty to Him. As I hear your comfort with the strange gods, I begin to suspect that Ehud may be right. We lost so many at the battle of Givaah and we were wrong. I dare not make such fatal decisions again. I will abide by the will of the council but will not voice an opinion for or against. That is the position of Judah, which in any case does not have many sons left to sacrifice.”

“I do not believe my ears.” Kaspa stood. “Is this Elimelech son of Nachshon the Brave? Where is your spine? When did you become a sniveling coward?”

“Is it brave to sacrifice lives needlessly?” Elimelech asked. “I cannot bear to see the agony of my people further. I will not inflict death upon them, nor do I wish to witness their suffering. If that is cowardice, then I am guilty – I am guilty of much worse – especially pride and reckless bravery.”

“You have lost your spine and your brain, Elimelech,” Kaspa responded. “Do you think that your people, that all our people will not suffer under Eglon’s reign? Do you think he will not squeeze our land, our flocks, our people until we are dry and dream of Egyptian slavery? Come brothers,” Kaspa spread his hands to the other princes. “Elimelech has said that he will abide by the will of our council. We must fight! Even if it is hopeless. In other lands, they fight for much lesser causes. The Aegeans rallied all their allies and gods to destroy the Trojans just for one woman. And we fight for nothing less than our freedom! We cannot allow these foreigners to invade and infest our land unchallenged. I would rather die free than live under the foot of another! What say you brothers? Are you with me?”

Nodding and murmurs of agreement spread around the circle of princes until rustling from the oak tree nearest them made them turn around.

Ehud descended from the tree, his sword at his side, and walked purposely towards the princes.

“You were here all along?” Kaspa asked the approaching blacksmith.

Ehud walked grimly towards the circle and did not answer.

“Well, what do you have to say for yourself?” Kaspa demanded as Ehud reached the circle. “What is this charade about?”

Ehud moved through the elders and captains of Zevulun to reach Kaspa.

“Say something, man!” Kaspa squealed.

In one fluid motion, Ehud unsheathed his sword and beheaded Kaspa. Kaspa’s body fell to the ground with a thud. His head landed right-side up, his mouth still open in shock. All the princes and their retinues stood abruptly.

“Does anyone else wish to die free?” Ehud turned towards the other princes.

“You, you dare kill a prince of Israel?” Avod stuttered.

“I have had enough! Enough of stubborn and foolhardy princes throwing our lives away. Enough of blindly following decisions of princes too ready to risk our lives.” Ehud looked meaningfully at Elimelech and at his own Prince Giltar of Benjamin. “I will kill more princes until I beat sense into your arrogant minds. Who else wants to sentence thousands more of our brothers to death?” Ehud pointed his sword at each prince in turn. “I promise you that I will kill the leadership of any tribe that insists on fighting until we find someone with sense.”

Ehud turned to the elders and captains of Zevulun and pointed his bloody sword at them.

“Who will take Kaspa’s place? Do you still wish to resist? It is easy enough to fight when it is not your life on the line. Well, I am bringing the fight to you right here and now. Who wishes to fight!?”

The elders and captains of Zevulun looked sheepishly at Kaspa’s beheaded corpse but did not answer.

Laughter erupted from the wild brush behind the desolate vineyards. Eglon stood up from the brush in a resplendent white woolen robe and walked through the vineyard, ducking and weaving under the suspended vines.

“Brilliant! Masterful!” Eglon announced as hundreds of soldiers emerged from the brush and followed him. Eglon strode through the council circle and approached Ehud on the other side. The Moabite soldiers surrounded the council assembly.

“My most loyal and effective servant! You are truly a prophet of your god.” Eglon announced. “I am most pleased by your performance, Ehud. You have acted perfectly in assembling your council and cutting the foolish resistance at its core.” Eglon kicked the head of Kaspa, which rolled gently towards Elimelech.

“My dear princes of Israel.” Eglon looked at the princes with raised eyebrows. “Can I assume that I will have your cooperation?”

Nods from the circle of princes were his answer.

“Excellent!” Eglon clapped his beefy hands. “Now let us make this new arrangement a bit more formal, shall we? First, I hereby declare Ehud of Benjamin as King of Israel. He shall represent all the tribes of Israel before me.”

Murmurs of disagreement spread throughout the circle. Eglon looked at Ehud in confusion. Ehud shook his head, as if to say, “bad idea.”

“God is our King,” Elimelech said. “If you would have us as cooperative subjects, you cannot place a king over us.”

“I see,” Eglon held his clean-shaven chin and spoke to himself. “Perhaps the wrong place to start. It is semantics anyway. Fine.”

“Ehud shall merely be our intermediary to the tribes of Israel,” Eglon said loudly. “He shall represent you in all your dealings with me and he shall be responsible to carry out my commands in regards to you. Is that more satisfactory?”

The princes nodded.

“Now to more mundane matters. I will expect tribute of one fifth of your harvests and flocks annually.”

A gasp of shock went around the circle.

“What did you expect?” Eglon asked with a smirk. “We can make it more if you feel I am being too soft a conqueror.”

The princes gave him attentive silence.

“Good. I knew you would see it my way. Besides the tribute, each city and village will house and feed a unit of my soldiers. If any soldier of mine is harmed, I shall burn the offending village to the ground with all its inhabitants.”

The gulps of the princes were almost audible.

“Furthermore, each prince shall send their firstborn child to be permanent guests of Moab. Whichever prince does not accept this most gracious of invitations will be killed along with his entire family.”

Mouths opened wide in disbelief.

“Yes,” Eglon continued. “This is a venerable tradition of conquering nations. I have studied much the arts of war and conquest. The taking of royal children is a wonderful practice. It leads to greater understanding of each other and peaceful relations, which is what we all wish for, is it not?”

“All merchants, and especially those of Zevulun, shall give tribute of one fifth of their proceeds. I will have special units assigned to oversee commerce and safeguard all routes. I do not wish for the Phoenicians to take advantage of our hard work that allows them to ply their wares. We shall tax the Egyptians, the Aegeans, the Assyrians and any other people that cross our dominion. All tributes shall be brought to the new capital of the Moabite Empire on the plains of the Jordan River. Cooperation shall be rewarded with life; resistance shall be repaid with death. Do I make myself clear?”

The princes nodded.

“I do not hear you.”

“Yes, we understand,” the princes murmured.

“That is not good enough,” Eglon grimaced. “I need for each of you to swear fealty unto me, loudly and clearly.”

“We hear and obey, our lord Emperor Eglon,” Avod was the first to state and bow down. The other princes in turn each bowed and repeated, “We hear and obey, our lord Emperor Eglon.”

“That will do, I suppose,” Eglon smiled at the princes.

“There is one last matter that you will indulge me,” Eglon purred. “At the entrance to every city and village you shall place a statue of Baal and you shall worship him. Any city found deficient in the worship of Baal will be subject to the customary punishments. Death. Burning to the ground. So on and so forth.”

“We hear and obey, our lord Emperor Eglon,” the princes chanted in unison. Tears flowed freely down the face of Pinhas, the High Priest. Eglon left the circle of princes who made way for the large monarch as he rejoined his army. Ehud, still holding his bloody sword, slowly followed Eglon away from the princes. Ehud clenched his teeth and turned the sword ever so slightly towards Eglon’s back. The gesture did not go unnoticed by the surrounding princes.

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets 2 – Chapter 15: Burning Hebrews

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 15

Burning Hebrews

“Heeyaaa!!” Blimah yelled as she smashed the back of her fist into Elimelech’s face. The knife he had been holding to her neck clanged on the stone floor of the cave. Blimah grabbed Elimelech’s arm, twisted it behind his back, and forced him face down onto the floor, her foot firmly on his neck.

“I’m sick and tired of everyone threatening me and my husband!” Blimah said furiously as she picked up Elimelech’s fallen knife. “Perhaps I should have married a simple farmer instead.”

Meanwhile, Ehud slipped out of the grasp of the men holding his arms, elbowed both of them hard in the stomach and kicked the Israelite soldier in front of him. The three men who had previously surrounded him now lay crumpled on the ground. He reclaimed his sword and strode over to Blimah and Elimelech.

“Traitor!” Elimelech blurted into the floor, despite the foot on his neck.

Ehud grabbed Elimelech by the neck, smashed him against the cave wall and held the taller man up, his long feet dangling an inch above the ground.

“If you call me a traitor again, I shall be displeased,” Ehud said softly.

“I saw you side by side with Eglon. You can’t deny you’re his agent,” Elimelech rasped.

“I have never been his agent. It was Gheda who was his agent all this time. Always looking for trouble, always prodding for war. Think about it.” Ehud lowered Elimelech to the ground.

Elimelech massaged his neck and looked apprehensively at Blimah and Ehud.

“Then why do you march with Eglon?” Elimelech asked.

“Because God has decreed that he shall conquer the tribes of Israel.”

“God? Do you know God’s decrees? Has he spoken to you?”


“Then you are mad and a traitor. God barely speaks with Pinhas in hints through his priestly breastplate, but now you know the mind of God?”

“Israel will be subjugated for its sins. The hand of Eglon shall lay on us for many years and it shall be harsh. Only when Israel cries out and remembers God, then we shall know salvation.”

“You are mad.”

“Believe what you want, but it shall come to pass. You will witness it and will not be able to stop it. Save your men, save your lives and repent. That is the only course left to us. Those who fight Eglon shall die.”

“I would rather die free than live in thralldom.”

“You are free to make that choice, but shall you make it for the rest of Israel? Shall you doom them all to death that God Himself did not decree? We have brought enough death upon Israel. You have lost most of your tribe, almost as much as I have. Would you see a tribe perish in Israel, or will you remove the stubbornness from your heart and finally accept God’s will.”

“I do not recognize that you speak for God. You are supporting the enemy by spouting this nonsense. If we unite and we stand in front of this invader we may yet turn him back. Does God truly wish for his children to be invaded and enslaved? Is this why he took us out of Egypt? Is this why he brought us into Canaan?”

“Our people have been fickle, disloyal to Him. They have embraced the idols and the Canaanite way of worship. God warned us about this. Read the Books of Moses. See the warnings. They are coming to pass. We shall retreat from this enemy. We shall know famine. Our children will be taken captives. Our God is a jealous God and we shall know his wrath.”

“Will you kill me?” Elimelech motioned at Ehud’s drawn sword.

“Only if you threaten me again.”

“Then kill me now, for I do not believe that you speak for God. You are a fantastic warrior and a brilliant strategist, but no more. And now you ride with Eglon. Kill me now, for the next opportunity I have, I shall surely kill you.”

“Then you leave me no choice.”

Ehud raised his sword, but with his other hand he punched Elimelech hard in the head. Elimelech slumped to the cavern floor, unconscious.

“Let’s get out of here,” Ehud said to Blimah.

“Wait a minute. I still need to relieve myself. Wait by the entrance and make sure those other guards don’t wake up.”

“Where are Ehud and Blimah, Boss?” Galkak asked Eglon as the two reunited with the troops they led on the Arava Road.

“They were right behind me,” Eglon looked behind him, as he panted and massaged his knees on his chariot. “Where can they be? Did the Israelites shoot them? Both of them? No. They must have slipped away. Dirthamus, can you sense their minds?”

“I’ve never been able to sense their minds,” Dirthamus answered. “Like Galkak, their minds are closed to me. I’ve noted it’s true with many of the Israelites. Though I did sense Elimelech. I sensed a blinding fury, but now his mind has gone quiet.”

“Ehud has left us then, at the first opportunity he had,” Eglon said.

“Should we search for ‘em?” Galkak asked.

“No. We can’t afford the distraction. We must reach Naaran before they are warned. For us to succeed in this campaign, speed is of the essence. Forward march!” Eglon commanded his army, pointing his sword westward.

The Moabite army marched at a quick pace up the road. They were relieved to be off the craggy mountain and making good progress on the well-trodden route. They looked warily to the right and left, in case of another ambush. Eglon kept sending scouts up the mountain to ensure that the way was clear.

One of the scout teams returned to Eglon.

“Naaran is beyond the next hill to the north,” the scout reported. “They have been warned. The gate to their city is closed and they have soldiers on the ramparts at attention.”

“Curse that Elimelech!” Eglon slammed the side of his chariot. “He must have gotten word to them. Now we need to do it the hard way. Galkak, take half the troops, go through the mountains and approach Naaran from the back. I will give you an hour. Then I will start the approach from the road. We will shoot a fire arrow high into the air. That will be your signal. That’s when we will start our attack. If there are as few defenders as we think, we will just have to outshoot them. Then we will move in with the ladders and the battering ram.” Eglon motioned to the supply chariots that carried the siege materials.

“Yes, Boss,” Galkak left and took his men.

Tralim of Benjamin stood with his arrow notched upon the ramparts of Naaran. Naaran controlled the road from the Jordan plain to the more populous mountain range. Tralim was a survivor of the civil war. He had fought in all three of the battles of Givaah and walked away unscathed. He considered himself more lucky than skillful. In the third battle he had narrowly missed Elimelech’s blade during his berserker rampage. He thought it ironic that it was Elimelech’s men who had warned them of Eglon’s impending attack.

He was more troubled by the other news they bore. That Ehud had betrayed all of Israel and rode beside the Moabite king. He had trouble believing that their fearless and intrepid commander was a traitor.

Tralim was amongst the few hundred Benjaminite survivors of the civil war. He had hid for four months with the remnant of his tribe in the Rock of Rimon. He had found a bride, Melil, at the summer dance of Shilo and together they had settled in depopulated Naaran. His wife was with child and Tralim was filled with hope. Though there were only a dozen families in Naaran, life was settling into a tranquil and domestic routine.

He had only been mildly troubled by the open worship of Baal by his neighbors. “The God of Moses has abandoned us,” they would say. “Why shouldn’t we pray to the local gods?” they asked. “We are now in Canaan, we should worship the gods of the land.”

Tralim noticed more and more of his neighbors wearing the small clay figurines of Baal around their necks. They still prayed to the Hebrew God, but they ended their prayers with a small prayer to Baal and signed their prayers with a quick kiss of the clay figurine.

It was only natural when his wife, Melil, gave him a clay figurine to wear. “Everyone is wearing one, Tralim,” she said as she lovingly tied it around his neck. “Some of the women started to tease me, that you were holy and stuck in the old ways. I told them you simply hadn’t given it much thought.” Which Tralim admitted was true, as he absently played with the clay idol on his neck.

Tralim never connected the idea of God’s wrath with the Moabite army marching upon his city.

He first saw them climbing the mountain. Hundreds of soldiers spread out and approached the city slowly over the hill that separated Naaran from the Arava Road. Then he saw the main force. An army over one thousand strong marched on the short path that connected the main road and his city.

There were only ten Benjaminite defenders in Naaran. Seven, including Tralim, stood on the southern wall facing Eglon’s army. The remaining three watched the eastern, northern and western sides, all within sight of each other around the small fortified city.

When Eglon’s army came within arrow’s reach, Tralim looked heavenward and said:

“God, be with us. And you too, Baal.” Tralim instinctively kissed the little statue at his neck. “Fire!” he ordered.

Five out of seven arrows hit their mark, felling Moabite soldiers.

Tralim noted Eglon smiling in his chariot and then nodding. A single fiery arrow sailed high into the blue desert sky. It was followed by hundreds of arrows, aimed at the defenders of the wall.

“Shields!” Tralim ordered. Three of his men fell to the onslaught of arrows. He heard the guard on the northern wall fall with an arrow from the other direction. He saw Eglon nod again. Five teams brought scaling ladders to the wall, as another team carried a heavy battering ram.

“Belya, Mishkor, get over here!” Tralim called to the men on the eastern and western ramparts as another volley of arrows darkened the bright sky.

Mishkor and another defender fell from the second volley. There were only five defenders left.

“I’ll focus on the battering ram,” Tralim said breathlessly, as he shot off more arrows into the sea of Moabites, “the rest of you make sure the ladders don’t stay on the wall.”

“How?” Belya asked.

“Shoot at the leaders. Push it away with your spears if it touches the wall.”

Tralim shot three of the battering ram carriers, but they were replaced in seconds.

Belya and the other defenders managed to delay two of the ladder teams, but three others got through. Two more defenders were shot. Belya managed to push one ladder off. A Moabite made it to the top of the wall. The third Israelite defender, out of arrows and having lost his spear, launched himself at the Moabite, bringing the ladder and the invading soldiers crashing down. He did not survive the fall.

A Moabite on the last ladder made it onto the ramparts. Belya unsheathed his sword and engaged the Moabite on the wall. More smiling Moabites stood behind him. A fresh volley of arrows killed Belya as well as the Moabite attackers.

Tralim ran out of arrows as the battering ram smashed into the gate of Naaran. The walls reverberated from the force of the impact. Tralim looked around to see Moabites overrunning the ramparts and all the other defenders dead. Tralim raised his spear and spotted Eglon approaching on his chariot. Tralim threw the spear at the large monarch with all his might. Dirthamus, riding next to Eglon, quickly raised his hand, causing Eglon to halt his chariot. The spear bounced harmlessly off of Eglon’s chariot.

Disgusted, Tralim ripped the idol from his neck and looked heavenward.

“All you gods are worthless,” he said as a barrage of arrows ended his previously lucky life. The small idol smashed on the ramparts of the defeated city.

“How many did we lose?” Eglon asked Galkak.

“Ninety-three during the ambush and forty-two from this attack, Boss,” Galkak answered.

“Burn it to the ground, with all inside,” Eglon commanded.

“You sure, Boss? This is a good location.”

“I need to send a message. Whoever resists will be completely destroyed. Whoever surrenders will be spared. Leave one survivor to spread the news.”

“Yes, Boss.” Galkak walked towards the captured survivors.

There were a dozen women of various ages and two elderly men, all huddled together by the opened gate of Naaran. Once the invaders had taken the ramparts, the battering ram had stopped and the army waited until the gate was opened from the inside.

How to pick who will live? Galkak thought. An old man perhaps, with wisdom and experience? A young woman, who can marry again and bear more children? That sick girl? Or perhaps someone stronger? God, why do you put me in these situations?

Galkak noted a young woman standing taller and straighter than the others. He approached her.

“What’s your name?” Galkak asked.

“Melil,” she answered, as she held her stomach protectively.

“You’re with child?”

“Yes, now orphaned from his father.”

“Come with me,” Galkak ordered and turned around. He spoke to the captain guarding the captives and whispered in his ear. The captain nodded his understanding and together with his men, herded the remaining captives further into the city.

“What is happening to the others?” Melil asked.

“They’ll be burnt alive with your city. You’ve been spared to watch this and to spread the word. The Moabites are here to conquer the land of Canaan and they are ruthless. If the Israelites resist, they will be destroyed. If they surrender they will be spared. It is that simple. Your job now is to save lives, so that we don’t have to do this too many times.”

They heard agonizing screams from within the city walls as dark smoke billowed into the clear sky.

“Music to the ears, isn’t it?” Eglon said as he approached on his chariot. “I think I enjoy the screams of Israelites. Very satisfying, wouldn’t you say?”

“You’re a monster,” Melil said.

“Yes, I am. Perhaps we should just kill her too, Galkak. There is great pleasure in instilling pain and death upon the stubborn Israelites. I’m not sure I wish for them to surrender. There is something to be said for doing things the hard way. We fought, we won. No tricks, no surrender. Superior overwhelming force against a disrupted divided enemy. Yes, perhaps I will kill this one also.” Eglon drew his sword and stepped off his chariot. “I feel the bloodlust within me, and it will not be satisfied until there are rivers of Hebrew blood.”

“I am ready to die,” Melil said.

“Brave, yes.” Eglon placed his sword at Melil’s neck. “That is the problem with you Israelites. Stubborn, brave, suspicious, ready to fight at the slightest instigation. You will be hard to conquer, but well worth it. Go. Go before I change my mind. Galkak, give her a horse and water and send her up the road ahead of us.”

“Yes, Boss.” Galkak ran and found a horse for Melil. He helped her mount the horse, showed her where the water skin was and sent her ahead with one warning:

“Whoever fights, dies – it’s that simple.”

“Where do we go now?” Blimah asked as they climbed down from the cave where Elimelech and his men lay unconscious.

“We should catch up with Eglon,” Ehud answered.

“I truly did not enjoy his company nor that of his army.”

“We have no choice. He’ll think we’ve betrayed him.”

“This is crazy, Ehud. All the tribes of Israel will think you’ve betrayed them if you continue riding with Eglon. There must be another way. I know. Send him a message that you’re going ahead to try to pacify the tribes. He’ll like that.”

“Perhaps. Perhaps it will be easier if we can move around freely without being chained to Eglon’s army.”

“Good. So where are we going?”

“To Bethlehem. I need to find Boaz.”

“Boaz of Judah? What for?”

“He is the only one who can stop me or Eglon.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Probably kill him.”

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets 2 – Chapter 14: Invasion of Canaan

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 14

Invasion of Canaan

“My father told me of your history,” Eglon said from atop his chariot. “He told me how your Moses stood here, here on our plains of Moab, which we have now re-conquered. After forty years, after leading your people out of Egypt, Moses could see the land, almost touch it, but never to cross over, never to reach that promised land. How sad.”

Riding next to Eglon were Ehud and Blimah, the former on a brown stallion and the later on a tan mare. They moved across the plains of Moab with three thousand of Eglon’s troops, approaching the Jordan River. Galkak rode on his white mare on the other side of Eglon. Next to him was the covered wagon with Dirthamus inside. Zakir and Empress Neema remained at Rabbath Ammon.

“Yes,” Ehud answered. “It was Moses’ last wish, but was not fulfilled. Joshua brought us in and now you will undo all of his work.”

“Undo?” Eglon raised his eyebrow. “I will not undo the settlement of the tribes of Israel. I will merely rearrange the power structure. Your stiff-necked tribes will be more orderly, more compliant under a firm and unified rule.”

“As you wish,” Ehud answered.

“Yes. And now I wish to do what the great Moses himself could not.” Eglon removed his sword from his scabbard and was rewarded with silence from his troops. “To cross the Jordan!” He announced in his deep rumbling voice.

Three thousand swords flew out of their scabbards with a sharp metallic cascade. The men cheered as Eglon sped his chariot to the river crossing. Horses and men splashed in the softly flowing stream, low in the late summer.

“Hah! We did it!” Eglon shouted happily on the western bank of the river. “We have crossed the Jordan uncontested!”

Soldiers raised their swords into the air and patted each other on the back.

“What’s he so happy about?” Blimah whispered to Ehud. “There’s no one here to fight him. Of course he was going to cross it without a problem.”

“Hush,” Ehud whispered back. “It’s symbolic. The last army to cross the Jordan was Joshua’s and he went on to conquer over thirty small kingdoms of Canaan. The tribes of Israel destroyed entire peoples and regions. Eglon wants to conquer all of our lands now. He sees himself as outdoing both Moses and Joshua.”

“Where shall we go now, my dear advisor?” Eglon asked Ehud.

“The first target in our path is Gilgal, the old encampment of the Tribes of Israel,” Ehud answered.

“Will they fight?”

“Does it matter? There are only a handful of Benjaminites who live there now. Even if they do fight, you could overrun them quickly.”

“Gilgal is the only settlement on this plain?”

“Yes, our people prefer the mountains.”

“Then let us ride and remove the small thorn from this strategic location. Soldiers of the Empire!” Eglon raised his sword. “We march!”

Eglon’s army marched northward, parallel to the river, until they saw the simple stone and wooden houses of Gilgal. Once, hundreds of thousands of Israelite tents had filled the plain, but now only a few dozen houses stood, most of them vacant.

Half a dozen Benjaminites stood at the edge of the town watching the army approach. When they saw the soldiers of Eglon and realized they weren’t friendly, they disappeared into their homes, grabbed their families and possessions and fled northward, away from the approaching army.

“This will be easier than I thought!” Eglon chuckled. “Galkak, take a company of men and station them at Gilgal. We shall go on to our next target. Catch up with us when you can.”

“Yes, Boss.” Galkak motioned to a company commander and galloped ahead with him and his men to Gilgal. Eglon took the bulk of the army back south.

“What is our next stop, prophet-man?” Eglon asked.

“Naaran. It is on the Arava Road, due west. It leads to the tribes of Benjamin and Judah, the two that were most depleted by our civil war and, up until then, the strongest tribes. If those tribes should capitulate it will take the fight out of the others.”

“What is that rubble in the distance?” Eglon asked.

“The remains of Jericho,” Ehud answered.

“Jericho? How fantastic! We must see it,” Eglon drove his chariot towards the destroyed city. The entire army followed.

They reached a city of rubble. Stones of all sizes were strewn about the remains of a city, as if a juvenile giant had kicked over the walls and then played with stones, throwing them indiscriminately in all directions. A thin green moss grew under the shade of the larger stones.

“Why was it never rebuilt?” Eglon asked Ehud.

“Joshua commanded that we shouldn’t and cursed anyone who would. He stated that whoever rebuilds Jericho would live to bury his own children.”

“Still, the Israelites made a mistake in not rebuilding in the area. This plain commands the western bank and the mountain ascent. I shall build my new capital here. Well, not right here on the ruins. I don’t want to invoke any curses – I have a future dynasty to worry about. There,” Eglon pointed at a grove of palm trees south of the ruins of Jericho, “I shall build a city by those majestic palms. And from there I shall rule my empire.”

“Very pretty,” Ehud said tersely. Galkak returned, panting slightly.

“It shall be magnificent. Galkak,” Eglon called.

“Yeah, Boss?” Galkak said, still breathless.

“Find my architect and assign one hundred men to the labor. When we return from our conquest, I shall expect to see a city on this plain.”

“No problem, Boss. You want me to oversee this thing?”

“No, Galkak. I want your wily mind right next to me for the conquest. Despite Ehud’s assurances and assistance, I am certain his fellow Israelites will not submit easily. Dirthamus! Get out here. I want your opinion.”

The old sorcerer opened the flap of his covered wagon, shielding his eyes with his bony left hand.

“Yes, my liege,” Dirthamus rasped.

“What do you think of us building our new capital here?” Eglon asked.

Dirthamus closed his eyes and faced the ruins of Jericho. With his right hand he pointed at the rubble.

“I sense a strong power upon these ruins. It is a force we should be wary of. And there, at the edge of the ruins, it is strongest.”

“A part of the wall still stands!” Eglon said.

“It must be Rahab’s home in the wall,” Ehud said.

“Ah, yes, the traitor. I heard about her, and that she was quite beautiful. Is it true she married Joshua himself?” Eglon asked.

“Yes, they were very happy together,” Ehud answered.

“That reminds me. We must call for my Empress when our City of Palms is complete. Go on, Galkak. Fetch me the architect and let us commence planning the city before we proceed with our campaign.”

Galkak found the architect, a stocky middle-aged man with a shock of white bisecting his otherwise dark hair. He came with a long roll of papyrus, a thin reed brush and a small clay jar of ink. The architect and Eglon sat on the edge of the chariot. Eglon pointed and waved his hands and built palaces in the air as the architect furiously drew on his papyrus. Galkak ordered the troops to rest and refill their water skins from the Jordan.

Satisfied with the architect’s sketches, Eglon called the troops back to order.

“Up the Arava Road and to Naaran!” he commanded.

The army marched into the narrow ravine that climbed up the mountain. The soldiers were able to ride up to ten abreast or twenty soldiers walking side by side. Eglon rode in front, pleased with himself by the successful morning.

Craggy barren mountains guided them on either side as the army marched up the road.

“I don’t like it, Boss,” Galkak rode his mare in front of Eglon’s chariot to face him. “This is the perfect setup for…” an arrow in Galkak’s shoulder interrupted his sentence.

“Ambush!” Eglon yelled. He looked in horror at the arrow that would have hit him as Galkak fell from his horse. “Shields up!”

Thousands of shields went up as a rain of arrows fell on Eglon’s army. Arrows clanged and thumped into the shields.

Ehud got off his horse and dragged Blimah down as well. They crouched below the cover of their horses. The first volley of arrows from the mountains ceased. Dozens of Eglon’s soldiers lay dead or wounded, but the majority was unscathed.

“Archers!” Eglon yelled. “Return fire!”

Ehud and Blimah crawled to the fallen Galkak.

“Galkak!” Ehud turned the fallen king gently, careful not to move the protruding arrow.

“I’m okay. Not fatal,” Galkak murmured. “Just get it out of me. It hurts like hell.”

Ehud looked at the arrow in Galkak’s shoulder.

“You’re lucky,” Ehud determined. “It hit high and wedged against the bone. Hold on.”

Ehud pulled on the arrow and it slid easily out of Galkak’s shoulder. The shoulder started to bleed profusely.

“Quick, Blimah. Get me something to bandage the wound.” Ehud pressed his palm firmly on Galkak’s shoulder.

“Dirthamus has supplies in his wagon,” Galkak added.

Blimah ran to Dirthamus’ wagon and opened the flap. She saw Dirthamus on the floor of the wagon in a fetal position, his eyes closed tightly in concentration. He opened them when Blimah climbed into the wagon.

“Get out, woman!” he hissed.

“I need bandages. Galkak is injured.”

Dirthamus pointed at a corner of the wagon and closed his eyes again. Blimah grabbed a roll of cloth, a knife and left the wagon quickly. She ran back to Ehud and Galkak.

“Wine,” Galkak moaned. “Please, ol’ buddy. A little wine.”

“If I let go of your shoulder, you’ll bleed to death, you fool,” Ehud said. “Hold still for a few moments while we bandage you and then you can have your drink.”

Blimah expertly bandaged Galkak’s shoulder. When he was well-wrapped, Ehud searched for Galkak’s wine skin on his horse. He returned smiling and carrying an empty skin with an arrow through it.

“I think God may be trying to send you a message,” Ehud suggested.

“Nonsense. God never interferes with a man’s drinkin’ – that would be immoral! Check under my pack. There should be another skin there.”

Ehud found the skin and raised it victoriously.

“Shields up!” Eglon yelled as another volley of arrows rained down upon them from the mountains. An arrow pierced the new skin.

“No!” Galkak cried. “Quick, bring it here!”

Ehud ran to the prone Galkak and gave him the leaking skin. Galkak unstopped the skin and raised it to his mouth. Just a few drops fell on his face.

“Cruel, cruel!” Galkak sobbed.

“We’re getting killed here and all you can think about is your drink?” Blimah asked incredulously.

“I take my drinkin’ seriously. Ehud, there should be a third skin under the harness. Please get it for me.”

“Let’s wait for this volley to subside.”

Another dozen soldiers had fallen to the onslaught of the mountain arrows.

“Dirthamus!” Eglon called. “Get out here! What’s going on? Who’s attacking us?”

Dirthamus scurried out of his tent and ran to the side of Eglon’s chariot where he stood with a large copper shield over his head.

“It is Israelites,” Dirthamus said. “Judeans, to be specific. One of them is known to us – Prince Elimelech.”

“Elimelech! I thought we had crushed and dishonored him. How is he here?”

“He never gave up,” Dirthamus answered, “but was only able to convince a few dozen of his brothers of our impending attack.”

“That seems to be enough. Our arrows can’t reach them and they can attack us with impunity. Galkak, how are you? You took an arrow meant for me. I shall never forget that. Can you move?”

“Yeah, Boss. But I need a drink really badly.”

“Here,” Eglon grabbed a skin from his chariot and threw it at Galkak. Galkak caught it with his good arm, unstopped it and drank thirstily. He emptied the skin and burped loudly.

“Ahh, much better,” Galkak sighed. “I can take on a whole army now. What are we goin’ to do?”

“We have to get off this road and take the fight to them. Galkak, you take half our men and climb the mountain to the right. I’ll take the rest to the left. I’ll meet you back on the road when we’re done. Ehud, you come with me. Dirthamus, accompany Galkak. Go!”

The army split into two and proceeded to climb the mountains on either side of the road. The Israelites continued to fire upon the invaders, but to less effect. The arrows stopped and Eglon’s troops spotted Israelite soldiers climbing away.

“They may have laid traps,” Eglon warned his men. “Proceed carefully.”

It was slow and arduous work for thousands of men to climb the rocky uneven terrain. They passed a series of dark caves. One of the Moabite captains approached Eglon.

“Should we check the caves, your Majesty?” the captain asked.

“No, it would be a distraction. We have routed them. Let us return to the road, but keep a scout force upon these mountains ahead of us. Captain, you lead the scouts. I will take the main force back to the road. I’d love to get my hands on that Elimelech. I would not have him walk away the victor of this fracas.”

“It does not matter,” Ehud said. “You have the overwhelming force and there is little he can do to stop you.”

“Nonetheless, he has a strong spirit. I do not want him to rally the tribes together. He has irrefutable proof of our intentions now. We must proceed quickly with our conquest. Let us get off this mountain.”

Ehud together with Blimah followed Eglon and the soldiers down the mountain.

“Ehud,” Blimah whispered.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.

“I need to relieve myself.”

“What? Can’t you wait?”

“I’ve been waiting since we crossed the Jordan. I haven’t had a chance since then. I’m not like you men who relieve themselves wherever you want. I need some privacy and there hasn’t been any, surrounded here by three thousand men. I can go into one of the caves here. Let’s find one and you guard the entrance.”

Ehud and Blimah fell back from Eglon, struggling down the mountain.

They noticed a dark opening above them, partially shielded by some shrubbery.

“Will that do?” Ehud pointed at the cave entrance.

“Yes. Let’s go.”

Ehud and Blimah moved away, unnoticed by the mass of troops negotiating the treacherous descent back to the road.

“Make it quick,” Ehud said as they reached the cave entrance. Blimah gave him a stern look and entered the cave. Ehud stood with his back to the cave and watched Eglon’s army reassemble on the road below.

“Ehud,” Blimah called him from inside the cave.

“What’s the matter now?” he asked.

There was no answer.

Ehud unsheathed his sword and entered the dark cavern. He was grabbed roughly from either side, punched in the face and his sword taken. In the dim light he could make out the reflection of a knife held against Blimah’s pale throat and the wild eyes of the knife’s owner, Elimelech.

“Now you die, traitor!” Elimelech whispered.

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets 2: Chapter 10 – Shilo Showdown

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 10

Shilo Showdown

“No!!!” Blimah screamed as she grabbed a large branch from the campfire and slammed it into the head of one of Ehud’s attackers. Sparks from the burning branch exploded against the soldier’s head as he fell onto the two other attackers. The three men fell in a tangle of swords and limbs at Ehud’s feet. Ehud smashed his head backwards knocking the guard behind him unconscious. With a quick glance at the two tall guards holding his arms, Ehud gritted his teeth and flexed his blacksmith’s biceps. The guards lost their balance, heads knocking into each other. They tumbled onto the guards on the floor who were about to get up.

“Do you have more soldiers to throw at me?” Ehud pointed his own sword at Gheda, “or shall we discuss Elimelech’s wild accusations in a more civilized fashion?”

“There is nothing to discuss!” Elimelech approached Ehud again. Ehud pointed his sword at Elimelech.

“Madness! This is all madness!” Pinhas, the High Priest, exclaimed.

“You are a traitor, Ehud,” Gheda declared. “It is your fault we have had such carnage. It is you who personally commanded the death of tens of thousands of our brothers. And I do have more soldiers. Captain!” Gheda called out into the summer night.

An armored soldier appeared at Gheda’s side.

“This man is a dangerous traitor and must be detained,” Gheda pointed at Ehud and then at the collapsed soldiers at Ehud’s feet. “Get an entire platoon if you must, to subdue him.”

“Right away, sir,” the soldier disappeared.

“I think it’s time to get out of here,” Blimah whispered to Ehud.

“I am not guilty and I will not run,” Ehud replied sternly.

“Will you fight the entire army of Israel single-handedly? I do not wish to lose my betrothed that quickly. It is time for — how would you soldiers call it — a tactical retreat. Come, let us go.” Blimah grabbed Ehud’s hand and pulled him into the shadows away from the campfires.

“Stop, Ehud!” Gheda called out. “Face justice like a man! Don’t make things more difficult! We will hunt you down!”

“I don’t believe this,” Pinhas exhaled. “Ehud? A traitor? There must be some mistake.”

“Are you calling me a liar?” Elimelech retorted angrily. “I swear by all my ancestors that Eglon named him as his agent.”

The Captain returned with two dozen soldiers marching briskly behind him.

“Where did he go?” the Captain asked.

“I don’t know, fool!” Gheda answered. “Quickly, spread out and find them. The girl too. If you can’t capture them alive, then dead will do. Go!” The soldiers returned to the darkness.

“What did my daughter do?” Yosma interjected. “She was merely defending her man. What sort of tyrant are you that you order the death of our people so easily?”

“Are you a conspirator, sir? What is your name?” Gheda asked.

“I am Yosma of Tapuah of the tribe of Ephraim and I will not be bullied by the likes of you.”

“I see where your daughter gets her attitude from. Cross my path again, Yosma, and you will regret it, as shall Ehud and your daughter. Come Elimelech, let us discuss your discoveries in a more conducive place.”

Gheda turned his back on Yosma and his family and walked away from the campfires. Elimelech followed him, as did the battered soldiers Ehud and Blimah had bested. Pinhas followed the procession.


“Where are you taking me?” Ehud asked Blimah, his hand still in hers as they ran under the moonlight.

“I don’t know. Away from that evil man. We need someplace to hide before his men search for us.”

“The vineyards. They won’t look for us there.”

“Good idea.”

Ehud and Blimah reached the vineyards without incident. Passersby assumed they were just another of the newly formed couples seeking a quiet place. They sat themselves beneath the hanging vines, the dew on the ripening grapes glistening under the setting moon.

“Now what?” Blimah asked.

“It was your plan to run, my darling. I am open to other suggestions.”

“You need some way to prove your innocence. That Elimelech seemed crazed and Gheda is just a slimy opportunist. How can you prove that you’re not a traitor? You aren’t, right?”

Ehud chuckled softly under the vineyards.

“Now you ask? After your ferocious defense? It is true that I visit with the King of Moab every year to negotiate and transport our copper shipments and we are certainly cordial and even friendly to each other, but it has never gone beyond that. So either Elimelech is lying, though he seemed convinced, or he was lied to, by Eglon himself. But to what purpose?”

“To get you out of the way.”

“That doesn’t make any sense. I’m no threat to Eglon. He knows that. I need to think. I need to seek out God. I need to speak to Him.”

“You speak to God?” Blimah asked incredulously.

“He has spoken to me. Perhaps He shall do so again.”

“When did He speak to you? Are you crazy? Do you often hear voices? Perhaps I should reconsider our betrothal?”

“Listen to me, Blimah. After that battle of Givaah, I was unconscious. I had been poisoned. I lay for months in the ruins of the city in a deep sleep. God spoke to me then and showed me what had occurred and that he was preparing me for a task.”

“That’s impossible! Who ever heard of such a thing? Sleeping for months. Visions. I’m leaving. Goodbye, Ehud. You’re a nice man, but I’m not interested in a crazy husband.”

“Wait!” Ehud grabbed Blimah’s arm as she attempted to stand up. “Please. I need to find some answers. Stay with me just a little longer as I try to reach God.”

“What? What do you want me to do?”

“Just sit here next to me. I’m going to close my eyes and focus my mind. I need quiet and peace. Just watch over me, that nobody should disturb me. Just for a few moments. Will you at least do that for a crazed fiancé?”

“Fine. But don’t take too long. I’m really not in the mood for these arcane games.”

In response, Ehud released her arm and closed his eyes. He slowed his breathing. He tried to imagine the peace he had felt when God had spoken to him previously. He cleared his mind of anxiety and focused on his faith in God.

God? Ehud thought.

No answer.

God!? Ehud thought more vigorously. I need help! I don’t know what to do!

Still no answer.

Ehud took a deep breath, slowed his breathing further and kept concentrating.

What do you want me to do?

No answer.

Ehud opened his eyes.

“He’s not answering,” Ehud stated.

“What did you expect? You think you just knock on his door and he opens up? Maybe you need to bring a sacrifice or something? How did Moses speak to God, or Joshua?”

“Moses spoke to God at will. I’m not sure how Joshua did it. I think in times of great need God spoke to Joshua and somehow Joshua seemed to know God’s wishes. Joshua prophesied to me once that I would face a great challenge, that I would lead my tribe in battle and that I would need great faith.”

“Joshua told you this?”

“Yes, when I was much younger, at his last assembly. He also prophesied that I would kill Boaz’s future father-in-law.”

“Boaz of Judah? How strange.”

“It is all strange. But I need to speak with God again. I just don’t know how!”

“How did you do it last time?”

“He came to me. I was in a deep sleep.”

“Then lie down, silly, and try again. I’ll watch over you.”

“You believe me?”

“No, but I’m still willing to help.”

“Thank you.”

Ehud lay down on the soft ground underneath the vineyards and closed his eyes. He felt himself relax immediately. The excitement of the evening seeped out of him and he dozed lightly. He felt his spirit rising above the vineyard, above the campfires and the Sanctuary.

God? Ehud thought.

I am here, Ehud.

What am I to do? Elimelech has accused me of treason and Gheda wishes to kill me.

I know. It is as per my plans. Do not fear.

Should I stand my ground? Confront them? Or hide like a sniveling thief? How am I to lead if I run from my enemy?

Patience, Ehud. You must choose your battles and enemies carefully. Now is not the time. The Children of Israel have much more to suffer before salvation. They must understand pain. They must understand the extent of their sins and false worship before they are freed. The subjugation will begin shortly. You must be there at the beginning, be instrumental at its inception, so that you may save my people when the time is right.

God, I don’t understand. I should wait and hide? Give myself up?

Ehud, listen to Blimah, your wife, for that is why I have brought you two together. She is a wise and strong woman and will guide you well.

God? God!?

Ehud woke up with a start.

“So, did you talk to Him?” Blimah asked, looking at Ehud strangely.

“Yes. He said I should listen to you.”

“God is truly wise.”

“So what should we do?”

“I have thought about it. You should seek out Eglon.”

“Eglon? He’s the enemy! If Elimelech is even partially correct, he has conquered the tribe of Reuven and will cross the Jordan shortly. Going to Eglon would further incriminate me.”

“Your criminality is not in question. Gheda already wishes you dead and there is little you can do that will make matters worse. You must seek Eglon and understand the situation better.”

“That is mad!”

“What did God say to you?”

“To listen to you, dear. Fine, we’ll go.”

“There is one other thing you’ve forgotten, my love.”

“What’s that?”

“We need to get properly married.”


Gheda and his soldiers led Elimelech to Gheda’s opulent tent. Pinhas followed. At the entrance to the tent Gheda turned to Pinhas.

“High Priest, are you sure you wish to participate in tactical discussions? Is it not beneath your concern?”

“If we are already here, I would like to listen to your discussions. I am concerned about Elimelech and would hear more from him in a calm fashion.” Pinhas proceeded into the tent. Soft carpets covered the floor of the tent and bronze braziers hung from the large tent ceiling. A plush bed occupied one side of the tent. A heavy oak table and solid chairs were arranged in the middle of Gheda’s temporary abode. He motioned to Elimelech and Pinhas to sit.

“Now tell me, Elimelech,” Gheda said. “What exactly did Eglon say? Besides Ehud being his agent.”

“He is planning on crossing the Jordan and conquering the tribes of Israel.”

“Surely you exaggerate! He could never hope to conquer the warriors of Israel.”

“He knows that we’ve been weakened by the battles of Givaah. Now is the perfect time for him to attack. We must reassemble the tribes, all of the fighters, including the sons of Benjamin, and stand united against him. That is the only way we can triumph.”

“Elimelech, let us not be so hasty. To unite all of the tribes again, especially with Benjamin, after our recent battles, is asking too much. The men are tired and wish to go back to their homes for their harvests. I think you must have misinterpreted Eglon.”

“You were quick to believe him, when he accused Ehud,” Pinhas interjected. “Ready in fact to have Ehud killed on the spot. But when Elimelech warns of a massive attack upon us, all of a sudden you are filled with doubt? You accept one part of his testimony, the one that suits you, and not the other?”

“Now listen here, High Priest,” Gheda responded. “Ehud is a known troublemaker. He is the one most responsible for the massacre of our soldiers. He has been a well-known confidant of Eglon for years. Elimelech’s testimony merely confirms what we already know. But these theories of an imminent attack are another matter altogether. We have had peaceful relations with Eglon for years; why would he start to war upon us unprovoked? Elimelech was clearly agitated by the revelation of Ehud’s treachery. The rest of his testimony is certainly questionable.”

“I know what I heard!” Elimelech yelled. “I don’t care if you believe me or not, Gheda. I will assemble the other princes myself.” Elimelech stormed out of the tent.

“I don’t know what game you are playing, Levite,” Pinhas said, “but it seems to be a very dangerous one. Whose interests are you protecting?”

“You question my loyalty? My sincerity?”

“I do. In your wake there has been nothing but destruction and misery. Your pursuit of Ehud is rash and your ignoring the Moabites is foolhardy. I shall watch you more carefully, Gheda.”

“Pinhas, my interests have ever been for the good, the glory and the unity of the tribes of Israel.”

“Under your leadership, I presume.”

“I have worked hard to make this happen. Who else would you have? Elimelech? He has fallen from grace and is losing his mind. The other tribe princes? Each one is only concerned for their cousins and relatives and does not see beyond his narrow borders. Has God said something to you on the matter? I see that your magical breastplate is silent. No, Pinhas. I am the unifier and you know it. Now if there is nothing else, I have become tired from all the excitement.”

“I shall leave, but mark my words, Gheda. There is a Judge and there is Judgment,” Pinhas pointed upwards. “You may think yourself clever and manipulative, but at the end of the day, He who is in the Heavens and on Earth shall meet out to everyone as they deserve.” Pinhas exited the tent.

“We shall see, Priest. We shall see,” Gheda said to the empty space.


“Psst, Pinhas, over here,” Ehud hissed outside the High Priest’s tent before the break of dawn.

“Ehud, what are you doing here? All of Gheda’s men are looking for you.”

“You believe my innocence?”

“Yes. You are not the traitorous type, and remember; I was there when Joshua prophesied about you and blessed you. He had great hopes for you. But why are you still here in Shilo? I expected you to be long gone by now.”

“I know, but this woman insists on marrying me and we wanted you to do the honors.”

“Now is not the most propitious time.”

“Our choice of circumstances is somewhat limited.”

“I understand. We need to have some witnesses for the ceremony, and does the bride not want her family present? How do we do it discretely without Gheda capturing you?”

“Let’s do it in the Sanctuary,” Blimah suggested.

“You jest, daughter. That is the most public place. You will be spotted in a moment,” Pinhas said.

“They will never think to look in the heart of Shilo,” Blimah said. “The wedding party will dress as Levites. I suspect there may be multiple ceremonies this morning after last nights dance. We shall make a quick ceremony and depart together with other pilgrims.”

“Yes, that could work. That is most ingenious, Blimah daughter of Yosma. Let us meet in the courtyard right after the morning sacrifice. I will have a Levite bring robes to your father’s tent. Ehud, I believe you have a promising bride.”

“God said the same thing.”


“We are all here now,” Elimelech pleaded with the other princes. “We must unite and head to the Jordan crossing to stop Eglon.”

Elimelech stood around a campfire, surrounded by the princes of the tribes of Israel.

“I don’t believe that Ehud is a traitor,” Prince Giltar said. “That makes me question your entire story.”

“Ehud has escaped. We can deal with him another time. The important thing is that we unite and fend off the Moabites. We can do it now, for we are all assembled here in Shilo. If our tribes disperse and we call for our armies once we are under attack, it will be too late. Eglon will have entered Canaan and he will be that much more difficult to dislodge. I have seen his army. They are joined by the Amalekites. They are ready and eager for war. This will be our only chance to stop them.”

“Why have we had no confirmation from the Reuvenites?” the prince of Zevulun asked.

“I barely escaped the Moabite camp with my life. I saw the elders of Reuven with Eglon. They are enthralled to him and perhaps even dead by now. He planned to kill all of the inhabitants of Bet Hayeshimot.”

“Come now, Elimelech,” Gheda joined the discussion. “You must calm down. This entire story is quite mysterious. How you got to them, washed there by the river. How you cut your beard and dyed your hair. How you just happened to eavesdrop on the King of Moab and then entered his tent, had him confide in you, and then escaped from his captivity. And all the while the camp was crawling with his troops. Quite strange. For this we will mobilize our weary men? On your conspiracy theories?”

“It all happened as I described! I swear to you. Eglon is massing his army, potentially right now! We need to assemble our men while we can. We will not have a second chance and we may regret it for a long time.”

“It may be wise to be cautious and assemble some of our troops,” Giltar volunteered.

“It would be a waste of time,” Gheda said. “And I am not sure that the rest of the tribes are ready to stand side by side with Benjamin.”

“Weren’t you the great unifier, Gheda?” Giltar asked. “I thought we had made peace and were over that. What happened to your Brotherhood of Israel?”

“I have seen their army, I say!” Elimelech shouted. “They are right across the river. They have perhaps two thousand troops. If we stand united we can easily stop them and take back Bet Hayeshimot. But if we separate, they will be able to pick us off one at a time. What say you princes? Enough talk! Are you with me? Shall we join in common cause against a true enemy? Shall we save our brother Reuven and restore his rightful land from the clutches of Moab and Amalek?”

“I am with you,” Giltar said, “though we have been on opposite sides of the battle before.”

“We are with you!” all the other princes echoed.

“Excellent! We leave then at first light. Prepare your men. Let us depart from the entrance of the Sanctuary and pray to God for guidance.”

“Princes! Where are the princes?” voices called out from the dark. Torches approached the fire of the princes.

“Who seeks the princes?” Elimelech called out. “We are here!”

Two men appeared in front of the princes. One white-haired and bent over, the other grey and tall.

“Menlos? Tralin of Reuven? How are you here? How did you escape Eglon? I thought you would be dead by now,” Elimelech said.

“Dead? Why should we be dead?” asked grey-haired Tralin. “Eglon has been quite kind. He does not wish to harm us. His business is with the Amonites.”

“What? I saw his army around your city! I saw his flag fly on your ramparts! What deception is this? How dare an elder and prince of Reuven come to us with lies?” Elimelech said furiously.

“It is no lie, Prince Elimelech,” Menlos the elder answered. “It is true that his flag flies on our city and that his men were camped outside, but not one soul has been hurt. We were defenseless when his army approached our gates. Our men were busy or dead on a wild vendetta that you led, Elimelech. We surrendered. Did we have a choice? But he is not interested in us. He marched today east to Amon, leaving behind a small garrison. He is not threatening us and he is certainly no threat to you.”

“So why do you come here, Reuvenites?” Gheda asked.

“We’ve been asked to convey a message from Eglon to the Princes of Israel.”

“What is your message?” Prince Giltar asked.

“He seeks peace with all of Israel.”

“This is the man that is imminently attacking us?” the prince of Zevulun asked. “You are making a laughingstock of us, Elimelech. We thought you were a serious man.”

“Wait!” Elimelech cried. “This must be a ruse. Menlos, what are Eglon’s terms, what does he want?”

“He wants free passage through our roads and guarantee of deliveries of grains, wine and oil,” Menlos answered. “If the princes will promise free trade he will leave Bet Hayeshimot. He will have his hands full with Amon.”

“That is quite reasonable,” the prince of Zevulun said.

“You see, Elimelech,” Gheda added. “You are concocting wars where there are none. Go home, Elimelech. I think you need rest. Eglon is not a threat. He seeks peace and reasonable terms. His ambitions lie to the east of the Jordan.”

“Something is not right,” Giltar said. “Why would Eglon sue for something he already has? Does he not have free access to our roads and produce? Have any of you hampered his trade?”

“Nonetheless, Giltar,” the prince of Zevulun said, “it is not an emergency. They are not massing to attack us, nor does it seem they have plans to. Elimelech has misled us. He has wasted our time and spread fear amongst us for no purpose. For the last time. We for one shall not follow you again, Elimelech. Your last adventure cost us dearly. Very dearly. I say, Menlos, convey to Eglon that we are in agreement as to his terms. He sounds like a reasonable man and we look forward to continued commerce with him. I have nothing further to discuss. Goodbye my fellow princes. May we meet again under pleasant circumstances.” The other princes murmured their agreement.

The prince of Zevulun left the assembly. Other princes left as well.

“No! Wait! You must believe me!” Elimelech fell to his knees. “This makes no sense. I saw them. I spoke to Eglon. He will conquer all of us!”

“Go home, Elimelech.” Gheda patted the fallen prince on the shoulder. “Go home to your family. I think your exertions may be taking a toll on your mind. Have no fear. All will turn out well. You will see.”

“Gheda, I don’t understand,” Elimelech looked up at the fat Levite as the sun crept up from the east.

“I know. But you will. Soon enough you will understand all.” Gheda smiled at the rising sun and looked to the plains of Moab. “As the sun rises in the east, so will our salvation.” To himself, Gheda finished the thought: My Master, master of deception, Eglon.

* * * * * *

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 9 – The Dancer

Warrior Prophets 2 Chapter 9

The Dancer

Blimah loved the midsummer festival in Shilo. It was her favorite pilgrimage of the year. There were none of the intricate rituals that were so common at the Sanctuary of Shilo during the other festivals, just good food and dancing. She lived for the dancing. Her tightly-braided raven-black hair contrasted against her white flowing dress. At seventeen, Blimah, as tall as any man, was well into marriageable age.

Her parents and her three younger brothers walked casually beside their strong ox, Elgor, with his provision-laden cart. Her family had had a good harvest of figs and was bringing the juicy fruits to Shilo to sell at the festival. Shilo was not far from their hometown of Tapuah within the tribe of Ephraim. A half-a-day walk through the green hills and valleys of central Canaan brought them within sight of the religious center of Israel.

As they approached Shilo, Blimah noticed the taller green mountains surrounding the Sanctuary hill. Olive groves and vineyards accompanied them on either side of the road during their trek. The road itself was filled with more pilgrims than Blimah remembered. Most families were on foot with one donkey or ox carrying all of their supplies. Some of the wealthier families had a donkey for each person and there were even several horses this year belonging to military and princely families. Blimah noted other white clad girls and she walked ahead of her family to seek her fellow dancers.

Gheda, on a white mare, trotted beside the walking pilgrims. He wore luxurious purple robes and was adorned with golden bracelets. When he passed by Blimah he stopped his horse and whistled quietly.

“Aren’t you a beauty,” Gheda said. “You shall make a wonderful bride. What is your name, my daughter?”

“Am I a mare, sir, that you determine my worth based on my appearance?” Blimah answered without breaking her stride or looking up.

“Do you know who I am? How dare you speak to me so insolently?” Gheda fumed.

“Does a high rank excuse bad manners? I thought that was a heathen custom.”

“Woman! Tell me your name that I should know the identity of she who shall soon feel my wrath.”

“And who is it that seeks my identity? Are you some judge or officer? You are not of my tribe and I do not owe you obeisance or false courtesy.”

“I am Gheda the Levite! Uniter and leader of the tribes of Israel!”

“Ah, the one who destroyed our brothers and sisters of Benjamin. Hail mighty savior! With such leadership, soon there shall be even fewer tribes. A pleasure meeting you, noble sir. Now perhaps stop harassing me and go destroy another tribe or something.”

“You go too far! Your tongue shall be the death of you!” Gheda unsheathed his sword and ran his mount at Blimah, slashing at her neck.

With a dancer’s speed, Blimah ducked below the sword and pivoted, grabbing Gheda’s sword arm, swiftly breaking his wrist and disarming him. Blimah held the heavy sword as Gheda howled in pain.

“My hand! You’ve broken my hand!” Gheda held his dangling hand and looked at Blimah with a combination of hatred and fear.

“It’s your wrist, you oaf. Immobilize it for a few weeks and it shall heal. But let this be a warning, Gheda the Levite,” Blimah pointed the sword at him. “Next time you threaten me, I shall kill you. I shall slice your rotund belly so that your innards will spill out and then I shall feed them to my dogs – though they may hate me for my choice of meat. Begone, fat one, and think before you look upon a woman as an object again.”

Gheda’s face became as red as the embers of a blacksmith’s forge. He held his breath until Blimah thought his head would explode. Blimah did not flinch. She merely looked him in the eye with a tight smile. Finally, Gheda, confused and pained, trotted away. A crowd had formed around Blimah. Several women patted her on the back.

“That was very brave, dear,” an older woman in dark robes said, “but beware of men of power. They do not forget insult or injury lightly.”

“Why are there so many pilgrims this year?” Blimah asked her.

“Have you not heard? They say that all the princes will be at Shilo this year, as well as the survivors of Benjamin. They shall celebrate the end of their fighting and have insisted that all of the tribes attend. We have not had such a gathering since the days of Joshua! It is perhaps a more positive attempt at unification, seeing as warfare did not go so well.”

“If this fat buffoon is the leader of such efforts, it does not bode well,” Blimah said.

“Gheda is a troublemaker. Stay clear of him and you should be fine.”

“Thank you for the advice. I shall take it to heart.”

“Ehud! You are alive!” Prince Giltar of Benjamin embraced Ehud in front of the Sanctuary entrance amidst the bustle of the pilgrims. “I thought you had perished.”

Ehud removed himself from Giltar’s embrace. “I was at the doors of death. I lay unconscious for months. I have just recently awoken to the horror you’ve left us.”

“It was a massacre,” Giltar looked at his sandaled feet. “They tried to destroy the entire tribe.”

“How many, Giltar? How many of us are left?” Ehud said.

“Six hundred, Ehud. Six hundred men. It was God’s will. I was at fault. I see that now. I was arrogant. But it was God’s will.”

“That does not absolve you.”

“True. I do not think I shall ever find absolution, but what would you have me do? Kill myself as the heathens? Do you wish to take my life?” Giltar removed his sword and handed it to Ehud.

“You do deserve to die, Giltar. But not at my hands.” Ehud returned the sword. “What of the remaining men, where are they?”

“Gheda brought us brides from Yavesh Gilaad. Four hundred are married and will rebuild our destroyed cities. The rest of the men are here and will take brides tonight, at the dance.”

“What do you mean by ‘take’? Do the brides know of this, or do you come as thieves in the night to steal the daughters of Israel from their families?”

“It is Gheda’s plan. If we take the brides against their will, then their families shall not have betrayed their oath against marrying Benjaminites. Gheda will be here with soldiers to make sure there is no protest.”

“Gheda, Gheda, Gheda. He has been behind all the insanity from the beginning. He always finds the most violent solutions.”

“You should find a wife yourself, Ehud. It is your responsibility as well to make sure our tribe continues.”

“I shall not take a woman against her will.”

“Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

“Do they?”

Pinhas, the High Priest, watched as the masses of Israel streamed to Shilo. It gave him great pleasure to see so many attend the festival. For many years now the Sanctuary had been mostly desolate. Few families made the regular pilgrimages. Pinhas had conscripted Priests and Levites to clean the Sanctuary grounds, launder all the cloths and garments and polish all the metal utensils. Vendors from near and far arrived with food, clothing and jewelry, and most importantly to Pinhas, animals for the sacrifice. Sheep and goats were the main consumption of the Sanctuary altar. His priest would be busy this festival. And of course there were the musicians. Musicians from all over Canaan arrived for the festival of Tu-B’Av, giving it its special character. Though it was not written in the Law of Moses, this festival was one of the few that attracted people to Shilo, especially the maidens. They loved to dance by the vineyards outside the Sanctuary.

The Tabernacle structure stood proudly in the midst of the Sanctuary compound. It still had components from the original Tabernacle the Children of Israel had carried with them through the desert for forty years. That was the Tabernacle Moses had consecrated and saw filled by God’s very presence. It was the home of the Holy Ark, the Candelabrum and the other holy instruments the gifted artisan Bezalel had designed with divine inspiration. Besides the original roof of skins and fabric, this Tabernacle had walls of stone, as opposed to the original desert version.

Musicians from all of the tribes assembled in the courtyard, greeting each other and practicing on their instruments.

Pinhas had ordered the harvested fields west of the Sanctuary to be cleared for tents. The entrance to the Sanctuary on the south was reserved for families to eat and the eastern side, next to the vineyards, would be for the girls to dance.

Throughout the day pilgrims arrived at Shilo. Priests directed them to settle in the clearing to the west. Most pilgrims found the first available spot, parked their wagon and animals and started to construct their tents. Priests worked hard to make sure clear passages remained in the field to allow more pilgrims to traverse the field. The priests forced one overeager family from the tribe of Naftali to dismantle the tent they had built on the path. Two Menashite families fought as to who had gotten first to their chosen location. Donkeys brayed, sheep bleated and enterprising vendors walked up and down the path selling fresh pomegranate juice and roasted almonds.

Heads of families brought their sheep or goat into the Sanctuary compound for the Priest to sacrifice. The Priest expertly slaughtered the animal, cut it up and gave part of the meat to the owner. They then set aside some for their fellow priests. A final portion, the portion for God, was carried up the ramp of the Altar and placed upon the pyre at its top. The priests had their own fire to cook their portions and the families of Israel built dozens of fires to roast their meat outside the compound. Soon the air surrounding Shilo was filled with the aroma of freshly roasted meat.

As evening descended, torches and braziers were lit around the compound. The full moon and the cloudless night made for easy visibility on the festive night. Pinhas climbed the outer wall of the compound and faced the crowd camped out and feasting around the fires.

“Blessed are you who have come, Children of Israel, to celebrate the fifteenth of Av, the summer’s full moon,” Pinhas declared in a robust voice. “It is well that you remember God and his Tabernacle on this day. It is significant that we assemble joyously after the violence of the past few months. We are all brothers. We are united by our ancestry and by the laws of God given to us by our teacher, Moses.”

“Most of you are now too young to remember, but it was this day, this very day that our ancestors stopped dying in the desert. For forty years, ever since the curse of the spies, our ancestors would dig their own graves. They would lie in their grave. It was the ninth of Av, that accursed day. Every year a portion of the men would not wake from that night’s slumber. Their surviving brothers would bury them. It was the most horrid day of the year, the day of death. And then, after four decades of that cursed day, no one died. We thought perhaps we had miscalculated the day. The men lay another night in their cold graves. And yet again, no one died. They repeated the ritual we had performed throughout our sojourn in the desert. And that year, that last year, in the wilderness of Moab, no one died. Finally, after days of no one dying in their graves, we looked up at the night sky. Behold!” Pinhas pointed at the full moon. “The moon was full! The ninth of Av was well passed. It was already the fifteenth! Moses called for a celebration! The curse was lifted! We would live and we would enter Canaan!”

“And so, my brothers and sisters, my sons and daughters, we celebrate. We celebrate this joyous day. It shall ever be a day that signifies an end to destruction and death, the beginning of hope and life. We must reaffirm our allegiance to the God of Israel and to each other. Children of Israel! Rejoice! For God now smiles upon us and is gladdened by our presence and our unity. Rejoice!”

Pinhas pointed at the musicians assembled in the courtyard. A white-haired Levite standing in front of the orchestra raised his hands and a symphony started. Lyres, flutes, drums and cymbals produced a rhythmic tune. White-dressed girls ran from the campfires to the vineyards on the eastern side of the Sanctuary.

Blimah was one of the first to reach the dance area. She kicked off her sandals and her feet seemed to fly of their own accord on the soft grass. Soon dozens, hundreds of young girls were dancing in step with Blimah, following her graceful moves in the bright summer moon. Blimah started with the traditional dances, dances her grandmother had danced in the desert. The orchestra played new tunes and Blimah moved on to more difficult dances, dances her mother had developed in the days of Joshua. Then Blimah danced her own dance, a challenging, arduous dance that was a wonder to behold. Blimah moved like a whirlwind, full of life and joy and music. Many of the girls could not keep up. They laughed and giggled at the other girls trying. Blimah taught the dance again and more girls joined in, still giggling at the new movements.

Blimah noticed men hiding in the vineyards. They were unarmed yet had a hungry look about them.

“Men of Benjamin!” Blimah recognized Gheda’s voice from the vineyards. “Your brides are before you. Take that which pleases you and no man shall stand in your way!”

Hundreds of men walked out of the vineyards. Dozens reached dancing girls as the music continued. Many did not object and returned to the vineyards or to the campfires with their match. Many girls resisted, some screaming loudly. The men forcefully took the women. Many girls ran and danced away from their pursuers. The eager Benjaminites pursued their prey with relish. Crude laughter was heard throughout the vineyard.

A tall Benjaminite approached Blimah. “I will have you, girl,” he announced as he reached for her.

Blimah easily sidestepped him, the music adding to her speed. “You’ll have to do much better than that,” she whispered as she danced away.

A brutish-looking man intercepted Blimah and grabbed her harshly by the arm. “Come here, girl. I will have you as a bride.”

“You will not!” Blimah kicked him in the groin. The man doubled over in pain, releasing her.

“A wild one, eh! I’ll tame you, girl!” The man reached for Blimah again.

Blimah spun around, kicking the man in the face. The man fell to the ground unconscious. Three other men approached Blimah.

“This is ridiculous,” Blimah stated to the melodic meat-scented air. “I will not be some prize to be won by the grubbiest hands. I should find myself a husband before the finding is done for me.”

Blimah scanned the field as her would-be suitors pursued her. She saw some couples skipping away happily. Others were struggling. She saw a man near the edge of the vineyards separating a couple.

“Unhand her,” the squat man told the burly Benjaminite.

“Gheda said we could take who we want,” the burly man responded.

“And I say I will break your arm right now if you don’t unhand her. Find a willing mate. This girl is in tears. I guarantee you this is a lousy way to marry. Gheda is a fool. I will not repeat myself.” The squat man placed his hand meaningfully on the pommel of his sheathed sword.

The burly man unhanded the girl who ran off relieved. The burly man scanned the field for more girls. The squat man sought the next struggling couple. Blimah approached him.

“What is your name?” she asked, standing almost a head taller than him.

“Ehud of Benjamin. What is it to you?”

“Do you seek a bride?”

“Not yet.”


“I wish to minimize the violence and injustice of this dance Gheda has arranged.”

“That is noble of you. Why do you care?”

“You are filled with questions. I suggest you hide or run to your family unless you wish to be grabbed by a man not of your liking.”

“I wish to be grabbed by you.”

Ehud looked up at Blimah as if for the first time.

“What is your name?”

“I am Blimah daughter of Yosma of the tribe of Ephraim.”

“Blimah, I am honored by an offer from one so beautiful, but you know nothing about me and I nothing about you or your family. This is not how it is meant to be.”

“I fear that if I do not leave this field with you, then one not of my choosing shall take me and I do not wish to run or hide.” Blimah turned her head towards half-a-dozen men, waiting like vultures a few feet away.

Ehud looked around and saw more couples struggling. Girls punching uselessly against the chest of grinning future-husbands. Girls crying as they were dragged back to the darkness of the vineyards. Girls screaming and kicking as older men pulled them by the hair. The veins on Ehud’s forehead throbbed.

“Men of Benjamin! Brothers! Stop what you are doing!” Ehud bellowed above the din of the music. “Are you brigands that you take women against their will. I know you. I have fought alongside most of you. This is not how we shall rebuild our tribe. Listen to me. Listen to me! I shall lay a curse now. A curse! Any man that takes a woman against her will, I curse that you shall not know a day of peace in your life. If they struggle, let them go. Find one that is suitable for you. The daughters of Israel are princesses! There are more than enough women here that we can take the time to find proper matches and not the first pair of legs that cross your path. Let them go. We shall find brides for all of you, but not through this violence. Whoever ignores me, I shall show them violence! You know how I fight!” Ehud unsheathed his sword and raised it high.

Men let go of struggling women. Some apologized. Others took their time to seek out other women. Women shyly accepted the verbal advances of the Benjaminites. Laughing and giggling was heard once again. Women that had run away returned to the field. A sense of calm returned, enhanced by the pleasant music.

“Now, Blimah daughter of Yosma,” Ehud looked in her eyes, “you may seek a husband, or not, without pressure. Do you still desire me?”

“Ehud, that was the bravest, most heroic act I have seen in my life. I need know nothing further to know that I would have you as my husband.”

“But I know nothing of you, sweet Blimah.”

“How shall we correct that, my hero?” Blimah smiled.

“Time,” Ehud answered.

“There is no time like tonight.”

“True. Let us converse and get to know each other.”

The two walked to the campfires. News of the Benjaminite raid of the women had reached the pilgrims. At many of the campfires, women were introducing their new husbands. At others, fathers and sons were arming themselves and went on search expeditions to find their missing daughters.

Ehud and Blimah found Blimah’s family and sat down with them.

“Is this your husband, daughter?” Blimah’s father asked.

“Not yet,” Blimah answered. “He is not as quick as the other Benjaminites to claim me.”

“At least one man is not participating in this travesty,” Yosma said.

“Father, Ehud tried to stop it. He was magnificent,” Blimah said.

“Ehud? Ehud son of Gera?” Yosma asked.

“Yes, sir,” Ehud said.

“You are the one responsible for the death of my brother and my cousin and half of the soldiers from our tribe.”

“I am sorry, sir. It was war. Not of my making and it was in self-defense. I pleaded with the princes to hold back, but they could only think of violence. I shall leave if I am not welcome.” Ehud stood up.

“I have heard too that you are a man of honor. Stay. We were forced to swear an oath that our daughters would never marry the sons of Benjamin. I understand this ruse that was arranged. If the daughters of Israel are taken without asking then we are innocent of oath-breaking. I cannot say nay or yea to the wishes of my daughter. I couldn’t say anything to willful Blimah whether oath or not. She has always done as she sees fit. But how will you support her, man of arms, if we are now at peace?”

“I am a blacksmith, sir.”

Yosma’s eyebrow arched in respect.

“You realize that I can give no dowry, if the oath is to remain inviolate,” Yosma said.

“I have not decided yet, sir, if I wish for Blimah as a wife. I wish to know her better and not to take her merely upon the sight of her youthful beauty.”

“Cautious and wise. I think I like you, blacksmith,” Yosma approved.

“There she is!” Gheda’s voice pierced the night. He was accompanied by six armed men. “She is the one that attacked me. I will have her head.”

“You attacked Gheda?” Ehud whispered to Blimah. “I think I like you already.”

“What business do you have with this woman?” Ehud drew his sword. Blimah and her family stood up.

“Ehud? I did not see you there. It is none of your concern. I have unfinished business with this woman and if you know what is good for you, you will stand aside.”

“This woman is to be my wife, Gheda. If you make one more threatening noise, I shall do all of Israel a favor and dispatch one fat Levite from this world.”

“You threaten me? You threaten me!? Have you Benjaminites learned nothing? Men! Seize her!”

“What is the meaning of this!!??” a thunderous voice stopped everyone in their tracks. Pinhas, the High Priest, stepped out of the shadows and stood between Gheda’s men and Ehud. “You would spill blood in front of the Sanctuary? Have you not spilled enough blood between the two of you? I was forced into silence for too long, but no longer. You have both been instruments of great evil and you darken our celebration by being here. Depart, both of you!”

“One moment, High Priest,” Blimah interrupted. “There is only one villain in this story and it is the fat Levite. Ehud, my betrothed,” Blimah smiled as she said it, “has been defending me from the harassment of this evil man. Gheda accosted me as I ascended to Shilo and I can bring a dozen witnesses to prove it. I defended myself from him and humiliated this inept fighter and for that he seeks vengeance. And his sick idea to turn all the women into chattel was only ameliorated by the timely intervention of Ehud. If you seek to send anyone away it should be this pompous buffoon. Or you can save us all aggravation and let my husband skewer this pig as he deserves.”

“You see, Pinhas?” Gheda whined. “You see the regard they give me? After all of my efforts for Israel? Who is the victim here? Look at what she already did to my wrist?” Gheda raised his limp hand.

“He is here,” a new voice spoke from the shadows. “He is here!”

A bedraggled man stepped into the light. There were dried leaves in his short beard and madness in his eyes.

“Elimelech?” Pinhas asked, not sure if the Prince of Judah stood before him.

“Traitor!” Elimelech yelled. Gheda froze with a wild look in his eyes. Elimelech approached the group slowly. Then like a panther, he launched himself at Ehud, fingers around the Benjaminite’s neck in a stranglehold. They fell to the ground and rolled over the fire. Both of their garments caught fire. Blimah was quick to grab a blanket and put out the fire on Ehud. Yosma grabbed another blanket and extinguished the fire on Elimelech. Gheda’s men separated the two and held them tightly.

“Madness! What madness is this!?” Pinhas yelled.

“Traitor!” Elimelech screamed. “The blacksmith is a traitor! He is responsible for all of the lives, for all of the death, for the entire war. He is the one that drove us to it.”

“That is not possible,” Blimah said. “He is the only sane one amongst you.”

“Then you do not know him, girl,” Elimelech answered more calmly. “I have just returned from spying upon the forces of Moab, that have conquered the territory of our brothers in Reuven, and they are on their way to Canaan. I overheard and spoke to King Eglon of Moab himself and I barely escaped with my life. There is a traitor amongst us. A leader of the tribes of Israel that has ever pushed us to war. That traitor is in the employ of and has been paid by Eglon for years now. That traitor has betrayed his own blood and kin for Moabite gold. That traitor is Ehud son of Gera of Benjamin.”

“I knew it!” Gheda confirmed. “He was always the most difficult. He never gave in to our demands. He was always visiting with Eglon with his supposed copper shipments. It was all a cover for his treason! Men! Kill the traitor!”

The three men that had been holding Elimelech let go of him and approached Ehud with drawn swords. Ehud was still held tightly by Gheda’s other three men.

As the three swords closed in on Ehud’s unprotected chest, Yosma whispered to the open-mouthed Blimah, “You may wish to reconsider your choice of husband.”

* * * * * *

Biblical Source:

Judges Chapter 21

16 Then the elders of the congregation said: ‘How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?’ 17 And they said: ‘They that are escaped must be as an inheritance for Benjamin, that a tribe be not blotted out from Israel. 18 Howbeit we may not give them wives of our daughters.’ For the children of Israel had sworn, saying: ‘Cursed be he that giveth a wife to Benjamin.’ 19 And they said: ‘Behold, there is the feast of the Lord from year to year in Shiloh, which is on the north of Beth-el, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Beth-el to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.’ 20 And they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying: ‘Go and lie in wait in the vineyards; 21 and see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. 22 And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come to strive with us, that we will say unto them: Grant them graciously unto us; because we took not for each man of them his wife in battle; neither did ye give them unto them, that ye should now be guilty.’ 23 And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they carried off; and they went and returned unto their inheritance, and built the cities, and dwelt in them. 24 And the children of Israel departed thence at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they went out from thence every man to his inheritance.

Warrior Prophets 2: Chapter 8 – The Inadvertent Spy

Warrior Prophets 2: Chapter 8

The Inadvertent Spy

Elimelech’s attempt to drown himself hadn’t worked. His leather armor was still drenched from the Jordan River and water dripped down the fringes at the corners of his garment, especially from the royal blue string amidst the other white ones. Elimelech sought the road to Bet Hayeshimot which he knew must be nearby. His damp beard dried quickly in the afternoon sun, showing his long bright red facial hair mixed with streaks of white. He walked on the eastern bank of the river off the northern coast of the Sea of Salt until he spotted the ancient road leading further east. Elimelech walked on the worn dirt road that cut through wild shrubs and the occasional tamarisk tree, his pack and short sword still at his side.

He saw the Reuvenite stronghold of Bet Hayeshimot in the distance. He sought their beautiful flag that he remembered flying on the ramparts; mandrakes on a scarlet background. Instead, he spotted a sand colored flag flapping in the wind. On the foreground was a city in flames with a curved sword over it. Moab. Moab is here, Elimelech realized.

As he cautiously climbed the road, he noticed hundreds of tents outside the walls of Bet Hayeshimot, and soldiers marching around the city. Elimelech jumped into the shrubs, out of sight of the soldiers.

Why is Moab here? Elimelech thought while hiding behind the shrubs as he examined the enemy force. There must be over two thousand troops here! How did he raise such an army? Why did we receive no word from Reuven?

Because we were busy fighting our brother Benjamin, Elimelech answered himself.

A tall, large-framed man atop a chariot rode out of the gates of Bet Hayeshimot with a broad smile. His pristine white robe, gold jewelry and his pony-tail of red hair from an otherwise bold scalp marked him as the famed King Eglon of Moab. Elimelech recognized Elders of the tribe of Reuven that ran slavishly after Eglon’s carriage.

I need to find out more, Elimelech decided. I need to find out how he captured this stronghold so quickly and easily and what his plans may be. But how? They will identify me as a Judean instantly. I must blend in somehow.

Elimelech looked around the shrubs to see what resources were available to him. He noticed a patch of dandelions and had an idea. He plucked a dozen dandelions out of the ground, careful to preserve the roots. He trekked through the shrubbery and trees and circled around to the back of Bet Hayeshimot. He crossed a small bubbly stream that led to the Jordan. He sought the garbage dump that was behind every city.

He found a clearing with a large pile of broken pottery, rotted wood and other waste from the city. He searched through the garbage until he found a worn out copper pot with a hole at its bottom. Elimelech raised the pot in triumph, then set it aside and continued the search. After he found two more equally worn pots, he gathered his treasure and built a fire next to the clearing with the flint from his pack.

He took the first two pots, placing one within another and warmed them over the fire, making sure the holes were covered. The softening copper bottoms of the pots stuck to each other. Not perfectly, but enough for Elimelech. He repeated the process again with the third pot and then took the still-warm amalgamation to the nearby stream, filling it up. Water dripped out of the bottom of his makeshift pot. He placed the pot on the fire, noting his reflection in the water, especially his long beard.

Elimelech pulled out his short sword and grasped the long tendrils of his beard. He remembered decades ago, as a teenager, his excitement when the first hairs had grown on his jaw. It had signaled his entering adulthood. As most of the Israelites, he had never cut or trimmed his beard. Mystics had hinted at a certain holiness attached to the hair that grew from a man’s face. The Egyptians religiously shaved their facial hair. The Canaanites often trimmed their beards, especially in the spring after the cold of winter had passed. The Philistines were also clean-shaven, though many had taken to the Canaanite ways.

I have in any case lost any holiness I might have laid claim to, Elimelech thought as he ran his sword through his beard. He sawed through his heavy beard, painfully cutting off hairs that had been a part of him his entire adult life. That life is over. Perhaps I can find redemption with the Moabites.

Elimelech looked into the pot to check the length of his trimmed beard, but the water had already come to a boil. He broke off the roots of the dandelions and tossed them into the pot. An acrid smell rose as the water quickly turned brown. Elimelech let the roots simmer in the pot as the water turned darker and darker. Satisfied with the color, he carefully removed the pot from the fire, allowing the liquid to cool.

After several minutes, Elimelech placed both his hands in the pot. He removed hands covered with a thick brown liquid. He ran his hands through his hair and shortened beard. He repeated the process until all the liquid was finished. He took the empty pot to the stream, washed his hands as best he could of the dye and refilled the leaky pot.

He placed the pot on the ground, and when the water settled, looked at his reflection again. He did not recognize the face that stared back. His mane of red that had been accentuated with a distinguished white was now a common, younger brown. The face was different from what he remembered. Harder, pained, unsure. And there was something in the eyes. He had trouble meeting his own gaze. Guilt drove him now. And was it madness? Was it madness hiding behind his eyes? Could he even be the judge of his own sanity? He pushed his murderous episode out of his mind and focused on his new self-appointed mission. He carefully hid the fringes at the corners of his garment into the folds of his tunic, making sure not even one strand, especially the precious blue ones, could be seen. He spilled the water onto the fire and walked to the entrance of Bet Hayeshimot.

Elimelech reached the tent encampment outside the city. Tents were spread out under a thin canopy of oaks outside the city walls. He walked casually towards the encampment. Moabite soldiers looked him over perfunctorily and ignored him. Elimelech saw a large pavilion near the city gate with the flag of Moab flying at its top. That must be Eglon’s tent. How can I get closer? Surely someone may question me.

He looked at the activity in the camp. Soldiers and civilians were walking purposefully throughout the camp and in and out of the city. He saw armor being repaired, supplies being replenished.

“Halt!” a burly soldier tilted his spear to block Elimelech’s path. “What’s your business here, Israelite?”

Elimelech looked down at his stained hands and in sudden inspiration, blurted: “Tanner.”

“Very well,” the soldier seemed satisfied. “The tanners are assembling east of the camp for new leather armors. Proceed.”

Elimelech walked eastward through the busy camp, and then, after passing half-a-dozen tents, turned to Eglon’s tent. He grabbed a fallen tree branch, sat behind Eglon’s tent, took out his short sword and started sharpening the end of the branch. He listened for voices from the tent.

“Thank you, Dirthamus,” a rich voice said. That must be Eglon, Elimelech thought.

“Will serve well, though unwillingly,” a raspy, wheezy voice answered.

“Most of my agents are like that. How many truly serve willingly?” Eglon asked.

“When there is a confluence of interests, we serve willingly, my liege,” a female answered.

“Ah, Princess Neema. Insightful as always. But now we must return to the business at hand.” Eglon said.

“Yeah, what’s the next move, boss?” a new voice asked. Elimelech thought he sounded inebriated.

“Galkak, that is what I love about you. You get right to the point. Our next stop is the tribe of Benjamin across the Jordan.”

Elimelech missed the bark he was cutting and almost sliced himself when he heard Eglon’s statement.

“My agents tell me that the men of Benjamin have been all but exterminated and the rest of the Israelite tribes are also weakened. Now is the perfect time to strike.”

“Are you sure, boss? I hear them Israelites are fierce fighters.”

“They are, and I would never have considered attacking them in anything but this much weakened state. Fortunately my agent was most successful in fomenting their civil war.”

Elimelech spluttered quietly. Eglon was behind it all? He contrived our war?

“Man, you’ve got agents everywhere, boss. Who is he? How’d you get him to backstab his own people?”

“Galkak, Galkak. You forget yourself. I cannot reveal all. Let us just say that he was well positioned to push matters in the right direction. Promises of money and power will lead a man to renounce even his own kin.”

This Eglon is most dangerous. I must stop him, Elimelech thought agitatedly. He stopped pretending to cut the branch.

“You are delightfully devious, my liege,” Princess Neema purred. “What about the Israelites of this unfortunate city? What shall we do with them?”

“I think we shall kill them. They are docile enough without their warriors and we have no real reason to keep them. Isn’t that in your Amalekite manifesto or something, Galkak? To exterminate all Israelites?”

Galkak made a choking sound on his drink.

He will kill them all? I must prevent that! Elimelech gripped his short sword tightly.

“You know us well, my liege,” Princess Neema said. “Though the Israelites also have a law to kill every single one of us.”

“It is well that we are allied then,” Eglon said. “My enemy’s enemy is my friend, and I wish for Moab to be very good friends with Amalek.”

“Can’t we put some of these Israelites to work, boss? Seems a shame to just kill ‘em. Free labor and all, now.”

“Galkak, you surprise me. At the walls of your own city you were a ruthless, commanding man of action and now within your enemy’s territory, with them under your control, you’ve become soft? Perhaps I was mistaken in placing you as king of your people?”

“No, no, boss. No mistake. I’m just tryin’ to think like you, the master. You’re so smart, always thinking of plans in plans. Why kill an enemy that you can’t bring back? I’m sure they’d be more use alive right now. You can always kill ‘em later if you change your mind.”

“My mind is made up. I do not wish to have loose ends. As soon as I step out of this tent, I shall order the death of every Israelite within this city. Then we shall invade Canaan proper and utterly destroy the hapless tribes of Israel.”

“NOOO!!!” Elimelech yelled as he cut through the wall of the tent. He saw large Eglon sitting comfortably on a cushion, a goblet of wine in his hand. Princess Neema sat to his left, her hand on Eglon’s arm. On Eglon’s right sat a hunched and cloaked thin man. King Galkak sat in front of Eglon, with a matching goblet in his hand.

“I will not let you do this evil thing,” Elimelech approached Eglon, short sword pointed at the smiling monarch. Elimelech did not notice the two soldiers on either side of the impromptu opening he made in the tent. As if expecting him, they grabbed his arms from either side. Elimelech looked in shock at the two soldiers.

“What exactly will you stop me from doing?” Eglon addressed Elimelech as he took another sip from his goblet.

“What? How did you? I will stop you from killing these innocent people, from invading the tribes of Israel,” Elimelech said.

“What is it to you? Are you Israelite? I should kill you just for threatening me.”

“The Israelites have done nothing wrong to you.”

“The injury is from long ago. My grandfather, Balak, was grievously embarrassed by your people. But you are correct. That is not the real reason. Shall I tell you why I will attack and subjugate the Israelites? Very simple. For power. He who commands the route between Egypt and Mesopotamia will share in the riches that pass through those two empires. From Babylon to Carthage, from Thebes to Antioch, I shall control the most important trade route in civilization. Those thieves from Tyre, those upstarts from Sidon will have to deal with the Moabite power if they wish for their ships to sail safely and transport their wares to the world.”

Elimelech looked at Eglon with utter incomprehension.

“Who is your agent in Israel?” Elimelech demanded.

“Ah, you get to the heart of the matter. As I will kill you, there is no harm in revealing my spy’s identity. He is a highly placed and respected leader. He is a trustworthy blacksmith from the Tribe of Benjamin, by the name of Ehud.”

“Ehud!? Ehud!? NOOO!!” Elimelech screamed. He yanked his arm out of one soldier’s grasp and punched the other soldier in the face. Free, Elimelech escaped the tent through the opening he hade made and ran out of the encampment.

“Hold,” Eglon commanded his soldiers. “Do not raise the alarm. Let him run.”

“Well played, your majesty,” Dirthamus hissed.

“Thank you, Dirthamus. I thought that was an exceptional performance myself.”

“You mean it was all a trick?” Galkak asked, mouth still open from the whole exchange.

“Galkak, in the short time you have known me, you know that I rarely use force unless absolutely necessary. This was all a sham to make use of the Judean prince that happened to approach our camp.”

“How’d you know who he was? Or that he was comin’?”

“A red-headed Israelite was spotted approaching our camp and we were suitably informed. Dirthamus was able to discern his aura and determined that it was none other than Prince Elimelech of the Tribe of Judah whom we believe may be going mad because of his role in destroying the Tribe of Benjamin. Learn this, my vassal. Fortune smiles on the one who creates opportunities. Elimelech will unwittingly create even more chaos, assisting our real agent and making life difficult for the one man who can stand against us.”

“You mean Ehud ain’t your agent?”

Eglon slapped his thigh and laughed heartily.

“No, Galkak. If you would meet Ehud, you would know he could never be our agent. A vassal, yes. He is pure and straight and honest with no deception in him. The Benjaminites admire and respect him and I’ve cultivated him as an ambassador to us for many years now. He will bow to me when he has no choice. But he is not an agent. He would never betray his kin. It is important to know one’s enemy well and to keep them close.”

“But why did you let Elimelech overhear that you are going to invade the Israelites?”

“To create further panic, confusion and despair. The Israelites may rally whatever remaining troops they have, but the timing will be off. We are going to conquer the Amonites to the east first and make sure the Israelites hear of it. It will discredit Elimelech when he is proven wrong. The Israelites will disband and then we will have no resistance and their two strongest leaders in disrepute.”

Galkak shivered visibly.

“Cold, Galkak?” Eglon inquired.

“No, no, boss. Just too much drink. I feel sorry for them Israelites. They won’t know what hit ‘em.”

“Gentle and compassionate, Galkak of Amalek? There is more to you than meets the eye, and Dirthamus has not succeeded in piercing though your thick skull. I shall have to keep you close to me.”

“Don’t worry, boss. I ain’t goin’ anywhere.” Galkak looked with longing at the opening Elimelech had cut through the royal tent.

* * * * * *