Category Archives: Kings

Warrior Prophets 3 Epilogue – The Temple of Solomon

Warrior Prophets 3 Epilogue

The Temple of Solomon

The chair bearers loved carrying Ruth. In her old age, she was so light that one of them could have carried her alone. And she was always so friendly and chatty. The servants vied for the duty of carrying her around, but today was a special day.

The oldest, most senior servants were given the honor of carrying Ruth this day. It was a sunny spring morning in Jerusalem, the City of David. A viewing stage had been constructed for the royal guests facing the entrance to the Temple. The Temple stood in front of them with a central building four stories high. It was one of the largest, most beautiful buildings the world had ever seen. Two tall gold-covered pillars framed the entrance to the Sanctuary. A massive altar of stone dominated the Temple courtyard. A gigantic copper basin resting on twelve copper oxen stood in front of the stone altar. Priests in white robes darted to and fro in the courtyard with flocks of sheep, goats and cattle ready to be sacrificed, the fat to be burnt and offered to God, the meat to be distributed to the masses of people.

King Solomon son of David was seated on his throne in the center of the stage. On either side of the stage sat the assembled princes of Israel with their own families and escorts. Together, they all watched the throngs of Israelites that had traveled from all over the land of Canaan to witness the consecration of the Temple. Foreign delegations had also arrived to give honor to the son of David on finishing the mesmerizing structure the Israelites had built to their God. Phoenicians, Ammonites, Moabites and Edomites all sat amongst the visitors from abroad. Egyptians with their shaved heads and white robes, Philistines in leather tunics and elaborate sandals, even black-skinned Shebans in multi-colored robes graced the royal stage. Trumpets blew, announcing the arrival of each distinguished visitor. Colorful garments flapped in the blustery gusts of the western wind which carried a hint of salt from the Great Sea.

Bathsheba, the Queen Mother, sat on one side of Solomon. Ruth’s sedan chair was carried onto the stage and placed on the other side of Solomon’s throne.

“Grandmamma,” Solomon greeted Ruth. “I have two gifts for you on this day.”

“Oh, you didn’t have to,” Ruth replied. “Living to see this day is more than sufficient for me.”

“Nonetheless, you are deserving of it, Grandmamma.”

“You are sweet to call me that, though I am not nearly young enough to be your grandmother.”

“Do you recall your age?”

“No. Just the generations. I was there for your father, David’s birth. I was there for his father, Jesse’s birth, my grandson. And of course I gave birth to Oved, your great-grandfather. Though Boaz missed it. Poor Boaz. Our time together was so short. How he would have loved to have been present for his son’s birth. I don’t know why God has blessed me with such an extraordinarily long life. But I’m enjoying it. What are these gifts that you speak of?”

“The first is the compass of Amitai that you lent to us.” Solomon presented a small box to Ruth. “It was instrumental in our construction. It has some unique properties that my own engineers have not been able to replicate until this day. It’s as if it has a mind of its own. It directed us where to place each of the altars and the other sacred utensils.”

“Oh!” Ruth let a tear of joy stream down her wrinkled face as she took the box lovingly with both hands. “Amitai would have been so pleased. I only knew him briefly when he was already an old man, but he was so knowledgeable of how the world and everything in it worked. And brave. He gave his life that I might live.”

“His descendants were instrumental in the construction and design of the Temple. His spirit surely lives on in them.” Solomon said.

“Good. Then give the compass to one of them. What will I do with this contraption at my age? My adventures were completed long ago.” Ruth handed the box gingerly back to Solomon. Solomon bowed as he accepted it.

“Now before my next gift, grandmamma, I’d like you to tell me a bit about your husband, my great-great grandfather.”

“Boaz? What can I say about Boaz?” Ruth tilted her head back, summoning memories from generations before. “He was tall. He was handsome, even in his old age. He was brave. I think he was the bravest man I’ve ever encountered, and I’ve known many in my day. It wasn’t just physical bravery, mind you. It was the courage to do what he felt was right no matter what the rest of the world thought. He reminded me of stories about Abraham. One man against an entire culture of belief. Boaz was that strong. And he was a leader. A natural leader. When he spoke, people couldn’t help but listen and follow. And he was kind. So kind. Imagine me – a destitute Moabite woman coming to Bethlehem – and he was the only friendly hand. He withstood the famine and kept Bethlehem together and safe. He had been a mighty warrior, but that was before I knew him, though even as a child I had heard stories of his accomplishments, of his unnatural speed, of his incredible instinct as a fighter, of how he founded the militia that fought Israel’s enemies, and so much more. Oh, Solomon. He was so much. He was a man of the utmost integrity, of such character, of faith, of self-control. He was a pillar of Judah and served as an example to all of Israel. It was my deepest privilege to be his wife and to bear his child.”

“Thank you, grandmamma,” Solomon said as his eyes moistened. “I’ve never heard you speak so passionately about him.”

“You never asked before. But why now?”

“That is the second gift. You see those two pillars?” Solomon pointed at the massive golden pillars at the entrance to the Temple. “We needed to name them. The one on the left is named Yachin, meaning ready. It symbolizes that we must always be ready to fulfill God’s commands, to serve Him as a servant before ones master.”

“And what is the name of the right pillar?” Ruth asked.

“We wanted to choose a name that symbolized all the traits you just mentioned. Of humility and nobility. Of justice and mercy. Of courage and discipline. Of faith and tradition. Of honor and beauty. We have named the right pillar after your husband, after our esteemed ancestor. We have named the pillar Boaz.”

Ruth wept joyfully. She looked at the pillar and imagined a giant version of Boaz guarding the entrance to the Temple. And she imagined him smiling back at her.

The End

End of Warrior Prophets 3: Ancestress and The Boaz Trilogy

* * * * * *

Secondary Sources:

Ruth the Moabite lived to see the kingdom of Solomon, her great-great grandson. Tractate Bava Batra 91b.

Warrior Prophets: Assassin. Prophetic Prologue: Abram’s Covenant

Warrior Prophets II: Assassin

Prophetic Prologue: Abram’s Covenant

Abram views stars
Abram views stars

God had spoken with Abram before. This time, though, Abram smelled menace in the air. The Divine Will exerted its force on Abram and led him to a clearing in the forest, on top of one of the mountains that ran through the length of the land of Canaan. The clearing was bare except for a light carpet of thistles that had fallen from the tall pines surrounding the clearing. A light chill in the night air reminded Abram that winter had not yet released its grasp of the early spring.

“Fear not, Abram,” resonated God’s voice through the clearing, “I shall be a shield for you, and your reward shall indeed be great.”

At first Abram could not respond. God’s presence always overwhelmed him. He needed to calm his thoughts and feelings. After some moments of meditation, he built up the gall to say what was on his mind.

“Lord God, what shall you bestow upon me? I continue childless, while Eliezer of Damascus is my heir apparent. Behold, you have given me no seed, and one of my household shall inherit me. And my nephew Lot, in whom I had placed some hope, has left my path.”

“That one shall not inherit you” responded God, “but one that shall venture forth from your own loins – he shall inherit you.”

A great wind lifted Abram up over the roof of the forest, and carried him high above the cedars and pine trees below. He had a vision of himself even older than he was now, with a child in his care. The child looked remarkably like himself.

Abram felt himself flying through the cool spring night, and was filled with both wonder and fear at the experience.

“Gaze upon the sky and count the stars if you can,” God challenged Abram, “so too shall be the numbers of your progeny.”

Abram gazed upon the countless sparkling lights in the clear night. He gasped at the import of what God was telling him. It took him a few moments to accept that from a single old man, a multitude of humanity would emerge. He believed it, and in God’s ability to make it so.

In the early hours of the morning, the wind set Abram back in the clearing where he had started from, where the conversation continued.

“I am the Lord that brought you out of the furnace of Kasdim, to give you this land to inherit,” God explained.

Abram was then given a view of the full length and breadth of the land of Canaan. From the snow peaked Hermon Mountain in the north, to the sandy beaches of the south with its dazzling coral reef on the shores of the Reed Sea. He saw the lush forests of the Galilee, teeming with wildlife. The rugged hills of the East beside the Jordan River, ripe with vineyards he could almost taste. The fertile plains of the West, where the ground flowered its produce with joy. The rough desert of the Negev where life found a way.  And the mesmerizing Great Sea hugging the western coast. Abram wondered how all the terrains and climates of the world were represented in Canaan, in what he knew was a relatively small area.

However, once again sensing the dread in the forest clearing, he asked:

“Lord God, how shall I know that I will inherit?” Almost immediately he regretted his outspokenness.

For a moment, there was complete silence. Even the surrounding birds seemed to hold their breath to see what the response would be.

Then God answered, with a voice different than before, like that of a somber judge:  “Assemble for me a heifer of three years, and a goat of three years, and a ram of three years, and a turtledove and a young pigeon. Then shall I instruct and answer you.”


Abram spent the rest of the day tracking down the list of animals. He was surprised by what seemed like eagerness to be caught on the part of the animals. The ram had calmly walked up to Abram and started to lick his palm. Abram found two goats together and had to keep chasing one away, while he led his choice back to the clearing. Once he had spotted the birds, they flew towards him, landing on his outstretched arms. He built a simple altar of stones, and methodically sacrificed each of the animals by cutting their necks with his sharpened blade.

Then, as per God’s instructions, he split the carcasses of the heifer, the goat and the ram.  He formed a path out of the parts, placing the front part of the animals to his right and the back parts on his left. However, he did not split the bodies of the birds. These he placed on either side of the path, the dove on the right and the pigeon on the left.

When Abram had finished the placement of the parts, he stood up, wiped the sweat off his brow, and looked into the afternoon sun.  He saw a bird in the distance, approaching his mountain rapidly. It was an eagle, by far the largest Abram had ever seen. It beat its wings mightily as if pursued by Satan himself. Part of the fear Abram had been feeling materialized. He grabbed his staff in one hand and his blade in the other. His staff would assist him in the physical battle he was certain was approaching. His blade, so recently used in his religious sacrifices, would aid him in the spiritual battle he knew was a part of this struggle.

For a moment, the eagle disappeared from Abram’s view. He heard the wind of the eagle’s passage through the trees to his side. He ran to the opposite side of the clearing, to get a better view of the bird when it emerged from the trees and into the clearing. But the eagle outsmarted him. The bird appeared from the trees just a few paces from him, screeching like one of Hell’s minions. Abram ducked. The eagle’s talons tore into the tree behind Abram and ripped through it, leaving deep gauges in the tree. The eagle made its way to the path of the parts. Abram quickly followed him.

They reached the parts at the same time and faced each other. The eagle was the size of a man.

“I am here to destroy your path,” shrieked the beast with an inhuman voice, “let me go about my work and I will let you be.”

“No,” stated Abram, with more confidence than he felt, “this is a part of my destiny and I must proceed with it.”

“You fool,” laughed the eagle, “you do not even know your destiny, yet you would fight for it? I tell you it is filled with such sorrows and horror that you can not imagine.  Your children will be sinners and will be preyed upon by the nations of the world.”

“And I say to you, yet again – nay, you vile spirit! I will teach my descendants to be faithful, a light onto the nations. Begone!” Abram charged the beast raising both his weapons.

The eagle deflected the blows with his wings. A scuffle ensued, spreading about the carefully placed parts of the path.  The eagle distracted Abram by shaking his wing in front of him and then striking a gauging blow with his talon from underneath. Abram was able to parry the attack with his staff, and then with all his might he thrust his sword through the wing and into the torso of the beast.

The eagle disengaged from Abram with a shrill cry. “We are both right, my poor Abram. Your children shall be a beacon to the masses, but they will also suffer like no nation on the earth. Only in their faith and their clinging to God will their souls be saved.”

Without warning, the eagle then took flight and screamed out of sight, never to be seen again by man.

Abram straightened the parts that were disturbed during the fight. The setting sun tinted the horizon a dark red as it dipped into the Great Sea. Suddenly a terrible weariness overwhelmed Abram. The full horror of the darkness he had been expecting descended upon him and he found himself in the realm of the spirits.

A voice that could only be God’s spoke to him:

“Know surely that your descendants shall become strangers in a strange land. The people shall enslave and afflict them for four hundred years,” God declared ominously. “But the enslavers I shall also judge, and then your children will be freed, and with great wealth!”

A vision of a great desert kingdom appeared to Abram. He saw thousands upon thousands of people performing hard labor. Pulling and building and dying, all for the egos of demented rulers that considered themselves demi-gods. Constructing great monuments to death, while draining life from all around them. Abram saw his descendants struggling to keep their identity amidst the tyrannical pressures of their oppressors. He saw the appearance of one named Moses, in whom a major event of creation – the acceptance of God’s Law, would come to pass. He would forge and lead his people from the crucible of Egypt. 

The flow and paths of history then became as the threads of a tapestry. The tapestry was infinitely wide, extending from the beginning of time until its end. The threads were the lives and struggles of humanity, and he watched and followed the paths they weaved. The threads were of all colors, some brighter than others. They danced around each other, fighting and clashing through the rhythm of history. Many were cut short. More gave birth to new threads. And a few inspired multitudes and made the whole tapestry brighter. 

Abram then started to focus on particular scenes of the tapestry. He saw the birth of his twelve great-grandchildren that would establish the tribes of Israel. He witnessed the subjugation of their descendants by Pharaoh, and their miraculous exodus to the desert. He experienced the conquest of the land, led by Moses’ disciple, Joshua. However, the glory of the conquest would be short-lived. The Children of Israel would forsake their heritage, leaving God and succumbing to the domination of its neighbors. Abram searched for the fate of his other relatives and progeny. Lot, his nephew, who had not lived up to his expectations would sire two nations. They would not be friendly to Israel. Yet a spark of holiness would be distilled from his line, and form an integral part in Israel’s and the world’s redemption.

His concubine’s son, Ishmael, would found a line that would cover more territory and more nations than any other. The divine message would be altered, yet they would be within an arm’s length of true faith and holiness. A grandson, Esav, through sheer might and willpower, would lay the foundation to one of the strongest and most influential of empires on earth. Based in Rome, their materialism and religiosity would change the world.

But only Jacob and his progeny would remain true to Abram’s path, and to them he returned his attention.

He perceived the constant subjugations, exiles and miseries of Israel as the ebb and flow of history. Brief periods of peace and tranquility would allow them to catch their breath before the next test. 

God interrupted Abram’s thoughts: “They need not suffer in this world.”

“What is the other option?”

“The errant souls would be consigned to the netherworld.”

“I don’t understand.”

“There are two paths, Abram. The first, the one I have shown you, your progeny, all those that follow your way, shall suffer. They shall suffer torment and misery and persecution as a whole, as a nation, whether any one individual is guilty of sin or not. In a nation, one is responsible for the other. A brother bears the burden of his brother though it not be of his own making. The second path does not have the bonds of nationhood, brotherhood or fellowship. Each soul will rise or fall solely on its own merit. However, the soul that falls shall have none to raise him. His soul shall suffer forever.

With that word, God caused the tapestry to roll itself up and Abram witnessed infinity concentrating into a single point. He finally understood that God was not bound by the strictures of time. God was removed from time, as a painter is removed from his canvas. Though one’s destiny may be predetermined and known to God, it did not remove the individual’s free will.

“Lord God, either choice leads to eternal pain.”

“You perceive the truth, Abram. But the pain of exile and subjugation is endurable. The minions of Hell on the other hand will show no mercy to the fallen individual, to those that have none to raise them.”

“You have cast a great burden upon me. I fear that to decide on the fate of unborn millions upon millions is more than I can carry.”

“You must decide, Abram. Yours is a great responsibility. You will choose wisely. But you must choose. I know your fears. You are afraid that the good will suffer with the bad, that justice will not seem evident and that your line will be swept up and disappear forever.”

“That is my fear. Do I choose certain eternal damnation for many, or do I risk all by allowing the entire nation to go into exile?”

“Fear not! By my life, I promise you this. Your descendants shall never be completely lost in exile. They will suffer. They will suffer more than any other people. But there shall always be a remnant. They will follow the path of the just, and the whole world shall be changed because of it.”

Abram spent the entire day in agonized thought. He asked God to see the great tapestry once again, to try to understand the consequences of exile. This time he started from the end of the tapestry and worked his way backwards. He saw the final redemption, four millennia hence. The social convulsions that would precede the coming of the Redeemer. The rebirth of the nation in its land after its long two thousand year exile. The wars that would engulf the world with weapons too horrible to even dream of. He cried at the calculated destruction of one third of his people. He saw the senseless slaughter. Then he saw it all over again. The pattern repeated itself throughout time. Sometimes it was worse, other times it was merely unspeakable. 

The Israelite people would find a home among host nations. They would appear safe and warm in their homes of exile. Once the comfort seeped into their bones, someone reminded them that they did not belong. This was demonstrated forcefully and fatally. But a remnant always lived on.

He felt the majesty of the Second Temple and its heart-wrenching destruction that started the two-thousand year exile. He cheered the bravery of the Macabbees in their struggle for independence. He saw the brief seventy year exile of the First Temple and the drama of Queen Esther in the Persian Empire.

He was overwhelmed by the site of Solomon’s Temple and the presence of God in it. He was amazed by the will of David, the man that would found the royal line. He looked more closely to follow his adventures and was awed that a man could suffer so, yet remain so strong in his faith. David never gave up. He would make himself a vessel for God, and would thereby fulfill one of the more important missions in the tapestry.  His line would remain true until the end of days.

He had pity for Saul in his struggle with kingship and wept for the loss of Samson.  He was surprised by the role of some women. He saw the leadership of Deborah against the army of Yavin and the bravery of Yael as she killed the great General Sisra.

Then he saw a wondrous sight.  The time was shortly after Joshua’s conquest of the land. He saw a left-handed man, leading an army of lefties in a charge against a force ten times its size. And they were singing with joy and faith.

“Who is that, my Lord?”

“That is Ehud, an assassin.”

And Abram looked on as the threads told their story, and as they moved in unexpected yet critical ways.

“Lord God,” he stated with greater confidence than he had felt in some time, “I believe that exile will not be as hopeless as I feared. This is the right course and the one that we must take. God save us.”

“I shall.”

* * * * * *

Biblical Sources:

Genesis Chapter 15

Secondary Sources:

There is a midrashic source that states that at the Covenant of the Parts (Genesis, Chapter 15) God gave Abram the choice of a history of Exile for the Children of Israel or eternal damnation for the souls of the sinners. In the process God showed Abram all of history, so that he could make an informed decision. He chose Exile.

The Shlemiel Seeks the Nameless One

Deuteronomy Fiction: Ki Tavo

The Shlemiel Seeks the Nameless One

The central square of Bet Lehem was filled to capacity on the early summer morning. Muted browns of farmer’s garments and animals were flecked with explosions of purples, greens and reds from the spring harvest. The sight of so many Temple pilgrims walking to Jerusalem frightened Nahum. The noise was overwhelming. The braying of dozens of animals and the even louder discussions of hundreds of pilgrims set Nahum’s teeth on edge.

Nahum was accustomed to the quiet of his father’s farm in the south. Though man-size, in his eighteen years Nahum had never gotten used to crowds. Donkeys, bulls, horses, goats, sheep and even some camels were penned on the western side of the plaza. With animals he was comfortable; with people less so.

Nahum was accompanied by his uncle, his cousins, his second cousins and most able-bodied members of his Simeon clan. They were all descendents of the notorious Shlemiel, though they did not discuss it publicly. Nahum’s father, the leader of their clan, rode on horseback. Nahum walked close enough to his father to be called upon, but not close enough for conversation. Hundreds of Judeans and Simeons prepared in Bet Lehem for the half-day journey to Jerusalem. To Solomon’s Temple.

“Nahum,” a young brown-haired woman waved at him as he approached the main well. Nahum tripped over a pebble at her unexpected gesture. He regained his balance, almost knocking over a wicker basket brimming with grapes. What’s her name? Nahum thought. I don’t remember her name.

“Hello,” Nahum murmured and looked at his feet.

“It is good to see you again,” the young woman said. “You’ve grown since the last time we met. You’ve just arrived?”

“Yes.” Nahum spoke into his semi-clenched fist.

“We’re about to leave,” the woman said, gesturing at a caravan leaving for Jerusalem, “but I would like to see you again.”

Nahum’s eyes shone and he glanced at the young woman for a moment. Talia? Is that her name? A tight smile spread over his face. “That would be nice,” he said.

“Meet me at noon at the southeast corner outside the Temple,” she smiled. “Don’t be late.”

The young woman joined the procession of farmers heading north to Jerusalem.

“Who was that pretty girl?” asked Eldad, Nahum’s uncle, from behind.

“She’s a girl I know that I keep meeting on our pilgrimages. I think she’s Judean, from Tekoa.”

“What’s her name?”

“I don’t remember. I never asked.”

“Nahum! You’re truly a descendent of Shlemiel. How can you not ask her name? How are you going to find her or find out about her?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t think about it.”

“You’re hopeless.”

“I’ll find her. We agreed on a meeting place.”

“Where?” Eldad asked.

“The southeast corner outside the Temple.”

“That’s good.”


“Because only serious couples meet there.”

“What does that mean?”

“Men and women meet there for serious discussions. The north side is for the frolickers.”

“How do you know all this?” Nahum asked, eyes widening.

“Some matters,” Eldad coughed into his hand, “are better left unsaid. In any case, you’ve been sheltered too long and now you’re of marriageable age. You must consider your prospects wisely.”

“Isn’t that for father to decide?”

“Typically. But if you bring forward a suitable girl that you like, then everyone is better off. Anyway, stop standing around like a buffoon and start watering the animals. The day’s not getting any younger and the crowd’s not getting any thinner.”

Nahum obediently watered their clan’s half dozen animals: two donkeys, the stallion that his father rode, a goat, a young lamb and a large bull. He lined them up facing northward out of Bet Lehem.

The road to Jerusalem was congested. Caravans of clans from all over Judea and Simeon traveled northward. Nahum started to sweat as people walked closer to him. He was thankful that at least everyone was traveling in the same direction. It would have been impossible to move if anyone had tried to travel south.

The convoy of pilgrims moved at an easy pace. The elderly rode on donkeys or rickety carts. Richly dressed pilgrims rode horses. Children ran around the slow-moving procession snatching grapes from the open baskets and throwing ripe figs at each other. The more talented children were rewarded with a satisfying ‘splat’ with fig seeds oozing down their friends’ faces. Parents yelled at them for abusing the First fruits.

Nahum tried to figure out the girl’s name. Mali? Did I hear someone call her that? Maybe it was Elia? How am I going to call her? How can I ask what her name is after all this time? What did Uncle mean about meeting on the northern side? That sounds like it could be fun.

The long line of pilgrims oscillated up and down the Judean hills. On either side of the dusty road were green vineyards surrounded by rows of stout olive trees.

Nahum spotted the Temple in the distance. The rising sun glinted off the tall structure. Other roads joined the one from Bet Lehem. The road grew wider and the crowd thicker and louder. Nahum and his clan approached the walls of Jerusalem. Someone started a merry tune on a flute. A large bull at the front of the Simeon procession marched proudly. His horns were covered with a layer of beaten gold, and a wreath of olive branches adorned his head. The pilgrims organized the fruit displays, stacking the figs into neat pyramids in their baskets and laying out the grapes on large wicker trays.

Colorfully dressed merchants and townsfolk lined the outer wall of Jerusalem.

“Our brothers from Simeon,” they chanted. “Come in peace.”

Nahum and his family entered the wide gates of Jerusalem. They passed the large palace of Solomon on their right. The royal residence was three stories high made of stone and cedar. Elaborate porches hung from the sides of the palace with long purple-flowered morning-glory vines covering the face of the wall. On the other side of the street was a row of stores selling spices, ground flour, and dried fruits. Further up the road was the smithy of a blacksmith next to the stall of a scribe. The dark towering blacksmith was an odd counterpoint to the small pale scribe. Past the palace were smaller yet elegant homes. Up the road was the majestic structure of the Temple shining in the sun.

The congestion on the Jerusalem road was almost impenetrable.

“When do you need to meet the girl?” Eldad shouted at Nahum.

“At noon.”

“You’re not going to make it.”

“But I can see the corner of the Temple. It is just a short distance away.”

“Nahum, it will take you as long to get from here to there as it took us to get from Bet Lehem to Jerusalem. Unless you can fly over the heads of all these pilgrims. And you would also need to take leave of your father – he may not agree.” They both looked at his father.

“I can’t be late. She told me.”

“Move quickly.”

Nahum turned his head to either side. A river of people extended from the gate of Jerusalem until the entrance to the Temple. Thousands of pilgrims were on a road normally traveled by dozens of people at a time. He noticed Israelites from all the tribes. Benjaminites from north of Jerusalem with their swords on their right side. Asherites from the Galilee carrying large vessels with their distinctive oil. Even Gadites from across the Jordan with their long braided hair. They all bore their fruit offerings. He was surprised to see Egyptians in their white cotton robes and even Phoenician sailors in their short leather tunics.

Nahum did not enjoy the confluence of tribes and visitors. He felt his heart palpitating as the crowd pressed in. They moved forward an inch at a time. At this rate he would never find her. Yael? Yafa? What was her name? If I only knew her name I could get a message to her. Nahum looked up at his father riding above the crowd. He moved up to his horse and tugged lightly on his father’s robe.

“What is the matter, Nahum?”

“Father, I must go ahead.”

“What for?”

“I need to meet someone at the corner of the Temple at noon.”

His father looked at the crowd, at the sun, and at the distance. “You will not make it. Who are you meeting? Why have you not told me of this before?”

“I’m meeting a young woman. We arranged it in Bet Lehem.”

“I see. Who is she? What is her name? Which side are you meeting on?”

“She is a girl I’ve met before on our pilgrimages. I think she is a Judean from Tekoa. I’m not sure of her name. We’re meeting on the southeastern side. Please father, I don’t want to lose her.”

“You don’t know her name?” his father looked at him in surprise. After a moment he nodded lightly. “Very well, Nahum. Go with my blessing. Good luck. Meet us by the east side of the Temple entrance when you’re done.”

Nahum attempted to force his way through the crowd. The harder he pushed, the greater the resistance. He thought he would faint from all the bodies pressing against him.

This is no good! I can’t move and I can’t see what’s ahead.

Nahum started jumping in place. With each jump he got a glance of the movement ahead. Pockets of space. Wagons moving slowly. Animals braying among the pilgrims. Merchants offering their wares to the ongoing traffic.

Space formed around him. People moved away from the strange jumping man. Nahum jumped and moved forward. Pilgrims made way for Nahum.

If I can keep this up I might make it.

A wagon stood in front of Nahum. He slipped on fig as he landed behind the wagon. He fell on his stomach and stared at empty space under the wagon. Nahum shimmied on his elbows and knees under the wagon. He continued to crawl under the legs of the horse in front, careful not to knock the hooves. The horse brayed at the sudden interloper but decided to ignore Nahum.

This is fantastic! I’m making great time crawling underneath. Dina? Bracha? I’m coming.

Nahum crawled under four more wagons, a trio of horses and a pair of camels. He ignored the dirt, feces and squashed fruit his garment accumulated. He knew he had made a mistake when he tried to squeeze under a cow. Its udder was low. The cow wailed mournfully as Nahum pushed his way underneath. As Nahum’s back rubbed against the udder, Nahum felt warm milk soaking his already soiled clothing. Nahum held his breath until he escaped the confines of the cow and breathed the fresh air of masses of merely smelly feet around his head.

Nahum glimpsed a promising wagon a few feet away, when a shepherd dog barked madly at Nahum’s intrusion of his airspace. Nahum scrambled away from the dog and turned towards the storefronts. Remains of grapes and raisins fell off Nahum’s garment. The dog was close on Nahum’s heels. The crowd parted for the reeking man and mad dog. Nahum climbed up the side of one of the stores and found himself on a low roof. The shepherd dog continued to bark and then gave up and joined the river of pilgrims.

Nahum could see the city clearly. He was halfway to the Temple. The road approached the Temple from the western side. A large sundial stood on the plaza of the western corner outside the Temple. A few minutes to noon. Nahum walked along the roof of the store and saw it was a short jump to the next roof. He ran along jumping from one rooftop to another.

Rina. Devorah. Whatever your name is. Here I come.

The stores suddenly ended. Nahum climbed down and faced a wall of people. They were all that stood between him and his girl on the eastern side. The wall they formed was thick and strong. From a few feet away he could see that any time there was an open space, it was quickly filled with a body trying to enter the Temple gates. Nahum noticed the fresh garments and bathed skins of the pilgrims. All had made use of the ritual baths and were wearing their best holiday clothes. Nahum was shamed to even approach them in his grimy state. He had dried fig seeds on his hands.

The sundial showed two minutes to noon. Nahum, shaking like olive leaves in the wind, approached the crowd. Lo and behold, the crowd parted. Like Moses at the Sea of Reeds a wall of pilgrims formed to his right and to his left. No one wanted to be touched by Nahum. Nahum kept walking. Movement into the Temple came to a standstill. Those closest to the entrance wanted to ensure they did not come in contact with Nahum. They turned their backs to the Temple entrance until Nahum safely passed. Those to the right of Nahum formed an impenetrable wall holding back the sea of pilgrims from washing over him.

Nahum made it to the other side. There were dozens of couples talking earnestly in front of the southeast corner of the Temple. The girl from the well was standing wide eyed, staring at Nahum as he approached.

“I made it.” Nahum looked at his scratched legs.

“You’re filthy,” the young woman exclaimed.

“I know, I’m sorry. It’s just that there was such a crowd, and I didn’t think I would make it, and I didn’t know if I would find you, and I didn’t remember your name, and then there was this cow and then a dog and then the crowd again…”

“Shush. I know. I saw the whole thing from here. It was incredible. I can’t believe someone would do that to see me.”

Nahum’s cheeks turned the color of pomegranate. “Well, you told me not to be late.”

“I did. But you’re a mess now. Go to the ritual baths, bring your First offerings with your family and then we can meet again afterwards. I’ll be waiting here for you.”

“Great. I’ll go now. But I’ll be back,” Nahum mumbled. “One other thing. I… what…”

“My name is yours, silly,” the girl smiled.

“What do you mean?”

“My name is Nehama. I am the daughter of Zuriel, a clan leader in Judea, from the city of Tekoa. Hurry now, it won’t do for a perspective bridegroom to walk around so dirty.”

“Nehama,” Nahum said in a trance. “Nehama. That’s who I’ve been looking for.”

“Go on, Nahum we don’t have all day.”

Nahum turned around and walked back towards the crowd. He tripped on a pebble, fell on his knees, and picked himself right up again.

* * * * * *

Biblical Sources:

And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and dost possess it, and dwell therein; that thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which thou shalt bring in from thy land that the Lord thy God giveth thee; and thou shalt put it in a basket and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there. And thou shalt come unto the priest that shall be in those days, and say unto him: ‘I profess this day unto the Lord thy God, that I am come unto the land which the Lord swore unto our fathers to give us.’ And the priest shall take the basket out of thy hand, and set it down before the altar of the Lord thy God.” Deuteronomy 26:1-4

Secondary Sources:

Tractate Bikkurim Chapter 3. Provides details as to the organization and annual procession of those bringing the First fruits offering.


Shlemiel or more fully “Shlumiel” was the name of a prince of the tribe of Simeon. The sages are disparaging of him as they identify him as none other than Zimri who sinned by having relations with Kozbi and who were then summarily executed by Pinhas. In classical Yiddish, Shlemiel is a klutz, an unlucky clumsy person. A great quote differentiating between a Shlemiel and a Shlemazl: “A shlemiel is somebody who often spills his soup; a shlemazl is the person the soup lands on.”

Nahum and Nehama are male and female versions of “consolation” or “comforting”

Stone Hunters

Deuteronomy Fiction: Re’eh

Stone Hunters

“You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations that you are driving away worshipped their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every leafy tree. You shall break apart their altars, you shall smash their pillars, and their sacred trees shall you burn in fire, their carved images shall you cut down and you shall obliterate their names from that place.” Deuteronomy 12:2-3

“He (Hezekiah) did what was proper in the eyes of the Lord, just as his forefather David had done. He removed the high places, shattered the pillars, and cut down the Asherah-trees.” Kings II, 18:3-4

Peluf gripped his grey beard as he sat on his stallion of the same color. He waited in the middle of the castle courtyard. His mounted troops entered through the arched stone gate, trotting loudly on the cobblestones, dispelling the early morning mist. The finest horsemen from the Jerusalem province had answered his call. Not his call. The new king’s call. Hezekiah son of Ahaz.

Peluf did not miss King Ahaz. He did not mourn the untimely death. His son, Prince – no, no longer Prince, but King, King Hezekiah was a different breed of man. Hezekiah was more like his grandfather, King Yotham. Both men of God. Hezekiah was untried though. A young man of twenty five years. Young and untried.

Ahaz on the other hand, that link between grandfather and grandson had been unlike either. Ahaz had embraced the local idol worship and dragged many of Israel with him. Peluf himself was ambivalent about idol worship. He was a career soldier – now commander of the King’s cavalry. He did as he was ordered whether he believed in it or not. Distasteful or not. It was usually distasteful.

King Hezekiah had declared himself on a mission. He was a firebrand with bright short red hair and a fiery long beard to match. Less than a month after his father’s death, Hezekiah proclaimed he would rid the land of idols. The veteran soldiers had laughed at the idea. The idols had stood since the days of Solomon son of David. The people, both Israelites and the ancient tribes loved their idols. For over two hundred years idols had graced almost every valley and every mountain of Canaan.

Peluf’s battalion was ready. Hezekiah had insisted on a majority of new recruits. It was clear Hezekiah wanted as many green soldiers as possible. He knew the older soldiers were cynical. Experienced, but still cynical. He hoped the new blood would turn the tide.

Peluf couldn’t recall the last time he had seen such energy amongst the King’s troops. The horses champed at their bits, eager to gallop. Young Hezekiah addressed the mounted battalion.

“We go today to cleanse the land,” Hezekiah declared from atop his white steed. “We must remove ourselves from the worship of these false gods. There is only one true God. And he is not of the handiwork of man. We must destroy the idols – all the idols. There must not remain a shred of their pollution in our land.”

The younger soldiers raptly followed Hezekiah’s words. Some of the older soldiers snickered quietly.

“Men, soldiers of Judeah, grab your swords.” Hezekiah unsheathed his. “Any idol we encounter we must smash, destroy. If anyone gets in our way, we shall rid the world of them and their idols. We have given warning. We have given the blatant worshippers a chance. Any that stand in our way have brought a death sentence on their heads. I wish to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, but we shall not allow this evil worship any longer.”

Hezekiah raised his sword and trotted towards the gate and the front of the battalion. Peluf rode to the right of his new lord. “We march!” Hezekiah shouted. A hundred horses and their riders followed Hezekiah, all with raised swords.

The troop quickly reached the Valley of Geihinom. Hundreds of people were assembled in the valley. They were all Judeans. They clustered around dozens of idols spread out through the length of the valley. Thin wooden idols, fat clay idols and a few imposing stone idols stood out. Men, women and children of all ages stood around the idols. They had not believed Hezekiah’s threats.

“People of Judeah,” Hezekiah called to them sword still in hand. “Give up this worship, move away from this abomination or perish with it.”

An old woman, next to the idol closest to Hezekiah called back to him.

“Leave us alone. These are the gods of Israel. We shall die before forsaking them.”

“It is the Law of Moses that you have forsaken. How can you betray him and our God?” Hezekiah called out.

“Moses?” the old woman barked a laugh. “That was hundreds of years ago. What relevance does his Law have to our lives? He was a desert dweller, a nomad from a backwards era. We are sophisticated mountain folk. We need the gods of the mountains. It is you Hezekiah who is the fool. You should have followed in your father’s footsteps. King Ahaz knew the value of our gods.”

Hezekiah charged her and stabbed her through the stomach with his sword. He dismounted and smashed the large clay statue she had been defending. The broken pottery fell into the pool of blood oozing from the dead woman. The cavalry followed suit and attacked people and statues. Most of the people fled, now convinced that Hezekiah would carry through with the destruction. A few of the elderly did not move and stood bravely in front of their idols, protecting their gods. Others hugged the statues to depart this world together with them. Clay statues were smashed, wooden ones burned and stone ones defaced and broken. After a few hours the Valley of Geihinom became a wasteland of broken gods.

Peluf was pleased and impressed. He was pleased that his young soldiers had destroyed the idols efficiently. None of them showed bloodlust. Hezekiah’s orders had been to let the people run away. Only those standing by their false gods were to be struck down and that is what happened.

But he was mostly impressed with the young King. Hezekiah set his mind on this destruction and had thoroughly wiped out the idols in this stronghold of the false gods. The next target would not be so easy.

“To the Pillar of Baal,” Hezekiah shouted to his soldiers. “Let us make haste.”

Hezekiah’s army rode northeast. The green lush hills surrounding Jerusalem gave way to sparser, drier land. They followed the ancient road down towards Jericho. The thorny bushes showed themselves less frequently until they reached the Judean desert. All they could see were rolling, dead yellow hills. In the distance through the summer haze they could glimpse the palm trees around the broken walls of Jericho. To the south they saw the lip of the Sea of Salt, where nothing lived.

A hint of green peaked out from between two mountains. Hezekiah’s troops followed the trail entering a narrow valley. Chalky red sandstone formed a wall to their right and left. In the middle of the Wadi a stream of fresh water trickled through. Thick green vegetation hugged the stream. The troops cantered on either side of the stream raising a thick cloud of dust that filled the Wadi.

“Let us send scouts ahead and above, your Majesty,” Peluf gestured. “We will not take the Pillar as easily as the Valley and this Wadi is too easy to ambush.”

Hezekiah nodded his agreement, eyes looking up and ahead.

Peluf motioned to his captains. Three pairs of soldiers trotted forward. Each twosome had an older soldier paired with a younger one. One pair went further down the Wadi, the other two pairs scrambled up the sides of the Wadi to scout from above. The rest of the cavalry proceeded along the Wadi.

The pair that went down the Wadi returned less than an hour later. The younger soldier was panting, the older one, Shaku, scratched his short beard as they approached Peluf and Hezekiah.

“Report,” Peluf commanded.

“Your majesty, Commander Peluf,” Shaku bowed. “This Wadi spills out into an open plain facing the Pillar. There are perhaps a thousand people standing in front of the Pillar. They have been warned of our approach and the destruction in the Valley. They are prepared for battle.”

“Weapons?” Peluf asked.

“Axes, shovels, pitchforks and some rusty swords. There are a handful of archers too,” Shaku answered.

“Estimation?” Peluf asked.

“Most of them are on foot. We can defeat them, but we would suffer great losses.”

“Your Majesty?” Peluf asked.

“Is there an obvious leader?” Hezekiah asked the soldier.

“Yes, your Majesty. There was a priest of Baal in his white robe riding a horse in front of the crowd, warning them how the Davidic line was a threat to their lives. He is accompanied by armed guards.”

“I see. What do you suggest Peluf?” Hezekiah asked.

“If you still wish to attack, I would hit them with two columns. One straight on and the other hitting them from the west. Never corner your prey. If we can hit them hard and fast enough, perhaps they will flee towards the east. That way we can minimize losses on both sides. If they become desperate or hold fast there will be few people standing at the end, on either side.”

“We may have to risk it,” Hezekiah held on to his long red beard, “but I just had another thought. Let us call for a parley.”

“A parley?” Peluf’s eyebrows shot up. “For what? What will you negotiate? They will never agree to anything.”

“I know,” Hezekiah smiled. “But perhaps a little deception can save much bloodshed. You, I and Shaku shall call for parley. We shall bring the troops to the mouth of the Wadi and then we shall proceed and seek their leader. Shaku, prepare a flag.”

The other pairs of scouts returned and confirmed Shaku’s report. Peluf sent them back to wait for the main force by the mouth of the Wadi. Hezekiah, Peluf and Shaku entered the plain leaving the main force behind them. The threesome trotted slowly. Shaku carried a spear with a white cloth tied to its head.

Past the plain was an imposing cliff face. Sculpted into the cliff was an immense statue standing the height of ten men.  The Pillar of Baal.

Peluf had never seen the Pillar before. An irrational desire to get off his horse and genuflect to the Baal overcame him. He looked at his King. Hezekiah’s face contorted. He seemed angry and fearful and desperate at the same time.  Hezekiah paused for a moment and closed his eyes. When he opened them, Peluf could only see the anger that remained.

The priest of Baal noticed the delegation. He assembled two of his guards and they trotted forward on their horses. The two parties met midway between the large crowd of Baal-worshipers and the mouth of the Wadi.

“King Hezekiah,” the priest sneered. “I expected you to come charging through the Wadi, sword raised high, cutting us down like wheat under the scythe. I received reports of your carnage in Geihinom.”

“I may yet do that,” Hezekiah answered.

“So why do you seek parley?”

“You have assembled a powerful force, Priest. I wish to make my life easier.”

“I can believe that, though do not expect me to cooperate.”

“Do you know the history of the Pillar?” Hezekiah asked.

“The Pillar goes back to antiquity. It is one of the strongest gods. We serve and obey.”

“We are not sure when the Pillar first came into existence,” Hezekiah stated. “But I do know it was refurbished in the day of my ancestor, King Solomon, by one of his wives.”

“See,” the priest pointed at it gleefully, “even wise Solomon approved of the idols.”

“I don’t know what he approved or how wise he was on these matters,” Hezekiah whispered to Peluf.

“There is a secret and a power to the Pillar that has been handed down from father to son, since Solomon’s day,” Hezekiah declared to the priest.

“Is that why you would destroy it?” the priest asked.

“Yes, but not for the reasons you think.”

“Will you tell me the secret?” the priest questioned.

“Let us talk privately,” Hezekiah suggested.

“I shall speak with you only with my guards,” the priest answered.

“As you wish, though you may regret it.” Hezekiah dismounted but motioned to Peluf and Shaku to stay.

Hezekiah walked slowly away from Peluf and Shaku. The priest walked with him. They were surrounded on either side by the priest’s guards.

“Your Majesty,” Peluf called.

“Stay,” Hezekiah answered. “This discussion is not for your ears.”

When they were out of earshot, Hezekiah spoke to the priest earnestly. He pointed at the Pillar. He pointed at the mouth of the Wadi where the concentrated force of his cavalry could be seen. He pointed at the afternoon sun creeping towards the mountains to the west.

The priest’s eyes opened wide. He looked at his guards with distaste. He nodded slowly towards Hezekiah and then, as if realizing his action stop abruptly and stood straight. He excused himself from Hezekiah and walked back to his horse in a barely controlled run. His guards caught up with him, both of them with tight smiles on their faces. The priests and the guards galloped back to the Pillar, with the priest yelling and waving his hands at both guards.

Hezekiah walked calmly to his white horse with a smile on his face.

As he mounted, Peluf asked, “What did you say to them?”

“It’s a secret,” Hezekiah winked at him and turned his horse back to the Wadi. “Now we will see how long it lasts.”

From the mouth of the Wadi they saw the priest and his guards return to the mass of people and dismount. The priest took out a knife and stabbed one of the guards. The guard fell. The priest stabbed repeatedly. The other guard ran yelling towards the base of the Pillar. A crowd followed him. The priest, with blood on his hands, demanded an ax from a nearby farmer and chased the other guard. The entire mass of Baal-worshippers converged on the Pillar. Further away, yet still in the shadow of the Pillar, the dead guard remained alone in a pool of his own blood.

The surviving guard climbed the side of the Pillar with his sword in hand. Others followed. He climbed higher and higher until he reached the top of the Pillar’s head. More people climbed up the Pillar until the statue was covered with bodies like ants encasing an overripe fig just fallen from a tree.

The guard swung his sword and hacked at the sandstone. A piece of stone fell off, knocking a young man off the statue. Baal-worshipers stepped and climbed on the fallen body to get closer to the statue. Axes were swinging and rocks were crumbling. The falling rocks hurled many of the climbers to the ground. Those who remained clamored for space, flinging off neighboring climbers at will. The space was quickly filled by other eager climbers.

“What is happening?” Peluf asked Hezekiah.

“They are seeking gold,” Hezekiah answered.

More bodies piled up at the foot of the Pillar. The head, torso, arms and legs of the statue were no longer recognizable. Dust and rock joined the growing pyramid of carcasses. The hungry Baal-worshipers ate away at the mountain stone like a swarm of locust.

“What gold? I never heard of any gold there,” Peluf turned to Hezekiah.

“It is an ancient secret, handed down from King to King since the time of Solomon,” Hezekiah smirked.

“Truly?” Peluf’s mouth hung open.

”No,” Hezekiah answered. “I made it up. But it is curious that fervent Baal-worshipers would kill themselves and destroy their precious idol for it.”

“You told him there was gold behind the idol?”

“Yes. I revealed to them the ancient secret that one of Solomon’s wives, during the refurbishment of the Pillar, placed half of Solomon’s wealth, gold, silver, diamonds, rubies and endless precious stones behind the Pillar. That is what gave it special power and attraction. I told him I had come to take that wealth. That my troops were here to secure the area and the treasure before my engineers arrived to dig and scrape it out. I offered to share the treasure with him if he made way for us.”

“You lied.” Peluf accused.

“Yes, would you have preferred a frontal attack?”

“No. It was brilliant, my liege.” Peluf bowed low from the seat of his horse. “Should we attack now? We can clean up this mess easily ourselves.”

“No. Let us go home. We have caused enough damage for one day.”

As they departed, Peluf saw more bodies falling. The head of the Pillar was obliterated. In the light of the setting sun, something seemed to shine where the head had been. Peluf kept riding away.

* * * * * *