890 BC [Further?i]
Israel Army Field Headquarters, Gibbethon, Philistia
Obadiah shot up the street giggling, “You’ll never catch me.” With Ahab on his tail, he reached the gate to headquarters. Yet, instead of pushing through, he cringed under the steel stare of a man who’d been calling, “Fish. Fresh fish.” [familiar?ii]
Ahab slammed into Obadiah. “My grandmother could catch you and knock your skinny—” He glanced up at the man and shrank into Obadiah’s shoulder.
The fish monger paid no attention to the commander’s son but fastened stern gray eyes on Obadiah. “How long you gonna sleep, kid? Wake up. You’ve got work to do.”iii
Goosebumps slid along the back of Obadiah’s neck, but he shook them off. “Who invited you?” His father would not approve such words to an adult. Swerving away, he rammed through the gate and dragged Ahab with him. Covering his ears and squeezing his eyes shut, he forced out a laugh then turned and watched through the wrought iron gate.
The man shuffled on with the basket dangling from his shoulder. “Fish. Fresh fish.”
Obadiah broke the silence. “Must have swallowed a squid.” He tugged on Ahab’s sleeve. “Sorry, but I don’t see Grandma. For once in your life, try to run.” He bent and searched the path then flourished a small white stone.
As the two friends crouched by the gate, their coal-black curls glistened in the sun. They rested fingers on the wrought-iron bars behind them and reached toward the stable door at the far end of the path.
Ahab sucked in a breath.
From his thumb and forefinger, Obadiah dangled the tiny white rock in front of Ahab.
The pebble dropped.
Obadiah dashed up the path, his sandals slapping dirt and his elbow gouging Ahab’s ribs.
A gold and white hen squawked at the approaching danger and collected her chicks into the safety of a spreading fig tree.
As the racers shot between the stable guards, Obadiah raised his chin in a victory thrust and thudded into the heavy wooden door the same moment as Ahab.
“I won. I won.” They raised their arms and pranced.
A red and brown rooster strutted from a bed of anemones, crowed twice, and swaggered with them.
One guard leaned against the stable wall while the other grunted and unlatched the door.
Obadiah inhaled the homey aromas of hay and fresh horse droppings. As he entered, smooth noses bobbed over stall doors, and a soft huh-huh-huh-huh greeted him. When the army had driven the Philistines out of town, Ahab’s father, Commander Omri, had taken this house for his headquarters and replaced the owners’ cows and donkeys with the steeds of his captains.
Ahab crowded in beside Obadiah. “I want to see that bay mare. The one from Akko. She’s mine.”
Obadiah snorted. “From Akko? That’s the one I want.”
Ahab marched straight to the seventh stall on the left, raised on tiptoe, and peeked in. “Where’d she go?”
“Oh, she’s out, sir.” A smooth-cheeked child, shorter and thinner than either visitor, stepped from the next stall and leaned a pitchfork against the wall. “The captain took her.”
“What captain?” Ahab slapped the boy then poked him in the chest, knocking him against a post. “I never said you could let anyone take that mare.” His cheeks flamed.
The stable boy stifled a whimper and wiped a dribble of blood from his nose.
Obadiah’s nostrils flared. He yanked Ahab around by the shoulder. “Pick on somebody your own size.” Heat rose in his throat.
“And you go jump in the sea.” Ahab grabbed Obadiah by the sleeve, swung him around and aimed a fist at his chin.
Obadiah ducked and grabbed Ahab’s collar. “That mare’s no more yours than she is mine.” He smashed his friend’s face with the heel of his open palm. The impact shocked his forearm, and he flailed his wrist against the pain.
Ahab grabbed at his nose then gawked at the blood in his hand. Ripping Obadiah’s robe, he screamed, “Stinking Philistine pond scum!” Ahab crunched his fist into Obadiah’s teeth.
Obadiah stumbled back and tasted blood. He touched his lips. His fingers came away bloody.
A stable guard burst in and seized Obadiah by the shoulders.
The other guard grabbed Ahab.
Ahab swatted at him. “What are you—?”
“Shush!” The guard pinched Ahab’s ear.
“Come along.” Obadiah’s guard dragged him out by the ear, past the fig tree and the thorny bougainvillea to a ladder leaning against the wall. “Up you go.”
Obadiah spluttered. “But—”
“I’m right behind you,” the guard said.
Obadiah climbed, and the moment he stepped over the parapet, the stable guard jumped off the ladder onto the walkway and latched onto his ear lobe.
Two breaths later, Ahab landed next to him in the grip of the second guard. There would be no escape for either child.
Obadiah glared, and Ahab returned the look.
Weela-wee-ooo floated in from a high branch.
But before he could glimpse the golden oriole who sang, the guard forced him into a large, cold room on the roof of the stable. “In you go.”
The door closed. Instead of the song of the oriole and the rustle of the breeze in the bougainvillea, the scrape of sandals on the stone floor echoed off smooth-cut limestone walls.
From stone benches shoved up against the walls, five bodyguards grinned at the two stable guards and their captives. Their commander had set up his office and living quarters in the rooms of the evicted owners. These five bodyguards controlled the outer office.
Ahab’s guard propelled the boy forward. “We have something to show the commander.”
The chief bodyguard disappeared into a smaller room.
Ahab squirmed. “You can’t—”
The guard twisted his ear. “Quiet.”
Obadiah studied the floor. To avoid more pain, he cocked his head on one side and held still.
“My. My. What have we here?” The commander entered and wagged his head side to side. He stood taller than the guard and white hairs streaked the beard trimmed to jut from his chin.
As the pressure eased on Obadiah’s ear, he let out a hard sigh and bowed his head. This village boy had given the commander’s son a bloody nose.
Commander Omri would chuckle while the executioner swung his axe toward Obadiah’s neck. Would he allow Obadiah’s family to bury him under the pear tree next to his great grandfather?
Back in their mountain village, when the commander had announced his next campaign, Ahab had dragged Obadiah arm in arm and begged for them to tag along. “Biah and I can cheer the troops, Daddy.”
When the commander smirked, “We’ll slice the heads from those Philistines,” both boys had trembled. Yet Obadiah had bounced on his toes. Yedidah, the potter’s daughter, would shiver when he told her of severed heads.
The commander had nodded. “Just don’t think you’re shepherd boys looking for a giant to slay.” When they arrived at the battle scene, Ahab’s father made them stand on a hillock so far from the clash that shouts drifted to them on the breeze. They’d been in Gibbethon a month and hadn’t seen one giant or one severed head, yet Obadiah’s was about to bounce in the dirt.
“Chin up,” the commander snapped.
Obadiah lifted his face, and Ahab followed.
First the commander ran a finger over the blood drying on Ahab’s mouth then squinted at Obadiah’s split lip. “‘The forcing of wrath brings forth strife.’” He turned to the guard who had brought his son. “Whose wrath brought forth this strife?”
“I found these two at each other’s throats, and a stable boy whimpering by the stall.”
“That’s it? Nothing more to report?” The commander pursed his lips.
The guard shook his head. “Correct, sir. Nothing more.”
“You men did well to bring them to me. Return to your post.”
The two stable guards bowed and left.
The commander crossed his arms over his chest. “Why was the stable boy whimpering?”
Obadiah squeezed his eyes shut. The stable boy was Ahab’s concern. When the executioner’s axe sliced into Obadiah’s throat, how long would he feel the pain before the world disappeared? He stifled a sob. He would die before his ninth birthday. If only he could have told Yedidah goodbye.
The commander shook Obadiah by the shoulders. “Did you hurt the stable boy?”
As Obadiah lifted his face, his eyes widened, and his mouth fell open.
“No squirrel up that tree.” He lifted Ahab’s chin. “Did you strike the boy?”
Obadiah edged closer to Ahab, so the crook of their arms nested together. His friend had never hurt anyone before, but the excitement of their foot race had spilled onto the stable boy. Ahab had done wrong, but he didn’t deserve to be whipped or whatever commanders did to discipline sons.
Ahab elbowed Obadiah’s arm aside and lifted his gaze to the far corner of the room. “The stable boy did nothing wrong. I pushed him. I slapped him. About a bay mare.”
“Look at me, son.”
Obadiah followed Ahab’s gaze as he met the commander’s eyes.
The commander cupped his son’s chin with his hand. “Ahab. They will pronounce the name with deep pride because you will be a great fighter and commander of troops. Know this. We do not slap a stable boy or shove him in anger. We treat him with respect because he fights by our side.”
Ahab squared his shoulders.
No whip? Obadiah scratched his chin.
Commander Omri brushed Ahab’s cheek with his fingers. “Did the stable boy give you the bloody nose?”
Obadiah gulped and touched his broken lip. “I did, sir.” He held his breath and willed his stomach to keep his breakfast. Maybe the commander would respect his confession, lace his severed head to his body, and send him in two pieces for his father to bury in one grave. But he would never know what the fish monger meant by “wake up.”
Obadiah and Ahab – 1 Kings 18:3
Israel army at Gibbethon – 1 Kings 16:15
“How long will you sleep?” – Proverbs 6:9
“parapet around your roof…” – Deuteronomy 22:8
“their mountain village” was Keslote – Joshua 19:18 iv
Shepherd boy slays giant – 1 Samuel 17
The forcing of wrath – Proverbs 30:33
iTo further integrate this chapter into The Waking of Obadiah:
Young Obadiah hears of 2 Kings 3:25-27 King of Moab sacrifices son on wall
Young Obadiah sees Asherah or Astarte or Other temple in Gibbethon.
And he sees machine like that used in Elijah Warrior Baby chapter for burning children.
He withdraws, shrinks into himself to get away from both Asherah and Moloch.
iiHow to make the fish monger as familiar a figure as the stable boy in Ch. 2?
iii “If you hold back. If you don’t deliver those who are drawn unto death, about to be killed. If you say, “Look, I didn’t know”—doesn’t the one who ponders hearts see? He who holds your life, doesn’t he know?” i iProverbs 24:11-12 vs. Isaiah 58:10 “ if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. ” or Proverbs 3:27 “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.”
iv Obadiah’s village is Keslote – Chesulloth (fertile places; the loins), a town of Issachar, on the slopes of a mountain between Jezreel and Shunem (Joshua 19:18). It has been identified with Chisloth-tabor, 2 1/2 miles to the west of Mount Tabor, and north of Jezreel; now Iksal.)