05. Another

As King Omri followed them in, he announced, “I’ve got another wife for Ahab.”

05 Another Wife, Another Alliance, Another Job

872 BC

Fort Jezreel, Jezreel Valley, Israel

Obadiah shied from the servant who hurried to him with a broom. Why had the gate guard whispered the old fishmonger’s “wake up.”?

The servant swept up bits of grass and dirt fallen from Obadiah’s sandals, and the king stepped onto the newly cleaned spot of marble. “While you boys were racing, a messenger arrived from Edom. Old Jobab’s agreed to my proposal.” He waved an arm toward the window. “Trade along my southeast border. And beyond. This year we’ll dock ships in Eilat and next year sell olive oil in Bozrah and Ophir.”

A second servant held out blue ceramic bowls to the boys. Obadiah splashed water on his face then burrowed into a thick cloth the man handed him. Lord, what are you saying with “wake up”? He fumbled and dropped the cloth. “Sorry.” Obadiah bent and scooped the cloth into the servant’s hand.

King Omri edged a red ceramic bowl of glossy purple grapes across a low marble table toward Ahab. “King Jobab is sending you his daughter from Bozrah to seal the deal.”

Obadiah turned toward the window. What was the wife count for Ahab—seven? Eight?

Ahab plopped onto a bearskin, lifted a bunch of grapes from the bowl, and plucked one with his teeth.

And don’t ask if she’s cute.” Omri flipped a hand toward his son. “Old King Jobab says she’s a real looker, but that’s daddy talking. She can be a toad. What matters is my southeast border and trade routes.” Omri rubbed his hands together. “Plus, I’m counting my share of the taxes Jobab collects from caravans.”

Obadiah leaned his elbows on the windowsill. Beyond the lattice work, white doves chased through almond trees in blossom. He shook his head. Trade routes and taxes. He was born to tend pear trees. By his father’s side, he had laid up rough-cut limestone blocks to shape their four rooms in Keslote. Instead of lattice work, his family peeked through shutters. But to drink in a view of Mount Tabor’s western slope they had only to step onto the veranda.

Ahab pulled off another grape. “This changes our strategy, Biah. If we don’t have to post half our troops along our southeast border, we can stop Syrians the moment we smell them mobilizing in Damascus.” He turned to his father. “So, Edom’s under the belt. When do we complete talks with Sidon?”

Omri snapped his fingers. “Ah, the big one. After I land the Sidon alliance, we ship olive oil across the Great Sea at double the price, and King Ethbaal’s daughter becomes, not your wife number nine, but your queen on the throne.

Obadiah pushed away from the lattice. He didn’t belong in a palace. This conversation was between the Omri and Ahab. “My king, I should tend to the horses.” And confront the gate guard.

“Leave the horses to your stable boys, Biah. You’ve trained them well.” The king sat upright in a short, marble armchair facing the low table. “Get your bones over here.”

Obadiah shivered in the naked room. He turned for a last look at the almond trees and then perched on the edge of a chair opposite the king.

The king slid a cut-glass carafe of olive oil across the table. “I’m sending you to learn the olive oil business.”

As Obadiah rolled the carafe between his palms, the oil made golden ripples. “I’m inexperienced, my king.”

With a laugh and a look, the king lifted Obadiah’s chin. “When I put you in charge of the stables, you trained those boys by forking out the stalls with them. Then I made you head of housekeeping. You grabbed a mop and showed my crews how to clean. I gave you control of the kitchen. You don’t cook, but everybody says you’re the best thing that’s happened to our meals. Since I made you my purchasing agent, merchants utter my name with respect.”

Obadiah tweaked his eyebrows. “Thank you, my king. For your high regard.”

My opinion comes from people in key positions whom I trust.”

“Spies.” Ahab slouched next to Obadiah in a matching chair.

The king failed to smile. He stood and stared out the lattice work. “I’ve wanted to build a fort on Shemer’s Hill since I first rode out of Tirzah. There it stood, high in the middle of everything. Then I found it’s surrounded by olive groves producing oil a hundred amphorae every day. You’ll make my dream come true, boy.”

Obadiah jerked his head back. The king was setting him up for a fall. “Please, my king. I’m a cleaner of stables, a sweeper of floors.”

The king leaned across the table. “You’ll learn fast, and you won’t steal from me. You’ll supervise grove managers. Next time the Seventy meets, I want you at my side. The elders need to get acquainted with your face. You’re young, but you’re my right-hand man, and people even appreciate how you’re such a fanatic about the Lord.”

“Have a grape, right-hand man.” Ahab held a bunch toward him.

Obadiah waved the grapes away. The king had rattled off baby step jobs. The olive business meant a giant leap. Plus, he cringed at the idea of mingling with the nation’s elders. “I’m a country boy, my king. I prune pear trees.”

King Omri stepped between him and the almond blossoms. “Well, country boy, first thing next week I’m sending you to Shemer’s Hill with two talents of silver.”


Background

Keslote – Joshua 19:18

Jobab, king of Edom – Genesis 36.33

The Elders of Israel – Exodus 3:16, Exodus 12:21, Exodus 24, & Numbers 11:16

Shemer’s Hill – 1 Kings 16:24

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