05. Wife

05. Another Wife for Ahab

872 BC

Fort Jezreel, Jezreel Valley, Israel

Obadiah stopped just inside the door. The king’s ‘New wife for Ahab’ rapped for attention but stepped aside for the gate guard’s whispered ‘wake up.’ Is that You, Lord?

A servant with a broom hurried to him and swept up bits of grass and dirt fallen from Obadiah’s sandals.

The king stepped onto the clean spot of marble. “While you boys were racing, a messenger arrived from Edom. Old King Jobab has agreed to my proposal.” He waved an arm toward the window. “Trade along my southeast border. This year we dock ships in Eilat and next year sell olive oil in Bozrah and Ophir.”

A second servant extended 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, bent and scooped it into the servant’s hand. “Sorry.”

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. The wife count for Ahab had hit eight.

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

And don’t ask about her pretty face.” Omri flipped a hand toward his son. “Old King Jobab says she’s a real looker, but that’s a father talking. She can be a toad for all you care. 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 Kishion. 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. “The big one. When I land Sidon, we’ll ship olive oil across the Great Sea at double the price, and King Ethbaal’s daughter becomes your queen. Not wife number nine, but queen on the throne.”

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

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

Obadiah shivered in the naked room, so unlike his family’s tiny house in Kishion, where thick goatskin rugs covered the rough-cut stone floor and intricate knitted designs hung from the walls. He turned for a last look at the almond trees and then perched on the edge of a chair.

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

Olive oil.” 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 Seba by forking out the stalls with him. 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, and everybody says your Chef Jebus is the best thing that’s happened to our meals. Since I made you my purchasing agent, merchants utter my name with respect.”

Obadiah wiggled his eyebrows. “Thank you, my king. For your kind regard.”

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

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

The king ignored Ahab 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 groves producing a hundred amphorae of olive oil every day. You’ll make my dream come true, Biah.”

Obadiah jerked his head back. The king was setting him up for a fall. “Please, my king. I muck out stalls and sweep 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 for the Lord.”

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

Obadiah waved the grapes away. Ahab’s only job was to be prince. He knew nothing of the challenge of each responsibility the king had rattled off. Obadiah’s giant leap to the top of the olive business must look to Ahab like the natural next step for his old buddy Biah.

Obadiah cringed at the idea of mingling with the nation’s elders. “I prune pear trees, my king. I’m a country boy.”

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


Background

Kishion – Joshua 19:18

Jobab, king of Edom – Genesis 36.33

Shipping from Eilat – Deuteronomy 2:8, 1 Kings 9–10, 1 Kings 22, 2 Kings 14:22

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

The Day of Atonement – Exodus 29:36, Leviticus 16:1, Leviticus 23:26-28, 25:9, Numbers 6:1, 29:7, Ezekiel 45:20, Acts 27:9

Shemer’s Hill – 1 Kings 16:24

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