6. Bodyguards for Obadiah
Fort Jezreel, Jezreel Valley, Israel
Obadiah fell back against the doorjamb. A donkey loaded with two talents of anything would refuse to lift a hoof. Two donkeys. Or a mule. But why haul that much silver anywhere?
He wiped clammy hands on his robe as if he were seven years old again in Keslote. His father had wrapped twelve shekels of silver in a cloth and tucked the tiny ball into an inner pocket of Obadiah’s robe. “I need you to deliver this to the cobbler in Shunem.”
Obadiah’s chest had swelled. His father trusted him to carry silver.
But then his knees shook. The moment he left their village, thieves would take the shekels. He might survive, but his father would be disappointed in him. His shoulders sagged.
“Just act normal, Biah. No one will look twice at you.” His father had patted Obadiah on the head and turned him toward the door.
Act normal with a ball of silver bumping his ribs? Wicked men crouched behind every bush. He put his head down and dashed past the first bush.
But running would attract the brigands who lurked in the shadows.
He hunched over and slowed to a walk.
Then thrust back his shoulders and glanced side to side.
Every boulder hid a bandit with an evil laugh, a long knife, and a bony arm reaching toward his father’s twelve shekels.
Obadiah fixed his eyes dead ahead. He loped to the village of Shunem in record time, fell through the cobbler’s door, and shoved his father’s silver at the man’s chest.
A slap on the arm from Ahab jolted him back into the present. “Big job, Biah. You’ll do great.”
“I don’t want you taking unnecessary risks,” King Omri said. “You’ll need bodyguards. Pick men you trust with your life.”
“But my king—”
“I’m buying the hill from old Shemer and sending you to learn the olive business. You can take Shemer his silver on the way.”
Obadiah flinched and jerked back. He hadn’t taken a serious look at an olive grove but was hauling enough silver to buy the place?
Obadiah stood on the threshing floor with six men. Their robes and sunburnt faces said farmers, yet he knew them as soldiers who had fought at his side in the campaign to make Omri king. They ate from one dish, warmed themselves at one fire, and slept huddled together against the cold. Long after they’d forgotten Omri, they killed to protect each other.
“We’re scouting olive oil production. You’re bodyguards, not troops looking for a fight. But with all the bandits and Syrians coming out of the bushes—I’m putting Zak at your head.” Obadiah tapped the shoulder of the one man of the six whose barrel chest and bulging forearms turned heads on market day.
Grunts of agreement came from the five.
When a chariot had ambushed Obadiah, Zak’s javelin had split the attacker’s Adam’s apple. At twenty paces.
Obadiah waved toward the south side of the fort. “The king says to choose steeds and a chariot from the corral. Pick a horse to claw your way out of a canyon. We don’t plan to stop and chat with any Syrians.”
He slapped Zak on the shoulder. “Come get me when you’re ready to tack up. I’ll be on the roof with Yedidah.”
As Zak led the bodyguards south toward the corral, Obadiah climbed the stairs to the headquarters roof. Several elders and their families occupied clusters in the center. Yedidah and his three little ones lay on thick rugs in the northeast corner.
Yedidah, the potter’s daughter in Keslote, had not held her breath or opened wide her large brown eyes when eight-year-old Obadiah described Philistine heads rolling in the grass of Gibbethon.
Instead, she propped her hands on her hips, shook her tight black curls, and called over her shoulder. “Rolling heads, Daddy. Like you said he would.” Then she laid her fingers on Obadiah’s wrist. “I’m glad it wasn’t your head.”
Eight years later, when he asked her father for Yedidah’s hand in marriage, the man’s eyebrows slid together as one. “We’ve never considered anyone else, son.”
Their oldest daughter’s eyes snapped coal black like Obadiah’s, and the younger two had Yedidah’s cinnamon brown. The whole family featured tight black curls and olive skin.
He stretched out on his back next to them, put his hands behind his head, and watched storks circle on updrafts over the far side of the Jordan River Valley. “The king wants me to move two talents of silver up to Shemer’s Hill. And I haven’t dared to tell my men.”
Their oldest rolled on her side and propped her head on a hand. “How much is two talents, Daddy?”
“More than I thought I’d ever see.” He closed his eyes and let the sun warm his face.
“We’re back!” Zak called from down on the plaza.
With a grunt, Obadiah rolled to his feet. “I’ll help you tack up.” He kissed Yedidah and the girls then jogged down the stairs and around to the stables.
Five bodyguards brushed and combed five horses while the chariot driver worked with two more.
Obadiah moved from horse to horse, rubbing withers and patting rumps. “Nice.” He ran his hands over the forelegs of a chariot horse and asked the driver, “Did you find us a good solid chariot?”
“I did, sir. Kicked a lot of wheels and rattled a few shafts. Got us the best of the lot.”
Obadiah tapped the driver’s shoulder with a fist. “Let’s get a harness on this pair and go haul our wheels up here.”
When Obadiah and the driver returned with the chariot, the five had bridles and blankets on their mounts.
Zak said, “We’re ready to ride out in the morning, sir.”
Obadiah stared at the ground for a few beats then looked up. “The king says we’re to haul two talents of silver with us.”
“Bwah!” The youngest spluttered. “Two talents! Silver? Pardon me, sir, but the king’s got his…” He covered his mouth with his hand and glanced around.
The six men converged on Obadiah.
Comments came fast.
“You’d need a mule.”
“Six guards? We’d need sixty.”
Obadiah threw his hands up. “Crazy, I know. But—”
“Wait.” Zak spread his hands.
“There’s five of us. Seven if we count Biah and the driver.”
The driver’s belly shook. “What are you counting me into, old boy?”
“Nothing you can’t handle, laddie. A donkey’ll balk if you load her with two talents of brick. But if you spread the load to two donkeys, they mosey right along. Two talents is about the weight of five or six little ones like those at my house.”
“Cheer up, sir.” The driver tipped up Obadiah’s chin. “I think old Zak’s saying—”
“Carry it like a baby.” The youngest blurted.
“Six babies.” Zak said. “Seven if Biah wants one.”
Obadiah patted his chest. “So I strap it to me in a pack and ride like normal. Almost.”
“With five of us next to your chariot packing our own silver babies.” The youngest smacked his fist into his palm.
Eyes fastened on Obadiah.
“Get these horses in stalls with food and water while I present this to the king.” He ducked out of the circle, and the six waited at the stable door.
Obadiah returned. “King Omri thinks ‘baby carry’ is the best idea he’s heard. As long as we’re surrounded by fifty cavalrymen with swords and javelins.”
King Omri’s battle for the throne – 1 Kings 16:21-22
Two talents of silver – 1 Kings 16:24