On the outside again, Obadiah paused. “Very good, sir. And where do we find Gera the grove manager?”
08 Gera the Grove Manager
Shemer’s Hill, Israel
Obadiah followed the path through the olive trees around to the south side of the hill and paused at the lone oak tree.
A tiny path through five rows of olive trees led him and his bodyguards to a gate. He called across the courtyard, “Hello, the house! Gera the grove manager?”
A short, plump woman dangling a long gray braid over her shoulder appeared at the parapet. “Are you boys from the king? If you’d like to wait in the courtyard, Gera will be home in a moment.”
Obadiah stepped down from his chariot. Better to leave this kind woman’s courtyard undisturbed and wait in the trees.
Two men trudged in through the olives. The older man kept his eyes on the ground like Obadiah’s father home from a long day in the pear trees. A pruning saw hung from his belt and a small bag over his shoulder. Black curls tumbled with white ringlets from his headscarf. The younger man carried a bunch of long stem flowers with enormous, deep blue, furry seedpods. He nudged the older one and pointed to Obadiah.
The older man stopped. “It’s not every day I come home to the king’s right-hand-man. Has my wife given you anything to eat?”
Obadiah made two long strides to the men and clasped hands with the older. “My name is Obadiah. Please call me Biah, like my friends in the valley. The king sent me up here on business.”
Farmer style, the older man held Obadiah’s hand as he talked. “I’m Gera, a child of Ephraim, and this is my son, Liev. King Omri asked me to teach you about olives.”
“Yes. Yes. Moab and Ammon always ask for more olive oil. Syria and Egypt. Orders have come in from Mycenae and Hattusa. You must have heard of his purchase of the hill.”
“Word gets out.” Gera pulled Obadiah’s hand closer. “If I had two talents of silver. Or forty years ago the sense to see how people would be wanting olive oil, I would have bought this hill for my son.”
Liev laughed. “My father’s a generous man.” He jiggled the bouquet in his grip and glanced toward the house.
Obadiah released Gera’s hand. “Here, here. I’m keeping you.” He opened the gate for Gera and Liev.
Gera hurried ahead and opened the stable door. We have stalls for the horses, and you can tuck the chariot up next to the wall. No one’s going to come through the gate and roll those wheels away in the night.”
On the veranda, Gera opened both hands toward his wife and a young woman at her side. “Allow me to introduce my wife, Hodiah, and our daughter-in-law, Keren.”
The older woman stood by Gera and beamed a broad smile on Obadiah and his guards.
A petite young woman with straight dark hair and a bulge in the middle of her robe held Liev’s bouquet of blue and looked up into his face. She pulled her eyes away long enough to blink and make a quick bow to the newcomers.
Obadiah bowed briefly to the two women then turned to his bodyguards beside him. “These men are my old friends and will learn at my side.”
Gera pointed to goatskin mats piled near the door. “Please have a seat. We’re eating mutton this evening.”
Obadiah and his men sat with Gera and Liev in a semi-circle that looked across the courtyard.
Hodiah and Keren put plates of steaming mutton and cabbage in their hands then sat next to Gera and Liev.
Gera asked Obadiah, “What kind of experience do you have with olive trees, young man?
“Nothing with olives. My father taught me pear trees.” Obadiah jutted his chin toward Zak and the other bodyguards. “We all know a shovel from a saw. Yet, how much knowledge can I carry from pears in our valley to an olive grove on this hill? The pests we fight, the watering. Do we prune a tree the same?”
Liev’s shoulders came back.
Hodiah tapped Liev on the arm. “My Gera says this boy is the best pruner he’s seen.”
Keren beamed at her husband, and Liev’s neck flushed.
“I taught him well.” Gera turned to Liev. “Here’s the king’s right-hand-man asked how we prune. What have I taught you?”
Liev looked around and took a big breath. “Well, sir, my father likes an open center to the tree.”
The youngest bodyguard blurted, “Like my dad says. If you can throw a basket through from any direction, that’s good pruning.”
Everyone on the veranda turned, open-mouthed.
The red climbed up his face. “I mean. Not that anyone asked.”
Gera laughed. “I see we won’t be short on opinions here.” He waved a hand at the young bodyguard. “I wish we had your father with us. But don’t stop, Liev. What else did I teach you?”
“The bottom, sir. You taught me to trim the branches up off the ground a bit.”
Gera smiled at everyone in turn. “He’s touched on the basics, but with my Liev pruning is art. I’ll have him lead us on a stroll through the groves, so you can learn one section from another.”
After they ate, Hodiah stepped to the back of the veranda, to a line holding several thick rugs, and addressed Obadiah. “These are yours.” She raised an arm toward the hall. “Your room is the last on the right, and the other boys can sleep in the room across the hall.”
Shemer’s Hill – I Kings 16:24
Gera of Benjamin – Genesis 46:21
Hodiah wife of Ezra – 1 Chronicles 4:19
Keren-happuch – Job 42:14