10. King Ahab
867 BC i
Samaria City, Samaria, Israel
Obadiah stood next to a pillar in the open city gate. With one hand he shielded his eyes from the noonday sun. With the other, he gave a steady farewell to a long line of guests. Elders and foreign rulers had come, as had he, to pay their respects to the late King Omri.
Palace servants had cleared the threshing floor of flails, chaff, and straw.
The new King Ahab stood by the opposite pillar in his normal white robe and purple headscarf. He looked at a spot on the pillar by Obadiah’s shoulder. As guests crossed his line of vision, they ducked their heads, spoke soft words of condolence, and trudged on out the gate.
Small groups of cavalry surrounded each departing chariot. A cavalryman in a solid gray robe turned his horse out of formation, paused next to Obadiah, and leaned over. “Eyes open, sir. The Lord says, keep your eyes open.” The rider straightened and touched a heel to his mount.
Obadiah slammed his eyes shut. Yet, in his head, the old fishmongerii of Gibbethon shuffled through the gate, his basket swinging from his shoulder with the rhythm of his call. “Fish. Fresh fish.” Obadiah opened his eyes a slit. The fishmonger was gone, and the flow of guests had swallowed up the cavalryman.
The last visitor rolled out the gate and down the switchbacks.
King Ahab stepped into the center of the gateway and stood gazing across the hills.
Obadiah joined him. Neither man spoke.
High overhead, a hawk circled. A breeze from the Great Sea built puffs of white into full clouds over the hills, the promise of an early afternoon shower on the king and his departing guests.
While Ahab surveyed the hills, Obadiah raised an eyebrow to people lugging market produce out the gate.
Gera and Hodiah came through. The bulges in their two small sacks might mean onions or figs. They paused, and she laid a hand on King Ahab’s arm. “You’re still welcome on our veranda, child.” They followed the path around the south side of the hill.
Obadiah took in a deep breath. “Your father was good to me. From way back at Gibbethon.”
“He was a wonderful dad. And a great leader of troops.”
“A great king.”
“He sure let Mesha know who was boss.” Ahab drove his fist against his palm.
“And he built his dream—a capitol on this hilltop.”
“Only six years, Biah. He deserved more.”
Behind them, the elder Shuthelah cleared his throat. “May the Lord protect your guests from bandits and Syrians.” He stroked his long, white beard. “Come, please. Sit a while.” He steered Ahab across the threshing floor. They passed merchants who loaded donkeys with items which didn’t sell—cages of chickens next to bags of apples or onions.
At his courtyard, Shuthelah pushed the gate open and called toward the veranda. “What do we have to feed the prince and the king’s right-hand man?” He took two strides in, stopped, and turned. “King. The king.”
Ahab waved him away. “You’ll have me looking around for my father.”
In the shade of an oak, Shuthelah dropped goatskins, and Obadiah and Ahab sat. Shuthelah placed a tray in their midst with dishes of sliced cucumber, olive oil, and spices.
Shuthellah excused himself.
From out on the plaza, Zak looked over the courtyard’s waist-high block wall. “Do the king and his right-hand man want your bodyguards out here by the wall or inside the courtyard?”
“Out there.” Ahab said, and Obadiah raised an eyebrow in agreement.
“The Lord blesses us with sunshine on the plaza as well as here in the courtyard.” Ahab chuckled. “When my father was planning his tomb, he said, ‘Not that bitter north side of the hill.’ He wanted the sunrise to warm his bones.”
“Sunshine. Good choice.” Obadiah nudged a cucumber slice to align it with the flatbread. “At Gibbethon I thought your father was going to chop off my head.”
“And who would argue with me?”
A cry of oop-oop-oop sailed from the top of an olive tree by the courtyard gate, and a hoopoe flashed the black and white bars of its tail.
Booted hoofs clopped an irregular pattern through the city gate and across the threshing floor. Gallant, an Arabian of the Fort Jezreel stable known for his never-give-up heart, limped across the plaza.
Obadiah shot out the courtyard gate and grabbed the reins.
The rider lay along the horse’s neck and clutched the mane. He wore the gray robe of the king’s bodyguards, yet his headscarf was missing.
“Biah.” The man gasped.
Taking him in his arms, Obadiah eased him to his feet.
The rider showed no wounds. As he sank against Obadiah’s chest, he forced a whisper. “Your father, sir… Syrians.”
Death and burial of King Omri – 1 Kings 16:28
Mesha in Moab – https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesha_Stele
Fear the Lord but serve other gods – 2 Kings 17:33-39
i This is 867 BC. The Olives Ch was in 872. In 865, two years from now, Elijah will tell Ahab, “Neither dew nor rain.” In Fort Jezreel.
iiAs the fishmonger shuffled down the street, the basket swung from his shoulder with the rhythm of his call. “Fish. Fresh fish.” [from Ch. 2. Pitas]