867 BC i ii [A lot could be added to his from the old chapter that showed A&O arguing about Jezebel on while they ate cucumbers and the guards raised eyebrows.]Shuthellah gets rid of other guests. Turns them away. Asks 14 hairdressers.
Biah scoffs at alliance.
The Syrians are upon you my king. Send. Jezebels 400 to fight them off? Oops!
How did Jezebel send word to Elijah if she wasn’t yet the queen?
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.
The threshing floor had been cleared of chaff and straw. The new King Ahab stood solemnly by the opposite pillar in his normal robe of white and headscarf of purple. As the guests crossed to the gate, they ducked their heads and spoke soft words of condolence.
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 down. “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 and gripped the paving stones with his toes. What’s this about, Lord? He opened his eyes a slit. The messenger had disappeared with the flow.
As the last guest rolled out the gate and down the first switchback, 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 over the green hills of Samaria, promising an early afternoon shower on the king and his departing guests.
While Obadiah raised an eyebrow to people lugging market produce out the gate, Ahab watched in silence.
Their bodyguards remained by the gate posts.
Gera and Hodiah came through with two small sacks which, from their bulges, might contain onions and figs. They paused, and she laid a hand on Ahab’s arm. “You’re still welcome on our veranda, child.” They followed the path toward the south side of the hill.
Obadiah took in a deep breath. Not yet. Let the moment open. “Your father was good to me. From way back at Gibbethon.”
“He was a good dad. A good leader of troops.”
“A great king.”
“He sure let Mesha know who was boss.” Ahab drove his fist against his palm.
“And he lived his dream—a capitol on this hilltop.”
“Only six years, Biah. He deserved more.”
The elder Shuthelah cleared his throat behind them. “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 and through merchants packing donkeys with bags of apples or onions and cages of chickens which had failed to sell.
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.”
Shuthelah dropped three goatskins in the shade of an oak at the edge of the courtyard.
As the three men sat, Zak looked over the waist-high block wall separating the courtyard from the plaza. “Do you want your bodyguards in the courtyard or out here beside the wall?”
“Out there.” Ahab said, and Obadiah nodded.
Ahab chuckled. “When my father was building his tomb, he joked about not putting it on that cold north side of the hill. Said he wanted to enjoy the sunrise instead.”
“Good choice,” Obadiah said. Questions deep inside him moved.
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.
Obadiah scrubbed a hand across his mouth. “My king, allow me to ask a question from my daughter?” He raised an eyebrow to their host. “Pardon me. Perhaps I shouldn’t …”
Shuthelah leaned back on his goatskin and guffawed. “My wife wants to know if Jezebel really has fourteen hairdressers.”
Ahab’s belly shook. “You two … Her attendants hover and chirp, but I have no idea what they do.”
A servant set a plate of cucumber slices, bread, and cheese between Ahab and Obadiah. Then a dish of olive oil and another of spices. He poured cups of dark purple wine.
Shuthelah lifted his cup. “What’s the wife count up to now, nine? And this next one’s the queen.”
The chords of a lyre drifted from the veranda and blended with the notes of a yellowhammer.
“My king, if you will excuse me, my grandson needs a little instruction on the lyre. Just let my servants know what you need.” Shuthelah stood.
“Your grandson’s music is beautiful. Tell him to keep playing.” Obadiah glanced at the ladder.
As Shuthelah disappeared over the parapet, Obadiah turned to Ahab. “After all these years, your father’s dream. Sidon gives us ports and trade across the Great Sea. We give them goods to ship, a peaceful frontier. And real muscle to help in a brawl. An all-around win.”
Clenching his fists, Obadiah looked away. Why can’t I ask the real question?
“Couldn’t have done it on my own,” Ahab said. “I watched how my father negotiated. He opened the door, and I walked in.”
Shuthelah’s servant topped off their cups with wine. Then he whisked away their nibbled bread and set a plate of hot flatbreads between them.
Obadiah sloshed a cucumber slice in the oil then the spices. “What interests my daughter is not the hairdressers.”
A flush crept up Ahab’s cheeks.
Obadiah set the cucumber slice back on the plate. “No doubt my daughter’s friends are spies. You should check behind the curtains for nine-year-olds.”
Ahab said, “Something’s been eating at your gut ever since you walked in yesterday. Out with it.”
“Right. Well, my daughter asked, um, how Jezebel’s four hundred Asherah agents can keep us safe from the four hundred thousand Syrian troops who stare down on us from the cliffs of Bashan.”
“Nine-year-olds behind the curtain. Ha.” Ahab shook a cucumber spear under Obadiah’s nose. “Part of the deal, Biah. Always has been.”
“Pardon me, sir.” Zak looked over the courtyard wall. “Shall I have the chariot ready to leave for the fort at sunrise?”
“Um. Sunrise. Yes, sunrise.” Obadiah turned back to Ahab. Had he stepped too close to the edge? Obadiah nudged the cucumber to align it with the flatbread. “The farmers who slander my king in the market? They say the sheep asked the wolf to protect it from the bear.”
Obadiah leaned in. A king, no matter his friends, is still a king. A boyhood chum might push too far. And a king could call a guard to silence his oldest friend.
Ahab shoved the plate of cucumbers at Obadiah’s belly. “Cute, Biah. But we’re not little kids anymore, and the alliance with Jezebel’s father is about business.”
“Business.” King Ethbaal bought children from kidnappers and forced them to serve in brothels. “You know my opinion of that man’s business.”
Ahab smirked. “Do you have any idea how much Jezebel’s father makes off his temples? He saw the flow of silver when he was a young Asherah boss, so the moment he stepped up to the throne, he took over the temple.”
“Stepped up?” Obadiah grabbed Ahab’s shoulder. “Jezebel’s father slit the king’s throat and kicked his corpse into the ditch.”
Ahab curled his lip. “You think I care? The man knows business.” Ahab clenched his jaw. “He stationed his lieutenants in the temples at Zarephath and Tyre. Nobody’s whispering numbers, but he’s stacking bags in his treasury from—”
“You’re too good for that trash. Everyone at this end of the Great Sea talks about the silver Jezebel’s father rakes in from his temples in Byblos and Cyprus.” Obadiah jutted his chin out. Little children were hurting, and he’d been afraid of pushing too far. “Is that what you want to be? Sing psalms in the morning and shove kids into your brothels in the afternoon?”
Ahab looked down at the cucumber in his hand.
From a far-off corner of Obadiah’s mind, a picture rose of Ahab slapping a stable boy. Obadiah shoved the scene away and replaced it with Ahab stuffing pitas into the cloak of a dirty-faced child with his sleeves rolled up.
“You forget.” Ahab bit off the syllables. “I’m surrounded. Troops and chariots require silver. Bags and bags of silver.”
Silver from kidnapping. Hebrews talked about the fear of the Lord but followed the gods of Syria or Phoenicia. A bitter tang filled Obadiah’s mouth. What had happened to the friend he knew?
Booted hoofs clip-clopped through the city gate and across the threshing floor. Gallant, an Arabian of the king’s stable known for his never-give-up heart, limped across the plaza.
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.
Obadiah shot out the courtyard gate.
“Biah.” The rider 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
iHis father lived across the path from Ahab’s grandfather. Asherah agents and Syrians on the Golan were far away, and the heat of a moment ago had cooled. The words he’d been spitting at Ahab tasted old and dry, like a forgotten dispute from their childhood.
ii 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.