Obadiah sat bolt upright. A few words to Jezebel, and Hiel could turn their family into enemies of the state.
17. The Cave of Gilgal
Jericho, Manasseh, Israel
Obadiah scrambled to his feet.ii “Zak, we’re leaving. Now.” He took Yedidah by the hand to help her to her feet. They would ride straight to Fort Jezreel and collect their children. But where to hide?
The bodyguards dashed to the parapet, but Zak stood with his hand on the ladder, his eyes on Hiel.
Why wasn’t Zak moving?
Hiel had shifted his gaze to Yedidah and continued his story. “It was the fear in her eyes. The little girl, when the slaver brought out the hammer and chisel. I told myself, ‘Somebody’s got to do something.’ It’s my sister’s boy. I can’t let the queen’s goons touch him.” [??iii]
Yedidah hiccuped and slid palms across her wet cheeks. “What are you—?” She jerked Obadiah’s sleeve.
Couldn’t she understand? Their lives were in danger. Obadiah grasped her hand with both his. “Yedidah, please. We’ve got to get out of here. Zak, the chariot.”[Zak/Yedidah react?]iv
But she twisted free and gawked at the grotesque man beside them.
He looked away. “I must seem to you like evil incarnate. No one wants to get involved with old Joshua’s curse. Or with these gorilla arms.”
Yedidah jerked both Obadiah’s sleeves. “Listen to the man. Listen.”
The huge head swung round and fierce gray eyes fixed on Obadiah. Hiel rose to his knees, took Obadiah’s two hands in his, and pulled him down. Both Obadiah’s hands disappeared inside Hiel’s immense paws.
Zak returned from the ladder and stood with his hands open inches from Hiel’s head. [huh??v]
Obadiah bent over, face-to-face with the kneeling Hiel, a sharp pain in his lower back. He shook his head at Zak and sank to his knees. “Your sister’s boy?”
“In Bethel.” Hiel’s grip tightened.
“Ah. Ah.” The pain shot through Obadiah’s hands.
“When he bubbles over, it all comes out.”
Except for his captive hands, Obadiah relaxed as Hiel told a familiar tale of divine utterances against the cruelty and flimflammery of Asherah brothels and Moloch infant sacrifices.
Hiel released Obadiah’s hands. “I can’t let the queen’s goons touch that boy. But no place is safe. Troops came through here five months ago looking for the goatskin kid. I saw your face there next to Ahab’s horrid crew, and I told my wife, ‘The king’s right-hand-man will wake up. He’ll do something about Jezebel.’”
Obadiah flexed his fingers and massaged one hand against the other while he nodded at Hiel.
Yedidah turned to Hiel. “You’re right about the man I married. He hasn’t enjoyed hearing about it from me, but I’ve known for some time he is to have a hand in ‘delivering the weak and the needy from the hand of the wicked.’”
“That’s a good psalm, ma’am. The Lord knows the ways to save the weak and the needy.” Hiel bit his lip. “I thought about hiding my nephew in a cave.”
“A cave?” Zak asked. He and the other guards stood with hands on knees, surrounding Obadiah, Yedidah, and Hiel.
“In Gilgal. The quarry where I buy limestone.”
Yedidah asked, “Have you been inside that cave?”
“I went down once. To inspect a layer of stone. Narrow. Wet. Cold. Couldn’t breathe. The mason laughed at me and said my stubby legs and long arms made me a natural to work down there.”
Yedidah nodded rapidly. “So how big is the cave?”
Hiel glanced around. “As broad as this veranda. Half as long. Maybe a third as high. The quarry men crawl around on hands and knees. They handed me a lamp, and I looked down one of their tiny tunnels. I couldn’t stick my nose in for fear I’d start screaming. I promised the Lord, ‘If you let me out of here, I’ll never come down this hole again.”
Yedidah let out a long sigh. “I see.”
Clamping a hand on Hiel’s shoulder, Obadiah said, “So the cave isn’t a place to hide bubblers—like your sister’s son.”
“I can’t see my nephew surviving down in that hole.” A frown clouded Hiel’s face. vi
[Thought or BEAT from Obadiah? SSvii Does Obadiah slump from the heavy weight that just landed on his shoulders?]
[John – Feels like it needs a scene break here or something to give a pause from the previous scene to what happens the following morning.viii]
In the pre-dawn twilight next morning, Hiel peered up at Obadiah and Yedidah in their chariot and rested his huge hand on the rail. “I’ll keep a close watch on my sister’s boy.”
“The Lord bless you, my friend.”
“Friend.” Yedidah placed both hands on the rail next to Hiel’s. “If you lived near us you’d know. My husband’s friends call him Biah.”
“I didn’t want to presume.” Hiel squirmed. “Biah. It’s a good name.”
Obadiah dipped his chin. “Thank you.”
“Now that the Lord’s got you wide awake, I’m eager to see how He puts you to work.” Hiel turned the corners of his mouth up, backed away, and waved them onto the road.
[distanceix] “Such a nice man. But it hurts to look into his eyes.” Yedidah braced her feet against the chariot floor. “I hate it that he might lose another son. I don’t want to think about it right now.”
She tilted her head at Obadiah. “I want to think about Joshua. Did prophecies bubble out of him on a regular basis? Somebody wrote this one down, but how many others did he spout?”
Obadiah took a deep breath and glanced at the few rays of sunlight escaping over the mountains of Ammon. “We’ve got a day’s trip to figure it out.” [??SSx]
Yedidah tucked her shoulder into his chest. “When he felt one coming on, did he call the elders together? Or did the words bubble forth unbidden?”
As the chariot passed rows of browning date palms and wilted fig treexis in the growing light, the driver kept a steady hand on the reins and flicked glances at Obadiah. “I’ve a picture, sir. A trap door of sorts in the back of Joshua’s head. The door pops open, and he spouts. Even if he’s been laying out a battle plan with his captains.”
“A trap door?” Obadiah laughed.
Yedidah stared up the road. “I see it. And these words come out in a different voice. The old fellow can’t help it. Or maybe he’s a young fellow. He only knows the bit he spits out at the moment.”
The driver grinned at the horses. “Then the trap door closes.”
“And drive his captains crazy? No way.” Obadiah growled. “A great man like Joshua had complete control. And like my old dad used to say, ‘Never believe a thing you hear in a chariot in the Rift Valley with your wife.’”
Yedidah poked him in the ribs then collapsed against him in tears. “Oh, Biah. I don’t want that child to die.”xii [Makes me wonder what it would take for the man to stop building before the gates go up. Good job. EHxiii]
Cursed be the man – Joshua 6:26
Hiel of Bethel – 1 Kings 16:34
Mesha of Moab – 2 Kings 3:26-27
Gilgal Quarries – Judges 3:19
“…deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” — Psalm 82:3-4
Hiding from Midianites – Judges 6:2
David in the Ein Gedi cave – 1 Samuel 23:29
iIf you build up Obadiah’s emotions/feelings toward Hiel during the conversation portion (it doesn’t have to be a lot, even just a few lines), I think the way Hiel surprises him will be even more surprising to readers as well.
iiBecca – Obadiah doesn’t want to say anything else to Hiel to find out more about whether he intends to share this info with the queen?
iii I’m a little confused by this line. It’s not immediately clear how it fits with the rest of the dialogue in this paragraph. I believe more explanation or connection is needed. SS
iv Does no one react to Obadiah’s urgent desire to leave besides Yedidah? What does Hiel think of it, or Zak?
v I can’t picture what this conveys. What is Zac planning to do? John
vi There needs to be a separation here. EH
vii Maybe you need a thought or reaction from Biah before moving onto the next morning. A heavy weight has been place on his shoulders.
viiiJohn – Feels like it needs a scene break here or something to give a pause from the previous scene to what happens the following morning.
ix Make sure it’s clear that they have more distance between them and Hiel before Yedidah starts talking about him.
x Are they going home or to look for a cave? Since Biah is “awake” now according to Hiel, I’m thinking the question of what to do would be forefront in his mind and come up more in his thoughts and words during this conversation.
xi I’m not for sure you need this a second time. Is there another scenic detail you can mention instead?
xii This scene had a very powerful conclusion and excellent writing. If you build up Obadiah’s emotions/feelings toward Hiel during the conversation portion (it doesn’t have to be a lot, even just a few lines), I think the way Hiel surprises him will be even more surprising to readers as well.
xiiiMakes me wonder what it would take for the man to stop building before the gates go up. Good job. EH