29. Fire

’29. Fire [cavesi?]

861 BC

Mount Carmel, Israel

Obadiah smoothed the front of his tunic as the sun edged out over the Great Sea. No clouds were forming from the sea for the early afternoon shower. Showers had stopped when the boy closed the sky. The surface lay calm, with only a few ripples from fishing boats.

As expected, Moloch had produced no fire. Next up, the boy from Gilead had said he would ask the Lord for fire. Was the Lord listening? Or was He busy protecting the bubblers in Obadiah’s caves?

“Who knows how to rebuild this altar?” The boy pointed to the far side of his boulder.

Obadiah hurried around the rock.

Several large stones of the same size protruded from the soil—an abandoned Hebrew altar.

Tossing dead branches aside, Obadiah waved Ahab over. “Did you know this was here?”

Ahab stomped over and bumped shoulders with Obadiah. “Rocks. Goatskin Boy wants to show me rocks.”

“Please, my king.” Cupping Ahab’s ears, he whispered. “For once in your royal life, shut up and pay attention.”

When Ahab tried to jerk away, Obadiah latched onto his shoulders and let his eyes bore into him. Age lines had deepened around Ahab’s eyes, and gray hairs grew at his temples. His face reddened. As his eyes slid left and right at Elijah’s brother and the bodyguards, his nostrils flared.

Those nostrils had squirted blood when Obadiah flattened them at age eight. The old pain shot through Obadiah’s wrist from stiff-arming his friend.

“Forgive the indiscretion, my king. Please. No one overheard.” He held Ahab’s shoulders and spoke through clenched teeth. “I share your frustration. But we need rain. And this boy closed the sky. Maybe. Just maybe he can open it.”

He released.

The king jerked back a hand’s width and rolled one shoulder. Then the other.

The pain faded from Obadiah’s wrist.

Men were approaching.

Ahab raised an eyebrow, bumped a fist against Obadiah’s chest, and turned toward the ancient stones.

Obadiah relaxed his stare and exhaled.

Graybeards the age of Obadiah’s father adjusted the stones into three tight rows of four. Twelve natural, uncut stones, one for each son of Jacob.

Old Jamin, the elder from Shechem, approached and folded his arms. “The altar is ready.”

The crew of graybeards dusted their hands, snapped dead branches, and laid the wood on the stones. With Jamin nodding approval of each cut, they butchered the second bull and stacked the meat on the wood.

Obadiah turned to Ahab. “How about your troublemaker now?”

“He puts men to work. I could set him in charge of a small troop.”

When the sun stood well past the apex of its arc toward the sea, the boy called to the crowd. “Gather around nice and close. Let everyone see.” He spread his legs wide and beckoned them to the Hebrew altar.

Representatives of the ten tribes crowded in, stretching, peering over shoulders, the younger making way for the older.

The boy announced, “Our kind village friends have agreed to make a ditch.”

He looked up and yelled at the Moloch officials. “Don’t go looking for your worthless idols, or you’ll miss what the Lord has for you.”

Worn out from their hopeless calls for fire, they merely sniveled and hissed with their chins glued to their chests.

The boy’s brother ushered in three men.

Ahab poked Obadiah. “Friends in high places?”

With shovels, the three opened a shallow trench around the altar wide enough to plant two full measures of seed.

The boy thanked them and then spoke to the graybeards. “These generous men from the village also collected water left by the drought in their tiny spring. Please stand back, so everyone can watch.”

“What are they doing?” The question came from under a banner of Dan.

The villagers lugged four large jars to the sacrifice.

“Stop. No,” an elder from Dan protested.

“Let me water my cabbage with that,” a Naphtali elder yelled.

But they emptied the jars over the meat and the wood.

“It’ll never burn.” Several elders shook their heads.

The boy nodded. “Again, please.”

While the four helpers poured on four more jars full, a man holding the banner of Ephraim groaned, “You do this while my goats die of thirst?”

The boy raised his voice. “Once more, please.”

Ahab grabbed Obadiah’s arm. “Is he crazy?”

“Hmm… Nobody will say he smuggled fire into that woodpile.”

As the water ran over the meat and through the wood, it filled the trench.

Ahab snorted. “You can forget fire.”

The boy opened a hand toward old Jamin. “Is it time, sir?”

Jamin faced the sun hovering low over the sea. “The priests in Jerusalem are preparing the evening sacrifice, son.”

“Thank you, sir.” The boy in the goatskin bowed to the elder from Shechem, took a step toward the meat stacked on the rebuilt, water-soaked wood, and lifted his hand.

He sent ringing tones out over the crowd. “Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, show people today you are God in Israel. That I am your servant and do this at your command. Hear me, O Lord. Hear, so this people will know you are the Lord God and you have turned their heart.”

As the echo settled, the boy’s words hung in the emptiness.

The hair raised on Obadiah’s arms.

The air sizzled.

Then a thunderous roar slashed the sky, and an orange ball of blinding fire, bigger than Ahab’s two muscled stallions, arced from the east and landed on the Hebrew altar.

“Ah!” The boy escaped to the other end of his boulder.

A flame as big as Obadiah’s house in Keslote whooshed up from the altar, and one long gasp surged from the crowd. “Ooooh!”

People fell back shouting and tripping over each other. Some froze in place with their hands over their mouths.

Sparks and smoke soared in a giant column. The smell of burning meat and wood touched Obadiah’s nostrils. His legs wobbled, and he grabbed Ahab’s shoulder for support.

Flames touched the trench and shot the water into a cloud of steam while the twelve uncut stones turned to powder and spread as a fine gray silt.

As the fire died, people fell, faces in the dirt, and peeked at tiny wisps of steam rising from the blackened earth.

“The Lord.” The words came from a graybeard who had helped rebuild the altar.

And from beside him, “It’s the Lord.”

“The Lord. He is God!” another declared.

Beside Obadiah, the king opened and closed his jaw.

The Moloch officials huddled wide-eyedand trembling as the leaders of the tribes surrounded them.

“Let no one escape.” The boy jumped to the ground and brushed ashes from his goatskin. Several men from each tribe crowded around and herded the four hundred fifty whimpering Moloch men after him, down to the Kishon River, beside the village of Yokneam.

Obadiah stood at a distance from the river bed yet close enough to see the boy march deliberately through the group, pausing to make sure the leaders slit the throat of every baby burner.

After the boy climbed back up the path, he turned to Obadiah. “I suggest you and the king head home before the downpour wipes out the road.”

“Downpour?” Obadiah checked the empty sky.

Ahab flapped the back of his hand at the boy. “Talk. This child is only talk.”

“My king, now that the Lord has spoken with fire, he sends the rain.” The boy knelt beside Ahab and Obadiah and spoke to his brother. “Let me know when you see the cloud.” He tucked his face between his knees.

Obadiah cringed. The last time he had folded himself like that, he was six years old. He touched the boy on the shoulder. “Why are you praying, son?” Hadn’t he won the battle?

“For the rain, sir. The Lord said to show myself to Ahab and he would send rain.”

Did the boy think the Lord needed reminding? Obadiah shaded his eyes with his hands and searched the surface of the Great Sea for a cloud.

Pelicans sailed along next to the wave tops, and gulls flew in packs closer to shore. Across the blue expanse, a galley pulled toward Cyprus. The sun dipped close to the surface, but the sea showed no clouds.

The boy spoke while on his knees. “I hear rain. Do you see a cloud?”

Ahab glanced up at the sea. “Nothing.” His voice was dull.

As the sun dropped below the horizon, and twilight settled over the mountain, Ahab’s shoulders slumped, but Obadiah rocked from foot to foot.

Elijah said, “One more time, please. Look again.”

His brother slapped the ground. “Ha. You gotta see this.”

Obadiah crowded in. “See what, boy? What?”

Ahab squinted out to sea.

Rays rising from the hidden sun caught the teeniest speck of white fluff rising fast from the horizon.

Obadiah moved his hand from side to side. His finger covered the fluff. He looked again. His hand couldn’t hide it. A cloud.

The boy unfolded and jumped to his feet. “Wa-hoo! Thank you, Lord.” He bumped elbows with his brother and danced a jig around Ahab. “There’s your rain, my king. You best be going.”

Black clouds rolled in.

“Come on, Biah. You can ride home with me.”

As Obadiah trailed the king down the mountain, the boy and his brother followed.

A sheet of rain blasted Obadiah off the path, but he scrambled back. Sopping wet, he caught up with Ahab in three long strides. “Remember ‘dew nor rain,’ when your guards dove for the goatskin boy?”

Ahab grunted.

Obadiah hooked arms with him. “I’m glad they missed.”

He pushed wet hair off his face. When the boy uttered his simple request, the Lord burned the place up, and the tribal elders slit the throats of the Moloch thugs. Yet, Jezebel’s Asherah friends were still a danger. But if you can burn up that sopping wet sacrifice, you can help me hide bubblers.

Background

Obadiah and Ahab – 1 Kings 18:1-20

Altar of uncut stones – Exodus 20:22 & Deuteronomy 27:5

A sweet aroma – Genesis 8:21

Showdown on Mt. Carmel – 1 Kings 18:21-45

Turned their heart לִבָּם – I Kings 18:37

iDo the Elijah chapters update us on caves well enough?

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