Gera’s Courtyard, Samaria City, Samaria, Israel
Obadiah nudged Gera. “How long did Liev manage olive groves?”
Gera pursed his lips. “Mmm… he worked the groves with me for six years.”
Obadiah turned to Zak. “You know, if Liev found woolly worm or black scale, he showed us. He never hid a problem. Wanted things to be right.”
“That’s Liev,” Zak said.
Keren gave a soft moan and released Evan from her lap.
He slid off and toddled straight to Obadiah, who nestled him against his shoulder. “Sometimes Liev led me far outside the grove—whether or not I wanted to go—to a hole where he buried diseased fruit he’d pulled off the trees. Liev was incapable of hiding a problem. He put everything out in plain sight.”
Gera lifted his chin toward Hodiah. “He even told his mother if there was too much salt in the stew, didn’t he, dear? That boy couldn’t hold back.”
“Our Liev has a way of letting the truth bubble.” Liev’s mother squeezed Keren’s wrist. “We can talk as if he’s still with us if we want to, dear.”
Her face contorted in pain, Keren said, “Yes, we can. And I know how it happened.”
Obadiah leaned toward the two women. Until this moment, Keren had stirred only to tend to her children or to hug a friend. She stuck close to her mother-in-law, her cheeks wet from weeping, her skin blotchy, eyes puffy. Letting tears flow while caring for Evan and Zabad. Perhaps the boys distracted her from Liev’s death. Or knowing they’d never remember him deepened her grief.
She locked eyes with Liev’s father.
When Gera blinked, Keren sat bolt upright. “I need to say this. The day before—” A sniffle stopped her. With a haggard countenance and a hand under the low bump that sheltered her third child, she shifted on the goatskin, took a breath, and began in a stronger tone. “The day before the queen’s men…”
Obadiah scanned the remaining crowd. This girl was putting her family in danger. Compared to her normal dulcet tones, the new, loud Keren turned heads and raised eyebrows. Her anguished voice washed over the courtyard like a wave. Chatter in the almost empty courtyard ceased. Guests tapped each other on the arm. Heads turned.
Obadiah put a hand on Gera’s wrist and held it there. His friend must be torn between pride in his daughter-in-law and fear of the queen.
Gera and Hodiah beamed at Keren. Spies or no spies, this family was past warning.
Still cradling a boy in her arms, Keren set her jaw and raised her voice another notch, each word distinct and clear. “The day before the queen’s men killed my husband, it bubbled out of Liev and his friends about how the Lord hates Asherah.” She hiccupped. “Those boys were quoting Moses about smashing idols.”
She paused her gaze at various faces in the courtyard. “They may have been joking around, but when my Liev saw that poor girl in the dirt… ” She wiped her nose. “He couldn’t hold back. He spouted off. Like Liev does.” She beamed at her mother-in-law.
“That’s our boy.” Hodiah’s neck flushed. Her voice had risen. Perhaps higher than she intended. She ducked. Then she pursed her lips and shook her head, sat up wide-eyed, and spoke more loudly than before. “Opens his mouth and spouts truth.”
“Truth.” The word drifted from the thinning crowd. People glanced around. Then lowered their eyes.
Obadiah rose from the goatskin. Liev’s widow had given a grand speech. If she would let it rest, their family might live through the week.
Heads in the crowd turned to him. Someone coughed. Beyond the gate, a bluethroat sang.
He handed the toddler to Hodiah. Perhaps he could steer them to a safer tone.
Keren raised her chin. “I’m not done talking, Uncle Biah.”
Obadiah’s neck flushed warm. “Not . . . not done?”
Obadiah sat at the base of the ladder. What had gotten into Keren?
“Look, Uncle Biah, we all hate Jezebel with a perfect hatred, but that didn’t keep the queen’s thugs from killing my Liev.” Keren rocked Zabad in her arms. “You’d have protected him if you could. But your six guards can’t be everywhere.”
She pulled her little one up to her shoulder. “We can’t kick Jezebel out, but we can help some people. So, when the Lord’s man wakes up and gets people organized, we’re going to protect good men. Men like my Liev.”
Obadiah squirmed. Wakes up?
Zak spoke at his elbow. “Someone to see you, sir.”
As Zak stepped aside, the fishmonger from Gibbethon shuffled through, his basket swinging from his shoulder with the rhythm of his call. “Fish. Fresh fish.” He turned, winked, and faded from view.
In his place, Old Jamin, the elder from Shechem, stood behind his cane with a twinkle in his eye. “A cave, young man. Hide people in a cave.”
Smashing idols – Deuteronomy 12:3
Perfect hatred – Psalm 139:22