33. Comm’os

Obadiah rolled his eyes. This child thought he heard military strategy from on high.

33. Commandosi [Steveii]

868 B.C.

The Plaza, Samaria City, Israel

Obadiah groaned. They needed ten thousand chariots and three hundred thousand spearmen, but Gera had brought them a singer of psalms.

Ahab pinched Mikayhu’s cheek as if the boy were his little brother. “Since when does the Lord deal in battle tactics?”

“Oh, quite a while, King. First one comes to mind is Joshua at the ba—”

“Okay, boy. You win. So, who does the Lord say should lead our attack?”

Without looking around or taking a breath, Mikayhu stated, “The young princes who came with the chiefs. They’re your commandos.”

“Those children practicing with their slingshots?” Ahab’s eyebrows shot together.

Obadiah reached for the knots bunching at the back of his neck. He had held such hopes the Lord would use this boy, but they had no time for his daydreams.

The old warrior Hiel might talk sense. Obadiah nudged Ahab. “Is Hiel familiar with these young princes?”

A half smile curled Ahab’s lip. “Is that what they call themselves this week? I’ve heard ‘the battling princes’ and ‘junior warriors.’ Our good friend from Bethel needs to understand—sons and nephews tagged along with the chiefs. Martial arts enthusiasts. Is any of them yet sixteen?”

Obadiah exhaled. So, the king saw things for what they were.

Hiel cocked his great sunken head at Ahab. “I may look strange, but I understand more than people think. Besides the fifty who rode in with me are seven who call themselves junior officers. They’re skilled with sword and spear to a high degree. Have a look.” He lifted a too-long arm toward the city gate.

Obadiah set his jaw and led the way. Mikayhu bobbed on one side of Ahab, while Gera and Hiel trudged on the other. Elders and lesser citizens strung out behind.

As they passed the chestnut tree, Mikayhu bumped Ahab’s elbow. “The Lord is very clear, King. The junior officers are your commandos.”

Obadiah turned and winked at Ahab. “I’m sure those youngsters have good hearts and work on their fighting skills, but they’ve never smelled a battle.” As he reached the threshing floor, shouts floated through the gate. “We came at the right timeiii.” Obadiah led them out.

In a clearing on the side of the hill, two rows of young men in mottled gray practiced with spears, thrusting and feinting, one row against the other. Next to these, two rows with swords and shields fought mock battles.

“Ah, those were the days.” Obadiah nudged the king.

“They look ass intense as I was when I split your lip by the stable door, Biah.”

Obadiah touched the old wound on his mouth.

Hiel pointed to a line of forty archers. “They’re learning to work as a disciplined team.” The archers faced wooden targets at about ninety paces.

“Why so far?” Obadiah asked. “A bow at that distance can’t—”

“That’s what I thought,” Hiel answered.

A call came from the end of the row. “Pull. Aim. Release.”

Thunk-thunk-thunk. Arrows buried in the targets and set them rocking.

“Nice,” Ahab said.

“Indeed, my king,” Hiel said. “See how their bows curve back on the ends? One of these boys saw that on a bow from Nineveh.”

An equal number of young men holding slings stood with their backs to the archers.

One called, “Stones.”

From a pouch at the waist, each boy fit a round stone into a leather cup.

“Slings. Two. One. Roll.”

In unison they took one stride forward, arced their slings high overhead, and sent stones flying into wooden targets at thirty paces. Whiz, thump. The targets rocked.

“Not bad, eh?” Hiel said.

Obadiah huffed out a breath. “Terrific. But we can’t defend this hill with slings.”

Mikayhu tugged Ahab’s sleeve. “Please, King. The Lord says these young men are your commandos.”

Hiel touched Ahab’s wrist. “May I speak to the junior officers, my king?”

Ahab swung an arm toward the stone slingers and archers. “Have at it, old friend.”

Hiel stepped into the clearing pointed to Mikayhu. “This young man says the Lord told him the junior officers should lead the fight against the Syrians.”

The boys suspended their practice. One rested his spear point up and fixed a solemn stare on Mikayhu. Then he took a stride forward and turned toward Ahab. “My king, I have no right to speak, but Uncle Hiel asked, and the boy with you is from Geba, my village. His name is Mikayhu.”

Mikayhu’s heels settled, and he clutched at his belly.

The junior officer swung around and faced several of his fellows. “This Mika works from early until late tending his father’s fruit trees.”

Mikayhu’s shoulders straightened.

The junior officer squared his chin toward Ahab. “His words are true to the teachings of Moses, but he offended the agents of Asherah, so our elders sent him into hiding.”

Obadiah sucked in a quick breath. Yedidah’s network reached into unexpected places.

Ahab stood stock still and slid his gaze to Mikayhu.

The boy’s heels remained glued in place.

Body guards grunted and junior officers scratched their beards.

The junior officer from Geba dipped his head toward Hiel. “Where I come from, Uncle Hiel, we respect this boy and his words. I’ll fight.” He thudded the butt of his spear on a paving stone.

The king raised his eyebrows and craned his neck around at the other young men.

Two stepped up next to Mikayhu’s village neighbor. Then three more. A moment later, every junior officer took two stridesiv ahead and turned toward the king.

As their spear butts rattled the pavers, Mikayhu covered his lips with his fingers, and Gera opened his mouth in silence.

Obadiah rubbed his shoulder against Ahab. “My king, these childrenv don’t know the taste of blood. They have heard old men brag of heroic deeds on distant battlefields.” He should have left Hiel in the background.

Ahab pressed his lips together. “But what could they do if they had the right leader?”

Mikayhu beamed. “That’s the best part, King.”

Ahab chuckled. “Best part? So, who’s going to lead these bad boys?”

The sun hung in the sky waiting for Mikayhu’s response.

The boy’s heels settled for a moment, and he favored Ahab with his smile. “You, my king. You will lead these ba—I mean, you’re going to lead them.”

Obadiah threw his hands up. “This is ridiculous, Ahab. Putting a king in front of children doesn’t turn them into commandos.” He covered his face with his hands. “Thank you, Gera. Just… take the boy home.”

“Hang on, Biah.” Ahab’s tone belonged to a man climbing into his battle chariot.

Obadiah dragged his hands down his cheeks and peeked through his fingers. Gera, Mikayhu, Hiel, and the entire group of junior officers were staringvi at the king.

A blackstart in the chestnut tree sent its clear, melancholy churlee-truloo-truler.

Ahab stood ramrod straight with the sun on his face. “Remember Dibon?”

“Never forget it.” Obadiah stiffened and stepped back. He must have missed key words in the boy’s message.

A gleam shone in Ahab’s eyes. “The attack wedge.”

“Of course, but those were your father’s elite troops, trained and—”

“No time. We go with what we’ve got. Old Samson didn’t die pushing a millstone, and you’ll not find me hiding in the corner.” Ahab lifted his chin and sniffed the breeze.

For one brief momentvii, the barrel chest of Obadiah’s stallion rippled beneath him while Ahab’s Shochar thundered at their side. A tiny laugh hiccupped out. “You’ve escaped the fort, my king. We’re riding without guards.”

“We’ve never seen this horse race, Biah.”

“You’ve no time to teach them your style of ‘thrust and parry.’”

“But enough time to select the best.” Ahab stepped into the clearing beside Hiel and raised his voice toward the junior officers. “I need twelve fighters with me to drive a wedge into the Syrians. Show me who you are with one stride forward.”viii

As thirty-seven young men stepped out from the group, Mikayhu’s heels bounced once.

Ahab planted his feet and scowled. “Every one of us has to kill our man or we leave a hole for the Syrians. I want only the best.”

Three—and then nine more—took another stride forward.

Ahab curled an arm over his head. “You twelve. Meet me on the palace terrace.” He raised Obadiah’s wrist in the air. “My right-hand man will show you others your formations.” He turned to Obadiah. “Ten men to each wing, remember?”

“Ten. Dibon.”

Ahab grinned. “And, Biah, as soon as we have these … these child commandos ready, get with my chiefs and show them how to lead mop-up.” He turned Hiel by a shoulder so they both faced east. “You know that long, skinny entrance to Tirzah Valley.”


Background

The story – 1 Kings 20:13-15

The Lord dictates battle tactics – Joshua 6:1-20

Samson pushing a mill stone – Judges 16:21-31

iThe Warrior Princes?

iiSo, for now I will just say about this story line that it depends on how true you want to adhere to the Kings account. If you’re staying close, then it seems like the “kids” have to be transformed into young adult men who are already familiar with battle and weaponry. That sounds like what the Kings passage is describing.

  • Could such guys be commandos? Sure.

  • Could Ahab see the Lord’s wisdom in choosing these young guys with fire in their belly and something to prove to themselves and each other? Sure.

  • Could the reason they’re going to make better leaders for this operation be the combination of their patriotism with their knowledge of the land and their enthusiasm for the fight? Sure.

But I know all that amounts to a rewrite, so I’m just going to toss this out and see where the creative dust settles.

Steve Abbott

iii Consider showing us his thought to show how he knows this. SS

iv Here is the word “strides” again. It might be far enough away from the first one that it doesn’t matter, but figured I’d point it out in case you want to avoid the repetition

v I am curious about their actual age. Did we ever get that, or at least an approximation?Becca

viStared? X 2

vii For a moment, I thought you were saying Biah was mounted, and I went back through and scanned the last couple of pages to confirm that he and the rest are on foot. Then, I figured out you meant that this is a memory. Consider including an additional clue to make sure that the reader realizes that Biah has momentarily slipped into memory.

viii This mirrors the “took one stride forward” from several paragraphs earlier. It might be good to choose a different verb here.

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