26. Thrill

26. A Thrill of Hope

860 BC

The Plaza, Samaria City, Israel

Obadiah turned toward the city gate. “Gera!”

The noonday sun showed a lad following Gera, puckering as if he whistled a tune. The chatter of the plaza buried any sound, yet as the child passed the chicken cages he bounced to a beat.

A thrill of hope stirred Obadiah’s heart. Did you send this boy, Lord? At the same moment you sent us Hiel?

“And my salvation” floated from him to the terrace.

Gera placed a callused hand in the small of the boy’s back and sent him up the stairs. “My king, this Mikayhu brings a message from the Lord.”

Mikayhu faced Ahab, rising and falling on the balls of his feet while the music flowed through him, and the breeze danced in his hair. He bowed, flashed an infectious smile, and sang, “The Loooord is my light and my sal-VA-tion.”

Ahab slapped his knee. “Gibbethon. Under the sycamore. We sang this a hundred times.”

The boy bobbed his head. “Sing it with me, King!” He hooked an arm in Ahab’s.

A royal bodyguard frowned.

But Ahab took Mikayhu’s arm. “The child means no harm. Wha’d you have in mind, son?”

Mikayhu’s heels rose and fell. “Will you help me on the lead, King? Maybe your friends will blend in.”

“When old Biah was a boy, he rang those high notes.” Ahab turned to Hiel, seated by the banister. “Join us, please.”

Hiel cringed but stood with Ahab.

The boy grinned big and cued them with, “The Loooord.”

At the first note, Ahab boomed a baritone lead beside Mikayhu’s tenor. Hiel held his own with the bass. Obadiah had to reach for the high notes, but he finished strong with, “of whom shall I be afraid?”

Everyone in the northwest corner of the plaza stared, including three dogs and a donkey. Spectators crowded the base of the stairs, but scowling bodyguards backed them away.

Ahab slapped Mikayhu on the back. “Asaph would be proud.”

Obadiah and Hiel sat back down by the balustrade.

The boy winced. “Now, King, about the Lord’s message—”

Ahab pointed to a table on the terrace. “Please, be my guest.” A servant arranged grapes, slices of apple and pomegranate, plus three kinds of cheese. A second table held red wine, spring water, and fresh flatbread.

Obadiah exchanged glances with Hiel. Ahab was stalling.

Mikayhu bent over the cheeses and inhaled long. “The smell of home, King.” He straightened. “The Lord wants you to know something.”

“Relax.” Ahab gave a broad smile and wiped his hands on his robe. Ahab was sweating. Was he afraid of hearing a judgement such as “neither dew nor rain”?

With one bound, Mikayhu landed in Ahab’s face. “You see, the Lord says—”

Ahab silenced him with a raised hand.

But the boy stepped inside the curve of Ahab’s arm. “The Lord’s talking about victory. Your victory! Over that vast army of Syrians spread out below us.”

Ahab draped an arm over the boy’s shoulders. “Listen, Mika. Chariots and a field full of troops do not constitute a vast army. They’ve got us in a bit of a bind, but Biah and I’ve seen worse.”

“Thank you, King.” He looked up with a slight smile. “But the Lord gave me a message for you and He won’t let me leave ’till you hear His words. The Lord says. ‘I will deliver this army into your hand today. And you shall know that I am the Lord.’”

“Yeah, right, kid. Look, you sing real nice. I’m not saying I’m worried, but—”

Mikayhu nudged Ahab in the ribs. “You sing nice too, King. But you’re anxious about how to counter attack, and the Lord sent me to show you.”

Obadiah rolled his eyes. They needed ten thousand chariots and three hundred thousand spearmen, not a singer of psalms who thought he heard military strategy from on high. His thrill at seeing this child had faded.

Ahab pinched Mikayhu’s cheek. “Since when does the Lord deal in battle tactics?”

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

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

Without looking around or taking a breath, Mikayhu blurted, “The youth patrol. They’ll deliver your victory.” He spread his legs wide and let his arms hang loose at his sides.

“Who?” Ahab’s eyebrows shot together.

Hiel stood. “Maybe I can shed some light on the youth patrol, my king.”

A half smile curled Ahab’s lip. “Is any of them yet sixteen?”

“These ‘children’ are lethal, my king. Well trained. Many have hunted dangerous men and beasts. They know how to fight.” Hiel lifted an arm toward the city gate. “Seven came with me, and others arrived in fours and fives, following their fathers and uncles from various provinces. Over two hundred have arrived.”

Ahab raised an eyebrow toward Mikayhu.

Obadiah set his jaw and followed Hiel. His stomach churned. Could this wild idea really come from the Lord? Mikayhu bobbed on his right, next to Ahab. Perhaps Mikayhu was not pitching a mere whimsy.

The sun had passed the peak of its journey to the Great Sea. At the chestnut tree, Mikayhu bumped Ahab’s elbow. “The Lord is very clear, King. The youth patrol are your attack squad.”

Hiel led Ahab’s group to the threshing floor. “Some call them ‘junior officers’ or ‘little chieftains.’ But they see themselves as commandos, and they have the training for the title.

“And they’re ready to give you everything you ask of them and more. They will die for you and our land, my king. Willingly.”

“Die.” Ahab leveled his gaze at Hiel.

Obadiah turned and winked at Ahab. He should try to get his old friend to see reason. “I’m sure those young men have good hearts and work on their fighting skills, but they’ve never smelled a battle.”

Ahab ignored him. The look on Ahab’s face showed him waking to a new thought.

Shouts floated through the gate.

“They’ve been using sword and spear their whole lives.” Hiel pointed to a clearing on the side of the hill. “Along the Jordan River Valley, they train together in groups of 60 or 70. Around Akko, Megiddo, and Jokneam in groups of 70 or 80. This is their first opportunity to train in a group this large.”

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 Ahab.

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

Obadiah touched the old wound. Ahab had mentioned their old fist fight absent-mindedly while he focused on Hiel’s commandos.

Hiel pointed to a line of forty archers. “They work as a disciplined team.” Each archer faced a wooden target at about fifty paces.

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

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

“Nice,” Ahab said.

“Indeed, my king,” Hiel said.

An equal number of young men held slings.

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 strode ahead, arced their slings high, and sent stones flying into wooden targets at thirty paces. Whiz, thump. The targets rocked.

The words, “We can’t defend this hill with slings” perched on Obadiah’s lips.

But, as Ahab said, “Effective,” Obadiah clamped his mouth shut.

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

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

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

One youngster fixed a solemn stare on Mikayhu. Then he turned toward Ahab. “May I speak, my king?”

Ahab nodded.

“The boy with you is from Geba, my village. His name is Mikayhu.”

Mikayhu’s heels settled, and he rubbed his hands down his legs.

The youth swung around and faced his fellows. “This Mika works from early to late tending his father’s fruit trees.”

Mikayhu’s shoulders straightened.

Then the youth from Geba squared his chin toward Ahab. “His words are true to Moses, but he offended the Asherah agents, so our elders sent him into hiding.”

Obadiah sucked in a quick breath. Had Yedidah rescued this child? She never introduced bubblers. “If you don’t know who they are, the queen can’t drag their names from you.” He had severely underestimated Mikayhu. This boy was no mere singer of psalms. He had put his personal safety aside to challenge the king.

Ahab stood still.

Mikayhu’s heels remained glued in place.

Bodyguards scratched their beards.

Mika’s neighbor from Geba dipped his head toward Hiel. “We respect this boy and his words. If he says to fight, I’ll fight.” He thudded the butt of his spear on a paving stone.

Ahab squeezed Obadiah’s wrist and raised his eyebrows at the other youths.

Two stepped up next to Mikayhu’s village neighbor. Then three more. A moment later, every young man took two strides ahead and turned toward Ahab.

As their spear butts rattled the pavers, Mikayhu covered his lips with his fingers.

Obadiah rubbed his shoulder against Ahab to speak but squelched the sarcasm that would have flowed before the youth from Geba outed Mikayhu as a bubbler. “All they lack is a leader.”

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

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

Mikayhu’s heels settled for a moment. “You, my king. You will lead these ba—I mean, you’re going to lead them.”

Obadiah covered his face. Mikayhu was a brave lad, but putting a king in front of children didn’t turn them into an attack squad. They should send Mika home.

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

“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.

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

“Never forget it.” Obadiah stepped back. What had he missed 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 a corner.” Ahab lifted his chin and sniffed the breeze like a war horse.

A tiny laugh hiccupped out of Obadiah. “You’ve escaped the fort. We’re riding without guards.”

“This horse race we’ve never seen, Biah.”

Obadiah bit his lip. Commander Omri had prophesied, “Ahab. They will pronounce the name with deep pride.” And troops did follow Ahab—for his bravery and for his battle savvy.

“You’ve no time to teach them your style of thrust and parry.” Obadiah fixed on the gleam in Ahab’s eye. There would be no turning Ahab from this challenge.

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

Thirty-seven young men stepped out from the group.

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 terrace.” He raised Obadiah’s wrist in the air. “My 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 this… this attack squad ready, get with my chiefs and show them how to lead mop-up.”

Who would mop up whom? Obadiah dropped his chin to his chest. The ups and downs of his attitude toward Mikayhu left him doubting his own judgement.


Background

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

The Lord is my light – Psalm 27

Asaph – 1 Chronicles 15:19, Nehemiah 7:44, Ezra 2:41

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

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