30. Clowns

30. Bring in the Clowns

857 BC

Threshing Floor, Samaria City, Israel

Obadiah followed the aroma of roasting beef and mutton in through the city gate. On the threshing floor, he turned from the harps and lyres and threaded through a happy, gossiping crowd. He sat with his bodyguards, with his back to the flails and the donkeys.

At the center of the threshing floor, Ahab and King Jehoshaphat of Judah perched on a pair of marble chairs from the palace. The two kings chuckled and chatted, their voices covered by the noise of the crowd. Ahab wore his flowing blue robe of state. Jehoshaphat, purple.

Obadiah accepted a plate of mutton from a server and stabbed a sliver. The sun was high. Time for Ahab to make his move.

Ahab smirked at Jehoshaphat then raised his voice to Generals Jehu and Bidkar on the far side of the threshing floor from Obadiah. “You know Ramoth up in Gilead belongs to us, but we sit here in our green hills, doing nothing.” He turned to King Jehoshaphat. “So, my friend, how would you like to help us take back Ramoth?”

Jehoshaphat placed a hand against his chest, lifted his handsome chin, and stroked his neat black beard. “Of course,” came his powerful bass voice. “Especially after such an impressive feast.”

Obadiah kept his head down. There’s your cue, Ahab. He peeked. Three days ago, Obadiah had drilled the story into him.

Ahab cut his eyes toward Obadiah, then refocused on his royal guest. He gave Jehoshaphat a conspiratorial elbow nudge and said with a voice too eager, “Ah, but this little spread is nothing compared to the twenty-two thousand oxen and hundred and twenty thousand sheep at King Solomon’s banquet.”

The harps and lyres stepped up their tempo.

King Jehoshaphat rewarded Ahab’s tiny tap on the reservoir of history with an open smile. “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” Then his face blanched. His smile fell. “Um, maybe we should ask the Lord.”

Behind his hand, Obadiah laughed with Zak. When Jehoshaphat rode down from Jerusalem surrounded by bodyguards, he had been eager to show off his flowing royal purple. Yet, “horses” triggered pictures of silver leaving the Jerusalem treasury by the bagful.

Ask the Lord? No problem.” King Ahab waved at a guard. “Bring in the counselors.”

While guests sipped wine and nibbled at beef and mutton, Jezebel’s four hundred Asherah priests filed through the gate and onto the threshing floor.

Obadiah groaned. When the fire fell on Mount Carmel, the crowd of elders had slit the throats of the four hundred fifty Moloch priests. They would have killed this gang, but Jezebel had ordered them to stay home that day. So, her Asherah priests continued killing bubblers, but not the hundred Obadiah was hiding in caves.

Ahab opened his hands to the four hundred. “Shall we go fight for Ramoth or stay home?”

They chorused, “War! Make war! God will lay that city in your hand!”

King Jehoshaphat scowled. “Is this it? These Asherah guys? Don’t you know any counselor from the Lord?”

The harps and lyres ceased.

The crowd grew quiet.

Obadiah set his drink on a paving stone. Now what? Ahab was rushing blind. He only knew one true bubbler, and he had told that one to stay out of sight.

Ahab glowered at Obadiah, sighed, and fluttered his hand at a guard. “Bring me Mikayhu son of Imlah. He’s with Gera the grove manager. Make it snappy. We don’t want to keep the king of Judah waiting.”

The guard bowed and left.

Ahab tugged his tunic away from his throat and gave a weak smile to Jehoshaphat. “You asked for someone from the Lord. I hope you’re not disappointed. This Mika kid—he sings and bounces, bounces and sings. He’s a fine boy and means well. But he has nothing good to say about me.”

Obadiah scowled at the floor. Mikayhu adored the king, but he cut no corners on messages from the Lord.

Ahab beckoned to a server. “Let’s give our guest more of that roast.”

As the server slid a slice of beef onto Jehoshaphat’s plate, Mikayhu’s song floated through the gate. “Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.”

King Jehoshaphat dropped his knife.

Heads turned. The harp and lyre struck up the tune of the psalm.

Heh-heh.” Ahab beamed at Jehoshaphat. “That’s our boy.”

Mikayhu bobbed in with his messy brown hair and the slight lift to his step. He’d gained a head in height since Obadiah last saw him, and whiskers sprouted on his chin. A young man.

Bowing first to Ahab, then to Jehoshaphat, Mikayhu moved up and down. “The Lord’s alive, you know. I repeat what He tells me.” He grinned over at the Asherah chorus. “Nothing like those clowns.”

One stepped out from the chorus holding a set of ram horns to his head. Zedekiah.

Ahab’s face turned red.

Obadiah groaned. What would these guys think up next?

Zedekiah leaped forward and back, right and left. With both hands holding the heavy horns to his head, he couldn’t use his arms to balance, so he toppled and staggered with each thrust—yelling, “The Lord says, ‘With these you will gore and destroy!’”

Obadiah raised a hand and smothered a laugh. Poor Zee and his unbalanced bull.

Yet, the Asherah chorus of four hundred backed their man with cheers. “Attack Ramoth in Gilead. Attack! The Lord says, ‘Hold out your hand!’ Grasp victory! Success!”

Ahab peeked at Jehoshaphat.

The king of Judah cringed and held his head in his hands.

Um, thank you, Zee. Zedekiah.” Ahab pasted on a fresh smile and asked Jehoshaphat’s question for him. “Well, Mika, what do you say? Go to war or stay home?”

Mikayhu crouched in front of the two kings. He floated his head forward and back while he clicked his fingers to a beat. This young man had grown taller but hadn’t lost his charm.

Jehoshaphat scooted forward on his throne and bobbed with him. Then snapped his fingers.

A slow grin lit the face of General Jehu. Chariot captains wagged their heads and rolled their shoulders, while servers at the edge of the threshing floor twitched their knees. Across the crowd, heads moved, fingers clicked, hips wiggled.

While King Jehoshaphat led the beat, Mikayhu chanted.

Sure thing, King.

Yeah, I mean bring.

Bring it on. War.

War, of course.

Chariot and horse.

Attack ’em. Smack ’em.

Easy vict’ry.

Hold out your hand.

For success!

Ahab hurled his wine cup to the threshing floor.

Jehoshaphat’s beat lay dead among the pieces. He turned on his throne and stared at Ahab. “Who is this boy?”

Ahab ignored him. “Cut the song and dance, Mika. Just tell us what the Lord showed you.”

But I don’t like what I saw, King.” Mikayhu’s heels sagged.

“Tell us,” Ahab glared.

Mikayhu wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and licked tears from his lip.

Obadiah’s mouth fell open. What horrors had Mika seen?

Mikayhu’s face drooped. Yet, he stretched an arm toward the mountains of Gilead. “I saw Israel scattered.” He hiccupped but took a deep breath and continued. “Men dotted the hills, wandering sheep, and the Lord said, ‘They have no leader. Send them home to fend for themselves.’”

Mikayhu splayed his arms at his side. He turned his face to the sky and called to the circling vultures. “I saw the Lord on his throne with angels left and right. The Lord asked, ‘Who will lure Ahab to go die at Ramoth in Gilead?’”

One said, ‘This way.’ Another, ‘Here’s how.’ Then one angel with a gleam in his eye touched his fingertips together. ‘I’ll make those Asherah clowns think they’ve discovered a secret formula.’”

The Lord pointed to the angel with the gleam in his eye. ‘Go. Make it happen.’”

Mikayhu waved toward the chorus. “So the Lord put this victory dance in the mouths of your puppets here and… and…” He sobbed.

Zedekiah jumped over and punched him in the mouth. “What makes you think the Spirit of God left me and talked to you?”

Obadiah leaped to his feet. Time to put the horns away.

But Mikayhu wiped blood off his mouth and stood tall in Zedekiah’s face. “You’ll know, Zee. When you’re looking for a place to hide, you’ll know.”

Obadiah sat back. If he could talk with Ahab alone, maybe he could keep his old friend alive.

Ahab pulled his knees up on his throne and looked sideways at a guard. “Lock Mika up. Bread and water until I get back.”

Oh, King. Don’t you understand?” Mikayhu’s voice caught. “Do what you want with me. But you’re not coming back.” He turned to Obadiah, sniffed, and wiped at his nose. “Mr. Biah, can’t you make King stay home?”

Obadiah rose. He had to talk Ahab out of this fool’s venture.

Ahab whirled on him. “Shut it. I want this fight.”


Background

King Jehoshaphat visits King Ahab 1 Kings 22

King Solomon’s banquet – 1 Kings 8:63 & 2 Chronicles 7:5

I will awaken the dawn. – Psalm 108:2

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