44. Burial

While the three [ Obadiah, Hiel, and Jehoshaphati] knelt in the brilliant sunshine and worked loose the knots which held Ahab to his chariot, General Jehu came down the stairs with women, children, and young men surging around him.


44. Burial

Obadiah’s fingers froze on the knots as he searched the faces around Jehu for Queen Jezebel, but it appeared no Sidonian holiday had attracted her to the local Asherah temple this week. He raised his nose. Normal body odor from the crowd suggested they had not dabbed on their favorite sweet-smelling lotions. A few women wept.

“Zak. Where are you, Zak?” Obadiah looked around.

His chief bodyguard nudged Obadiah’s elbow. “I’m right here. The guys are close by.”

“Thanks. There’s gonna be a lot going on. I can’t…”

“We’ve got your back, sir.”

“The Lord bless you, man. I need you to follow up on the rear guard who kept scavenger squads away from our stragglers last night. Send your most awake man and find their leader. I need to hear his report.”

When the ropes around Ahab loosened, Jehoshaphat rose and rested hands on the shoulders of Hiel and Obadiah. “Don’t be concerned about the robe. I leave the burial preparations in your excellent hands. If you need me, I’ll be with Elder Shuthellah.” He walked across the plaza toward that elder’s courtyard.

“Even a king needs his beauty rest.” Hiel winked.

Jehu moved in next to Obadiah. “The tomb is clean, and Bidkar bought the best spices. Some of the king’s wives and children are here. Um, if you don’t mind, they need to hear a few words from you, sir.”

A woman about Ahab’s age stepped free from the crowd. Amira. Not the first wife Ahab had taken, but one who made palace life adjust to her ways. She wore a tunic and robe of fine white linen with a matching headscarf. Like the others, she had stripped off her jewelry and scrubbed cosmetics from her face. Five children, seven or eight years old, peeked from behind her.

Obadiah gave the woman a quick smile and touched Jehu, Hiel and Bidkar on the shoulders. “We will wash the king’s body. After we have dressed the king for burial, wives and children may accompany us as far as the entrance to the royal tomb.”

Jehu muttered in his ear, “Wailers. Bidkar hired wailers.”

“Yes.” Obadiah addressed the crowd again. “And professional wailers will be at the tomb, so….” His lips twitched.

Shoppers and shopkeepers drifted in from around the plaza and stood back a few paces. Their faces expressed [Show us a faceii – awe, curiosity, disbelief]

Obadiah and Hiel grasped Ahab’s legs while Bidkar and Jehu lifted him by the arms. Women and children flowed around them speaking in hushed tones. Amira held a door open on the ground floor of the palace, and the four men carried Ahab in.

“This way.” Bidkar directed them to a sitting room with a bear skin rug and yellow lilies in tall marble vases along the wall. Cloths lay on a marble chair and the king’s royal blue clothing lay on another. They laid him on a marble table in the center of the room.

Bidkar shut the door on the women and children.

“We’re asleep on our feet,” Obadiah said. “But I need you men to help me lay our king to rest.”

Bidkar nodded. “We’ll keep each other awake, sir. A final service to the king.”

A knock came, and Mica lumbered in. Large pails stretched each arm and robbed his steps of their normal spring.

“Mika!” Obadiah threw his arms around the boy. The pails thudded to the floor and sloshed water on their feet. “Lord forgive me. I forgot the king had you locked up.”

Jehu leaned against the table. “Amazing how a jailer can unlock a cell when he feels Bidkar’s thumb closing on his windpipe.”

Mika set the pails by Ahab’s table, left, and closed the door behind him.

Bidkar unstrapped a shoulder guard from Ahab. “Remember the day our king told Ben-Hadad to hold his boasts until he was taking off his armor? Jehu and I were on the terrace next to the stairs. Ben-Hadad’s courier about fell over the banister.”

Obadiah lifted an arm guard. “I wish the king were taking this off himself.” His crew washed and dried Ahab’s entire body, front and back—arms and legs, fingers and toes.

Jehu said, “We haven’t found the ossuary carver, but we put the word out. He should show up today.”

Bidkar opened the spice bags, and they rubbed myrrh and aloes over Ahab and wrapped a clean cloth around his loins. They slid the blue linen tunic over him, fastened on his armor, and poked his arms into the royal blue robe.

Obadiah tied the royal blue turban to the king’s head. “Your final ride, my king.” He and Hiel picked up Ahab’s legs. Jehu lifted Ahab’s left arm and Bidkar his right. And they carried the king into the main hall.

Dozens of chariot captains and their drivers had joined the crowd of Ahab’s wives and children.

Ahab’s driver opened the palace door and stuck his head in. “I washed out the king’s chariot, sir. At the pool by the wall.”

Obadiah flinched at Elijah’s soft voice in his head. “The Lord says in the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth dogs will lick your blood, yes, yours.”

The four men carried the king across the plaza, over the threshing floor, through the gate, and around the hill to the royal tomb. A crowd followed. Ahab’s wives and children, fighters and drivers, shoppers, shopkeepers, elders, and curious citizens.

At the tomb, a group of local farmers began to wail. Inside the tomb on a shelf carved into the rock, the ossuary which contained King Omri’s bones stood in the center.

“Give me a hand with this, Jehu?”

While Hiel and Bidkar held Ahab, Obadiah and Jehu went in and slid King Omri’s box of bones to the end of the shelf to make room for King Ahab’s corpse.

“Here we go, men.” With the crowd pressing on them, the four carried Ahab into the tomb and laid him on the shelf beside King Omri’s ossuary. Obadiah laid a javelin on Ahab’s stiff right hand.

As they left the tomb for the keeper to seal, Obadiah turned to Jehu and Bidkar. “I’m going to my room in the palace. You men need sleep too. If the wife Amira wants to act as host, let her have the main hall.”

As Obadiah trudged through the city gate, dogs snarled at him from the pool near the wall.

[HEREiii]


Background

The king is dead – 1 Kings 22:29-39

“dogs will lick your blood” – 1 Kings 21:19

i The three – Obadiah, Hiel, and Jehoshaphat

iiShow us a face – awe, curiosity, disbelief

iiiHERE

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