34. Brim

34. Fire and Brimstone

849 BC

The Headquarters Roof, Fort Jezreel, Jezreel Valley, Israel

Obadiah closed his eyes against the afternoon sun and lay back next to Yedidah. He twitched a smile at her soft snore. With each “wake up” from the Lord, she had nudged him. Then, when the time was right, she helped hide men from the dragon queen. Their friend, Mika, she’d assured him, was teaching bubblers in the Misliya cave to sing psalms.

Here on the northeast corner of the headquarters roof, Obadiah lounged with his family and bodyguards. At the roof’s center, elders of various tribes chatted in twos and threes.

Odor drifted up from the stables mixed with wood smoke and the aroma of fresh bread. Chariot wheels crunched against paving stones. Pedestrians greeted guards by the headquarters front gate. Shoppers and farmers on the plaza haggled over melons or mutton.

Tugging his headscarf over his eyes, Obadiah snuggled deeper into his couch. In a recurring dream, he lazed along on Lavan next to Prince Ahab on Shochar. The boys poked fun at each other as if their mighty stallions were tired old donkeys.

A voice came from outside the dream. “Chariots headed our way.”

He brushed at the words as if a fly buzzed. Don’t interrupt.

The race to the fort was about to begin. Obadiah and the prince were toeing their steeds to the line. The bushes had moved, but it was only the wind pushing the junipers. Syrians were nowhere near. Next, Ahab would dangle a pinecone by Lavan’s ear.

Something touched his arm. Who’s bothering me?

Anyway, this dream was wrong. Ahab had bled to death on the plain outside Ramoth. Obadiah had wept for days, then tried to go on without him. His last full-on spell of sobbing was two or three years ago.

He squeezed his eyes tighter. The sunshine was his friend. And the light breeze. Go back to sleep and dream that scene again.

Yet, the sweet fragrance of laurel filled his nose, and Yedidah’s fingers gripped his shoulder. She spoke full voice into his ear. “Chariots.”

The dream can wait. Thank you, Lord, for this woman, the love of my life.

The scent of laurel gave way to clean-scrubbed skin with a hint of fresh sweat. Zak.

Obadiah pried one eye open.

His bodyguards towered next to him and stared over the parapet.

Zak glanced down at him, “Chariots, sir. Coming on fast.”

With a grunt and a heave, Obadiah rolled to his knees.

Two guards pulled him up to stand beside Yedidah.

Elders who had moved from the center of the roof lined the wall on Obadiah’s left.

He leaned over the parapet.

In the open gate of the fort below, young King Joram stood spraddle-legged, watching the road from Beitshan.

“Didn’t he get hurt at Ramoth?”

“He should be resting.”

“The young heal fast.”

Obadiah sighed. The elders have been talking about a steer or ram. He tugged Zak’s sleeve. “Seven years. Didn’t Ahab die seven years ago?”

“Eight,” Zak whispered.

For eight years, that child standing alone in the gate had been on his own. Safe from responsibility for a year, until his older brother Ahaziah died, leaving Joram the throne. He must be so unsure of himself, with no idea how to counter the danger racing toward him. As the son of Jezebel, he never consulted Obadiah.

If Ahab’s son were to evade the queen and seek him out, his advice would be free but formal—Obadiah hardened his wrist, the stiff-arm that had flattened Ahab’s nose. Together they fought, argued, and found answers. Together they invented the game ‘The Syrian’s Are Upon You.’ Nothing could replace the fun of debating the boy’s father.

King Joram squared his shoulders and called. “Send a rider. Ask if they come in peace.”

Ask? Obadiah snorted then hid his face from the elders. Lord, forgive me. If Ahab saw a contingent of warriors approaching, he would send a company armed with javelins, arrows, and slings.

The lookout called, “The rider reached them.”

Silence stretched.

“He’s not coming back.”

“Send another.”

The lookout called again. “The second rider isn’t coming back either. And the lead chariot drives like General Jehu—a maniac.”

The general was a loyal servant of the Lord, and having him in charge of the army had kept Jezebel from chopping off Obadiah’s head. Jehu loved to drive fast, but why had he left Ramoth without his driver? And why was he leading a small fleet of chariots?

King Ahaziah of Judah stepped out the side door of headquarters and joined King Joram at the gate. They glanced at the approaching chariots, then strode to the stables, Joram grimacing with each stride.

Yedidah leaned into Obadiah. “I hope our king is feeling better.”

Seba’s youngest son, the current stable boss, led teams and chariots out to the two kings.

As Joram and Ahaziah drove from the stables and out the gate, Obadiah bit at the inside of his cheek. The two young kings had left as if going to a parlay—without one bodyguard. Lord, help us.

The lookout called, “They’re heading behind the fort.”

With Zak and Yedidah, Obadiah shuffled along to the southeast corner, and the others found places along the south parapet.

At the back of the fort, the many chariots in Jehu’s train waited next to a patch of oak trees, but the general drove to the vineyard Ahab had stolen from Naboth.

The two kings pulled in beside the general. Joram wore the bright blue of Ahab, and Ahaziah the deep purple of Jehoshaphat. General Jehu met them in the drab browns and grays of his mail.

Overhead, at the center of a clear sky, a hawk and a kestrel screamed at each other.

“I don’t like this,” Zak whispered.

The three chariots had barely halted when King Joram wheeled around and raced away.

From his chariot basket, General Jehu raised a recurved bow. A man needed the strength of an ox to bend such thick wood, yet Jehu notched an arrow to the string, aimed at the fleeing king, and drew the feather to his shoulder.

He released.

The arrow sank between King Joram’s shoulders, and he slumped over the chariot rail.

The row of elders gasped.

“Dear Lord.” Obadiah turned toward pain and found Yedidah’s fingers clamped onto his arm.

Zak gripped Obadiah’s shoulder. “I’m getting you out of here.” The words came through clenched teeth.

While King Joram’s horses slowed to a halt, King Ahaziah raced away.

General Jehu pointed, and a hail of arrows fell on King Ahaziah’s purple robe. He and his chariot disappeared around a hill.

Elders groaned.

Most of the chariots with Jehu left the oaks and raced after King Ahaziah, but General Bidkar stopped at King Joram’s stalled horses and jumped out. He dragged Joram’s corpse from the chariot and dumped him onto the field of Naboth in a pile of royal blue.

Obadiah covered Zak’s hand with his own. “This must look bad to you, Zak. But General Jehu’s a good man. Plus, I helped him with that new stable up in Dan. Made sure he got the troops he needed when the Philistines surprised him at Hadera. Let’s wait a while and see how this—”

Zak flung Obadiah’s hand off. “That’s foolish talk, sir, and you know it. You and the general have been through a lot together. But Jehu murdered the king. You’re watching a repeat of Baasha and Zimri reaching for the throne—by nightfall, the general will either be king, or his head will sway on a very tall stake.

“Your old friend’s got a list of new enemies, and you’re at the top. Angels had to drag Lot out of Sodom, and I smell fire and brimstone.” Zak turned Obadiah toward the stairs.


Background

Laurel – Isaiah 44:9, 14

General Jehu takes the throne – 2 Kings 9

Baasha and Zimri reach for the throne – 1 Kings 15-16

Dragging Lot out of Sodom – Genesis 19:16

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