34. Counter

“You know that long, skinny entrance to Tirzah Valley.”

34. Counterattack i

868 B.C.

The Plaza, Samaria City, Israel

As the sun reached the top of the sky, Obadiah waited on the threshing floor while Hiel marched out the gate leading one hundred junior officers. Each carried a sling and a pack jammed with round, smooth stones. Obadiah nodded to Mikayhu and nudged Gera beside him. “Here we go.”

Ahab stepped into his chariot wearing his purple headscarf and flowing white robe, the royal bait.

Obadiah stepped into his chariot, and the two rolled out the gate side-by-side.

Behind them, the twelve junior officers marched in two columns, poised to open into a flying wedge. One hundred junior officers marched four abreast, ready to expand Ahab’s wedge with ten wings.

Next came one hundred twenty junior officers carrying recurved bows and packs of arrows.

In the rear, one hundred forty provincial chiefs in chariots led groups of fifty farmers on foot who had put down their harvest sickles and picked up spears to defend the capital.

Hiel led this parade down the several switchbacks of Shemer’s Hill and east into Tirzah Valley.

In silenceii, they marched deep into the long narrow entrance. Far ahead, through a gap and around a sharp bend, the Syrian army waited.

At the halfwayiii point, the archers and the farmers stopped behind Obadiah and created the back jaw of the trap. The archers formed four rows of thirty across the narrow valley while behind them, the chiefs waited with their fifties.

Ahab, Obadiah, and theiriv junior officers followed Hiel and the stone slingers toward the gap.

When Hiel arrived a fourth of the way from the gap, he tapped two stone slingers on the shoulders. [Obadiah’s thoughtsv] One climbed right and one climbed left. They hid behind boulders out of view from the gap ahead, opened their packs, and loaded their slings. Six paces farther on, Hiel tapped two more, who climbed, hid, and loaded. When Hiel’s hundred slingers hid high on both sides of this/the? skinny valley, he climbed up behind a boulder next to the gap and waved at Ahab. The front jaw of the trap stood ready to snap.

The king spread his arms, and his twelve junior officers lined up on his right and his left, forming a wedge with Ahab at the point.

Obadiah raised both arms, and his one hundred junior officers advanced to the king. In slanted rows of ten, they expanded the flying wedge with wings of fifty fighters on each side.

Ahab waved to Obadiah. Then he threw a quick salute to Hiel and the nearest stone slingers. He rode through the gap and around the bend. His flying wedge marched after him.

The king wore his purple headscarf and his flowing white robevi and rode in his House of Omri chariot—the bait trolling past the face of the Syrians.

In a few moments, he and his junior officers would come flying back around the bend and through the gap with the Syrian army chasing them. The king was to flap his white robe and wave his purple headscarf while he drove like Jehu toward the distant entrance. When the Syrians followed, Hiel’s junior officers would flatten them with a shower of stones, and the archers were to send arrows over Ahab’s head and into any Syrians still standing. As mop-up, Obadiah was to charge in with the farmer fifties and finish any Syrians who had dodged the arrows. [Biah’s thoughts?vii][shorten?viii]

Ben Hadad’s hundreds of thousands of troops would overwhelm Ahab’s seven thousand farmers and two hundred thirty-two youngsters, but to fight—and to fight on their own terms—beat joining Ben Hadad’s chain gang.

Hiel and his junior officers dangled their slings and peeked around boulders.

Beads of sweat covered Obadiah’s upper lip. He should go take command of the chiefs and their fifties. But he waited, wiping clammy hands on his robe. He never should have allowed the king to march out of sight with such a small set of troops—children at that. This felt too much like their long ago horse race cut short by a Syrian arrow.

A junior officer raced back through the gap. “Help! Help!”

Stone slingers scrambled out from behind boulders. They ran past the boy, dragging their packs full of rocks through the gap and around the bend.

The boy dashed up to Obadiah. “The king needs your help!”

Obadiah shoved him toward the archers and the chiefs of fifties at the far end of the entrance valley. “Bring those men!” He loped through the gap and around the bend.

On the far side of the wide, open valley, back up against the hills, thousands and thousands of coppery red tents covered the ground. Horses on picket lines nibbled grass in the noonday sun. A lark sang, and a gentle breeze rustled the grass but ignored a dark red flag hanging limp in the heat. Had the Syrians gone back to Damascus? Wild animals could roam those tents.

Red turbaned headsix popped up from the tents. Oh! People. But where were the hundred thousand? The fleets of red-paneled chariots?

Ahab faced the distant tents with his wedge and wings at his sides.

Hiel and his crew peered over their shoulders.

Obadiah jogged up to Ahab. “Your target, my king.”

Ahab raised his spear. “Charge!”

The king and his wedge stormed across the valley.

Hiel and his stone slingers followed.

Yelling erupted from the distant tents. Men in red spilled out and screamed then stumbled toward Ahab.

Obadiah’s mouth fell open. Why couldn’t these troops walk straight? Where was Ben Hadad’s horde?

Behind Obadiah, the archers and the first of the fifties loped around the bend and shouted, “Obadiah!”

He pointed to the charging king— “Mop-up time!”—and took off after Ahab.

Stones slammed into the faces of several stumbling Syrians. The first one to stagger within reach took the king’s javelin through his throat. While Ahab drove on, junior officers at his flanks gutted their own opponents.

Ahab swooped his chariot aside to claimx another.xi

Hiel jumped into the gap with his sword.

“Die, Hebrew!” A spear shot toward Hiel.

He rolled away, then reached with his long arm and slipped his sword between the Syrian’s ribs. Before the attacker hit the ground, Hiel yanked his sword out.

“Nice move.” Obadiah suckedxii in the scent of new-spilled blood.

While the Syrians shouted insults, Ahab’s child commandos dodged and thrust in grim silence.

Obadiah’s driver swerved around a groaning body, and Obadiah reached for a javelin. Then he shook his head and blinked.

No more Syrian faces approached. Instead, Syrian troops staggered toward their tents. The yellow-winged torch of Syria splayed across their shoulders. Many lay in the grass. A few moaned or moved, but most baked in the noonday sun while archers and slingers retrieved arrows and stones beside them.

Vultures circled low.

The hot, still air carried the stench of excrement from open intestines. Many junior officers gagged. Several knelt and wept.

With the back of his hand, Obadiah wiped sweat from his eyes. The intense heat sapped his strength, but he had no time to pause and wonder why most of the vast Syrian army didn’t come out to meet them.

With his arm pointing toward Ahab and Hiel, Obadiah howled at his mop-up chiefs. “To the camp! Kill them in their tents!”

In ragged formation, the chiefs and their fifties followed Obadiah across the valley floor.

He rolled over a discarded shield then three more. Tens of these red leather ovals littered the canyon floor. Spears lay among the shields.

Next to the tents, hundreds of picketed horses raised their heads from the grass as the Syrians fled among them.

Obadiah called to a mop-up chief, “Don’t spook the horses.” Then he led the way into the camp.

At the first tent, he cut the ropes, and the tent sagged. Foul vulgarities came from under the tent skins. Obadiah used both hands to plant his spear point in the closest hump. With a gasp and a groan, the mound collapsed. As he stabbed more wiggling mounds, mop-up crews around him slashed tent ropes and skewered dozens of shifting, cursing bulges.

A mound emerged as a Syrian soldier. A mop-up farmer nudged Obadiah aside, jammed his spear between the man’s ribs, and loped over to the next tent.

Bleary-eyed Syrian officers in red headscarves stumbled from a large tent in front of Obadiah and weaved between tents.

The chief of a mop-up crew stabbed the leader through a lung, toppled the Syrian into the grass, and stepped aside while young farmers picked off the faster officers. [Cutxiii?]

Obadiah opened the tent door and shook his head. An empty wineskin stood on a low serving tray, and cups littered the floor.

Leaving the last killings to the chiefs and their fifties, Obadiah followed a lane through the tents to the far side of the camp.

Chariots. Battle wagons stood in neat rows by the thousands ready for the horses tethered on the other side of camp.

A chief caught up with Obadiah. “Take them to Samaria, sir?”

“After we kill every Syrian in Tirzah Valley.”

Near sundown, with no more Syrians left to kill, Obadiah told the nearest chief, “Wrap it up and go home. No, not home. We meet on the Hill of Samaria. Spread the word.” His driver turned the chariot.

Before the gap that led out of Tirzah Valley, Ahab stood in his chariot surrounded by Syrians.

“I’m coming!” Obadiah grabbed a javelin and raced to him.

“Relax, Biah.” The king leaned over the chariot rail talking with seven men in filthy red uniforms who knelt in the dirt and lifted their faces to him. They wore sackcloth draped around their waists and ropes around their heads.

Ahab asked, “Is he still alive? He is my brother.”

The men in sackcloth shot glances at each other, bowed, and scurried away toward the city.

“What was that all about, my king?” Obadiah stood back against his chariot rail.

“Ben-Hadad.” Ahab watched the men in sackcloth disappear. “They’re bringing him. Or so they say.”

Obadiah shook his head. Ahab could be such a dupe. “If it’s Ben-Hadad you’re looking for, our scouts saw him escaping with the cavalry.”

“So?” Ahab tipped his head.

“So, your man’s in a royal tunic trotting northeast on a horse he loosed from a battle wagon.”

Ahab tossed his head. “If those jokers produce Ben-Hadad, I plan to get back cities and put my markets in Damascus.”

“Well, my king, you know how to lead troops. But to this country boy, lift Ben-Hadad’s head from between his shoulders, and you don’t need permission for cities or markets.”

Ahab said nothing in return. Only jutted his chin forward and rocked back on his heels. What was going on inside the royal skull?

“This fight is over. Tomorrow I’m going home to Yedidah and the kids.” Obadiah squeezed his driver’s arm, and his chariot rolled.


The Story – 1 Kings 20:15-21

Drove like Jehu – 2 Kings 9:20

Wineskin and cups – 1 Kings 20:16

iSteve – My only critique here would be that the spoils of chariots and war wagons would probably only number in the hundreds and not the thousands. Those old boys loved to exaggerate on their victory stele. But that one’s strictly up to you!

iiSilence x 3

iii Just happened to notice the similar beginning sentence structure – maybe vary it up a bit? Maybe it doesn’t matter?  ERMa

iv Their or the? How would Obadiah see them? Does he take ownership over them and what they call themselves at this point? Becca

v This scene has opened with a clear description of movements and who is doing what, but I am curious for more insight into Obadiah’s thoughts at the moment and how his perspective on this plan may have developed (or not) since the last chapter – Becca

vi{The king wore his purple headscarf and his flowing white robe} Since we already know this, maybe something like: visible pose in his purple headscarf… , King A rode in….

vii This could be a good place to insert Obadiah’s thoughts/feelings on the plan

viiiShorten?] GG [You’ve done a beautiful job of showing their advance, but I wondering if it needs to be a little shorter, so that the reader can get back to seeing individuals and hearing dialogue?]

ix These two paragraphs seem to contradict each other. Is the camp deserted, or are people there?

x Maybe show what claim means here? Show a flash of the sword or something like that (since there is more detail in most of these actions)?

xiBecca – Stopping here (which is hard to do—great tension in this battle scene!). As always, great writing!

xii v. squinted at the scent? To me, this makes it sound like he enjoys it!!! Maybe that’s your point?

xiii[This is all very good war action. Maybe cut some of this to make the battle shorter?] GG

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