35. Bakery

35. Hiding in the Bakery

849 BC

The Bakery, Fort Jezreel, Jezreel Valley, Israel

Obadiah scowled as Zak guided him down stairs and over to the bakery [Baby Omari] in the northeast corner.

From the threshing floor, the sons of Seba and Jebus called, “See you later, Uncle Biah.” Zak joined Obadiah in a wave. “Smart. Going home early. Save their lives.”

Instead of waiting like a customer, Zak hurried Obadiah and Yedidah around the bread counter and pounded on the door. “Let us in!” Zak’s beard had just as many white hairs as Obadiah’s. Where did he find all his energy?

The baker opened the door, brushed flour from his apron, and ushered them in. His wife pulled Yedidah into a hug, spilling her white locks over Yedidah’s shoulder. “My dear. Did you ever?”

As Obadiah and the baker opened slits in the shutter, planks rattled over the moat, and chariots careened across the threshing floor. Several captains hitched their teams to the rails in front of headquarters. But General Jehu hung a hard right and pulled in by the side entrance in full view of the bakery.

The baker turned wrinkled cheeks toward Obadiah. “You know the general well.”

“Yes. Yes. We rode together at Dibon.” Obadiah nodded. “The general’s a devout follower of the Lord.”

“Why did he kill our king? Did he think he was doing the Lord’s will?”

“Um, he hates Moloch and Asherah.” Obadiah rocked on his heels and studied the floor. “Yet he respected Ahab as a strong commander and effective king. I want … I have to believe it hurt him to kill Ahab’s son.”

Above the general, in a second-floor window, Queen Jezebel appeared in a royal blue gown. As she studied her reflection in a small mirror, her fresh curls puffed into a jet black corona. She stabbed Jehu with her stare. “Greetings, General.” Icicles dripped from her voice and cooled the plaza.

Yedidah shuddered, but the baker’s wife gawked. “She was born to rule.”

“The woman is past tense.” Zak snarled.

Yedidah lifted fingers to her throat. “But doesn’t she look so… so… regal?”

“She uses fourteen hairdressers.” Obadiah stepped back from the shutter. “When that witch wants to lock more slaves in her brothels, she buys a string of little girls and boys stolen from distant backyards.”

A flush crept up Yedidah’s neck. “I can’t believe what I’m feeling. I’ve always called her that horrid woman. But seeing her there…you hated a lot of what Ahab did, yet he was like a brother to you.”

“I loved Ahab, but I despise that woman.” Obadiah gave the shutter a light punch.

Jezebel’s gaudy makeup twisted into a smirk. “General Jehu, do you remember Zimri, the chariot commander? Zimri murdered his master but found no peace.”

Zak nudged Obadiah. “The old bird knows why the general’s in town.”

General Jehu yelled, “Is anybody up there on my side?”

Men in light gray robes appeared in windows left and right of the queen.

Yedidah let out a loud breath. “Eunuchs?”

Zak whispered. “And they’re shivering, ma’am. They don’t know who’s in charge.”

Jehu’s laugh echoed across the paving stones and into the bakery. “Throw her down, boys!”

“Don’t touch me.” Jezebel held her chin high. “Animals.”

“Oh, just look.” Yedidah sniffled.

The baker’s wife slipped Yedidah a cloth for her nose. “I know, dear.”

Obadiah pressed his eye to the shutter.

The eunuchs disappeared from view, and a blur of curls crossed the windowsill. Jezebel’s scream echoed off the walls. She shot out headfirst and thudded onto the paving stones.

As Yedidah wiped her nose, she blurted through the cloth, “Open the caves! Let the bubblers go free!”

“Hurrah!” Obadiah pumped a fist in the air. Mika could prune his father’s fruit trees, bounce and sing for the neighborhood. Men and boys who had waited for a piece of bread in the dark could till their gardens in the sunshine.

Across the plaza, General Jehu wheeled his chariot up next to the wall and pranced his horses over the queen. The snap of bones carried into the bakery. Blood splattered the headquarters wall and dripped down the horses’ legs.

“Oh!” As Yedidah covered her face, the baker’s wife patted her on the shoulder.

The general tied his team by the side door and peeled off his gloves. He raised his chin toward the queen’s scattered pieces and then strode into the kitchen.

Zak gripped Obadiah by the shoulders. “Jehu has been in that chariot for hours and won’t leave headquarters until his belly’s full. I’m taking you out of the fort.”

Out of here? Obadiah clutched Zak’s wrist. His family was safe in Fort Jezreel. A few times he had asked Yedidah if she wanted to move back to the village. But, no, the fort was home.

In Keslote, their sons and sons-in-law managed the pear trees and the pottery. In Samaria, Gera’s daughter-in-law, Keren had given birth to a baby girl. She and her three children worked by Gera’s side and become proficient olive grove managers, then effective bosses of grove managers. Three years ago, Obadiah had turned the entire olive oil operation over to Gera in name, with Keren and her children doing the work.

His childhood friends from Gibbethon, Seba the stable boss and Jebus the cook, lived with their children and grandchildren just around the corner in the village of Harod. Leave these men?

With a granddaughter here and more grandchildren at the end of an easy chariot ride to Keslote, the fort was home. Including his apartment looking into almond blossoms and his couch on the roof.

Besides, his bodyguards and their families. Go where? Roam the wilderness in tents like Abraham and Jacob?

“You heard me right.” Zak tapped the shutter. “I haven’t got the details all worked out yet, bur I’m taking you and Yedidah out of Fort Jezreel.”

The baker raised his gentle voice. “Too dangerous. Wait until the city’s asleep.”

Obadiah pulled Yedidah closer. When Zak got this determined edge to his voice, it was best to let him lead. “But our daughter.”

The baker’s wife opened her eyes as large as hen’s eggs. “The one who married the captain?”

“And their baby girl.” Obadiah whispered.

Zak took a deep breath and let it out. “Not a hoof left behind, sir. Or a granddaughter either.”

Obadiah fixed him with a stare. “Your wife, Zak. Your grandchildren.”

Zak stepped in, a hand breadth from Obadiah’s face. “The Lord being our helper, we’re bringing everyone.”

Yedidah clutched Obadiah’s arm. “But our guards and their families. Plus our family in Keslote. We’re dead, Zak.”

“Not dead.” The baker raised a finger. “My wife and I will hide you right here. At midnight we’ll sneak you out the cobbler’s tunnel.” He pursed his lips and gave a slow nod. “It’s the nearest one.”

“Yuck.” His wife hunched her shoulders. “They can’t crawl through that hole. You don’t know what creepy—”

Zak shook his head. “I’m sorry, sir, but General Jehu has men posted at the tunnels. We need a distraction. Everybody’s looking one way, while Biah and Yedidah go the other.”

“Distraction?” Obadiah frowned. “We can’t wait. I know the general. His men are searching my apartment this moment. He’ll soon have them scouring every corner. Including this bakery.”

Zak squinted out at the threshing floor. “There’s gotta be a—”

The baker’s wife cupped Zak’s shoulder. “Now don’t you worry. Farmers will be loading up from the market and going home.”

Zak released the shutter. “Farmers?”

The baker’s wife replied, “We’ll lay Biah in a cart and let Yedidah lead the donkey.”

The baker pulled on his ear. “But we haven’t a cart, dear. Or a donkey.”

“No, but Shiphrah does. And her chickens are so scrawny she hauls half of them home every evening. Why don’t you give our guests a few loaves of your famous bread and that mutton in the warming oven while I bring Shiphrah and her cart?”

As she pulled her headscarf to her neck, the baker’s wife touched the door handle. “There’s carrot soup as well.”

She turned toward her husband and waited.

The baker looked up. “Yes, dear?”

“See how Obadiah’s dressed? White on white. Ahab back from the grave. Put our gardening robes on them and those old gray headscarves. Plus, Biah’s so long, I’ll need two blankets to cover him. Old ragged ones.” She marched out past the bread counter and turned left toward the market.

Zak opened the oven. “Bread and soup sounds good. You got any red wine?”

Obadiah leaned against the window jamb. “I’m not hungry.”

“Eat,” Zak said. “You’re going on a trip. And don’t worry about the rest of us. Talk with the Lord about us, but focus on getting you and Yedidah out of here.”

The baker poured two large bowls of soup.

Obadiah picked at the mutton and pushed it away. “How can you think of food?”

While Zak watched through the shutter, he sipped wine, nibbled bread, and spooned soup from a bowl on the windowsill. “Here she comes.”

Background

Shutter – Proverbs 7:6-12

Jehu killing Ahab’s son – 2 King 9:24

Eye paint – Jeremiah 4:30

Zimri, the chariot commander – 1 Kings 16:15-20

Is anybody up there on my side? – 2 Kings 9:32

Not a hoof left behind – Exodus 10:26

Shiphrah – Exodus 1:15

iIn 865, the Elijah story, the baker in Jezreel lost baby Omar to the Moloch god. How does this affect the baker and his wife today, 16 years later?

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