48. Heads

No doubt this Shiphrah person would toss his head over the wall to Jehu just as the wise woman of Abel threw the head of Sheba to Joab.


48. Heads

842 BC

Megiddo-Beitshan Road, Jezreel Valley, Israel

Obadiah held his nose and breathed through his mouth for what seemed like two weeks.

The cart finally stopped, and Yedidah lifted the chicken cage. “We’re here.”

Chickens squawked.

Obadiah peeked out. And sneezed. He sneezed again. And again. His normal three.

So, the mysterious Shiphrah lived in tiny En-Gannim by Megiddo.

Instead of throwing Obadiah’s head over the village wall, she showed Yedidah the ladder to her veranda. While Shiphrah mixed cornmeal, Yedidah sliced figs, and Obadiah built a fire under the pot. Shiphrah’s husband and seven children came home from the field to bowls of steaming cornmeal mush flavored with figs.

In the family’s only room, Shiphrah spread soft, thick rugs. She and her husband curled up on one, their children on three others, and Obadiah and Yedidah on one.

In the morning, Shiphrah’s husband, a man taller than most, put his best robe on Obadiah. “This will keep your ankles warm. But don’t leave our place. Everybody in the village knows the king’s right-hand man.” He returned to the field with the children. Shiphrah hauled chickens and onions to market.

Obadiah swept the veranda.

Yedidah picked figs.

When she mounted the ladder, he clung to her. “What’s to become of us? Where’s daughter?”

“We have to trust the Lord a step at a time, dear.”

Shiphrah came in from the market. “The general piled the heads of King Ahab’s children at the gate of the fort.”

Yedidah gasped.

Obadiah leaned against the wall. “But those children are in Samaria. How—?”

Shiphrah’s face was drained of blood. She rested a hand on Yedidah’s shoulder. “The general told the elders of Samaria City to come out and fight. Or send him the heads of Ahab’s children.”

Obadiah moaned and shook his head.

“So the elders carried the heads of seventy children and grandchildren to the gate of Fort Jezreel,” Shiphrah said.

Yedidah eyes went wide. “How could the citizens of Samaria kill grandchildren?”

Obadiah said, “Either kill Ahab’s family or watch your own die.”

Shiphrah said. “And General Jehu declared those heads are to stay at the gate until morning.”

Obadiah held Shiphrah’s eyes with his own. “I need to be there.”

###

When the sun broke over Gilead, Obadiah stood with Yedidah and Shiphrah’s family on a hillside facing the fort.

Two piles of heads stood at the gate. Dark clouds—flies, perhaps—surged around them.

People covered the road east and west.

Shiphrah’s husband said, “You never saw lines this thick even on market day.”

The crowd faced the heads and backed up the hillside toward Obadiah.

Shiphrah’s husband whispered, “Somebody’s bound to recognize the king’s right-hand man.”

Obadiah shivered and tugged his headscarf over his cheeks.

The gate opened.

General Jehu marched out between the two piles.

Fifty bodyguards lined up behind him.

Shopkeepers and chariot captains, headquarters cooks and foot soldiers flooded through the gate and stood back, facing the general and his two piles of heads.

Obadiah searched the faces. His voice trembled. “Our daughter’s not there.” Had she hidden with their granddaughter? Had Jehu’s men killed them both? He pulled Yedidah closer.

As fort people jostled for place, two men—the head of the stable and a Philistine cook—strolled from the back of the crowd and disappeared behind the fort.

Obadiah raised a hand to his chin and wiggled his fingers. The Lord be with you, boys. He tweaked a corner of his mouth into a smile.

An old man followed them. He stooped and shuffled around the corner of the fort with a basket swinging from his shoulder to the rhythm of “Fish. Fresh fish.” Obadiah gasped, then stood on tiptoe and stared. Fare you well, old friend.

Would Obadiah’s daughter come out next? He lowered his head.

As General Jehu scanned the crowd, Shiphrah and her husband pulled Obadiah and Yedidah behind them and stood tall. Obadiah’s hands shook.

The General called to the assembly, “I’m the guilty one. Not you. I conspired against my master and killed him.” Tapping the heads with his sword, he disturbed their swirling clouds. “But who killed these?”

Yedidah whispered to Obadiah’s shoulder, “I want to puke on that man’s face.”

Obadiah pulled her close.

The general sheathed his sword and raised a hand. “The Lord has carried out the words he gave through his servant Elijah. Pay attention. Nothing the Lord said about the house of Ahab will fail.”

Obadiah whispered in Yedidah’s ear, “That’s how you blame murder on the Lord.”

As Jehu turned to the gate, he poked at a pile with his sword. A head rolled off and faced the sky. The general raised his chin and marched inside, fifty bodyguards at his heels.

The observers milled near the gate.

“Where’s our daughter?” Obadiah asked.

Yedidah took a long breath. “Our son-in-law is a resourceful boy. Lets’ hope he’s hidden them.”

Obadiah said, “Lord, protect them!”

Back at Shiphrah’s house, the ladder rattled against the parapet a little while after dark.

Shiphrah put her finger to her lips.

The children turned and gawked.

Obadiah stared. Had General Jehu’s men discovered them?

Shiphrah’s husband tiptoed toward the ladder swinging his field hoe overhead like a club.


Background

En-Gannim, Jezreel Valley, Israel

Seventy heads – 2 Kings 10:1-17

Jehu’s speech to the crowd – 2 Kings 10:9-10

Jehu’s slaughter – 2 Kings 10:11

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